The Paris Series (Part 2) – Sainte-Chapelle

Among the many things that Paris is famous for, its collection of museums is second to none. There are over 50 museums and noteworthy monuments in and around Paris. There are of course many very well known ones including the Musee du Louvre, Musee D’Orsay, Musee Picasso and monuments including the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Chathedral, Chateau de Versailles and more.

One of Paris’ greatest jewels, and often overlooked sites, is Sainte-Chapelle. As you walk down Boulevard du Palais, you’ll see a line of people that appear to be waiting to enter the Palais de Justice (a large building from 1868 that still functions as a court house). Behind the entrance and in the courtyard is what they are actually waiting for – the entrance to Sainte-Chapelle. (Unlike some other museum sites, your Paris Museum Pass does not get you queue-cutting access here).

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Sainte-Chapelle is a royal medieval Gothic chapel dating back to the 1200s and Louis the IX of France. Although damaged during the French Revolution, Sainte-Chapelle contains one of the most extensive and beautiful collections of stained glass anywhere in the world. As you enter the chapel, you’ll see a sample of stained glass and a gift shop. Look for the stairs on either side of the room to ascend a very narrow staircase to the second floor and you’ll enter the main room. You will be awestruck. It is absolutely spectacular and breathtaking !

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Best Museums in Amsterdam

Amsterdam Museums

Amsterdam is known for many things, but one thing you may not think of when dreaming of this Dutch city is Museums. Few people realize that Amsterdam is actually home to over 50 museums, many of which are very interesting and thought provoking. Some of them are strange. Here is a list of some of the interesting ones you might want to check out the next time (or first time) you travel to Amsterdam.


BEST MUSEUMS IN AMSTERDAM

Het Grachtenhuis Museum
This is a special museum located on one of the most beautiful and upmarket Herengracht canal. It explores the history of the canal district (a world heritage site) with 3D animation, models, projections and an interactive multimedia exhibition. A very modern look at Amsterdam’s history and a great way to start to your visit.

Tulip Museum
The tulip is often used as a symbol of the Netherlands, so this museum is quite popular with locals and tourists alike. If you love botany, history, or tulips in general, this is the museum for you.

Anne Frank House
The hiding place where Anne Frank wrote her famous diary during World War II is now a museum and is one of the biggest attractions in Amsterdam. See how hard it was and view the original diary on display while at this location. Book a rental car at Schiphol Airport and take the 20 minute drive to the historic museum. This is a must do but get there early because the lines can be long.

Amsterdam Museums - The Anne Frank House

NEMO Science Museum
A hands on museum, NEMO is very popular among children. Science and technology are the themes here, so it’s a must visit if you’re with kids on vacation. Get a Museumkaart or I Amsterdam City Card for free admission. Ask about discounted group rates!

Torture Museum
This place brings out the macabre in everyone. View a collection and learn about some of the oldest cruellest torture methods of the past. Thankfully most of these methods are no longer in use. The fact that most of what’s on display are actual artifacts is particularly disturbing.

Museum of Bags and Purses 
To me, being surrounded by this many handbags and purses seems like a scene from the previous museum!

National Maritime Museum
The museum is dedicated to maritime history and contains many artefacts associated with shipping and sailing. The collection contains, paintings, scale models, weapons and world maps. Moored directly outside the museum is a replica of the Amsterdam, an 18th-century ship which sailed between the Netherlands and the East Indies.

Van Gogh Museum
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Amsterdam, explore the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh work. A must-see for any traveling virtuoso, see his work and learn about his life story. You won’t be disappointed!

The Rijksmuseum
This is the Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. It showcases national treasurers and artifacts from over 800 years of Dutch history. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum. Again, a must visit!

There are of course more museums, including the Museum of The Canals, the Costume Museum, the Heineken Experience, the Houseboat Museum and more. They make for an interesting day and a way to quickly immerse yourself in Dutch culture and history.

Can you think of any interesting or strange museums that are in Amsterdam?

