Archive - 2012

1
Luton Airport welcomes new cafe
2
Purple Pick: Ancient Castles
3
What to buy a globetrotter for Christmas
4
Purple Hearts… Barcelona Travel Guide
5
Off the beaten track: Pavlopetri, the city beneath the waves
6
Purple Tips: Abu Dhabi Holidays
7
The Tactual Museum
8
Purple10: The Top Ten Most Visited Cities in the World
9
Foodie Corner: Istanbul Food Guide
10
The Best Rooftop Pools Ever

Luton Airport welcomes new cafe

Travellers who are flying via London Luton Airport will have a new reason to celebrate with the opening of a new Benugo Cafe. The deli and cafe will serve sandwiches  salads, snacks, fruits and coffee and will give passengers another great place to relax before jetting off to their destination.

Benugo Unit

London Luton Airport Commercial Director Rupert Lawrie commented “We strive to offer our discerning passengers variety and quality and are in the midst of implementing our strategy to offer high end desirable brands in our retail and catering mix. Benugo are among the first of many industry leading brands to join London Luton and we continue to look for new partners who will be the perfect fit for our evolving departure lounge.”

Find out more about holidays from London Luton Airport here. 

Purple Pick: Ancient Castles

Functioning as both a connection to the past and an exhibition of architectural beauty, these mighty and somewhat unrealistic constructions are now ironically considered some of the most peaceful buildings around. From huge, solid strongholds to oriental fortresses and highly decorative palaces, here is our pick of the world’s most incredible ancient castles.

prague castleimage by mindriot

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

Prague Castle is one of the largest and oldest castles in the world – its surface is around 570 metres long and 130 metres wide. Most fascinating about the castle is its design; representing literally every architectural style of the last millennium, from Gothic to Romanesque and Baroque features, the castle’s first buildings emerged as early as in the ninth century.

The Potala Palace, Tibet

Situated upon Marpo Ri hill, above the Lhasa valley in Tibet, the Potala Palace is the greatest monumental structure in the country. Built by Emperor Songtsen Gampo in 637, the original structure stood until the seventeenth century, when it was incorporated into the foundations of the larger buildings, which still stand today. The present palace, known as Potrang Karpo, or the White Palace, was completed in 1648, during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama. The Potrang Marpo, or Red Palace, was then added, requiring some 7000 workers and 1500 artists and craftsman for its completion.

Mont St. Michel, France

Le Mont St Michel is located on a small, rocky quasi-island on the Normandy coast, near Brittany. Only one narrow causeway links the island to the coastline, adding to the overall impression of this other-wordly castle. Unlike other castles in France, which were built for defence or to house royals, Mont St Michel began life as a monastery. Italian architect, William de Volpiano, designed the Romanesque church of the abbey in the 11th century, daringly placing the transept crossing at the top of the mount. Countless underground crypts and chapels were built below the structure to compensate for its weight. Today, it attracts over four million visitors a year and has been featured in several movies, cartoons, and even videogames.

Predjamski Castle, Slovenia

Do not be deceived by this castle’s small stature in comparison to other’s around the world – Predjamski is integrated into the second largest cave system in Slovenia and probably the only castle in the world incorporated into the landscape in such a way. It is also the only cave in the world with a double-track railway, meaning tourists can view the inner tunnels, galleries and halls of this unique architectural work.Although its name literally translates as ‘Castle in Front of the Cave’, the castle was actually built in stages, beginning in the twelfth century, with the middle added in renaissance, and the right wing built around 1570.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle from Purple Travel

Neuschwanstein Castle via @ Wikicommons

Built for Louis II of Bavaria, often referred to as Mad King Ludwig, Neuschwanstein is a royal palace, located in the Bavarian Alps of Germany. The castle is a quintessential work of nineteenth century romanticism and a fantastical imitation of a medieval castle, complete with towers, spires and turrets – it’s no wonder that Sleeping Beauty’s cast in Disneyland was modelled on it. The castle was also extremely revolutionary at the time, equipped with all kinds of technical conveniences, including running water on all floors, automatic flushing toilets on every floor and a heating system for the entire building.

Matsumoto Castle, Japan

Matsumoto Castle, locally named Matsumotojo, is one of the most complete and beautiful in all of Japan and its origins go back to the Sengoku period (1500s). The castle is an example of ‘hirajiro’, in that it was built on a plain rather than on a hill.

