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5 Places to see the Sunset in Madrid

September 12th, 2013 by 0 Comments

Madrid, Spain’s capital and a vibrant, cosmopolitan city of culture and entertainment, is the perfect place for either a weekend break or longer trip. With its balmy climate, rich historical legacy, beautiful green spaces and contemporary attractions, visitors will be well-rewarded for their travels. The city itself is striking, from the grand buildings commissioned by Charles III in the 18th century to more contemporary urban architecture, and from the peaceful grounds of the botanical gardens and enormous parkland of Casa del Campo to the many museums and galleries. With car hire Madrid it is easy to explore the city’s attractions.

At no other time, though, is the city as magical and enchanting as at sunset. As the sun begins to set and the day begins to cool, Madrilenos come out to play. Famed for their love of life, the people of Madrid celebrate the day’s end with good food, drink, music and company. If you want to celebrate in style, you won’t be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you want to escape the bustle and watch your sunset in peace, there are also many options. Here are five of the best places to watch the sun go down.

High on the hill of Principe Pio in the Parque del Oeste is the Temple of Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple rebuilt in its current location following threats to its existence from the construction of the Aswan Dam. The temple dates to the 2nd century BC and was originally located about 15 km south of Aswan; it was built to honour the god Amun, a local deity who rose in importance and became fused with the sun god Ra, to become the well-known creator god Amun-Ra. Today the temple is a wonderful spot to watch the sunset; there is a terrace with westward views over pine-clad hills and the contemplative surroundings are the perfect place for a little reflection at day’s end.

Located in the Royal Palace, the Sabatini Gardens are designed following a Neoclassical style and feature formal hedging, geometrically laid out shrubs and trees and a large rectangular pool with white marble statues and fountains. The gardens are attractive at any time, but as the sun slopes on its downward path they take on an even more peaceful ambience. There are benches to sit and watch the sunset, or visitors can also sit on the lawn. As the sky changes colour, the beige walls of the Royal Palace are lit with a range of tones from gold and yellow to coral and rose.

If you want to go further out of the city, the Dehesa de la Villa Park in the north-east can make for a welcome sojourn. A significant green space in Madrid, the park still has over 60 hectares of forest, though this is a mere remnant of its former expanse. Dating from 1152, when it was handed from king to the city, the park is a truly green oasis, with few indications of its urban connections, at least until you climb higher. From the hilltops you can see for miles, from the Casa de Campo forest all the way to the Sierra de Madrid.

El Retiro park is another of Madrid’s beautiful parks, 140 hectares of landscaped gardens and woodlands right in the heart of the city. Its central location makes it easily accessible and very popular for a meandering stroll or picnic, with Madrilenos and visitors alike. Features include a large pond, Rosaleda rose garden, Forest of the Departed memorial and several buildings, including the Palacio de Crystal glasshouse. If you come for the sunset the pond is one of the most popular spots. Here, where you can boat on the lake and watch children feeding the ducks, you can also see the gorgeous reflections of the sunset in the calm waters.

If, however, you prefer your sunsets to be taken in more urbane surroundings, you might want to try out one of the city’s many terraced bars and cafes. An excellent option is Bruin, an old-fashioned ice cream parlour serving up authentically delicious flavours together with a range of more modern offerings, from Idiazabal cheese to cider.

If you are looking for a place to stay in Madrid, check out hostels here.

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Traveling Famous World Poker Tour Venues

August 3rd, 2013 by 0 Comments

emperors-palace

Enjoy the benefits of being a world touring poker player

Being a professional poker player surely has its perks, with all the cash prizes involved and the wealth of opportunities presented to them from media coverage of a major tournament like the World Poker Tour. Aside from the money and the fame, poker pros enjoy the life of jet-setting rock stars, and are able to see the beauty of each continent from a different perspective. Here are just some of the countries poker players get to stamp their passports at whenever they’re on the WPT.

