Archive - July 2012

1
Travel tips: The top city beaches
2
Purple Hearts: Prague Travel Guide
3
A Night Less Ordinary: Boot Hotel
4
The top 5 weird ways to travel on holidays
5
Style Suitcase: The best summer sandals
6
Purple 10: Best hotels in Dubrovnik
7
A Greek Beauty
8
A Night Less Ordinary: Dog Bark Park Inn
9
PurpleHaze part 3: Travelin Tunes
10
Purple 10: Ten Days in Havana Cuba

Travel tips: The top city beaches

If you’re interested in a beach holiday, but you want a little something on the side then why not go for a city beach break. We reckon it’s a great way to combine some sunshine with a bit of sight seeing, the bar and food choices of a city, with the loungers and sunshine of the coast. Here are our top choices for city beaches – if you’ve got others we’d love to hear them…

Barceloneta Beach, Barcelona: We think Barceloneta is a definite winner. Just at the end of the Ramblas, it’s got a buzzing atmosphere, loads of foodie jaunts and you can even get yourself a massage if you’re feeling really lazy.

Ipanema, Rio: the sexiest beach in the world or what? A place for some serious beautiful people watching, locals flock here every weekend, so it can be crowded, but with miles and miles of white sand and under the Two Brother’s mountains it offers a great mix of stunning scenery and epic views.

Dubrovnik, Croatia: The city is right on the sea, so it’s perfect for a little sun soaking. A word of warning though, most are pebble beaches, but don’t let it put you off. You can relax in the beach bars, grab a kayak and go explore or just totally unwind under a beach umbrella on your own stretch of paradise.

Miami Beach, Florida: Quite possibly the most famous city beach in the world, Miami is where the bold and the beautiful, the old and young come to top up their tans, sip on a cocktail or just soak up the atmosphere. The beach has even got its own workout equipment right there – just in case you feel the need to soup

Copenhagen, Denmark: The Danish city might not be your first choice for a beach break, but it’s got a lot going for it. Choose from not one, but two beaches nearby that you can easily get to by just hopping on the local train. The water’s crystal clear, the white sand is a sight for sore eyes, and the sea temperatures are a refreshing 20 degrees or so. Definitely worth a try.

Venice, Italy: There’s more to Venice than stunning views, gondola rides on the canal and the glorious history that makes this city famous. It’s also home to one of Italy’s best kept secret beaches, Venice Lido. Just minutes from St. Mark’s Square, it’s an island that’ll give you the chance to rub shoulders with the rich and famous under the gorgeous Italian sunshine.

Venice Beach, California: Another Venice, but this one is a little different! Famous the world over thanks to Pamela Anderson and that red swimsuit, there are actually over 20 beaches to choose from in Los Angeles. Venice is filled with fortune tellers, artists and was home to some of the early beach poets. Now you might be lucky to rub shoulders with some Hollywood elite applying their suncream.

Jumeirah Beach, Dubai: Dubai is a city of true contrast, from the stunning, eye-wateringly tall Burj Al Arab 7 Star hotel, to the exquisite sandy beaches, it’s got something for everyone. Jumeirah is about 25 minutes from the city centre, it’s usually pretty quiet and is ideal for children as it’s shallow and quite safe. The water is crystal clear and the sandy beach is just perfect. What more could you ask for?

Purple Hearts: Prague Travel Guide

Prague’s huge popularity was once down to 20p pints and cheap flights on EasyJet. And today, although not the bargain it once was, its appeal continues to grow. A fascinating history combined with a stong architectural credibility, ensures the Czech capital is as compelling a city break as ever. Take the city centre, for example. Here you will find examples of almost every architectural trend of the last two centuries, including Gothic, Renaissance, baroque, neoclassical, art nouveau and cubist. And for those who venture beyond the medieval lanes of the Old Town and the Castle District, a hub of modern culture fashions the landscape, from lively bars and beer gardens to clubs, live music venues, and cutting-edge art galleries.

