Monthly Archives: October 2016

Best Architecture for travellers

Don’t know the difference between a plinth and a pilaster? You don’t need to be an expert to recognise a good building but understanding a little about architectural history and theory can make a walk around an unfamiliar city all the more rewarding.

Get to grips with the basics and see how many styles you can identify while on the road with our simple guide.

Era: 850 BC to 476 AD
The mother of all architectural styles, the elegant proportions and stately poise of classical architecture sired a legion of later revivals. The grand temples and civic structures of ancient Greece and Rome followed strict rules known as the ‘orders’ of architecture. The three most important are Doric, Ionic and Corinthian; all easily recognisable from their capitals (the decorative bit at the top of the columns).
How to spot it: Doric: plain capitals. Ionic: scroll-like capitals. Corinthian: elaborate capitals with carved acanthus leaves.
Where to find it: the Colosseum or Pantheon in Rome; the Acropolis, Athens.

Era: 330-1453
With glittering mosaics and more domes than a field full of mole hills, Byzantine architecture was built to impress. Walking into a lavishly decorated basilica with high domed ceilings and a blanket of gold ornamentation, worshipers would have been under no illusions about the power and wealth of the emperors.
How to spot it: multiple domes and sumptuous decoration.
Where to find it: Aya Sofya, Istanbul; St Mark’s Basilica, Venice; Sacré Coeur, Paris (Byzantine revival).

Era: 900-1200
The heavyweight of medieval architecture, Romanesque (called Norman in the UK) buildings were big, brawny and simple. A lack of technical know-how meant thick walls, massive columns and rounded arches were necessities while windows were small, vaults were built like barrels and decoration was confined to lozenges, chevrons or zigzags.
How to spot it: rounded arches and thick columns.
Where to find it: Leaning Tower of Pisa; San Gimignano, Italy; Durham Cathedral, England.

Era: 12th-16th centuries
The lovechild of improved building techniques and European prosperity, the Gothic style spawned buildings that were taller, lighter and brighter than ever before. Embraced by the church and state, the new style quickly swept across Europe. The key element is the pointed arch but the strength of the Gothic revival from the mid-18th to mid-20th century means that many you see will be much later in date.
How to spot it: pointed arches, narrow columns, ribbed vaulting, towering spires, flying buttresses.
Where to find it: Notre Dame, Paris; Westminster Abbey, London; Cologne Cathedral, Germany.

Era: 14th-17th century Europe
It’s revision time. Remember those classical orders of architecture? They’re back in fashion. As classical philosophy and ideas on arts and literature were revived, architects too returned to the proportion and symmetry of classical Greek structures but embellished them in lavish ways.
How to spot it: classical style of columns, pediments and domes refined and developed.
Where to find it: Florence and Milan Cathedrals; Louvre, Paris; St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
Baroque and rococo

Era: 1600-1750
With all the pomp and pomposity of a powdered wig, baroque architecture was a sugary confection of extravagant ornamentation. The baroque period added more elaborate decorative features to buildings than ever before and by the late 18th-century had become the totally theatrical rococo, where every surface was awash with flamboyant flourishes.
How to spot it: extensive ornamentation, ceiling frescoes, dramatic use of light.
Where to find it: Versailles, France; Trevi Fountain, Rome; St Paul’s, London.

Era: mid-18th century Europe
Repulsed by the sickly-sweet excesses of the rococo era, prim and proper neoclassicism returned to ancient Greece and Rome for inspiration. Unlike during the Renaissance, it played strictly by the rules in a sometimes severe reincarnation of the original styles.
How to spot it: columns, pediments and domes in strictly proportional designs.
Where to find it: The White House, Washington, DC; Hermitage, St Petersburg; Brandenburg Gate, Berlin.
Art nouveau

Era: 1890-1910
Curvy, leafy and forever associated with Paris thanks to its iconic Metro entrances, art nouveau was a short-lived movement that saw weaving, plant-like designs and flowing natural forms permeate everything from furniture design to architecture.
How to spot it: flowing lines, organic forms and decorative plant-like designs.
Where to find it: Musée Horta, Brussels; Paris Metro entrances; Lavirotte Building, Paris.
Art deco

Era: 1915-1930
All the glamour and sophistication of the roaring 20s is reflected in art deco architecture and its expensive materials and clean, geometric design. Flappers danced in jazz clubs, the great Gatsbys threw wild parties and architects cleverly used minimal decoration to create a sense of unbridled luxury.
How to spot it: use of chrome, geometric motifs and strong colours.
Where to find it: Chrysler Building; Empire State Building; Miami Beach; Napier, New Zealand.


