Bucharest, Romania’s capital city was once nicknamed as Little Paris or Paris of the East. And for a reason. Its glorious architecture made it one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe in the beginning of the 20th century. However, most of the elegant buildings were destroyed during the years of communist misrule and a terrible earthquake. Today, the city is a mix of some pearls of that old sophisticated architecture, gray Soviet blocks, and modern buildings. Bucharest can’t be called the most romantic city in the world but it has a lot of nice places to see and visit with your loved one on your romantic trip.
One of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest is the Romanian Athenaeum. This is a glamorous concert hall built in the neoclassical style. It can boast luxurious exterior and interior. Doric columns and 40-meter high dome make it look like an ancient temple. The interior walls are decorated with mosaics depicting scenes from Romanian history. This is the home of George Enescu Philharmonic where you can listen to classical music.
This tiny but lovely church is a real gem of Bucharest. It’s built in the Brancovenesc style (Romanian Renaissance) combined with some Byzantine elements and Romanian architectural forms. The church is elegant and beautiful both from the outside and inside. Paintings and frescoes, wood and stone carvings can be seen inside. It’s known among the tourists for its rich library that features a collection of over 8000 books on theology, byzantine music, arts, and history.
This is the oldest park in Bucharest. Although it’s often referred to as a park, it’s actually a 17-hectare garden. It’s located in the center of the bustling city so people come here to find peace and relax. Take a stroll among the lawns and winding paths surrounded by numerous trees and exotic flowers brought here from the Vienna’s botanical gardens. There is a lake so you can rent a rowing boat and explore it in summer or skate in winter. The Roman Garden laid out in the style of ancient Rome is probably the most romantic place in the park.
Palace of the Parliament
You can’t miss this administrative building because it’s so huge and impressive that you’ll notice it immediately. Situated in the historical center of Bucharest it attracts people’s attention by its dimensions and architecture. It is not less pompous inside and you can visit it via a guided tour.
Treat your partner to a day of royal relaxation on the territory of Mogosssoaia Palace located 10 km away from Bucharest. Although the area where the palace can be found is far from impressive (it’s a rural landscape), the building and its courtyards are astonishing. The palace is open for visitors so don’t miss the chance to get inside and get lost going from room to room climbing spiral stairs. Also, visit the basement, a church, and a small house that serves as a museum. After that, take a walk in the gardens along the lake. Since it’s not very promoted among the tourist, it’s never crowded so you can breathe in fresh air, enjoy natural beauty, and listen to the silence.
Photo by fusion-on-horizons via Flickr Creative Commons
It's no secret I have a sweet tooth. I simply love everything from cakes to pastries and ice cream. So wherever I travel, I always try to stop by the most famous bakery in town. But in Valencia, I want to recommend you 5 places that you should really try. No worries, they are all centrally located and within easy reach.
This is my favorite pastry shop in Valencia, hands down. Walking inside any of their shops (they have two) is like stepping into a sweet, sweet wonderland. Many of their cakes are made with dulce de leche, of course, one delicacy I'm not entirely sure how I was able to live without until recently. But my absolute favorite is their dulce de leche coffee - simply the best combination!
If you love decadently thick Spanish hot chocolate, this place is for you. Over the past 130 years, Chocolates Valor has become an institution. Their menu is quite extensive, ranging from the must try hot chocolate with churros and chocolate shots to chocolate slush and some really creative chocolate desserts.
Okay, so to be completely honest, you'll have to visit Valencia at the beginning of October if you want to eat any of these adorable marzipan delicacies. They are only produced in the days before the Saint Dionis celebrations, the local patron saint of lovers. I love marzipan in any shape or size, but these fruit and veggie shaped specialties, are among my favorites. Hot tip: they taste even better when they have an egg yolk filling.
La Mas Bonita
This is another place that made waves when they opened in Valencia a few years ago. Back then, their only restaurant was by the beach. But in the meantime, they also opened a more central restaurant, in the Russafa neighborhood. They have an abundant gastronomic offer, from breakfast and brunch to a lunch and dinner menu. But I recommend you visit them for their red velvet cake made with cheesecake cream. Finger licking good!
This pastry shop has been around for many years and they pride themselves on not using any frozen products, while also staying true to the traditional baking methods. But forth and foremost what you should try here is their terrer, a typical Valencian cupcake, made after a recently rescued old recipe. Terrer is a moist cake with a hint of orange and a delish layer of burned turron on top. Can you say no to that? I know I can't!
Long live the wireless earbud trend that is shaping up to be the next revolution in the audio wearable. I always hated cables, especially the cables of my headphones. Every time after taking my seat on an airplane or train, I used to spend the first moments fighting with my headphone cables. But no more.