However, Prague travel does have its negatives. The good places are often the most difficult for an unknowing tourist to scope out; too many people, serious traffic jams and heaps of tacky commercialism mean Prague’s secret treasures are less ‘hidden gem’ and more Mission Impossible. In fact, many travellers return from Prague considering it nothing more than ‘Magaluf in a city break’. With this in mind, we wanted to create a Prague travel guide that would seek out the best of Prague, so you won’t waste any valuable holiday time and can avoid getting ripped off with the crowds.

Czech in: the sights worth visiting in Prague

Charles Bridge
This spectacular 15th century bridge is the connecting structure between the ‘Lesser Town’ and the old town. Adorned with 30 statues of saints and lined with old fashioned lanterns, it is the perfect spot for a romantic stroll.
Purple Tip:
Avoid visiting during the middle of the day when the crowds flock across the bridge to grab some snaps of the ‘entertainers’ and craft stalls that line the bridge.

The Astronomical Clock
The striking astronomical clock of the town hall, which also features a calendar painted by the famous Czech painter Josef Manes, and the procession of the 12 apostles who appear through the wooden doors that open at the top, is a must-see in Prague. The clock displays four times: central European time, old bohemian time, stellar time and Babylonian time.
Purple Tip:
Visit early (9am is best) to avoid the crowds and make sure you arrive on the hour to view the show of the apostles.

The John Lennon wall
One of the more unusual sights in Prague is the graffiti-covered, featuring an image of John Lennon’s face. Despite having never visited Prague, he became a hero to young Czechs, anti-communists and peace activists, particularly after his murder in the 1980s when western music was banned here. Since the collapse of communism, visitors from all over the globe have added messages of peace, creating an impactive statement set against the soft palette of the more traditional buildings of Prague.
Purple Tip:
You can find some really fascinating messages on the wall if you look closely.

The castle
The Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world. Having survived invasions, fires, wars and rebuilds, the castle displays a striking mix of architectural styles. It is currently the seat of the president of the Czech Republic, and every hour, on the hour, visitors can witness the changing of the guard.
Purple Tip:
If you catch the changing of the guard at midday, you can see the military fanfare, too.

You should read… Top Sights to see in Prague

The Jewish Quarter

The harrowing story of Prague’s Jewish community begins as far back as the 13th Century, when the Jewish Quarter was created. Jews had extreme restrictions placed upon them and were not allowed to live in any other area, causing it to become known as The Prague Ghetto until 1781. Important historical buildings, including synagogues, The Jewish Town Hall and the Jewish cemetery remain on the grounds.
Purple Tip:
The Jewish cemetery is a must-see for history fanatics. It is the oldest burial ground in the world, and where some 12,000 graves are piled on top of the one other.

Kampa Island and Kampa Museum
 Opened in 2002, the Kampa Museum holds an extensive, permanent collection of Central European art, as well as some impressive temporary exhibitions throughout the year. Situated on Kampa Island, on the left back of the Vltava River, the modern gallery is the home of a large chair sculpture by artist, Magdalena Jetelova, which is situated outside the museum and is a prominent landmark visible from across the Vltava.
Purple Tip:
Include the visit into your exploration of the Lesser town and enjoy lunch in the museum’s elegant riverside café.

Czech these out: things to do in Prague

Grab a coffee
Prague’s chicest and most atmospheric cafes are mostly all on the first floor, meaning great views and fewer tourists. Expect to find a picturesque setting of period interiors, such as in the Grand Café Orient above the Cubist Museum, where the coffee is dependably wonderful and the cakes are decorated with love. Similarly, the Café Louvre, with its abundant natural light, numerous elaborate mirrors, fine pastel shaded walls and light furniture, was a favourite with Kafka and Einstein. Try one of their legendary hot chocolates, so thick that you can stand a spoon up in it.

Have a wild night out

Clubbing and anarchy goes hand-in-hand in Prague; with almost no safety regulations or political correctness, you can expect bar-top stripping, grungy interiors and rampant stimulant use in many of the capital’s bars. Venue such as Staré Mêsto on a Friday night, hip art bar Cross Club and live music venue, Bordo, all organise seriously cool events, such as short film festivals, experimental rock nights and 90s throwback tributes. Újezd is a smoky three-storey madhouse, filled with badly amplified rock and a young dreaded Czech crowd and Wakata, a true teenage wasteland, houses art exhibitions and live bands.

