How to Stay Safe When Travelling in Africa

Africa has an allure not quite like any other place. With its vast wilderness and timeless culture, it's easy to see why so many travellers visit this bewitching continent. But travelling in Africa doesn't come without its challenges. Here are a few tips on how to stay safe as you travel through this exotic land.



Local lowdown

If you're in the city, be careful of being out on your own late at night, particularly in unlit areas. Get friendly with your hotel staff, and get them to tell you which areas are safe or otherwise. Maybe they'll give you some advice about dress code, too. Try to get the perspective of a local.

To drive or not to drive

If your do decide to drive, be aware that roads in rural areas are more akin to tracks with potholes aplenty. Also, park in areas that are well lit and populated. Keep the doors locked and don't leave valuables inside. Steer clear of deserted areas and, if possible, don't drive at night.

On safari

Africa and safari go together like horse and cart. As always, though, safety must come first. It probably goes without saying (although you'd be surprised how many people ignore this advice, sometimes with fatal consequences), stay in your vehicle and keep a healthy distance from any wild animals. Going on safari isn't like going to the zoo, so don't be tempted to get out to take the perfect snap. You could end up someones next meal. It has happened.

Some of the most beautiful safaris include the world famous Masai Mara in Kenya, the Serengeti in Tanzania, and Botswana is a naturist's paradise with such national parks as Chobe, Savuti and Moremi.

If you're brave enough to walk through the African bush, be aware there are poisonous snakes out there. Thankfully they tend to stay out the way and get off the scene when humans are about. Even so, watch where you're treading. Boots, socks and long trousers are a must for this kind of adventure. Don't be tempted to swim in rivers where there are hippos and crocodiles. It's best to avoid swimming in stagnant water too.

Medical precautions

Make sure your vaccines are up to date as insect borne diseases such as malaria could prove a problem. Make sure you have a good supply of insect repellent and use sleeping nets in your room. For peace of mind it is advisable to purchase evacuation insurance, just in case anything goes wrong and you need to be repatriated.

Don't be tempted by cute looking monkeys, dogs and cats and so on. They may just be carrying a nasty disease.

Plenty of charge and battery power

You will encounter many wonderful photo opportunities on your travels, and scenes that you will want to capture forever. Make sure you have extra batteries and plenty of charge on your cameras and phones. Of course, don't get so close to the wildlife for that perfect shot when it isn't safe to do so. Consult your guide.

Don't be put off by these precautions. Africa has much to offer the careful traveller with its magnificent wildlife, national parks and friendly people, and will undoubtedly leave you with a many fond and happy memories for years to come.

13 Tourist Attractions Along the Thames

The River Thames is the iconic stretch of water that flows through London, defining the UK’s largest and greatest city. The long, glorious history of the capital is largely owed to the Thames with many of the must see attractions situated on its banks. The River Thames stretches from Gloucestershire to Essex, but it is the section of The Thames that meanders through London that has gained its global fame. The Thames' banks are home to many famous London attractions from historic royal palaces to modern marvels of architecture. Come rain or shine, there are plenty of things to keep you amused while you’re by the River.

Kew Gardens (The Royal Botanic Gardens)/ Oliver’s Island

Since the 18th century the extensive Kew gardens have been at the forefront of botany in UK. At Kew you can witness over 40,000 different species of plants at their finest. The Royal Botanic Gardens is a World Heritage Site and former royal residence extending over 300 acres and is home to thousands of rare and beautiful species. As well as being an important centre for research and conservation (owning 1/8th of all the different plant species) it also plays host to a variety of seasonal events. You do have to pay to enter but the scale and beauty of the gardens definitely prove its worth.
Whilst at Kew Gardens you can take a stroll to Oliver’s Island. The island derives its name from a story that Oliver Cromwell once took refuge on it, but its validity is often questioned. A myth arose that Cromwell had set up a headquarters at the Bull’s Head Inn in Strand on the Green. The story was elaborated with the myth that a secret tunnel connected the island to the inn, however no tunnel has ever been found.

