24 Hours in Vancouver

Here’s a question for you..would you rather eat a brilliant breakfast every day in a restaurant that is in a crap location with a rubbish view or an average breakfast with a stunning view?  If, like me, you are all for the advantage on the food, then let me give you a fantastic recommendation.  Go to Vancouver now!

I’ve never been somewhere that has better options to start the day in the right way.  Top of my list is Yolks, on West Broadway, which offers a huge array of options – my personal favourite of fried chicken and waffles, gravy and a hash brown fritter is the most popular dish – and sees queues form up to an hour before opening at the weekend.  They’ve recently opened a new brand in East Hastings.  Medina in Richards Street is more central and also offers a wide choice, whilst Forage is more your brunch-type establishment in Robson Street.

Fully sated after breakfast it is time to head out into the wonderful city centre.  Vancouver’s location is the envy of most cities in the world.  Located on the water, backed by the snow-capped North Shore Mountains and just across the border from the US, it is a city that it high on the tourists map.  It is certainly an outdoor city, with a lot of the action based around False Creek.  One good walking route (around 5 1/2 miles in total) is from Kits Point, around the basin, taking in the Science World at the far end and then around to the north side, ending at .  You can of course cheat and get the Ferry Service that hops between points on the north and south shore.

The North shoreline is dominated by BC Place, the 50,000 seater stadium with the retractable roof that hosts major events and the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps side. Next door is the Rogers Arena, home to the best supported team in the city, the Vancouver Canuck Ice Hockey team.  It is well-worth trying to catch a game during the season (October to April) when you are in town.

On the South shoreline is Granville Island which is really the hub of the best food and drink options in the city.  Popina Canteen was established by four of Vancouver’s top chefs, and offers a wide array of options at the end of Johnstone Street and on the water’s edge.  The Granville Island Brewing Company located close by and offers a very good selection of beers.  The former Olympic village further eastwards on the South Shore has plenty more options including Tap & Barrel, Craft Beer Market and The Flying Pig.  A climb up to Broadway offers some stunning views of the city centre and the mountains beyond and definitely worth the effort.

If you want a bit of Chinese culture then take a trip to Vancouver’s Chinatown, the oldest in Canada and the largest. Perched on the edge of the Downtown Financial District and Gastown, Chinatown offers up an array of shops, markets, and of course, the best Chinese restaurants in town. Sunday is the busiest day for Dim Sum.

One stop on any tourist agenda is the Museum of Vancouver, located in Vanier Park, which offers a background to the city’s development as well as rotating exhibits. Here you will also find Richmond Night Market, the biggest of its kind in North America, which opens nightly and offers a huge range of food option.For those who love a bit of macabre history then the Vancouver Police Museum in Cordova Street, in the hip and trendy Gaslight district, is worth a visit.  The museum houses a collection of approximately 20,000 objects, including confiscated firearms and other weapons, counterfeit currency, police uniforms, archival documents, photographs, publications, and various other artifacts and memorabilia.

If you have the time then the Sea to Sky Gondola is a must.  Forty miles north of the city centre, the dramatic gondola ride to the top of the mountain, some 885m above sea-level where there are cafe’s and a stunning suspension bridge.  Certainly an unforgettable experience.

True mid-range hotels are in scarce supply in the city centre but there are some bargains to be had depending on the time of the year. The centrally located Hotel Le Soleil is a well-appointed boutique hotel with large suites. At False Creek and Granville Island, the Residence Inn by Marriott is a great hotel with studios, as well as suites with full kitchens. At the east end of downtown, close to BC Place, Science World, and Gastown, is the Georgian Court Hotel.

The great thing about Vancouver is that it can be combined with a trip south of the border to Seattle, just a 3-hour drive down Highway 5.  So fly into the US, spend time in Washington State, drive up the stunning highway into Canada and get the best of both worlds.

24 Hours in Taipei

It goes without saying that few people will come to Taipei, capital of Taiwan just for 24 hours.  However, should you find yourself here on business then try to escape for a few hours to experience a truly different taste of the East.  For those who have visited China, well done.  Taiwan is a whole new world and what better place to taste it than the capital city, Taipei, sitting right at the northern tip of the island.

Most international tourists will arrive in Taiwan via Taoyuan International airport, located on the west coast of the island.  The regular MTS train service runs direct to the Main Station in around 35 minutes from all terminals and costs around TND$160 (£4).  Taxi’s are regulated although the traffic around the city centre can be heavy so the train is the best bet.  For further travel around Taipei it is worth investing in an EasyCard which works like an Oyster and gives a discount on all fares.  If you buy individual tickets you need to keep hold of the token as you need it to exit the station.  All signs on the subway are in English so you won’t have an issue finding your way around.

Looking for a starting point to get a view of the whole city?  That’ll be the once tallest building in the world, Taipei 101, which unsurprisingly has 101 stories.  Designed to evoke both technology and Asian tradition, with a post-modernist style that puts a modern spin on traditional design elements, the tower serves as an icon of modern Taiwan.  Designed to withstand a serious earthquake thanks to its impressive tuned mass damper, a rather large ball that sits near the top of the tower and absorbs any shock waves.  Views are incredible even on a rubbish day.  Entry is through the shopping centre which sits on top of the World Trade Center metro stop on the red line.  If you love a blag then try to enter the VIP club that sits on the 101st floor.

