Visiting Spain: Visit the Essentials First

visiting spain

It doesn’t matter what your travelling preferences are, we all love a fiesta, and what better place to have a fiesta than by visiting Spain itself? Located in one of the warmest parts of the European continent, Spain does not only offers long sunny days, but also a rich history and culture. This country can cater to anyone’s taste. Partying all night, visiting museums and researching Spanish history or eating their delicious cuisine until your heart pops out. The only thing that you should know is where you’re heading, and this is where we step in. Look at the list below, and try to find the best Spanish ciudad for your holiday, especially if it’s your first time:

Madrid: The heart of Spain and capital of flamenco

It doesn’t do to visit Spain and not see the capital of the country, does it? As any other European capital, Madrid has everything to offer – bars that are open until late at night, great shopping centers and some of the most amazing parks in Europe. One such is the El Parque del Buen Retiro, or simply shortened to El Retiro. It was once a royal ‘’hangout’’, and it staged many concerts and garden plays. Nowadays, it is a great tourist attraction (even though greenery might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Madrid), as people can rent one of the many rowboats and paddle in the huge man made lake in the center of the park. However, Spain is the only place in the world where you can see a live performance of flamenco dances, and Madrid is the best place to do this.

madrid

Barcelona: The diamond of Catalonia

You’ve no doubt heard of Barcelona. There are numerous tourists who hit the road to Spain and decide to visit this place only. And it doesn’t matter how many days you stay, Barcelona is a city which you can never fully explore. If you really want a European holiday of your lifetime, you should find one of the best Barcelona holiday packages that are offered, and see the home of the extremely impressive pieces of Gaudi’s architecture such as the legendary La Sagrada Familia. Moreover, taking a walk-through Las Ramblas and having a cup of coffee in one of its many cafés is definitely something that you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

barcelona

Seville: From bullrings to beautiful barrios

To all the animal rights activists out there – no, we don’t agree with this either, but we must agree that this is one of the symbols of Spain and an inevitable part of Spanish history. Even though bullfighting originated in Ronda, Seville is its spiritual home. So, is it a form of art or simply animal cruelty? Well, it would be best to visit one of Seville’s many bullrings and see for yourself. However, don’t you think for a second that Seville is only good for this. As the heart of Andalusia, this magical city has many other things to offer – such as the Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the most beautiful barrios of Spain, or Alcazar (perhaps better known as Dorne from HBO’s Game of Thrones).

seville

Granada: The place that’s the richest in Spanish history

First and foremost: you’re visiting Spain and you want to try tapas. Since Granada is one of the rare places in Spain where you get tapas for free alongside your drink, it should be on the must-visit list. Moreover, this is a place where you’ll see the most important historical monuments of this country. It is a paradise for every history buff. One of the best things you can see here is the Alhambra fortress – a fortress so huge that you will need a whole day to explore it to the smallest detail. If you want to imagine what it looks like, it’s said that you must imagine the world’s most beautiful gardens, add a fortress and multiply the whole image by ten. Alhambra overlooks the whole city of Granada, offering a most breathtaking view. And it’s also an excellent place to take amazing Instagram photographs! The ticket is around 13 euros, and it’s open from March to October, so make sure to plan your stay there accordingly.

granada

And these are only the essentials. Spain has so many other things to offer, such as 24/7 Ibiza parties, spring days in Valencia, visiting the tomb of Christopher Columbus, walking across the world’s scariest bridge, seeing the Museum of Funeral Carriages, or eating at the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid. Spain should be your next destination. And maybe even the one after that, because you can go there as many times as you want, and you’ll still have more things on your bucket list.

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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The Paris Series (Part 1) – Like A Local

There’s nothing better than going to a “new” destination, and experiencing it like a local. I had been to Paris before (through the airport and in the city when I was all of 7 years old) but neither time really counts. In spite of the considerable travelling that I have done, Paris was a new destination. While it’s great to see the tourist sights like everybody else (i.e. the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre,  Notre Dame Cathedral), it’s also great to really immerse yourself like a local. Find the food stands, small shops, cafes and squares where the locals go. While you can find some great guide books, maps and apps to help (Rick Steves immediately comes to mind),  why not actually have a local take you on a tour and show you the neighbourhood favorites?

