Holiday destinations: Hamburg, Germany

As it was a Bank Holiday weekend last week, we travelled to Hamburg in Germany. I’ve never there before so I was looking forward to discovering this second largest German city with the largest port. Hamburg has became one of the major centres for international trade due to its location and it continues to be one of the wealthiest cities build on maritime stories. Locals have mastered how to live well and if (like me) you like to indulge in diverse cuisine then you would enjoy your stay here as there are a plenty of great restaurants, bars and breweries to visit.

If you like sightseeing then you can take one of the sightseeing walking tours showing you the city’s highlights or grab a map and discover the major sites by yourself.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • Speicherstadt – the largest warehouse district in the world located in the port of Hamburg with some signature red-brick warehouses, canals & museums.

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  • Elbphilharmonie Hamburg – a newly constructed concert hall in the HafenCity on the Grasbrook peninsula of the Elbe River. It is one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world which cost 8 times more to build than the Sydney Opera House.
  • Townhall and Alster – the seat of local government which is one of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. Located next to Hamburg’s most popular river – Alster leading to many shopping malls and boutiques.
  • Planten un Blomen – a large city park with a size of 47 hectares featuring themed gardens, a lake & Japanese tea house

How to get there?

If you live in the UK then you can easily get to Hamburg from most of major cities. We’ve flown from London Stanstead and it took us slightly over 1 hour to get there. Perfect for a short weekend break.

Other tips:

Hamburg has a very good transport network and you should definitely get a Hamburg Card when you visit – it will cover all your travel in addition to some discounts i.e. to some of the top attractions, restaurants, river cruises etc.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Milan, Italy

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled with my husband to Milan in Northern Italy. I’ve been in Milan a few times before as I love the cosmopolitan vibe offered by this global city which is perfect for anyone who loves the art, design, entertainment and fashion.

Milan has been recognised as one of the worlds fashion capitals and the famous Milan Fashion Week takes place here on a yearly basis. It is also one of the key European financial capitals and Italian stock exchange is based here.

Over 8 million visitors are attracted by Milan every year as the city has lots of heritage with some great museums and art galleries featuring some of the most famous collections in the world including works by Leonardo da Vinci.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • Duomo di Milano – one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world which completion took almost 600 years. Located on a Piazza del Duomo with many lively cafes and the elegant fashion shops.
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – one of the most beautiful and oldest shopping malls in the world featuring many designer boutiques based in a four-storey arcade opposite of Duomo di Milano in central Milan.
  • Sforzesco Castle – a castle built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza who was a Duke of Milan.

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  • Sempione Park – a large park leading to Sforzesco Castle which was established in 1888.
  • Teatro alla Scala – a well-known opera house which was established in 1778.

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How to get there?

If you live in the UK then you can easily get to Milan from most of major cities. We’ve flown from London Heathrow and it took us slightly over 2 hours.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday ideas: Norwegian cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida

As some of you know, I have just returned from my trip to The USA. I had a great time discovering New York and its surroundings. In addition, I also went on a cruise from New York to Bahamas & Florida and I really enjoyed it.

The common misconception on holidaying at sea is that cruises are only for pensioners. Until a few years ago, that was exactly what I thought. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. This was my third cruise and I am sure that there will be many more to come. This year, I went with my husband on a 7-day cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) on their ship the ‘Norwegian Breakaway’ from New York to Bahamas and Florida and I  would recommend it to anyone who is travelling to the Big Apple. You are probably thinking why? If you are intrigued then read on…

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Itinerary

The itinerary of this NCL cruise from New York combines the best of two great destinations – Orlando and Bahamas.

Our first stop was in (Port Canaveral). There were many excursions to choose from including a visit nearby Kennedy Space Centre, Daytona International (NASCAR) Speedway Tour, soaking up the sun on one of Florida’s beaches, going shopping or having fun at one of the theme parks. We decided to take a transfer (organised by NCL) to Universal Studios and we had a wonderful day.

Our second stop was in Great Stirrup Cay in Bahamas. Unfortunately, due to strong winds we were unable to tender to the island but I had a relaxing day sunbathing on top deck of the ship whilst sipping some cocktails.

Our final stop was in Nassau- the capital of Bahamas. This beautiful island is known for beaches and offshore coral reefs that are popular for diving and snorkeling. Once again NCL’s excursion team had many places and activities to choose from including a visit to  Atlantis Aquaventure park or Balmoral Island Beach.

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We decided to have a beach day at Blue Lagoon Island. Our excursion started with a 40-minute scenic boat ride through historic Nassau Harbour towards Blue Lagoon Island. We then discovered that many celebrities including Beyonce, Michael Jordan and Serena Williams love spending their spare time on the island and have bought some impressive properties there.

