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Visiting the Main Square in Pula, Croatia

One of the most pleasant spots you’ll come across when exploring Pula attractions is the ancient core of  the town’s main square. Also known as Forum, this square has been the centre of town activity since the 1st century.

The Forum was an important religious and administrative address during the Roman era. Remnants from the time continue to be the highlight of square even today, drawing in thousands of tourists.

Back then the square housed Roman temples – of particular importance were the twin temples. One was dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva while the other was built in the honour of Augustus. The latter, luckily, continues to command just as much awe as back in the day, as it stands fully preserved.

Another important landmark is the Communal Palace. For years it has been the seat of government, run by the Romans and Venetians, and even by the current regime. As the mayoral seat, it continues to influence the town’s administrative and legislative landscape.

The ancient buildings play the perfect backdrop to the many cafes that line the square. It is also the location for many cultural events and festivities especially during the summer months. You can also go on Karen’s photo and video tour of Pula and read Jason’s Pula – The other side of Croatia.

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Napoleon Apartments at the Louvre, Paris

If you are in the French capital for a short time and can’t make it to the Palace of Versailles, one of the best things to do in Paris to get your opulence fix is a visit to the Napoleon apartments at the Louvre.

Located in the museum’s Richelieu wing, these rooms continue to hold the luxury enjoyed (and probably expected) by the Emperor and his council.

It’s impossible to imagine a life lived in the gold and velvet splendor of these quarters. It holds an aura of formality. Even when a comfortable arm chair pops up, it’s accented by ornate lamps and vases.

The furnishings are works of art, carefully carved, polished and upholstered. And then there are the works of art – murals, paintings, vases, sculptures, mirrors, chandeliers and clocks, each more exquisite than the other.

Along with the very lavish public rooms, private rooms are also open to the public. They are smaller, and a little cozier, but look closer and you’ll notice the intricate and impressive antiquities and accents.

Even if you don’t enjoy museum visits, the apartments can be pretty interesting, besides it’s an opportunity for taking some great photos!

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Croatian Attraction – Bol on the island of Brac

Bol used to be a small isolated fishing village on the island of Brac in Croatia. Now it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, visited mainly for its many beaches. Given its location – flanked by mountain and sea, the town enjoy a great climate and a picturesque landscape.

The Water – Like the other stops on the Adriatic, the sea is the main point of interest in Bol too. The town is lined by pebbled beaches – the most popular being Zlatni Rat – that offer the perfect opportunity to sunbathe, swim, sail and indulge in various water based activities like windsurfing, snorkelling and scuba diving; there are a number of underwater caves and shipwrecks to explore in these parts. Rental boats and other water sport equipment are available along the beaches, as are beach chairs and a constant supply of beer.

An Art Walk – Walking along the waterfront opens up a great sea view. It also doubles up as an art walk. One of the quirky aspects of the town is that the waterfront is peppered with interesting (sometimes complex, but never boring) stone sculptures. For the art inclined, this walk leads to Bol’s Branislav Deskovic Gallery. Not only is this a historic Renaissance town house, it also houses over 250 works of art by some of the most prominent Croatian artists like Ivan Mestrovic and Edo Murtic.

Nightlife – Post sundown the party in Bol moves from the beaches to the shore. There are a number of cafes, bars, restaurants and clubs to choose from, particularly along the promenade. During the summer months when every establishment is open for business, the lively beats of pop hits can be felt all along the town, through the night and into the early morning.

The easiest way to reach Bol is on the local ferry line or via taxi boats from other high profile Croatian stops including Split.

Being on the tourist trail, Bol has a variety of accommodation options, the HotelsCombined price comparison site can help you quickly find the best deal.

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Amsterdam’s Street Performers

Amsterdam is one of the most popular destinations in Europe, the world. There’s much to see and do in the city, but between all the landmarks you’ll find another city attraction – the street performers. Local talents gathers on the squares and corners in the tourist quarter and put on quite a show.

The town’s main spots – Dam, Leidseplein, Vondelpark, Rembrandtplein in particular – are always abuzz with activity.  And there’s always a variety on display, from human statues, jugglers, musicians, fire-eaters, dancers and many more. Dam square in particular is very active during the day. As tourists make their way to and from the Royal Palace, many stop to pose with the human statues.

Half the fun is in watching the various social interactions: cops and performers; performers and paying viewers; performers and non-paying photographers; performers and children. Each interaction brings about a different reaction. And then there are the small gaps in time when the performers take a break or wind up for the day, when they drop the act and pull off their masks for a sip of drink and a chat, or when they pack up their gear and ride away.

What do you think of the street performers in Amsterdam? Did you find them entertaining or tiresome?

Dubrovnik Attractions – Fort Lovrijenac

Fort Lovrijenac is a Dubrovnik landmark that isn’t located within the city walls. It can be seen from along the walls over the Pile Gate, and is one of the most photographed landmarks in the city.

