Saturday, December 22, 2007

Berlin with many museums

For most of the latter part of the 20th century, Berlin has stood as a symbol of the division between East and West, split by the infamous fortified wall erected to separate the socialist sector from the democratic district. When the Berlin Wall was pulled down in 1990 the city discovered that it suddenly had two of everything, most notably two very distinct societies separated both socially and economically. The past decade has seen Berlin embracing unification and rebuilding itself as a modern European capital.

More than 100 streets have been reconnected, and signs of the Wall's existence have all but disappeared. Years of division are still reflected in the new city's architecture, however, with a modern city of skyscrapers, retail centres and urban developments in the West contrasting with most of the pre-War city that remains in the East.

For nearly 30 years the Wall sealed off the imposing Brandenburg Gate from the West, but now traffic passes through it freely. Similarly Alexanderplatz, which was one of the main centres of 1920s Berlin, and later post-war East Germany, has once again become one of the city's focal centres. The site of the infamous Check Point Charlie with its threatening monitoring tower erected to ensure no one crossed over from East to West, is now a museum, and while the tower no longer stands, visitors can see the East Side Gallery, a surviving chunk of the real Wall, now decorated by local artists.

Berlin is once again a vibrant centre for the arts, with many museums, galleries and theatres. At the Kulturforum visitors will find a number of impressive museums and concert venues from the spectacular Berliner Philharmonie concert hall to the complex's Picture Gallery, which houses a vast collection of European paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries.

Berlin still boasts a fantastic nightlife, and while tastes have changed since the height of the cabaret halls of the 1920s and 30s, there is a vast array of venues catering to all tastes. Berlin's calendar is also packed with festivals and parties from the Christopher Street Day gay and lesbian parade in June to the massive Love Parade dance party in July and the Jazz Fest Berlin in November.

Nashville is Country music

Country music is synonymous with Tennessee's state capital, the rapidly growing city of Nashville, where the strains of the guitar and accordion are big business, drawing millions of fans to the city every year. Dozens of famous names in the music world have been nourished in Nashville since 1925 when the legendary 'Grand Ole Opry' went on the air, broadcasting weekly shows touting the talents of up and coming singers. It all began in the downtown Ryman Auditorium, originally a church, which became the music hall where the likes of Dolly Parton and Roy Acuff first strutted their stuff.

Visitors still come today to visit Opryland, the resort that incorporates the new Grand Ole Opry, northeast of the city. Daily shows are presented here, and just around the corner is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Fans also flock to the area known as The District, crammed with nightclubs, bars and restaurants where country music reigns supreme. Everyone, country music fan or not, cannot fail to leave Nashville with their toes tapping!

New York Lakes and Rivers

The problem with visiting New York is knowing where to begin, but even if you don't immediately rush off to view the world-famous sights and icons of this most dynamic of cities, just being there is enough. The wonder of New York is in the energy and the diversity that emanates from its densely packed, multi-cultural population. The city vibrates with colliding cultures, languages and nuances; here high-life and low-life rub shoulders, and whoever you are and whatever your taste, there will be something to amuse and stimulate you 24-hours a day.

Whether lolling on a bench in leafy Central Park, watching the world go by from a French bistro in Soho, gazing up at 'Lady Liberty' from the deck of the Staten Island Ferry, most visitors will feel they've done it all before, simply because New York is so familiar to anyone who has ever seen a movie or watched television. There is something special however in actually seeing the familiar landmarks and experiencing the pulse of the clichéd, but true, 'city that never sleeps'.

New York City is made up of five boroughs - Staten Island, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan, but many visitors never leave Manhattan. There is a lot packed into this tiny area: the 24-hour pasta restaurants of Little Italy and the bustling sidewalks of Chinatown, the jazz clubs of Greenwich Village and the theatres of Broadway; and of course the iconic sights of the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square.

