Category Archives: Travel Adventures

Ukraine Travel Guide

Ukraine is a fairly easy destination to get to by plane, with direct flights to the capital Kiev from many of Europe’s major cities, including London, Rome, Milan, Munich and Vienna. Ukraine can also be reached directly by train from Berlin and Vienna.



A visa isn’t required to visit Ukraine for residents of countries in the European Union, or for citizens of a number of other countries, including the United States, Canada, Israel, South Korea and Japan. Though conflict in Ukraine is ongoing, the western and central parts of the country are not directly affected compared to the east. For additional peace of mind when visiting Ukraine, however, getting yourself covered with some good travel insurance is advisable.



Places To Visit 



Kiev



Kiev has been a city for around 1500 years and boasts some strikingly beautiful architecture, such as the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra and the National Opera House. For getting round the city, Kiev’s Metro system is the best option for both speed and affordability. Among the family friendly places to visit in Kiev are the two aqua parks, Dream Town Aqua Park and Aqua Park Terminal, and the unique St Sophia’s Cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



Biosphere Reserves



Ukraine has two biosphere reserves of note – the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve and the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve. The Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, which is close to Rakhiv, has both rare plants and creatures in an environment that consists of virtually untouched forest amid a rolling landscape. The significance of this area was recognised by UNESCO in 1992. Though most of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is in Romania, the Ukrainian part of the reserve is still impressive. Boat tours are available, and making the most of seeing this area’s rich bird life is possible via birdwatching tours.



Lviv



One of Ukraine’s most important cities, Lviv is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old market square of this attractive city is particularly notable, with buildings painted in an array of bright colours such as pink and yellow.



Potemkin Steps



Immortalised on film, the Potemkin Steps in Odessa offers fantastic views of the harbour and it is free to visit. The 192 steps are also constructed in a way that presents visitors with an optical illusion. If you don’t fancy the long climb up the steps there is a rail option.



Pyrohiv

 

Just outside of Kiev, Pyrohiv is known for its festivals. The Pyrohiv Museum of Folk Architecture is also a major attraction, and is a good example of Ukraine’s open air museums tradition. In the summer at the museum, visitors will also be able to see workers involved in a wide range of activities, from creating pottery to embroidery.

This post was written in association with Direct Travel Insurance.

Cocktails in Paris

Paris is a magical city. There is something so perfectly picturesque about Paris that it is impossible not to feel swept up by its sophisticated and stylish atmosphere as you admire the iconic monuments, the awe-inspiring cathedrals, and the galleries and museums in which you can lose yourself for days. Of course Paris is also justifiably renowned for its restaurants and nightlife, with each of its different arrondissements offering something slightly different. In this article we take a look at some of our favourite places to grab a cocktail or three.

St-Germain-des-Prés

If you were ever going to live in Paris, and money was no object, then St-Germain-des-Prés is probably the area that you would choose. Centrally located and with a great mix of shops and restaurants, this area has somehow retained a strong sense of its residential neighbourhood feel. There are a lot of great cafes and bars in this area. The tourists flock to Les Deux Magots to drink expensive Kir Royales, or the locals tend to favour Cafe de Flore which is nice but expensive. My favourite is La Palette that occupies a prime corner position just near the Beaux-Arts. There are a lot of tables and seats available outside on the pavement, but if the weather is good then these are incredibly popular and you will probably have to queue unless you are friends with one of the waiters. Inside is pretty spectacular though with a faded old-world glamour that hasn’t changed much since Hemingway and Picasso frequented here. I like to drink pastis and water while people watching and contemplating the meaning of life.

Le Marais

If you are looking for a night out in Paris then the best place to start is Le Marais. Lots of restaurants with all kinds of food and plenty of small little bars where everyone drinks out on the street, meeting friends and planning the night ahead. If you want something sophisticated and fancy then head to Murano Resort where there is a huge menu of vodka to choose from (vodka martinis are hard to beat), but I love the relaxed energy of Cafe Cox, and also the Open Cafe where most people seem to ask for a “Despe” which is a Desperado lager flavoured with Tequila and then topped with fresh lime juice.

Montmartre

Effortlessly arty and cool, the narrow, twisted streets that create the Montmartre neighbourhood in the shadow of the majestic Sacre Coeur cathedral contain a wealth of fantastic cafes, restaurants and bars. Le Mansart has a very cool hipster vibe and a young crowd, Le Glass takes its cocktails very seriously and serves them American style with hot dogs and pickles (their Pisco Sours are pretty amazing), but then at the other extreme is Le Kremlin which a bit of a temple to all things Russian – especially vodka, try their Negroni Lenin which is a total winner.

There are a lot of reasons to love Paris. Their commitment to a cafe culture and serving great booze is just a bonus.

Photo Credit: Gabriel Amadeus under Creative Commons license

Cocktails in London

A good indication that you are having a glamorous night out on the town is when you start perusing the cocktail menu. London deservedly has a reputation as one of the best cities in the world for nightlife, and in recent years we have seen an explosion in really great cocktail bars. In this article we take a look at some of the best cocktail options in London and also suggest some of our favourite drinks that you might like to try while you are there.

69 Colebrooke Row

Officially this tiny little bar is called “The Bar With No Name” but for ease of reference everyone knows it as 69 Colebrooke Row (which is its address). Colebrooke Row is a little backstreet in Islington, so this can be a little tricky to find if you don’t know the area but it is definitely worth tracking down. There is a very sexy, film noir feel to this place, but it is the cocktails that are the undeniable star. The magic touch comes from Tony Conigliaro – a talented guy who studied fine art and art history, worked in the fashion industry, and then made the move into creating cocktails. The expert bartenders here will always be able to mix you up any of the classics, but you should definitely focus on their seasonal menu of bespoke cocktails. My favourite at the moment is Rhubarb Gimlet – gin and rhubarb, a fantastic combination.

The Zetter Townhouse

Clerkenwell is a very cool neighbourhood on the edge of the City of London, and it doesn’t get any cooler than The Zetter Townhouse. Cocktail genius Tony Conigliaro has had a hand in this one too – overseeing the cocktail menu that has been created for this bespoke little hotel that has the feel of staying with friends – wealthy, stylish friends with incredibly good taste. Spend some time reading through the cocktail menu – there are some really exciting options there that will make it hard to choose. At the moment I’m loving The Second Husband – Earl Grey tea infused whisky mixed with bitter almond poison. Surprisingly good.

Experimental Cocktail Club

Gerrard Street is the heard of London’s Chinatown, and about half way down the street, there is a small, unmarked black door. This is where you will find the Experimental Cocktail Club (or ECC as it is generally known). This is not easy to find – you really have to know what you are looking for. Sometimes there is a guy in a black suit standing near the door – he’s the bouncer. It can be hard to get in here – they are usually booked up and even if they do have space available they can be a bit contrary. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely – these are quality cocktails. My favourite is the Havana which uses cigar-infused bourbon as its base and then builds from there.

An exciting, surprising, and always entertaining city, London has a long history of leading the world when it comes to the volume of alcohol that its residents can drink and the quality of the drinks that its barman can create. That tradition is well and truly thriving.

Photo Credit: fklv (Obsolete hipster) under Creative Commons license