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Posts tagged ‘spain’

Top Five Destinations For A Wild Hen’s Weekend

Two Ladies In A Casino

These days hen dos are about more than downing dubious drinks and watching a dishy bloke stripping down to his smalls. According to The Telegraph the “UK hen and stag industry is estimated to be worth up to £500m a year in the UK. Hen parties are routinely weekend-long (or more) affairs” . While many complain about the cost, which is estimated to be an average of £157 per person, most participants will admit that, “hen dos can be really fun; it’s an opportunity to spend quality time with girlfriends, there’s always the possibility that the random activity you’ve never tried before, say pottery making, might be your secret talent. And it’s a chance to get to know any new faces before the wedding.”

The Guardian listed a range of alternatives for hens sick of the typical debauched weekend. They suggested the “coast of Montenegro, a cheaper, quirkier alternative to Croatia or pretending you were to the manor born by taking over a country house.” But before you head off, be sure to consider the less-exciting but important factors of travelling abroad. Even though it’s only for a weekend, don’t forget to purchase travel insurance. It might seem over-prepared but if you consider the kind of high jinx that you’re likely to fall into, getting some basic medical and accident cover is wise.

Sense and sensibility

Another concern whether you’re travelling a short distance to the Continent or a little further to the States, is to think about money. Buying some euros or dollars in advance, for a fixed rate and loading it onto a travel card is the ideal way to manage your money while overseas. Having a travel card is as convenient as a credit debit card with the added bonus of being safer, because if it’s lost or stolen, your personal bank account won’t be at risk.

Finally, in the interest of those attending, keep the costs as low as possible. Research online with price comparison sites to secure the best deals on flights and accommodation. Often just by asking for a discount for a hen’s weekend, you will find operators willing to knock a little off the top. Consider bringing some of your own supplies like food, alcohol and whatever else you need to make it a memorable trip.

Whether your passion is for food and drink, active adventuring, pure pampering, or just having a grand old time, these are five destinations worth exploration.

Culture Vultures fly to Barcelona

Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona is paradise for hens looking for art, culture and food. Gaudi’s city is a riot of stunning architecture, packed with attractions to sink your teeth into; the Picasso museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and even a Chocolate Museum! Wander Las Ramblas and witness stunning street performance before heading off the main drag for sensational food – and, of course, big jugs of full-bodied sangria. A tapas trail is the perfect, relaxed way to make independent discoveries – ducking in for a drink and a bite to eat wherever takes your fancy, for as long as takes your fancy. Inspired by the food? Book your group into a Spanish cookery lesson to master the dishes you’ve sampled.

Lots of lovely wine in the Loire Valley

Exquisit Wine Tasting

If a tipple tickles your fancy and you fancy learning more about the tipple in your glass, head cross-channel to the Loire and take a tour of the area’s abundant vineyards. The river is the longest in France, wending its lazy way through the ‘Jardin de France’, which encompasses a quintet of wine micro-regions ripe for discovery. The Loire’s output caters for fans of Muscadet, Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, Sancerre, Pouilly-Fume and many more. Visit the area’s Chateaux independently or as part of a guided group – tasting, purchasing, learning, or just soaking up the sun and verdant, vinous atmosphere.

4×4 tour in Poland

4x4 in Poland

Tank Girl-types will be bored by a conventional hen. But there are plenty of destinations offering action-packed, hands-on activities to sate appetites for adventure. Jet off to Poland and discover the picturesque countryside in a 4×4. It’s a great chance to see wilder, unspoiled parts of the countryside, allowing access to minor roads and green lanes. Some tours are eco-friendly, perfect for petrol heads with a conscience. If you fancy learning about wildlife and history, these guided explorations are led by knowledgeable English-speaking guides. Self-driven off-road tours plan in stops at lesser-known places of interest, with participants traveling in small convoys of up to four vehicles. If you’d prefer rough terrain and getting revved up on adrenalin, try Krakow’s ‘off-road rampage’ experience. Just ensure your group has plenty of clean drivers’ licences, or no-one will be going anywhere at any speed!