Gone are the days when I tread along my morning jog with a cable dangling in front of me. Enter the new wireless buds that connect to the phone via Bluetooth, but also don't have any physical connection between them to worry about.
After so many years of waiting, it finally happened. Out of the many startups and big-name companies that are trying to make truly wireless earbuds, a small company called Erato made a pair where the Bluetooth connection doesn’t continuously drop out. This has been the most consistent problem with just about every other pair of wireless earbuds.
But with Erato’s earbuds, known by their catchy name, Apollo 7, I don’t have to pay attention where I place my phone when I use them. Handbag, backpack, front pocket, back pocket, it really doesn’t matter where my phone is. The Apollo 7 offers a truly wire-free earbud experience that actually works perfectly.
Firstly, let's get out of the way the two questions that most people will ask:
Are the buds easy to loose?
And how good is the battery life?
I thought the new wireless buds would come with a different set of problems, that I will have to worry about - losing one of them. But that was only until I got my hands on Erato's Apollo 7. The buds come with a dedicated carry case that also acts as a charging device. Once I finish using the buds, I just place them into the carry case and drop it into my handbag or pocket.
They have up to 4 hours of battery autonomy, but once in the case the buds will get recharged by the case, and they will be ready for me to use them again. Due to the compact charging case, I can go on using them all day long. The battery in the case can charge them two full times before I need to find an outlet or use my portable power bank.
Design and Features
I'm sure you'll all agree that Erato's Apollo 7 are the best looking wireless earbuds out there, right? I mean, look at this excellent design! It offers waterproof audio enjoyment for the active types without any cable hassle. Plus, the Apollo offers standalone touch controls for switching tracks or answering phone calls with the built-in omnidirectional microphone.
Weighing just 4 grams, these buds support the advanced AAC, SBC, and aptX audio standards, and lock into your auricle securely with an inventive horn system, while looking good on the outside. Each bud has a small button so you can control tracks, change volume and answer calls.
Those little buttons actually work surprisingly well, given the lack of available real estate. A long press will switch each bud on and off and activate Bluetooth pairing. A single press answers calls or pauses music. A double press, meanwhile, will increase or lower volume depending on the side. Just press the left ear for volume down, right for up, or activate Siri/Google Voice. They are amazingly easy to use!
While wearing the Apollo 7 you will notice that they stick out just a bit. They do not hang down from your ears like Apple's Airpods. They are comfortable to wear, and never feel like they are going to fall out, not even during jogging.
Even so, for the tiny bit that people might notice in my ear, I wanted the right color for me. I am happy to say there are four colors to choose from, which happen to match the colorways of the iPhone - dark gray, light gray, metallic pink and gold. Coincidence? The buds are so small that there's not really a lot to judge them on, but if you are paying attention to every little detail, these buds will not disappoint. They look amazing in your ear.
So is it time to join the truly wireless club? If Apple has its way, the 3.5mm jack will be a thing of the past, and you'll want to consider wireless headphones even if right now you're not interested. I am not usually an early adaptor, mostly due to the costs that come with this type of life choice, but I hate cables so much, I had to go wireless. And Erato's Apollo 7 gives the opportunity to go truly wireless!
Despite what your parents or career advisor believe, spending a year or more travelling abroad isn’t simply an extended holiday.
Sure, there’ll be lots of beaches, amazing food and late night parties with new friends from around the world, but it’s not all fun and games.
Moving from country to country requires comprehensive planning and organisation, and being away from home for such a long time – in totally alien places – means you’re continually building invaluable life skills.
Unfortunately, for parents with more traditional views about life after school, experiential benefits aren’t always quite enough to satisfy their demands about “the point of travelling”.
To help you put their minds at rest, here are five other clear and practical ways of making sure your stint abroad adds to your CV.
#1: study as you travel
Distance learning courses can be completed from anywhere you choose, whether that’s your family home in Glasgow or a beach on the Italian coast.
It won’t be easy, and you may have to sacrifice a little relaxation time, but you’ll end up with a degree to help you get your dream job.
#2: create your own blog
It’s no secret that making money as a writer is difficult, yet that’s not quite the point of publishing a blog detailing your many adventures.
Even if it never takes off you’ll get to develop some CV-friendly skills, like writing, photography and editing. Plus, choose a free hosting platform and it won’t cost you a penny to keep friends and family posted on your latest activities.
#3: perfect a second language
Practise makes perfect when it comes to learning a second language, and travelling will give you plenty of time to have your high school French flawlessly fluent.
The reality is, in lots of countries you won’t have any choice but to learn the national language. When your knowledge falters and English isn’t working, there are apps and dictionaries to help you communicate all the important stuff – like asking for directions to the best pub.
#4: build work experience
Part-time jobs aren’t only good for building work experience to strengthen your CV, they also let you earn a little extra pocket money.