The fort was built to defend the ancient kingdom against the advancing Venetian army. Its walls are 121 feet high, and overlook the water. Entry to the Fort is included within the price of the wall tours.

Dubrovnik Attractions - Fort Lovrijenac

A Different Perspective – Most tourists scale the Dubrovnik city walls for views of the city, which includes Fort Lovrijenac. But for a different angle, walk the short distance from the Pile Gate to the Fort and enjoy a fresh look at Dubrovnik’s old core. While the tower interiors are plain, the views are worth the climb.

Drama on the Adriatic – The Fort Lovrijenac is one of the most important venues during the Dubrovnik Summer Festival. At this time the Fort transforms into a theatrical venue. It is best known for staging productions of Shakespeare, particularly Hamlet, in addition to other regional and internationally renowned plays.

A Stage for a Wedding – The fort doubles up as a wedding venue too. With the lapping water and towering history, it is a very romantic setting. It has an on location chapel (chapel of St. Lawrence) and its courtyard, which is also the stage for theatrical performances, hosts wedding parties. The Fort stairways too have become an iconic setting for the perfect ‘newly weds’ photograph.

Tips for Things to Do in Dubrovnik

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Croatia in Autumn – Best Time to Visit?

Autumn, or Jensen, as it is known here, is my favourite time to travel around Croatia. I find everything, right from the colours and sights to the service better during this quieter period.

1. Cool and Red

The temperatures are known to soar during late July and August. It’s perfect if you mean to flop on a beach through your stay, but if you are planning on some sightseeing, it can get really hot and uncomfortable. Autumn on the other hand is just perfect. The heat has been watered down, and the bitter winter winds are still a few months away. The temperatures are in the low 20s and the leaves are red.

2. No More Summer Crowds

During the summer months thousand of visitors make their way to Croatia. As a result highways, hotels and beaches are permanently clogged. This makes for a pretty great party atmosphere, but if you are anything like me, you may prefer some peace and quiet and the chance to explore the place at your own pace. Come September, the crowds begin to filter out and this makes the country a whole lot roomier.

3. Cost Effective

Like most popular tourist destinations, prices along the Croatian coast tend to inflate during the peak season. At times the prices are plain ridiculous. But post September many establishments return to more acceptable off-season prices. I also find the service during this time is much better as compared to that offered by hassled, disinterested summer hires. The other thing to consider is accommodation. During the summer months, the best deals get snapped up beforehand, and in winter, many hotels and boarding facilities shut for the season. This makes autumn the best time to score a good deal without stress.

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Paris Attraction – Shakespeare & Company

My travel tip of the week is one of Europe’s most visited stops in one of Europe’s most visited cities – The Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris.

This one was on the very top of my must-visit Paris attractions. I’d seen photos and read about it, now I wanted to get my own “Shakespeare & Company – Kilometre Zero Paris” stamped paperback.

This landmark English bookstore in Paris is situated close to the Latin Quarter and Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s one of those old school corner bookshops; with character to it, and more importantly it that distinct ‘book’ smell to it. There are books everywhere – in boxes and crates in front of the store, in lopsided shelves, and in wobbling piles all along the shop’s two floors.

The two levels each offer a different experience – downstairs you’ll find a range of books in new prints and upstairs along with couches and a bed, is a collection of second hand copies, and it is here that you’ll find some fantastic rare reads.

In addition, if you find yourself in the city be sure to check the shop’s events calendar for workshops, literary events and festivals; these include free readings and weekend writing workshops.

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Five Reasons to Visit Zagreb’s Maksimir Park

The Maksimir Park is the largest green space in the city of Zagreb. It is named after Bishop Maksimilijan Vrhovac, the man who was first responsible for establishing the park in 1794. At the time the park was set up it was on the outskirts of the city, today it is part of suburban Zagreb.

Photo By ruscca

A Green Space – Maksimir Park is a much loved urban escape. It is a sprawling green complex with nooks and corners, lakes and walkways, benches and trails. The traffic sounds coming in from the park boundary are dulled by the thick tree cover and flowing water, ensuring peace and quiet. This Zagreb park is located right opposite a large football stadium, which hosts local and international football events as well as concerts. At such times the thousands of spectators also use the park as the perfect waiting area, both before and after the events.

A Running Track – Maksimir Park is very popular with joggers, runners and even cyclists as the park provides a safe, continuous, and picturesque track. People come in from all over the city to take advantage of this very setting. The park is well connected by the local tram service (take tram no.11 from the Main Square to the Park).

A Pleasant Coffee Break – Maksimir Park is a great coffee place. There are several cafes within the complex that serve good coffee and even better views. If cafes aren’t your thing, find the closest ice-cream vendor and head to an empty bench.