The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial is in the heart of the city and is one of the most famous meeting points in Taipei.  Two almost identical pavilions sit opposite each other across a large square with ornamental gates at one end.  The monument was built to celebrate the life and success of Taiwan’s former president Chiang Kai-Shek. The memorial grounds include the National Concert Hall and National Theatre and there’s also a museum dedicated to Chiang’s life and the history of Chinese rule in Taiwan. If you fancy trying a bit of Tai Chi, then this is the place to come after lunch.

What visit to the city could be complete without going to the Museum of Drinking Water? Located in a pumping station, naturally, close to the river and a few minutes walk from Gongguan station it is certainly a one of a kind tourist attraction.  At the end of the brown subway line is Taipei zoo which sprawls up the hillside and can be access from the main entrance by the subway or from the Maokong cable car which takes you to the top.  The zoo is famous for its Pandas and Hippos.

Want to get an even better view you say?  One of the most popular walks is up to Elephant Mountain.  Clamber up the stone steps for the best photos of Taipei 101 – it’s possible to follow the trails from Tiger Mountain (start at Houshanpi Station), taking in the views  on the way.  If you fancy a longer but more leisurely hike. If you have a bit longer in the city then just 40 minutes by cab is the magnificent Yangmingshan National Park where you can hike to your heart’s content and take in some amazing views from the top of Grass Mountain.

For those looking for some retail therapy then you are in luck, although some brands have gone a bit over board.  A walk around the Ximen area (Green and Blue subway lines) and you won’t fail to notice half a dozen or so Adidas and Nike stores.  There’s plenty of other major brands around this area as well as the iconic Red House and the Armed Forces Museum.

Unaccustomed to the food?  Get yourself down to the Shilin Night Market, open daily from 5pm and the closest metro station is Jiatan and experience some grilled octopus, deep-fried chicken hearts or basically any part of an animal you can think of.  Whilst there are plenty of night markets in the city, Shilin is the biggest and the best and heaves of a weekend.

If you are looking for your food in a bit more of a refined way then Din Tai Fung is a chain of very well-known Soup Dumpling restaurants that now have a few restaurants open in California.  If pigs knuckles are your thing (don’t dismiss it until you have tried it!) then Fu-Ba-Wang in Nanjing Road is the place to go as they have a whole menu devoted to them.  To splash the cash then the Yen Bar at the W-Hotel is the place to be seen.  If you are looking for something quick and cheap then there are hundreds of 7-11’s around the city that provide just that.  Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the Modern Toilet Restaurant chain where you sit on old toilets and your food is served in..mini toilets.

If you want to find somewhere for a beer, then fear not.  The number of bars serving craft beer in Taipei grows almost on a daily basis.  Highly recommended options include a Mikkeler outlet located at the end of Di Hua Street on Nanjing West Road, Zhangmen which is a local Taiwan craft brewery with over 20 taps at their various locations – Yong Kang Street, on the 4th Floor of Breeze Mall, and one in Neihu. Landmark is also a great destination in Zhongxiao East Road.

Obviously you will need a bed for the night and as with most large cities there is a huge range depending on the size of your wallet.  Possibly the most famous name is the Grand Hotel, which once put up Ronald Reagan, and certainly looks the part with its red pagoda exterior and a very big pool, located on Zhongshan North Road. The W-hotel is probably the plushest hotel in the city, with a roof-top pool and some amazing views.  If you want to be close up and personal to 101 Taipei then the Sparkle Hotel is a mere stone’s throw away and offers some good value rooms.  Finally, the Sheraton Grand is a short walk from the Main Station and offers a number of excellent restaurants.

One odd thing to look out for – when residents hear Beethoven’s “Für Elise” playing outside, everyone goes into a mild panic.  There are no rubbish bins on the streets (to keep vermin in check) so this music signifies the arrival of the bin men.

 

24 Hours in Napier

Where?  I may hear you ask but anyone who knows anything about Art Deco will immediately know all about Napier.  Perhaps if I added that it was slap-bang in the middle of Hawkes Bay then a few more people who know their Clarets from their Bordeaux’s may nod in recognition.

Located in-between Auckland and Wellington, Napier is a gem that is often left off the tourist map.  It’s not the easiest to get to by car, with the 300-odd mile drive taking up to six hours.  However, it is just a 40 minute hop on the plane from Auckland and Wellington, with up to 15 flights a day so it would be rude not to pay the town a visit if you were on the North Island for a period of time.

As already mentioned, the town is famed for its Art Deco architecture which was the result of a devastating earthquake back in 1931 which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale, killed over 250 people and led to the almost flattening of the town as it was.  The local government granted a request to rebuild the town in an Art Deco style which today brings thousands of visitors, none more so than Art Deco week where the locals dress in period costume as they go about their daily business.

Napier isn’t a town with a lot of attractions based around doing, but rather seeing.  The National Aquarium of New Zealand is a popular attraction, located on Marine Parade, whilst Napier Prison is a popular place to spend a couple of hours – once New Zealand’s oldest prison, it now offers guided day and night tours by appointment and self-guided audio tours all day. It is also the only building where it is possible to see the original path of the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake.  The pedestrianized High Street also has some unusual shops and is worth a browse.