5 Best Luxury Hotels To Stay In Sharm El Sheikh

Sharm El Sheikh

Sharm El Sheikh is a resort town popular for vibrant sunshine whole year through and wonderful coral reefs.  Situated at the southern peak of the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, this beautiful getaway brings a lot for the tourists. Because of the place’s stunning corals and diverse marine life, it has become a favourite holiday destination amongst snorkelers and scuba divers despite all the safety issues in the region. There are a number of luxury hotels At Sharm El Sheikh that offer everything from high-end facilities to elegant guest rooms. If you have decided to explore the wonders of this beautiful resort town, here are some of the best luxury hotels for you to enjoy a perfect stay in Sharm El Sheikh.

1. Four Seasons Resort

Sharm El Sheikh

Designed as a five-pearl hotel, the luxurious Four Seasons apartments can accommodate visitors with its 136 expansive rooms. The resort is equipped with amazing swimming pool, finest dining and a captivating view of the sea. Elegant, spacious rooms are built with private outdoor terraces where you can enjoy the lovely sea sight with your family and friends. A small private beach offers exciting activities for guests including snorkelling and diving opportunities. Likewise, there are two yachts which are exclusively available to the hotel guests. Additional amenities are also offered to make your stay more comfortable and pleasing. These include a kids’ club, tennis center and a spa.

2. Royal Albatros Moderna

Sharm El Sheikh

Royal Albatros Materna is built to give you a lively and luxury experience with its 680 rooms, huge enough to cater visitors’ specific needs. The resort has direct access to fun-filled holiday engagements such as a water park, beach, drinking and dining opportunities at various international bars and restaurants. Amazing range of amenities can make every family enjoy their time here in Sharm El Sheikh giving you access to live entertainment, kids’ club, pools with cushioned beds and spa with whirlpool tubs. All the comforts of a real home can be felt because every guest room, apart from being stylish and clean, is equipped with air-conditioning unit, flat-screen LEDs and TVs and balconies with access to the lovely view of the sea.

3. Coral Sea Sensatori

Sharm El Sheikh

Catering to the needs of huge number of guests, the Coral Sea Sensatori is a luxury resort with 470 rooms that offers specifically designated zones for couples and families with kids to create sort of a separation. The resort’s atmosphere is contemporary and it brings you some sophisticated rooms along with private spaces outdoors, all with wonderful views of the sea. It offers fine dining experience with sumptuous cuisines on offer. Compared to other resorts in the area, leisure activities and pools at Coral Sea Sensatori are considered above average. One big plus is the resort’s Wi-Fi which never goes down contrary to other resorts.

4. Iberotel Palace

Sharm El Sheikh

Overlooking the El Maya Bay and situated at the south of Shem El Sheikh, the Iberotel Palace is a lovely 263-room luxury resort. The atmosphere is more soothing and classy but the resort has come up with an adult-only policy of late. Though pretty small compared to other resorts around, the rooms here are spacious and stylish. The exciting line of amenities in the resort includes an indoor pool, a huge pool with sea view, nice range of bars and four restaurants. Direct access to the waters and amazing water sports opportunities are also provided with the resort’s private beach.

5. The Royal Savoy

 Sharm El Sheikh

An exclusive wing of a luxury five-pearl Savoy complex, the Royal Savoy boasts of a key location sitting  next to Soho Square Center that provides an elegant experience  with overflowing nightlife, restaurants and fun-filled activities. A small beach and three pools are available to guests including direct access to each amenity. Sprawling with sophistication, all 36 rooms are spacious enough and are guaranteed to offer a deluxe feeling being decorated with lovely flowers. Here you can also experience some classy villas and furnished balconies overlooking the beautiful gardens and giving you access to private pools.

So, experience an amazing holiday at the Sharm El Sheik and book your stay in one of its luxury hotels! Make a top pick and you won’t regret your decision.