Peace Pagoda


The Peace Pagoda is located within Battersea Park (a large Victorian park opened in 1858), situated along the River Thames between Albert and Chelsea Bridge. At a time when the cold war and the fear of nuclear attack was escalating, the offer of a Peace Pagoda seemed appropriate. It was offered to the people of London by the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order as part of the 1984 Greater London Council Peace Year.

The pagoda was built by monks, nuns and followers of Nipponzan Myōhōji under the orders of The Venerable Nichidatsu Fujii, founder of the Nipponzan Myohoji organisation. The double-roofed structure that stands 33.5 m high is constructed from concrete and wood, with a gilded bronze sculpture of Buddha on each side. It’s one of roughly 80 Pagodas around the world and only the second situated in the UK, following the first completed in Milton Keynes in 1980.

Big Ben


Located in the heart of Westminster, the world’s most famous clock tower is amongst the most iconic landmarks in London. Being attached to the Houses of Parliament has seen it become a familiar and much loved sight, along with it chiming on the hour and every 15 minutes thereafter. Big Ben refers to the bell which was created in 1859 with the structure itself being named Elizabeth Tower. Two different theories exist on the origin of the name Big Ben. The first is that is was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the first commissioner of works, a large man known as "Big Ben". The second theory is that it was named after a heavyweight boxing champion, Benjamin Caunt who was also known as "Big Ben". Weighing in at 13.7 tonnes at the time of its casting, Big Ben was the largest bell in UK along with its clock face being the second largest in the country.

Houses of Parliament

The Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament was built in 1042 for use as a royal residence under Edward the Confessor. Westminster Hall (the oldest building on the parliamentary estate) was built between 1087 and 1100 and is one of the largest medieval halls in Europe. During the 14th century the Hall housed the courts of law as well as shops and stalls selling legal equipment. Following a fire in 1512, Henry VIII abandoned the Palace and it has since been home to the two seats of Parliament, the Commons and the Lords. A competition to redevelop the whole site was won by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin who designed the now iconic building that has become such a familiar landmark.

London Eye/Aquarium


The London Eye is located in the heart of the capital, perched on the edge of the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Standing at 135m high, it’s the world's tallest observation wheel and a true feat of engineering and design. The Eye itself allows you to experience a breath-taking 360-degree view of London and the majority of its famous landmarks, causing it to be voted as the number one visitor experience for the past decade in the capital.

A full rotation in one of the glass capsules takes approximately 30 minutes, giving you a completely different perspective of London. An experience on the London Eye will lift you high enough to see for up to 40 kilometres whilst keeping you close enough to see the spectacular details of the city unfolding beneath you. As it is the UK’s most popular visitor attraction it’s definitely wise to book if you are interested in getting a ride. Located at the base of the eye is the London Sea Life Aquarium, which is definitely worth a visit especially if the weather doesn’t hold out.

Oxo Tower

Originally a power station, later a reprocessing plant owned by the Oxo Company, the bold tower was marked for demolition in the 1980s, however the site was redeveloped in the 1990s as a multifunctional venue but maintained its architectural heritage. Oxo had wanted to adorn the tower with illuminated signs advertising the name of their product. When this proposal was rejected, the tower was built with a set of three vertically-aligned windows on each side which just so happened to be in the shapes of a circle, a cross and a circle. Today the illuminated OXO makes the tower visible for miles around. Visitors can take a riverside walk up to the tower's refurbished doors to explore the shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes and studios that fill its once empty rooms. You can experience the Tower as part of a leisurely riverside stroll; taking in Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre along with the many pubs and sights that adorn the banks of the Thames.

