VIA FERRATAS OR HOW TO SAFELY EXPLORE THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Entre randonnée et escalade! Between hiking and climbing!

Ever wanted to try outdoor climbing, but didn’t quite feel ready or brave enough to bite the bullet? Well, we might just have the perfect solution for you – Via Ferrata trails!

Italian by origin, the Via Ferrata trails were created to help infantry travel safely through the Dolomites. These “iron roads”, situated on rock faces, are equipped with cables, ladders, steps, grips and bridges, making them the ideal cross between footpath and vertical rock climb. All you will need is a helmet to protect yourself against falling rocks, a harness that clips into the cable safety system as you progress along the trail, as well as some gloves for a firm grip, and appropriate footwear for stability.

This assisted climbing activity is a great way to admire the valley from high above and to experience the wilds in complete safety, but nonetheless it does require hard work and not all the routes are for everyone. So, depending on whether you are a total novice or an experienced climber, here is a short list of the most popular Via Ferratas in the Alpes-Martimes, classified according to their level of difficulty.

Via Ferrata Balma Negra – Roubion (Easy/moderate)

Just 70 km north of Nice in the Mercantour National Park, this relatively short and straightforward Via Ferrata is ideal for beginners. Located on a 40 to 50 metre cliff, the route overlooks the Tinée valley and does not present any difficulties, aside from a 20 m high crossing towards the end.

Time required: 1.5 hours
Max altitude: 1,450 m
Height gain: + 50 m.
Route length: 300 m
Season: April – October

Via Ferrata Les Canyons de Lantosque – Lantosque (Moderate)

With its 5 monkey bridges, 5 suspension bridges, a 100 metre wall and a fun zip line to end the adventure, this Via Ferrata is an all-time favourite among climbers. Its popularity probably has a lot to do with the fact that the route is located in a beautiful canyon and gradually increases in difficulty.

 

Time required: 3 hours
Max altitude: 500 m
Height gain: + 100 m
Route length: 950 m
Season: April – October

Via Ferrata Le Baus de la Frema – La Colmiane (Difficult)

The oldest and most famous Via Ferrata in the Alpes-Maritimes is also one of the most difficult. The route, which leads to the summit of Baus de la Frema, is full of exposed ladder sections, high ropes crossings and vertical slabs, and takes nearly 5 hours to complete.

Time required: 4.5 hours
Max altitude: 2,246 m
Height gain: + 501 m
Route length: 1,600 m
Season: May – October

Via Ferrata L’Escale – Peille (Very difficult)

 

Just a few miles from Monaco and about 30 minutes from Nice, the Escale Via Ferrata is a challenging and physically demanding route that is divided into four sections, each lasting 45 minutes. It provides beautiful views over the village of Peille, but definitely requires some previous climbing experience.

Time required: 2.5 hours
Max altitude: 750 m
Height gain: + 230 m

Route length: 800 m
Season: Year round
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Via Ferrata Les Hérétiques – Tende (Very difficult)

Probably the most spectacular trail, this Via Ferrata offers a fun 120 m zip-line as well as a wonderful panorama over the Mercantour massif and the mediaeval castle of Chapelle St-Sauveur. This is the reward for overcoming this sporty 1km long route.

Time required: 3.5 hours
Max altitude: 1,338 m
Height gain: + 330 m

Route length: 1,000 m
Season: April – October

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Bons baisers de Russie! From Russia with love!

When it comes to must-see destinations, one name that always comes to mind is that of beautiful Saint Petersburg.

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Nicknamed the Venice of the North or the Paris of the East (depending on your preference), the city, established by Peter the Great in 1703 to replace Moscow as the Tsarist capital, is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, if not the most beautiful.