So I linked up with a local food tour called the “New Parisian Palate” (formerly “Bobo Palate”) with Context Travel. Context is a network of specialists and scholars who act as private guides and lead small groups on walking tours through some of the world’s greatest cities. Tours include archaeology, art history, cuisine, history, urban planning, environmental science, and classics.

Our small group met outside of a bistro in upper Marais. We began our tour with a walk and talk through the iconic “Marche des Enfants Rouges” (the oldest covered market in Paris dating back to the 1600s).

Our walking tour continued for the next 2 1/2 hours and included various stops in the market, a bakery, butcher shop, prepared food and foie gras shop, a cheese shop, a wine and Armagnac shop and a chocolatier. All along the way, the small bites and samples never stopped.

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The French are proud of their history, culture and country. And so they should be. Our guide explained how French food tastes were slowly changing, becoming more modern and incorporating flavors and food ideas from around the world. She pointed out new shops and even food trucks to support the “new Parisian Palate”. With most stops, our guide either purchased samples or gathered food in a bag for our end of tour “party” (wine, cheese, pate, baguette).

446  If you’re thinking of a walking tour, here’s 3 bits of advice:

  1. Take a Context Tour. They are immersive and well worthwhile and get you feeling like a local (and less like a tourist). The group is limited to 6 and led by a local expert.
  2. If you take a Context food tour, don’t eat a meal beforehand (nor will you be able to eat a meal after).
  3. Take your tour in the first few days of your trip if you can. You’ll get a better feel for the city, culture, local area and the places that you’ll want to return to later.

I want that local perspective wherever I go. I want to dive into the destination and its culture. And I want to get local.

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?

6 Steps to Create High-Impact Restaurant Photographs

When running a restaurant, one of the essential aspects of promoting and marketing the business involves choosing what photographs to use. A high-impact image can engage the senses, making the viewer see, smell, feel and even taste the food without having been able to try it yet.

A professional food photographer can accomplish these, and more. Hiring the top experts in food styling and photography is key to generating appetizing images for your restaurant website and other marketing materials.

It takes years of experience to produce quality food images. To help you understand how the experts pull it off, here are a few steps detailing how they create tantalizing restaurant food photography.

High-Impact Restaurant Photographs

1. Gather the equipment

The tools used vary depending on the project. More often than not, you may find food stylists and photographers armed with more than just cameras and the dishes themselves.

When it comes to food photography, the aim is to make the dish as irresistible as possible. This often involves using techniques that focus on making the dish look good and deliciously tempting even when the food prop has been sitting out for an hour because of the shoot.

For instance, stylists may brush oil over the ingredients to make them glisten. Scoops of ice cream are replaced by mashed potatoes or shortening as they don’t melt under the light. As such, you may notice food stylists armed with brushes, toothpicks and other tools designed to make the dish look fuller and fresh.

2. Use natural light

Natural light has a way of making dishes look fresh and appetizing. As such, photographers will often schedule the shoot during the day. Plates, silver and other dining elements are shot outdoors or near a window to make the most of the natural light available.

At times, photographers will use flash and reflectors. When bounced off a wall or the ceiling, the light from the flash will provide additional light and soften any harsh shadows.

High-Impact Restaurant Photographs

3. Use props

Although the dish should be the focus of any image, at times, stylists and food photographers will add additional relevant elements to put the dish into context.

For instance, an image of a slice of cheesecake may include a fork and may be accompanied with a cup of tea or coffee and some small condiments. Peppercorns and herbs may be sprinkled all over a chopping board that features a large slab of grilled meat.

It is important to strike a balance between context and clutter. A few extra elements may help but there is no need to fill the photo with food or other objects.

Stylists and photographers also need to be aware of the colors and textures of the elements and props being included in the image. Contrasting colors and textures can help make ingredients pop out more.

Props need to be carefully inspected before being used in the image because the slightest imperfection will be magnified in the photo. Plates and utensils need to be spotlessly clean while the ingredients should look fresh and devoid of any blemishes.

4. Shoot from different angles

Perspective can change how the viewer may feel about the dish. Professional photographers will often try to take as many shots from different angles as they can for a single shoot.