Millennium Bridge



This sleek, £18.2million 325m steel footbridge spans the River Thames linking St Paul's Cathedral in the City and the Tate Modern gallery on the bankside. The Millennium Bridge first opened in June 2000 becoming London's first new Thames crossing in more than 100 years. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people turned up to make the initial crossing, however it closed two days later. Its early years were plagued by problems, primarily excessive swaying which became a feature of every crossing contributing to the nickname ‘Wobbly Bridge’. Although the bridge is also more flatteringly referred to as the 'Blade of Light'. Having identified the source of the problem as people walking the 'wrong way' the bridge was finally re-opened in February 2002. The stunning architectural feature provides a great access route across the Thames, linking up many of London's riverside attractions.

St Pauls


Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, after the Great Fire of London in 1666, St Paul's is the official cathedral of London, making it the spiritual home of the UK. The funerals of Lord Nelson and Sir Winston Churchill were conducted inside the cathedral along with the elaborate wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. The cathedral miraculously survived the Blitz in World War Two with the surrounding area being almost completely flattened, making it an inspirational symbol of British strength. Among the many things to do visitors can try out the acoustic quirks of the Whispering Gallery or venture up the three curving galleries that lead to the dome - one of the largest in the world and one of the best viewing points in the City.

The Gherkin

30 St Mary Axe is a tall round office building in London known affectionately as The Gherkin thanks to its unique bullet-shape tower. The Gherkin was designed by Sir Norman Foster and opened in 2004. Standing at 180m tall, 30 St Mary Axe stands out as one of the City of London's most stunning and critically acclaimed architectural features, towering over nearby constructions with its phenomenal glass exterior and ground-breaking eco-friendly methods saw it voted the most admired new building in the world (2005). It's hard to miss if you're wandering around the City but it's worth a visit just to stand at the base of one of London’s most iconic buildings, even though you can’t actually go in.

The Shard

The Shard became the tallest building in the European Union and the 45th tallest building in the world when it opened in 2012. Designed by Renzo Piano the multifunctional Shard building, visible from wherever you are in London, combines offices, multiple floors of restaurants, the 5-star Shangri-La Hotel, residential apartments that could be yours for just 30 to 50 million pounds along with the highest viewing gallery in Western Europe. Covered in 11,000 panes of glass, the vertical cities public viewing galleries on floors 68 to 72, offer unparalleled views across the entire city and up to 40 miles beyond it. If you’re interested in getting onto the viewing platforms it’s wise to book your tickets before you go.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is one of London's most iconic sights. When it was constructed in 1894, Tower Bridge was the most sophisticated bridge of its time. Nowadays you can see inside the rooms where the original steam engines were housed raise the bridge. The exhibition consists of displays, films and hands on exhibits displaying the history of the bridge and how it operates. From there you can then go on the walkways at the top of the bridge, providing fantastic views of London's other great landmarks such as St Paul's Cathedral, The London eye and The Shard. The bridge itself was famously wanted by the Americans who allegedly mistakenly bought London Bridge thinking they were buying the more imposing Tower Bridge next door.

Tower of London



Despite the Tower of London's grim reputation as a place of torture and death, it is actually an excellent place to learn about its use as a prison, palace, arsenal, mint, menagerie and place of execution (including two of Henry VIII's six wives, both beheaded on the scaffolds of Tower Green), since its construction following the Norman Conquest of 1066. You can view the priceless Crown Jewels, hear bloody tales and stand where heads have rolled, this coupled with its stunning riverside backdrop make it a must see attraction. With close to 1,000 years of royal history hidden within its walls, a trip to the Tower of London is like traveling back in time.

Docks/Marinas

Limestone Marina - BWML

A great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of London is to visit some of London’s iconic docks. The docks aren’t thought of as much of a tourist attraction in London being situated away from all the glitz and glamour of the major sightseeing destinations. However, on a nice warm day taking a stroll down the Thames to a local Marina is a great way to spend a bit of time relaxing and spotting some new sights by going slightly off the beaten track. Whilst you’re out by the docks you can always use this as an opportunity to jump on a tube and take a look at Cutty Sark and the O2 Arena.