Once we arrived at Blue Lagoon Island we went to a private beach and enjoyed sunbathing whilst admiring its clear, blue waters.

The food & drink

As some of you know, I am a massive foodie. What I love about cruising is that you can always go and grab something to eat at one of many tasty eateries and you can dine on your time not on a schedule. As with other ships in Norwegian’s fleet, the Breakaway practices Freestyle dining, meaning there’s no early or late assigned seating and reservations are not allowed in the complimentary dining rooms. There are 28 restaurants on The Norwegian Breakaway ship with a mixture of complimentary and specialty dinning restaurants that range from the buffets to A la carte restaurants. Each day gives guests a chance to wet their appetite with something new. We bought the ultimate dinning package for 3 days and it gave us an opportunity to experience some amazing cooked to perfection meals in:

  • Cagney’s – a classic steakhouse serving cooked to perfection meals;
  • Le Bistro – a superb French restaurant that is perfect for a romantic meal onboard your cruise ship,
  • Teppanyaki – Japanese cuisine in which food is grilled live in front of guests and served to them in a restaurant.

During the remaining 4 nights we dined in the complimentary restaurants – Savor, Taste, Manhattan Room (with a dance floor and live music) and in O’Sheehan’s Bar & Grill offering the best chicken wings starter ever! All our meals were enjoyable and the waiters were extremely friendly and attentive.

What about drinks? There are many bars throughout the ship. We bought an all inclusive package that included most alcoholic drinks, cocktails and soft drinks. I loved the ‘mudslide’ cocktail so when you decide to travel with NCL then you should definitely try it!

Cabin

We stayed in a Spa Mini-Suite with Balcony. Our room had a private balcony, large double bed and sofa, TV, minibar and coffee making facilities.

Our bathroom had an oversized waterfall shower-complete with body spray jets and complimentary toiletries from Givenchy were provided.

Relaxing

When it’s time for relaxing, there are several ways to let your hair down. Norwegian Breakaway ship has a Mandara Spa which offers a steam room, sauna, Salt room and therapy pools. Passengers can also enjoy one of many treatments such as massages or facials for an extra charge. The access to Mandara Spa was included with our Spa Mini-Suite room which was perfect as I spent quite a bit of time in there relaxing whilst we were at sea. There was also a hair salons and a gym located just next door to the spa.

Entertainment

There are plenty of activities to do and it’s impossible to get bored on a cruise. Norwegian Breakaway ship has swimming pools, running track, gym, climbing wall and a video games arcade. There are also many dazzling shows on offer including ‘Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy’, ‘Burn the Floor’ or Rock of Ages’. If you love art then you can attend one of the lectures and learn more from the on-board’s Arts Gallery staff.  In addition, you can have a drink in an Ice Bar, attend one of the wine tastings, play bingo or ‘Deal or No Deal’, enter a karaoke competition, or splash some cash in the casinos. Kids can be left under supervision a the Splash Academy (3-12 years old) or Entourage (13-17 years old) so you can enjoy many of the activities available on board.

Final thoughts: 

Cruises are like floating cities- there is plenty to do, discover and enjoy whist on-board. Nothing can beat the thrill of being transported to an exciting new destinations whilst you sleep. In addition, as there are almost 4000 others traveling with you, you can meet interesting people from all over the world and make some friends. I had a great time on my Norwegian cruise and I cannot wait to enjoy some more holidaying at sea.

You can book your cruise on:

https://www.ncl.com/uk/

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: New York, USA

I have recently traveled to the USA with my husband for our autumn / winter holidays. Our first stop was New York City.  It is the most densely populated city in the USA and it has a population of 8.5 million. New York City is one of the most famous cities worldwide and it has been described as the cultural, financial and media capital of the world. New York City consists of five boroughs – Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island. I have recently read that there 800 languages are spoken in New York, which makes it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.

Many districts and landmarks in New York City are well known and 61 million tourists visited the city in 2016. There are many places worth visiting in New York. Please find a quick summary listed below:

  • Empire State Building – a perfect way to see the city’s major highlights from the highest building in New York.
  • Statue of Liberty – a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City.
  • Grand Central Terminal – beautiful train station with a wide range of shops and eateries to relax in.
  • Fifth Avenue – a famous shopping street with a range of boutique and high-street brands where you can shop until you drop.
  • Times Square – exciting and colorful square that just cannot be missed. Sometimes referred to as the Crossroads of the World.

