Gay Nightlife in Prague

Prague has become a haven for night life due to the growing number of tourists seeking small crowds, moderate drink prices and up-scale environments. It should come as no surprise the Prague’s night life extends to offer bars and night life to the LGBTQ community. This post will be dedicated to the most popular and trendy destinations that Prague offers. Loving Apartments offers accommodation in and around Prague as well, providing comfort and convenience after a night out.

The Saints

It’s no coincidence that I featured this bar first. The Saints is a well respected establishment located in the heart of Prague. In many ways this bar can be considered the heart of gay night life as well because the bar hosts an on-line website that allows for potential gay travellers to get the 411 before coming to the city. Beyond their own bar, The Saints offers opinions and inside tips to give visitors local knowledge. The bar itself is small, like most bars and clubs in Prague, but maintains a warm atmosphere with moderately priced drinks.

saint

Address & info:

> Polska 32, Praha 2, Czech Republic > +420 222 250 326

>www.saintsbar.cz  >  info@praguesaints.cz 

Klub 21Flickr/ @klub21

The basement pub has been on the local scene in Prague for a number of years. The brick walls are decorated with art from locals. Be careful, one crazy night could end with you purchasing some of the rare art, which might be a tad spendy. Many view this place to be a typical Czech gay pub and a friendly place  to share a beer with your party.

Address &  Info:

> Rimska 21, Prague 2 > +420 603 539 475

www.klub21.cz  > info@klub21.cz

Club Termix

Club Termix is widely known as the most popular gay nightclub in Prague despite its small size. The lack of square footage is compensated for by the pleasant atmosphere and fun crowd. During the week the the venue doubles as a bar; but on Thursdays, the space turns into a club like no other. If reviews are true, the bar staff is hospitable, and the music choices blend between current dance tunes and local pop music.  Club Termix is located right around the corner from Saints bar, so it would be easy to hit both in one night. The club has reasonable prices and no entrance fee.

Address & Info:

>Trebizskeho 4a, Prague 2  > http://www.club-termix.cz/

> +420 222 710 462   >  club-termix@club-termix.cz 

 

>Johnathan Redmond is an Advertising Undergraduate @ University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a keen interest in Fashion and exploring London Culture.

Paris Unleashed

When I was just a little tyke, my eldest sister travelled to Paris for a musical tour around Europe. I remember her stories about the romantic city – the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomph, Champs Élysées, the crepes and lovely street art.

I had fallen under a second-hand Parisian spell, and the city made it to the top of my life list. (I like to call it life list instead of bucket list because of some valuable advice I once got from my auntie, “You should focus on the living part. Not the dying part.” Amen to that.) Well over a decade later, I made a weekend trip to Paris with a group of friends, and I can finally cross the destination off my list.

*Caution: The trip itinerary you are about to read is jam-packed because we were only able to allot a few days in Paris before we had to return to London for class on Monday. We hit it hard. So if that type of travelling floats your boat, feel free to borrow our itinerary. If you prefer to slow down the pace and just take it easy, I suggest you pick and choose or finagle the itinerary a bit to suit your desires.

Thursday Evening:

We began our trip on a Thursday evening by hopping on the Eurostar from London to Paris. It’s extraordinary that we have the ability to travel under the ocean by train. That’s just an experience within itself.

Whenever I arrive somewhere new, I always get antsy to see the most iconic sight right away. In this case – the Eiffel Tower. We hopped on the Metro and found our way to this majestic monument, just in time to catch its light show on the hour.

Eiffel Tower. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Eiffel Tower. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

The night continued to get even better when we bumped into a crepe stand by the tower, and I had my first Parisian Nutella crepe. It was nothing short of a religious experience. To say the least, it was a magical first night in Paris.

Friday:

Friday morning we got up bright and early and set out to the Eiffel once again to conquer the tower from the bottom up. I must warn you that the queue to catch the elevator from the ground to the top is quite long – even right at the opening time. So if you are physically-able, I suggest that you buy a ticket to walk halfway up to the second platform and then jump on a lift to the top. We only had to queue for a couple of minutes to get this ticket. I’ll be upfront with you. The steps are a bit strenuous, but you can take them at your leisure. They also allow you to better relish the view on the way up rather than being whisked immediately to the top. Once you’re to the tip, you won’t regret all the effort you took to climb those pesky stairs.

A view from atop the Eiffel Tower. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

A view from atop the Eiffel Tower. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Next stop: Musée D’Orsay – which is a convenient walking distance from the Eiffel Tower (It all helps to save money on public transportation). This was my favourite museum in Paris (gasp that it’s not the Lourve) because its architecture as an old train station is breath-taking with a massive, ornate clock on the wall. I’m also a fan of impressionism, and the Musée D’Orsay has a large impressionist collection including Monet. I was also impressed with the number of Van Goghes they had. If paintings aren’t your cup of tea, the museum also has a plethora of other exhibits including photography, antiques, sculptures, glasswork and much more.

Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

The main Hall of the Musée D’Orsay. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

The Love Lock Bridge, officially called the Ponte des Artes, was our next destination. Yes, I gave into the cliché and took part in the cheesy ritual of fastening a lock to the bridge and tossing the key in the River Seine. But hey, can you blame me? I’ve been waiting to do this since I was like 10. This practice is even more frowned upon since the bridge has started to collapse under the weight of all the locks. I suppose if a bridge is going to collapse it’s a good thing that it’s collapsing because there’s just too much love, right?

Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Love Lock Bridge. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Not far from the Love Lock Bridge is Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame. Sainte Chapelle was an unexpected gem for me. I had honestly never heard of the chapel until it was brought to my attention by my travel companions. It turned out to be one of the most gorgeous sights of the weekend, which is quite a feat when touring the beautiful city of Paris. Almost the entire second floor of the chapel is windows. The stained glass shone in the late afternoon light, showing off the vivid hues and design. I was mesmerized by the deep maroons, golds, blues and purples. If I had my way, I would have sat in that chapel for hours just simply staring at the glasswork.

Sainte Chapelle. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Sainte Chapelle. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

I had a preconceived image of Notre Dame from the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and it was actually pretty accurate – other than Quasimodo dwelling in the bell towers. The cathedral was quite busy, but it was worth the visit.

Being the thrifty college students that we are, my friends and I visited the Louvre Friday evening because it is free for anyone under the age of 26 from 6:00 pm to 9:45 pm. You probably already know this, but that place is massive! We almost got lost. No rephrase that. We definitely got lost – even with a map. However, we were able to see the biggies like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Liberty Leading the People and The Raft of Medusa – and  everything in between.

The Louvre. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

The Louvre. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Our evening ended atop the top of the Arc de Triomph, with a sweeping view of the city lighs, including all the Christmas displays as well. It was marvelous.

Saturday:

Our Saturday morning was dedicated to the Palace and Gardens of Versailles. We arrived right when the estate opened, so it wasn’t too busy. The palace was magnificent and luxurious with the King’s Grand Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. But perhaps the biggest treat of our trip to Versailles was the gardens with their majestic, gold fountains, well-manicured trees and hedges and all the autumn colours. It’s the perfect location for a long stroll.

On our way back to the city center from Versailles, we stopped off at the Grande Arch de la Defénse, located in a business district of Paris. Lucky for us, there was also a Christmas market in front of the Arch. We perused all the booths with jolly Christmas carols and the sweet aromas of goodies as a festive back drop.

Goodies at the Christmas market. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Goodies at the Christmas market. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Then in the evening we made our way to the vibrant Parisian neighbourhood of Montmartre. Here we did some browsing of all the little souvenir shops and quaint boutiques. Things you definitely won’t want to miss while you’re there is the “I Love You Wall,” the Sacre Coeur and the Artist Square. The Artist Square was the most charming characteristic of Montmartre because you can watch artists in action as they work on their masterpieces. If you are looking especially smart that day, you can even hire one of the artists to draw a portrait of yourself.

We rounded out the evening with a photo opportunity at the infamous Moulin Rouge and a walk through the bustling Christmas market at Champs Élysées. Paris is such a festive, holiday city.

Sunday:

Our final day in Paris. One of the last things that we definitely needed to see before we left was the Catacombs. Now I had researched a visit to the Catacombs before we left, and I had gotten the advice that you should at 9:00 am in the morning even though it opens at 10:00 am. After my visit, I would have to pass along that same advice. We arrived around that time and were second in the queue to get in. If you arrive much later than that though, you will probably have to wait 2 to 3 hours to get inside. Prepare yourself for a very fascinating and slightly morbid  walk along the tunnels lined with human bones.

Entrance to the Catacombs. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Entrance to the Catacombs. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

My friends and I ended our Parisian excursion with some relaxation in the Jardin de Luxembourg as we watched people sail their little boats in the garden fountain. We also soaked up some sun in the Jardin des Tuilieries so that we could say farewell to the Louvre and a view of the Eiffel Tower just one last time.

I hope that you find this itinerary helpful or at least pick up some small morsel of advice to keep in mind during your trip to Paris. And what I hope you find even more helpful is that Loving Apartments offers over 400 apartments to stay in the city. Many are conveniently located near these points of interest. Enjoy your time in Paris!

>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unusual Museums in Amsterdam

Have you been looking to see some different museums for your next trip to Amsterdam? No worries. We have compiled Amsterdam’s most unusual museums. From diamonds to tattoos, its seems as if no subject is out of reach for museums in this city.

Diamond Museum

With over 400 years of history, this museum traces the formation and modern applications of diamonds. The museum gives visitors a geological view into the history of diamonds as it follows the process of diamond formations over billions of years. The exhibit includes a permanent collection of famous pieces like the Rembrandt Diamond, the Katana, and the Ape Skull. The museum offers a diamond workshop for those who have a thing for bling. The workshop gives guests a tour of the museum, and then the museum’s master diamond cutter will teach the basics of cutting and polishing a diamond. The true appeal of this workshop is that the museum provides a free diamond for the workshop attendees to polish and cut themselves.

Location and Times:

Paulus Potterstraat 8, 1071 CZ Amsterdam

Mon-Sun: 09:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Biblical Museum3631902258_d0cdb98f79_o

The Biblical Museum’ was built upon the collection of Reverend Leendert Schouten, who first established this museum in the 19th century. Now located in the heart of old Amsterdam at Herengracht Canal,  the collection has an abundance of artifacts and archaeological  objects originally found in Palestine and Egypt. The museum also features temple models that are intricately designed and finely detailed. The models are temples of Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths. The Bibles featured includes the first Dutch translation of the Bible (1637) and the oldest printed Bible in the Netherlands (1477). On the last Saturday of October, The Biblical Museum organizes a free taxation of old Bibles and religious books. If visitors come with books older than 1900, the museums expert will appraise their Bible.