Era: early 20th century to 1980s
Austere, minimalist and unrepentantly plain, modernism insisted design should be dictated by function. Rectangular and cubist shapes, reinforced concrete, open-plan design, large windows and a lack of ornamentation are its hallmarks.
How to spot it: plain, rectilinear buildings using reinforced concrete and open-plan designs.
Where to find it: Boston City Hall; Barbican, London; Fallingwater, Pennsylvania; Brasília.
High-tech architecture

Era: 1960-1985
The architectural equivalent of wearing your clothes inside out, high-tech architecture gleefully embraced new technology and materials and showed it all off on the outside. Inside, these buildings had flexible layouts with moveable room divisions.
How to spot it: pipes and structural elements on the outside of the building.
Where to find it: Centre Pompidou, Paris; HSBC HQ, Hong Kong; Patscenter, Princeton.

Era: 1960s to present
Experimental, controversial and playful, postmodernism replaced the puritanical principles of modernism with fun, irony and bright colours. Anything goes in this movement making it hard to recognise, but whimsical references to classical architecture were common and frequently provoked scorn.
How to spot it: bright colours mixed with odd shapes and a nod to the classical orders.
Where to find it: Staatsgalerie extension, Stuttgart; The Portland Building; MI6 London; M2 Tokyo.

Era: 1960s to present
Wilder than a Hollywood sci-fi set department, neo-futurism blends the latest technologies with brilliant minds and unbridled creativity, pushing materials and concepts beyond all previous boundaries. Buildings bend and twist in mysterious ways, lean at impossible angles and sweep along in undulating curves.
How to spot it: sharp free-form curves and fragmented geometry.
Where to find it: Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, Azerbaijan; City of Arts & Sciences, Valencia; The Gherkin (30 St Mary’s Axe), London.

Special Information About Honeymoon Trip

Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge, tied the knot, sealed the deal and said ‘I do’. You’ve well and truly earned some downtime with your new Mr or Mrs. But despite what the movies would have you believe, honeymoons aren’t always without their stresses. Here are our top tips for avoiding honeymoon pitfalls and making your getaway the trip of a lifetime.

Romantic couple with retro bike on vacation watching sunset
Schedule in some downtime

You’ve just thrown the biggest party of your life. You’ve people-managed warring family members, negotiated hard with scores of suppliers, and spent entire evenings hunched over a table plan. You’re pretty much a multi-tasking superhero. But even superheroes need to recharge their batteries now and again.
So even if you’re both full-on adventure junkies, don’t plan to rush headlong into a jam-packed schedule of activities, especially if you’re in a new city where you haven’t found your feet. Trust us: leave the first couple of days fairly free. Acclimatise, get to know one another again in a pressure-free zone and bask in all those wedding memories. Your brain will thank you for letting it catch up. Then chuck yourself into the fun feet first.
Resist the ‘should’ brigade

A two-week beach break doesn’t quite float your boat? Don’t feel you have to cave to others’ expectations of what a honeymoon ‘should’ be. Make no mistake: the wedding business is a booming industry, and there are plenty of people chomping at the bit to profit from your love for one another. If what you both truly desire is an all-inclusive trip to a far-flung white-sand wonderland, go for it to your hearts’ content. If the idea of lying on a beach for longer than five minutes makes you break out in a rash, don’t sweat it.
Stats show that more couples than ever before are looking for adventure and activities on their honeymoons. They’ve figured out what the packaged holiday companies don’t want them to: that romance is whatever you make it, whether that’s a dozen roses, a canyoning day trip, a windy clifftop walk, or (ahem) screeching Pulp’s Common People at each other at the tops of your voices in a private karaoke booth.
Cruising through the cliffs of Ko Phi Phi Leh in a long-tail boat. Ko Phi Phi Leh, Krabi, Thailand
Make your budget go further