Hunyad Castle, Romania

Although today located in what is known as Hunedoara, Romania, the Hunyad Castle was originally part of Transylvania, and is believed to be the place where Vlad III of Wallachia (aka Dracula) was held prisoner for seven years after he was overthrown in 1462. The castle is the most impressive relic of the Hunyadi dynasty, built in a Gothic style, with Baroque and Renaissance elements. Understandably intimidating, considering its history, the castle’s appearance is equally eerie; a large and imposing building makes up the castle, complete with tall, coloured roofs and myriad towers, windows and balconies, each decorated with stone carvings.

Pena Nationa, Portugal

The oldest palace inspired by European Romanticism, Pena National Palace in Portugal is perched on the top of a hill above the town of Sintra. First built in the fifteenth century as a palace, the building was later reconstructed and donated to the church as a monastery. The style of the palace is a diverse combination of the original and subsequent architectural styles, including Romantic, Bavarian, and Moorish.

What to buy a globetrotter for Christmas

Gift ideas for travellers from PurpleTravel.co.uk.

the-worlds-heritage-a-complete-guide-to-the-most-extraordinary-places

1. The World’s Heritage, A Complete Guide to the Most Extraordinary Places

Culture vultures (well, their gift buyers) rejoice! UNESCO’s Complete Guide to the Most Extraordinary Places is a the ultimate in Christmas travel indulgence. Pore over the pics, jot down your own list and get ready to travel the world in the year ahead. With everything from Mayan Temples in Guatemala, to Petra in Jordan and the Acropolis of Athens, it has something for everyone.

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2. Rosetta Stone language learning pack

For your dad, who wants to speak a couple of lines of local lingo, pick up a copy of the Rosetta Stone Language Learning pack. Over thirty languages are available in the form of a computer-based course that helps you remember the words, by matching them with images, providing examples of pronunciation along the way.

3. Scratch map

For the show-offs in your life, a Scratch-Off-Where-You’ve-Been-Map is so much fun. Remove the wax to show the parts of the world that are well travelled by your globetrotting skills.

all-aboard-christmas-travel-ideas

4. Suitcase All Aboard Board Game

Post Christmas dinner, this is a good choice for all the family. Travel to exotic locations but watch out for elaborate obstacles that pop up along the way.

5. iPhone driSuit Endurance

An underwater cover for your iPhone that makes it all James Bond-like. Take pictures under the sea, Instagram from the beach, or record video as you hike through the mountains. The iPhone driSuit Endurance is a protective layer of gel that will keep your phone safe and sound.

Purple Hearts… Barcelona Travel Guide

Cosmopolitan. Cultural. Cool. Barcelona is a Catalan metropolis. A magnet for European tourists, this low-cost city break offers shopping, beaches, nightlife, cuisine and more. With so much to cram into a short break, you’ll need the Purple Travel Barcelona travel guide:

What to do in Barcelona

Shopping in Barcelona
A paradise for bargain hunters, Barcelona’s most famous street, Las Ramblas, offers sublime shopping opportunities on all sides. In El Corte ingles, at the northern most tip of the Ramblas, you’ll find seven floors of shopping, categorized into different genres. If you can’t find what it is you require there, you won’t find it anywhere.

There is a plethora of shops all along the road, as well as dozens of cafes and restaurants for when you’re all shopped out. Take a break with a jug of sangria and take in the colourful hustle and bustle of the street, frequented by artists, tourists and friendly residents. You can also take a stroll through the lanes of the Gothic Quarter and the Raval neighbourhood to find boutiques backed by historic architecture and creatives on every corner.

Beaches in Barcelona
Despite being a major city, Barcelona actually offers some lovely places to get away from it all and relax. Many of its beaches date back to the years when the city turned to the sea and took part in a renewal programme for the Olympics. Our favourite is Barceloneta Beach for its sand artists, drums, dancing and more. However, Barcelona’s well-maintained beaches extend several miles north from there, with many fantastic beaches along the way. Along this stretch are various cafes where you can grab a bite, which by night, become beach bars, where you can experience a slice of Barcelona nightlife.