Location & Times:

Herengracht 366-368
1016 CH AMSTERDAM
Mo : Closed Tu -Sa : 10:00 – 17:00 hour Su: 11:00 – 17:00 hour Open on Thursday 25 December 2014 from 11:00 – 17:00 hour Open on Friday 26 December 2014 from 11:00 – 17:00 hour Open on Thursday 1 January 2015 from 11:00 – 17:00 hour.

 

Cat Cabinet ( Kattenkabinet )

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If your allergic to cats, I’d stay away from this marvelous museum dedicated to all things feline. Cat Cabinet was founded in 1990 to commemorate the owner’s, Bob Meijer’s, red tom cat called John Morgan who lived between 1966 and 1983.  As expected, the museum contains a selection of photos, drawings, sculptures and paintings of cats. The collection is dedicated entirely to the role of cats in art and culture throughout history.  What might come as a surprise is the artists that compose the various exhibits. Notable artists such as Pablo Piccaso, Rembrandt, Sam Meijer and Henri de Toulouse L’Autrec all have their feline-focused work displayed here. Even if your not cat-crazy, a quick stroll through the impressive rooms of this house in the Canal Belt is an unexpected treat. Loving Apartments even offers accommodation at the museum.

Location & Times:

The Cat Cabinet, Herengracht 497, Amsterdam T:  +31(0)20 626 9040

Mon- Fri: 10am-4pm

Sat-Sun: 12pm- 5pm

Tattoo Museum 8018821130_d27c6f9c61_b

Opened in 2011, the Tattoo Museum in Plantage is one of the newer museums in Amsterdam. The museum has more than 40 thousand objects in it collection. Divided geographically, each exhibit showcases the history of tattooing and tattooing traditions. The exhibit provides an in-depth look into traditions of various subcultures such as prisons, the army and more. The museum has a playful feeling about it with its brightly decorated walls, exotic wood floors and open floor plan. Once a month the museum welcomes a reputable tattoo artist, and the previous guest artists have been form locations all over the world. Additionally, the museum has a permanent tattoo shop on the premises.

Location & Times:

Tattoo Museum in Amsterdam
Plantage Middenlaan 62
1018 DH   Amsterdam
The Netherlands

Every day 10 A.M. – 7 P.M.
Closed on January 1st and December 25th. On December 24th and January 1st the closes at 4 P.M.

Loving Apartment offers a number of apartments in Amsterdam.

>Johnathan Redmond is an Advertising Undergraduate @ University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a keen interest in Fashion and exploring London Culture.

A Night in Madrid

Spain – the land of siestas. Once you’ve visited Barcelona and Madrid, you’ll understand why siestas are necessary. Generally, Spanish daily living just simply starts later. Lunch is often in the afternoon around 3:00 pm, and dinner around 10:00 pm. Naturally, their nights out gear up later as well around 2:00 am to 3:00 am. This is often the time that many other large cities around the globe start to wind down.

It is this type of lifestyle that makes Spain such a lively and exciting destination to visit, especially if you are looking for some great night life. It can be a bit difficult adjusting to this sort of clock, but it is worth the routine switch-up.

Madrid has a little bit of everything to offer for nights out – local pubs, bars, clubs, flamenco, discos and more.  We’ve tried our best to recommend some popular areas in Madrid for you to spend a night out with your mates.

Photo Credit: Jan Solo@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Jan Solo@Flickr.

Huertas

This is perhaps the most popular entertainment area of Madrid and is probably the most frequented by tourists. The area covers Plaza de Santa Ana  and Huertas Street, Cruz Street and other parallel streets as well. The store fronts that line Huertas is almost all pubs, restaurants and clubs so there is plenty to choose from. But you’ll want to keep an eye out for two very popular bars – the Magister and Viva Madrid. The Viva Madrid is the oldest bar in Madrid dating back to 1856. It must be doing something right if it has managed to last through the centuries. The Magister, a small brew pub, is known for it delicious, free tapas. In Huertas, you’ll also find Cardamomo, one of Madrid’s famous flamenco clubs, and the house in which Miguel de Cervantes, author of  Don Quijote, died.

Moncloa and Argüelles

Photo Credit: mfajardo@Flickr.

Photo Credit: mfajardo@Flickr.

This is the night life scene mostly preferred by younger people and students in Madrid because it is located nearby universities and student residences. All the night venues are mostly located in the Plaza de la Moncloa, and the venues tend to be more trendy and hip because they are geared towards the younger generation. You’ll run across a variety of bars, pubs and nightclubs, specifically featuring rock and Spanish pop music. Some suggested places to drop in by are Sala Heineken and The Host. The advantage of going to this area for your night out is that the bars and dances clubs are usually less expensive in order to serve the student population.

Chueca

Chueca has set itself apart as Madrid’s gay night life area. It is located in the Plaza de Chueca between the streets of Fuencarral and Barquillo  and near the Gran Vía Avenue. Some well known stops in this area are Troyans, LL Bar and Clip Bar. Younger crowds tend to gravitate towards Black & White and Rimmel. This neighbourhood fills up during Madrid’s Gay Pride Day with a parade on the Gran Vía Avenue.

