Tag Archives: tourism

Strasbourg: from the past to the future

Time to time I go to Strasbourg. The reason for my visits is business, but luckily I always have some free hours to discover something of the city. I saw the main attractions and the beauties of the city. There are of course some places that must be seen for a traveler. But also some less known places that are amazing. I spent there only a few days. Luckily I had enough time to see what I wanted and also to go a bit outside Strasbourg.

You maybe have already read my previous post about the curiosities of Strasbourg, meanwhile, in this article, I describe some of the attractions that I visited on my last trip. More I go there and more I fall in love with the capital of Alsace, really an amazing area in France, close to the German border.

 

 

The first step in Strasbourg: the island

From where to start a visit? The Grand Île (it means large island) is the historical center of the city and it is under Unesco Heritage. It has a particular atmosphere because the buildings and the streets are kept like in the past and it helps the visitor to jump in the past. There are beautiful buildings that remind the German style and many lovely bars and restaurants.

In the main square of the Grand Île, there is one of the main attractions of Strasbourg: the  Notre-Dame de Strasbourg cathedral, a marvelous example of Gothic architecture. There is no entrance fee, except for the platform to go up. Climbing the 332 stairs the visitors can arrive on the top to admire all the city. The sun must enjoy the panorama. The church has a large rose window on the main facade and there is also an astronomical clock: every day at 12.30 pm it turns to show the various ages of the life using the parade of apostles before Christ.

                                     A particular of the Cathedral’s facade

Walking in the area it is possible to see four medieval churches and St. Paul. Among the medieval churces. I liked very much  Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune because inside there are a lot of frescos realized in XIV century. That art is great and it is very interesting to go deep into religious history using the artistic representations of the ancient time. The religious buildings are not the only one to be seen.

The square that hosts the cathedral, called Gutenberg, is amazing, maybe not too big but with all impressive buildings from different ages, starting from the medieval age to XVIII century. The best idea to see the different constructions is to seat in one of the coffee shops present in the square and take a look with tranquility.

In the area, there are three interesting museums, all of them located in Palais Rohan: one dedicated to archeology, one to fine arts and the last one to decorative arts. They deserve a visit and you need not less than half a day if you want to see the collections. Moving through the prestigious palaces you can reach the most characteristic area, almost intact as it was when they built it.

                                                             Unesco Heritage

The French village in the city

Petite France (Little France) is a picturesque neighborhood of Strasbourg, where in the past the fishermen and the workers were living. It is close to the water and made by half-wooden houses well preserved and protected against humidity and water. A trip with the boat on the river is a good way to explore the city. You can pass from the old part os Strasbourg to the modern buildings, main occupied by EU institutions. It is almost like start the journey in the ancient time and arrive directly to a future era.

The element that I adore about the modern architecture in Strasbourg is the glass that offers great reflexes of the ancient buildings, of the water and the sky, especially during the sunset time. During the trip on the river, it is easy to catch the shape of the city and to see the location of the main attractions. I think the boat can be even the starting point of the trip, so from there you can decide what to see and when.

                                       In the Orangerie Park

Crossing bridges and walking in the park

Who loves the architecture can’t miss the covered bridges, built as part of the fortification to defend Strasbourg by the attacks and to guarantee the movements of the inhabitants inside the city. To find them you need to follow the river around Petite France. Some restaurants offer a great view of the river and its ancient bridges, so you can taste the local food and admire the architectural works.

To walk around nature there is the lovely Orangerie Park, there are many varieties of flowers and trees but many locals and tourists are going there to practice some sport before to start the day or just to keep themselves in form and playing together during some daybreak. It is quite big, so there is a lot of space to use without disturbing each other and find a space full of quiet in the middle of Strasbourg.

The park has some direct connections with the river, so it offers nice corners with a nice view. If you like to take special pictures of the river and mixing the nature and the buildings, the Orangerie is the perfect location, you will stay there for hours, maybe also to have a break during your tour and take some fresh air after a visit to the local museums.