Nightlife in Barcelona
The first thing you must know about Catalan nightlife is that the Spanish dine late, therefore the clubs don’t kick off until very late (over the weekends, the best period is between 3am and 7am). One of the best places to see and be seen is Elephant Bar, situated in the Les Corts neighbourhood. This two-storey, baroque-style villa is adorned with colonial decor, plush sofas and an exclusive VIP area. One of the most popular is the slightly cheesy Razzmatazz, which boasts five floors of varying music types, which function as separate clubs, despite having just one entrance fee. Other places you may want to check out are Pascha, the sister of Ibiza’s superclub, Sutton, a New York style nightclub with many celebrity guests and Mirabe, whose outdoor terrace is the perfect place to take in some of Barcelona’s best views.

What to see in Barcelona

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La Sagrada Familia
This enormous temple, designed by Antonio Gaudi, is one of the master architect’s most ambitious and impressive works. As yet unfinished, the building is often said to be a summary of everything Gaudi designed before (think leaning columns, designed at the correct angle so that they support the upper tower). This ongoing construction is funded by tourism, so be sure to check it out, you never know, they may finish it one day…

Poble Espanyol – “Spanish Village”
This small, Spanish village is home to different quarters, built to replicate the style of architecture from different parts of Spain. Here, you can findhost of specialist craft shops selling Spanish goods and it is also the venue of the famous flamenco show at tableo de Carmen.

La Predrera
Another innovative creation of Gaudi’s is La Predrera (meaning quarry), previously known as Casa Mila. The beautiful building displays Gaudi’s characteristic wavy brickwork and colourful tiles.

Barcelona FC Museum
If you are a footie fanatic, then this museum is the one for you. With wall to wall trophies, pictures and statues of the Spanish greats, you’ll be in football heaven. You can choose one of two ticket optios: buy a ticket for the museum and to see the stadium or you can buy a dual ticket where you get to see the museum and behind the scenes at the club.

Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum is arranged in chronological order, showing the artist’s early paints right through to his final works. This allows you to see the development of Picasso’s thinking over time and how his distinctive designs became what they are today.

What to eat in Barcelona

Even before the molecular gastronomy craze made Catalonia famous for its fun cuisine, Barcelona possessed its own unique tastes and textures, sausages, wild mushrooms, spring onions with romescu sauce and acorn-fed hams from southwestern Spain. These are married  with sparkling wines from the Penedès. Try Mesón Cinco Jotas on Las Ramblas, which serves a cselection of ham and charcuteria from the famous Sánchez Carvajal artisans in the town of Jabugo, Huelva. Or for the vegetarian, try Casa Félix, which is the classic Valls calçotada restaurant (a sweet, long-stemmed, twice-planted spring onion), which has entire dining rooms enclosed by enormous wine barrels.

Liked our Barcelona travel guide? See more our of travel guides in our Purple Hearts posts.

Off the beaten track: Pavlopetri, the city beneath the waves

Just off the southern coast of mainland Greece lies the oldest submerged city in the world, Pavlopetri, which thrived for 2,000 years during the Bronze Age. The ancient city of Pavlopetri has an almost complete town plan with streets and buildings, making it unique in terms of underwater cities.

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Initially inhabited in 3,500 BC, with a surface larger than 60 acres, its buildings are divided into smaller spaces and in some cases, courtyards. At least six prehistoric streets are noticeable and the submerged architectural remains extend to the islet of Pavlopetri, where ancient ruins are still evident. Moreover, among the immersed ruins there is also a cemetery.

Pavlopetri1

The secrets of Pavlopetri were brought to light by an international team of experts, using the latest technology to investigate the site and digitally raise it from the seabed. The team scoured the sea floor for any artifacts that have eroded from the sands, discovering thousands of fragments, each providing significant clues about the everyday lives of Pavlopetri inhabitants. From the buildings to the trade goods and the everyday tableware, every artefact sheds light on this long-forgotten world.

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Purple Tips: Abu Dhabi Holidays

Purple Tips: Abu Dhabi Holidays

As a result of the Arab Spring, the UAE has become more popular than ever, and its capital, Abu Dhabi, has gained a reputation for being a hub of culture, sport and entertainment. We asked Jennifer Fjeringen, a British expat who worked and lived in Abu Dhabi for her insider’s insight, “Abu Dhabi is not very large, but if you love fabulous hotels, brunches, shopping and sun, it will suit you. The only advise I could give is not to sunbathe on the public beaches – it’s worth paying 100-150AED a day per person to use different hotel’s beaches and facilities. The service is wonderful!”Here, she offers 5 great reasons why you should consider Abu Dhabi Holidays

Abu Dhabi

Why holiday in Abu Dhabi?