A shot taken from directly above the dish can be used to include ingredients and other relevant elements. This type of shot illustrates what goes into the dish.

High-Impact Restaurant Photographs

On the other hand, a shot taken from the side can show how the dish would look when served. For instance, a shot of a slice of cake taken from an angle can show the different layers inside.

5. Shoot quickly

Stylists and photographers need to plan, experiment and practice the shots days before the actual day of the shoot. Unlike studio lighting, natural light changes depending on the time of the day and weather.

The look of ingredients and even entire dishes can also change in just a few hours, minutes or even seconds. Vegetables are an example. To make them look fresher, they are often undercooked.

When it comes to salads, the dressing can be put in a small bowl on the side. This is to prevent the dressing from covering the ingredients or making them look limp.

By practicing and experimenting with different angles outside the shoot, the team can also determine what they need to bring and how to set up the shot quickly. This is especially important in cases where several dishes need to be styled and photographed in one session.

If you’re taking a specialty burger photo, taking an angle shot from the side would be preferable to one taken from above as the side shot would highlight the burger patty itself while a shot from the top would have to accommodate other elements such as the sides, utensils, etc., else, you’ll be left only with the image of the top (sesame seed) bun.

 

6. Add steam

With the exception of desserts and other dishes served cold, steam is a popular element that can be added to an image. Steam emanating from the food gives it the impression that it just came off the stove, oven or grill.

Natural steam is difficult to produce. Most foods do not produce enough steam to be captured by the camera. Plus, food can get cold quickly, reducing the amount of time when the photographer can take the shot.

Food photographers and stylists need to be creative with steam, with some resorting to using garment steamers and microwaved sponges or cotton balls, or devising even more inventive ways to create it for their shoots.

Experienced stylists and photographers have several other techniques that they use to produce stunning food images. With this guide, you have a basic idea of the amount of work and effort it takes to create stunning and delectable food photographs.

 

AUTHOR BIO

Barry Morgan is the creative force behind Barry Morgan Photography. His passions are photography, food and family, although not always in that order. He believes you should love what you do, to do exceptional work. Cooking was always a family affair in his home so naturally, once his passion for photography took root, he was drawn to food photography. Barry Morgan Photography now works with hundreds of clients, turning their tasty dishes into mouthwatering visuals.

 

Prepare Yourself for Cycling Around-the-World

cycling around the world

Everyone has a dream or two involving something exciting and adventurous. If, for example, you wish to cycle the world, there’s really no reason whatsoever to stop you. You just have to decide whether you want it hard enough because, in all honesty, around-the-world cycling does require some strong dedication and thorough preparation. But, if you’re set on achieving this wonderful and inspiring goal, make sure you know your steps.

Proper research

Before anything else, it’s essential that you do your research, especially when it comes to the main and alternative routes you’re going to take. Aside from that, it’s paramount that you’re knowledgeable about the laws and regulations of countries you’re going to cycle through. Apart from that, it would be extremely useful to know what your options are in terms of accommodation, even if it’s just camping in the open.

cycling training

Train your body

Cycling is not easy, and especially not when you’re about to cycle the globe. In that respect, it’s essential that you prepare your body. Create a workout routine so that you can build muscle and fitness necessary for such an enterprise. Of course, it’s important that you cycle regularly as a part of your workout routine.

Know what you need

The most important piece of equipment on this journey is obviously your bike. Everything else can be dealt with one way or the other. Without question, electric Bosch eBike is your best choice and smartest investment that will ensure security in almost every part of the world. Of course, you’ll need a tent, a portable stove and some durable waterproof clothes, but you can find all that at affordable prices and even at thrift shops.

cycling in winter

The issue of money

When finances are concerned, things can get a bit tricky, but you also have various options, depending on what you want to do with your life. If you generally plan a huge change that involves a complete transformation once you return from the cycling adventure, you may find it easy to sell everything you own and make extra cash with your own skills wherever you find yourself. On the other hand, you may feel more comfortable with gradually saving up the money so that you feel more secure. The latter also means that you’ll have to plan ahead and wait a while.