                                       The European Parliament

Present and future

The modernity is represented by the European Union buildings. The main ones are three: the Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights. The first one was built on a corner on the river where the boat tour finish. And it is full of glass there, so the sun and the sky are always visible on the palace windows. It is different from the typical architecture of Strasbourg, but this is the charm of these constructions.

I had the chance to be inside and what impressed me is the natural light that enters in corridors and different rooms. But also the luxury of the setting and the floral decorations that come from the top of the internal walls. The spaces are so big. But this is not related to my tour in Strasbourg.

                                             Inside the European Parliament

I still have to see many things, but I hope to do it in my next trips, as to go out from the city and to see the castles, there are some not far from Strasbourg. I suggest you also to go to Eguishem, a small village a few kilometers far from the city with half-timber houses full of flowers on the balconies. It is the only place outside the urban area that I visited.

                                             European Parliament hall

Plan the trip

Now it’s time to put Strasbourg on your agenda. Plan a trip there. You can find a mean of transport on the Infobus platform that offers the best deals.

If you want more tips and ideas check out the destinations section of the blog. Then subscribe to my newsletter to get updates. 

If you enjoyed this post, share it.

Strasbourg: capital of Europe and tourist destination

I have been several time in past in Strasbourg, but always for work reasons and for this reason mainly focused on institutions. The city is famous, together with Brussels, as capital of the European Union because of the presence of the European Parliament, the headquarter for the plenary assembly, and other offices, included the diplomatic missions of the various countries. This time I explore Strasbourg as tourist.

I already discovered that the city is the third one in France as tourism destination chosen by the worldwide travellers. They are right, because there are many attractions to be seen and also a walk in the centre or a trip on the river with the boat is something that gives satisfactions to the tourists. In some corners of Strasbourg as the streets and the buildings are it is like to jump in the past, travelling through history.

Before to describe some of the best monuments and museums, I want to share some curiosities. First of all it is necessary to mention that the Grande Île is protected as Unesco Heritage. As you know Strasbourg is located on the border between France and Germany, so crossing the river Rhine you can find the city of Kehl. Anyway on the French side in the city area are living around half a million inhabitants and this means that Strasbourg is the nineth city in the country.

 

If you want to visit the down town you should know that the best way is on foot or by bike, in order to not miss any particular corner and to enjoy better the atmosphere of the area. If you prefer to use the public transport network, you can be sure that it works perfectly, it is well organized. Never be in hurry in that part of Strasbourg because you will need a lot of time to visit the different attractions and to take pictures of the well kept buildings, bridged and small streets with characteristic shops and restaurants.

Thinking about the restaurants when a traveller goes to the city a must is the sauerkraut (choucroute in French), made with cabbage. It is a specialty served in the traditional restaurants and I have to say that is quite good, reminding a bit the German style mixed with the French cuisine, especially from Alsatian region. You will be delighted, but of course on the menu there are different proposals.

 

About the culture Strasbourg is really active and it offers many free and not free events: opera, ballet, concerst, exhibitions and so on. There is a big number of museums able to satisfy every interests. The quantity of the collections is not second to the one of the entertainment. The city offers a great nightlife thanks to the largest concentration of bars and clubs that remain open until dawn in Europe. There are lovely squares full of patios and young people where spend the evening drinking, chatting and have fun.

The architecture of the city has similarities with Germany because the influence that comes from the other side of the border is obviously high. Among the big and modern buildings of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe there are many ancient architectural testimonies like the Cathédrale Notre Dame, built between 1176 and 1439 with a 142 metres tower from where to enjoy the panorama over the city.

Stay tuned, because in the next article I will write about the attractions, going deep in what to see in Strasbourg.

Anasa

Booking flight and hotels

The number of platforms dedicated to travels are increasing, especially the ones that offers the way to find and buy plane tickets, holidays and hotel reservations. I have to say that they are useful, but are the deals convenient? Generally there are good rates offered, but if you compare them with the proposals present on the hotel websites you can be surprised with better prices or with some extra benefits as the free minibar with soft drinks, the complimentary transfer and so on.

Many hotels complain about the platforms because they are useful to support the different structures helping them to occupy all the rooms, but they ask for an high commission. Also some hotels are not present on those websites. It is then easy to establish a cooperation between the companies that are managing the travel and booking sites, so they can find the way to have a deal and give less advantages to customers.