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  • Rockefeller Center (Top of The Rock experience) – an observatory on top of Rockefeller Center, with great city views.
  • National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey – amazing entertainment experience in the heart of Times Square which uses ground-breaking technology that takes its attendees on a journey into the ocean. It is super interactive with escaping sea creatures and underwater maze. A perfect destination for a day out with a family especially if you have kids as everyone can experience being face-to-face with whales and sharks, squids or sea lions.
  • Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum – an American military and maritime history museum. I especially enjoyed learning more about the Space Shuttle ‘Enterprise’ – the first space shuttle, a Cold War-era submarine Growler and British Airways Concorde, the world’s fastest commercial jet that can take passengers from London to New York in under 3 hours.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Porto, Portugal

Last week, I traveled with my husband to Porto in Portugal. Porto is Portugal’s second largest city after Lisbon set on the northern bank of the Douro River.

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The city is located inland from the Atlantic and the visitors can visit one of its popular beaches which I just a short train ride away.

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Although, Porto is not known as a city-break / weekend break destination, it is quickly becoming one of Western Europe’s most respected tourist destinations. In 1996, the historical center of Porto was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. This year, the city was nominated by WTA (World Travel Awards) in these 2 categories:

  • Europe’s Leading City Break Destination 2017
  • Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2017

The city boasts an extensive history, interesting tourist attractions and a buzzing nightlife.

If you like sightseeing then there is a lot to see and the city will appeal to a wide range of different visitors. As we arrived quite early on Saturday morning, we decided to take one of the sightseeing bus tours to quickly see all the main sites prior to exploring this colorful city on foot. There were lots of opportunities to admire the viewpoint of the terracotta rooftops and the city’s dreamy architecture.

Here is a short list of my suggestions of places worth visiting:

  • The Ribeira district – the oldest district of the city which is filled with ancient houses, narrow cobbled streets and numerous family owned restaurants, cafes and bars.

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  • São Bento train station – a 19th-century railway station located in the centre of Porto that features some beautiful tiles.
  • A mini-cruise down the Douro rivers admiring the architecture of the city and its beautiful bridges.
  • Dom Luís I Bridge – a double-deck metal arch bridge that spans the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal.
  • Palácio da Bolsa –  a historical building built in the 19th century by the city’s Commercial Association in Neoclassical style.
  • Casa da Música – a modern design, 12-floor concert hall & top floor restaurant  completed in 2005.

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How to get there?

It’s never been easier to get there and Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates year round flights and holidays to Porto from Birmingham, London Luton and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, from £42 one way (£77 return).

For further information or to book Monarch flightsMonarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk

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I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Tudor Place, Washington D.C., USA

As some of you might know, I traveled to Washington D.C. a few weeks ago. During my stay, I decided to visit some historic homes and gardens. Today, I would like to tell you about the Tudor Place. The name of this place is a bit deceiving as it doesn’t have anything in common with a Tudor era but even though it is definitely worth visiting.

Tudor Place House and Garden is an elegant neoclassical house dating back to 1816. To start with it was a home of Martha Custis (a granddaughter of Martha Washington) who built her estate with her husband Thomas Peter.

Tudor Place Owners

The house was extended and through six generations (until 1983), the Peter family celebrated their heritage here while also embracing contemporary art and fashion.

Today, visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the estate, giving them an opportunity to admire displays of family artifacts. I enjoyed walking through the drawing room, dinning room and kitchen while admiring the antics and listening to the stories of each of these rooms.

After the tour, as I love the gardens, I really enjoyed relaxing at the expansive, quiet historic gardens that are located in front of the property. Perfect to unwind when you are busy and fancy a bit of peace and relaxation.

Location:

Tudor Place is located in Georgetown Heights at 1644 31st Street, Northwest.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review!

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Pauline

Holiday destinations: Washington D.C., USA

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Washington D.C., the capital of the United States. Washington, D.C. is formally known as the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as “Washington”, “the District”, or simply “D.C.”.

Statistics from last year show that Washington had an estimated population of 681,170 however commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city’s population to more than one million during the workweek. Washington, D.C., is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. East Coast.

There are many places worth visiting in Washington. Please find a quick summary listed below:

  • Learn more by visiting free Smithsonian museums so you can absorb culture the way it was meant to be experienced — in short encounters in the midst of everyday life.
  • Take flight at the National Air & Space Museum.
  • Learn about the freedom of the press and take some cool photos at the Newseum.

IMG_2019You should also visit the Pulitzer Prize photographs gallery which features all the winning photographs.

  • Go and take some photos of the White House. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the access to the building but there are quite a few good places where you can view it from.
  • Visit United States Capitol. You can still access it and the tickets are available from a kiosk just outside the building.
  • Stroll down The National Mall. It is definitely the best way to see most of Washington’s monuments starting from the Capitol all the way to the Lincoln Memorial.
  • Visit Washington National Cathedral. This beautiful Gothic cathedral has been used for state funerals for three presidents and many other important burials and memorials.
  • Go shopping at Tanger Outlet. It is located 20 min drive from central Washington and if you like a bargain then you should definitely go there and check it out.

I hope you enjoyed reading this review.

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Pauline