With its baroque and classical palaces, its numerous canals and bridges, its world-class museums and colourful churches, it is a spellbinding spot worth visiting any time of year. One reason alone to discover the city is the Winter Palace, the former state residence of the Russian emperors and now home to The Hermitage. Famous for its green facade, grandiose staircases and gilded state rooms,  it is well worth the detour. Its collection of more than 3 million works of art and artefact, including gems such as Leonard da Vinci’s Madonna, Caravaggio’s The Lute Player, Claude Monet’s Woman in a Garden, Pablo Picasso’s Absinthe Drinker, and Henri Matisse’s The Dance, could keep you busy for days, maybe even weeks.

The Hermitage is just one among many recommended stops. The nearby Russian Museum, for instance, pays tribute to local artists past and present, while the new Fabergé Museum in the Stuvalov Palace displays more than 4,000 pieces of art, including a dozen or so of the famous Easter Eggs made for the imperial family by legendary Carl Fabergé. They are each individually designed with diamonds, gold, rhinestones and silver, and open up to reveal a surprise within.

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Across the Neva, the Peter and Paul Fortress with its imposing bell tower, is one of the main symbols of the city. A former prison for high-ranking or political opponents, it is now the burial vault of the Romanovs. However, the most impressive religious landmarks may just be the Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood that dominates Saint Petersburg with its whimsical onion domes. Built on the very spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated, it is decorated with incredibly detailed mosaics created by the most important Russian artists of the time.

Cruising the city’s canals is always a pleasant experience, except maybe when the temperatures drop below zero, which can happen even in May, but strolling down Nevsky Prospekt, Saint Petersburg’s main avenue, is probably the best way to appreciate the sumptuous architecture. And if one wants to venture out into the countryside, Peterhof, the Romanov’s answer to Versailles, proves to be a fascinating place with its palace, Grand Cascade, dozens of water-spouting gilded statues, and royal gardens.

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Centuries after Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy, Saint Petersburg definitely remains Russia’s most progressive metropolis and a cultural hub with a European vibe. Meanwhile, just four hours away by train, Moscow is by contrast as Russian as can be.

Welcome to Москва́

Full of contradictions, the political and economic capital is a huge city filled with historical landmarks standing alongside modern architecture, marked both by the Tsarist regime and its many decades under communist rule, at the same time unruly and business-driven. It certainly will not leave you feeling indifferent!

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Any visit should of course start with the (in)famous Red Square. Located right in the heart of the city on the site of the old market place, it has been the focal point over the years for military parades, concerts, or just hanging out with friends. Originally meaning beautiful in old Russian, the place is now only referred as the Red Square, despite not being a square…or red!

Its most notable site is, without doubt, St. Basil’s Cathedral, the ultimate architectural symbol of Russia which, with its colourful cupolas, domes and towers, seems straight out of a fairy tale.

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Another church on the square, that of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan is worth a visit, just for the golden icon above the door. Not far from there, the State Historical Museum built during the 19th century, holds interesting exhibitions year-round, while the ceiling of its parade hall has the family tree of Russian tsars painted on it.

History buffs will probably want to stop by the Mausoleum where Lenin is frozen for eternity, but shopping addicts may just prefer to spend some time in the impressive GUM Department store to check some of the 200 upscale boutiques and have lunch at the Soviet-style cantine Stolovaya N10.

Another not-to-be-missed landmark is, of course, the Kremlin, the grandiose fortress that over its 800 year history has successively been the residence of the tsars, the communist leaders, and now the President. A self-contained village within the city, it includes the Presidential Palace along with many beautiful cathedrals, the Tsar Bell (the Broken Bell), the Tsar Cannon, a spacious garden, as well as the wonderful Kremlin’s Armoury museum and its vast collection of State Regalia, coronation dresses, carriages, Russian gold and silver artwork, Fabergé eggs, and ambassadorial gifts from all over the world.

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There is a wealth of fascinating buildings in Moscow, from the Bolshoi Theatre to the old headquarters of the KGB, but it may be underground that the city is at its most beautiful. Opened in May, the city’s metro is indeed a real art museum with its chandeliers, marble, mosaics and statutes that will blow you away.

