It goes without saying that life has taken its toll recently and I am in serious need of a break. I am stressed out to the max and am so overwhelmed with all the issues that I am dealing with at the moment that my mental state of mind is not in a good place right now. I can’t sleep, have panic attacks most days and despite the positive happy go lucky attitude that you see me have, I am very much struggling to remain positive right now and all for good reasons too. Now is not the time and place to go into detail, but I have been very candid with my mental health struggles, which is why now more than ever a holiday is just what I need. I want to be able to escape my home and not have to worry about how I am going to be able to pay my rent, I want to lie in the sun and feel its warm glow as it soothes my wounded heart and allows the tension in my body to melt away. I want to go sightseeing and become a tourist in another person’s city, taking photos and scribbling down notes, while I throw myself into their culture with abandon. And most of all I just want to be able to forget, to have a short period of time where I am not poor, not feeling depressed or anxious and the anxiety knots in my stomach smooth out and the palpations are a thing of the past. Which is why the idea of city breaks that I could escape to this summer has never been more enticing.
When I was younger, I had thought that by the age of 24 I would have traveled the world, embracing new languages and cultures wherever I went, with hope in my heart. It has been 5 long years since I went abroad and that was to Madeira, my parents home country, and its been a long five years of travelless days since. But despite my travel inexperience, and the setbacks that I have had over the last few years, I haven’t let it stop me from reaching out to other countries and hoping that each year would be the right time for me. I thought 2017 was my year of travel, but things didn’t go as they planned, so now I have renewed faith that 2018 will knock it out of the park for me. But why city breaks I hear you ask? Not only are they notoriously cheaper than long haul holidays, but as someone who is only just starting to travel again, the idea of a city break this summer sounds just like the kind of break and escape that I need from real life. From visiting the city of love, where my French cousin lives in Paris, to exploring the quaint charm of Lisbon, there are five equally beautiful and diverse city breaks that I think everyone should go on this summer. After all city breaks are the cheapest holidays from Holiday Gems that money can buy, so don’t we all deserve a break?
They don’t call it the French city of love for nothing, and if my love life history is anything to go by, then its about time that I found someone who wasn’t a f**kboy. Who knows maybe we would bond over our mutual love of delicious food and drink, as we take in the sights of the Eiffel Tower and the very charming Louvre, which looms delightfully in the distance. And if you don’t find yourself an eligible bachelor that is suitable for a good ol’ fashioned Romance, then there is plenty of other Parisian delights to tickle your fancy. But what is it that makes Paris such a great hot spot for summer? After all many Parisians would agree that escaping the city and making waves in the beaches in the south, is their idea of a good summer well spent. But for the tourists who are looking for the perfect location to go on city breaks, there is nothing better than spending a few days in Paris, as you eat, drink and explore France to your hearts delight.
Key Summer Events In Paris 2018
Paris Plages ( 8th July- 3rd September)
While many locals might escape Paris for seaside resorts, why leave Paris at all when it turns into – yep you guessed it- an amazing seaside resort, courtesy of ‘Paris Plages’. Every summer, the banks of the Seine and the La Villette Canal Basin turn into a picturesque seaside attraction, with the newly added Parc Rives de Seine offering exceptional views of Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, from the comfort of your sun lounger. And who knows, you might even spot some cheeky palm trees hanging out at the quaysides, creating a relaxing beach scene worthy of any Instagrammers ‘summer fantasy’. Besides, the fun does not stop there as Paris Plages put on a bloody good show for adults and children alike,with a whole host of shows, events and activities that are guaranteed to turn the party. From Tai-chi classes, ballroom dancing, petanque and off-site exhibitions(proposed by the Musée du Louvre and the Musée Galliera), according to Paris Info, the kids do not miss out either with a mobile library to make all their fairytale adventures come true.
La Vilette Summer Outdoor Cinema
As anyone who has witnessed an outdoor cinema in motion, the great thing about watching movies outdoor, is feeling the sun beam down on your face, as united complete strangers clink drinks and embrace each other in the spirit of cinematic unification. It’s a beautiful sight to see how the first hint of sun will unite us, and make our sour moods almost instantaneously disappear, as we drink until the night begins to fall and the sun transforms into milky darkness. But here in Paris, outdoor cinema is a little different; even in the heart of summer, Parisians like to put their own personal spin on ‘cinematic fun’ by showing films from 10 PM, almost every evening, from July 20th- August 20th. And this year La Vilette is free of charge, taking place at the Open Air Cinema Festival (Cinéma en plein air). A cultural highlight for both locals and the tourists that arrive in their swarms during the summer frenzy, each day will demonstrate a different theme i.e. comedy, with a programme of both French and International Films. And best of all, La Vilette will feature cult classics, new releases and lesser known films, making it the perfect cinematic experience for all those film buffs out there, looking for city breaks to go on this summer.
