A Photo Tour of Palazzo Ducale (Doge Palace), Venice

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On our recent visit to Venice, Italy, one of the top sights recommended to us was the Palazzo Ducale, or the Doge Palace.  And, impressed we were! It’s hard to not be taken in awe of the magnificent architecture and the grandeur of the Palace. In the olden days, the Palace was the seat of the government and home of the Doge – the oldest and the highest political position in the Venetian republic.

A tour of the Palace takes you through the various wings of the Palace and also to the prison. The work on the ceilings is beautiful and for most part of your visit, you will be keeping your head up as you admire the work! The most interesting part of the visit for me (and for a lot of other tourists there), however, is the view of the famous Bridge of Sighs – the name arriving from the so-called sighs of the convicts who would catch the last glimpse of Venice before being led to the prison.

You could either chose to do a tour of the Palace on your own or through the aid of an audio guide, available on request near the entrance for 5 euros. You could also chose to do the Secret Itinerary Tour, which is a guided tour available at selected time slots. It takes you through the Doge’s Palace and covers some of the rooms and chambers, palace of prisoners and the Bridge of Sighs, offering an insight into how the Venetian administration worked.

The regular ticket is priced at 16 euros for adults and is a combination ticket that gives access to various Museums under the network. The Secret Itinerary Tour is priced at 20 euros for adults.

And, because the Palace was so beautiful, I thought I would take you on a photo tour inside the Palace! So, join in!

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Top 5 Things to Do in Venice

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“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go,” American author Truman Capote had famously said.

And he couldn’t have been more right. Being in Venice is like time travel. And it is like magic, where every corner reveals something that takes your breath away.  Sometimes the city is like a dream – canals where streets should be, houses and hotels built on water, a quiet gondola parked next to a small bridge, winding alleys that feel like a maze, or the ancient cobblestone paths, water shimmering under the shining the sun, and the majestic churches. Sometimes it is more real than you can think – when the high tide leads to flooding, or when a narrow alley stinks of the water, or when you see hundreds of tourists cramming up every inch of the city’s space, or when you are at the Piazza San Marco and a pigeon shits over your head!

Venice is a city that needs to be experienced once in your lifetime. But be prepared for a beautiful, yet crowded experience.

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Inside the Village of Montmartre, Paris: A Photo Essay

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Tucked away in one corner of the city of Paris is the neighborhood of Montmartre – a hill in the north of Paris, long known for being the creative hub of artists, and in more recent memory, made popular by movies such as Amélie and Moulin Rouge.

The name Montmartre is believed to have come from the latin name Mons Martis, meaning the mountain of Mars. Some say it comes from Mons Martyrum, the mountain of the Martyr, with reference to Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris that became its martyr patron.

The area developed as a humble village surrounded by vineyards and windmills. Montmartre was divided into two parts – the Lower Montmartre was an area known for its cheap wine and entertainment, while the upper part was a quiet residential area.

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Confessions of a First-Timer at Munich’s Oktoberfest

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Three-and-a-half hours. That’s what it took me yesterday to reach Munich in a regional train for the Oktoberfest. One-and-a-half hour is how long I actually stayed at the “world’s biggest beer festival”.

Yes, you read that right. For starters, I hadn’t planned on staying for such a short while when we first started our journey. Ever since the Oktoberfest kicked off on September 20, I had been very excited to visit it. Oktoberfest had never been something that was high up on my bucket list for many reasons, the first (and the main) being that I don’t drink at all. For a long time, my interest in Oktoberfest remained only in the fact that why it was called an “Oktoberfest”, when it actually starts in September! The second reason why the festival never had my fancy, was because I don’t eat pork or beef. So, nope, no food to look forward to either!

No, don’t roll your eyes and think ‘why did I then go to the Oktoberfest, duh!’

Well, the idea of experiencing Oktoberfest first piqued my interest when I visited a “Sommerkirchweih” (a smaller, more local beer fest organised on a similar format of an Oktoberfest with beer stalls, live music, German food, and the famous roasted half chicken) was organised in the town we live in. It was the time of the football world cup and the Sommerkirchweih gave us a perfect atmosphere to join in the revelry, while sit with some friends and cheer for Germany!  The Sommerkirchweih brought life into our town — for the first time since the famous Christmas markets, I saw some merry making! And it was also the first time when I became acquainted with the Bavarian costume of dirndls and lederhosen. My husband and I went there for three days, enjoyed some nice live music, had the most delicious roasted chicken and garlic bread, watched the live screening of the football semi finals, and also got to interact with some really friendly Germans. So, when my husband told me that Oktoberfest is similar, but imagine it to be at a five-times bigger scale, I was obviously excited! How could you live in Bavaria, just over 200 kilometers from Munich, and not experience the Oktoberfest?! Every one said it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (If you enjoy the drinking and the food, there are more than one reason for you to visit the Oktoberfest). And that’s how I decided I had to attend it.

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Oktoberfest Special: Top 10 Reasons to go to Oktoberfest

Image copyright Ludus Tours

Image copyright Ludus Tours

 

If you have been still thinking whether or not to visit this year’s Oktoberfest at Munich, stop thinking and start reading! Backpacking Croissants asked  Ludus Tours, a travel company founded in 2003 by avid sport fans and former athletes with just one motto: to make bucket list dreams come true, to write a guest post for us sharing their reasons why one needs to visit Oktoberfest once in their life. And they give you not one, but 10 reasons to visit Oktoberfest at Munich, Germany. Ludus Tours have also been organizing special Oktoberfest tours, so that when you are in a tent with 10,000 fellow beer drinkers and the band strikes up, you are going to take in that experience and remember your time in Munich for long!

