This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 3 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title
 

Category Archives: Travel

A guide to Copenhagen’s neighbourhoods

Indre By: the tourist hub

The popular inner city is the heart of Copenhagen, and its most visited neighbourhood. Nyhavn is just one of many major sights in this part of the city, which is also home to the family-friendly Tivoli Gardensamusement park, Strøget, the lively pedestrianised shopping street, and the fabled Little Mermaid statue, which sits right on the edge of the city centre.

This historic area is a fantastic place to explore many of the city’s cobblestone streets, charming squares, and excellent museums. At the royal residence of Amalienborg Slot, visitors can watch the Changing of the Guard and try to get a glimpse of the Queen, while Christiansborg Palace offers a look into the workings of Denmark’s monarchy and government.

Indre By is also a foodie paradise, home to many of the city’s top restaurants, including Michelin-starred AOC and Kokkeriet, the more modest yet fabulous Höst and Uformel, as well as the wonderful market Torvehallerne, packed with vendors selling fresh produce.

Vesterbro: the happening hotspot

Once the most destitute area of the city, Vesterbro is still Copenhagen’s red-light district, though it’s not quite as seedy as similar areas in Amsterdam or Berlin. The neighbourhood’s vintage shops and summertime street markets give it a local and independent vibe, while the street art here is perhaps the best in the city.

Vesterbro is a neighbourhood in transition, with an emerging reputation for good food and family living. Amid the sex shops and erotic dance clubs sit fashionable cafes like Mad & Kaffe, craft breweries including the acclaimed Mikkeller, and family-friendly parks such as the unique Skyebanehave. Kødbyen – The Meatpacking District – is chock full of fantastic restaurants featuring everything from innovative seafood at Kødbyens Fiskebar to down-home barbecue and beers at WarPigs.

Nørrebro: the melting pot

Vibrant Nørrebro sits just across Queen Louise’s bridge from Indre By, but has a completely different feel. Arguably the most diverse area of Copenhagen, the streets of Nørrebro are a mishmash of international grocery and clothing shops, lined up alongside secondhand stores and independent coffee shops.

Restaurants here run the gamut from Michelin-starred Relæ and Kiin Kiin, to the noodles and pub food of craft beer meccas Ramen to Biiru and Nørrebro Bryghus. International flavours are well represented too, with restaurants such as Ma’ed Ethiopian, and the legendary Kebabistan on Nørrebrogade.

Jægersborggade, once a haunt of bikers and drug dealers, is now home to quirky shops selling everything from liquid nitrogen ice cream to cacti, while Ravnsborggade tempts with antique and vintage shops.

Assistens Kirkegård cemetery is not only the resting place of famous Danes like Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kirkegaard, but also acts as a leafy green space perfect for quiet strolls. The sense of diversity and community is perhaps strongest at Superkilen, a unique and colourful park space furnished with sculptural pieces from around the world, representing an international spirit.

Østerbro: the suburb in the city

The least touristed of Copenhagen’s major neighbourhoods, upmarket Østerbro is a great place to get a glimpse of local life. Mainly residential, Østerbro offers an escape from the visiting crowds while still providing plenty of opportunities for dining, shopping, and enjoying the outdoors. The main street, Østerbrogade, is packed with exclusive boutiques such as Normann Copenhagen, in addition to coffee shops and cafes, including a branch of the fabulous porridge cafe Grød.

The expansive Fælledparken is a green oasis in the shadow of Parken Stadium (parken.dk), the unlikely home of Denmark’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Geranium. Take in the area with a stroll along the easternmost of Copenhagen’s chain of lakes, or admire the colourful homes on Brumleby and Olufsvej.

Christianshavn: the intriguing island

Boats line the picturesque, Amsterdam-inspired canal of this artificial island in the city centre, lending a maritime feel. Locals sit along the water’s edge in the summer months, enjoying a picnic or a cold drink, while brave souls can climb the 400 steps up the golden spiral spire of the Church of Our Saviour for sweeping views of Copenhagen. The very modern Copenhagen Opera House is also found here, directly across the harbour from Amalienborg Palace.

In contrast is the Free Town of Christiania, a 34-hectare patch of land home to a commune-style alternative society formed in 1971.

While Christiania’s residents have dismantled its notorious Pusher Street hash market, its hand-built homes, artists’ workshops and natural beauty remain, and make for a fascinating look at an unconventional way of life.

The food scene in Christianshavn is as diverse as its residents: it boasts three Michelin-starred restaurants, including the famed Noma, considered one of the best in the world, while Papirøen (The Paper Island) is the home of Copenhagen Street Food, a warehouse turned foodie haven, offering up international foods from 35 stalls.

Frederiksberg: the posh neighbour

Though surrounded by Copenhagen, Frederiksberg is technically its own municipality; leafy Frederiksberg Alle leads the way from Vesterbro to this smart area. It’s a favourite with families and is filled with beautiful apartment buildings and green spaces.