Malasaña

Malasaña, also referred to as the Maravillas district, is situated between Gran Vía Avenue and San Bernardo, Fuencarral and the Glorieta de Bilbao. Malasaña has a vibrant personality with hints of bohemian and hipster. You’ll stumble upon more intimate bars and clubs here such as Malabar (a circus themed bar), La Lolita, Tupperware, La Realidad and Taboo. Just to name a few. If you like alternative, punk or indie-pop music, Malasaña is definitely the place for your late night adventures.

Photo Credit: miamism@Flickr.

Photo Credit: miamism@Flickr.

 Salamanca Neighborhood

Sleek and chic. Salamanca is a wealthy mix of night venues. If you have hopes of spotting a famous celebrity or athlete in Madrid, this would be a good place to start. Gabana and Shabay are the hottest spots in the area. However if you plan to party there, be looking your best and have your wallet ready to go.

People in Madrid literally stay out until the crack of dawn. So if one of these night life areas don’t meet your party expectations, there is always plenty more to try. After a night of drinks and dancing, be sure to enjoy an early breakfast of churros with chocolate. The best way to top off all the fun.

> Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

A Happy Hipster Day in London

Have you ever wanted to be a hipster? Lets be honest- no one does- but it’d be fun to live like one for a day, right? Well, we couldn’t think of any other place more hipster than some of the neighbourhoods of London. From the gentrified East London to the up and coming South London, we have put together a day that will live in instagram infamy. #instagramgame #sostrong

7:30 am : Morning Glory Rave

If you think going for jog is the best way to get your blood pumping for the day, you’d be wrong. The growing movement referred to as Morning Glory Rave is an early morning, substance-free dance party that is intended to give attendees a lively and different way to jump-start their mornings. The group suggesst that ravers give themselves a full hour to truly experience Morning Glory. The relaxed atmosphere allows for participants to be themselves and even allows for people to turn up in their Pj’s. Complete with coffee, smoothie bars and complimentary wake-up massages, this morning rave is truly unique. The conscious clubbing movement begins at 6:30 am and goes until 10:30 am. Located in Oval Space, the rave brings in large crowds. Don’t forget to wear your neon lycra.

Location:

29-32, The Oval London United Kingdom E2 9DT

10:30 am:  Breakfast-Cereal Killer Cafe

The best ideas come when your hungover. At least that can be said by Cereal Killer Cafe identical twin owners Alan and Gary Keery. The cafe is dedicated to all things cereal. The bowl sizes offered include small, medium and large. The cafe offers over 100 different cereals and 12 different milk options including choices for those who are vegan or lactose intolerant. They even have toppings from fresh fruit to mini Oreos. Located in trendy Shoreditch, this charming cafe recently opened its doors this past December. So go for the Cereal but stay for the Pop Tarts, which is what they serve as a side dish with the cereal.

Location:

139 Brick Lane, Shoreditch, London, E1 6SB.

11:30 am: The Last Tuesday Society’s Museum – Taxidermy Exhibition

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After you’ve had a proper morning with raving and eating niche cereals, head over to Hackney to visit The Last Tuesday Society Museum. The museum take its name from a society that was founded at Harvard by William James and has come to London in the form of a “pataphysical organisation.” The museum prides itself on featuring offbeat and quirky subject matter. Recent exhibitions have focused on taxidermy and domesticated aquatics pets and aquariums.

Location & Times:

11 Mare Street London E8 4RP

Wednesday-Sunday:11am-10pm

 1:30 pm: Lunch- Draughts/Board Game Cafe

10733771_987631584585406_678663191967762543_o boardgame cafe

After the Last Society’s Taxidermy exhibition, head on over to Draughts Board Game Cafe, also in Hackney. Play some board games and enjoy lunch. Opened in early November of last year, this cafe has a vast amount of board games to offer guests. If you have a childhood favorite, they will probably have it. In addition to honing your strategy skills against your friends, you can enjoy a pint and toget your gears turning. Only don’t go over board because the next stop on this jam packed journey involves a trip to Greenwich.

3:00 pm Meantime Brewery Tour

Proud of their Greenwich location, Meantime Brewery, has been heralded around London as one of the best micro-breweries. Lucky for the beer connoisseurs, the brewery host weekly tours of their brewery.  TimeOut says:

Tuesday evenings next year just got a little bit brighter. The Meantime Brewery in Greenwich has decided to open its doors to the public for weekly tours. Expect ample opportunity to learn about (as well as sample) brewmaster Alastair Hook’s award-winning beers.”

A comprehensive tour happens four days out of the week. Each tour is followed by a tutored tasting of a selection of beers.

Location & Times:

Lawrence Trading Estate, Blackwall Lane, London SE10 0AR.
Tel: +44 (0)20 8293 1111

Shop: Wed / Thurs / Fri: 5:00pm – 8:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 8:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 4:00pm

5:00pm Dinner: Wine & Charcuterie (W&C)

I admit, W&C aligns itself on the higher-end spectrum of all things hipster. But if reviews are any indication, the prices are well worth it. Located in Clapham, this renovated foodie haven opened its doors just last year after a large installment of the Clapham Old Town Regeneration Project. Originally a public lavatory, W&C is nothing less than spectacular. The menu is short and to the point with limited but flavorful options. Inside the bar, ham is hanging and electric candlesticks are scattered throughout the venue.  As for wine, the list consist of 10 whites and 10 reds along with certain roses and sparklers.

