Category Archives: Europe

Cyprus – An Unexpected Christmas Destination

When most people think of taking an international trip at Christmas they either think of someplace balmy like Hawai’i or known for Christmas like Germany’s Christmas Markets – a less expected place is the middle of the Mediterranean in winter – Cyprus, for example.
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While the Med can be stormy in winter, the temperatures in Cyprus actually are quite nice – hovering in in the 60s through most of the Christmas season and rarely dipping into the 50s. Some days are in the high 70s and 80s (these temperatures in Fahrenheit – the temperature rarely dips below 20 C in the Christmas season). It’s not just the climate that makes Cyprus a great destination though.

Cyprus has a long Byzantine Christian history and the season is festive with age-old traditions unique to the region. Among them are plenty of eating and drinking of local delicacies. Cypriots traditionally eat dried figs, nuts, and special loaves of bread called ‘Christopsomo’ (Christ Bread) on Christmas Eve. Honey cakes, walnut cakes, pies, roast lamb, stuffed Turkey and other familiar seasonal delicacies are also eaten on Christmas day.
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Visitors will likely see crosses wrapped in basil which have been sprinkled in holy water and adorn the doors of villagers. These aromatic wards are to keep gnome-like creatures called the kallikantzari away during the holidays. Cyprus is steeped in magic and ceremony with processions, performances, and traditional celebrations leading up to Christmas itself (Christouyenna). The most important festival is held in Eleftheria in the city of Nicosaia on Christmas Day.

Perhaps the best reason to visit Cyprus during the holidays is to take advantage of the cheaper prices for hotels and flights to Cyprus. Visitors can get steep discounts during the winter months and even car rentals tend to be heavily discounted which makes exploring the island an activity that won’t break your bank.

Cyprus is known for it’s wineries and even has the world’s oldest wine – so don’t forget to sample the vino while you are there. Wine tourism has become a favorite activity in the last few years and there are well established wine routes and tours available – so no need to assign a designated driver.

Finally, as if there weren’t already enough reasons to visit Cyprus during the holidays – spa breaks are the gift that keeps on giving as you get to relax and return home from your holiday in better form than that you went in. Whether you choose to soak in mineral rich waters, enjoy a traditional steam bath, or get a massage worthy of a Greek hero – you will go home feeling refreshed and ready to come back for your next holiday.

Three Notable Airport Hotels in the UK

A look into airport parking near hotels

These days, an increasing number of top-notch hotels have been working closely with airports to provide both parking and lodging services to a wide range of tourists. Staying in a hotel room the night before will certainly reduce the overall stress and hassle of the entire process, especially if you have an early flight. Anyway, here are just three of the many fine hotels that are conveniently located near some of the UK’s most prominent airports.

Courtyard by Marriott
First off, the Courtyard by Marriott is a 10-minute walk from Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal. Besides offering reasonably priced rates on accommodation and parking, the Courtyard by Marriott provides “Park Here, Fly There” packages. Essentially, these packages allow tourists to enjoy overnight accommodations, in addition to eight or 15 days parking. The Courtyard by Marriott’s proximity to Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal is certainly convenient for tourists who are interested in having multiple parking options. A UK parking service company notes that the South Terminal offers two different Long Stay car parks – a self-parking space and a Long Stay Plus option.

Sheraton Heathrow Hotel
Less than 10 minutes from the world-renowned Heathrow Airport, the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel currently offers 426 rooms and a parking space for up to 236 cars. Additionally, the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel offers a fine selection of Hotel and Parking options. Tourists can choose from three-day, eight-day, 15-day, and 21-day Hotel and Parking packages. While all of the aforementioned packages offer one-night accommodations, the three-day package only applies to weekend arrivals; the rest of the packages involve all-week arrivals.

Holiday Inn Express
Only 600 meters from the Luton Airport in London, the Holiday Inn Express is the closest hotel to the passenger terminal. Indeed, walking between the passenger terminal and the hotel should take no more than 10 minutes. The Holiday Inn Express has a 24-hour business center that’s particularly useful for printing out boarding cards and other important documents. All of the guest rooms are triple glazed and air conditioned, while the conference rooms can fit up to 56 people. The Holiday Inn Express can also provide rollaway beds or sofa beds in a wide variety of rooms. Of course, the Holiday Inn Express offers cheap hotel and holiday parking for up to 15 days parking.

Charming Aromas: Exploring Vienna’s Coffee Culture

There’s nothing like a good cup of coffee. But almost more important than the actual latte, cappuccino or drip is where you are when you’re drinking it. The charming Viennese coffeehouse culture places the city’s cafés on the must-see list while you’re on a weekend break in Vienna. For a different perspective on Austria’s capital — plus some much needed caffeine for those fighting jet lag — you should consider touring them.

Back in time

Though there were a couple coffeehouses scattered across Europe already, the first coffeehouse in Vienna opened its doors in the late 1600s. Battle of Vienna hero Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, or Georg Franz Kolschitzky as he’s often referred to in German, reportedly started the very first Viennese coffee house in 1683, with coffee beans left by the opposition.

Coffeehouses grew in popularity and became a place for friends to meet up, intellectuals to browse the papers and writers and poets to compose. The late 19th and early 20th centuries in particular saw a rise in prominent writers choosing to work within the quaint atmosphere of Viennese cafés, with their work now known as ‘coffee house literature.’

Viennese coffeehouses became a home away from home with some — including Austrian writer and poet Peter Altenberg — even having their mail delivered there.

Coffee culture, or cultural coffee?

The Viennese coffeehouse culture today sees many of the same traditions carried out. Marble tabletops and strong coffee greet you. You’re more than welcome to sit and read, write, or play cards and there’ll never be anyone rushing you out the door. Customers are often treated to live piano music in the evening hours, giving you all the more reason to sit and make yourself comfortable.

The servers are kind; they’ll refill your glass of water but otherwise leave you alone. Grab a few postcards or a journal to write in when you’re in town — who knows, you may be the next famous face to compose their work there!

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The cafés to be

As far as where to go, there are more than a few charming, traditional Viennese cafés to choose from. Café Central, which opened its doors in 1876, is steeped in tradition. Located in Vienna’s Old Town, this café became an intellectual hub for people including Leon Trotsky, Sigmund Freud and Adolf Hitler.

Café Landtmann’s location, on the bottom floor of the neo-baroque Palais Lieben-Auspitz, makes it another coffeehouse worth seeing. Near the University, Town Hall and spectacular Burgtheater, this café is where it’s at!

Finally, Café Prückel shows off a slightly different vibe. Its 1950s design will allow you to travel back in time, to a place where a strong cup of coffee and slice of apple strudel is all that matters. An added bonus? Live piano music several nights a week.

Are you looking to see a different side of vibrant Vienna? Then why not grab a simple cup of coffee.

Image by indigotimbre, used under Creative Commons licence.

Author’s bio

Shirley Beale is a foodie and traveller. She loves cultural experiences and tries to visit a many as she can of the world’s museums.