Aeroflot offers direct flights from Nice to Moscow on a daily basis, and every day but Tuesday to Saint Petersburg.

BEAUTIFUL BRATISLAVA MAKES FOR THE PERFECT WEEKEND GETAWAY

Oubliez Prague, Bratislava est la nouvelle destination pour un week-end parfait en Europe. Forget Prague, Bratislava is the new destination for a perfect weekend in Europe.

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Sandwiched between Budapest and Vienna, and just a stone’s throw from Prague, it is very easy to overlook Bratislava, capital of Slovakia.

Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 which saw the country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it seems like the former has received the lion’s share of world attention and tourism. But the Slovakian capital of Bratislava definitely possesses both an old-fashioned charm and an interesting history that makes it the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Spanning both banks of the Danube, the city which was once known as Pressburg, boasts a long and complex past, marked by the likes of the Hapsburgs, Napoléon, the Nazis, and the Communists.

One of the best examples of this is probably Bratislava Castle, a massive monument sitting atop a hill, overlooking the entire city (see lead image). Built in the 9th century, it became the formal seat of the kings of Royal Hungary in the mid 16th century. Restored many times over its 1,000+ years of existence, it has four corner towers that make it look like an upturned table. And according to legend, the internal stairs are very wide and shallow as Hapsburg Empress Maria Theresa was too heavy to climb them herself, and insisted instead on riding her horse up and down. The castle is now home to the Slovak National museum and its beautiful grounds provide for some great photo opportunities.

A walk through the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town is like stepping back in time. The buildings date from various architectural periods, and the main square, Hlavné Námestie, full of cafés and kiosks selling handcrafts, bustles with life.

From the terraces of both Michael’s Gate, the only preserved gate of Bratislava’s fortifications, and the Old Town Hall’s Yellow Tower, one can enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the surroundings. The three-nave Gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral with its gilded replica of the coronation crown atop is a reminder of the city’s glorious past, while the many whimsical statutes that are dotted around the Old Town are a nod to a quirkier side, like Schöne Náci, the jovial chap in tails with cane, who doffs his top hat to the curious Čumil popping out of a manhole (pictured below).

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Just outside the walls of the Old Town, St. Elizabeth’s church, built in the Art Nouveau style at the beginning of the 20th century, is a not-to-be-missed attraction with it blue-coloured façade and dome. A little further outside the city, the ruins of Devin Castle, a fortress built on a high rock towering above the confluence of the Danube and Morava Rivers, offer enchanting natural scenery.

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There is no direct flight from Nice to Bratislava, but the city is easily accessible by train or bus from both Vienna and Budapest.

LE HAVRE SHOWS THE WORLD THAT CONCRETE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL

Pourquoi ne pas découvrir Le Have cet été? Why not discover Le Havre this summer?

With its post-war and communist-style architecture, Le Havre is usually not on most people’s list of places to visit, but this summer the Norman resort is all the craze.

…and it is not because its mayor, Edouard Philippe, has recently been named France’s new Prime Minister.

Founded by King Francis I in 1517, the city is celebrating its half millennium with a 6-month long calendar of events, un été au Havre (a summer in Le Havre) that kicked off on the 27th of May with a massive street party, and runs until the 5th of November. A good occasion to show the world how the city has managed to reinvent itself after being severely bombed at the end of the Second World War, thanks to the incredible work of visionary architect Auguste Perret.

« Facing the seas, we will recreate the waterfront. People will savour the view from the open sea, before getting off the ships » – Auguste Perret

Because the city was one of France’s most important maritime ports, its reconstruction became a national priority, and Perret decided to rebuild the devastated city centre in concrete, to give both stability and uniformity to the various structures. Each city block was designed to provide maximum sunlight, balconies often running the length of the buildings, and open residential blocks were created.