The black-sand beach, with the crashing Pacific Ocean waves is a great place just to sit and contemplate life.  Backing onto the beach is the Soundshell, where concerts are held during the summer and the Pania of the Reef statue. The Pania statue on Marine Parade is regarded in Napier in much the same way that the Little Mermaid statue is regarded in Copenhagen.

The pie is king in these parts and there are few better places to pick up one in the morning than Angkor Wat Bakery on the corner of Dickens and Dalton – a huge range of sweet and savoury pies that sell out fast.  If you fancy a more substantial breakfast then the Zigg Zigg Cafe on the corner of Emerson and Clive Square does a fantastic Kiwi twist on a full English.

Napier has a couple of outstanding restaurants, none more so than the tasting menu at the compact Bistronomy – it is worth booking ahead for this feast, whilst the Emporium around the corner on Marine Parade is not only a decent pub but also has a great menu of Asian fusion-inspired food.  For something completely different, head to the corner of Clive Square and Dickens where Deli Roasts allows you to build your own roast dinner to take away.  On most days they will have a choice of 4 different meats and enough vegetables to keep your Mum happy.  At that end of the town centre you will also find the fast food chains and the cinema should you wish to take in a movie.

If you are feeling energetic then you could head to Ahruri, which is on the other side of the big hill.  About a 45 minute walk or 5 minutes in a cab here you will find a number of converted old dockside buildings including the excellent Speights Ale House, Gintrap Restaurant and Bar and the Three Doors Up restaurant which is one of the best seafood restaurants in the area.

A ten minute walk down Munroe Street will eventually bring you to McLean Park, one of the venues used by the New Zealand cricket team for international games as well as rugby matches.  Napier also has a football team who play in the New Zealand Premier League – Napier City Rovers.  Their home ground is the Bluewater Stadium which is located Orutu Park, about 10 minutes away in a cab.

Apart from the Art Deco and the excellent food, most people head to the town to start their wine tasting tour.  Hawkes Bay, derives from Hawke Bay which was named by Captain James Cook in honour of Admiral Edward Hawke who decisively defeated the French at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759, is home to over 70 wineries today – a few to many to see in just 24 hours but you could easily take in half a dozen on a well-planned tour.  Some not to miss are Moana Park, Elephant Hill and Askerne Winery.

For those wanting a bed for the night then the best address is town is unsurprisingly the Art Deco Masonic hotel on the corner of Tennyson Street.  A cheaper option is Quest on Dickens Street which offers rooms with kitchen facilities.  On the other side of the hill, you can’t beat the East Pier Hotel for the views.

24 Hours in Stirling

“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”

Stand on the east bank of Old Stirling Bridge, looking across the stone gateway to the city with the castle perched high on the hill and you can imagine William Wallace addressing the troops as they prepared to fight the advancing English army back in 1297.  Wallace is still a revered character in Stirling, with a huge monument to him just a mile or so north of the city centre, which offers some outstanding views back to the city and the surrounding rolling hills.  You can reach the monument by bus 52 or UL from outside the main station every thirty minutes. If you fancy a bit more history then you can head south to Bannockburn where there is a visitor’s centre detailing the infamous battle.

Today the English get a more friendly welcome in Scotland’s 20th biggest city, seen as the “broach that binds the Highlands with the Lowlands”.  Just over 30 minutes from the centre of Glasgow and under an hour from Edinburgh, Stirling is a perfect addition to any trip north of the border.  Traditionally, this was the lowest bridging point on the Forth, which made it such a strategic point and a focus for military activity.

There’s plenty to keep you busy here for 24 hours – to get the best out of the city we’d recommend putting on your walking boots and starting at the main station.  Cross the footbridge just south of the station where you can grab some fantastic views of the surrounding hills and then head north along Forth Street, until you reach the river’s edge at Lover’s Walk. From here follow the river north and you will get to the Old Stirling Bridge where you can step back into the time of Wallace and the advancing English army.

From here it is quite a hike up Upper Bridge Street towards the castle but the views are certainly worth it.  At the top of Broad Street is where most of the action happens.  Here you will find the spooky Old Town Jail, the Church of the Holy Rude where the child king James VI was crowned and some fantastic views from the graveyard as well as Stirling Castle itself.

The walk back down is best saved for lunch time where you can pop into a few of the culinary highlights of the city.  The oldest pub in the city centre is the Nicky-Tams on Baker Street which serves some good home-cooked food and local ales, whilst just a few doors down in a branch of Brewdog which never fails to hit the spot.  Slap-bang next door to that is the Brea Restaurant which is highly recommended.

When the sun goes down then the locals come out, mixing with the students from the university and enjoying a decent range of pubs and bars.  The Cold Beer Company on Murray Street is worth a stop, whilst just up the road and opposite Brewdog is Number 2 Baker Street.

The Stirling Highland Hotel on Spittal Street and just a few hundred yards from the Holy Rude is one of the best addresses in town for the night, even closer is the Portcullis which is on Castle Wynd and has some charming rooms.  If you are looking for a more budget option then on the far side of the station you will find a Premier Inn, or a bit further down Forthbank Way near the football ground is the Holiday Inn Express.

Football you say?  Stirling Albion may not be playing Premiership football but it is a friendly place to visit with some excellent views of the surrounding hills.  It is a fair trek out of the city centre along Forthbank Way although there is a regular bus service from the train station.  Also on Forthbank Way is the new-ish Vue Cinema and a few more chain restaurants.  Also on this side of the railway is the interactive conservation space, The Engine Shed, which is worth a few hours of your time, especially for those with kids.