Home Décor and Handmade Stuff to Buy in Sicily

Traveling to Sicily is never complete without purchasing some memento to bring back home as a reminder of the trip.

There are many souvenir shops in the island that sell objects that can be given as gifts or used as a home décor. In Palermo, the Mercato delle Pulci in Piazza Peranni is a general flea market located behind the bishop’s palace off Corso Vittorio Emmanuele. 


For those who are interested in antiques, artistic objects, old design furniture, and bric-a-brac, you will surely find this place a treasure trove. You might be able to stumble upon an antique handmade marionette in one of the vintage shops. 

One can also find beautifully crafted ceramics such as spoons, plates, vases and even watches in Caltagirone, Santo Stefano di Camastra and Sciacca. There is a wide range of objects that cater for both modern and classic style enthusiasts. Drop by Ceramiche Azzaro & Romano Srl for custom-designed ceramic items to fit special requirements. You can order furniture items, decorative and kitchenware objects. Likewise, Erice boasts beautiful pottery that can add Mediterranean flavor to a home’s décor.

Since Italy is known for its leather goods, buying excellent quality handmade bags and shoes is a must. This is also possible in Sicily and there is an abundance of shops everywhere.

Officine Achab produces extraordinary items for dressing up one’s home. Archigiana Accessori in Palermo features unique designs perfect for those who love original handmade crafts that can also be customized upon request. 

Also, handcrafted jewelry is a popular item, made of lava stone and other particular materials. If you are interested in a different kind of uniqueness, a visit to Basura Eco Jewellery will surely make you fall in love with the pieces. All objects are made from scrap materials turned into useful and beautiful objects. 

Sicilian artistry and culture is reflected in the objects and art lovers will definitely love Sicilian paintings and glass art as well.

So, for those who love contemporary furniture design and want to improve their home's decor, can find a lot of modern Italian furniture online through shops like Mohd where one can find original and creative design furniture of top quality.

4 Things You Should Do in Lanzarote

Desperate for some sunshine? Book your flights to Lanzarote for guaranteed good weather, volcanic landscapes and plenty of cocktail-fuelled down time. With white-washed villages, coloured shutters and impressive sculptures, this easternmost island in the Canaries is a firm favourite with tourists, and us!



Timanfaya National Park

This national park looks like something you’d expect to find in a movie. It’s dusty, bleak and covered in volcanic ridges and rocks. It is what’s left behind after the Montanas del Fuego- a group of more than 100 volcanos-were last active in 1730s. It’s spectacular scenery is one of Lanzarote’s number one attractions.

The Guinate Tropical Park and Penguin Paradise

Penguin Paradise is located in a landscape sunken in close proximity to Mount Corona and Famara Cliffs. An array of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish come to find shelter at The Guinate Tropical Park and Penguin Paradise all year round. Ranging from parrots to flamingos, the main avian attraction at the park is the penguins.

The park is home to beautifully laid-out gardens which stand out by the splendid cactus walk. This is the perfect place to pop down a picnic blanket with your loved ones, enjoy dining alfresco style and enjoy the sun’s rays.

Rancho Texas Park

Dig out your cowboy hat for a day out at Lanzarote’s biggest theme park, Rancho Texas Park. The whole place is themed around the Wild West, and activities like pony rides, canoeing and panning for gold are some of the big highlights. You can see tigers, snakes and giant tortoises in the Animal Magic zoo. The fun continues at night with a barbecue, line dancing and cowboy show.

Cueva De Los Verdes

Visiting Cueva de los Verdes is truly a spectacular and unique experience. One of the longest volcanic tunnels in the world, the Cueva de los Verdes has been delighting visitors since it was opened to the public in 1964.

The Cuevas de los Verdes were part of a 6 kilometre long lava tube which formed about 4000 years ago when Montana La Corona erupted. It forms one of the longest volcanic galleries in the world. The beauty of the caves is amazing and is definitely a site worth visiting.