If Le Havre’s city centre was very controversial and misunderstood, this all changed in 2015 when it was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since then, the city has become a diverse and vibrant hub for artists, hosting biannual modern art exhibitions, as well as a destination for foodies and sport lovers, thanks in part to its renovated waterfront.

Among the many events planned for this summer, there will be some free shows by the Nantes-based Royal de Luxe street theatre company and their giant puppets in July, as well as the display at the André Malraux Modern Art Museum (MuMa) of Claude Monet’s masterpiece “Impression, Sunrise”, which was created from a scene in the port of Le Havre, while, in August, 40 of the world’s largest heritage ships will be stopping over.

KENSINGTON PALACE PAYS TRIBUTE TO ULTIMATE STYLE ICON THAT WAS PRINCESS DIANA

Une expo qui vaut le détour si vous êtes à Londres. An exhibition that is worth a detour if you are in London.

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One of the most photographed women in the world, she inspired millions of women and designers the world over with her impeccable red carpet looks.

Now, nearly 20 years since her death in Paris in a car accident (on the 31st of August, 1997), Princess Diana is being celebrated as the fashion icon she was in a beautiful exhibition held in the place she called home for over 15 years, Kensington Palace. A great occasion to witness the late Royal’s evolution from a shy debutante with a country girl style to a daring fashionista who communicated through her clothes.

The exhibitionDiana: Her Fashion Story” starts with the Emanuel pale pink chiffon blouse she wore during her first official portrait in 1981 captured by Lord Snowdon and follows with the Bill Pashley brown tweet suit the princess famously wore on her honeymoon in Balmoral in 1981. As time went by, Diana clearly grew more confident, even making comments on the sketches that were sent to her for approval, and in the latter years of her life, thanks in part to her supermodel figure that made any dress she wore look fantastic, it was obvious that Diana no longer followed trends but instead set them. From the sleeveless above the knee outfit she wore to a Christies Auction Gala in New York in 1997, to the green silk velvet evening gown with diamond buttons she wore for a 1997 Vanity Fair photo shoot by Mario Testino, both dresses Catherine Walker creations, she was by then in full control of her image and definitely helped put British fashion designers on the map.

The 25 dresses on display have been lent back by private owners who had acquired them during the famous aforementioned auction where the princess put 79 of her gowns up for auction for charity.

This exhibition is just one of the many events that are going to be organized this year to commemorate the life of Princess Diana. Already, some 12,000 of her favourite flowers, including narcissi, tulips and roses, have recently burst into life thanks to the early spring weather. Created by the gardeners at Kensington Palace, this temporary White Garden was inspired by Diana’s white “Elvis” Catherine Walker dress that is on display, and also includes a few touches of colour in tribute to the Princess’s sense of fun and spirit.

CONTACT DETAILS
Kensington Palace
Kensington Gardens
London W8 4PX
United Kingdom

THE WINTER WONDERLAND THAT IS VIENNA

Souvenirs de mon week-end à Vienne pour Riviera Buzz. Souvenirs from my weekend in Vienna for Riviera Buzz.

With its baroque architecture and fairytale castles, its rich cultural life and world-class museums, Vienna is a wonderful place to visit…all season long.

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The Austrian capital is a great place to visit any time of year, but come the holiday season, as the air becomes crispy and the blue Danube turns grayish-brown, Vienna literally transforms itself into a wonderland, thanks in part to the many Christmas markets that pop up all over the metropolis. The streets are gorgeously decked out with sparkling lights, bows and other tasteful decorations, while many wooden huts sell handmade toys, painted ceramics, ornaments, local delicacies as well as mugs of Glühwein, the famous spicy mulled red wine.