Gourmet Food Tasting Walks
Of course, when planning your city breaks, what could be a better way to spend your summer than walking through Paris’s picturesque city, whilst getting to sample some of the finest food and drinks that Parisians have to offer you? Paris is famed for being a gastoronomic capital, with chefs from all around the world like Gordon Ramsay, drawing influence from French cuisine to serve in his Michellin star resturants worldwide. And while fine dining might be a difficult pill, there are far more cheaper options that are guaranteed to hit the spot. If you are a foodie and love the sound of being able to try more than 280 restaurants bite-size delights for only 2 euros, then Paris is exceptional during May. Known as Les Heures Heureuses , this week long gourmet food festival creates ‘foodie walks in the capital’ which not only allows you to become part of city breaks that’make you workout’ and eat at the same time, but also features resturants spanning a multitude of nationalities, brands and cuisines. And trust me, if you are hungry all the time like I am, then a gourmet food walk will be just up your street.
Of course it goes without saying that there is more to Paris than just events and festivals, but while everyone knows about the ‘tourist friendly’ Eiffel Tower, sometimes, it is a lot more fun to go off the tourist track, especially in summer!
Nothing says a summer city break more than Rome, which not only features an array of incredible historical attractions, cultural hot spots and stunning vistas, but it is also home to some of the best ‘Apertif lounge bars’ that you can get in Italy. Famed for their warm Southern hospitality, the Italians sure know how to make their guests feel welcome and as every Mediterranean girl and guy knows, if there isn’t food on your plate then they just aren’t having it. It reminds me of Madeira, where my parents are from, as even at the restaurants, the owners will offer you complimentary dishes and drinks, alongside your ‘paid bill’ to allow you to truly enjoy your culinary experience, and the same can be said for Rome as well. With a host of delicious ‘pizzerias’ , gelato bars and restaurants that celebrate the simplicity of authentic Italian cuisine, it’s easy to see why Rome is on my bucket list when it comes to going on city breaks this summer. With central links to the world famous Colosseum and the infamous ‘Da Vinci Walks’ I will show you a different side of Rome, that deserves to be celebrated this summer. From the strangely morbid yet oddly fascinating Santa-Maria-Della-Concezione, best for those who live life on the dark side, to the more soothing Quartiere Coppedè, here are a few attractions that will make you see a different side of Rome, beyond the postcard image.
Unique Attractions In Rome This Summer
While most people’s idea of an ideal summer break, does not involve visiting a ‘creepy crypt’, for the more macabre among us, an entire crypt of ‘pelvises’ (no joke) will definitely have your heart racing. As a kid I remember being fascinated by cemeteries and learning about what year people had died in and what was the cause of their death. But as I got older, anything associated with death started to freak me out (for various reasons) and the thought of walking through cemeteries at night would scare me shitless. After all, we literally felt like we were walking over people’s bodies and that was not a nice thought at all. Yet there is something rather commanding about Rome’s premium crypt, home to the bones of over 4,000 friars, with one crypt being dedicated to pelvises, for some odd reason. But why would anyone want to be hanging in a chapel for all the world to see and who on earth would want to be reminded of their own mortality? Good question, according to Atlas Obscura, the monks would decorate the crypts, with their deceased brethren bones as a delightful reminder that death comes for us all. In fact a plaque in the crypt reads “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.” Charming.
Known as the architectural fantasy quarter of Rome, Coppede is quite different to any other architectural constructions in the city. Influenced by Ancient Greece,Roman Barroque, Mannerist, Medieval Roman Barroque, Mannerist, Medieval and Art Nouveau mishmash, Coppede’s creation of Quartiere has certainly piqued tourists interest in the past. The hybrid patchwork of art style is accentuated through the juxtaposition of the Florentine towers and Venetian palazzi decorated with external mosaics and frescoes versus the Baroque Roman palazzi which has an entire building devoted to music in ‘art form’, through carvings in the shape of music notes. Lesser known by tourists who often head for the well known Colosseum, Quaterie is well worth a shoo in, used as a setting for old films like Cabira (1918) and an impressive artistic and architectural masterpiece that stands out from all the other historical monuments that are in the city of Rome. The epicenter of the Coppedè quarter (and a must visit according to locals) is Piazza Mincio. The entrance of the quarter is located on the side of Via Tagliamento, marked by an impressive arch, decorated with a wrought iron chandelier that clearly demonstrates Coppede’s prowess for neo-eclecticism.