Top 7 Distinctive Locations in India For Photographers

See the world through your lens. Photos capture moments of beauty and exquisiteness in one frame. For the budding photographers out there, India is a treat in the kind of diversity it presents. From the chaos of the cities to the serenity of nature, India has it all. This list compiles some of the most picturesque places in India.

1. Sambhar, Rajasthan

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Photo by Rajarshi MITRA, CC BY 2.0

The largest inland Salt Lake in India is one of the weekend getaway from Jaipur. The area is covered by a sheet of white. I would call this region a photographer’s delight not only because of the landscape but also the many villages adjoining the area that give a glimpse of the Rajasthani culture. Hire bikes and tents from Jaipur and ride to Sambhar because the night sky here, undisturbed by the many building of the city has many secrets to show. To explore Jaipur and its nearby tourist places visit:http://www.transindiatravels.com/rajasthan/jaipur/weekend-getaways-from-jaipur/

2. Jammu And Kashmir

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Photo by Colin Tsoi, CC BY-ND 2.0

Heaven on earth is bound to give you some photos you would cherish. A walk along the Kashmir at five in the morning would show you how well the town and nature blend together. The city of Leh is the crown of the state and the artistically arresting in its charm. If you want to plan a road trip with your friends, check this: http://www.transindiatravels.com/jammu-and-kashmir/leh/tourist-places-to-visit-in-leh-laddakh

 3. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

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Photo by Nico Crisafulli, CC BY 2.0

The spiritual hub of India is submerged in chaos. The city has many temples and Ghats that are marvels of architecture which attracts thousands of tourists to visit Varanasi every year, but what is interesting about the city are the people. The area is sure to give you some marvelous portrait shots. To know the most Instagrammed places in Varanasi visit:

http://www.transindiatravels.com/uttar-pradesh/varanasi/tourist-places-to-visit-in-varanasi

4. Assam

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Photo by Bidyut Gogoi, CC BY 2.0

The tea gardens in the state paint the region green. Drained by the Brahmaputra river, the region has many beautiful sites. The state has a cultural extravaganza for three days, Roongali Festival. The cultural gala will have it all – dance, theatre, handicraft along with other events.

 5. Kerala

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Photo by Kerala Tourism, CC BY-SA 2.0

The scenic beauty in the state is an added bonus to the cultural heritage. The cluttered urban centers or the serene backwaters are equally enamoring. Mohiniyattam performers dance with their emotions and expressions. Get your photographic masterpiece while the dancers are in action.

6. Mumbai, Maharashtra

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Photo by Andy Hay, CC BY 2.0

The madhouse metropolitan Mumbai may not be a scenic beauty but its exquisiteness lay in the soaring skyline. The British Indian architecture of the city mixed with the modern Millie is picture perfect. To explore Mumbai and its nearby attractions visit: http://www.transindiatravels.com/maharashtra/mumbai/tourist-places-to-visit-in-mumbai

7. Lakshwadeep Islands

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Photo by Binu K S, CC BY-SA 2.0

Abounding with beaches and lagoons, the island settlement of Lakshwadeep is an exotic location. The coral reefs in the region are the deal stealer. The island has many ornately decorated mosques. The beauty of the region is reflected in the clear blue waters. To read more about this island:

http://www.transindiatravels.com/lakshadweep-islands/tourist-places-to-visit-in-lakshadweep-islands/

Henri Cartier-Bresson said that your first 10,000 pictures are your worst. His words are the motivation that every budding photographer needs. The beauty of India is unprecedented, so pick up your camera and get the pictures of your life.

The Best Airports for Long (Unexpectedly Fun) Layovers

It’s not often you hear someone rave about his or her time at the airport. More often than not our layover is spent on our phones scrolling through emails or texts (or let’s be honest, Tinder) while trying not to overhear the conversation of the person next to us at the gate. But there is good news for all travelers expecting a longer airport wait this year: It turns out there is a lot of fun to be had when waiting for the next flight. We are talking everything from massages to jumping into in a rooftop pool. With fun in mind, we’ve put together the list of the airports taking the layover experience to the next level.