For a slice of Arabic culture
If you want a bit of Arabic culture, the Bateen Shipyard is a pleasant viewing. Here craftsmen carve their trademark wooden dhows from huge planks of teak. The shipyard is one of the oldest part of Abu Dhabi and just like in the old days, boat builders continue their ancient crafts in a traditional atmosphere, without the use of new age materials or fussy modern technique. Catch them in action at Dhow Harbour.

Also of course, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the ideal spot to soak up some true Arabic culture. This architectural work of art is one of the world’s largest mosques, housing a capacity of 41,000 worshippers. It features and astonishing 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers (the one in the main prayer hall is one of the world’s largest) and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. Surrounded by  reflective waters which mirror the striking white and gold of the building, the mosque transforms at night with a unique lightning system that reflects the phases of the moon. Try the 5pm ‘Sunset Tour’ for the perfect time to take photos.

For some amazing brunches
The Emirates Palace Hotel is amazing and does the most scrumptious brunch on Fridays. Le Vendôme in the EPH is an all-inclusive champagne brunch with a superb selection of culinary delights. You will need to book in advance and the cost is around 550AED per person. Or for something a little alternative, why not try brunch on a yacht? Shuja Yacht offers a genuinely memorable dining experience. It is possibly the laziest and most indulgent way to sightsee in Abu Dhabi; just take a seat on board, nod to the waiter when you want more bubbly and simply relax. The yacht sets off from the dock near Marina Mall, taking you up and down the Corniche on a two-hour trip, while you soak up the sun, views and all you can eat spread. Although small, the buffet, laid on by the Royal Meridien, is extremely high quality, including fishy delicacies, a line-up of Arabic mezze and hearty international mains, as well as some extraordinary desserts, which definitely take centre stage.

For an adrenaline rush
Ferrari World in Yas Island is an adrenaline rush to say the least. This exceptional experience for every family member offers a mix ofrides, attractions, themed stores and restaurants, inspired by the Ferrari brand and its Italian heritage. The F1™ cockpit is the fastest roller coaster on the planet, with accelerations of up to 240km/h. Also in Yas Island is the Yas Marina Circuit, which has the longest straight of any current Formula 1TM circuit, plus 21 twists and turns passing around the Yas Marina and under the Yas Viceroy Hotel.Then from Yas island carry on straight on the Sheikh Zayed Road into Dubai to party!

To be enlightened at the Saadiyat Cultural District
Saadiyat Island, billed as the destination for art and culture in the Middle East, is home to  several prestigious museums and galleries, which in the next couple of years, will also include the world’s second Louvre and its third Guggenheim. Another project currently underway is a partially submerged Maritime Museum and the Zayed National Museum.Abu Dhabi is also home to the art exhibition centre, Manarat Al Saadiyat (‘The Place of Enlightenment’), which hosts temporary shows in its three galleries.

For shopping heaven at The Corniche
The Corniche is a beautiful sea-front walk that leads to the Marina mall, a fabulous building filled with shops and restaurants. Surrounding the mall are gardens, fountains and the Heritage village – a very small marketplace. Backing The Corniche are the tall, glitzy buildings of the new commercial district, which runs the length of Abu Dhabi beach. In the evenings, this is also a popular place to stroll or cycle, particularly as it contains some of the city’s best places to stay, eat and shop.

Image used under creative commons by @ AlexMWang

The Tactual Museum

The museum where it’s forbidden NOT to touch

Now this is something really different. Usually in museums or galleries you’ll find attendants who’ll stop you getting too close to the likes of the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David. One museum in Athens, Greece is turning that idea on its head, by offering statues that you’re actively encouraged to touch.

 

The Tactual Museum is trying to put people in touch with Greece’s ancient history, literally. Developed to give people with sight problems another way of discovering ancient artefacts, it’s packed with replicas of all kinds, from statues to busts, frescoes to religious items. You are encouraged to feel your way around from the moment you get in there so you can become familiarised with the cultural heritage of Greece in a new way.

On entering the museum, sighted visitors are invited to wear a blindfold, to ‘see’ every exhibit with their hands only. Visitors are meant to feel the beauty of their surroundings and experience history through other senses.

This unique museum was chosen in 1988 among 70 other european museums to receive the “Museum of the year” Award and in 2004, it also won an award from the Greek Union of Friends of Museums for the realization of its accessibility program.