TimeOut/ @JoshKearns

TimeOut/ @JoshKearns

Location & Times:

The Pavement, Clapham Common, SW4

Mon-Fri: 6pm- late

Sat/Sun: Noon-late.

 7:30: Pillow Cinema

Opening its doors this past November, Pillow Cinema is a great “night in” night out.  PC offers a unique viewing experience, as viewers are allowed to watch movies on pillows for two. In fact the cinema offers tickets that valid for two, which is perfect for couples who want to catch a movie. The cinema was opened by the same owners who created Hot Tub Cinema. It features blockbusters, Indy dramas, thrillers and everything in between. You name it – they’ll show it. Quite often there are additional activities for the audience at each show as well.

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Location & Times

Pedley Street, London United Kingdom E1 5ES

*Check online for movie showings here

Loving  Apartments offers a number of apartments in London, that would be great to crash at after your Happy Hipster Day in London.

>Johnathan Redmond is an Advertising Undergraduate @ University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a keen interest in Fashion and exploring London Culture.

Paris Made for Kids

It’s never too early to start thinking about summer plans, especially when you have children to entertain all day. This can be even more difficult when you are on holiday in a location that you are not entirely familiar with.

Loving Apartments would like to lend a helping hand and recommend some great outdoor activities in Paris to keep your kids busy and to give you a breather.

Parc de la Villette

This massive park was designed by the French architect, Bernard Tschumi, as an urban redevelopment program from 1984 to 1987. During its construction Tschumi was able to transform this industrial space into a futuristic park for children, and it has even further developed into a huge cultural hub for Paris with several museums, theatres, themed  gardens and concert venues. But more importantly, the park is home to many imaginative park structures for children to play on. The most popular being The Garden of the Dragon  with a steel sculptural dragon with an 80 ft. slide and the Bamboo Garden with an enormous bamboo maze. This area will keep your kids entertained for hours, with plenty left over to do for days in the future.

Photo Credit: Christophe ALARY@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Christophe ALARY@Flickr.

Paris Plages

Photo Credit: Patrick Janicek@Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Patrick Janicek@Wikipedia.

Paris got smart and decided to bring the sandy beaches to the bank of the River Seine with the Paris Plages instead of having the locals travel out of the city for the summer scene. The city literally brings in truckloads of sand during the summer to create their own urban beach. Not only do the beaches give Parisians the opportunity to soak up the sun, but they also host a festival in late July and early August that includes bouncy houses, carnival games and concerts – a perfect event for your youngsters. If you aren’t in Paris during the festival, just simply take the chance to sun bathe and build sand castles. It’s not every day that you get to enjoy a beach in the heart of a city.

 

Jardin d’Acclimatation

This is the hot spot for all the Parisian tykes. The park has a little bit of everything- puppet shows, pony rides, a river ride, an aviary with hundreds of birds, a zoo, a sprinkler park, countless pieces of playground equipment for all ages, a train and a board-walk area with games and goodies. It’s a heaven on earth for kids. Parents, you will have no trouble keeping your little ones busy here. Napoleon III is the one to thank for this family-friendly space.

Photo Credit: Sylvain Leprovost@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Sylvain Leprovost@Flickr.

Hot Air Balloon at the Parc André Citroën

Photo Credit: Aero4@Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Aero4@Wikipedia.

Sure, there are plenty of buildings to climb in order to get a great city view. But a view from a hot air balloon? Now that’s extraordinary. The hot air balloon is also the largest in the world. Sounds expensive right? Well, you might be surprised to hear that the charge is €12 for adults and €6 for kids – very comparable to other admission rates. You also won’t have to fight the crowds that you’ll find at the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomph. However, it may be a good idea to call ahead to make sure that the weather conditions are fit for a ride with the kids.

Ménagerie at the Jardin des Plantes

This isn’t the largest zoo in Paris, but it is probably the most easily accessed in the Latin Quarter. It is also one of the oldest zoos, established in 1794. Kids will find over 1,800 animals at the zoo ranging from red pandas, snow leopards, crocodiles, turtles, snakes, orangutans and so many more. Everyone loves a good zoo, and Ménagerie at the Jardin des Plantes is superb. The zoo also offers special tours and encounters depending upon their calendar and season, and they are listed on their website.

Photo Credit: Rog01@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Rog01@Flickr.

> Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

 

 

A Week of Everything Italian

So if you’ve been tuning into the Loving Apartment‘s blog for the last couple of months, I, an American student studying abroad in London, have been relaying some of my travelling experiences and tips that I’ve picked up so far during my semester. Well, in late October, I had a one glorious week of fall break.

When I originally found out that we had such a lengthy break, I remember thinking: “What in the world will I do with so much free time?”

Italy! I chose to spend my Fall break touring Italy with a few close friends. Sunny, warm and romantic – it met all expectations and more. Okay, so maybe I didn’t experience too much romance while in Italy – unless you count my love affair with gelato.

Squeezing Italy into seven days is a challenge. It certainly deserves longer. However, it is possible to see most of the Italian highlights in a week with free time to spare for shopping, extra exploring or just simply basking in the sunlight.