The same problem happens with flights, when you search for a ticket you just compare thousands websites and meanwhile your reserch become part of the site data, so if you go back to the same page, you will see an higher price. This tricks are common and well known, but in last period Google started to offer a new service. You can directly directly on Google Flights about the connnection you need and the prices. I noticed in the past months that generally there are always the higher prices.

Today I red an article on The Scottish Sun that describes how the improved Google Flight app reveals to readers if the flight and hotel fares are a good deal or not. The journalist underline the opportunity that you have receiving the alerts from Google when the price decrease. With some graphics you can check how the rate goes and the app helps to recognize the best offers using the colours about “cold” and the “hot” fares.

The application works for flights and hotels and I have to say that the service provided is really better than the past, but I have still few doubts. For instance I saw that they also propose the best deals on business class, but of course the cheapest fares are referred to the connections with the stopover, so you need to stay around the world more time before to arrive at your destination.

Meanwhile I was reading the article and checking the new app it cames to my mind the Austrian Airlines promotion, started few years ago and not only one among the airline companies. With your economy ticket you can bid an upgrade to business class. You make an offer and if it will be accepted, according to the amount and the different bids received, they can decide if accept and let you travel in business class with a bit more than what you spent for the economy ticket.

We all know that to find the best deals we need to check the dates, try to change them, to try to change airport, to make the reservation in a specific day of the week and so on. I agree with all tricks, but since the algorithms are changing so fast, I generally keep always in mind these advices, but I always prefer compare the official websites of the hotels and of the airline companies, deleting the computer chronology step by step to non influence the sites and their results, with the different booking services.

How do you reserve your flights and hotel rooms?

Anasa

A relaxing mountain

I love to have a break going to the mountains. It is great to have a walk-in nature. That’s why I visited a relaxing mountain. It helps to think and to search for some fresh air. Especially when in summer the temperature in the city is very high. I am not a lover of the hot climate. Well, I found a great place in Piedmont, my region, called Oasi Zegna. It is located in the northern part of the region. Nice mountains with a marvelous view and some trails to go around safe and totally in peace. These are the features of this area.

A relaxing mountain called Bielmonte

I needed to have a day off, from time to time. I can be in touch with nature and almost without connections with the rest of the world. The place is a natural park on the Alps, in Biella province. From Turin it is necessary to drive for an hour and a half, more or less, then you enter a paradise. The main mountain is called Bielmonte and it offers a lot of opportunities. Because there are pathways to walk, others where to have fun with the mountain bike or riding a horse. It a relaxing mountain.

There are restaurants, accommodations, spaces for workshops and sports activities. Are included the winter ones, starting from the ski. There are also some sanctuaries. You can enter to see art, pray or just take all the peaceful atmosphere that is always present around the churches over there. It is also possible to visit a few archeological sites. Of course, the park is very big and if you want to see all you need to stay a few days and move for many kilometers. It is a relaxing mountain full of things to do.

If you are going to visit Turin or Piedmont, you can put Bielmonte in your list for the tour. Do you like the mountains? This is the perfect place where to spend a few days. Thanks to the accommodations you can plan excursions and activities, staying a few days. The position is also good because it is closed to other interesting areas. More mountains, nature, and art to visit. 

Bielmonte is in Biella province, at the border with Alta Valsessera. In that area live free deers, roes and other beautiful mountain’s animals. Then you can see as well insects, as the rare protected beetle Carabus olympiae. Not always insects are ugly and annoying. The trails for trekking go to pastures where it is possible sometimes to taste local cheese. While you enjoy a relaxing mountain taste good food is a pleasure. Don’t you agree?

A lot of panoramic points are disseminated on the way. From Valsessera the road goes to Valsesia. It is famous because it is close to Monte Rosa and the Unesco sites. They are the Sacred Mountain of Varallo and the Supervolcano, one of the 12 in the world that had an eruption of magnitude 8. I had the trip alone, I planned everything by myself. But the Equipe Arc En Ciel, a local organization, generally helps visitors to go around. Geologists and naturalist guides accompany people to explore the area.