Stylish shops and cafes abound, including Bertels Salon which boasts the best cheesecake in the city. Frederiksberg is also home to acclaimed restaurants such as the Michelin-starred French restaurant Formel B (formelb.dk), and Mielcke & Hurtigkarl. The latter serves a unique menu of Asian-inspired New Nordic dishes, using local, seasonal ingredients, including herbs and honey from their own garden.

Honeymoon Planning Tips and Guide

Timing is everything

You’ve dutifully set aside your collection of vacation days — now it’s time to work out how to spend them on your honeymoon. It’s important to weigh the time you’ve allotted for your adventure against your destination of choice, and make sure that your trip is spent travelling, not transiting.

With two or three weeks, you’ll have a more generous amount of time to take a crack at a faraway destination and overcome the exhaustion of a long-haul journey and/or jet lag. But a week-long holiday, say, is never well served by spending two full days hoofing it from one continent to another, only to turn around a few days later and repeat the gruelling trek back.

The other major timing consideration has to do with seasonality. Tacking your honeymoon on at the end of your already-set wedding date might preclude travel to certain destinations simply due to the time of year. Large areas of the Caribbean, for example, are prone to hurricanes during the months of September and October. Other destinations have annual monsoons – like Thailand, which has two different curtains of rains that sweep across the kingdom during the latter half of the year.

It’s best to educate yourself on the high and low seasons of your preferred honeymooning locales. Prices, of course, increase with a rise in demand during the months with the most favourable climate and during busy periods such as school holidays (when desirable hotels can also become scarce). Low seasons, on the other hand — or better yet, ’shoulder’ or ‘green’ seasons — can be a worthy option if you want to see more bang for your buck at the expense of rolling the dice weather-wise.

Benefits of DIY

When choosing a destination for your honeymoon, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sticking to one place, but a protracted vacation — as many honeymoons are — lends itself well to exploring several locales. All-inclusive hotels are going to try to convince you otherwise, and travel agents (even those fancy boutique e-businesses) will try to capitalise on your lack of destination knowledge with tours and templates.

However, a DIY trip is much easier than you might think, and the rewards are exponentially greater than signing up for a cookie-cutter tour. Hands-on planning is a crucial part of understanding a destination, and you’ll arrive in the country with a commendable amount of acquired knowledge that will further guide you to sniff out the top experiences that really speak to you.

How to build a multi-stop honeymoon

As the architect of your own multi-stop trip, you might want to think of your honeymoon as a novel; the action on your vacation should swell and ebb accordingly. Think of the beginning of the trip as the initiation phase — you’re adjusting to a new world (maybe getting over jet lag) and want to ease into the action as it gradually builds. The middle section of the honeymoon is where the plot thickens. Your pulse quickens with adventure sports, or late urban nights exploring. Then, with the end of the story in sight, the last section of the holiday is when the jets cool — a denouement of sorts when you once again slow your pace. It’s the beach in Bahia after Rio and São Paulo, the Amalfi villa at the end of Tuscany and Rome, or the ryokan in Hakone when you’re wrapping up Kyoto and Tokyo. You need an airbag at the end of the trip, so you feel revitalised by the holiday, not desperately needing another.

Picking hotels

Now, with your storybook itinerary you’re going to have to slot in hotels. These should play out in tandem with the pace at each stage of your trip, but you need to slightly trick your future self. Every accommodation option selected should build upon the previous choice. The human mind can’t help but judge, and when you arrive at lodging number two you won’t be able to ignore the instinct to compare it to your accommodation the night before. So, in order to essentially feel like you’re winning at travel, each hotel must get progressively better — or maintain the quality of the previous stay — culminating in your big splurge at the end, which nicely coincides with your itinerary’s finale. The last slice of the vacation is the happy ever after – just like you and your spouse after the wedding.

Top 7 Honeymoon Islands

Corsica, France

For… Hikes, hills, haute cuisine, hidden sands

This chunk of France, afloat in the Mediterranean, deserves its monicker: L’île de Beauté. The rumpled, maquis-cloaked interior – where you can easily forget the world – tumbles to perfect golden crescents, some touristy, some seemingly unfound. There’s wildness if you want it (the hiking is some of Europe’s best), but also fine food and indulgent retreats, not least Domaine de Murtoli (murtoli.com) – possibly the continent’s most romantic hideaway.

Qurimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

For… Dhow cruising, culture

Why pick one island when you can have 30? That’s about how many specks of wonderful white sand make up this Indian Ocean archipelago. Among them is Ibo, home to the 16th-century Portuguese trading settlement of Ilha de Moçambique – a must-see. After a dose of culture here, sail between the islands – remote Vamizi, luxe Quilalea – stopping off on nameless cayes for lobster barbecues en route.

