TABLAO FLAMENCO CORDOBES, LA RAMBLA. BARCELONA

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SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE STOPOVER

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Singapore is known as a bustling metropolis that also happens to be one of the cleanest and safest cities of its size in the world. You’ll find historic sites like the Thian Hock Keng temple, superlative shopping (including gargantuan malls) and numerous beaches.



First thing we did after dropping off the bags in the hotel was a walk to the Chinatown Street Markets. The busy streets encapsulate all the sights and sounds visitors expect of Chinatown, with hundreds of stalls selling everything from silk robes to lucky cats. There are plenty of ‘Made in China’ goods on display and lanterns swaying in the breeze above your head. There’s also a fantastic range of street food carts amongst the shopping, with fresh dim sum and crispy duck. Remember to haggle with a smile if you want the best price. But we weren’t in the market to buy junk; we were there for the experience. The market is open during the day, but it looks its most picturesque at dusk, with the lights shining brightly and the sound of hawkers tempting you to check out their wares.



Back to hotel for a quick dip in the pool, we changed and headed to a late afternoon tour of Gardens by the Bay. While some people find Gardens by the Bay a little too artificial for their liking, it’s still worth checking out for the ingenuity and uniqueness of its design. The Flower Dome has recently set a Guinness World Record for being the largest glass greenhouse in the world.

So there you have it, even non-gardening enthusiasts will find something of interest among the 380,000 plants here. The outdoor gardens are free of charge but it’s worth paying the entry fee to walk the Skyway. We ended at Supertree Grove. The tall trees measuring between 25 and 50 metres tall, the iconic tree-like vertical gardens are designed with large canopies that provide shade in the day and come alive with an exhilarating display of light and sound at night. This experience was breath taking and beautiful to watch. My camera was going nonstop for all the show. From here, we walked to Marina Bay Sands or ‘that boat building’, as it’s often referred to, for a much needed rest and a refreshing night drink.



If you’re not a hotel guest, unfortunately you can’t access the iconic infinity swimming pool, but you can do the next best thing: catch the elevator to Ku De Ta (level 57), grab a cocktail and a spot on the balcony, and explore the city sights from the sky.

Closer to ground level, we found restaurants and plenty of shops to keep Kim amused, as well as the casino if a flutter takes your fancy. After taking many spectacular photos we quickly headed down and across from the Marina Bay to view the laser and water show. ‘Wonder Full’ is the story of Water and Light creating Life, told with Water and Light. The spectacular explores humanity and the beauty of the human experience through original footage of the people of Singapore, an original sound score and an abundance of technologies spanning the 15.4 hectare (38 acre) Marina Bay Sands site. The show takes you on an emotional and heartfelt journey through the use of water, fire, light, laser and other high impact Mega Media elements. The show features motion pictures and music produced in Singapore with heavy local influence.

Check out our video here:

Down by the water we took a night ride on the River Cruise. It is similar to that of the day ride, minus the discomfort of the sunny heat. In place of the bright sunlight, a dark blue sky shadows our journey down the riverbanks, giving us opportunities for some stargazing at the same time. Whether you decide on taking a day or night ride on the Singapore River Cruise, one thing’s for sure,  you’ll be embarking on an experience like never before.

Our last stop on the cruise was Clarke Quay which brought us alternative things to do and see that don’t purely revolve around nightlife. Sure, just joking. Clarke Quay is famous for its stunning waterside restaurants and exciting collection of bars and clubs. Making the distinction between the best restaurants in Clarke Quay and the area’s best nightlife venues is no easy task, purely because many of the restaurants here double up as great bars and pubs too. We had one of the best nights at Wings Bar, which takes its name from both the food it serves and the 1940’s aviation theme which is evident throughout. To find this popular American eatery, head to Clarke Quay and look for the replica plane hanging above its entrance (which is actually the largest P-51 Mustang model in Asia), and then follow the replica runway down into the main restaurant area. As for the food, you’d can’t come to a place with a name like this and not try their specialty; their tantalizing variety of sticky chicken wings, as well as ribs, are certainly not to be missed. Wash all that feel-good American food down with a beer and you’ve got yourself an all-round fun, tasty, (and a little gimmicky) dining experience.




Sleep was on the cards and the next day we woke up late and lazed around the pool until we headed to Airport back to Brisbane, Australia. We have earmarked at trip back to Singapore very soon.