Find your purpose

There are many reasons why people decide to do something as amazing and mind-blowing as cycling around the world. If you have a personal cause you can share it with the world. In the end, you may even manage to break the world’s record. This may not be something you’re into, but remember that even Forrest Gump attracted huge media coverage when he started running. The important thing here is that you know 100% in your heart the cause that drives you to cycle. That way you can decide whether to share it with everybody else or not.

cycle into the sunset

End date and milestones

It would be extremely helpful to set an end date in your mind that would give you an idea of how far and long you need to cycle from day to day. Of course, don’t just focus on the end date because this date is changeable. Instead, focus on milestones that you can set for yourself. For instance, a good way to create milestones is to take your current location into account, be that a city, a county or a whole country/state.

In order to cycle around the world, you actually need to start pedaling, and begin your journey from somewhere. The whole adventure is already complex and it will take you a few years to accomplish, so, if this is something you strongly wish for, don’t make it even more complicated.

cycle in the evening

Discover the Beauty of Fjords in Norway by Road

If you are thinking of going to Norway, you don’t want to miss the Fjords! Norway is a Scandinavian country with many mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords. You’ve no doubt heard of the Fjords, but you may not be familiar with Fjords or what they look like. In this article, we will write about discovering Fjords by Road. There is no better way to discover Fjords than by taking a road trip by car. The beautiful roads with stunning views make a road trip through Norway an amazing and memorable experience.

What is a Fjord?

A fjord is a deep waterway that is surrounded by massive cliffs on each side. The creation of a fjord is a very long process and created thanks to glaciers. Without too much theory and detail, glaciers moved through the valleys and glacial melting formed the waterways that are often deeper than nearby seas.

Discover the Fjords by Taking a Road Trip

The perfect chance for discovering the beauty of the fjords in Norway is to take a road trip with by car. If you have a few hours or a few weeks, you can have an amazing road trip. Many tour operators offer trips to see the most famous fjords, but these are usually expensive and full of tourists. You will experience the most of your trip if you take a car and discover it by yourself. Here are a few road trips that can last for a few hours or a few weeks by car.

Short Trips Up to 5 Days

A short trip (no longer than 5 days) is perfect for people who want to relax and clear their mind from an urban area. If you want to discover the fjords by car, we suggest you to take a journey from Bergen to Ålesund. This can take from 2 – 5 days with a route distance of 500 kilometers. You need to take 5 ferries on your trip, but these are short rides and are inexpensive. The road trip starts in the city of Bergen and the final destination is the beautiful city of Ålesund with its amazing architecture. The road is easy to drive with many curves that are offer tremendous views of the fjords along the road. If you’re a real adventurer, take a tent and camp somewhere along the roadside. Another great short trip is to start from the capital city of Oslo and go through national parks and Haukelifjell Mountains with magnificent views of fjords along the way.

Medium Trips Up to One Week

If you have more time available to extend your road trip up to one week, you’ll discover still more of the beauty of the fjords. There are many different medium length trips to consider. The first one is ideal for travelers who want to discover the southern part of Norway. The trip starts in Kristiansand and ends in the same city as you do a round trip. The coastal road is going by the North Sea offering amazing views of mountains, waterfalls, interesting towns on the road and fjords. The trip length is around 1000 kilometers and it can take up to one week to discover everything on the road. A second trip option starts and ends in the northern part of Norway, the city of Ålesund. The trip is around 900 kilometers long and it offers dramatic landscape along with interesting small villages and towns that will show you the Norway culture.

Long Trips Up to One Month

You’ll get the most Norway has to offer if you have time to extend your trip up to 1 month. If you’re staying in Oslo, you have a chance to take a road trip that will show you the best of the country. The trip starts in Oslo and ends in Bergen with the distance no longer than 1300 kilometers. You could take up to two weeks to finish the trip, but you’ll experience amazing view of valleys, mountains, glaciers, fjords, cities, and many villages on the way. If you want to blend Norwegian culture and discover the beauty of fjords, this is the trip you should take.

Now you have an idea of a few trips that uncovers the beauty of fjords and Norway landscape. It’s time to plan and start your road trip. Have you taken a road trip to discover the fjords in Norway? Share your road trip experiences with us!

 

About the Author: This article was written by Dorothy Goodman, savvy travel blogger at asabbatical.com , a personal travel blog of Adrian Sameli. To connect with Dorothy, follow her on Facebook.