Huahine, French Polynesia

For… Blissful beaches, ancient sites

Huahine, a 40-minute flight from Tahiti, is Polynesia at its most sublime (and that’s quite a feat). Slopes of tropical abundance sink into eye-searingly blue lagoons; there’s culture aplenty, including the highest density of marae (temples) in the territory; and opportunities abound for snorkelling, horse riding, surfing or doing nothing at all.

Island, Canada

For… Adventure, seclusion

This tiny speck of pines on Ontario’s Kawawaymog Lake can only be reached by canoe, and is ideal for two. There’s a cosy cabin with a second-floor deck and outdoor dining table ideally placed for sunset; a floating sauna bobs in the shallows. Other than that, it’s you and the wilderness.

Nevis

For… Tranquility, old-school charm

With no all-inclusive resorts or cruise-ship ports, Nevis is as refreshing as one of its gentle trade winds. Accommodation is often historic – old sugar plantations converted into characterful hotels. Diversions include diving, hikes around Nevis Peak and sipping rum on Pinney’s Beach.

Tasmania, Australia

For… Culture, hiking, food & wine

It might not have the weather of tropical Queensland, but Australia’s lush southern island state is where you’ll find some of the country’s best food and wine, epic mountains, cool lakes and hiking terrain. Outside the quaint capital, Hobart, there’s MONA – a world class gallery, brewery, winery and restaurant complex that will simply blow your mind (and where it’s now possible to stay in plush, futuristic pods); in the north you’ve got the otherworldly Bay of Fires, famed for a luxury beach hike that culminates with flair at an award-winning ecolodge.

Praslin & La Digue, Seychelles

For… Paradise, raunchy plants

Beaches don’t get much better than the boulder-strewn powdery strands fringing the Seychelles. Ferries run between Mahé, Praslin and La Digue, enabling multi-isle ’moons, and a bit of local interaction. Little La Digue is car-free – explore on foot or by bike. Praslin is home to good restaurants and the Unesco-listed Vallée de Mai nature reserve, where you can stroll beneath coco de mer palms and giggle at their suggestive seeds.

7 Travel Resolutions and How to Keep Them

Pack lighter

Next time you’re stuffing a pair of impractical shoes and a bumper-size shampoo into your bag, stop to consider the feelings of future you: the one sporting a sweaty back patch and a face riddled with regret. The ‘I’ll manage’ attitude dissipates in a flurry of expletives as you drag your luggage up a broken escalator, straining your bicep and stubbing a toe in the process. Worth it? Not so much.

Stick to it: Downsize: restricting suitcase volume soon hinders overpackers. Prioritise: it’s OK to take three paperbacks if you’re willing to forgo the laptop. Enlist a ruthless packing buddy who won’t give in to the words ‘but I neeeeeed it!’.

Take better pictures

Sick of returning home from a trip with thousands of hastily snapped images that you’ll never have the time to sift through and edit, let alone share? Whether you’re shooting for social media, an online portfolio or the family album, investing a little time and effort can take your creations from amateur to incredible.

Stick to it: Read up on how to take a decent smartphone snap; enrol on a photography course; join a photographer’s meetup while you’re on the road; or take a tour that combines travel and tuition.

Stop putting it off

Family, finances, your career… even fear. There are plenty of factors that prevent people from travelling – but when valid reasons become comfortable alternatives to taking a risk, it’s time for a reality check. You have one life on this planet. Stop making excuses and start making plans.

Stick to it: Whether you long for a round-the-world extravaganza or simply a weekend away, it’s not going to land on your lap. Identify your true barriers to travel and tackle them head on. Strapped for cash? Start saving. Option paralysis? Consult the experts. Worried what your boss will think? Propose a trip that will boost your résumé.

Learn to unplug

See it, share it. Try it, tweet it. The impulse to reach for your smartphone can be near impossible to resist, even on the road – but just as technology seems to have rewired our brains to crave constant connection, travel can be the ultimate antidote.

Stick to it: Can’t go cold turkey? Minimise distractions by deleting email apps and disabling social media notifications. Rediscover the joy of writing postcards. Keep a travel journal. Go for a walk without the safety net of Google Maps… and see where you end up.

Travel responsibly

As global tourist numbers continue to increase (1.2 billion international arrivals recorded in 2015 and counting, according to the UN), understanding the impact our travel choices have on the planet has never been more important. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to go green.

Stick to it: You know the drill: steer clear of plastic bottles; take public and overland transport where possible; choose ethical tour operators who respect wildlife and give back to local communities; reduce or offset your carbon emissions (calculate your footprint at carbonindependent).

Use your time off wisely

It’s easy to fritter away precious paid leave on family events and close-to-home happenings, leaving little time for escapism. But this makes it tough to return to work feeling refreshed – and worse still, you’re no closer to seeing the world than you were last year.