Historic Dining At Ristorante Da Pancrazio
Fancy a date with history? Well look no further than Ristorante Da Pancrazio, which has been built over the Theater of Pompey’s ruins, the infamous theater where poor ol’ Julius Caesar was murdered in 044 BC. Now buried in the ‘Temple of Caeser’ , many tourists delight in eating in the same theater where he was assinated by 60 sentators, led by the opposing ‘Brutus’ who sought to overthrow Caeser’s influence on his people. After all, they were his enemies in Rome and they all took turns to stab him 23 times, the second time being the fatal wound which had led him to his death. But thankfully at this Ristorante, there is no horrific scenes of murder as you eat as that would be enough to put you off your food. What is unique about Pancrazio is how the chefs have been following the same menu used since 1912 including culinary delights like Vignarola con crostini (Green peas, artichokes, fava beans stewed roman style with bruschetta) and Home made artichoke ravioli, all for your tasting pleasure.
While many know Spain for being a hit with ‘Brits Abroad’ in its ‘coastal resorts’ like Benidorm and Ibiza, there is more to Spain than just drunken Brits falling out of clubs with their pants around their ankles. Enter Madrid a beautiful city break with excellent transport links, a vibrant and rich history and culture and of course delicious food and drink that is just one short plane trip away.With beautiful Baroque palaces like Palacio Real, used occasionally for royal ceremonies and stunning landscaped gardens steeped in natural beauty, there is something in Madrid for everyone. While foodies will enjoy DiverXO, Madrid’s only three Michelin star restaurant, dancers and music goers will enjoy Sala E Sol , resurrecting the ‘funk and soul’ of the 70’s and 80’s with ‘La Movida’ for all those music lovers out there. And for those who would rather spend their city breaks reading overlooking stunning vistas then a trip to Parque del Buen Retiro is most definitely in order. And if that hasn’t convinced you, then check out of my recap of beautiful dining experinces, vistas and cultural attractions that are a must see for anyone visiting Madrid this summer.
Beautiful Dining Experiences, Vistas & Cultural Attractions In Madrid To Visit This Summer
While I might not be the biggest fan of ‘fine dining’ I have been told that DiverXO is set apart from the rest of the pack. Described as the ‘enfant terrible of Spain’s cooking scene’ by Lonely Planet, David Muñoz intriguing approach to cooking apparently involves his chefs appearing mid-bite, to add some more surprise ingredients, so make sure to tell them you have allergies if you do, otherwise your gastronomic experience will quite literally send you to hospital.Divided into two impressive lasting menus (2½-hour, seven-course) versus a four-hour, 11-course, will quite literally be a meal that will make you leave feeling like you have just been impregnated. And if that doesn’t make you scream with joy then perhaps the fact that it has been listed in the World’s Top 50 restaurants might be enough to persuade you to pay DiverXO a visit. Be warned though, you have to book at least six months in advance and most applicants have to try three times before they are able to get a table. But if you are one of the lucky ones the prepare for a multitude of dishes immersed with creativity, which at times is vulgar and not for the squeamish but at the same beautifully presented in the only way that Munoz knows how.
While the royal family no longer take residence at Palacio Real, after moving to the more intimate Palacio de la Zarzuela, Palacio Real has nevertheless got an imposing presence. Although there are only 2800 rooms as Felipe V the ‘Borboun King’ died in 1746 before the construction of the palace was finished, the Italianate baroque colossus is still an impressive palace. It was originally built to dwarf its neighboring palaces, and some elements of Felipe’s unique ‘point of view’ echoes through pivotal ‘memorabilia’ like ornate clocks (of which there are 215) , goyas and five Stradivarius violins which is still used for concerts and balls in modern Madrid. Guided tours enable you to be able to peer into royal court life, with 50 rooms open to the public offering a fascinating snapshot of how the royals would enjoy their leisure time away from the public eye. Despite the other palaces in Madrid of which there are many, this is easily the most fascinating royal narrative of them all.
Parque del Buen Retiro
Even when we are planning our city breaks, we are still in some cases ‘craving a escape from city life’ so what better way than to curl up with a book at Parque del Buen Retiro, in a quite and contemplative space that will do wonders for your soul. As all parks, Retiro ofers greenery in abundance, with landscaped lawns manicured and primed, with marble statues nonchalantly leaning onto the grass and beautiful historic buildings that will have you leaving your book behind to discover what the incredibly stunning Parque del Buen Retiro is hiding behind its beautiful walls. And what a treat it is, created as a space where royals and the public could interact in the same warm and welcoming space, Felipe IV originally created it as a garden for royals and their intimates, although in 1868 it was opened to the public. Perhaps the most striking feature of this beautiful Spanish garden is its artificial lake, which overlooks an ornamental structure of the Monument to Alfonso XII on the east side, complete with marble lion.s. And when night falls, the people begin to dance in unison, watching row boats collide with the sound of the harmonious bongos that ring out across the park.