Once you get into the holiday spirit, it is the perfect time to wander around and explore all the marvellous sights the city has to offer. One of the major tourist attractions remains the Schönbrunn Palace, comparable in grandeur to Versailles, which will take you on a romantic whirl in the footsteps of Empress Elisabeth, aka “Sissi”. Even without the gardens in their summer splendor, the rococo-style former residence of the imperial family tells the story of a glorious era that started with Maria Theresa, Marie-Antoinette’s mother and the only female Habsburg ruler, and ended at the end of World War I, with the death of Sissi’s husband, Emperor Franz Joseph.

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The elegance and pomp of the famed Austrian dynasty is also reflected in the architecture of the Hofburg, the imperial palace (pictured in lead image), comprising many different architectural styles, from Gothic and Baroque to Renaissance and classical. In many ways, a “city-within-a-city”, the spectacular monument, with its many squares and gardens, occupies an area of some 59 acres and hosts, among many other attractions, the Imperial Apartments, the Sissi Museum, the Austrian National Library, and the famed Spanish Riding School with its Lipizzan horses.

But the castle is not the only landmark that defines the city centre. The nearby St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which was built in 1147 AD has indeed been the heart of Vienna for centuries. With its two impressive features, the gigantic roof and the imposing tower, it was the tallest building in Europe for a long period, measuring almost 137m. It houses many art treasures like the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), the sepulchre of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert (1467-1513), and the Gothic winged altar.

A few steps away, Prince Eugene of Savoy’s 18th-century summer palace, the Belvedere, is home to a stunning art museum that includes the world’s largest Gustav Klimt collection and what is probably the artist’s most famous work, The Kiss, a gold-brushed, mosaic-like painting portray of a couple locked in a tender embrace on a bed of flowers.

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For the sweet-toothed among you, a visit to one (or more) of Vienna’s numerous cafes is a must. Take this opportunity to try some of the country’s most famous pastries, like the Linzertorte, a rich, buttery tart layered with fruit preserves, and which is widely thought to be the world’s oldest-known cake, or the Sachertorte, a delicious chocolate confection filled with apricot jam that fits perfectly in the grandiose décor of the 19th-century Café Sacher.

Of course, no stay in Vienna would be complete without an evening at the famous Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), shaped like a horseshoe. Music is indeed the city’s legacy to the world, and winter is the season for ballgowns and waltzes. However, if you cannot score tickets for the New Year’s concert by the Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra, fear not — the music of Mozart and Strauss can be found in many of the concert halls throughout town on a nightly basis.

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Both Austrian Airlines and Niki offer daily direct flights.

ATHENS IS SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST AN OPEN-AIR MUSEUM

Souvenirs d’un long week-end à Athènes! Souvenirs from a long weekend in Athens!

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Just a couple of hours from the French Riviera, the historic Greek city of Athens is well worth considering for a weekend visit.

Athens is frantic and chaotic, heavily polluted and decayed in spots, yet despite all this, it remains a fascinating city, rooted in history and traditions. It is also modern, cosmopolitan and alive, making it an ideal location for the perfect weekend getaway.

Whether ancient ruins are your thing or not, it is almost impossible to go to the Greek capital and not climb the hill of the Acropolis (“the sacred rock”) to see the Parthenon in all its magnificence. Described by the 19th century French engineer and architectural historian Auguste Choisy as “the supreme effort of genius in pursuit of beauty”, it is unquestionably Athen’s most iconic structure. Despite having been rocked by earthquakes, shattered by explosions, and even looted for its sculptures, the monument still stands proud amid other ruins as a vibrant testimony to Greece’s Golden Age.

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After the visit, a stop at the nearby Acropolis Museum, and later at the world famous National Archaeological Museum of Athens, is almost mandatory, to appreciate all the priceless finds from excavations from here and from around the city. You will also have the chance to learn more about the story of the Elgin Marbles, the stone carvings removed by Lord Elgin and brought to London in the early 19th century, where they have been a fixture in the British Museum ever since … to the great despair of the Greeks.