New York has been described as the best three-day city in the world, and that's about right. After a frenzy of museums, galleries, bars and clubs, some visitors are ready for a break. Fortunately there's a lot of choice, from the National Parks of Upstate New York, to the beaches of Long Island or simply the leafy oasis of Central Park. Whatever you're after, New York is ready and waiting to bewitch, bother and bewilder.

capital of Japan Tokyo

As a modern city Tokyo, capital of Japan, could be described as too good to be true. People dress in the latest gear, excellent restaurants serve up delicious food of all varieties, and the trendiest nightclubs keep things hopping. The public transport system is punctual and one of the most efficient in the world; and shops and vending machines provide necessities and luxuries both day and night. Best of all, experiencing the best of what this city has to offer is inexpensive and often free. All this is achieved in a city that is home to 12 million people, amid the confusion of bumper-to-bumper traffic, flickering neon signs and a crush of humanity packing subways and sidewalks. In the crush and rush Tokyo remains, remarkably, one of the world's safest cities with a low crime rate and local people who are only too willing to spare the time and effort to assist a stranger.

With such a dense population, Tokyo is an urban maze of buildings that jostle for space in an unplanned jumble of grey concrete, which makes it ugly and drab. The city fills a huge area that seems to go on forever, with no specific city centre, but rather a succession of districts grouped together. In the back streets, where timber houses line narrow lanes, there are reminders that this is exotic Japan: kimono-clad women prune bonsai trees and colourful neighbourhood festivals take place.

The more one explores Tokyo the more it becomes obvious that one cannot judge a book by its cover. Inside the modern buildings the cultural life of Japan is very much alive and well. Interiors reflect the tranquil minimalist Asian style and taste of Japan.

The city is an exuberant experience for visitors. It also hosts many museums and is the largest repository of Japanese art in the world. Then, of course, it would take forever to exhaust the shopping possibilities in this megalopolis.

Milan isThe financial and commercial centre of Italy

Sophistication reaches new levels in Milan. The financial and commercial centre of Italy attracts fashion fundis, opera lovers, the young, the beautiful and the bold. Shopping, eating and clubbing is serious business here and it is no surprise that the city boasts the world's most beautiful shopping mall, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Equally vying for admiration are the Milanese icons of La Scala Theatre (Teatro della Scala) and the Gothic Duomo, one of the world's largest churches. Milan's frenetic pace surges ahead in its drive towards progress, forsaking the lengthy siestas enjoyed in other parts of the country. The city's urban tentacles stretch for miles, although the significant historical attractions are contained between the two landmark sites - the Duomo and the Sforzesco Castle. These reside within the inner loop of the city's concentric design, which is split into four squares: Piazza Duomo, Piazza Cairoli, Piazza Cordusio and Piazza san Babila. The modern civic centre lies to the northwest, around Mussolini's colossal train station built in 1931. The area around here is dominated by a skyline of skyscrapers from which the sleek Pirelli Tower emerges. The Fiera district that stretches around Porta Genova station is the nub for trade and fashion fairs.

Sofia has flourished and declined around a variety of civilisations

Located in the Sofia Valley, the capital city of Bulgaria lies at the foot of the Vitosha and Lyulin Mountains, and is the centre of the country's political, business and cultural life.

Founded over 7,000 years ago around numerous hot and cold mineral springs, which are still available today, Sofia has flourished and declined around a variety of civilisations. It is one of the oldest settlements in Europe and numerous archaeological, cultural and historical monuments from its rich Thracian, Byzantine, Roman, Slav and Turkish history have been preserved among the modern edifices, the blend of the new and the old lending a charming quality to the capital.

Despite its modern, cosmopolitan nature, Sofia has a laid back atmosphere and the proximity of Mount Vitosha, offering a myriad of recreational opportunities on the city's doorstep, adds to the relaxed feel of the city. Like any capital city, Sofia also has a wealth of museums and galleries, and boasts plenty of cultural entertainment

Holiday shopping in San Francisco?

For a wonderful shopping find - head to Timeless Treasures on Sutter Street in the Fillmore Neighborhood of San Francisco.

Step into a world full of charm and insight. Vintage items from the East Coast and France. Huge collection of letters from old signs the world over.

Read the poem Joan dreamed up to invite you on over!

It is the week before Christmas and all over town
Everywhere you go folks are running around.
The frenzy and dismay are clear on their faces,
Too many errands, too many places.

They want something special to say that they care.
To family, the neighbors and the one who cuts their hair.
About friendship, affection, perhaps even love,
They search for unique gifts that will fit like a glove.

Then Hark! they shout! I know just where
I can find special gifts, and I am going there!
So over to Sutter Street near Pierce they flew,
To Timeless Treasures to ease their holiday blues.

A gift for a friend, a treasure for me,
They smiled and thought, How easy can shopping be?
Pretty French jewelry, vintage globes and old boxes,
Pretty soon the shoppers were feeling smart as foxes.