The Zoo – The Zoo is a more recent addition to the Park, and is very popular with young families. There are a number of large (lions, bears, cheetah, bison) and small animals, including endangered species. Of particular interest are the feeding sessions; the sea lion feeding time usually draws quite a crowd. Entry to the zoo is from within the park; tickets (30 Kuna) can be purchased at the zoo entrance.

Photo by Landii

Holiday Concerts – During the summer months (particularly Saturdays) and on bank holidays the park hosts small music concerts. These concerts are free and can be enjoyed by everyone. For more information about the park and the park’s events calendar for the park, head to the information centre located in the Gatekeeper’s cabin, close to the park entrance.

Best of Zagreb Tips

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Day Trips from Dubrovnik

After you’ve explored Dubrovnik’s old town, it’s time to explore the surrounding regions. Dubrovnik is within close proximity of a number of beautiful islands and towns, where you can enjoy natural beauty, history and culture, and the best local food and wine. Here are my tips for Dubrovnik day trips.

The Peljesac Peninsula – The first day trip destination on the list is the nearby Peljesac Peninsula. Known for its vineyards and olive groves, the most popular activity here is wine tasting. There are a number of commercial and family owned vineyards, and many are open to wine tours. You can sign up for a tour group from Dubrovnik or make your own way by bus or ferry.

Elaphite Islands – The Elaphite Islands are another popular day trip from Dubrovnik. These are a group of 14 islands, out of which only the three main islands – Sipan, Lopud and Kolocep – are populated. The Elaphite Islands are known for their beautiful beaches, bays and coves. To get to the Elaphite Islands, sign up for a tour cruise or use the ferry service to from Dubrovnik.

Island of Mljet – Nature lovers should make their way to the island of Mljet. Though the island is a little further off from some of the other stops, this is the place to enjoy local flora and fauna. In fact a part of the island is a designated National Park. other activities on offer include biking, trekking, rafting and kayaking. You can reach Mljet by catamaran and daily ferries that operate on this route. Check local listing for seasonal schedules.

Korcula Island – The walled town of Korcula makes for an enjoyable day trip. However, I highly recommend you schedule more than just one day for Korcula, and explore the rest of the island too. Read more about Korcula here.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – Another interesting excursion from Dubrovnik is to the neighbouring country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The town of Mostar in particular is easily accessible from Dubrovnik. The region is known for its local history and culture; Bosnia enjoys a unique cultural mix that gels Turkish influence with the Balkan way of life. Daily buses run from Dubrovnik to Mostar and Sarajevo. Be sure to carry your passport and other vital documentation when heading across the border.

Do you have Dubrovnik day trips to recommend?

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Stradun – The Heart of Dubrovnik

If you don’t have too much time to spend in Dubrovnik, the city’s main street, Stradun, is where you hit the ground running to start your Dubrovnik sightseeing. The street runs from the Pile Gate to the Ploce Gate and is lined with Dubrovnik attractions, atmosphere and activity:

The Large Onofrio Fountain – The large Onofrio fountain is located very close to the Pile Gate. It was constructed in 1438 to source water for the city from the Dubrovacka River located 12km over. This is a great place to enjoy street artists and to catch a breath.

The Stairway to the Walls – The Pile Gate is also where you can begin your tour of the ramparts.  One set of stairs begin right opposite the fountain; the tickets for the wall tour are available at the tourist office, located on the other side of the fountain.

The Stepping Stone – While sitting at the fountain you’ll see a number of tourists jumping onto a small stone jutting from the monastery wall, or trying to. The challenge is to get there without support. Given the stone isn’t wide enough, this can be a very entertaining spot.

Franciscan Monastery – The Franciscan Monastery is one of the oldest pharmacies in Europe. It  has been filling up prescription since 1317. You can learn more about the time at the pharmacy museum inside.

The Sponza Palace – The Sponza Palace was once the local mint. Today it doubles up as a city archive and exhibition hall. Of particular interest is the Memorial Room of the Dubrovnik Defenders, in memory of soldiers who lost their lives during the war.

The Bell Tower – The bell tower closes or frames out one end of Stradun. It is located between the Ploce Gate and the St. Blaise Church. Be sure to catch the two green bronze structures, the Dubrovnik twins, ringing the bell every hour.

Orlando’s Column– Orlando’s Column on the Luza Square was put in place in the 15th century as a symbol of the kingdom’s independence. Back then it was the point of public gatherings, today it is a focal meeting point in the city.

St. Blaise Church – At the edge of the street is the St. Blaise Church. It was built in honour of the patron saint, and he can be found standing over the church and in the church. The stained glass windows, the newest addition to the church, are worth seeing post sundown.

The other attractions on Stradun are the fancy cafes and boutiques. However, it is important to keep in mind that these establishments can pack quite a punch on the wallet.

Tips for Things to Do in Dubrovnik

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