Destination #1: Venice

Venice – a city unlike any other – a maze of winding corridors and alleyways. This is mostly due to the fact that traffic isn’t allowed into the city centre. Because of this, much of its historical integrity has remained intact over the years, creating a charming ambiance for locals and visitors alike. I must admit that the twisting, winding streets  made it easy to get lost. But quite frankly, who wouldn’t want to get a little lost among all the Venetian mask shops, pasta joints and  bakeries? Losing my way for a while was the best thing that happened to me in Venice, and I suggest the same to you. All the hidden gems are found during wandering.

But have no fear, there were plenty of signs to get us on the right path to see all the sites that we had in mind:

>The Doge’s Palace: This is a palace in the famous San Marco Square that used to be home of  the Venetian Doge (The name of the supreme ruler of Venice). The palace is now a huge museum and symbol of Venice with hundreds of massive and ornate rooms to visit including the courtyard, the Doge’s Apartments, the Institutional Chambers, the prison and the armouries.
>The Campanile di San Marco: A huge bell tower standing tall next to the Doge’s Palace on San Marco Square.
The Basilica di San MarcoThis impressive basilica is the the main cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice. The cathedral is one of the best examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture and is a monument to Venice’s rich history and magnificence with its art, religious contents and stunning architecture.
>Ponte di Rialto: Or more commonly referred to as the Rialto bridge, is a famous stone arch bridge of Venice that spans the Grand Canal. It is the oldest bridge in Venice and has become an icon for Venetian architecture. It’s hard to choose, but this was my top thing to see in Venice. So don’t miss it.

Now for my absolute favorite memory from Venice . . . the Gondola ride. I know, I know. Quite cliché, but it was absolutely lovely and so relaxing to glide through the serene canals after all the touring. There are gondola rides offered all along the canals and St. Mark’s Basin, so it is more than easy to snag one. If you’re really lucky, your gondolier will serenade you during the ride. I must say that ours was a real charmer.

Venice Blog

St. Mark’s Basin. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Destination #2: Florence

Ahhh, Florence. My city of exquisite views . . . and pizza. That’s right folks. I had the best pizza of my life there. The name of the little shop escapes me, and I’ve been unsuccessful in my attempts to find it online. However, it is located on the Piazza Duomo, which is a must see in Florence. So if you have a hankering for a good slice of pizza, peruse the square, and I’m sure you’ll bump into it.

Another list of all the incredible sites:

Brunelleschi’s Dome: We hiked up the 500 steps to the top of the dome of Florence’s main cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The view from up there is the highest in the city and gave us a ground-breaking view of the Tuscany countryside.
The Duomo: This is just a fancy term for the rest of the cathedral. The exterior of the cathedral was gorgeous with cream, mint, and pink hues of marble, and the interior was just as impressive with intricate mosaic tiles.
The Campanile de Giotto: While at the cathedral’s square, we also climbed up another 500 steps to the top of the clock tower right next to the cathedral. It wasn’t as high as the dome, but it gave a good view of the skyline that included the dome.
The Baptistery: This was a separate building from the cathedral and is officially called the Baptistery of Saint John. The ceiling of the Baptistery is remarkable. It is split into different painted layers, and each layer represents different Biblical stories. The baptistery’s doors, The Gates of Paradise, are another famous feature of the baptistery and depict Biblical tales as well.
The Uffizi Gallery: This is one of the most popular art galleries in both Florence and Italy itself. The gallery is home of the famous painting “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli. There was also a room entirely dedicated to Michelangelo’s paintings and sculptures.
Accademia Gallery: Another art gallery that is home to the renowned sculpture,”The David,” also made by Michelangelo.
Piazzale de Michelangelo: I’ve actually blogged about this site before, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again. It’s situated on top up a hill and is a hot spot for many street performers and artists. There is a nice staircase, so you can sit and watch the sun set over Florence and see the city lighted up from above at night.
Ponte Vecchio: Another world famous bridge in Italy that spans the Arno River. It’s well-known for its jewellry shops. We sat on another bridge parallel to it for quite some time, so we could admire the Medieval bridge as we soaked up the sun and ate lunch.
IMG_2277

Brunelleschi’s Dome. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Destination #3: Pisa

I’m going to be upfront with you. There’s not many notable places of interest in Pisa other than the Leaning Tower. The folks in Pisa probably wouldn’t like me saying so. Don’t get me wrong. The little city is adorable with shops and restaurants, and the locals were extremely friendly. However, my friends and I didn’t have too much time for meandering, so we were only in Pisa for two hours. This was plenty of time to find the tower, marvel at the architectural wonder and snap some memorable photos.

I also had my first gelato in Pisa. After that cone, I knew my life would never be the same.

Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Leaning Tower of Pisa. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen

Destination #4: Rome

Rome was the last city on our Italian agenda:

The Vatican City: Technically speaking, the Vatican City is its own country. So I suppose that I could say that we explored an entire country in a day! Here we saw the Raphael Rooms and the Borgia Apartments which are suite rooms in the Vatican Palace, now referred to as the Vatican Museum. We also saw the Sistine Chapel there. My neck started to hurt from gazing up at the beautiful ceilings.
St. Peter’s Basilica: This is the cathedral located in the Vatican City and is the location from which the Pope does all of his official papal addresses to the public. It is said to be the largest church in the world, and I’m sure one of the most ornate as well. St. Peter’s is perhaps the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture. It’s also where the Apostle Peter is buried, which I hadn’t realized until I was there. Hence, St. Peter’s Dome, huh? The dots all started to connect.
Trastevere District: Famous shopping and restaurant district in Rome. You’ll find some of the best pasta there.
The Colosseum: An elliptical ampitheatre in the city centre and the  infamous home of the gladiatorial contests, executions, animals hunts and other public spectacles. This site is considered to be one of the most remarkable  examples of Roman engineering and architecture. I couldn’t help but picture Russell Crowe from The Gladiator in the middle of the Colosseum while making my way around the massive arena.
Palantine Hill and the Roman Forums: These were my most enjoyable sights in Rome. Palantine Hill is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It used to be home to many elite Roman citizens, and the remnants of these luxurious homes still stand today. Palantine Hill is right next door to the Roman Forum which was the political center of Ancient Rome. There are many temples and buildings there that were established by Julius Caesar. It was hard to fathom how long some of the structures and ruins have survived.
> The Spanish Steps: These are around 150 steps that lead up to the Trinità dei Monti church. The staircase is impressive; but what’s more impressive about this place is how it is a social center of Rome. The steps were chockfull of people just sitting and chatting.
> The Pantheon: This is one of the most well-preserved buildings of Ancient Rome. It was the most popular and influential temple in Rome during its time and remains popular today. What’s most interesting about the building is that is it circular and has an open top. I hear it is gorgeous and almost magical to see during a snowfall.
The Trevi Fountain: This was one of my most anticipated sites in Rome. Unfortunately, it was under construction. We could hardly see the fountain, and it wasn’t filled with water either. However, there was a walkway over the fountain where the water normally is, so I suppose I got the chance to walk over the fountain which not many people can claim. To make up for all the wishes that couldn’t be made by tossing coins into the famous fountain, they had set up a small well to toss coins in, so we had to make due with that. I heard that they were almost done with the preservation work, so don’t fret if you are planning to visit.
Roman Colosseum Cropped

Roman Colosseum. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen.

I hope that this blog will help you to plan your next adventure to Italy, or at least get you to consider paying a visit. What is even more convenient is that Loving Apartments offers accommodation in Venice, Florence and Rome. Their self-catering apartments are  the perfect place to make your home while exploring.
>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

 

First Thursdays and Slam Fridays

One of the wonderful things about London is the accessibility to art. Be it contemporary or impressionist art, London offers highly regarded artists to emerging artists. While many think of the most popular galleries and museums like the National Gallery, Tate Modern or Saatchi Gallery, there are many less known and prestigious galleries found within London. These galleries come together  and run free events, exhibitions, workshops, talks and private views during special late openings. These late openings have become affectionately referred to as First Thursdays and Slam Fridays. The name of these events refer to the days in which they are hosted. The first Thursday and last Friday of each month features over 170 galleries and museums in East and South London that are open until 9 pm. The galleries’ websites compiles their top 5 exhibitions and even offer  free art walking and bus tours with leading curators and writers.

Whitechapel Gallery has been called London’s East End home for over a century. The gallery has premiered world-class artists from modern masters such as Frida Kahlo and Jackson Pollack to contemporary greats like Sophie Calle and Lucian Freud. Whitechapel has become a touchstone for contemporary art internationally. Whitechapel, along with its partners, has recently taken the lead in offering the public access to its collections with First Thursdays. Current exhibits include Artist’s Film International, which showcases films from around the world and select pieces from the V-A-C collection that displays some of the 20th century’s greatest artists. Past art galleries that have been featured during First Thursdays have included CANAL, Rich Mix and Raven Row.

Similarly, South London Gallery (SLG)  has a long history with Whitechapel opening its doors in Peckham in 1891. Since then, it has garnered an international reputation for its program of contemporary art exhibitions and live art events. Originally thought  of as the “gallery of the people of South London,” SLG now is a charity that receives ongoing support from the Arts Council of England, The Southwark Council, The Big Lottery and Outset Contemporary Art Fund.  SLG  offers Slam Fridays which is the late night opening of galleries in South London and is free to the public. The event also has its own publication and mobile app that optimizes the experience for visitors. Slam Fridays does not require a booking.

Loving Apartments offer a number of apartments close to these events. So the next time your in London and want to venture outside of the normal galleries, make sure to check out the First Thursdays and Slam Fridays.

 

Jonathan Redmond is an Advertising Undergraduate @ University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a keen interest in Fashion and exploring London Culture.

World-Class Opera: Hungarian State Opera House

A trip to Budapest would not be complete without a visit to the Hungarian State Opera House, also referred to by the locals as the Budapest Opera House. Even if you aren’t a fan of the opera, you’ll not want to miss this Neo-Renaissance masterpiece.

Photo Credit: PDXdj @ Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: PDXdj @ Wikipedia.

It goes without saying that the Hungarian State Opera House is home to exquisite operas, ballets and other rich musical programmes. There is a good reason why this opera house has gained international recognition as one of the finest opera houses in the world. However, it’s not just the music that attracts thousands of visitors, but also its architecture – inside and out.

Photo Credit: jasongerardderose@Flickr.

Photo Credit: jasongerardderose@Flickr.

Located in central Budapest, on Andrássy Avenue, the opera house was designed by the influential architect, Miklós Ybl, for the 19th century millennium celebrations. The construction of the opera house began in 1875 and was opened to the public in 1884. The outside façade of the opera house features some of the world’s greatest composers – Beethoven, Mozart and Verdi. Seated statues of Hungary’s own prominent composers, Ferenc Erkel and Franz Liszt, frame the main entrance along with two metal sphinxes that guard the opera house. Off to the right is the artist entrance; and to the left is the carriageway and the the Royal Staircase. The sweeping stone staircase was an important element of the building in the past for women to show off their extravagant gowns.

