Washington, DC, America
The charismatic capital of the USA offers culture, great days out and the buzz of political life. With the Obama family in the White House, sophisticated Washington is once again the height of cool. Tour famous monuments, visit museums, rub shoulders with the elite in great restaurants and escape the hustle in gorgeous gardens.
Take the open-top bus tour of the famous sights in Washington. It will show you everything from the White House to the Pentagon. Alternatively you can see the sights on a bike. The neighbourhood of Georgetown with its fine Georgian buildings is a great place to shop and relax in a café. Clothes stores are situated side-by-side with niche boutiques.
Visit Dumbarton Oaks, a lovely garden with grassy terraces that lead into woods and pools. The museum has a stunning collection of art and furniture. Visit the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden, where you can see the art and china collection as well as the delightful garden with Japanese features and a Russian dacha. Spend a day amid the trees in the US National Arboretum which also has the National Bonsai Museum, herb gardens and magnolias. A tram tour is ideal to explore this vast city fully.
Start your day in Kramer Books at Dupont Circus, whose atmosphere and eclectic books make it ideal for a browse, and there is even a café to enjoy with music performances at night. For souvenir lovers there’s the Eastern Market in the Capitol Hill District where you can but all sorts of stuff; recycled jewellery, cute bags, colourful clothes and paintings.
For great food try Nora’s on Florida Avenue which serves great organic food. For green eating try Founding Farmers on Pennsylvania Avenue, where everything from the plumbing to the cooking is environmentally-friendly. For a slice of food theatre, choose the taster menu at Poste Moderne Brasserie on 8th street, where there are seven extraordinary courses to have.
Nantes, in the Pays de la Loire, is a delightful place. Easy to reach by train and plane, this upbeat city showcases the best of historic and 21st Century France. Visit its many shops, admire the mix of old and new architecture and also see the art galleries and museums.
Great food throughout in traditional and ethnic restaurants as well as an abundance of verdant parks. Visit the Quartier Bouffay, a medieval quarter with lots of interesting shops. Learn about the history at the Château des Ducs de Bretagne and visit the museum for a great virtual tour of Nantes in 1757.
Next, visit L’lle de Nantes, once home to shipbuilding and now a vibrant tourist centre whose Banana Warehouse displays great exhibitions. Don’t miss The Machine Gallery which houses mechanical moving sculptures like the giant wooden elephant. Shop in style at the Passage Pommeraye, a 19th Century- Baroque style building that’s now a three – floor shopping arcade. For great food try La Cigalle at 4 Place Graslin one of Nantes’s top restaurants with a preserved Art Nouveau interior. Try the local speciality gâteau Nantais, made with rum and icing sugar, with a glass of local Muscadet wine.
Germany’s third city has it all, from bratwurst to beautiful buildings. Green, clean and safe, Munich is to be explored on foot in the bustling main square, Marienplatz, with its Gothic town hall.
Munich is as much about green spaces as it is about Culture and Architecture. Visit the vast English Garden, rich in lakes, canals and architecture. Take afternoon coffee and cake in the lovely Seehof outdoor café by Kleinhesseloher Lake. In the City Centre, visit Frauenkirche, with its twin towers. Walk along Sendlinger Strasse and visit Asams Church, famed for its Baroque architecture. Just a short walk away on Jakobsplatz is the stunning new cube-like synagogue and Jewish museum.
Visit Odeonsplatz, a charming square surrounded by grand buildings including the Theatine Church of St. Cajetan, with its giant dome and twin bell towers. Off the square is the Hofgarten, a beautiful Renaissance- style garden. Catch a tram to Nymphemburg Palace with its Italianate gardens. A short metro ride will bring you to the Olympic Park, where the 1972 Olympics took place.
For great food, try The Viktuelen Market just off the Marienplatz, where you can buy fresh market produce. In the central square, eat regional specialities such as the German sausage, washed down with Bavarian beer. For a great comfortable stay, check out the boutique -style apartments in the Maximilian Hotel.
Moscow is built on a monumental scale, and is a dazzling showpiece of Russia’s rich history. From the domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral to the glamorous Moscovite girls, this exciting capital is a vast metropolis. The culture is extraordinary, the architecture is both ornate and stark and there are plenty of restaurants, bars and shops where high prices are a symbol of New Russia. Walking the streets is a visual treat.
The Red Square is home of the lavish St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum and The Kremlin, the City’s original defence centre.
For a great day out, explore the Metro, whose extravagant stations feature mosaics, marble and stained glass. Visit the bewitching Tretyakov Gallery, home to the World’s largest collection of Russian art. Follow with a short riverside walk to its new gallery housing 20th Century art. It’s next to the Art Muzeon Sculpture Park, where you can see past Communist leaders cast in stone.
Visit the Sandunovskie Bani; a bath house where you can swim and steam then drink tea with the Ladies of Moscow. If it’s designer clothes that you’re after visit Tsum, a massive department store on Petrovka street, and buy affordable Vodka and caviar in a nearby supermarket.
For inexpensive, delicious Japanese food, try the Tahykh chain. Or for hearty grub, check out The Pilsner Restaurant, which has a great, cosy pub atmosphere.
For a comfortable stay, head to The Pokrovka Suite Hotel at 40 Pokrovka street, its sleek and stylish, with apartment-style rooms, a spa, a bar and lavish breakfasts.