Travel Inspiration By A Pro Trip Designer

Ich Bin Ein Berlinner

Europe

Mar
12
2010

Berlin, Germany

January 29th-February 1st

Berlin's adorable hatted crosswalk man. He was once in danger of extinction and the citizens rallied hard to save the iconic figure.

Berlin's adorable hatted crosswalk man. He was once in danger of extinction and the citizens rallied hard to save the iconic figure.

For a romantic weekend away this February and for an assignment for Brides Magazine, I went to Berlin. Only a 6-hour drive from Amsterdam, this chilly German capital is filled with worthy sites and to my delight, some wonderful shops, great food and lovely hotels.

Although I prefer to walk around cities when the weather is less hostile (it was 5 degrees and 0 with the windchill), Berlin managed to capture my interest wholeheartedly. Mostly because they ensured touring the city is made for dummies with various city tour buses that wind around the center (the preferred brand is the yellow double-decker pictured below) stopping at all the necessary sites (12 in total). The buses also ensure you stay warm if you also intend to visit in the cold.

click on photo for more info

click on photo for more info from Visit Berlin

Equip yourself with a guidebook and hop on and for about 20 euro, you get a full city tour in less than 3 hours. Even better, the buses heavy rotation and multiple coaches allow you to hop on and hop off at each stop at your leisure if you purchase the all-day ticket. This means that you can decide which sites are of true interest to you and allot the time you feel necessary. Oh the freedom reigns in Berlin, now!

If you are a bit wiser and go when the weather is warmer, I highly recommend touring the city by bike. There are multiple tour companies, among them Fat Tire Bike Tours. that offer various levels and durations of tours. If organized tours aren’t your thing (they’re rarely mine) then I recommend at least picking up the special map for the Berlin Wall Bike Tour, which you can find at any Tourist office or online. The marked path leads you along the former wall’s length permitting glimpses into the quiet side streets of both the eastern and western sides of the city.

Muggelsee_beach

Furthermore, the parks in Berlin are among the best city parks in Europe. Tiergarten is a favorite, filled with museums making a bike- museum tour another fun option.  Berlin is also known for its lakes  (the Strandbad Wannsee in the south-west of Berlin and Strandbad Müggelsee in the east are the most popular), which are clean enough for a swim. People flock to the lakeside beaches in the summer.

Now, Getting back to my winter trip, one of the historical sites that I enjoyed most was the city’s Cathedral which, called out to me with its copper green roofs and its antiqued (soot-covered) facade.  The Berliner Dom was originally constructed from 1893 to 1905 Julius Carl and Otto Raschdorff as the high parish church and the state’s most important Protestant church and to serve as the sepulcher of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

The green dome was like a beacon

The green dome and dirty facade was like a beacon

The impressive arched interior of the Cathedral

while the interior was as pristine as could be

Once inside, we toured through the many naves, levels and crypts and marveled at the fine details, particularly the massive organ. The plentiful crypts below are those from thee Hohenzollern dynasty and occupy the entire basement of the church. In fact, it is the crypt, with its ninety sarcophagi and tombs of members of the house of Hohenzollern from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, which is of outstanding significance. Several of the most important sarcophagi, have been on exhibit in the main hall of the cathedral since 1993, among them the two opulent coffins of Friedrich I and his wife Sophie Charlotte, cast in gold-plated lead and tin (pictured below).

The gold and tin plated caskets

The gold plated lead and tincaskets

For me though, the highlight was the church’s beautiful dome, which was destroyed in the bombings of 1944 and later rebuilt. Climbing to the top of the Cathedral and viewing the dome from up close is akin to St. Peters (okay, not as exceptional but still very impressive). Visitors are also permitted to walk the perimeter of the Cathedral’s dome and peer out the windows at the sweeping city views.

The kaleidescopic dome

The kaleidescopic dome

The city view from the top of the Cathedral

The city view from the top of the Cathedral

If you have limited time in Berlin, I highly recommend you spend some time visiting this marvelous relic. It is located right on museum island in the Mitte neighborhood.

Posted in: Europe

Published by Meg, Friday, March 12, 2010 No Comments

Lupita Island Lodge

Africa, Family, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Oct
04
2009

Lake Taganyika, Tanzania

October 4th, 2009

After the glorious safari tour in Tanzania, my last stop was to Lupita Island Lodge, a private island located in the middle of the world’s second largest lake;  Lake Taganyika.  A fresh water lake with a maximum depth of over a mile, Lake Taganyika is a skinny sliver running down the western coast of Tanzania and bordering Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia.

laketag2

The Lake’s blue green waters are wonderfully vibrant while the rocky islands feature curious granite boulders and very little fauna. Then again, it was just before the rainy season and I’m told it gets more lush after the rains. Either way, after being hot, sweaty and somewhat tormented by flies in the Bush for a week, I was thrilled to be near the Lake’s cool water.