Stick to it: Make no mistake: you earned your days off, so take them – every last one. Plan in advance; if you prefer regular short trips, get them booked in early. Capitalise on national holidays, adding a day or two either side for extra-long breaks. Alternatively, have that chat with your manager about using your leave in bulk for that three-week trip toSoutheast Asia…

Engage with the locals

The dream: gaining true insight into ‘real’ local culture. The reality: befriending an international crew of fellow travellers on Facebook and coming home with an ‘authentic’ souvenir made in China.

Stick to it: Let’s face it: it can take years to unravel the complexities of foreign cultures. But there are ways to increase your chances of having a meaningful encounter. Brush up on your language skills; you’d be surprised how far ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can take you. With the sharing economy showing no signs of slowing down, it’s easier than ever to find homestays, cooking classes and local tour guides.

Best free things to do in St Petersburg

Make use of free-admission days

Some of St Petersburg’s top museums organise free-entrance days. For the State Hermitage Museum it’s the first Thursday of the month, and for the Kunstkamera the third Thursday each month. Other museums are admission-free throughout the year, for example the Vladimir Nabokov Museum or the Sigmund Freud Museum of Dreams. In many Orthodox cathedrals you also don’t have to pay an entrance fee. While the church architecture is stunning enough from the outside, just wait until you enter – the icon art is breathtaking.

Relax in parks and gardens

If you love the green spaces, don’t miss St Petersburg’s parks and gardens. There are plenty to satisfy any taste: the small, hiddenYusupov Gardens, the royal Mikhailovsky Gardens, the calm Tavrichesky Gardens, or the famous Summer Garden with its marble sculptures. The recently reopened New Holland Island in the city centre is St Petersburg’s latest cultural hub and a haven for artists, writers, professionals and tourists alike.

Stroll around Alexander Nevsky Monastery

The Alexander Nevsky Monastery is the most important Orthodox monastery in St Petersburg; its Church of the Annunciation was the first resting place for the tsarist family. The monastery is magnificent both inside and outside, but for many visitors the major attractions are its four historic cemeteries (which charge a small fee) – this is where you’ll find the graves of Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Roerich and many other great names of Russian culture.

Learn about modern Russian art

You don’t have to spend a fortune on tickets to see modern art in St Petersburg. Some of the city’s most progressive art galleries – Anna Nova, Marina Gisich, Art Re.Flex, KGallery, Bulthaup and Name Gallery – don’t charge admission, giving visitors access to enough paintings, sculptures and installations to fill an entire day. On the opening nights you’ll be treated with a glass of champagne and some appetizers; check the websites for dates of new exhibitions.

Browse the bookshops

Bookworms will love St Petersburg’s oldest bookshop, Dom Knigi, and the Bookvoed chain of stores  centrally located shops are open 24 hours). If you aren’t planning on buying a book but still want to read one, you can just pick a title, sit and read it from cover to cover – no one will ask you to leave. These bookshops offer a beautiful collection of art books, obligatory Russian classics as well as a lot of books in English.

Visit a flea market

The biggest flea market in St Petersburg, located in the north of the city, is a place you’ll be telling your friends about for a very long time.‘Udelka’, as the locals call it (because of its location near the Udelnaya metro station), is an extremely atmospheric place that offers a huge variety of artefacts such as antique icons, hand-painted samovars and, of course, the busts of Lenin. It’s open every weekend.

Explore the underground

The St Petersburg metro is one of the most attractive and ornate underground systems in the world – not to mention the deepest. Each station has stunning architecture and its own history. The most beautiful stations are Avtovo, Zvenigorodskaya, Narvskaya, Baltiyskaya and Kirovskiy Zavod, so make sure you break up your journey to admire them. The metro is not only a very impressive place but also the most popular way to travel around the city – it’s cheap, fast and efficient – and no matter how far you need to go, you’ll pay the same fare.

Hang out at anti-cafes

The ‘anti-cafe’ (or ‘time-cafe’) concept – which originated in Moscow – has become very popular in St Petersburg. The name means you are not charged for the coffee, snacks and sometimes desserts on offer; instead, you pay for the time spent there. This is perfect if you’re looking for a quiet space where you can relax, play board or computer games or even work if you need to. The oldest anti-cafe in St Petesburg is Ziferblat, butMiracle, Freedom and Ziferberg are also worth checking out.

Take a free tour

Every day at 10:45am, St Petersburg Free Tour offers a 2.5-hour walking tour through the centre of the city, departing from the Alexander Column on Palace Square. The walk covers all the essential sights, and the guides are very passionate and enthusiastic. While the tours are absolutely free, they’re also quite popular so don’t forget to book beforehand.