When it comes to Amsterdam we immediately conjure up an image of a weed smoking city, with tourists heading in their droves to the Red Light District. But beyond its seedy image, Amsterdam is actually an incredibly beautiful city, home to a touching tribute to the late Anne Frank, courtesy of the Anne Frank museum, canal walks where you can overlook the boats that stroll gently down the canal and of course, it wouldn’t be Amsterdam without a beautiful park or two, where the locals and tourists mingle together, unified in their adoration for the big city. But even though Amsterdam grows increasingly popular with tourists, it can sometimes feel that attractions have become overhyped and your experience is marred by tourists who push and shove you out of the way, until even a simple exploration day becomes a battle of skill. But it does not have to be, beyond the bright lights of the Red Light District and the tourist attractions that attract tourists in their thousands, lies a new Amsterdam off the tourist beaten track , waiting to be discovered. From Het Twiske Beache, a mere 5 KM away from Amsterdam’s city centre to Nieuwe Kerk, a church on Dam Square which dates back to the Middle Ages, there is more to this thriving, bustling city that meets the eye.Question is, what will you choose?
Attractions In Amsterdam That Are Off The Tourist Track
Het Twiske Beache
With its close proximity to Amsterdam city centre, it is hard to believe that Het Twiske is in Amsterdam, as it looks like it has been plucked straight out of a fairytale book. With its stunning walking paths and trails that take you past lush green fields, where the flowers sway in the breeze and the windmills, which have been a focal point for many Dutch artists, in their landscape paintings, it is clear to see that Het Twiske truly is something else. And that is not all that Het Twiske has to offer, beyond its stunning lush green trails, lies a legion of beaches waiting to be discovered including a nudist beach called Baaiegatstrand which after improvement works in 2011 has resulted in a surge of popularity with tourists who are visiting the capital. But don’t worry for those of you who would rather not be nude, there is non-nudist beaches in the Het Twike beach complex, featuring an outdoor playground, beach pavilions that are host to tasty international cuisines as well as surrounding sandy white beaches that are popular resorts to go to during the summer. In fact neighboring beach Zandfoort has six pavilions, including Maribaya which serves Indonesian food, Paal 69 serves ethically sourced world cuisine and Ganpati which serves tasty vegetarian meals meaning that there is something to suit any dietary requirement!
A beautiful Medieval Neo Gothic church that dates back to the Middle Ages, there is a secret that lies in store at Niewe Kerk, waiting to be discovered. Queue the novelty angels, that slide down then the carved rope of the pulpits banister, playfully and mischievously waiting for its visitors to see if they can spot the sliding angels that lie in wait. It is a touching sight to see but it is the beautiful 10 metre pulpit, carved by Albert Vinckenbrinck over a space of 19 years that will truly take your breath away. Translated as the ‘new church’ Kerk was built after the expanding population of the city meant that developers were given permission to build a second parish church consecrated in 1409, next to the Royal Palace. Unfortunately fires over the years have led to the original church being almost unrecognizable in modern times, although renovations in 1892-1942 added neo-gothic details which you can still see through the churches structures today. While Niewe is no longer used for church services, it has transformed as a building that holds exhibitions , organ recitals and of course Dutch Royal Investiture ceremonies the most recent of which being King Willem-Alexander in 2013, as per Article 32 of the Dutch Constitution.
Electric Ladyland The Museum Of Fluorescent Art
Amsterdam is known for its legion of fantastic museums ranging from the well known Anne Frank Museum, to the lesser known spectacle museum. But what if I was to tell you that there was an entire museum dedicated to fluorescent art and that it was the only museum in the world that focused specifically on the incredible beauty of fluorescence? Which is where Electric Ladyland comes in, owned and operated by pony-tailed artist Nick Padalinow who opened the electric lady gallery in 1987. An immersive and interactive experience, patrons are told to indulge in ‘participatory art’ exploring the psychedelic space at the their own pace, for maximum ‘art based fever’. But it is the surface glows with a neon phosphorescence that strikes me the most, bearing parallels to the 80’s ‘Me Me decade’ whose eccentricity and love for neon legwarmers, would be seen as being right at home in Electric Ladyland. Best of all, you feel like you are on an acid trip without having to take anything. Now how is that for an interactive museum experience?