 1. Changi Airport – Singapore

Changi won the World’s Best Airport Award (voted on by travelers) in 2015, and when it comes to spending time during a layover, this airport certainly does not disappoint. What better way to pass the time than a dip in the airport’s rooftop swimming pool? Or take in a film at their movie theater. There is also a butterfly garden, orchid garden, and sunflower garden that boasts a field of more than 500 sunflowers. Changi is also home to the world’s tallest slide in an airport at nearly 40 feet tall. The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel also has a swimming pool and 24-hour fitness center for those looking to spend the night near the airport. In addition to a plethora of shopping and dining locations, Changi’s unique airport features make it stand out as a luxurious and entertaining spot for long layovers.

2. John F. Kennedy Airport – Terminal 5, New York, NY

Of all the terminals at JFK, Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 is the one you want to spend your layover in. With more than 30 food and beverage spots, you can find just about anything to nibble and sip on. That includes places like Deep Blue Sushi, Dylan’s Candy Bar, and Bar Veloce. The terminal hosts more than 35 retail shops. If sitting down and relaxing is more your style, people watch on the Grandstands while you charge your phone and use the terminal’s free Wi-Fi.  The Marketplace at T5 also hosts concerts with musicians from all over the world, including Taylor Swift, James Blunt and Robyn. Travelers can step out of the airport and over to the Crowne Plaza JFK Airport Hotel to ensure a solid night’s sleep during an overnight layover. Their complimentary shuttle bus will get you right back to the airport in time for your flight.

3. Heathrow Airport – London, United Kingdom

This bustling airport caters to an exceptionally diverse crowd, and the range of shops, restaurants and entertainment options reflects just that. The airport has two spas that offer services ranging from manicures and pedicures to aromatherapy and facials. The No1 Travel Spa offers a jet lag revival package for those who need to recuperate from exceptionally long trips. The iconic shopping destination Harrod’s of London has shops located in each terminal, and personal shoppers are available by appointment to provide fashion and style advice. Restaurants and cafes regularly host events all year round, including special activities and menus for Chinese New Year, like complimentary 2016 Chinese Horoscope cards and special dishes like Hoisin Duck Puffs from Rhubarb British Restaurant and Bar. Travelers can step out of the airport and head to nearby Sofitel London Heathrow for afternoon tea at the hotel’s tea salon or check email at one of their workspaces.

4. Vancouver International Airport – British Columbia, Canada

Voted by travelers as the Best Airport in North America, YVR is not short on entertainment and services to help you spend your time in between flights. The airport has a Meet and Great Service that provides travelers with an Airport Butler who can customize your experience, from getting you to your gate to helping you with the purchase of duty-free items and spa services. The Absolute Spa and Hair Salon can handle all grooming needs, from hair styling and removal to massages. There is a diverse selection of international fare, from sit down restaurants and bars to fast food chains. Less than three miles away is the Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport where those with longer or overnight layovers can relax in the indoor pool and spa tub, grab food at one of many fine-dining establishments and easily hop back to the airport with complimentary on-demand shuttle service that operates around the clock.

5. Denver International Airport– Denver, CO

Denver’s airport stands apart with its appealing architectural style, complete with a vast collection of public art, more than 140 shops and restaurants, and relaxing lounges. The airport offers free Wi-Fi, but many travelers find themselves putting down their phones to stare at the gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains near gates C23 and C24. Denver is also home to Paradise 4 Paws, 9http://www.flydenver.com/traveler_services/pets) an on-site pet resort. Dog suites have their own flat screen TV’s and massage therapy and veterinary services are also available. Cats won’t feel left out either with their own bungalow and Adventure Jungle. Who said layovers can’t be fun for pets too?