7 Best Spots to Indulge in Brussels

Café Luxembourg

Bustling during the week, the darkly dressed Café Luxembourg is a quiet haven at the weekend, where diners have time to pore over its healthy and wallet-friendly brunch menu. Items on offer follow the seasons and produce is always fresh from the market, so expect frothy fruit juices and yogurt and granola as well as cheese and charcuterie boards. Sweet-toothed rascals should opt for the banana-raspberry French toast or the seriously addictive carrot cake.

Les Filles

For a touch of home, indulge in the all-you-can-eat buffet along one of the communal wooden tables at Les Filles. Served in big Staub pots on grandma’s vintage china, the comforting cuisine at this brunch spot is all seasonal and all organic. So once you’re done with the Basque country chipolatas, take slabs of sugar bread and spoonfuls of homemade vanilla cream cheese before exiting through its ground floor grocery shop. Reservations recommended.

Jam Hotel

With rooftop pool parties and basement concerts, the Jam Hotel’s reputation as one of the most happening spots in the capital is already starting to stick. The former art school hasn’t strayed too far from the easel, with architect Olivia Gustot transforming it into industrial canvas of concrete and Lionel Jadot artworks. Even the kitchen is getting creative and the weekend Italian buffet brunch (think bresaola, soft beef cannelloni and creamy buffalo mozzarella) would marvel Michelangelo.

Café Lulu

Once a former garage, the warehouse chic of the Lulu concept store is a design-lovers dream. Nestled past the ceramic cacti, handmade Italian sunglasses and the minimal Scandinavian furniture is the excellent Cafe Lulu which does a belt-popping brunch of potatoes, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, salad, bacon and soup. Located among a myriad of vintage treasures and children’s toys, it’s a good pit stop for homemade cakes and smooth coffee too.

Grand Central

Designed by the renowned Frédéric Nicolay, this European Quarter gem is a mixture of high ceilings, concrete walls and marble counters. But forget the retro light fitting and black and white film projections, because Grand Central’s all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch outdoes it all. Roasted aubergine, tomatoes with white beans and a legion of savoury dishes co-star alongside brownies and banana bread. Their barista is something of a coffee Picasso too.

La Fabrique en ville

A bit of a secret, Fabrique en ville is a superbly restored orangery hidden among the shade of Parc d’Egmont with huge fan light windows that allow the sun to glaze across the tables. It does a gargantuan weekend buffet which includes roasted pumpkin, ricotta and spinach ravioli, smoked salmon with dill and minty tabbouleh. It even has a station where chefs cook up your eggs however you want them – pancakes included. With Belgian suikertaart (sugar tart) and a killer chocolate fondant for dessert, it won’t stay a secret for long.

Henri & Agnes

Overflowing with wild flowers and decorated with vintage ceramics, bohemian Henri & Agnes feels like a roughly-repaired wooden cabin. Fittingly, the menu is handpicked and wholesome with seasonal homemade treats like veal-stuffed turnips with mint, ginger and coriander, and organic vegetarian dishes like celeriac soup. Even its daintiest feel-good food is presented with the occasional floret. On a sunny day, take your fork upstairs for a breezy terrace brunch.

Hidden gems of Florida’s Emerald Coast

Dubbed the ‘Emerald Coast’ by a local junior high school student in 1983 (he won $50 for his efforts), the thin stretch of coastline along theFlorida Panhandle between Pensacola and Panama City has long been featured on the itineraries of motoring families and spring breakers. But these visitors have mostly stuck to the main sights off Florida State Road 30A, the region’s main drag. Here we shed some light on the Sunshine State’s little-known destinations.

Secret beaches

Florida’s breezy Gulf Coast beaches are some of the quickest ways to fend off sweltering weather and take a few deep gulps of fresh, salty air. Popular beaches are plentiful near main resort areas like Panama City Beach and Destin, but the area still has a few hidden treasures worth seeking out.

Not far from Panama City Beach, Shell Island is a favorite among locals and a few in-the-know visitors. An uninhabited island separating St Andrews Bay from the gulf, this pristine stretch of sand features none of the usual amenities – no concessions, restrooms, picnic tables or trash cans (remember to pack out what you bring in). Wander along sugar-sand beaches and through mangroves where the only other visitor might be a nesting shorebird. Bring a pair of binoculars to spot bottlenose dolphins, which are frequently spotted off the coast of this slice of paradise.

A bit further afield, Grayton Beach State Park exemplifies the region’s precious moniker, providing secluded beaches with azure waters, as well as biking and hiking trails and two rare coastal dune lakes that are made for exploring via kayak. Plus, thirty onsite cabins make for the perfect quiet getaway.

Under-visited state parks

Far away from Florida’s theme parks, the Emerald Coast offers a more feral alternative to the manicured entertainment found in the center of the state. Archaeological evidence suggests the area around Topsail Hill Preserve State Park was once used by Native Americans for hunting and fishing, and little has changed since. The park still features a stunning array of ecosystems, including cypress domes, marshes, pine flatwoods, scrub and wet prairies.