It is one of only 4-5 museums of this kind in the world.

tactual museum

The museum is open for school tours and educational visits as well as the general public, daily from 09.00 to 14.00. You’ll find the Tactual Musuem at Doiranis 198, Kallithea, 176 73.

Click here to book a cheap holiday to Athens, Greece.

Foodie Corner: Istanbul Food Guide

The minute you land in Istanbul you’ll be amazed by its magical atmosphere and beauty, as well as (more importantly?) the smell of spices drifting through the air. The good news is, it’s not difficult to find something tasty to eat in this superb city, we’ve got the the insider’s guide to the best kept foodie secrets in the Turkish capital. Be prepared, the best places to eat are found in dark narrow alleys, on the fourth floor of abandoned looking buildings, without any signs of life. Enjoy our Istanbul Food Guide. And remember, if there’s something we’ve missed please let us know in comments.

Image by @ lwy

Click here to read where to eat like a local: Ibiza and Athens editions.

Kebab

The first and foremost (m)eating you have to taste is the infamous kebab (this is found in a variety of dishes, consisting of grilled or broiled meats, usually lamb or beef, on a skewer or stick). You’ll probably find numerous kebab corners all around the city, but we reckon the best place is to enjoy this delicious meal overlooking the magnificent Golden Horn, Bosphorus and Galata areas. Head for Hamdi Restaurant in Eminonu which has been serving mouthwatering Turkish dishes since the late 60s.

Tip: Make sure that you book a table on the top floor near the big glass window to enjoy the panoramic view.

Manti

These tiny pasta treats (kind of Turkish dumplings) are served with a generous spoonful of yoghurt, melted butter and ground-up red pepper. One of the best places to savour manti is at Marko Pasa restaurant in Taksim. There, the manti are freshly made, right before they’re cooked.

Tip: Highlight of the restaurant is the making of the food in the front window, so that people can watch how they are cooked.

Mussels

Wandering around the city, you’ll find it tough to find a place NOT selling these treats from the sea. It is a cherished treat and that’s something all Turks agree with. Eat them fried with garlic sauce or, even better, stuffed with spicy rice, pine nuts and more rarely with raisins. Mussels are brought to you by a waiter that grates the zest from a lemon right on your dish as it is served. Head for the fish market, Balik Pazari for the tastiest.

Tip: Buying mussels from street vendors is not recommended, because you might be unlucky to experience some side effects, you can probably imagine what we’re getting at.

Baklava

Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. This divine pastry is available in every confectionery, but for the ultimate baklava go to Gulluoglu in Karaköy. There you can taste as many of the twelve different original recipes as you like.

Tip: Ask the shop owners to let you watch the ritual of baklava making. The baklava masters start making the filo pastry by taking an oath on baklava, which is really funny!

Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is a ritual. Made in a special pot called a cezve, finely ground coffee is boiled, usually with sugar and served in a cup where it’s allowed to settle. (This is a very important bit!) Coffee and drinking it is so important in Turkey, breakfast is known as Kahvalti, literally meaning “before coffee.” While walking to Eyüp, a stop at Pierre Loti café is a must. Have an aromatic Turkish coffee and admire the view over the city and Golden Horn.

Tip: To find your fortune, all you need is a simple cup of coffee. When you’ve finished your cup, tip over the residue onto your saucer and read what the future holds for you.

Ps. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Kokoretsi (actually a Greek speciality, but also served in Turkey) is definitely one to try. Made mainly from goat or lamb intestines, it’s usually wrapped in offal and filled with whatever bits and pieces are available, we’re talking hearts, lungs and kidneys.

Click here to book your cheap holiday to Turkey today.

The Best Rooftop Pools Ever

How about some night time swimming under the stars 60 storeys up? Then check out the best rooftop pools ever.

 The ultimate: Marina Bay Sands, Singapore photo by @ GreenKermit

Best for daredevils: Avalon Gothenburg, Sweden photo by: @ Wrote

Best for partying: Ganesvoort Park Avenue Hotel, New York  

Best for Relaxation: The Vine Hotel, Funchal, Madeira photo by @ The Vine

Best for extreme swimming: Hotel Joule, Dallas, Texas photo by @ NinjaTune

Best view: Electra Palace Hotel, Athens, Greece photo by @ Life’s too short…

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