6. San Francisco International Airport – San Francisco, CA

San Francisco airport is a tech-lovers layover dream. The #Converge@flySFO loungeis a unique space inside the airport created specifically for travelers to share ideas around technology, entrepreneurship and ways to create change (among many topics). The room has free Wi-Fi, white boards to write down ideas and places to charge electronics. For less business-minded guests, the airport also houses theAviation Museum and Library, the Berman Reflection Room for quiet meditation, XpresSpa’s for spa services and a free yoga room. Travelers and their pets with longer layovers are welcome at the Aloft San Francisco Airport Hotel located just two miles from the airport. Guests can enjoy stretching their legs on the scenic jogging trail or taking a dip in the hotel pool before grabbing a bite to eat and heading back to their airport to catch their next flight.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 11, 2016.

 

Exploring Amsterdam’s Undiscovered North

Once overlooked by travelers, the borough of Amsterdam Noord has developed into a thriving artistic community, a spot for dance and music festivals, and an escape from Amsterdam’s chaotic and touristy center.

The borough was once the industrial site of one of Europe’s largest shipyards. From 1922 until 1984 — when the Nederlandsche Dock Company went bankrupt — supertanker, cargo, and passenger ships were meticulously built and carefully launched into the IJ Lake to sail around the world. Now visitors can explore the repurposed buildings and forests for an eclectic Amsterdam experience many tourists haven’t yet seen.

Getting There

The borough is only a short free ferry away on the opposite side of the IJ Lake, directly behind Amsterdam Central Station. Five ferries, with three directly behind the station, transport commuters to different parts of the borough 24 hours a day. Trip times range from three to 15 minutes. As bikes are allowed on the ferry, rent one from one of three bike rentals near Central Station: Mac Bike, Star Bikes, and Amsterbike. Or, rent one once in Amsterdam Noord from Velox Classic Bikes, which is near the drop off port of the Buiksloterwegveer-bound ferry. By car, take the IJ tunnel to the east of the station to cross the lake.

Eye Film Institute

Amsterdam Noord’s architecturally impressive Eye Film Institute, designed by the Viennese Delugan Meissl Associated Architects, is a short walk from the Buiksloterwegveer ferry stop. The Institute is a play on words, as “Eye” is also the pronunciation of the IJ Lake. The institute features an impressive archive of 37,000, 700,000 photographs, 60,000 posters, and 20,000 books. Part of the collection was previously housed in the now defunct Filmmuseum in Vondel Park until 2012, when the Eye opened. The Institute regularly screens Dutch and foreign films and holds exhibitions. Patrons may also enjoy a coffee or meal and the views of the IJ harbor at the institute’s restaurant. After exiting the Eye, stroll or bike through Oeverpark just outside the museum.

Noorderpark

A half hour walk from the Buiksloterwegveer ferry stop lies Noorderpark, a beautiful combination of two older parks (Flora and Volewijks parks) that were merged in 2014. It’s nearly the same size as Vondel Park (45 hectares or 111 acres) making it a good distance to cycle, walk, and picnic. Noorderpark is split by the lovely North Holland Canal.

Vliegen Forrest

Want to get closer to Mother Nature? Cycle east of Noorderpark where Leeuwarderweg merges into Meeuwenlann to reach W.H. Vliegenbos, a forest named after 20th century journalist and social democrat Willem H. Vliegen. Or take the Zamenhofstraat-bound ferry from Azartplein (Azart Plaza), on the peninsula housing Java and KNSM islands in the East Borough of Amsterdam. The forest is a 15 minute walk from the ferry and features a campsite spanning 25 hectares (61 acres), and it includes space for caravans, campervans, or tents, along with a hotel and cabins for rent.

Cultural Hubs

Looking for a post-industrial experience? Near the ferry resides the trendy yet laid back IJ Kantine (IJ Canteen) with reasonably priced soups and sandwiches and pristine views of the IJ Harbor. Like many of the buildings in the borough, the IJ Kantine’s building, previously called the Baanderij, has a rich shipbuilding history. It served as an office, assembly hall, and canteen when the wharf was in full swing. Now it’s a favorite for creatives to work and organize brainstorming sessions in the dining area or in one of two boardrooms available for rent. The kantine also holds exhibitions, live music and craft nights.