Just north of the pastel-colored planned community of Seaside, Eden Gardens State Park provides a glimpse of Florida as it was in the 19th century. Set on 163 acres of historic land, the park’s central focus is the restored Wesley House, a two-story mansion encircled by columned verandas. Elsewhere in the Spanish moss–shaded park there are ornamental gardens, a few hiking trails and boat access to the nearby Tucker Bayou.

Local haunts and hangouts

Once the sun sets or a thunderstorm roars overhead, head indoors to a warm and friendly spot for a bite to eat. With a squad of affable bartenders and budget-friendly food and drinks, Destin’s Red Door Saloon is the stay-until-last-call hangout where locals can be found after hours. Pizzas and bratwursts are available to soak up the booze.

On Front Beach Rd, Panama City Beach’s main commercialized artery, you’ll find more airbrushed t-shirts and cheap sunglasses than anything considered local, but there are a few diamonds in the rough. Serving up a slice of the Big Easy in Panama City, Red Rae’s Restaurant is just a few blocks away from the beach. With a menu that features cajun dishes like blackened shrimp po’boys or spicy jambalaya, Red Rae’s is easily a favorite with locals and visitors alike.

Undersea adventures

With nine wrecks just off the coast of Panama City Beach, this area of the Gulf of Mexico has been dubbed the ‘Wreck Capital of the South.’ Diving the Emerald Coast is a sure way to explore something secret to most. Fortunately, with several dive charters along the coast, exploring this area has never been easier.

Panama City’s newest wreck dive, the Red Sea, was a 125ft tugboat that was intentionally sunk in 2009. Now she sits just 40ft below the surface, and several species of marine life have already taken up residence. The Emerald Coast also features several submerged bridge spans, including sections of the Hathaway Bridge, which was originally built in 1929 and connected Panama City to Panama City Beach, but is now home to angel fish, grouper and the occasional barracuda.

For landlubbers who still want to get a glimpse of life several fathoms underwater, head to Man in the Sea Museum, which showcases the variety of gear and undersea habitats used to explore the mysteries of the ocean.

7 Best Craft Beer Bars in Amsterdam

 Proeflokaal Arendsnest

The word proeflokaal translates as ‘tasting room’ and with 50 full-flavoured beers on tap, no Amsterdam ale house quite earns the accolade like Arendsnest. Located on the grand Herengracht canal, the copper pipes, mahogany walls and waistcoat-clad bartenders will have drinkers thinking they have stepped back in time. If you’re feeling peckish, delve into a cheese or sausage plate from the chalkboard, the perfect accompaniment to a superior beer.

Bierfabriek

If you don’t go for the knock out beers brewed on site, go for the sheer thrill of being able to toss your peanut shells on the floor. Feeling the crunch under your feet on the way to the bar is all part of the Bierfabriek experience. If dinner is on the cards be sure to sample their famous grilled chicken, before washing it down with a pilsner, porter or ruby ale, all of which are prepared a peanut’s throw away.

Butcher’s Tears

Tucked away at the end of an industrial street in the Zuid neighbourhood, the secluded location of Butcher’s Tears only adds to its unpolished charm. This brewery-cum-tasting-room attracts an eclectic crowd from hipsters to pensioners, with a minimalist white-tiled interior that reinforces the fact that it’s all about the beer. The offerings on tap alternate regularly, and peckish patrons will often find a fresh loaf of bread to dig into.

Oedipus Brewery and Taproom

Take the free ferry to Amsterdam Noord for a tipple at the warehouse-style taproom of Oedipus Brewery. Started by four friends with a shared taste for international beers and experimental brewing methods, Oedipus has forged a legion of thirsty fans through  creations like their delicate and citrusy Mama pale ale. Oedipus beers are instantly recognisable by their colourfully illustrated labels and the taproom pays homage to their iconic branding with elaborately painted walls.

Kauffmann

Falafels and craft beer might not be a conventional pairing, but with a fabulously bright, Matisse-like mural and hanging plants bathing in natural sunlight, Kauffmann is not your average watering hole. The drinks menu pays tribute to some of the lesser-known craft beers from around the Netherlands, so expect pots and potions from Utrecht, Nijmegen and Tilburg, alongside prized portions of delicious falafels.

Craft and Draft

With an ever-rotating selection of 40 beers on tap, the encyclopedia of international and Dutch beers at Craft and Draft change almost daily. The bar itself is small and humble with exposed brickwork, wooden furnishings and friendly staff. If you’re finding the beer board somewhat overwhelming, opt for a tasting set of three beers.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ

Popular with tourists and locals alike, the novelty of enjoying a beer next to Amsterdam’s largest windmill never seems to wear off. However, this is more than just a photo opportunity. Brouwerij ‘t IJ brews some of the city’s best-loved beers (try the chocolatey Columbus ale at an eye-watering 9%) and boasts an attractive bar to boot. Located in an old municipal bath house, many of the original features remain, including separate entrances for men and women.