Here are their 10 reasons to visit Oktoberfest

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Oktoberfest Quiz: Which Dirndl Style Are You?

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Yesterday, Dirndl designer Erika Neumayer talked about how you can rock a dirndl this Oktoberfest. If you love the idea of donning a dirndl this Oktoberfest, but don’t know where to start, this post is for you. To continue the Oktoberfest fun, here at Backpacking Croissants, we have a fun quiz for you to help you decide which dirndl style goes with your personality!

Erika designed this quiz to help you decide which dirndl you should be wearing this season!

You can also take the full quiz here: http://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=which-dirndl-style-are-you

 

Oktoberfest Special: Dirndl Designer Erika Neumayer Talks About How to Rock a Dirndl

Image copyright Erika Neumayer

Image copyright Erika Neumayer

Oktoberfest, an important event in the Bavarian culture, is also one of the biggest funfairs in the world held in Munich, where litres and litres of (not so free!) beer and German food, music gigs, attract visitors from all over the world – over 6 million, to be precise!  

And of the ways to really enjoy the event is to soak yourself in the Bavarian way – and no, we aren’t talking only about the beer! As you would have seen, men and women during this time wear a traditional costume – an important aspect of the Bavarian culture. Women typically wear a ‘dirndl’ – consisting of a bodice, blouse, full skirt and an apron. Though it may appear to be a simple dress, dirndl can be quite expensive. Men wear a checkered shirt, leather trousers (called lederhosen), trachten socks and shoes.

Image copyright Erika Neumayer

Image copyright Erika Neumayer

When I moved to Germany, I got acquainted with this very beautiful dress. The first time I saw it was during the many Christmas markets. But it was during the summer months and the various smaller beer fests around our cities that I really had a good look at what a dirndl looks like. I loved the flowing skirt and a bright apron, often coordinated with hair done up in braids – it looks straight out of a story book, and yet stylish in its own simple way.

So, if you are looking forward to visit this year’s Oktoberfest (Sept. 19 – Oct. 6) like a true Bavarian, why not do it in authentic Bavarian style! Dirndl designer and owner of Rare Dirndl, Erika Neumayer, talks about the tradition of Dirndl, how she mixes traditional concepts with modern design, and how you can rock one this Oktoberfest, in this very special Oktoberfest special guest post. 

Over to Erika!

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Hotel Review: Hostal Aslyp 114, Barcelona

Picture copyright Aslyp 114

Picture copyright Aslyp 114

I am back from my long slumber, or rather a forced down time being sick! Today, as the rain falls outside and skies are white, I am thrown back to the rainy Spanish holiday. So without further adieu, let me tell you about the hotel we stayed at during our time in Barcelona.

We stayed at the Aslyp 114 – a very cozy little modern hotel/guest house in a beautiful neighborhood on the Avenue Josep Tarradellas 114. It recently opened in March 2014, so it was still in its early months of operation when we visited in May 2014.

Now, it might be called a guest house, but it was nothing short of a 5-star accommodation for us. The property scored on all aspects and it was one of the best places we have stayed at so far during our travels, and as you read on, you’ll know why! Continue reading

#Techtraveller: TastyTrip App for foodie travellers

Presenting the first of the new series ‘#Techtraveller’, which will cover new and innovative technologies, apps and gadgets which are making travelling easier, one click at a time!

How many times has it happened that you are on a vacation to a foreign land, looking to have a nice meal, but either end up in a bad restaurant or have to order a dish but you don’t quite know what it is!

I remember my first few months in Germany after I arrived, despite a beginner’s course in language, eating out was always a problem. Once, at a cafe I asked for a ‘Hähnchen’ (chicken) sandwich and I was served a ‘schinken’ (ham) sandwich instead! And during my trip to Paris last year with my husband, I remember having some really bad (add expensive) meals because a) we didn’t know the language, b) we didn’t know much about French cuisine and were afraid to ask!

Last week, I came across this really interesting video on YouTube from the Tasty Trip World and I am now intrigued to try the app. The app, called ‘TastyTrip’, looks like a great travelling companion for foodies, particularly if you enjoy experiencing local food culture when you visit a country. The culinary guide lets you order, explore and see how the food is cooked and how it looks, before you order. So, no more shocks at the dinner table when you think order dish number 42 and it turns out to be a lobster staring at you! 😉

The TastyTrip App presents you the top 20 most well-known specialties served in the country’s local restaurants, including the details of its ingredients. For the health conscious, it also shows you how many calories there are!

For now, the app covers nine countries: France, China , Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Germany,  Greece, Mexico, and Romania. And I am hoping to use it next time I am eating out in Germany or during my travels!

(TastyTrip is available for sale on iTunes. It is priced at $3.99, with a promotional price of $2.99 for a limited time, until 1st of September 2014.)

Barcelona Diaries Part 3: Around the City with Go Car Tours

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On our third and final day in Barcelona, we had planned to tour the city in a rather different way. While researching online of sightseeing options in Barcelona, we came across the traditional hop-on-hop-off bus tours. Now, Barcelona is too exciting to be seen from a bus, we thought! We were looking for something that would allow us to experience Barcelona from up close. And that’s how we came across the Go Car Tours. It was something that we hadn’t ever experienced before as tourists, and that got us excited — a yellow convertible talking car that navigates you and shows you the city. The minute we saw the website and the concept, we were hooked. The next two days, my husband spent all his evenings looking at the various fun videos posted online of people who had tried the Go Car experience: forget the maps and just jump into a GoCar to drive around the city.

The Go Car Tours concept was launched in San Francisco in 2004 and is now available in five cities, including San Francisco, Lisbon, Barcelona, Madrid, and San Diego. You can choose from different tours available, with prices starting as low as 19 euros per person.

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