Lupita Island from the air

Lupita Island from the air

I arrived via chartered flight from Katavi National Park and landed on an airstrip that was stunning; in the purest form of the word. Just look at this arrival!

laketagapproach

lupitaapproachrunway

The small hut on the right served as the terminal where we unloaded our luggage and supplies for the Lodge.  It’s also where we were met by smiling fleet of local luggage handlers – ready and eager to carry our bags down to the awaiting boat.

Most of this was food supplies for the Lodge

Most of this was food supplies for the Lodge

These adorable little boys insisted on carrying our bags and refused any sort of tip

These adorable little boys insisted on carrying our bags and refused any sort of tip

Once on the boat, with the spray from the Lake cooling my sunburn, I could truly marvel at the size, color and overall magnitude of Lake Taganyika. I recall thinking: this is surely somewhere I could never have imagined.  We zoomed across the chop to Lupita Island passing by locals shuttling on boats between the various islands and shorelines. Our first glimpse of the island was the wooden dock and perhaps the island’s most beloved resident, Roddy the goat.

The dock at Lupita Island Lodge

The dock at Lupita Island Lodge

Once on land we were ferried up the hill in golf cars (if you squint you can see them parked under the center hut in the photo above). At the main house of the Lodge we were greeted by the two women that run the show. After a nice lime-flavored drink I, along with the group, was shown to my private cottage room. My room, number 5, was tucked down into the hillside, at the end of two separate paths and surrounded by acacia trees and chirping birds. The cottages are done in a treehouse-like style with open walls affording intimate views of the lake and direct (yes, direct) communication with nature. The views of the moon, however, are unbelievably stunning, as is the ability to actually ready by moonlight.

The open-air plan with thatched roofing and wood deck flooring just remodeled by <a href=https://www.palmbeachroofingexpert.com/highland-beach-roofing/” width=”460″ height=”345″ />

The open-air plan with thatched roofing and wood deck flooring

The comfy plantation chair with the plunge pool on the deck below below

The comfy plantation chair with the plunge pool on the deck below below

The best feature of my room was without a doubt, the bathroom. From both the shower and the tub the views of Lake Taganyika were uninterrupted. Even the john had a prime vista. I didn’t expect much from the place, I thought the rooms and the whole house was going to be in a really bad shape, but they told me they recently remodeled it and even did some foundation repair services so the rooms feels like brand new.

One of the best soaks in a tub I've ever had or may ever have - truly outstanding

One of the best soaks in a tub I've ever had

As a special romantic touch, the staff will fill a warm bath with local flower petals, line the deck floor with candles and leave a champagne bucket right alongside the tub all as a delicious surprise for the guests arriving back from cocktails on the water.

Activities at Lake Lupita Lodge include kayaking, swimming, diving, snorkeling, plus there’s a full gym, gorgeous lakeside spa, a games room with table tennis, pool and darts and a Boma and huge terrace bar ideal for the transition from fireside cocktails to late-night dance parties. The island is well-suited for a family or group takeover with 14 cottages and two family suites. Having the run of the island makes every element even more enjoyable. And from our group’s amusing 3 night stay, we vowed that what happens on Lupita Island, stays on Lupita Island.

Posted in: Africa, Family, Hotel Reviews, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Sunday, October 4, 2009 No Comments

SHANGHAI VIEWS

Asia, Travel Tips

Sep
12
2009

SHANGHAI

The view of the Huangpu River from my room - a gorgeous morning!

The view of the Huangpu River from my room – a gorgeous morning!

I am so excited to be here in Shanghai. Once again the Chinese dazzle with night lights and build towering skyscrapers to keep man humble. I’m staying as a guest at the Shangri-La on the Pudong side of the river. So far, I’ve learned that “Pu” means river and “dong” means the left side of it. Yesterday we went to “Puxi”, which means the right side of the river and is pronounced “Pu-she”. We traveled to the Fabric Market (pix to come) through the super slick river tunnel. I’m looking forward to getting out more today.

Easily my favorite building/structure in the city. This epitomizes everything I think of when I think of Asian architecture: The Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Easily my favorite building/structure in the city. This epitomizes everything I think of when I think of Asian architecture: The Oriental Pearl TV Tower

A borrowed pic from Trip Advisor until I can get a better one tonight

A borrowed pic from Trip Advisor until I can get a better one tonight

Not sure which building this is but the light was beautiful

The infamous Financial Center – the tallest building on MAINLAND China

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Posted in: Asia, Travel Tips

Published by Meg, Saturday, September 12, 2009 No Comments

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About Meg

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Meg is the founder of luxury travel consulting company, Friend of a Friend Consulting. Her three books, Italian Hideaways, Caribbean Hideaways and England's Hideaways are published by Rizzoli. Passionate about travel, hotels and wine, she continues to write freelance travel pieces and is currently pursuing a Masters in Wine through the WSET.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not reflect separate business relationships with the subject. Whenever posts are supported financially, they are designated as such.