24 Hours in New York City

Now let’s be honest – very few of us are ever likely to spend “just” 24 hours in the Big Apple.  New York City is the sixth most visited city in the world today, with around $18.5 billion added annually by us tourists.  Most people either crave another chance to get a slice of the city that never sleeps or have it on their bucket list of places to visit.  With careful planning you can cram a lot into just 24 hours – after all sleep is so over rated isn’t it?

The question is where to start? Let’s assume you’ve negotiated the immigration process at whatever airport you arrive at and have chosen the most appropriate ground transportation option for your traveling party and budget – there is little point in offers any advice here apart from always use the official options.  It is incredibly sensible to look at what events are in the city and whether there are any cheap tickets –www.stubhub.com is an excellent resource for any gigs and sporting events such as the baseball where you can pick up last (and I mean last) minute tickets for some events for a dollar.

New York has lots of things to do that are free.  The Staten Island Ferry arguably offers some of the best views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty 24 hours a day and is completely free, whilst the 9/11 Memorial Site is now fully open and you can look in awe at the size of the reflecting pools where the Twin Towers once stood.  Central Park is a beautiful place to wander in the summer whilst the area around Lower Manhattan is littered with historic buildings which can be entered free of charge such as the Federal Reserve Bank (you need to reserve a spot in advance to see the Gold Reserves where half a million gold bars are kept for safe-keeping) or Hook and Ladder on North Moore Street, a working fire station but used as the location for the filming of Ghostbusters.  If you are lucky you may also see Lindsey Lohan stagger home across the street.  If you are feeling energetic then a perfect way to spend a morning is to walk The High Line, a reclaimed railway line that through the West Side and has art galleries, restaurants and bars along its 1.45 mile route.  Alternatively head across the walkway on Brooklyn Bridge for some decent views of the city’s skyline.

There are numerous options to get a birds-eye view of the city these days.  The Rock, aka the Rockerfeller Center is in mid-town at 49th Street and the viewing platform here is often less busy that the Empire State Building on 5th Avenue although is open longer.  The new spot in town to see and be seen is undoubtably the 1,776ft, the fourth tallest building in the world and the biggest in the Western Hemipshere, One World Trade Center.  Be prepared to queue if you want to ride up to the 102nd floor to get some outstanding views of the city and beyond.  Tickets can be booked online from $32 for Adults. For a less energetic way to see the city, hop on one of the helicopter tours that leave from the piers on the East and West sides of Manhattan.

If the city gets too much then head across to the picturesque town of Hoboken in New Jersey either by a 10 minute ferry ride from lower Manhattan or on the PATH train.  The way of life here is more relaxed, the restaurants and bar not as busy and the views across the Hudson to New York are stunning.  The Main Street here is where you will find the original Cake Boss shop too.

There are thousands of places to eat and drink in the city, which is often best explored without recommendations.  However, a couple of our favourites are:-

  • Chinese Soup Noodle Dumplings – Joe Shanghai on Pell Street – expect to queue around the block for these delicious treats.
  • Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich – Charly’s Diner on Trinity Place at the east end of Zuccoti Park is the place to go – cooked in front of your eyes.
  • Steak – There are dozens of decent steak houses in Manhattan but one of my favourites, if not the cheapest, is Bobby Vans on Broadway.
  • Tapas – Cafe Barca in Little Italy is a great spot – decent choice of dishes and cheap as chips
  • Fried Chicken – How about Fried Chicken served on Waffles?  Then you need Sweet Chick in Williamsburg.  Expect to queue for the privilage to eat here.
  • Breakfast – Why compromise?  Cafe Charlie opposite Grand Central Station, under the Park Avenue approach has the best breakfast in town.
  • Smoked meats – Route 66 Smokehouse in Stone Street, lower Manhattan is a great spot in the summer – in fact the whole of Stone Street is a brilliant place to hang out when the sun is setting with outdoor seating and bars such as the Becketts, The Growler and Bavaria Bierhaus.
  • Strange and wonderful things – Apparently in the top 10 bars in the whole of America, The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog is a strange one. A ground floor compact Irish Bar, with its own craft beers provides the foundations to two floors of booth seating for over 100 cocktails and some fantastic small portions of fusion food.  Get here early or you will be queuing for ages.

The list could go on and on.  Take our advice.  Ignore our advice.  Share our advice.  Damn it, just go and do New York your way – you wont regret it!

24 Hours in Salzburg

If you weren’t familiar with the fact he was a famous composer you would assume on a visit to Salzburg that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart made chocolates…and rubber ducks.  You cannot turn a corner without seeing the city’s most famous sons whether it is on the packet of the marzipan chocolate balls, creme liquors or bathroom products. Embrace it – obviously not every location that claims an affiliation with the composer is entirely true but go with it, find your inner Cassation in D-Minor and explore the beautiful back streets of this wonderful city.

Salzburg is an interesting place to spend 24 hours. Most tourists on organised trips cram in everything during the day, meaning the streets can be heaving but come 5pm they all depart, leaving the narrow, cobbled lanes, fantastic restaurants and bars to the 24-hourers.  If you plan on really maximising your time in this beautiful city, then consider investing in the Salzburg Card which offers free entry to basically everything and free local transport to boot.