Czech, please: the Prague food scene

In a country where the national dish is roast pork, dumplings and sauerkraut, you better leave your diet at home. Traditional Czech meals are not only heavy, but also on the salty side, however, they are always tasty. There’s also some serious pig lust going on here, so vegetarians – do your research (and see below). Here’s our pick of the best places to get your fill in the capital:

Clear Head
Clear Head is a vegetarian restaurant located in a 15th-century house on what is said to be the shortest street in Old Town Prague. This welcoming former teahouse serves a rotating menu of feel-good foods, including hearty soups, Indian-influenced cuisine and colourful entrees.

Bohemia Bagel
Recommended by the NY Times, this bagel joint is life-saving for anyone craving something familiar amongst the midst of menu items you cannot pronounce. Bohemia Bagel serves up bagel sandwiches, burgers and diner classics like huevos rancheros and pigs in a blanket.

Celeste restaurant
Serving up frill-free French cuisine, this wavy riverfront building designed by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic, resembles a couple – often called Fred and Ginger – in midstep. Gwendal Le Ruyet, the head chef, who spent five years working with Alain Ducasse, uses mostly local ingredients and intense flavours. The top floor of the building provides unparalleled views of the Vltava River and Prague Castle.

Allegro
For unrivalled Italian cooking in Prague, head to the Four Seasons Hotel. Although a little on the pricey side, chef Vito Mollica’s seasonal dishes are worth emptying your pockets for. Expect dishes such as slow-roasted veal with Alba truffles and aged Modena balsamic vinegar.

Enjoyed our Prague travel guide? Visit Prague on a great value city break in 2014 with Purple Travel. Visit our website for more or call 02079939228.

A Night Less Ordinary: Boot Hotel

In this weekly series, we scour the world in search of the most weird and wonderful hotels. From cave hotels to converted prisons, capsule pods to underwater guestrooms, you can expect only the unexpected. This week, come hang out in a giant boot at the boot hotel.

What’s the gimmick? Remember the nursery rhyme – ‘There was an old lady that lived in a shoe…’? Boot Bed ‘n’ Breakfast brings this tale to life. Although its founders were first considered completely crazy when they created the ‘boot’ in 2001, after several years of blissful visits, they became something of a celebrity in the local area.  The boot is situated in the heart of the beautiful Tasman region in New Zealand, contributing to the tapestry of attractions and folklore, which inspire the region.

Why stay? With room for only two (so there’s no room for Old Mother Hubbard and co), the boot is actually a somewhat romantic getaway. Nestled within a grove of hazelnut trees, surrounded by a fragrant garden, guests can enjoy relaxing hot afternoons, alfresco dining, an outdoor fireplace with a comfy couch in front of it, and breakfast delivered to the door. Inside, the furnishings are specially tailored for couples; there are two chairs at the table, two champagne flutes, two coffee cups, space for two on the couch, space for two on the bed, space for two in the shower… Fresh and sweet-smelling flowers, fine Nelson Art and complementary chocolates complete the scene.

You should read… A night less ordinary: Dog Bark Park Inn

The wow factor: Thispeaceful, comfy bed and breakfast combines sustainable practices with luxury experience. Expect to find organic produce, including the free-range eggs from the owners’ hens and fresh fruit from their orchard. The 2.4 hectare garden is free for guests to mill around during their stay, taking in the tranquil, secluded surroundings of this lovers retreat.

The boot costs NZ$300 per night per couple. For bookings, please see The Boot website.

The top 5 weird ways to travel on holidays

If you want to stock up on cool points then of course a convertible or helicopter would be a top choice for travelling, but if you want real fun, then we think ‘the weirder the better.’ So, we’ve put together a little list of some of the more unusual choices of holiday transport. Stranger than a camel, faster than your two legs, here are our top 5 weird ways to see your destination.

