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Purple 10: Holidays for history buffs
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Travelling to Greece in 2012
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Purple Pick: Mythical Places
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Football Crazy? Or maybe not.
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Purple Tips: Hidden Shopping Gems Europe

Purple 10: Holidays for history buffs

Plan your holiday to perfect with our top 10 holidays for history buffs. From the Acropolis of Athens to the Mayan stronghold of Tulum in Mexico, we’ve got 10 of the best history holidays that will make your jaw drop.

  1. Athens, Greece Almost anywhere you visit in Athens you’ll find precious ruins that date back thousands of years. The iconic Acropolis stands tall baking in the sunshine, while you can relive history at the ancient Greek and Roman markets, visit the colossal ruin of the Temple of Zeus, or take a walk around the Theatre of Dionysus.
  2. Nile Valley, Egypt Actually, if you travel anywhere in Egypt, you’re likely to bump into an ancient and quite frankly, awe inspiring site. Some of our favourites are the ancient Giza Pyramids (how did they do that!?), Cairo’s Museum, where you’ll find the treasures of Tutankhamen and up the Nile River, the Luxor Temple and the Valley of the Kings.
  3. Machu Picchu, Peru People wait a lifetime to visit the majestic ruins of the lost ‘city of the Incas’. Built around 1400, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
  4. Rome, Italy Once the most powerful city in history, Rome is still saturated with historical and cultural sites that will remind you of times gone by. The Colosseum, Roman Forum and Pantheon will transport you back in time, while the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain should be on your ‘must-see’ list. No wonder it’s made our top 10 list of holidays for history buffs.
  5. Tulum, Mexico A seat of ancient Mayan civilisation, Tulum actually means ‘wall’ and is one of very few ancient sites that remains right on the sea. Dating back to 564 BC, you’ll find the Castillo, with breathtaking views of the ocean, the Temple of the Descending God and a selection of Cenotes (natural spring water pits that were used as a place of sacrifice.)
  6. Prague, Czech Republic Once the capital of Bohemia, Prague’s ghostly atmosphere and historic streets mean there is a tonne to keep you going once you arrive. From the imposing Castle that overlooks the city to the Charles Bridge, it’s a haven for budding photographers. For occult hunters, most other sites pale in comparison to the Selec Ossuary. The Bone Church was built around the 1500s from the bones of thousands of people. Not for the fainthearted.
  7. Florence, Italy Florence is a city dripping with art history, from the famous Cathedral, featuring a Brunelleschi designed dome, to the world famous Uffizi Gallery, showcasing works by Botticelli, Michelangelo and Raffaello, it’s a historian’s dream destination.
  8. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic The capital is a model for city and town planners across the world. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 and Santo Domingo became the site of the very first cathedral, university and hospital in the Americas, all laid out in a familiar grid pattern. It’s a wonderful place to combine sun holiday with historic wonder.
  9. Vienna, Austria Vienna could easily be taken for one of the classical music capitals of the world. Combined with its history of royalty and the strategic positioning, it offers the State Opera House, Imperial Palace and Schonbrunn Palace, gorgeous!
  10. Fez, Morocco The medieval capital of Morocco, Fez is one of the best preserved old cities you’ll find. The ancient Medina is home to excellent examples of ancient Islamic architecture, while the city’s car free policy means you’ll truly feel like you’ve travelled back in time.

Read more… Purple 10 Holidays for art lovers

Travelling to Greece in 2012

Will the Euro crisis affect my travel plans?

Amid rife media attention regarding Greece‘s poor economic situation, many of our customers are wondering whether now is a good time to visit Greece, and how the crisis will affect their journey. Aside from worries about riots, strikes and a return to Drachma, one of the major concerns is whether hotels and restaurants will be able to survive the downturn in tourism. These fears can be collectively categorised under ‘instability’; people are hesitant to book their holidays in a country whose future appears somewhat unpredictable.

However, we would like to prove you otherwise. There has actually never been a better time to book your holiday to Greece – prices are low, but quality remains high, the Greeks are more warm and welcoming than ever before and conversion rates benefit the UK traveller. And furthermore, not only will you be delighted to discover that your all your worries were unfounded, but visitors to Greece can pat themselves on the back, knowing that they have contributed to saving the future of one of the world’s most beautiful countries.