Things to consider:

We were quite surprised by Changi airport, it’s massive and I do mean MASSIVE, their customs/immigration process is very relaxed compared to Brisbane though so that was a surprise and we felt as though we had no clue what we were doing.  Just a tip keep the stub off the incoming passenger card in your passport as they ask for it when you depart, might seem obvious to others but we got caught out and had left ours in our check in luggage so had to endure a stern lecture and felt like naughty school kids as we filled in a ‘lost card’ form and had to line up again, lol.

Take water EVERYWHERE you go, we saw a lady become extremely sick on a bus tour from heat exhaustion it was terribly traumatic for her and her partner. Dehydration is a very real concern in the heat particularly if you are from a cooler climate.
Observe signage about photography, and if in doubt ask permission. We saw so many people up close taking pics of the offerings put out for the hungry ghost festival for example and it was clear at times this was not welcomed or appreciated.

The food is fabulous as everyone else said, if you are worried take Travel Bug (by the makers of Inner Health, bought at any pharmacy) starting 5 days before you leave we use it each time we travel anywhere. Kim has a rather dodgy stomach and so cannot promote it enough, I can eat all sorts of things that would normally upset my stomach and it just gives me that peace of mind to try local foods. People seem to think food poisoning is your only concern but often people experience stomach upsets when you eat foods your body is unaccustomed too.

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PARIS, FRANCE

LAST STOP OF EUROPEAN TOUR PARIS

Man, where do we even begin.  Paris was the most awestruck, the most wide-eyed, and the happiest. We spent the day wandering among some of the main attractions, stopping for café lattes and macaroons, shopping in the boutique stores and generally loving every corner of this gorgeous city. In pop culture, Paris is heavily romanticized as one incredibly beautiful city. In reality, it is exactly that. Even better.




Several of the city’s most recognizable sites flank the river, so our first stop after arriving was along the promenade water front for a tour in a glass covered tour-boat-come-water-taxi that stops at the Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame, Hotel de Ville, the Louvre, Champs-Elysées, and the Eiffel Tower. Some of us stayed behind and explored under the Eiffel Tower.

That afternoon while everyone relaxed back at the hotel we headed back up to the main street and took a bus ride just north of the Eiffel Tower to the end of the famous Champs-Elysées shopping street and the the Arc de Triomphe.




You can walk up to the top for an alternative view of Paris, but we had a Cabaret Dinner Show at Lido De Paris, which was the site of one of the first Dinner Cabaret Shows invented here. And it was within these walls, where it was born, that it is done with the most style. 

When in Paris, be won over by the charm of the French-style shows and savour the treats for which there gastronomy has become internationally famous. Late trip back to the hotel with a drive around the Arc dc Triomphe we hit the hay because the next day was going to be huge.



The next day we all jumped in the bus and our first stop was one of the most iconic buildings in Paris and the setting of Victor Hugo’s ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ this stunning cathedral is not to be missed. The original Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, which had stood on this site, was nearly as old as Paris itself. Unfortunately this cathedral did not survive all the wars it faced, and was rebuilt in the 12th century as the Notre-Dame. Make sure that you walk all the way around the outside, and don’t miss the stunning rose windows on the inside.



Since its appearance in ‘Sex and the City’ (the scene of Carrie and Big’s kiss), visitors began attaching love locks, padlocks with sweethearts’ names on them, to its panels in 2008, the Pont des Arts has become a veritable tourist attraction. Peruse the padlocks and their messages we added our own that night, and toss the key into the Seine to guarantee our romantic flame burns for an eternity.



We then strolled up Rue Bonaparte and made a pit-stop at Ladurée along the way. World famous for its mouth-watering macarons, Ladurée’s patisserie selection is a true feast for the eyes (and mouth!). Kim had a field day.



Most of the time it was shopping time for Kim. Champs-Elysees (it is quite expensive and there are mainly chain stores), the most beautiful avenue in the world is still worth a visit. The buildings are beautiful and the little alleyways on both sides are full of bistros, bars and clubs to explore. Fans of the Tour de France may also know this place as the final stage of the race course.


We discovered why Paris is known as the City of Lights when we headed back to Eiffel Tower late afternoon then onto the Louvre Museum and met some friendly local photographers. After admiring the Louvre and its spectacular glass pyramid bathed in a golden glow sunset, we set off toward the River Seine. We crossed one of the river’s historic bridges and soaked up the romantic atmosphere along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed riverbanks. 