Segway

Ok, so no one is ever going to look super cool on a segway, but don’t let that put you off. No, really, don’t!! These electric powered bike/unicycle hybrids have been bringing the energy deficient around since launching a couple of years ago. You’ll find them in lots of sun destinations and are really popular with kids who love whizzing around in circles. Plus they’re really simple to use, so you can breathe a sigh of relief that they want a go.

However, we’ve got a warning for you… if Justin Timberlake can’t even make it look good, you might just have to accept you won’t win any cool awards!

Gondola

When in Rome… or in this case Venice, a gondola trip might seem pricey or touristy but it’s well worth it. The good news is gondola fares are set by local officials, which means you can usually find a better price if there are a couple of you together. But, in our opinion, a trip with just you, your other half and your driver around the canals under the moonlight is a truly magical experience. Ps. Singing is not obligatory for gondoliers, but you might just get lucky!

Zorbing

It might not strictly fall under the category of travel, but zorbing is about as much fun as you can have in an enclosed plastic sphere. It’s sort of built like a bubble of plastic inside another, you get strapped in and hold on for dear life. So, hop in and you’ll be rolled down hill for a seriously adventurous and sometimes a bit of a bumpy ride. A quick warning, zorbing is not really for the faint-hearted, so remember this before you commit to it.

Beer Bike

Yes, you did read that right. The beer bike is basically a little caravan with seats that carries 30 litres of beer and up to 18 people. You’ll find it in Amsterdam and better get ready to put your pedal power to action, as you help driver Bob to cycle it around the city.

Kayak

Did you know New York City offers kayak tours? No, us either, but now that we’ve thought about it, we’re dying to go. Head down to Pier 40 on Houston Street and you’ll get hooked up with your very own kayak to take down the Hudson. Take in the sights like the Lady Liberty, and views of the Manhattan skyline as far as the Brooklyn Bridge.

Style Suitcase: The best summer sandals

What’s in your suitcase?

This week, we scour the high street and the high end looking for the best of the best summer sandals. Whether its embellished at Miu Miu or photo print at ASOS, your feet are in for a treat.

  • Carven tribal print sandals
  • ASOS photo print sandals
  • Acne perspex sandals
  • Jeremy Scott for Adidas trainer sandals
  • Alexander Wang buckle strap sandals
  • Moschino jelly heart sandals
  • Miu Miu crystal seahorse sandals
  • Azzedine Alaia croc sandals
  • Robert Clergerie wedge sandals
  • Chloe scallop sandals
  • Topshop pearl chain sandals
  • Carvela navy blue glitter sandals

Purple 10: Best hotels in Dubrovnik

In Dubrovnik, there is nothing better than long, lazy days lounging in the sunshine, strolling around the Old City Walls, enjoying a gelato or a cool beer or tucking into some amazing fresh seafood. You’ve already read all about what to do in Dubrovnik, now we fill you in on the best hotels in this gorgeous city.

Dubrovnik rooftops

Affordable Luxury: Grand Hotel Park. The design hotel is in a great location right in the heart of the city and has lots going for it. Surrounded by vibrant gardens and with lovely views of the Lapad Cove Promenade and of course the sparkling ocean, the Grand is a mix of Italian design and Croatian hospitality. We definitely like the look of the Taverna Marikin Dvorac which specialises in fresh fish and grilled meats. Vegetarians steer clear!

Rock the Kazbek: The Kazbek. This one really deserves its spot on the 10 best hotels in Dubrovnik list. It started as a castle, built in 1573 by noblemen so you know you’re in for a bit of luxury here. Fully renovated to its former glory, this boutique hotel has just 12 beautifully designed rooms, a restaurant with courtyard and balcony terrace and even boasts a library. You can literally become king or queen of the castle by renting out the whole property for something really special.

Bed to beach and back again: Komodor Hotel. This 3* is a great example of the famous old Dubrovnik architecture. This small hotel has a cosy atmosphere and offers the simple pleasures to make your stay unforgettable. And just minutes from the water, you can go from bed to beach in no time.