 

The figures | Numbers are certainly dropping on the tourism scale. More than 2.3 million Brits visited Greece in 2011, but it’s estimated that this year will see some 250,000 fewer British visits. According to reports, only half the normal number of Germans are visiting this year, with many fearing a negative reaction from locals. This decline particularly affects Crete, an island that depends on tourism from the old eastern bloc.  The saddest figures, however, are perhaps those detailing the Greeks themselves.  In general, the Greeks holiday within their own country during summertime – travelling from mainland Greece to one of the islands. Yet this year, the biggest effect for locals is the disappearance of Greek tourists, who just cannot afford to travel in the present economy.

What are the prices like? | Prices in hotels and restaurants, which were relatively low in the first place, have come down even further across the board. There has been a noticeable devaluation throughout Greece, despite that they are still in the euro. This is due to a simple equation: as wages are cut, the local population is forced to spend less, so prices come down, so business owners earn less, so they spend less etc etc…

What about the strikes? | While Greece is so dependent on tourism, there have been less and less strikes – especially now that elections are over. In fact, there have been no strikes in Athens in the past four months to date, so chances that you will be caught up in one of them, are slim to none.

Should I take cash? | Many retail outlets, restaurants and cafes are already asking for cash rather than accepting cards, particularly in the smaller islands. Another reason why cash is necessary is that some ATMs might cease to operate while there is uncertainty about the currency. Dana Facaros, author of the Cadogan Guide to the Greek Islands, warned: “It is not a problem (yet) on the big islands such as Corfu, but I can imagine you might get caught out on a small island, especially one with only one or two ATMs. Greece isn’t having a bank run, more of a slow motion bank walk.”

Which holiday should I book? | For starters, let us tell you that Greece needs you right now. One in five of the working Greek population is employed in the tourism industry, and the income this industry brings in accounts for 17% of GDP. We have some great deals on package holidays to Greece right now, ensuring that these people keep their livelihood. There is an argument that northern Greece will benefit most, and the smaller islands that are currently struggling. Why not take a ferry to beautiful and lesser known islands such as Hydra, Skiathos, Aegina or Paros? Islands with airports such as Corfu, Crete or Mykonos will always have tourists, but the north and the smaller islands will suffer most this summer.

How can I travel there more ethically? | The answer is simple: eat out every night (food is cheap and delicious so you’ll have no problems there), make sure any produce you buy is grown in Greece, not imported, enjoy a few drinks in the local bars, explore the nearby shops and purchase local crafts for souvenirs. As aforementioned – aim to travel around while you’re away, so you spread your money around a little.

Purple Pick: Mythical Places

Are you looking for a holiday that’s a bit different? why not find out more about the myths of the ancient worlds in some of these mystical places…This week we decided to spookify and mystify! There’s a reason for it. In our regular Purple Pick feature, we’re focusing on the beautiful African country of Gambia. We learned they have a Holy Forest so we decided to do a bit of a roundup of mystical or unusual places to visit, so you can go home scared out of your wits or quietly intrigued. Enjoy some of the most magical and mythical places in the world.

Makasutu

Gambia Makasutu Holy Forest

Makasutu is a stunning breath of fresh air, just a few miles from Brikama, it is filled with lush green vegetation, towering palm trees and long stretches of savannah and grasslands. But what really makes it special is its unforgettable history. Established by a pair of English expats, Makasutu is walking with the ghosts of the past. At first the local villagers did not want to sell the land, as it’s haunted by ‘Djinns’ and a kind of pre-historic dinosaur called the ‘Ninkinanka’. It was a very important space to the local tribes, where their wars took place as well as their ancient rituals and sacrifices. Legend has it one poor king who died there was separated from his head, which was buried with his crown and throne within the forest confines. The ‘sacred forest’ is still home to the indigenous people, who may share their palm wine with you if you’re lucky. Image via @ Flickr

Pyramids

The Great Pyramids, Egypt

Perhaps the most photographed and famous ancient site in the world, the Pyramids have been perplexing people for years. The Great Pyramids as they are known are found near the Egyptian capital Cairo, on the Giza Plateau.