The centre of Salzburg is small, which means nowhere is really more than a 5 minute walk away. Even the smart airport, unsurprisingly named after Mozart, is just a short bus ride away from the city centre – bus number 10 runs every 10 minutes and takes just 15 minutes to arrive at the main station, costing just €2.50.  What many first time visitors probably don’t know is how close to Germany the city centre is – a ten minute walk north of the airport and you will be swapping your Euro’s for, erm Euro’s and saying Danke Schoen in a slightly different accent.

On the opposite side of the runway to the terminal building you will find the glass dome belonging to Red Bull. Hanger 7 is the home to the air racing team and also includes a collection of their F1 racing team. The dome has a restaurant and a bar and is just a hop off bus route 2 – a good option as a pit-stop before heading to your flight home.  Likewise, on the other (the terminal) side of the runway there is a decent-sized Outlet shopping centre for those who want to stock up on their Austrian Designer Brands.

If Mozart doesn’t get you then the Von Trapps will. Salzburg features heavily in The Sound of Music, no venue more so than the Mirabell Palace on the right bank of the Salzach, where you can relive the “Doe, Ray, Me” song on the steps just to the left of the palace. On your way don’t forget to allow time to pop into ultra formal Hotel Sacher for a slice of the world-famous Sacher Torte – although it’s worth remembering that you’ll pay a premium for enjoy a slice here.

Want a decent view of the city then head up to the Hohensalzburg, the huge castle that sits 500m above the centre. You can access the fortress by funicular which whisks you up to the top in a few minutes every 10 minutes. Entrance to the fortress and it’s museums is €11.50.

For a different overview of the city then the Salzburg Museum is a great starting point but I’d give that a swerve and head for Steigl Brewery in Kendlerstrasse, just outside the centre, for a few local brews and some excellent Austrian fayre. If you don’t fancy the walk then there’s plenty of excellent bars in the city centre including the Alchimiste Belge on Bergstraße with its 150+ beers or The Beer Lounge on Schwarzstraße. One of the most popular new bars in the old town is the excellent Sternbräu on Griesgasse which despite its modern, sleek design, has been around since 1542. In the summer then head to one of the excellent beer gardens such as Urbankeller, Augustiner Bräu or Bierheuriger Eder in Gaisbergstraße.

If food is what you want, what you really really want then you are in luck as Salzburg covers every taste and does it in style.  Want some typical Austrain fayre featuring meat and potatoes, then Gasthaus Zwettlers in Kaigasse is a great shout.  If you want something smaller then Carpe Diem in Getreidegasse is very popular, whilst on the right bank of the river, Jonanneskeller is highly recommended on Richard-Myr Gasse

For those in the city for a bit of football, Red Bull Salzburg have dominated the domestic scene for a few seasons now. The play, unsurprisingly, at the Red Bull Arena halfway between the city centre and the airport. Close by the stadium is the casino and an Ikea – so something for everyone.

For those needing a bed for the night then the Goldener Hirsch on Getreidegasse in the old town and a stones throw from Mozart’s official childhood house, is an excellent choice. A great boutique option, just off Residentzplatz is the Dom, with each room uniquely designed. For those looking for a more budget option, the Holiday Inn is locates close to the Mirabell Palace.

24 Hours in Barcelona

“Un sueño me envolvió
Tal vez estás aquí
Un instinto me guiaba”

The immortal lines of the song Barcelona, sung by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé never fails to inspire me to think about the glorious scenes of the 1992 Summer Olympics.  The images of the diving competition, with the competitors jumping high, silhouetted against the city down below was enough to inspire me to visit and whilst the city still has some major issues to address, with prior knowledge comes wisdom and a great 24 hours can be experienced time and time again.

Whether you are coming for the cuisine, the culture, the climate or the Camp Nou, Barcelona is a wonderful city less than two hours flight from the UK.  Most major airlines fly to Aeropuerto El Prat Llobregat, 7.5 miles down the coast from the city centre.  Metro line 9 as well as a train line run from the airport to the city centre on a regular basis.  There is also a bus that runs to Plaça Espanya.

The question really is where to start.  For those with a head for heights, the cable car that runs from Montjurïc to Mirador on the edge of the beaches and restaurants of Barcelonetta.  A return trip dangling precariously over the city centre is €12 (€8 single) and offers some amazing views.  Once you are in Montjurïc you have a whole host of places to visit.  The Olympic Stadium is free to enter and soak up some of the magic from the summer of 1992. There’s a small museum dedicated to the Olympics at the far end of the stadium.  Five minutes away from the entrance to the stadium is the amazing Fundació Joan Miró, the home of a significant number of works from one of the 20th century’s most influential artists.  Entry starts from €12.  Also on the road back down to Plaça Espanyol is the Poble Espanyol, a recreation of life in different areas of Spain complete with the architecture and food.  Admission is €12. If you head in this direction after nightfall then you be lucky to see the fountains in front of the Museo Nacional D’Art de Catalunya sing and dance.

One of the must-see sights in Europe let alone Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece that started in 1882 and is due for completion in 2026 at the latest estimate.  It is a work of art and you can explore every nook and crevice, including the scarily tall towers.  Barcelona is Gaudí town and you can explore some of his other work close-by such as Casa Milà or La Pedrera with its roof terrace.

