The Next Trip – Prague and Bratislava

In less than two weeks I will be off on my next trip.  As I may have mentioned I will be visiting Prague and Bratislava.  This was a journey I was going to take last year until poor health intervened.  I am glad to say that everything is now in working order and I cannot wait until 10 September.

I will be travelling to Prague by coach through Eurolines.  I have mentioned in a previous article how I enjoy coach travel.  The journey from London takes 16 hours leaving at 17:00 and arriving into Prague at 12:00.  I will be staying at the St. Christopher’s at the Mosaic House for five nights.  During my time in Prague I am looking to take in all the sights such as Prague Castle.

On 16 September I will take the coach from Prague to Bratislava.  I will be spending three nights at Hostel Blues.  This hostel comes recommended by Lonely Planet so it should be good.  Finally I will return back to Prague for 2 nights before going home.

In my own mind I have my itinerary sorted but I would welcome any ideas on places I should see.  During the trip I will be keeping my diary and publishing on the blog.  Reviews of all the places I visit will follow.

All the coach travel is with Eurolines.  All hostels were booked through

As you may gather I cannot wait for 10 September.

Until the next time, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.



Estadio Santiago Bernabéu

The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is one of the most impressive sporting venues that I have visited.  It is a cathedral to the beautiful game celebrating one of the worlds greatest clubs Real Madrid.  The stadium capacity is 85,454.

The stadium is named after former club player, manager and president Santiago Bernabéu Yeste.  It was previously known as the Nuevo Estadio Chamartin until 1955 when it was renamed the Bernabéu.  It was during his time as club president that he is remembered for.  It was the time that Real Madrid became kings of European football by winning the first five European Cups.  In total Real Madrid have been European champions on nine occasions and World club champions on three occasions.  The trophies and replicas are displayed in the club museum.

Real Madrid were considered to be the club of General Franco.  This maybe down to Bernabéu fighting for the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War.  In truth, Franco was no fan of football but used the success of Real Madrid to promote is vision of Spain at a time when the country was ignored by the rest of Europe.

The reason to visit the Bernabéu is to take part in stadium tour.  I was there just after Spain victory in Euro 2012 so the mood was good.

You can only appreciate the stadium when is it empty.  You start the tour by the grandstands and there you can marvel at the stature of it.

Next you enter the museum.  This is where you celebrate the rich history of Real Madrid.  It is a celebration of all the club successes.  Be it the trophies they have won or the individual honours achieved by the players.  Each European success is celebrated individually.  I would have liked to have seen more about the early history though I did enjoy the section which listed all the players who have played for the club.

From the museum you go to the President’s Box.  From there you head to the holy grail, pitchside.  In particular the coaches technical area.  Standing there I had visions of all the players that have trod on the hallowed ground and dreamt of giving orders from the sidelines.

From the pitch I went to the away changing rooms.  Nothing special there, indeed it is a little basic.  Giving your opponents comfort is not part of the equation.  Finally you end up in the press room.  Befitting the size of Real Madrid it is a large room that has room for many journalists.  I imagine that José Mourinho enjoys playing to that crowd.

The stadium tour ends in the club shop which is a celebration to all things Real Madrid, Spain and Adidas.  Lots of Euros change hands at this point.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Photo of the Week – Statue of the Bull in Birmingham

This week’s photo is of the bull outside the Bull Ring Shopping Centre in Birmingham.

As you can see it has been decorated to celebrate everything that has been going on in 2012.  A popular tourist attraction you will always see people taking photos of the statue.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Why Bother With Planning

As my trip to Prague and Bratislava draws nearer I started to feel that I should be doing more planning.  It is always a worry that I arrive at my destination without a clue on where to go and what to do next.

So what do I mean by planning?  For myself it is ensuring that I have somewhere to stay when I arrive.  This is the most important for any traveller.  The last thing you need to do when you travelled on a long journey is to be going round trying to find somewhere to stay.  You could end up walking a lot of miles especially during busy periods on a potentially fruitless search.  Also you could end up paying a higher rate than usual.  Having that first nights accommodation gives you a base to plan ahead.

I also worry that I may not have any currency to use at my destination.  Again changing money when you arrive could lead you open to being ripped off.  I have found pre-paid currency card to be useful.  All I need is to find a ATM to obtain local currency.  Of course I would be wary of who is watching me.

Where I do leave planning to the last-minute is the itinerary I follow.  I make a list of places that I would like to visit however, it is loose because I could be open to recommendations about where I should go.  The best sites can be the ones that you end up stumbling on.  I also do not plan any entertainment for myself.  In Madrid on my last night I ended up on a pub crawl with a group of people I had met on the previous evening.

So finally why bother with planning?  To me planning makes life easier when I travel.  It means that I can avoid some of the traps that could spoil my trip.  It also guarantees that I will enjoy my trip.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Photo of the Week – Bust of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyseen-Bornemisza

This week’s photo is bust of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyseen-Bornemisza.  It is situated in the grounds of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

As an industrialist, he made his fortune from steel and armaments.  With his fortune he indulged in his love of art.  He inherited a large collection from his father.  He continued to add more paintings to the collection most of which are displayed in the museum which bears his name.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Prado National Museum

One of the first sights that I was recommended to visit in Madrid was the Prado National Museum.  It is well-known by those who know me that I like to visit a good museum.  I had read that the Prado was home to one of the best art collections in the world.  According to Wikipedia it is the 11th most visited museum in the world.  Holding a Madrid card meant that I did not have to pay an entrance fee and I could enter without having to queue at the ticket office.