If you’re on a tight budget, the idea of throwing caution to the wind and treating yourselves can be a major source of stress. Consider setting up a honeymoon-funding wedding list. Not only will it take the pressure off your finances and let you splurge guilt-free, but it’s a wonderful way to incorporate those you love into a very special trip. Set up your list to allow contributions to specific activities: your guests will feel they’ve given you a tangible experience (especially if you add a personal touch and send them a photo of you enjoying their gift), and you can toast each present-giver as you go and feel almost as though they’re with you on your trip.
A touch of luxury is well-justified on a honeymoon, but don’t forget about the budget options too. You may well find it’s at street stalls you find the best, most authentic meals, and in the most pedestrian of experiences that you meet the most genuine people and create memories that last a lifetime.
Watch out for decision fatigue

You’ll probably have made a lot of decisions in the course of your wedding planning. Colour scheme, venue, menu, flowers, pocket squares, chair covers, table runners, lighting, favours, cutlery… It’s exhausting to even think about. And if you jet off on honeymoon straight after the wedding, it can lead to an extreme case of Decision Fatigue Syndrome (DFS). It’ll hit you at the oddest times: you’ll be happily exploring, not a care in the world, when all of a sudden you’re faced with a simple choice – ‘will it be beer or wine?’ – and BAM. Your mind empties. Your eyes glaze. You don’t know. Wine’s nice. Beer’s nice. Choose one? You couldn’t possibly! What do you want? Beer. No, wine! No, beer! Your palms become slick. You can’t. Panic.
This is entirely normal. We recommend that your partner stays on the lookout for symptoms of DFS so they can step in, calmly and quietly, to save the day. Be mindful that you may both have to act as the rescuing party at different points, so it pays to choose wisely for your partner at this point. (And, for the record, if you’re the rescuing party in this instance, play it safe and order both.)
Embrace the bicker

‘Nothing worth having comes easy,’ goes the saying. Travel, just like marriage, is a test – of ourselves, our limits, our beliefs and our perceptions of the world. It’s worth remembering this (of both travel and marriage) when you’re both hopelessly lost, without a map or data, exhausted, hangry, and arguing for all you’re worth about how to find the hotel. And how, frankly, you did say bringing the map would be useful, but, you know, whatever…
Conventional wisdom tells us that honeymooners should spend every second gazing lovingly into one another’s eyes. We politely call conventional wisdom out on this one. Bickering is not failure: it’s how we learn to understand each other better. Chances are you aren’t used to spending 24 hours a day with your new spouse, and no matter how well you get on, being thrown into constant company with each other can ignite irritations, especially in the challenging environment that travel inhabits. Despite – or because of – those challenges, travel makes us better people, and you’ll be a better couple for it, squabbles and all, as long as you can laugh about it afterwards.
Don’t forget the best bit, either: making up…
Coping with the comedown

It can be a monumental crash back down to earth in the weeks following your honeymoon. The wedding has been and gone, the honeymoon is over and you’re back, with the best party of your life and the trip of a lifetime behind you (along with most of your disposable income for the next decade). You may find it helps to push rosy retrospection to one side at this point and remind yourself just how free you are from planning, well, anything. Those countless evenings spent making wedding favours and cursing the day you agreed to this circus? They are all behind you, my friend.

Best Places to Go For Relaxation In March

When relaxation is the name of the game, we’ve got just the thing for you – think beaches, wine, sun-kissed isles and a healthy dose of cool culture.