You don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy the majesty of the Camp Nou, the second most popular tourist attraction in the city.  Whilst tickets for most games are hard to come by (although it’s worth checking here 48 hours before a game just in case) you can visit the stadium on most days and take in a tour of the ground and the museum as well as the obligatory visit to the café and club shop to buy your FCB slippers.  Nearest metro stops are

La Rambla is seen by many as the heart of the city, following the line of an old river (rambla means riverbed not ramble as many people think).  At the bottom of the avenue is the Christoper Columbus monument which has a daily hidden entrance but is open to ascend and get some decent views of the surrounding area.  Keep heading seawards and eventually you’ll reach the the Aquarium (admission €18) which is a popular haunt for families.  Keep your wits about you on the lower part of La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter and the area near Parallel as this is where most petty crime occurs, something the city has been woefully neglectful in trying to clear up.

Just an hour south of the city centre by train is the seaside town of Salou where one of Europe’s biggest theme parks can be found.  Portaventura has a link with Universal and certainly has some decent thrill rides and will be joined by Ferrari Land in March 2017.  The park has its own train station and is certain worth a visit if city life gets too much.

The city is also home to Tapas, which as you’d expect can be as cheap or as expensive as you want.  Recommended venues to indulge include Tickets in Avenue del Paral-lel which is in one of the fifty best bars in the world.  El Vaso de Oro in Barcelonetta is one of the most popular on the beach front and is also famous for its beer whilst the fantastically named Tossa close to the Sagrada Familia on Carrer de Nàpols is underrated.

Looking for somewhere unusual to put your head down for the night?  Barcelona has hotels to accommodate every budget but there’s a few that stand out from the crowd and won’t break the bank.  Acta Mimic Hotel is full of light that can be adapted to your moods and is located a short walk from La Rambla.  Hotel Neri has all the feel of a luxury boutique hotel without the price tag and is located at the heart of the Gothic Quarter whilst the Silken Diagonal Hotel sits on the main shopping street (Diagonal) and superbly appointed rooms for almost pocket money prices (ok maybe a bit more).

For those who want to sample some craft beer whilst in town, and let’s face it, who doesn’t then head to either The Garage Beer Company in Carrer del Counsel de Cent which houses it’s own microbrewery or Abirrodero in Carrer de Vila i Vilà.  There hundreds of bars across the city but a couple of stand out venues due to their location and theme are The Manchester Bar, in homage to everything from, erm Manchester, which can be found in Carter de Milans whilst El Bosc de les Fades translated as ‘The Forest of Fairies’ whisks you away into a fairytale fantasy.  For a bar with a view head to the Grand Central Hotel where the Skybar offer an infinity pool and sunset views to die for.

Millions come to Barcelona each and every year and enjoy everything the city has to offer – why not be one of them?

24 Hours in Nuremberg

There’s few cities in Europe that have endured such a turbulent history than Nuremberg.  It’s name will always be associated with a dark chapter in the history of the world but today it is a city that doesn’t hide the painful past, seeking instead to be a prosperous cultural centre.  Home to just over half a million inhabitants, few people outside of Bavaria will know that the city was once the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire as it was seen as a convenient stopping off point for routes converging on the path to Italy and Rome.  Nothing like a bit of self-publicity to bring the crowds in.

Today, the city is a vibrant place, with the medieval heart painstakingly rebuilt after the Second World War with the huge market square that every Christmas hosts the famous Christkindlemarkt, one of the biggest and most traditional Christmas Markets in Europe which draws visitors from near and far.  Certainly one of the reasons for braving the freezing conditions to visit the city in the Winter time.  Here you will be able to experience one of the local delicacies, the Nürnberger Rostbratwurst.  These small, thin but delicious sausages are served five in a crusty roll with a dollop of mustard and can be found across the city when the market is on.

Nuremberg held great significance during the Nazi Germany era. Because of the city’s relevance to the Holy Roman Empire and its position in the centre of Germany, the Nazi Party chose the city to be the site of huge Nazi Party conventions — the Nuremberg rallies which were attended by hundreds of thousands in a show of supposed power.  The Zeppenlinfeld is still standing today and is worth visiting just to see the sheer size of the site.  It is located next to FCN’s stadium, Stadion Nürnberg which in itself is worth a visit on a match day.   The nearest station to these and the following sites is Frankenstadion Sonderbahnsteig on the S-Bahn line from the city centre.

Whilst it may have the longest name of any tourist attraction in the world, the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelaende is one museum that above all else tries to explain the rise of the Nazi Party and what happened during the Second World War.  It’s hard hitting but absolutely fascinating.  Admission is just €5.  The museum is housed in the Kongresshalle, which was an impressive building built by the Nazi’s on the edge of Großer Dutzendtreich, which today is a popular boating lake.  It was to seat 50,000 but was abandoned during the war.  Another site not too far away was to be the Deutsches Stadion (“German Stadium”), designed by Albert Speer and would hold an astonishing 400,000. Its construction began in September 1937, and was slated for completion in 1943 but was demolished after the end of hostilities.  Today the Exhibition Centre (Messe) sits on the site where the stadium would have been.  To the north of Bayernstrasse is the Luitpoldhain, a very pleasant park but in the corner is the remains of the Hall of Honour.