Waitressing, leading tours or even nannying – there are several different options. Just make sure you check the conditions of your visa first as places like Australia can have strict rules about visitors and the right to work.
#5: add volunteering expertise
Taking a place on a volunteering program can add both character and expertise to help your future job applications stand out from the crowd.
No matter what your interest – from conservation projects to teaching English abroad – with a little research you’ll find one that lets you develop professional skills and have some fun at the same time.
Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way whilst you’re travelling and you’ll come home with a winning CV neither your parents nor prospective employers will be able to resist.
Photo by Campaign Bootcamp under Flickr Creative Commons
Japan is one of the world’s pioneering countries when it comes to railway services and public transportation. The country is famous for its amazingly reliable train system. Their average delay time per whole year is one single minute. And if a train happens to be delayed even by 30 seconds, all passengers at the platform will surely hear a loud apologizing message with all the relevant information on the following train.
To give you a better idea of how incredible the Japanese punctuality is, here are some numbers:
• There are over 800 stations just in the metropolitan area of Tokyo.
• Tokyo’s central Shinjuku station provides service to over 3.6 million commuters daily.
• Japan’s trains make over 40 million daily journeys on the interconnected metro system and suburban railways.
Apart from these “tiny” details, you can also count on the trains always being spotless. I honestly cannot even think of how to make the comparison between how clean the trains are and their punctuality. There will be no winner in this comparison as Japan’s services tend always to be on a world-class level.
Unlike the typical experience you may have on the Tokyo metro during rush hours (getting squeezed in by specially hired personnel, wearing white gloves) the rapid and bullet trains are very comfortable and spacious. Generally speaking, there are two types of seating reservations on the national Japanese trains - reserved and non-reserved seating areas. Some train categories have reserved seats only, while others have a mixture of both.
For train journeys that require passengers to book a seat in advance, all you need to do is go to the train station about 10-15 minutes before the trip with your train ticket and book a seat. In case all seats are already booked (very rare, unless rush hour in major cities), standing tickets will be made available.
Types of Japanese trains
There are different types of Japanese national trains as well as different stop patterns of each train category. The trains that stop at each station are called local trains. They serve all local stops, until their final destination.
The trains that serve the same trajectory but stop at fewer stops are called:
• Limited Express
• Shinkansen bullet trains
A rapid train can easily develop the same speed as an express train, however, due to the number of stops it makes, it can take up to a couple of hours to arrive.
Since the majority of people that go to Japan purely for travel purposes make the most out of it by taking advantage of the discounted multi-use Japan Rail Pass ticket, I am going to discuss the 3 most popular points, accessible for free with the JR Pass:
1. Taking the Narita Express
Narita Express (N’EX) is the train that provides direct and rapid connection between the biggest airport of Tokyo - Narita (Terminals: 1,2,3) and the city’s central and primary stations:
Depending on your arrival station, the Narita Express journey can last from half an hour to one hour.
This is a reservation-only train, so make sure to book your tickets upon arrival at the airport, before boarding the train. The standard price for a one-way journey to Tokyo Station is a little over 3,000 yen. However, all JR Pass holders can book their tickets and ride the Narita Express as many times as they want. This advantage only makes for 6,000 yen of savings on airport transfer costs.
2. Taking the Shinkansen bullet trains
The Shinkansen bullet trains are one of Japan’s most famous attractions. The fastest of all bullet trains operates at a speed of 320 km/h (199 mph). Logically, the bullet trains make fewer stops than any local or rapid train, which is another speed-related advantage. A curious fact is that the Shinkansen trains require a different type of railways since they cannot ride nor reach their maximum speed on regular rail tracks. For this reason, all Shinkansen trains’ tracks are separated from the rest.
There are direct Shinkansen bullet train services, connecting, but not limited to:
The price of a bullet train ticket is always higher in comparison to the prices for local or express train tickets. This, of course, does not affect JR Pass holders, who can ride any national JR train entirely free of charge during the validity period of the given pass.
It is important to remember that the JR Pass covers all national rail services. This does not include the train categories Nozomi and Mizuho, which belong to private Japanese companies.
3. Bonus tip: Taking the Miyajima Ferry (Hiroshima)
The famous Miyajima ferry connects the port of Hiroshima (Miyajima Guchi pier) to the world and cultural heritage site of the Miyajima Island (also known as Itsukushima). Two different companies operate the ferries, and one of them is the national Japan Rail Group. Consequently, JR Pass holders can take the ferry the times they want. The standard travel time between the two piers is just 10 minutes. This makes for a perfect day trip itinerary.
Apart from the emblematic city of Hiroshima, its parks and Ground Zero memorials, travelers are impatient to visit the nearby island and admire the beautiful floating Torii gate, part of the unique Itsukushima Shrine.
Photo by Takeshi Kuboki under Flickr Creative Commons