Archive - December 17, 2012

Luton Airport welcomes new cafe
Purple Pick: Ancient Castles
What to buy a globetrotter for Christmas
Purple Hearts… Barcelona Travel Guide

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


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.


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.


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


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.

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