A relaxing mountain that allows you to be alone with nature or to have fun with other people. If you have a passion for nature and geology you will have many interesting aspects to discover and to learn.

Around Italy

The country is well known for art, but also nature is amazing. If you love it, Piedmont is sure the destination made for you. Do you want to know more? Explore the blog section dedicated to Italy. A lot of curiosities, fact, and all types of information. They will be useful to plan your travel. For any question, feel free to use comments space below or contact form. I will be happy to answer and to give you more ideas to explore Italy or other countries I visited. To be updated, subscribe to my newsletter. I will write to you weekly with news and extra contents.  

Start to search for the hotel. You will benefit from the special deals proposed by HotelsCombined. On the platform, there are always sales so you can find the best place for a cheap price.



How to check an hotel

Reading my blog you noticed that my articles are telling positive feedbacks from my experiences, that is why I want to give you some information about places, restaurants and hotels you should visit. My bad experiences do not deserve to be published. I need anyway to take into consideration that not all opinions are the same, that is why I use high quaity experiences.

Writing about the good part of my travels is the way to tell you: “there you can go and you will be satisfied!

When I prepare an article I think to be brief, to not annoy my followers and readers, but what I write is the synthesis of a precise analysis. For instance about an hotel I observe different elements. I am not an inspector by profession, but I travel quite a lot and I am doing it since many years ago, that is why I developed my personal criteria.

The stay in a five stars hotel it does not mean that everything is perfect, but of course it is the proper place where to pretend a tailor made service and high standards for the accomodation. Especially when I travel for work reasons I need to have comfort as a good equipped and quiet room and also a professional staff ready to answer properly to my needs in terms of assistance in the facilities or reservation of external services.

I have anyway to respect the workers of the hotel, because kindness is always welcome everywhere and guests can be better served using it. So what are the main features to evaluate an hotel? The following points are just used by me to make the selection and be sure that telling you about some structure you can have a great stay. Of course it is not my job, so I take into consideration the features that are more important form my personal comfort. Anyway some hints can be useful to you, my readers, as well.

 

The reservation

The evaluation of an hotel starts at the moment of the reservation. Of course you can book through internet using websites not directly related to the hotel, but also in this case you can check how the management acts. For example once I used Booking, I completed my reservation and one day later I got an email from the hotel booked. They wrote to be closed and they did a mistake accepting the reservation by the system. Everything was cancelled and then I searched for another accomodation. You can imagine my feelings and what I thought about them.

If you contact directly the structure, as I do generally, the staff has to answer with courtesy to all your questions, even the strange ones. They have to explain the rates and give you the best offers, proposing the different options, if they have some special proposals for the period.

 

The pick-up and the transfer

Before the reception you may have contact with the driver if you asked or received the complimentary transfer from the airport with your reservation. The car has to be on time at the airport, the driver need to be there to wait for you with a paper with your name written and then to ask to you how are you and take you fast and with comforts to the hotel. About the private transport services there are many things to say, but I will dedicate an article about it.

 

The reception and delivery of the room

When you enter in the hotel you go directly to the reception. In this occasion you should find a well prepared staff. They should already know about you and your reservation or at least find everything when you say to them your name. They have to make the copy of your passport, ask for your credit card and for a signature on the registration paper. They have to be kind and fast manwhile they give you all the information about your stay and the facilities.

In some hotel the guests of the best suite can benefit of the in room check-in and this needs to have anyway the same features of the service given at the reception. Generally it is easier because they send a well prepared staff and they pay attention only to the room guests. It is part of a special welcome reserved to who is going to spend a huge rate for a special suite.

 

The room

After the check-in you enter finally in the room. First of all it is a good idea to check the cleaning level, starting from the bathroom and the bed. After that the control has to be done on the equipment, to be sure that everything is working and also to see the features of the room. According to the type of hotel and to what the guest booked the features of the accomodation have to satisfy different standards. Minibar has to be well furnished.