Casino-hopping in Las Vegas

Hit up Las Vegas, where the stakes are high, the food and drink are cheap and plentiful, and even just playing a few slot machines and watching the weird and the wonderful of Vegas go by is experience in itself. Hotel accommodation is affordable, but the sights you’ll see are priceless. Wander the strip and take in the amazing neon illuminations, and catch a show or two – an Elvis tribute act, perhaps, an all-singing, all-dancing cabaret, or one of the big names Vegas regularly attracts.

Pampering in Phuket

Pampering in Phuket

Your hen weekend may well be the last chance you have to do absolutely nothing for a rather long time. If the thought of being stroked, pummelled, anointed and massaged into submission before being delivered to a stunning white beach to recover from all the relaxation pushes your bliss button, Phuket will suit you a treat. Patong is known for its massage parlours and skilled therapists, many using organic, natural products in their practice. Treatments cover everything from head to toe, quite literally, with both facials and foot massages on the menu. Local herbs often play a part in tonics and balms, treating every sense. A spot of pre-wedding refreshment and revitalisation will leave you relaxed and ready for the big day.

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Featured images:

Jessica Bourne reports from Chester and loves writing about a range of lifestyle topics from fashion and gardening to travel and finance. Jessicas’s mission in these miserable economic times is to help readers budget for life’s little luxuries. You can read more of Sarah’s articles in a wide variety of blogs and websites.

A travelers guide to Barcelona

Barcelona’s skyline, dotted by beautiful Gaudi architecture. (Photo by MorBCN)

WHAT TO EXPECT:

This is a young people friendly city. It’s energetic and busy, a bit like a North Italian city. It’s walkable; the Paseo runs much of the length of the center of town. It has two amazingly good museums, cheap (for Europe) shopping, is home to the masterpieces of one of the most famous architects in history and a very active nightlife.

Barcelona is a laid back London. The street near our hotel was filled with piercing/tatoo studios and smoke shops, it almost reminded me of Haight Street in San Francisco—except cooler because it was in Spain.

Stella knows cool when she sees it.

WHERE YOU SHOULD GO:

The art pours out into the streetsMUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART

A spectacular venue to see modern art! The building, designed by Richard Meier brings light from the south through a solid wall of windows into three floors of packed with art you never get to see in the States. Outside, on two sides of the museum are large empty squares which slowly fill up as the day moves on. By afternoon they are buzzing with music and people spilling out from the cafés. Also a good place to start looking for some of the spectacular street art that covers the city.

THE PICASSO MUSEUM

Picasso a go go. This is Picasso as a teenager, as an art student, as a copy cat, as Toulouse-Lautrec, as a Matisse, as warmed over Corot, and finally as a frustrated old man. It’s everything you don’t see at the Picasso Museum in Paris which features some of his most popular work. A must see to fill out your understanding of this most influential 20th Century artist.

I was really surprised when I saw some of Picasso’s earlier work. It wasn’t like his later work at all. Not crazy, just sort of normal.

Aki Laflin

TAPIES CENTER

A big surprise, a beautiful space, a great homage to a modern Spanish artist and on top of all that it has a garden on the roof where you can swing in the hammocks and draw and paint at your leisure. The building is small and uncrowded and beautifully arranged; perfect for a relaxing and edifying trip after, say, lunch.

WHERE YOU SHOULD EAT:

Most is tourist fare. View it as a chance to get good at finding the places where all the local young hip sophisticates eat. Take a walk down LAS RAMBLAS. The best places will probably be off the main drag. And remember: you’re in Spain. People aren’t having dinner here until 9:30 at night (ahem. 21:30).

MAMA CAFÉ (Carrer Doctor Dou 10, ph 93.301.29.40)

Down a little side street near the Museum of Modern Art. Microwaves and processed foods are strictly prohibited and it has all the style you need for lunch or dinner. You’ll be happy you went.

ES (Carrer Doctor Dou 14, ph: 93.301.00.68)

Mama Café spawned an upscale daughter next door. The quality of french cuisine with a Spanish focus and (best of all) Barcelona prices.

There’s also a great little square past the Picasso Museum. Keep following the street the Picasso is on, and don’t give up—you’ll find a square with trees, a great little cafe, and lots of locals. You might get lost, sure… but that’s how we found it in the first place.