Continued on to the charming neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, famous for its vibrant café culture and as a gathering spot for Parisian intellectuals and artists throughout the centuries. After checking out some street life we headed back to the fountain and Eiffel Tower for some more photos and time-lapse movies. We lasted all night and watched the sun rise the next day. We ended lasting 24 hours awake and jumped in a cab back to the hotel to pack and jump in the bus back to London, catching up on a sleep all the way back.


Best thing I can pass on:

The best way to see Paris: ON FOOT. Paris is a very walkable city because it isn’t that big and there’s a lot of interesting things to see. Roadside cafes lace almost every corner, historic monuments adorn its roundabouts, and the smell of freshly baked bread coming from local boulangeries fill the air. Walking is really the way to go.  Many tourist attractions can be visited in a day just by walking. For example, the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Place de la Concorde, Jardin de Tuileries, and the Louvre are situated next to each other. You can spend one full day checking all these out. (Actually, you can spend one full day inside the Louvre and it still won’t be enough.) However, if you’re too exhausted to walk, the best alternative is the subway or the METRO. One thing we totally loved about Paris was its expansive 300-station train system that connects much of the city. It’s cheap and efficient, and it’s seldom crowded because there’s always a train every five minutes or so.

Check out our video here:

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ORLEANS, FRANCE




On the move again and heading along the Loire, passing the castles of Amboise and Chaumont. We then stopped into Orleans before reaching Paris.

Orleans is an interesting and important town on the Loire River, and the main city in both the Loiret department and also the Centre (Loire valley) region. Situated south of Paris and east of Le Mans, it is a large town with more than 300 000 inhabitants.

Despite its central location in France a significant part of the historical centre of Orleans avoided damage during the Second World War, and the town has an extensive historic centre with many fine buildings to admire.

Because Orléans does not form part of the ‘major sights’ of the Loire Valley to the west or of Burgundy to the east it is perhaps less visited than it would otherwise be: that is unfortunate because it is a very attractive city with lots to see and so
including an extensive historic centre and many buildings of interest and several important musesums and garden.

The city is stunning, and has a historical background to match up to its amount of awesome. Known for a famous battle, won by hero Joan of Arc, We loved being able to walk the streets and just simply marinate in the culture and beauty.

It is quite easy to get your bearings in the centre of Orleans. The principal region of interest to visitors is around the cathedral and along Rue Jeanne d’Arc, the region of the town between here and the Loire river and the Pont Georges V bridge about 500 metres to the south, and also north of Rue Jeanne d’Arc to the Place du Martroi, Rue d’Escures and the Hotel Groslot.

We started exploring in Place du Martroi, which is a large open square surrounded by numerous imposing buildings and a very pleasant introduction to the city. In the centre of the square there is a large 19th century statue of Joan of Arc. The streets near here contain many of the larger shops such as FNAC which are found in most important French cities.

From here we followed Rue d’ Escures towards the east. One of the most splendid houses in Orleans, and open to the public, is the Hotel Groslot in Place de l’Etape, a very ornate and distinguished 19th century red brick building with a fine interior of the period.

We turned south towards the cathedral along the Place de l’Etape where we reached the Orléans Tourist Office and the open area in front of the cathedral. Be sure to visit the tourist office because there are many other interesting sites of note including several churches and other historically important buildings that you are lilely to overlook without a guide map. We didn’t have that much time to really explore.

The Cathedral Sainte-Croix is the most important historic monument in the city, a 17th centre gothic style cathedral with very old origins that has a great deal of impressive stonework ornamentation, in particular the façade which also features three large round windows and two square towers. The stained glass windows inside the cathedral were added in the year 2000. Near the cathedral you can also see a part of the walls that surrounded the original roman town.



After exploring the cathedral, we walked straight along the Rue Jeanne d’Arc, the broad avenue to the front of the cathedral created at the beginning of the 19th century, at least as far as Place Charles de Gaulle. This is not the most beautiful square in the town but it is here that you can see the historic ‘house of Joan of Arc’. 

The Place de la Republique is another pleasant square along this road.
We kept turning to look behind us as we walked west along Rue Jeanne d’Arc because the view of the cathedral from here is very beautiful.



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