Once inside the opera house, the impressive foyer boasts grand marble columns supporting the arches. The floor is checkered with mosaic tiles resembling those of the ancient Greek. Awe inspiring frescoes depicting Olympus and Greek gods cover the ceiling, illuminated by a massive gilded chandelier. Every layer of the opera house features its own layout and decór, making it necessary to tour the entire building. The three-story main auditorium, capable of seating nearly 1,300 people, is half-mooned and lavished by golds and velvety reds. A vision of elegance.

Photo Credit: MarlaSinger7@Flickr.

Photo Credit: MarlaSinger7@Flickr.

You can imagine why the Hungarian State Opera House became one of the leading European cultural venues and still remains so today. Just simply seeing the opera house will be worth your time, but it would be even more special to see a performance in the magnificent space. The opera house’s main season is held from September to mid-June, offering around 50 major performances. For a schedule of the performances, visit the opera house’s official website.

Tickets range from 400 HUF to nearly 20,000 HUF, depending on the date of your chosen performance and seat location. As far as some seating tips, be cautious if you buy a ticket for the second or third rows because people sitting in the front rows may block your view. Also, if purchasing gallery tickets, you’ll want to buy seating in the middle because you’ll have an obstructed view of the stage from the sides. However, whether you have best seat in the house or the furthest one from the stage, you’ll still have a lovely evening with the phenomenal music, dancing and architecture.

Loving Apartments offers accommodation within less than a five minute walk from the opera house.

>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.

All About the Romance

Valentine’s Day in Paris. The iconic city of love. *Cue the swoon.*

Okay, so it might be cliché for lovers to spend time in Paris. But folks, it’s cliché for a reason. This elegant and fabulous city is the ideal place to rendezvous with your partner.

However, instead of giving you the same old activities – the love lock bridge or  kissing on the Eiffel Tower  – I’ve done my best to wrangle up some unique and romantic ideas for you to surprise your significant other.

The “I Love You” Wall

Everyone knows about the love lock bridge. But what about the “I Love You” wall? This romantic wall is found in the middle of the Abbesses Garden in Montmartre. The wall has an area of 40 square meters and is covered with thousands of different ways to say “I Love You” in over 300 languages. If you are found speechless in your lover’s presence, the wall will lend you a few tips of what to say. The wall was created by two artists, Frederic Baron and Claire Kito, to honour love and eternal adoration. Frederic Baron collected all the phrases by knocking on the doors of the embassies and asking for their unique expressions of love. So lock hands instead of padlocks, and take a stroll past this charming wall.

Photo Credit: ConstatineD@Flickr.

Photo Credit: ConstatineD@Flickr.

A Night Out to a Blues Club

Photo Credit: evoo73@Flickr.

Photo Credit: evoo73@Flickr.

Blues and jazz music is full of soul with its soothing saxophone, harmonica and heart-felt lyrics. Its mood is contagious. You’ll find yourself sweetly seduced by the end of the evening at Le Caveau des Oubliettes, the oldest jazz club in Paris. There’s a bar in the upstairs of the club, but the place that you’ll want to be is in the 12th century underground wine cellar where the music is performed. The perfect space to get cosy and relax with a glass of wine.

Take a Row Near the Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is a bustling tourist destination, but you may find the grand canal next to the palace less crowded. Why not enjoy your time together on the water and rent a small row boat built for two for a romantic float down the river? Then you could gaze longingly into one another’s eyes without interruption, admire the palace from a new vantage point and say hello to all the ducks.

Photo Credit: jasonb42882@Flickr.

Photo Credit: jasonb42882@Flickr.

Prepare a Picnic in Parc des Buttes Chaumont

Pack a blanket, some pastries and a bottle of wine, and make your way to Parc des Buttes Chaumont – the fifth largest park in Paris and arguably the most gorgeous. Once there. you and your partner can marvel at the Temple de la Sibylle, a miniature version of the famous ancient Roman Temple of Vesta. Then make sure to venture through the rest of the Parisian park to enjoy the green landscape with cliffs, grottos and waterfalls. The views are breath-taking and off the beaten tourist path, so there will most likely be privacy for a head-spinning kiss with your love.

Photo Credit: Lombana@Wikipedia.

Photo Credit: Lombana@Wikipedia.

Get Lost in the Winding Street of Paris

Photo Credit: Panoramas@Flickr.

Photo Credit: Panoramas@Flickr.

Rent a bicycle with your special someone and just wander the winding, unexplored streets of Paris to find those hidden gems that you’ll cherish forever – an aromatic bakery, a quirky boutique or a quaint book shop. Stroll through gardens and courtyards. Sit on a secluded bench and simply spend time together people watching, chatting or showing a little affection. The French won’t even bat an eyelash; after all, it is the city of love. In the end, just enjoy the moment with your love because that is all that matters.

To ensure that you take advantage of each hour during your romantic Valentine’s Day in Paris, you’ll want to find a place to spend the night or even an entire weekend. Loving Apartments offers over 300 apartments throughout the city, giving you and your significant other a place to relax after a lovely day that you’ll be sure to cherish for years to come.

>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.