After the war the city was chosen by the Allies to hold the trials of those accused of war crimes.  The Nuremberg Trials took place just outside the city walls in an annex to the Courts of Justice.  You can tour the site today to complete your journey through the recent history of the city.  Admission is €5.

Other spots well worth your attention include Nuremberg Castle, where the travellers on the way to and from Rome would stop and meet (as well as sleep and eat).  The Germanisches National Museum in the historic centre is also worth an hour of your time. However, the greatest pleasure of visiting Nuremberg is simply to wander into the corners of the city and enjoy the beauty of the buildings, especially those that line the River Pegnitz.

It is a relatively small city centre so most of the hotels are around the outside of the historic walls.  One that does sit in the centre is the Elch Hotel which is on Weinmarkt and dates back to 1342 but is full of modern cons.  The Hotel Drei Raben is also in the centre next to St Sebald Church and is perfect for the Christmas Market as it is right on the doorstep.  If you want to stay closer to the parade grounds and the football stadium then the Ramada on Muenchener Str is close by.

For beer lovers then you are in luck.  Not only has the city centre got some excellent bars but there are also a couple of breweries.  The Hausbrauerei Altstadthof in Bergstraße 19-21 has been brewing some outstanding beer for over thirty years whilst the Barfüßer is highly recommended and again is close to the Hauptmarkt.  The highest rated bar in the city is Mr Kennedy in Hintere Sterngasse 29 which has dozens of beers on offer.

Apart from sausages, which can be grabbed all over the city, such as the Bratwursthausie (the sausage house) which is in Rathausplatz.  Restaurant Burgwachter is a traditional German restaurant offering all the family favourites in Am Helberg whilst Alm is located a few doors away from the Hausbrauerei and is famed for its traditional atmosphere and cuisine.

Albrecht Dürer Flughafen is located around 3 miles north of the city centre and is linked via U-Bahn line U2 with a journey time of around 15 minutes.  A single ticket is €3.  Only a few UK-based airlines fly to the city (Ryanair are currently the only ones) so many will fly into Munich instead then head north on the new fast train line.  As you walk into the historic centre, pop into the Tourist Information Centre on Königstrasse to get your bearings.

I will wager a pint that once you’ve been to Nuremberg you will want to return time and time again – it is a small city but has so much to offer whatever time of the year you visit.

24 Hours in Zurich

What ever the season or the weather there is never a bad time to visit Zürich.  Often mistaken as the capital of Switzerland, it is the largest city in the country and has an unenviable position in the heart of the Alps, meaning there is outstanding natural beauty in every direction.  Whilst you will need to ensure you have plenty of Francs when you arrive, there are things to do, eat, drink and sleep for all budgets.  And with a flight time of less than 90 minutes from most UK airports, it is a perfect 24 hour destination – in fact due to the size of the country, Zürich is within touching distance of all corners of the country as well as neighbouring Southern Germany, Austria, Italy, France and of course Liechtenstein.

For those arriving by air into Kloten Airport, around 8 miles north of the city centre and linked by a regular train service that runs from below the building opposite the terminal below the shops.  The ZürichCARD offers travel to/from airport and the city centre plus discounts on many places for CHF24 for 24 hours (CHF16 for 6-16 year olds) or CHF 48/32 for a 72 hour period.  Most major airlines operate at least one route from the UK to Zürich.  Most of the places you will visit in the city are walkable but if necessary there is a good network of trams that cover all points.  Most stops have very clear displays showing the routes and when the next service is due.

Just outside the main station is the National Museum on Museumstrasse, one of the most iconic buildings in the city and charting the history of the nation and the city as well as temporary exhibits.  Another interesting museum worth a visit is the Money Museum in Hadlaubstrasse that traces the history of one of Switzerland’s most important specialities – banking.  The No Show Museum is an art museum, devoted to nothing and its various manifestations throughout the history of art. It claims to be the first of its kind. Founded in 2013 by Swiss conceptual artist and curator Andreas Heusser, the museum’s collection today includes around 400 works and documents from over 120 international artists of the 20th and 21st centuriesUndoubtedly, the most interesting museum in the city (OK, so I am biased!) is the World Football Museum housed at FIFA’s HQ on Seestrasse where you can get up close and personal to the genuine (apparently) World Cup Trophy.  Talking of football, the two city rivals, FC Zürich and Grasshoppers share an intertwined history and a stadium, the stunning Stadion Letzigrund.

Some of the beauty of the city is simply the stunning location and some of the historic buildings around the city centre. The Old Town on the hill to the east of the main station is perfect for a couple of hours wandering, with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, whilst the two churches of Grossmünster and Fraumünster dominate the skyline, the latter of which houses 5 large stained glass windows designed by artist Marc Chagall depicting a Christian story. Of course the lake comes alive in the summer, with boat trips heading out in all directions providing some of the best views of the city and the surrounding area.

The main shopping, should you decide to indulge (and we really mean indulging here) can be found in the Old Town around Zäringerstrasse and Banhofstrasse on the left bank of the Limmat.  There is also a shopping centre at SihlCity well served by tram line 5, 13 and 17 which also houses the Four Seasons Hotel and Arena Cinemas as well as a host of bars and resturaunts.

