Tallinn from the RadissonBlu, by Penne Cole
“A typical Estonian summer is grey and rainy but you seem to have brought the sun with you,” commented my friend.
We are lounging in the sun, admiring the view from the RadissonBlue’s rooftop cafe. Estonia’s…
Photo by superfantastic
I love meat, so I can’t imagine a worse fate than being allergic to it. But it seems like a bite from the Lone Star Tick, which lives in the South-eastern states of America, will make you just that - allergic to meat. Symptoms include hives and itching four to six hours after eating beef, pork or lamb. In serious cases, you may even develop an irregular heart beat.
So when hiking in areas where the Lone Star Tick lives, do remember to pack your insecticide. For more information, read my full article here.
Sweet flammkuchen, by Penne Cole
When travelling to tourist hotspots, finding a restaurant with great local food, a place where the locals go, where there isn’t any of the touristy kitsch is like finding the holy grail. Dorfschanke in Heidelberg, Germany,…
Aerial view of Bruges, by Penne Cole
Panting slightly, I flatten myself against the wall, trying to make enough room for the person heading down to pass. I am in the narrow stairway of the Belfried or belfry in Bruges. The staircase spirals upwards for…
By the sea, by Penne Cole
My favourite way to get home after a long day at work was to take the ferry. The gentle rocking of the ship starts to soothe my frazzled nerves as soon as I get on board. Taking a seat outdoors by the railing, I can feel the…
Chez Ma Cousine, by Penne Cole
Switzerland is a notoriously expensive place. On my road trip from France to Italy through Switzerland, I found that everything, from the accommodation to the food, and even the petrol, was more expensive than in…
Quinta de Regaleira, by Penne Cole
Quinta de Regaleira is an adult version of a fairytale wonderland. Located in Sintra, Portugal, about half an hour’s drive away from Lisbon, the Regaleira estate was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good…
Parma, by Penne Cole
We are on our way to Bollogna from Lake Como and there is no time for anything but a quick pit stop in Parma, Italy. It seems like the rest of the world agrees with us as the city is eerily deserted when we arrive. It is a grey,…
Our waiter bounces around like the ball in a pinball machine. He speeds past our table, trying to translate the Italian-only menu into something that we can understand. Halfway through the appetizers, he bounces off to check something with the kitchen…
Le Moulin de Fourges restaurant, by Penne Cole
It is a perfect spring day, with not a cloud in the blue sky as we drive through rolling green fields. We are making a day trip to Monet’s gardens in Giverny, and our first stop is the picturesque Le Moulin…
Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, by Penne Cole
We drive past it at first, unsure if we have reached the spot despite the small country road being thronged with tourists who are seemingly deaf to the rhythmic chugging of our diesel engine. Monet’s house…
One of the things that made me so excited to visit Cappadocia was the cave dwellings. Cave hotels are a common accommodation option in the region, although our choice, the Sato Cave Hotel, doesn’t really give the cave hotel a good name. Cave dwellings in Cappadocia date back millennia. Natural caves were settled as early as 4,000 BC. Even today, several churches can be found hidden in the cliffs.
Fresco in a hidden church, Ihlara Valley
The settlers started to fashion the caves into dwellings, with whole cities carved out of the rock, much like Petra in Jordan.
Cities carved out of the rock
Perhaps it is for this reason that the people had no problem living in underground cities. These cities pepper Cappadocia, and were used by the early Christians as strongholds when they came under attack. Several of these underground cities are now open to tourists. The largest, Derinkuyu, extends more than 80 meters underground and just 10% of it has been explored. The caves were extensive and designed for extensive stay. Chapels, kitchens, larders, even barns for animals were part of the complex. The underground cities were clearly used for defensive purposes, with evidence of traps and heavy stone doors designed to seal off entrances still visible today.
Underground cities; from newgoreme.com
The easiest way to see these attractions is to follow a guided tour. We chose the Green Tour, which covers the Derinkuyu underground city, the Ihlara valley, the Selima monastery, which is a monastery carved into the rock, and more. The tour cost 90 Liras per person and included lunch, all transport, as well as entry fees to the attractions. A clear advantage of the tour is that you won’t have to worry about getting lost and they have good English speaking guides. However, you will be taken to the obligatory jewellery-making factory at the end of the tour.
The closest airport to Goreme, the center of the tourist industry in Cappadocia, is Nevsehir International Airport. Turkish Airlines run twice-daily flights from Istanbul to Nevsehir. The airport is half an hour away from Goreme by car. Airport transfers can usually be arranged by your hotel, and cost 13 Euros.
Alternatively, you can fly into Kayseri airport, which is an hour away by car. However, airport transfers cost the same and there are many more flight options to Kayseri from Istanbul.
Located roughly in the middle of Turkey, Cappadocia is renowned for the natural rock formations that were formed as a result of three simultaneous volcanic eruptions a few millennia ago. The eruptions left behind three layers of sedimentation: the hardened lava at the bottom, the soft tuff in the middle, and the hardest basalt on top. Over the years, time and water have sculpted the landscape into craggy cliffs and some rather phallic fairy chimneys.
These rock formations have become a major tourist attraction, and one of the best ways to see them is via a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. On any given day, between 90 and 100 multi-coloured balloons can be seen riding the winds.
There are several hot air balloon companies in Goreme, with prices ranging from a 100 Euro “local’s” price for a basic flight to more than 200 Euros for a flight with the works, including champagne. The travel agent we spoke to in Goreme recommended Rainbow Balloons. If possible, try to book early as, depending on availability, you may be able to get a smaller basket with a 4-person capacity. Larger baskets take up to 20 passengers.
If you prefer to get up close and personal, Love Valley is within walking distance of Goreme. You will have to walk along a highway to get there, but it is safe, particularly if you do it in broad daylight. Do remember to bring lots of water with you. It is possible to hike to Uchisar via Love Valley. However, the trails are poorly marked so it may be best to return to Goreme. We did the round trip from Goreme to the Love Valley and back within 3 hours, although at least half an hour of that was spent trying to find the trail to Uchisar.
Fairy chimneys in Love Valley, Cappadocia
I spent a lazy afternoon wandering through the Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris last weekend. Sprawling across 110 acres, the cemetery is the largest in Paris, with more than a million bodies buried there.
Opened in 1804 by Napoleon, the cemetery was not a very popular burial ground back in the day. Parisians considered it too far from the city and the Roman Catholics refused to be buried on unconsecrated ground. Desperate to boost “sales”, the managers arranged to have the remains of famous French personalities like La Fontaine and Moliere moved there. The bodies of Pierre Abelard and Heloise were subsequently transferred in 1817. The strategy worked as more and more people wanted to be buried with the famous.
Today, the cemetery houses such internationally renown personages as Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and more.
Clockwise from top left: Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin
The Pere Lachaise cemetery is a veritable necropolis, a true city of the dead. There are wide tree-lined boulevards, complete with road signs; there are statues for decorations; and there are, of course, doors to keep the unwanted out.
Portals at Pere Lachaise
A tree-lined boulevard
You may even come across a faithful companion.
A cemetery may seem like an odd tourist destination in Gay Paris. But with its famous residents, it’s not surprising to find that Pere Lachaise is one of the most visited cemeteries in the world. If you need some peace and quiet, if you need to pause for a breath before diving back into the whirlwind of Paris, the Pere Lachaise cemetery is a great place to visit.