Water baby heaven: Orphee Hotel. Right in the middle of lush gardens and woodlands, so it offers that real get-away-from-it-all experience. It’s just a few miles from Dubrovnik, the pools are just what the doctor ordered; while the PADI approved dive school on the beach means you can learn a thing or two while you’re there too.

Naturally beautiful: Valamar Lacroma. Archinature, yes that might just be a made up word, but there’s no better way to describe this secluded hotel. Combining the natural environment and lush greenery of the Croatian countryside, with mesmerising style and architecture the Valamar Lacroma is a dream to stay in.

Unforgettable views: Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik. In a truly fabulous location, just minutes from the Old Town, this is the place to go for breathtaking views overlooking the ancient city walls and the gleaming Adriatic. Although it was renovated recently, it has that lovely old world feel and plenty of original architectural features.

A regal choice: Hotel Excelsior. Well if money was no object this would definitely be one of our faves. It’s literally where royalty go to holiday. Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, King Olaf have all stayed in this pristine hotel as well as super celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Hey, if it’s good enough for them, we wouldn’t mind it!

Family run fun: Berkeley Hotel. A really family friendly, family run hotel, the Berkeley is ideal for a relaxed summer get away. Run by the Vicelic family since 2007 who offer the warmest of welcomes, a really great breakfast and lots of insider knowledge on where to go during your stay.

Cosy cottage: Vesna’s Cottage. We absolutely fell in love with Vesna’s Cottage. From the lush gardens that surround it, to the blue timber ceilings, Vesna’s is so laidback it’s horizontal. The brightly coloured walls will make you smile and kids will love the feeling of countryside right in the city.

Feeling flush: Hotel Pucić Palace. Now this one is for the serious luxury hunter. The 5* boutique hotel is right in the middle of the city and prides itself on its exclusive feel. It’s got ancient stone walls and parquet floors which combine with all the modern stuff you need – in room DVD and CD players. It’s even got a yacht for hire! If that doesn’t impress in your holiday snaps, nothing will.

If you fancy a stay in one of the best hotels in Dubrovnik, call Purple Travel now on 02079939228.

A Greek Beauty

We just had to share this absolutely stunning video. If you’re looking for some holiday inspiration, or you simply like beautiful things, then grab a cup of tea, (milk and two sugars for me please!) sit back and seriously enjoy this timelapse of Greece. Oh to be there right now!

Stian Redkal you’re our hero!

A Night Less Ordinary: Dog Bark Park Inn

In this weekly series, we scour the world in search of the most weird and wonderful hotels. From cave hotels to converted prisons, capsule pods to underwater guestrooms, you can expect only the unexpected. This week, enjoy a night less ordinary at the Dog Bark Inn.

What’s the gimmick? Bringing a whole new meaning to the term doggy style, Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho, is a bed and breakfast guesthouse inside the world’s biggest beagle. Dog-lovers can take their obsession to new heights (literally), entering the body of the giant toy dog (who’s affectionately named, Sweet Willy) from a private second story deck. Once inside, you can head up another level to the head of the dog, where you’ll find a cosy loft room decorated with dog decorations, offering additional sleeping space (Willy sleeps four in total). The bathroom, which is disguised as a giant fire hydrant, is located beneath the tail.

You should read… A night less ordinary: Giraffe Manor

Why stay? Even if you hate dogs, or this idea freaks you out a bit, at Dog Bark Park, you are the only tenant, the beds are unbelievably comfortable and the loft is tailor-made for a restful night’s sleep. As the wind blows across the prairie at night, making the dog ears flap, you’ll wonder why you’ve not been sleeping in a beagle your whole life. And that’s not all – the well-stocked fridge, doggy biscuits and breakfast are all home-cooked and excellent. This is seriously one of the best experiences America has to offer.

Dog Bark Park Inn gift shop

The wow factor: Some of the dog’s decorative furnishings are carvings by Dog Bark Park Inn resident chainsaw artists Dennis & Frances.Dennis J. Sullivan, a self-taught chainsaw artist, has been carving for over twenty years. Frances joined him fifteen years ago and in 1995, their carvings were sold on QVC television (aka the home of useless crap). They did nothing but carve wooden dogs for 18 months then invested all their earnings in developing and building Dog Bark Park, where visitors most likely will find them happily creating art.