If there is one place that you should consider going on a city break to this summer, it is the stunning Lisbon, home to gorgeous quaint palaces, stunning botanical gardens and of course nearby breathtaking beaches that are full of natural wonder and delight. Naturally you might think that I am being biased considering that my heritage is Portuguese, but apart from landing in Lisbon on a flight stopover, I haven’t managed to step outside the airport, which is why Lisbon is so high up on my bucket list. Far from being overcrowded with tourists, the beauty of Lisbon lies in its unspoiled magic, where in one day you could easily explore caves, castles, grottos, monasteries and tombs, that will leave you begging for more. For wine and port lovers, a glass of ginjinha – a delicious cherry liqueur- can be enjoyed in Bairo Alto, while culture lovers will adore a hidden gem called Fronteira Palace, situated in Benefica. For the more macabre among us perhaps a visit to the University of lIsbon, where the preserved head of serial killer of Diago Alves, who was executed in 1841, as phrenology was just beginning to rear its ugly head in Portugal, might be a trip that budding medical students might want to take. But for those of you who would rather not learn about serial killers, more tame and pleasant vistas like Ajuda, one of Portgal’s oldest neighborhoods might be a rather more soothing spot for your city break this summer.
Built in 1640 for the first Marquis of Fronteira, Dom Joao de Mascarenhas (bestowed with the title of Marquis of Fronteira for his allegiance to King Pedro II of Portugal), the stunning 17th century building might be privately owned, but luckily for us some parts of Fronteira Palace are open to the public. For example visitors can enjoy the stunning Battle Room, the Dining Room which has paintings signed by Domingos Antonio de Sequeira and a 16th Century chapel, while outside the castle visitors will delight in the perfectly manicured garden . Visitors can only explore the palace and its grounds with a tour guide in tow, but not to worry as you will have a lot of fun with the tour guides as they tell you about the history of the palace as a hunting pavilion, briefly pointing out the statuary where sculptural works rendering the Kings of Portugal (chiefly, busts) are displayed. Perhaps the most fascinating fact is learning that Dom Joao de Mascarenhas received his title for his loyalty to the House of Braganza in the Portuguese Restoration War, although hearing that Fronteira is also considered as having the second most important ’tile collection’ in Lisbon next to the aforementioned ‘Tile Museum’ was interesting to learn as well.
Carmo Convent Ruins
It was the day that noone would forget, All-Saint’s day, November 1, 1755. A magnitude 9 earthquake ripped through Lisbon not only destroying peoples homes and killing families, but also destroying nacient convents, chruches, palaces, resulting in days of devastating fires and tsnamis. Today Carmo Convent, remains as a reminder of a city that almost disappeared off the face off the earth, a roofless building which was built in 1389, but destroyed in 1755. Much of Lisbon was rebuilt, but the royal family would never be the same again with King Joseph I having a fear of confined spaces until his death in 177, turning Lisbon into an ‘elaborate tent city’ as an extension of his fear. Ironically it was the new Prime Minister, the Marquis of Pombal, who restored the vitality and energy of the city as opposed to the king, whose famous statement “Bury the dead and feed the living.” demonstrated his practical need to put Lisbon back on the map. Now Carmo Convent’s Ruins houses the Museu Arqueológico do Carmo, , a small archaeological museum dedicated to Portuguese history.
One of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods, Ajuda is an underrated Portuguese gem, home to such aesthetic delights like Jardim Botânico da Ajuda (Portugal’s oldest botanical garden), the Palácio Nacional da Ajuda (amazing neoclassical architecture with a museum) and the Tapada da Ajudo with 100+ hectares of parkland. So if you crave an escape from a city like London and want to find some green space to relax, mediate and contemplate on life, then there is nowhere more peaceful than the beautiful Ajuda. Jardim Botânico da Ajuda is gorgeous and was built in 1768, during the time of King Joseph I, with the aim to educate his grandchildren about the plants collection. Not only is Jardim Auda the first and the first and the oldest Botanical Garden in Portugal, but its plant collection have over 5000 specimens from Africa, Asia, and America . Alongside the Botanic Garden, Ajuda is also home to the beautiful Palácio Nacional da Ajuda, which until 1910 was the official royal residence of the King Of Portugal. While plans were originally drawn up by Manuel Caetano de Sousa, it wasn’t until 1795 that the (cornerstone) came under began to get mapped out. Under the leadership of artitecturial pioneeers, Francisco Xavier Fabri and José da Costa e Silva the actual construction began in 1802 and later remodeled by Francisco Rosa. throughout the palace you can see neo-classical influences such as the Tuscan-Ionian columns supporting the secondary floor/veranda.
Have You been on A City Break To Any Of These European Cities? What Has Been your Favourite City Break So Far?
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