Cyprus (Europe)

In the middle of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea lies an island country that holds the honor of being one Europe’s top tourist destinations. Located east of Greece, the Republic of Cyprus boasts a wide array of historical wonders and architectural innovations that dates back from the Prehistoric Era. A part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, the well-preserved Neolithic village of Khirokitia is one of the main attractions in the country. Apart from being the home of King Cinyras, Pygmalion, and Teucer, the country also witnessed the crowning of another king – this time in the world of poker – when German sensation, Marvin Rettenmaier, bagged the Merit Cyprus Classic edging out more than 300 competitors along the way.

South Africa (Africa)

The city of Johannesburg, in South Africa has a unique blend of distinctly diverse cultures from their arts, entertainment, sports, and food industry. The perfect mixture of big city culture, wildlife adventures, and historical views attract visitors from different parts of the world, that’s why it has become one of the World Poker Tour’s most favorite stops. During the 5-day event of the tour in Johannesburg’s Emperors Palace Hotel Casino, the city proudly cheered on three of their countrymen in the tournament’s final table only to come up short against eventual champion, Dominik Nitsche.

Canada (North America)

North America has always been the go to place of major poker tournaments, and Canada is no exception. The home of partypoker pro, Kara Scott, boasts a beautiful blend of natural and cultural wonders that belong in UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Each year, more than 35 million people visit Canada to take pleasure in its wide array of tourist attractions, which revolves around the country’s largest metropolitan districts. Even though Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa are widely-regarded for their varied way of life, and the number of historical sites and national parks, Kahnawake’s Playground Poker Club is known to being gracious hosts to WPT events in the country. In the November 2012 leg of the tour, the home crowd provided a huge boost to Canadian, Jonathan Roy, in capturing the coveted WPT title against a tough field of card sharks that included Pascal Lefrançois, Jeff Gross, and final table fixture, Gavin Smith.

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Summer Break on the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai

April 29th, 2013 by 0 Comments

The state of Hawaii is famous for its year round sunshine, rich culture and endless stretches of sandy beaches. Hawaii is comprised of several islands and as the name suggests, the Big Island is by far the largest and most popular of these islands. However, people who want to escape the crowds a little will discover that the enchanting islands of Maui and Kauai also have a lot to offer.

People who travel to this stunning part of the world will want to allow plenty of time to explore the beauty of Hawaii’s various islands. However, public transportation is rather limited in Hawaii, so it is best to pick up car hire when visiting each island so that you can explore independently at your own pace and enjoying the great moment during the Hawaii cruises, or if you’re looking for a hotel in Hawaii.

maui map

Maui is the second largest Hawaiian island and this is a particularly popular destination with newly married couples. This is also one of the best sports for surfing and windsurfing in this part of the world, while the island features more than 50 kms of beautiful sandy beaches running along the coasts. Nature lovers will also love the diverse range of natural attractions that are waiting to be discovered here, and trekking through the jungle is a great way to see the island’s rich flora and fauna.

The main settlement on Maui is Lahaina, which was established as a whaler’s town in the 19th century. The town’s streets are lined with a number of quaint shops as well as boutiques and galleries, while some of the main highlights here include the 1859 Courthouse, Ho Wing Temple, the Baldwin House and Hale Paahao Prison Museum. Lahaina also features a number of historic taverns, which are great places to enjoy a drink in the evening.

Lahania

The small island of Kauai boasts a diverse range of natural attractions for visitors to explore and driving along the Na Pali Coast to discover dramatic cliffs rising 4,000 feet above the ocean is an unforgettable experience. The north shore is also home to the stunning Lumahai Beach, which is the perfect place to pause for an hour or two, while the nearby town of Hanalei was originally settled by ancient Pacific voyagers and features a good range of historic and cultural attractions.

Visitors can follow the winding road that leads along the coast to west Kauai, which is famous for natural attractions such as the awe-inspiring Waimea Canyon. Nearby Polihale State Park is another popular hiking spot, while just to the north is the scared site of Polihale heiau. Other attractions on Kauai that should not be missed include the National Tropical Botanical Garden, Coconut Coast and the Wailua River, which is a popular kayaking and boating spot.

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Five of the best sights and attractions in Alicante

April 19th, 2013 by 1 Comments

Alicante is one of the most popular tourist cities in southern Spain. It’s a city rich with history and culture, and its home to dozens of interesting sights and attractions. The city is easily reached, too, with an international airport nearby and excellent railway links with Spain and other neighbouring European countries.