But, why were they built? Most people believe they were huge mausoleums for the ancient pharaohs. People believe some of his soul, or ‘ka’ stayed with the dead body. To ensure they carried on to the next life, their body had to be taken care of and so were entombed inside the huge structures for protection and safety.
The crazy thing is, even after thousands of years, no one is even sure how they were made! Most of the theories surround the idea that the rock was dragged there to build the huge sites, much of it carried across the Nile. And think about it, ensuring the Pyramid appears correctly and symmetrical, all the blocks had to be the exact same size. Imagine the precision involved. Not only that, but the sides of the Great Pyramid are aimed nearly exactly true north and probably took at least 100,000 men to construct.
On top of that, the Great Pyramid is the only one of the ancient wonders of the world still standing, so what are you waiting for? Image via @ Flickr

Easter Island

Easter Island Statues

This is probably an easy one. Tucked away in the middle of the South Pacific, you’ll find a tiny island filled with huge heads. Yes, you did read that right. Easter Island’s statues are legendary. Over 800 of the stone carvings dot the Polynesian Island, one of the most remote places on the planet.
The original islanders are thought to have landed on the island 1500 years ago in tiny canoes. They then started furiously carving away by hand, creating hundreds of giant heads that they placed in lines across the island. Go figure.
No one is really sure what it’s all about; some of the statues weigh up to 82 tonnes, why were they transported around the island and how? There are, of course, plenty of theories: one legend tells the tale of an ancient ruler who was able to make statues move using his kingly powers.
New excavations over the last few months have revealed the statues are much bigger than originally thought, with head, shoulders, knees and toes included! Image via @ Flickr

Cenote

Mexico/Caribbean Cenote in Mayan Civilization

A cenote is a naturally occurring formation that is found across the Mexican Caribbean. It’s actually a sinkhole, or pit of spring water. Ok, a pit of spring water, what’s so special about it? Well cenotes were often used as a place for sacrificial offerings from the ancient Mayan people. It might sound a little Indiana Jones, but many people in the Mayan civilization believed these cenotes to be doors to the underworld and channels to communicate with the gods. Plenty of gold, precious stones and pottery remains have been found there. At the Cenote Sagrado, (sacred cenote) they’ve even found evidence of human sacrifices! It was believed young males were the most common sacrifice because they represented strength and power.
Only some of these places are open to the public, a few are close to Cancun and Playa del Carmen and swimming in them is considered a true holiday must do in the Mexican Caribbean. Image via @ Flickr

Acropolis

Athens, Greece

It’s probably fair to say Athens is sort of one of the overlooked places in Greece. The islands are where everyone goes and it’s true they are stunningly beautiful. However the historic city has plenty to offer. With the ancient acropolis standing head and shoulders above the city, you can practically feel the history in the air. Everywhere you walk; there are historic sites, teeming with mystical stories from the ancient markets, the original marble stadium, home to the first Olympic Games and temples dedicated to the Gods.
Our favourite story is of how Athina, the Goddess of the city came to be born. The story goes that Zeus ate Metis – Athina’s mother while she was pregnant. A while later, Zeus was troubled by a huge headache, and asked Hermes to fix it. So, he did what any good friend would and swung an axe furiously at his head splitting it open. From Zeus’s forehead leaped Athena, fully formed. That’s pretty cool however you look at it. Image via @ Flickr

That’s our wrap of mythical and mystical hot spots, as always we’d like to hear from you. Do you have any other suggestions? Have you found some place a bit closer to home? Let us know in the comments below.

Football Crazy? Or maybe not.