Vintage ornaments for the tree, a pretty wreathe
For the door,
Luscious cashmere scarves for her and him
Ideas and suggestions galore!

So whether you are just starting your shopping
Or feel practically done
We invite you to Timeless Treasures
For gifts second to none.

And while you are at it,
Pat yourself on the back
For bringing toiletries for our Barrel Drive
To help the homeless get back on track.

From Hayley, Anna, Joan and Jenny,
We send you our wishes happy and many,
For safe travel and fun and visits that cheer
And, most of all, a Happy New Year!

Madrid The capital of Spain

Madrid may be lacking in architectural beauty compared with other major Spanish cities, but it makes up for this with its boundless energy, blue skies, art, culture and some of the most exhilarating and exhausting nightlife in Europe. The city is compact and easy to navigate on foot - most of the sights of interest are found in the downtown area between the Royal Palace and Parque del Retiro.

The capital of Spain since 1562, Madrid sits in the geographic centre of the Iberian Peninsula and has long been an important stop on any art tour through Europe. The famous Museo del Prado on the city's 'Museum Mile' houses important works by Spanish and European masters from the Renaissance onwards, while the Museo Thyssen-Bornemiza houses one of the most extensive private collections in the world. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is devoted to 20th century Spanish art, with works by Miro, Dali and Picasso.

Visitors wishing to take a break from all that art may want to see the Plaza de Toros, Spain's largest bullring, where regular bullfights are still held. Sports fanatics who like something a little less bloodthirsty can watch Real Madrid, or Atletico de Madrid, Spain's most famous football teams kick off.

The city sits atop a plateau and is the highest capital in Europe, making its climate somewhat extreme with steaming hot summers and bitterly cold winters. Spring is the best time to visit and explore the squares and alleyways in the heart of this crowded city.


Sunny, seductive Sydney is a high contender for the title of the world's most ideal city. It is slick and smart, the streets are clean, the neighbourhoods and busy pedestrian precincts pristine, the parks sublime, the water in the huge harbour blue, and the landmark buildings breath-taking. Sydney's population is approaching five million, but it is easy to leave the frenetic urban pace behind with just a simple ferry ride to the North Shore for a bush walk, enjoy a stroll along the harbour beaches or take any one of a number of daytrips to explore the 'real' Australia on the city's doorstep.

Just like its characteristic white-sailed Opera House, Sydney seems to cruise effortlessly through nights and days filled with myriad entertainment opportunities, sophisticated shopping, memorable museums, and strings of beautiful beaches. Visitors find it exhausting to take it all in, even though the tourist precinct where most of the interesting attractions are to be found is concentrated in quite a small area around the down-town waterfront and harbour area.

The fact that Sydney is a thriving seaport and industrial city has been cleverly concealed behind attractive pleasure and leisure grounds and residential suburbs, making full use of the scenic, watery geographical location. The harbour area is dominated by the span of one of the world's largest arched bridges, backed by towering skyscrapers. It is all a far cry from the remote penal colony established by the British back in 1788.

Another plus for visitors is that compared to most big cities Sydney offers excellent, reasonably priced food, accommodation and public transport. The city has an excellent suburban rail network, with its hub at Circular Quay in the city centre, and full use is made of the waterways with ferries and passenger jet boats plying to and from various points.

Miami -United States

Miami may be the retirement capital of the United States, but there is nothing old fashioned about this bright, brash playground city that shines under the sunny Florida skies. This coastal city was a sleepy holiday town until the 1920s, when the 'in crowd' decided to make it their own. The town bloomed into a fun seaside capital and was blessed with a legacy of Art Deco architecture, particularly along South Beach, which has been carefully preserved. During World War II the forces came to town when Miami was an important military base. Today, apart from being a favourite holiday Mecca and sunny spot for retirees, it is also the gateway to the Caribbean and Latin America.

Miami's large Cuban community add to the atmosphere in the sultry neighbourhood of Little Havana. Trendsetters hang out in Coconut Grove, while sunlovers strew the miles of white sandy beaches. For families there are entertaining attractions like the Seaquarium and Metrozoo. The nightlife is sophisticated and varied. The city also gives easy access to Florida's popular Gold Coast resorts and attractions, as well as the natural wonder of the Florida Everglades.