The Acropolis and the Parthenon are just a few of the remains that are worth a detour. The Temple of Olympian Zeus with its 104 Pentelic marble columns, each 17 metres high, and the largest of all the Greek temples, or the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium which was built in 330 BC for the Panathenaic contest, and later totally restored with marbles for the first modern Olympics in 1896, provide for an interesting insight into the past.

While you are never far from traces of history, Athens offers much more than just archaeological sites – a stroll in the Plaka district, under the slopes of the Acropolis, will give you a taste of how vibrant the city can be. With its neoclassical mansions, its balconies with bougainvilleas and its small winding roads, it used to be a working class area, and many Greek films of the early 50’s and 60’s were filmed there. Nowadays, it is probably the nicest of the city’s neighbourhoods, with its high-class restaurants, street musicians, busy cafés, and jewelry stores. An ideal place to indulge in some of the country’s culinary specialties, such as moussaka or tzatziki, sip some ouzo, the local aperitif, or try a cup of Greek coffee, a very strong and rich drink made from finely ground roasted beans.

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Other places of interest to discover are the Athens Central Market (Varvakios Market), a big bazaar where you can basically buy just about anything, and Syntagma Square, which houses the Parliament, guarded 24 hours a day by the Evzones, the country’s elite soldiers, famous around the world for their traditional pleated skirt.

There are also plenty of activities on offer throughout the city. Of an evening, why not catch a movie in one of the city’s many open-air theatres. Or take a day trip from Athens to Cape Sounio where, perched on a rocky hilltop above the Aegean Sea, the extraordinary Temple of Poseidon offers one of the most breathtaking panoramas in the world. Or consider a cruise to the islands of Hydra, Poros, and Aegina to enjoy the crystal-clear waters of the Saronic Gulf.

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Aegean Airlines offers direct flights between Nice and Athens every Tuesday and Thursday.

COLOURFUL PORTO IS A PHOTOGRAPHER’S DREAM

Article sur mon voyage à Porto pour Riviera Buzz. Article about my trip to Porto for Riviera Buzz.

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Porto, Portugal’s second city, is the real deal when it comes to beautiful architecture, magical atmosphere, and delicious wines.

In recent years, Lisbon has become one of the favorite destinations of European travellers, and while the Portuguese capital rarely disappoints, its northern counterpart, Porto, is also well worth considering for a visit.

As one of Europe’s oldest cities, Porto is indeed all about colourful tiled buildings, quaint cobbled streets, baroque monuments, Romanesque churches, vibrant plazas, and art nouveau cafes. Its riverfront and old fishing district, Ribeira, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, looks like a picture perfect postcard as you cross the Don Luis bridge over the Douro river. The many hills provide for beautiful views of the red roofs and various architectural styles. But these are just a few of the many highlights of a trip to Portugal’s second city.

Almost everywhere you go, a building or a detail will capture your attention. The 1916 São Bento Railway Station, for instance, boasts a beautiful hall decorated with some 20,000 azulejo ceramic tiles, and Livraria Lello is considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, thanks to its stunning red staircases. Meanwhile, the Café Majestic is a definite must-see attraction for both its façade and beautiful interior.

Porto may have a rich history, but it also has a modern outlook as evidenced by its thriving art scene and the futuristic spectacle offered by the daring Casa da Música, its new House of Music, which was designed by acclaimed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

This cultural diversity can be found as well in the gastronomic specialties. Aside from the classic Portuguese staples such as bacalhau (cod), and pastéis de nata (custard tarts), you will be able to enjoy fresh seafood, a great variety of cheese and Porto’s unique dish, the “francesinha”, literally “Little French One”, a sandwich stuffed with sausage, ham and steak, and covered with cheese and a special hot sauce made of tomato and beer.

Even if you do not drink, a trip to Porto would not be complete without a visit to one of the city’s numerous cellars or one of the many vineyards in the neighbouring Douro Valley … to sip, of course, some Port wines.

 

 

IT’S ALWAYS CHRISTMAS IN DRØBAK!