Top spots for outdoor activities in the Adirondacks

 Hitting the trail

Called the “Porcupine Mountains” by Native American tribes, this vast park offers swaths of old-growth maple and beech pockmarked with serpentine lakes, bogs, and swamps that provide the perfect habitat for wildlife large and small. You might see porcupine, you’ll certainly see beavers and their iconic dams, deer, moose, maybe even black bears. In autumn these rounded hills seem almost on fire from the brilliant reds, golds, and yellows as the deciduous forests submit to winter’s chill.

For visitors seeking a hike, the park is criss-crossed with trails that offer something for nearly any trekking ability, from easy, short meanders along a scenic overlook or waterfall, to routes only the most seasoned of hikers can attempt. Note that park trails require you to sign in and check out, as getting lost or injured in this wilderness can be perilous. Bring appropriate layers and know your way at all times. Cellphone reception is limited, so plan well and know what to do if there’s surprise weather or a health emergency.

Sleeping Beauty Mountain

The rewards of donning hiking boots and hitting Sleeping Beauty Mountain are almost instantaneous: warblers and songbirds flit about in the canopy; the air smells fresh and clean; brooks gurgle beneath your feet as you ascend. These things have remained unchanged for centuries. Sleeping Beauty is a medium-level hike and a very doable day trip, assuming the access road to Dacy Clearing is open (visitadirondacks.com/dacy-clearing-road), which cuts the necessary walking down by 1.8 miles each way. Expect a gorgeous – often wet – ascent through beech and maple forest that slowly gives way to conifers towards the top. It’s rocky but requires no actual climbing, and while the runoff from snow or rain will make sections more like a stream than a trail, there are plenty stepping stones and detours to avoid puddles. If you’re careful, you might not even get your boots wet.

Upper, Middle, and Lower Black River

With numerous places boaters can get into the water, canoeists, kayakers, and fishermen make visiting Black River a top priority. Offering over 100 miles of top notch, often extremely remote riparian habitat, this gem can be extremely dangerous in flood season and any visitors should seek local advice about the hazardous stretches.

The river is loosely dividable into three sections, Upper, Middle, and Lower, with the latter being the most challenging due to Class IV level rapids suitable for experts only. Scenic canoeing is best in the middle section, which is flat and even pond-like at certain times of the year. Upper Black River is a mix, with some rapids and portages, all very scenic: the top items of interest are the old locks that once helped steam-powered boats navigate this portion of the river.

The Wild Center

No trip to the Adirondacks is complete without visiting the lovely Wild Center (wildcenter.org), with its new outdoor exhibit for kids of all ages, the Wild Walk. A multi-station suspension bridge that at times reaches above the trees, the Walk is part science exhibit and part amusement park: a giant spider tempts you to get caught in her web or you can pretend you’re an eagle chick in a giant nest. Visitors can also birdwatch, or learn about how woodpeckers slam their heads into trees with the equivalent force of a car hitting a bridge abutment at 26,000 miles per hour (Ouch!).

Inside, the gorgeous exhibits include a variety of Adirondack habitats: from river (with trout and turtles), to bog (with sundews and frogs), to woodland. The two rescued otters are the star attraction though, with antics that rival circus comedy. It’s a great indoor option for a rainy day, and again, has just as much for adults to enjoy as for kids.

Lake George

No other body of water is as synonymous with the Adirondacks as Lake George. Large and lovely, this 32 mile-long stretch of shimmering magic is often the primary reason so many people visit each summer. The Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and other tycoons had summer homes here, and the area even attracted Georgia O’Keefe as well as many other artists. There are so many lake-based activities it’s impossible to list them all, but they include some spectacular rock leaps (for those who enjoy the adrenaline rush of leaping off perfectly good cliffs into who-knows-how-much-this-will-hurt water) at Diver’s (15 feet) and Double Diver’s (30 feet…not for the faint of heart!). In summer, paddling, swimming, and jet- or water-skiing are popular attractions. Get above the lake in an amphibious plane or take a hot air balloon ride for high-altitude views that even the summit hikes can’t provide.

Roaring Brook Falls

Near Keene Valley on Route 73, this quick and pretty hike is a perfect place to stretch your legs. It’s a “two-fer”: shortly after starting you’ll see the path split. Take the low route to reach the base of the falls, an easy 0.3 mile journey that has a few logs to clamber over and some loose rocks here and there, but almost no incline. The more adventurous will veer to the left, up the incline, where half a mile later you reach the top of the falls (be aware that the rocks can be slick). In winter the water often freezes, producing a frozen waterfall popular with photographers and ice climbers.

