Thursday, July 28, 2011

Il Duomo

This is the beauty I haven't bothered to see yet:

Read more about the Duomo Cathedral of Milan!

As usual, you can also browse and find apartments for rent in Milan.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Barcelona with kids

So, here is the set-up to the link I am about to post.

You have arrived in Barcelona. The weather's perfect, as it tends to be here; your pockets are full of cash (put it away now); the rented apartment is ready and waiting. You've got an amazing week or two ahead of you.


But of course you are not here by yourself, and I don't even mean your significant other, even though he or she is here as well. No, I mean a couple of screaming little devils (or angels, depending on your perspective), toiling after you to the airport exit, tired after the flight and feeling particularly capricious at this very moment.

What's Mom and Dad to do?

Enjoy the holiday, of course, since Barcelona is a delightful place for everybody and anybody, and there is plenty of stuff to do, when you are travelling as a family unit. Here are some insights on children's Barcelona. Yup, that's the link I was talking about; it even has some pictures attached.

And, as always, you can rent an apartment in Barcelona here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

European bus tours - no thanks!

I can never understand people who go on bus tours around Europe. It's not that I have anything against these people, or that I look down on them. Going on a tour is beta than nothin', if you ask me. However, I find that bus tours have too many negative sides that cancel the positives, which do exist, admittedly, but are too few to count.

Let's look at the positives first:

1) Affordability. Bus tours are usually cheap, because one bus can fit at least forty passengers, all of whom will be in one vehicle, stay in one hotel and eat only in restaurants chosen by the tour operator. Power of group savings go! Discounts and special rates are easy to negotiate at half-empty hotels and roadside restaurants, especially for large groups of people.

2) All you can eat sightseeing. Bus tours usually touch base at many and more European cities on course of a few days, so you will see the Eiffel Tower, the Big Ben, the Milan Duomo, the Vatican, charming alpine landscapes, the Mediterranean beaches and god knows what else - all on this one trip. I decided to count it as a positive, because it's time-saving and lets you closer to the famous sights of Europe, but...

Why would you want to rush anyway? Screw the Big Ben, if it means also taking in little Parisian streets, photographing boutique windows, visiting Versailles, haggling at a flea market, shopping like a real mademoiselle!

But I digress. I have always been and probably always will be advocating for independent travel and lingering at one place, no matter how insignificant, for days or weeks, but since we are on the subject of bus tours, here are their negatives:

1) The bus itself. You will be on the bus everyday and possibly a few nights as well, listening to the guide, trying to sleep, or doing nothing at all, when the guide stops talking and the marvels of the landscape fail to amuse you already. Your legs may fall asleep, and you will be jealous, because bus seats can never beat beds with pillows. There will be a lot of sitting involved in a space full of...

2) Other people. You may not like your travel companions, but you are going to be stuck with them for the duration of the tour, whether you like it or not. Auntie Marjory will be talking about her grand-kids incessantly while you are trying to learn something from the tour guide; Mrs Indecisive will linger at souvenir shops, while other tourists wait for her in the bus; Pete the Redneck will start brawls with waiters. Of course, these are sweeping generalizations, and your bus might be full of interesting, courteous people of all ages, and you just might make friends for life with them. The chance is there, but are you willing to take it?

3) Shitty hotels and mediocre restaurants. The incredible attraction of touring Europe on the bus is that it is cheap due to the group savings that tour operators are able to negotiate. However, if you paid 900 euros for 10 days around Central Europe, rest assured that Hilton will not be on the accommodation list. Tons of neat hotels (and great apartments as well) are found in tons of beautiful places, but they usually get full pretty quickly and many do not have sufficiently large parking spaces for tour buses. Hence, you are probably going to sleep on the outskirts of Paris and love it, because it's better than an overnight bus ride. The same goes for restaurants: unless you join a food-themed tour (around France and Italy, for example), you will be eating a balanced diet of bland food that is least likely to draw complaints from your unadventurous companions.

In short, bus tours are not for me. I'd rather find a nice apartment for 80 euros per night, stay in it for a week or two, shop locally, take transit around the city, visit everything that is there to visit. One trip - one place. Perfect.

Rent an apartment in Prague - here.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Paris at night

Paris is amazing. Paris is where amateur travellers usually head to, when they are still travel freshmen. I mean "amateur" in the nicest way possible: we all need a place to start exploring Europe, right? Paris was, actually, the first major European city I visited, and I was far from independent back then. Paris struck me as hip and endlessly sensual, shimmering at night, and all those restaurants, mean waiters, spring showers still come alive in my mind. However, I am not really itching to come back, because I have other exciting places in mind. Paris prices make me shudder, too.

PS. I long for the half-forgotten times, when you could search for "Paris" in Google Images and not get pics of Paris Hilton and her dog.

You can rent an apartment in Paris here.