So, whether you’re looking for a relaxing holiday by the beach, or a tourism-fuelled mini break, Lanzarote is the place for you. With sunny weather guaranteed, this popular island makes the perfect summer holiday.

4 Asian Cities Any Culture Vulture Will Love

None of the continents of the world can surpass Asia in terms of cultural richness and diversity. Ancient civilisations have left their mark all over Asia and shaped the many distinct Asian cultures that exist today. Here are some of the top cities in Asia to visit if you want to experience some fascinating cultures face to face.



Kyoto


Kyoto, the former capital of Japan, is a haven of culture. Old Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines dating back over 700 years are well-preserved and a great place to visit and lose yourself in this period of Japanese history and culture. Japanese people are justifiably proud of their culture, and no place in the country showcases Japanese culture more impressively than Kyoto. In addition to the magnificent temple and shrine architecture, there are beautiful Japanese gardens, geisha girls, ryokan traditional lodgings, tea ceremony demonstrations and much more.

Kathmandu


The capital city of Nepal is a fascinating blend of Hindu-Buddhist cultures and religion. Located in the Himalayas Mountain range, the city has a lot of religious significance with cultural influences from India and Tibet. The surrounding countryside also has great examples of traditional life. Colourfully dressed villagers and their ways of working and living in this ancient former kingdom are a very rewarding sight.

Ayutthaya


Ayutthaya was the capital of the old Kingdom of Siam, now part of modern day Thailand. It was a very important city before its destruction hundreds of years ago by invading Burmese forces. What remains is a unique combination of ancient ruins and modern replacements where important Buddhist ceremonies are performed. Some of the ancient ruins and temples are very famous, and there's an entrance charge payable. Most others, however, are completely free to enter and walk around and marvel at the great artistry and craftsmanship. You can get around the many spread out sites in Ayutthaya easily if you hire a car in the town. Make sure the hire company has English speakers so that you can enquire about important matters such as car hire excess insurance in the event of an accident.

Varanasi


Situated on the banks of the River Ganges in India, Varanasi is an important centre of pilgrimage for Hindus, who come to bathe in the river as it's considered sacred in Hinduism. You can visit temples and ashrams and listen to Indian classical and traditional music in many places in Varanasi. You can also see interesting sights such as long-haired and bearded holy men lying on beds of nails, cremations and scattering of ashes by the banks of the river.


While any one of those great cities would make a great starting point for any visitors looking to expand their knowledge of Asian cultures, there are so many others that visitors will find themselves spoiled for choice. Asia is the largest continent on the planet, and there are cultural riches and experiences to be found throughout the entire length and breadth of the continent.

Types of Luxury Traveler Infographic

Holiday destinations and travel can be as different as the people who plan them. Nowadays, even the journey to and from a destination can be done in a stylish way, which many may have thought was out of their price range.

The kind of traveller can range from those who like to travel to exotic and relaxing destinations, to those who prefer outdoor adventure and intrigue and to those who like to wander around and take in the local culture to the full. This infographic shows the kind of traveler, the holiday most suited for them and that will get the maximum fulfilment out of. If this encourages you to book your adventure this coming summer, grab a low cost flight here.

The Many Types of Luxury Traveller

The Fascinating Footprint of Cesar Manrique on Lanzarote

As one of the Canary Islands, situated off the northwest coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, Lanzarote is a well-established and well-liked holiday destination. Thanks to the turquoise waters, golden sand beaches and a permanently balmy climate, it is no surprise that flights to Lanzarote are packed full of sun-seeking travellers all year round.

However, this particular island is quite unique and somewhat different to its equally alluring Canary counterparts. Rather than capitalising on tourism by building more high-rise apartment blocks or hotels to accommodate increasing demand, Lanzarote has retained its natural beauty and artistic charm.

This is mainly down to one man - Cesar Manrique. Born in the capital of Arrecife, Lanzarote’s most famous son succeeded in protecting the island’s native and cultural assets, which are still evident today. So, if this sounds like your kind of destination, here are some of Lanzarote’s most appealing sights and delights, which Manrique was largely responsible for.