So where do you start with places to eat and drink?  Many will want to try (or retry) fondue and one of the most historic places to sample it is Le Dézaley, a 13th century restaurant on the edge of the Old Town.  One of the best, and most reasonable, places to eat is the Zeughauskeller on Paradeplatz which is reminiscent of a German beer hall and serves meat, potatoes and beer – oh and a foot long sausage.  Just around the corner from here is the Bauernschänke in Rindermarkt which is the place to go for a schnitzel.

Fancy a  drink?  Of course you do.  There’s a million and one bars you can try in the city centre but if you are spoilt for choice how about starting at Widder Bar in the hotel of the same name in Widdergasse which is famed for his huge range of single malt whiskey.  For a view with your drink head to the Jules Verne Panorama Bar on Uraniastrasse, located above the rooftops of the city.  The International Beer Bar is the home of craft beer in Zürich and can be found in Luisenstrasse and is well worth an hour or two.

There’s loads of places to lay your weary head in the city but don’t expect any bargains.  A decent three star hotel such as the Altstadt in Kirchgasse may still set you back a couple of hundred pounds, whilst the Ascot Hotel in Tesserinplatz is a favourite of the footballing community.  If you really (and I mean really) want a slice of Swiss humour then book a room at the cow-inspired Leoneck Swiss Hotel in Leonhardstrasse.

24 Hours in Guernsey

Fancy stepping back to a time when life had a more leisurely pace? Where people respect the countryside and where the sun shines a little bit more than in the Great Britain? Welcome to Guernsey, the second biggest Channel Island, sitting some 38 miles west of France and 100 miles south of the mainland of England.  The island, along with the small islands of Herm and Jethou, lies within the Common Travel Area of the British Isles and is not a member of the European Union, but has a special relationship with it, being treated as part of the European Community with access to the single market for the purposes of free trade in goods. Taken together with the separate jurisdictions of Alderney and Sark it forms the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

The main attraction on the island is the island itself.  There are some physical attractions such as Castle Cornet, occupying a strategic location at the edge of the harbour in St Peter Port which is good for a couple of hours, or the trio of museums – La Vallette Underground Military Museum, The German Occupation Museum and the German Underground Hospital Museum – that trace the occupation of the island in the Second World War, but many people will come in the warm months from April to September to enjoy the beautiful beaches (such as Vazon Bay or Shell Beach on nearby Herm).

If you are lucky then either the Football Club or Rugby Club, both of whom who play at Foote Lane around a mile from the town centre, will be at home, which is a decent afternoon’s entertainment.

For just a pound (even better that Guernsey has still retained the one pound note which ceased to be legal tender in March 1988 on the mainland) you can get a bus that tours the island to take in all of the popular sights on the island (all bus fares are £1 on the island for convenience).  The drivers are normally good at pointing out the locations of places of interest such as the ones above, but you may need to do your own investigations to find the four more unusual places of note below:-

  • The post box in Union Street in St Peter Port is the oldest cast-iron pillar-box still in use anywhere in the British Isles, and the only one on the island that isn’t blue.
  • The location of the world’s first underwater arrest, where Mr Kempthorne-Leigh was illegally harvesting ormers, a popular but protected mollusc, and was arrested by a scuba-diving police officer.
  • The sight, according to local folklore, where Guernsey was once invaded by a group of fairies, who were inappropriately excited by the beauty of the local women. This did not augur well with their husbands and partners. The bloody battle that ensued inspired the name of Rouge Rue in St Peter Port, which translates as “Red Road” and refers to the alleged spilt blood that flowed through the street.
  • The Hauteville House Museum, the very strange house that was home to Victor Hugo.
  • The Little Chapel, which is just as the name suggests, on the outskirts of St Peter Port.
  • The house of Martin Brady, the man with the slowest ever recorded human heart rate.

Virtually all visitors will arrive on the island via air, using the Island’s own airline, Aurigny, who fly daily from a number of UK airports including Gatwick and Stansted.  The route from Southampton Airport involves a scheduled 45 minute flight, meaning the plane is in the air for around 30 minutes, enough for even the most nervous flier.  A bus (number 95) makes the regular route to St Peter Port, taking around 20 minutes.  A cab will cost around £12.

As you would expect, Guernsey offers a wide range of accommodation for the night, with smaller Bed & Breakfast establishments opening up for the summer months.  The best hotels are the St Pierre Park Hotel, about 1.5 miles outside of St Peter Port and close to the Foote Lane Stadium, which also offers a decent restaurant (Victor Hugo Restaurant), health club and golf course, whilst the Old Government House in the centre of town is the island’s only 5-Star hotel. Other good places to stay include the Best Western Moores Central, on the High Street and just a two-minute walk to the sea front, whilst the Le Friquet Hotel is a perfect retreat outside of the bustle of St Peter Port.

In terms of suitable hostelries, as you would expect the majority of establishments in St Peter Port.  Stand out pubs, both in terms of location, friendliness and range of beers, include The Golden Lion in Market Street, Red Grill House in The Pollet and The Ship & Crown on the sea front.  In terms of decent places to eat, The Octopus which is a 20 minute walk out-of-town at Havelet Bay is great for seafood, The Boathouse has an unenviable location on the water’s edge, Da Nello is one of the best Italian’s in town and slightly further afield The Restaurant at Beaucette Marina has the location and the food.

One thing you can absolutely guarantee though is nobody ever leaves Guernsey saying they won’t be back.  It has so much warmth and beauty that it is the perfect destination, irrespective of the weather for 24 hours, albeit it isn’t quite a city.