Just southeast lies Pllek, a self-described creative hangout, offering a multitude of activities from yoga to dancing to circus to sex classes. In Amsterdam, not many subjects are taboo. In the summer, an artificial beach provides a spot for dancing and sunbathing. The center also boasts organic and sustainable food with seasonal vegetables sourced locally whenever possible.

Where to Stay

The DoubleTree Hilton Hotel Amsterdam is near the NDSM ferry stop, making it a convenient and luxurious stay. For a more atypical experience, stay at the Amstel Botel, a floating hotel moored near the NDSM ferry. As Amsterdam Noord is easy to get to from Central Amsterdam, staying at the NH Amsterdam Barbizon Palaceallows for quick access to Amsterdam Noord as well as the rest of the city. Amsterdam is a small city with a big-city feel, so make a day trip out of Amsterdam Noord or commute to the center. Either way, make sure to rent a bike for the most convenient and efficient experience.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on December 10, 2015.

Finding The One in Paris, the City of Love

Poet Arthur Rimbaud— who used a one-way ticket to get to Paris— once compared the sensation of love to the feeling of late night walks “beneath the green lime trees of the Promenade” after filling up on beer and lemonade in “rowdy cafes and their dazzling lights.” One-way tickets litter the streets of Paris, where young lovers meet like living symbolist poems, walking, kissing, and perspiring upon weathered cobblestones and beneath delicate corinthian cornices. Young romantics can count on feeling overwhelmed with options when it comes to the task of planning the perfect day in the City of Love. To mitigate your planning anxieties, we’ve gone ahead and planned the day for you. Je vous en prie, mon amour!

Les Buttes Chaumont

Located in the northeast of the city in the 19th arrondissement, the park offers visitors a wide variety of features: including a breath-taking grotto with cascading waterfalls, a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the breathtaking Temple de la Sibylle, which sits on the top of tall cliffs, high above the the manmade lake at the park’s center. Purchase an inexpensive bottle of red wine, a fresh block chevre cheese, a baguette, some tupelo honey, and some salumi at a nearby grocery store and head to the park’s center. Ask an attractive stranger to join you for a picnic, and admire blue skies and puffy white clouds as a gentle breeze brushes your cheek. When was the last time you partook in a summersault competition? Have you ever stood on your head for an extended period of time? Les Buttes Chaumont welcomes youthful spirits, warm (and occasionally inebriated) conversations, and contented silence. Two minds, one Les Buttes Chaumont.

La Filmothèque du Quartier Latin

On 9 rue Champollion in Paris’ Latin Quarter, just a few blocks from La Sorbonne,La Filmothèque du Quartier Latin greets every evening with its brightly lit marquee. Featuring retrospective masterworks, films by Godard, Kubrick, Allen, Antonioni, Fellini, Cassavetes regularly hit the screen. The screening rooms are small and cozy; the vibes are hospitable and warm. Take your new friend’s hand in your own and get lost in the illustrious and timeless world of the silver screen.

10 Bar in Saint-Germain des Prés

Saint-Germain des Prés— an area in the 6th arrondissement of Paris— was once the home of existentialist movement. Coincidentally, the area is now home to one of the best bars in Paris: 10 Bar. Founded in 1955, 10 Bar claims to attract a “record crowd every night” as the “only sangria bar in the capital.” Go early and queue up some choice tunes on the bar’s classic jukebox. Grab a seat next to the massive organ-shaped mahogany mirror in the back and tell the person sitting next to you at the bar about the strangest dream that you’ve ever had, then take a few spins on the dance floor. When you’ve had your share of libations and wildness, take a short cab ride to the luxurious Hotel Bel Ami. Just a short walk away from the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Pont Neuf, and Musee d’Orsay, Hotel Bel Ami will help to keep the romance alive!

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on October 16, 2015 .