From Antigua to Australia, settle into your slice of paradise where whale watching, snorkelling, beach-bumming and vineyard-hopping will be the only things on your to-do list.
Enjoy a spring coastal break in San Diego, USA

‘America’s Finest City’ – or so the local claim boasts – is deceptively laid-back despite its size. And though summer is hotter and drier, March is still plenty warm, and also offers better value and shorter queues at its big attractions, of which there are many.
There are the beaches, of course: Mission has its wooden roller coaster, surfers head to Pacific Beach; Moonlight’s a family favourite; La Jolla’s the place for kayaking and snorkelling; hit Del Mar for peace and sweeping ocean views; and Coronado… well, it’s just beautiful. Balboa Park, with its museums and zoo, is uncrowded in March, while the bars and restaurants of the Gaslamp Quarter are as lively as ever. Go north towards Carlsbad to be dazzled by the ranunculus flowers at the Flower Fields, or to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to hike clifftop trails – watch for dolphins and migrating grey whales between December and March.
Trip plan: San Diego’s airport is absurdly (but conveniently) close to downtown – just a couple of miles from the Gaslamp Quarter, as the crow flies.
Need to know: Check dates for Spring Break, when school and college kids flood town.
Other months: Mar-May & Sep-Nov – warm weather, not too crowded; Jun-Aug – very hot; Dec-Feb – cool.
Hand Pressing Wine, Rockford Wines Barossa Valley South Australia Australia
Wind among Australia’s wineries and beaches at grape-harvest time

Come March, the grape-pickers are busy plucking bunches from the vines – and it’s the perfect time to roam the rolling hills south of Adelaide. While the Barossa, northeast of the state capital, gets the bulk of the wine tourists, the Fleurieu Peninsula offers a diverse menu of fine vineyards – some 70-plus cellar doors, dominated by hearty Shiraz vintages – plus artsy towns such as Willunga, kitsch Victor Harbour, and a gorgeous coastline, with sandy shores along Gulf St Vincent and surf breaks such as those at Middleton and Christies Beach.
Trip plan: You could base yourself in Adelaide and explore from there, but better to noodle south and spend the night in McLaren Vale or at one of the beaches, roaming the wineries by day.
Need to know: If you’re feeling active, the 750-mile (1200 km) Heysen Trail winds from Cape Jervis at the tip of the peninsula to the Flinders Ranges – tackle a short stretch to justify another gourmet dinner.
Other months: Sep-May – spring to autumn most pleasant; Jun-Aug – winter.
For bright Caribbean sunshine and cool breezes head to Antigua

Antigua has a beach for every day of the year – or so the legend goes. Whether or not there are 365 separate stretches of sand on the island, it’s true that you won’t want for a patch of soft, golden-tinted shoreline on which to lounge.
March sees a lull in tourist arrivals after the midwinter peak and before Easter, but the weather is still dry and hurricane-free. Antigua is a family-friendly paradise, too, with activities galore and a piratical air – venture to Nelson’s Dockyard or the atmospheric, 18th-century Fort James for a bit of maritime history, snorkel the colourful reefs or try a bit of bodysurfing.
Trip plan: International flights serve VC Bird Airport in Antigua’s north, near the capital, St John’s; the other significant centre is around the dual coves and historic sites of Falmouth Harbour and English Harbour in the south. But with its compact 13-mile (21 km) length and beaches all around the island, it’s easy to access all parts of the island.
Need to know: March is towards the end of the mating season for frigate birds – look for the throat sacs of courting males at Codrington on neighbouring Barbuda, one of the world’s largest breeding colonies.
Other months: Dec-Apr – driest; May-Jun – hot; Jul-Nov – showers; Jul – Carnival.
Visit Sri Lanka for chilling, culture, cetaceans and carnivores in the dry season

Sri Lanka is complicated – not least the weather: much of it gets hit by monsoons around May and October, while the north and east get soaked November and December. Come in March, when weather’s good all over, wildlife at parks such as Yala and Uda Walawe – home to leopards, elephants, monkeys and more – comes out to drink at waterholes, blue and sperm whales cruise the coast, and hiking Adam’s Peak is most pleasant.
Hit the beaches of the west for gorgeous sweeps of sand, and the south for peace and surf, but be sure to explore inland – sacred city Kandy, with its Buddha tooth relic; the ‘Lion Rock’ topped with an ancient palace at Sigiriya; and the ruins of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the ‘Cultural Triangle’. Make time to sample the glorious food, a blend of South Indian, Arab, Malay and Portuguese flavours.