The Prado was initially set up as a museum displaying paintings and sculptures.  Over the years other collections have been added.  However, it is most famous for its extensive art collection.  This dates from the 12th century to the 19th century.  The paintings range from Spanish masters such as Velázquez and Goya, to Italian masters such as Raphael and Titian.  There are also paintings from the Flemish masters.  In fact there are paintings displayed from all over Europe.  Sculptures date back to ancient Greece and Rome.

The museum is certainly impressive not only in size but also with the collection it holds.  This comprises of 7,600 paintings, 1,000 sculptures, 4,800 prints and 8,200 drawings.  The museum itself displays 1,300 works.  There are over 3,00o items that are out on loan to other museums.

The best known work is Las Meninas by Velázquez.  The importance of Velázquez to the Prado cannot be underestimated.  Not only did he bequeath his work Velázquez was also responsible for the collection of Italian masters.

My personal highlights were the collection of art.  I may not know one end of a paintbrush from another but I like to think that I know what constitutes a work of art.  Favourites were ‘The Fall of Man’ by Titian and ‘Third of May’ by Goya.

As a museum I would certainly rank it alongside the National Gallery in London.  There is so much more to see and enjoy.  You can only marvel at the range of paintings.  The beauty is simply breathtaking.  I would recommend that you purchase a audio guide to complement your visit.  Overall, a visit to the Prado is a must when you visit Madrid and I cannot wait to go back again.

Until the next time, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Hard Rock Cafe

When travelling what is the most un-traveller thing you do?  Is it going to the local McDonald’s, going to see a local sports game or visiting the local public library to surf the net.

In my case it is visiting the Hard Rock Cafe.  Why do I go there?  It is certainly not the cheapest option for eating out.  What I enjoy about visiting the Hard Rock Cafe is that they conform to the same standard.  In short I know what I am going to experience.  There is always rock music playing.  You can stare at all the memorabilia that is on view.  Importantly while the food is not cheap it is of a good standard.  I have yet to eat a bad meal there.  Finally, I get the chance to visit the store to look at the merchandise.  I always end up buying myself a t-shirt.  It is my way of saying that I have visited a city.  I know from experience that they are of good quality and last a long time.

The first Hard Rock Cafe I visited was Amsterdam in 1991.  I brought myself a sweatshirt which has long been thrown away.  The next was Washington DC in 2000.  My t-shirt has also been thrown away.

Then there was Paris in 2005.

Next there was Berlin in 2007

Edinburgh in 2008

London in 2011

Finally, Madrid in 2012

There is something comforting about visiting the Hard Rock Cafe.  Yes, the service staff can be over friendly yet it is part of the experience.  As a solo traveller I have always felt comfortable about eating there on my own.  Whenever I leave I always feel so much better than when I arrived.  In the end that is the customer experience we all want.  In September I am off to Prague and guess what.  There is a Hard Rock Cafe.  I cannot wait to visit.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Photo of the Week – Bernabéu Stadium, Madrid

This week’s photo is of the Bernabéu Stadium, home of Real Madrid.

Taking in the atmosphere at the Bernabéu

I would not normally include myself in a photo but this is a perfect way to highlight the impressive stature of the stadium.  A full review will follow later.

Until then stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Madrid Card – A Review

While I was in Madrid I purchased a Madrid Card.  It was advertised as ‘the smartest way to visit Madrid.’  I wanted to see if this was true.

There are four versions of the card available.

24 hours costs €39, 48 hours costs €49, 72 hours costs €59 and 120 hours which costs €69.  Further savings can be made if you purchase online.  As I was staying in Madrid for five full days I chose the 120 hours card.

My Madrid Card

What does the Madrid card give you?  You get admission to the following:-

  • Over 50 of the city’s museums and monuments.
  • Guided tour based on the ‘Discover Madrid’ theme.
  • Bernabéu and Atlético de Madrid stadium tour.
  • Las Ventas Bullring tour
  • Discounts on various tourists attractions, shopping, restaurants, nightlife and car hire.

You also get priority access to the following:-

  • Prado Museum
  • The Royal Palace
  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum
  • Renia Sofia Museum
  • Wax Museum
  • Bernabéu Stadium Tour
  • Faunia
  • Parque de Attracciónes
  • Zoo Aquarium

This means you avoid the long queues to these popular attractions.

With your card you are given a useful guidebook that details all the attractions and discounts available.

Madrid Card Guide Book

Your card becomes activated once you first use it.  It is also important that you sign your card.

Is the card worth the money?  I have to say that I found it to be excellent value for money.  Just using it to visit the major attractions I found that it had paid for itself in no time.  The discounts on restaurants can be particularly useful for those travelling on a budget.  I recommend the discount for the Hard Rock Cafe.  By showing your card you can have a set three course meal for €20 which I found excellent value.

There is so many discounts on offer that you will have to make a return trip to Madrid to take advantage.  Overall, whatever card you purchase it represent excellent value and makes sense if you are travelling on a budget.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.


Photo of the Week – Real Jardin Botánico de Madrid

This week’s photo is from the Real Jardin Botánico de Madrid.

Situated next to the Prado Museum, the gardens date back to 1755.  The gardens have three outdoor sections and two greenhouses.  There are over 30,000 plants and flowers and over 1,500 trees.  I spent a pleasant Saturday evening in the gardens.  A great way to escape from the hustle and bustle of Madrid.