WHERE YOU WANT TO GO:

A magical journey through Gaudi ParkLA SAGRADA FAMILIA

Ever see a cathedral being built? No!? Here’s you’re chance. There’s lots of oooing and aaaaing at Gaudi’s masterpiece—even though it isn’t yet finished. It is certainly the most unusual of all public monuments.Walk up one of the spires for a terrific view of the city. Try pictures at sunset.

PARK GÜELL

Read The Lord of the Rings? Think “The Shire” but designed by Antoni Gaudi and made with cement, stones and tiles.

EL PASEO

Just wander, walk, move about, and join the throngs. Well, maybe not join them. But the spectacle of it all can be very nice.

THE BEACH

Need we explain?

Barcelona seems to have this free spirit that manifests itself perfectly in the Gaudi architecture spread through out the city. His stuff is crazy. It looks like it could be straight out of a Disney movie on LSD.

Stella has never used LSD. We swear.

WHERE YOU WANT TO STAY:

For the adventurous and seafaring, you can’t go wrong with this boat…it’s the perfect base to go to Barcelona’s famous beach and to explore the city.

This story was brought up to us by the San Francisco Art and Film for teenagers

A traveler’s guide to Cordoba, Spain

View of the famous Mosque and surroundings in Cordoba

WHAT TO EXPECT:

You can get there by train from Madrid in three hours. Astonishing. Cordoba is way different from Madrid: it’s smaller, it’s hotter and it’s filled with Moorish architecture. Don’t expect to see too many Moors these days—the Catholics threw them out in 1492. It’s a great wandering town because it is tiny compared to the other cities mentioned on this site. Head straight for the historical part of town, that’s what you’re really there to see. Get plenty of sleep the night before, take the train down in the morning and take in the whole place in one day. You should be able to make it back to Madrid for dinner. (Remember, dinner in Madrid begins at 10pm. You’ve got plenty of time.)

WHAT YOU SHOULD SEE:

LA MEZQUITA

The arches of La Mesquita in Córdoba

The arches of La Mesquita in Córdoba

The Mosque. The big one. Hell, the only one that really matters in Spain. It’s one of the great wonders of architecture. Red and white striped arches as far as the eye can see. This Muslim center, built on the site of a pagan temple was converted to a church, but the Catholics had the good sense to leave the arches and geometric details were left intact. Three layers of spirituality in one site. A tremendous experience not to be missed.

WHERE YOU SHOULD EAT:

Be our guest… pick anything that looks quaint, pleasant, and local. Though it was very good, we can’t remember the name of the place we ate. It was across the street from the Hotel

Restaurant Patio de la Judería

Lola. Where is the Hotel Lola? Ask a local.

We found one place that served quite well—namely because it was 109 degrees outside and the restaurant was

air-conditioned. Patio de la Judería is the name, and it’s located on the corner of Conde and Luque.

WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE:

The TRAIN STATION in time to get the train back to Madrid. All you’ll see if you miss it are some tourists from Omaha (we warned you). You don’t want to get stuck in Cordoba over night. Nothing bad will happen, but more to the point, nothing will happen. There just isn’t a whole lot to do as a tourist in that city. Of course, you might find something we didn’t. We were shocked to find a jazz festival taking place the same day as our trip.

Cordoba Mezquita

If you do get stuck, there are some ruines of MOORISH PALACES just outside town. We don’t know how to get there but you have to go by taxi anyways and all the taxi drivers know. It’s a very nice place to walk though, but go only if you’ve seen the mosque, had lunch, wandered around town, stopped for coffee, then desert and you’ve still got plenty of time (at least a few hours) before the train is scheduled to leave.

Dome/Ceiling of the Catedral de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora

This story was brought up to us by the San Francisco Art and Film for teenagers

Photo Credits, Flickr Creative Commons, from top:

La Mezquita @ Cordoba
Kevin Poh

Córdoba
Bert Kaufmann

Cordoba Mezquita
Luca Volpi

Andalucía / Andalusië: Córdoba
Bert Kaufmann

A traveler’s guide to Madrid

WHAT TO EXPECT:

There is a lot to love about Madrid. It is home to two of the greatest art museums in the world—the Prado and the Reina Sophia. It has beautiful sprawling gardens—try the botanical garden and the palace grounds to start. Like Barcelona, more terrific food and clothes for reasonable prices. More inexpensive hotels and pulsing nightlife. It’s cheap and accessible and well worth a stop on your trip.