The cost per double stay is $92 and then $8 for each additional guest. Book here

PurpleHaze part 3: Travelin Tunes

One of our favourites bits of the week is sitting down to do PurpleHaze, because the only thing that is more fun than going on holidays is listening to holiday music! We like to theme it a little bit tooToday we’re thinking of songs about travelling – whether it’s a place name, or a general feeling of travelling. We’d love to hear your travellin’ tune too – let us know in the comments below.

Holiday – Madonna

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London Calling – The Clash

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The Passenger – Iggy Pop

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Road Trippin’ – Red Hot Chilli Peppers

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Purple 10: Ten Days in Havana Cuba

When you think about Cuba what comes to mind? It’s probably the rhythmic lilts of Caribbean music that flows throughout the island, or the sugar-white sandy beaches that are a perfect escape from the rate race. Maybe it’s the 1950s cars that are so popular on Pinterest these days or the long, lazy days taking in the colonial architecture. Well, you’ll be pleased to hear there is all that and lots and lots more. Read our top 10 things to do in Havana Cuba.

  1. Music and movement: Whether it’s salsa or jazz, rumba or reggaeton, you won’t go too far in the bustling capital of Cuba without hearing some amazing street music. Music is a religion in this city and a holiday here will quickly turn you into a convert. Grab a drink and relax to the stunning sounds of the tres guitar or head for some of the noisy jazz clubs to experience a night out like a local.
  2. Havana Street food: It’s well worth grabbing some pesos to get your hands on some delicious street food. Tuck into some deliciously fresh egg tortillas, or paper cones filled with fried banana chips or pork skin. Ok, it’s not good for your cholesterol but is so tasty, one or two can’t hurt, right?
  3. Old Havana: A hectic and crazy experience for some, Old Havana is where to go for a true Cuban experience. A tour in an old time Cadillac is a great way to round off a day. Usually available for an hour or too, it can be pricey by Cuban standards.
  4. Che shaped history: It’s well worth taking a step back in time and visiting the Mausoleo Che Guevara. The Santa Clara memorial houses a dedicated museum to the legendary revolutionary’s life and work and an eternal flame that was lit by Fidel Castro in Guevara’s memory.
  5. Writing tour: Havana’s been a Mecca for writers since… well, since they realised what a cool place it is. Check out Ambos Mundos, Ernest Hemingway’s old stomping ground. He lived at the hotel for seven years in the 30s, and wrote part of For Whom the Bell Tolls in one of the rooms which is preserved in pristine condition.
  6. The Tropicana: Really, you can’t head for Cuba without sticking your head in the gloriously tacky, world renowned, cabaret club. Set in six acres, the Tropicana’s history of mob involvement and showgirls (or flesh goddesses as they are known) is a jingle of colours, a riot of music and one helluva night out.
  7. Perfect beaches: While Varadero is the top beach jaunt, with lots of all inclusive options, don’t knock the beaches close to Havana until you’ve tried them. Playa Jibacoa is a little village about an hour from Havana. Renting a car is probably the best way to get to this idyllic, sundrenched paradise beach. Otherwise the gorgeous Santa Maria beach is a typical picture perfect tropical wonderland.
  8. Dance the night away: Cuba is certainly famous for its dancing. Think of those strong rhythms working your feet into a frenzy. There’s pretty much no bar or venue where dancing is frowned on, so bring your comfy flats and a bit of rhythm and get into the swing of it with the locals.
  9. Nights on the Malecón: You’re on holidays but you want to hang with the locals? Head for the Malecón, the seafront promenade that’s perfect for people watching. Just watch out for the ladies of the night, or their friends who like to befriend foreigners.
  10. Mojitos on the Malecón: Ok, you’ve found the famous locals hangout point, how about a mojito nearby. A trip to Cuba wouldn’t be right without sampling at least on. In fact, you’ll probably never settle for one at home after an expertly made version, with precisely the right amount of ice and rum. A trip to the historic Havana Club Rum Museum is top of our list, it is great post or pre your cocktails.

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