A wine tour of the Balkans

 It’s often said that under the communist regimes the region focused on quantity rather than quality of wine; but with family wineries honing their craft in recent years, change is afoot. Here we present the best of the Balkans’ hearty local grape varieties and where you’ll be warmly welcomed for a tipple of each.

Vranac: the jewel of former Yugoslavia

Meaning ‘black stallion’ in Serbo-Croatian, earthy red Vranac is perhaps best known for the millions of litres of it exported each year byMontenegro’s primarily state-owned winery, Plantaže. While their cavernous Šipčanik cellar just south of the capital Podgorica is worth a visit, do yourself a favour and continue your wine quest to the southern coast of Lake Skadar.

Known as Crmnica, Montenegro’s primary wine region is home to dozens of family-run wineries. Though most owners don’t speak English, local British expats Emma and Ben Heywood of Undiscovered Montenegro are happy to organise day trips and even week-long adventures through wine country. Here, you’ll be welcomed into the modest home of Miodrag Leković – nestled in the ruins of the 14th-century village of Godinje – for a taste of his award-winning oak-aged version of the varietal, or taken to Klicić Winery in Limljani village for a glass of Sveti Toma, named after the 7th-century chapel that endured sliding down a hill nearby.

Plavac Mali: Croatia’s island red

‘The Dalmatian sun is literally soaked into this wine,’ Balkan wine expert Dušan Jelić says of Plavac Mali. The Serb who has spent time working in the South African wine industry says he still compares every wine to the varietal his father drank. ‘It’s as powerful as it is irresistible: after one glass, your ears will turn red.’

Like Vranac, Plavac Mali is related to Zinfandel – the American favourite. Just one of the Dalmatian coast’s 30 indigenous varieties, it’s undoubtedly its most important. While Croatia’s northern region ofIstria has really boosted its wine tourism in recent years, you must venture to the Dalmatian islands to find this robust varietal. Hardship, we know.

There’s no match for the ambience of the wine tasting on the serene island of Vis. Occupied by military forces for decades – from WWII until the dissolution of Yugoslavia – the lush island and its viticulture are pretty quirky. You can either try a glass of Plavac Mali inside a cave once used as a Yugoslav military bunker at Vina Lipanović (facebook.com/Vina-LIPANOVIĆ), or sip some while overlooking the field used by the Vis Cricket Club at Roki’s – the restaurant and winery owned by the club’s founder.

Kallmet: Albania’s holy wine

The Illyrian winemaking tradition, which is thought to have predated the Roman Empire by several centuries, is carried on in the flavours ofAlbania’s native Kallmet. With both red and white varietals, it’s rumoured that Albanian producers even paid their taxes to the Vatican with this wine during the Middle Ages. More recently, it was served to noted oenophile Pope Francis during his visit to the country in 2014.

Kallmet is mostly found in Albania’s breadbasket, the northern region of Lezhë; you can taste some great iterations at the eponymous Kantina Kallmeti. However, the country’s most impressive Kallmet comes from the small winery attached to Uka Farm, the organic farm and restaurant just outside the capital Tirana. If you’re lucky, in-house winemaker Flori Uka will give you a tour of the cellar behind the farm and may even open a bottle of his reserve.

Mavrud: the taste of Bulgaria’s mountains

The rounded Rodopi Mountains form the backdrop for one of Bulgaria’sfive major wine regions, the Thracian Lowlands. Wine has been part of Bulgarian DNA since the times of the ancient Thracians, and one taste of the multi-faceted local favourite Mavrud is a journey back in time. With most wineries located around the second-largest city, Plovdiv, the Thracian Lowlands make an excellent weekend break from elsewhere in Europe or part of a longer exploration of Bulgaria. While there, head to Todoroff Winery and Hotel in the wine-centric village of Brestovitza (where you can even bathe in wine), or slightly further afield for some tantalising Mavrud blends at Villa Yustina.

Kallmet: Albania’s holy wine

The Illyrian winemaking tradition, which is thought to have predated the Roman Empire by several centuries, is carried on in the flavours ofAlbania’s native Kallmet. With both red and white varietals, it’s rumoured that Albanian producers even paid their taxes to the Vatican with this wine during the Middle Ages. More recently, it was served to noted oenophile Pope Francis during his visit to the country in 2014.

Mavrud: the taste of Bulgaria’s mountains

The rounded Rodopi Mountains form the backdrop for one of Bulgaria’sfive major wine regions, the Thracian Lowlands. Wine has been part of Bulgarian DNA since the times of the ancient Thracians, and one taste of the multi-faceted local favourite Mavrud is a journey back in time. With most wineries located around the second-largest city, Plovdiv, the Thracian Lowlands make an excellent weekend break from elsewhere in Europe or part of a longer exploration of Bulgaria.