If the guest is accomodate in a signature suite of a five stars hotel it is possible to receive a butler service included in the rate. In this case the butler has to be present at the guest arrival, take care of the luggages, put the clothes in the wardrobe and be available to answer to the requests and the needs of the guest. The presence of this member of the hotel staff and his attention to the client has to be evaluated, because the butler is going to be the closest referent during the stay.

 

The stay

During the days spent in the hotel each client has the chance to try some services and their ”perfections” is part of the evaluation. To evaluate if services are good it is necessary to consider the offer in all the aspects, starting from the breakfast. That has to be complete, so with a big selection of salty and sweet food to be chosen by guests. The staff has to be ready to answer to the specific needs, maybe to prepare a coffee or explain where to find a specific food, as well the ingredients used in order to prevent allergies and intolerances.

In Bucharest I had one of the best experiences in terms of breakfast, a big dining room with real departments for the varaious types of food, including meat and fish. It was necessary to walk a bit around to find everything, but the staff was always ready to help guests to find what they were searching for. Any taste can be easily satisfied there. That means to give high grades for the evaluation.

Using the bar or the restaurant it is important to check the offer, the variety of drink and food, the professional staff and of course the prices well calibrated with the quality. About rates it is anyway necessary to say that i every hotel of the world the prices of food and drinks are always higher than in outside restaurants and bars.

If there is the chance to use the room service also in this case the evaluation is focused on the variety of food and drinks available, then the attention is on the staff: how much they are kind and fast, starting from the call to arrive when they arrive in the room. In general to put at the centre of the attention the client is a must for a good hotel, so kindness, ability to answer to the different need are very important, as cleaning and order in the rooms and in common spaces.

If there are other facilities as the gym, the spa, an internet corner or meeting room, it is a good opportunity to check how they are managed. The offers and the equipments are the main elements to evaluate the level of the hotel. The features should help the guest to feel in a safe environment and to feel like at home.

Also the concierge is a staff member to have a big role in the guest stay. He can suggest some places to visit, reserve tickets, deliver specific services, reserve restaurants and so on. His task is to give a real support to customers, to find the way to satisfy them. If there are complimentary newspaper or evening cleaning of the room and bed preparation, it is important to be sure to have the newspaper every day and to receive the visit of the waitress before dinner.

Some hotels then offer tailored experiences to tourists as a private show made by a musician, a visit to a fashion workshop of a famous brand, a special cuisine experience or supercars tour around the city and so on. In this case the evaluation depends mainly on personal taste and on a perfect organisation of the activity, without any time loosing or delays.

 

The departure

The moment of the check-out concern the last minutes spent in the hotel. The guest goes to the reception to pay the bill. It can be the occasion to give a feedback on the structure and maybe to complain about something. Part of evaluation is also the management of the complaints. The staff and the manager have to be professional and to try to find a solution, without be rude, also if they are right, in orther to fix the situation and to not loose the client.

If there is the transfer they have to make the car and the driver ready for the exact moment, so when you leave the hotel. They can take care of your luggages if you leave the room but not the place and thank you for your stay, in order to make you comfortable and interested to visit the accomodation again in future.

 

Other elements

It is more part of the choice then the evaluation, but the good connections of the hotel with the main attractions of the centre of the city is quite important. To have an underground station very closed, to be located in the main square and to have some taxi in front of the hotel door is surely useful.

In last years the respect of the environment protection became a priority in the world and also many hotels are doing their part. In some structures it is easy to find a card close to the bed and in the bathroom with a message: if the guest wants to change bed linen and towels it is necessary to put the them on the floor or tu put the card on them and so on.

This is good, but the question is: if you spend hundreds or thousands euros or dollars for a room and they change daily linen and towels, why if you decide to reuse them and the hotel save money you do not have any benefit. It is great to save nature from the pollution, but the price must be reduced. Starwood Preferred Guest found a solution. It is the fidelity program of Sheraton, Westin and many others hotel’s brands connected also with Marriott Reward. If you choose to not change the towels you get points to be used for services in the hotel and to add to your collection for free nights.

The ones written are the main elements that I always check when I go in a hotel and if it pass the “exam” I mention it in my articles, to recommend the best among the structure where I have the chance to stay.

Anasa