This article will provide a rundown of 5 of the best sights and attractions in Alicante.

#1 – Postiguet Beach & San Juan Beach

Alicante is home to two beaches – Postiguet Beach and San Juan Beach.

Postiguet Beach is the easier of the two to reach as it is located in the heart of Alicante. It’s a great beach to sunbathe on during the day with fine, golden sands and plenty of shelter from the wind, and a great beach to party on during the night with beach parties being held regularly after the sun sets.

Postiguet Beach & San Juan BeachSan Juan Beach is slightly harder to reach as it is located further away from Alicante than Postiguet Beach. Buses, trams, and trains leave Alicante for San Juan Beach on a regular basis with the trip taking no longer than 20 minutes.

At 7km long, San Juan Beach is one of the longer beaches in Spain. It’s also considered by many to be one of the best beaches in Spain.

With it’s beautiful, golden sands and cliff cover, San Juan Beach is perfect for sunbathing. Its waters are also crystal clear and warm all year round making San Juan Beach a great spot for snorkelling. The beach is normally relatively quiet, too, making it easy to find a secluded spot for some private sunbathing.

#2 – Castle of Saint Barbara

Sitting on top of Mount Benacantil at a height of 170 metres, the Castle of Saint Barbara is one of the largest and most impressive medieval castles in Spain. The castle, built in the 9th century by Muslim settlers, is also remarkably well preserved considering its age.

The castle contains a number of exhibitions inside that tell the history of the castle and its construction. It also offers stunning views over the city of Alicante and its harbour.

The Castle of Saint Barbara can be reached by taking a lift at the foot of Mount Benacantil. A return ticket for the lift will cost approximately €2.40. Alternatively, the castle can be reached on foot via the “Plaza de Carmen”. The walk can be difficult in places, though – make sure to bring plenty of water if you decide to take this option.

#3 – Museums, art galleries, and architecture

Alicante is home to a number of art galleries and museums showcasing art and exhibits created by local artists and historians.

Of the city’s many art galleries and museums, the Archaeological Museum of Alicante, a museum featuring exhibits that tells the history of Alicante; the Gravina Museum of Fine Arts, a museum containing art created by famous Spanish artists; and the Asegurada Museum of Modern Art, a modern art museum featuring works by Picasso, Braque, Fris, Miro, and more; are arguably the best.

Alicante’s Old Town is also home to dozens of beautiful, rustic buildings built centuries ago by settlers in the area. The remnants of Alicante’s Old Town can be leisurely explored on foot. A picnic can be enjoyed in one of the Old Town’s many parks, too. A relaxing day spent exploring Alicante’s Old Town can be a great way to unwind after arriving on flights to Alicante.

#4 – The Canelobre Caves

Located 15 miles to the north of Alicante in the small town of Busot, the Canelobre Caves are some of the most impressive caves in Spain.

The Canelobre Caves’ feature impressive stalactites and stalagmites that reach sizes up to 20m. The caves also feature an unusually high 70m vault that gives the tops of the caves a unique look similar to that of a cathedral.

The Canelobre Caves can be easily reached by train. Entrance to the caves costs €5.

Benidorm#5 – Benidorm

Benidorm, a seaside resort town on the Costa Blanca, is one of the most popular tourist towns in Spain. The town is home to a number of excellent restaurants, two beautiful Blue Flag beaches, and interesting sights and attractions. It also contains a number of water parks and theme parks filled with thrilling rides.

Benidorm can reached from Alicante in less than an hour by train or by car. The resort town is the perfect place to visit on a daytrip and there are plenty of great hotels and hostels to chose from.

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Some Great Old Train Photos

August 10th, 2012 by 0 Comments

One thing I am looking forward to in the coming weeks and months is finding some great train photos to inspire those about to embark on the Ultimate Train Challenge this November to try to win the great Eurail passes for Best Photo and Best Video on UTC12.

These photos are from National Library of Ireland on The Commons’ photostream. I just love the feeling of the era you get from looking at them.

What do you think?

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