No wonder Miami is America's favourite holiday destination and the hub of a vibrant cruise ship industry, its port jammed constantly with sleek passenger liners. North of the city, miles of beautiful sandy beaches of the Gold Coast are hemmed in by southeast Florida's major tourist resorts: Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Pompano Beach and Palm Beach.

Celebrate Chinese New Year In China

Chinese New Year is celebrated on 7th February 2008, marking the beginning of the Year of the Rat and a time of colourful festivities in China, Hong Kong and all around Asia.Flights on THAI from Dubai to China and Hong Kong via Bangkok start from AED1800 per person (adult), with a choice of two convenient daily flights Dubai/Bangkok and onward connections to Hong Kong.Combined with a variety of Royal Orchid Holiday packages from short breaks to delightful discovery tours, including highlights in major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming and Hong Kong, Chinese New Year is the perfect time to witness colourful decorations, firework displays, and festive traditions, as well as sampling specialties of the season like Lo Bak (turnip cake), Nian Gao (sticky Chinese Fruit Cake) and many other culinary delights.This major festival is also celebrated throughout Thailand, and represents a busy travel period throughout the region, so advance planning is highly recommended. Don’t forget to put some coins into the red envelopes decorated with gold you will be able to buy everywhere during Chinese New Year – these are given to the children as a token of good luck!For full package rates tailored to individual requirements and destinations, contact THAI Royal Orchid Holidays on 04 268 1701 and request the ROH Discover the World vacations to your destination of choice. A wide selection of hotels and tour options are offered to suit all budgets and tastes.The Dubai-Bangkok route is currently served by the Airbus 330-300 aircraft with 42 Royal Silk Business Class and 263 Royal Economy Class seats. THAI operates two flights daily from Dubai to Bangkok with onward connections to domestic and international flights from its home base in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
THAI currently serves 74 destinations in 36 countries across four continents. This total includes 12 of the most important cities of Europe; 39 destinations throughout Asia; three in the Middle East (Dubai, Kuwait and Muscat); five in Australia/New Zealand and the two leading East and West Coast US gateways, New York and Los Angeles. THAI also serves 11 domestic cities, towns and resorts throughout Thailand. This vast network provides unrivalled coverage of the major business centers and tourist destinations spanning the globe. THAI’s latest route innovation is Johannesburg, South Africa, to which flights were launched earlier this year

Paris Travel Guide

Why? Paris has always headed the must-see list for anyone contemplating a European holiday because it embodies style and charm and offers a variety of unique attractions, both ancient and modern.
When? Travel to Paris at any time of year and it will be a holiday to remember. The city is notorious for its sudden rain showers, which can occur in summer or winter, but it is always possible to retreat indoors to explore the galleries of the Louvre, or perhaps experience the majesty of Notre Dame Cathedral, before emerging into the sunshine again to enjoy coffee and pastries at a pavement café. Many locals escape Paris in August when the heat can be oppressive and many restaurants close.
Who for? This beautiful city brings out the romance in every soul. Art lovers, style buffs and gourmets are particularly well catered for if they holiday in Paris, while sightseers can indulge in world-famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower. Families with children enjoy the fantastic delights of EuroDisney, which is within easy reach of the city.
More Info: The Paris travel guide includes current reviews and details of upcoming events, attractions, restaurants and excursions available in Paris. The Basics section is packed with all the information required when planning to visit Paris on holiday or business.

The Sinai Peninsula and the Red - Egypt

Sinai is about contrasts. A desert interior full of history, where Moses received the Ten Commandments en route to the Promised Land, the Pharaohs found gold and searched for their gods, and where the Bedouins camp beside ruins of Crusader Forts. Christianity, Judaism and Islam know Sinai as a holy land and over the years prophets, saints, pilgrims and warriors have crossed this vast nothingness. Mount Sinai and St Catherine’s Monastery at its foot are frequently visited.

The desert comes to an abrupt end at the Red Sea, where exquisite coral reefs provide a fine underwater playground for divers and snorkellers from around the world. The coral reefs along the Sinai coastline are among the best in the world and ‘diving tourism’ is the most recent catchphrase on the peninsula. The Red Sea has one of the highest amounts of marine life variety in all the tropical seas.

Visitors come to experience the simplicity of sun, sea and sand, surrounded by rugged mountains, history and modern Bedouin culture.