WHERE YOU SHOULD GO:

Grupo de San Ildefonso carved in white Carrara marble around the year 10 BC. It is located in the Museo del Prado. The work is an outstanding example of neo-Attic eclecticism.

THE PRADO
Now here’s a treat, one of the greatest museums in the world, with rooms that are unforgettable. Don’t miss the Hieronymus Bosch rooms with their freaky animals and demented saints—better than any evening on ecstasy you’ve ever had. And the Velasquez dwarfs. And the whole wing of Goya’s, but do save some time for his last, black paintings: a giant eating a man, and witches preparing for a sabbath, and a dog’s head looking accusingly into spiritual light. You might even want to go back, because three or four hours doesn’t make it.

The Goya room captivated me. Something about it was so modern for his time, The use of abstract forms and simple colors made it the kind of art I want to buy someday, put it up in my house.
~Stella wants to rescue that poor little dog.

Velasquez. Yes. No wonder the Parisians started copying the Spanish style.
~Isaiah

Guernica by Pablo Picasso was painted in 1937 using oil on canvas

THE RIENA SOFIA
This converted hospital is one of the grandest spaces for modern art (note the terrific glass elevators). It also features a great courtyard filled with trees where, on hot days, you can have lemon ice on the patio. You’ll see all sorts of great work that you probably won’t recognize, but something you will is Picasso’s Guernica—one of the most famous paintings of the 20th century—and many other very strong Picassos’ (in contrast to the Picasso museum in Barcelona). There are usually one or two traveling exhibitions as well.

This was by far my favorite city for art. Seeing the Guernica live and in all its glory was chilling. I had always head about the impact of this painting, but never really understood it. Now that I have the image of it burned into my mind, I feel like I understand it even more every day.
~Stella

No wonder it’s so hard to find a good Miró gallery. They’re all at the Reina Sofia.
~Isaiah

THYSSEN BORNEMISZA MUSEUM
Across the street from the Prado, this private collection is one of the jewels in the museum crown, and a mind boggler all its own. Its laid out chronologically, and much more accessible than many museums, and you’ll go from the Middle Ages through the 20th century.

Jardines del Moro, Madrid

THE PALACE GARDENS:
Beautiful sculptures and loads of couples making out—seems to be the place for exhibitionist who don’t have bedrooms of their own.

IF DADDY’S PAYING:
You might want to do a little tour of the PARADORS: state owned hotels, usually in historic buildings, with great accomodations and restaurants. Try the one in TOLEDO—you know, where the bulls run—or any of the towns you plan to visit. They’re too expensive for most students but if Daddy’s paying at least let him do it in style (especially if you’re dragging him along).

WHERE TO EAT:

Madrid has some terrific restaurants and they’re less expensive than anywhere else. Take advantage.

LA FINCA DE SUSANA (C/Arlabán, 4) is really classy, but also informal and low key. Show up 30 minutes early and you’ll usually always get a table (but expect a line).

MONTANA (C/Lagasca, 5 ) looks fancier, but it’s owned by the same folks. This one is all black and white with fake bookshelves that advertise their fakes. Dress up (black) and fit right into the ambience. (Oh, and the food’s terrific too.)

GIJON (on the Paseo) is one of the oldest cafés around, and if you’re there on a Sunday you’ll have all the local ladies in their finery. You don’t want to miss is their fish soup, it’s some of the best.

Templo de Debod

This story was brought up to us by the San Francisco Art and Film for teenagers

Photo Credits, Flickr Creative Commons, from top:

Fuente de Cibeles
by Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias

Grupo de San Ildefonso
by Zaqarbal

Guernica
by Pablo Picasso

Cielo de mayo
by Pablo Sanchez

Templo de Debod
by Harshil Shah

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