Souvenirs d’un week-end de Noël à Oslo pour Riviera Buzz! Souvenirs from a Christmas weekend in Oslo for Riviera Buzz!

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Christmas is just days away and if you are worried with all that’s going on in the world right now, that the presents will not arrive on time, fear not!

Santa’s helpers in Drøbak, Norway, are hard at work! Indeed, if the Finns are convinced that Santa Claus resides in their country, just north of Rovaniemi, the Norwegians believe that he lives just a 30-minute drive from Oslo, in an idyllic little fishing village located on the fjord. When visitors arrive in Drøbak, they are welcomed by a warning sign that says “Watch out for Nisse”.

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The village is mostly famous for its Tregarden Julehus ( the « Wooden Christmas House ») which celebrates Santa Claus all year round and sells all kinds of Christmas articles such as ornaments, candles and napkins. Each year it draws some 250,000 visitors, including some world dignitaries who have been so impressed by what they have seen that they have invited the owners of the shop to come to visit their countries and spread the Christmas cheers. One of them is Prince Albert who can been seen on some of the pictures displayed at the entrance.

The store is a cute three-story structure, which opens on a little square and is surrounded by clapboard 18th century houses as well as the Christmas house official post office where you can get your letters and cards stamped with the official Christmas postmark. Meanwhile, not too far away, the Drøbak Tourist Information Centre has a permanent exhibition of more than 250,000 letters sent to “Julenissen” from all over the world.

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Julenissen is the name given to Santa Claus by the Norwegians and is an elf-like gnome who lives in the woods. And because he is the guardian of the welfare of all families, children leave a bowl of porridge for him during the holiday season to thank him for his blessings.

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ENJOY LA VIE EN ROSE IN TOULOUSE

Souvenirs de Toulouse pour Riviera Buzz! Souvenirs from Toulouse for Riviera Buzz!

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Few cities can boast such a rich historical past combined with cutting-edge modernity, vibrant nightlife and laidback atmosphere as Toulouse.

France’s fourth largest city, the « ville rose » as Toulouse is lovingly called thanks to its red brick facades which turn pink in the evening, is truly a city that seduces visitors and wins their hearts.

Situated close to the Pyrenees and built on the banks of the Garonne, Toulouse has an outstanding history, which is exemplified by many interesting buildings from the Saint-Sernin basilica, a masterpiece of Roman art, to the impressive Capitole, the current city hall, with its 8 columns of pink marble and its Henry IV courtyard, and from the cloister of the Jacobins to the magnificent Hôtel d’Assezat, which hosts a wonderful permanent collection of paintings, bronzes and objects d’arts, and is just one of the city’s many private mansions.

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Walking through the myriad of narrow streets or along the quays and enjoying the views and the nice weather, it is difficult not to fall under the spell of the city.

Just a bit further away from the center, the Canal du Midi, which has been classified as a World Heritage Site and links the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, is a perfect place for a relaxing stroll while the lovely squares and numerous parks such as the Jardin Royal or the Jardin des Plantes provide for a welcome green respite.

Proud of its Spanish influences, Toulouse has also cultivated its own Occitan identity; the street names are written in French and Spanish, and the local accent has a definite twang!

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This fascinating heritage however doesn’t stop the city from looking to the future. Toulouse is not only home toAirbus, but also to hordes of hi-tech companies such as Galileo, the global positioning site, making it the European capital of aeronautics. A Cité de l’Espace theme park has even been developed on 5 hectares to entertain visitors with space-related attractions.

But maybe what makes Toulouse so special in the eyes of so many people is not its rich history and pretty landscape but simply its undeniable “joie de vivre”. Its inhabitants, who count among their number a vibrant student population, definitely know how to appreciate life.

Maybe the best way to experience the city is to just sit and relax at a café with a glass of local wine, or try a cassoulet, a prime example of rustic Southern French cuisine, or watch the famed local rugby team, Stade Toulousain, in action.

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