Mykonos

Are you football mad? Will you be addicted to every game in Euro 2012, from the initial qualifier to the tense finals? Well, I have a confession to make. Although I will be supporting our team with gusto, thrilled at each goal and disappointed with each miss, I do have a tendency to daydream a little bit. At least I’m being honest about it, right? One of my favourite daydreaming topics is picturing myself on a picture perfect beach, or strolling up the cobbled streets of some historic town, possibly with a cocktail at the ready.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d offer some of the place I’ll be daydreaming about from Friday.. (in between huge cheers, of course!) Read More

Purple Tips: Hidden Shopping Gems Europe

Purple Tips: Hidden Shopping Gems Europe

It takes a special kind of tourist, one with a keen eye, a patient disposition and a thorough approach to research (not to mention an iPhone…), to visit a city and discover the gems that even its locals have no idea about. Anyone can stumble out of the tube at Knightsbridge and find themselves in Harrods and even my grandmother wouldn’t be too hard-pressed to locate one of the better boutiques on the Champs Elysees, but the real challenge, the one that may ultimately reward months of MI6-style investigations with a pair of one-off Chanel sandals, requires a far keener tourist.

Before you read on, be warned. This blog post is not for the faint-hearted, the sun-seeker or the “let’s just have a MacDonalds”-er, this is for the shopper – the real shopper. While the list may be subject to add-ons or removals and is far from a comprehensive European shopping guide, I believe it contains some of the best-kept secrets of my own European travel experiences. Consider it a work in progress and feel free to reveal your own hidden treasure coves. Enjoy…

Copenhagen
As Scandinavia is fast becoming the centre of cool, it is no surprise that first on the list is the Acne Archive store in Copenhagen.  Archive is an Acne outlet store, selling a collection of classics by the offbeat Swedish foursome, as well as some recycled pieces from catwalks and samples. With 50% off all year round and new stock coming every week, it’s actually cheaper for Acne-lovers to fly over to Denmark for their new season wardrobes than it is to purchase the collections full price in their own country.

Athens
Following the philosophy, ‘one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure’, Bohbo, a contemporary second-hand store in Athens, is an Aladdin’s cave of pristine Chanel, rare Marc Jacobs and well-selected vintage pieces. New items arrive daily, mostly donated from the wealthy, well-heeled women of the nearby Kolonaki neighbourhood, so the choice is continually diverse and fresh, with something on offer for everybody. Expect to find a wide range of unusual pieces alongside fashion classics such as Balenciaga motorcycle handbags and unworn Louboutins. On a recent excavation, I picked up a pair of cork-heeled Chanel Mary-Janes for just €120.

London
A renowned spot for stylists seeking retro designer looks, Bang Bang Clothing Exchange offers a dream mix of impeccably kept ‘I want you’ labels, excellent quality vintage and rare pieces from local designers. A little like New York’s Buffalo Exchange, Bang Bang also allows you to take your own unwanted clothing (as long as it reaches the standard of their stock) and exchange it for others within their store. However, unlike Buffalo, Bang Bang is extremely selective in its stock, meaning only the most pristine and fabulous clothing will be accepted.

Berlin
With so many interesting and unique stores flooding through Berlin at present, it’s impossible to choose just one. However, Darklands, situated in the arty area around Heidestrasse, north of Berlin’s main station, has really thrown itself to the forefront. Currently offering an impressive selection of avant-garde menswear, the shop is nomadic, moving every 15 months or so to a new location in a new area in order to shake off those shoppers whose noses are perpetually stuck into the air (buyers, stylists, anyone who works at Net-a-Porter – this means you). For this reason, the interior of their third instalment (Darklands 3.0) is the antithesis of a high-fashion world; expect life-sized dolls hanging from the ceiling, unsurprisingly dark clobber embellishing the walls, including coveted designer brands such as Damir Doma and Christian Poell and exposed lighting fixtures, all housed within what used to be non-descript, rough warehouse.

Milan
Stepping into Milan’s Cavalli e Nastri is like walking into some wealthy, old lady’s very well-organized designer closet. The petite shop, situated close to Moschino and Armani houses some of the most pristine vintage finery you’ll ever be so lucky to lay eyes upon. Pieces can date back to the late 1800s, but equally may include a 1950s organza prom dress or a pristine beaded flapper, hanging neatly beside a quality ’70s Pucci print. There is row upon row of glass drawers containing colourful stone brooches, earrings, and costume jewellery and a serious handbag collection (think Hermès, Dior, Chanel) in the rear room.

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