Mirador del Río

Manrique created this spectacular viewpoint in 1974 on a steep cliff known as Risco de Famara, It is around 475-600 metres high and looks over the strait of Rio towards the island of La Graciosa. The cafe, souvenir shop and viewing platform are all integrated in the lava rock, so as to protect the location’s intrinsic aesthetic.




Jardin de Cactus

Yet another amazing landmark that is incorporated into Lanzarote’s landscape, the Jardín de Cactus (Cactus Garden) is located toward the north of the island in Guatiza. Here, you’ll find over 10,000 different plants and arguably the world’s best collection of cacti. From the amphitheatre-like giant bowl, cut from an old quarry, to steep terraces that resemble the wall patterns of local fields, every design and construction detail has been carefully considered with the terrain in mind.

Jameos del Agua

If legendary Hollywood movie star Rita Heyworth called this landmark “the eighth wonder of the world,” you know it must be special. The Jameos del Agua is “the most beautiful nightclub in the world,” according to Manrique, who created this incredible cultural attraction in the 1960s. Climb down the stone-staircase, cross the clear water lake and find yourself in the open-air cave known as Jameo Grande, which features walls of tropical plants and an inviting, albeit out of bounds swimming pool.

Taro de Tahíche (César Manrique Foundation)

Constructed within a series of volcanic bubbles, Taro de Tahíche is one of Manrique’s former residences and now the home of his very own foundation. The imagination and ingenuity of this particular abode simply must be witnessed on a visit to Lanzarote. From volcanic staircases to built-in concrete sofas, Manrique tried to feature as many natural wonders as possible. Even though you can immerse yourself in his amazing work, a considerable modern art collection has paintings by Picasso, Miro and others as well.

Museum of International and Contemporary Art

The site of Lanzarote’s Museum of International and Contemporary Art is situated in a historic fortress dating back to 1774. But in the 1970s, Manrique convinced the island authorities to restore the Castillo de San José into a museum for art. After appreciating the paintings and sculptures on display, be sure to eat and admire the view at the museum restaurant.

Many may think that Lanzarote is a quintessential package deal destination, but thanks to Cesar Manrique, it boasts several artistic and cultural delights, which set the island apart from alternative holiday resorts.


Images by Raúl A.- and Gabriel Villena used under creative commons license.



Greek Islands: Step Back into Ancient Greece

The Greek Islands are synonymous with sun-drenched beaches but this fascinating region of the world also offers a plethora of archaeological sites dating back thousands of years. From the Minoan Palace of Knossos to the ancient ruins of Delos, the Greek Islands hold a wealth of ancient cultural artefacts.


Europe’s oldest city



Two million people have booked Crete holidays this year and if you’re one of them, make sure you don’t miss the chance to visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Legend has it that Knossos is the palace of King Minos and the city was abandoned sometime around 1380 to 1100 BC. This ancient city, located in Heraklion, dates back to around 2,700 BC but was only discovered in 1878. The site has been substantially restored by expert archaeologists over the years including the Throne Room, the Royal Villa and the many beautiful frescoes.


The birthplace of Apollo



A boat ride from the island of Mykonos will take you to the uninhabited island of Delos, one of the Greece’s most important archaeological sites. Mythology claims that this island was the birthplace of Apollo and the island was and is still considered a sacred site. Delos contains a wealth of historical artefacts including monuments such as the Temple of Apollo, the Terrace of Lions and the ancient theatre. The sites on Delos allow you to step back in time to the 3rd millennium BC and there are over 50 acres of excavations to be explored.


The Temple of Aphaia



The Greek Island of Aegina is home to the ancient Aphaia Temple, first built in 570 BC but then destroyed and rebuilt in 510 BC. The temple is located on the island’s eastern side and provides more than enough of a reason alone to visit beautiful Aegina. Located in a natural beauty spot at 160 meters high, you can be assured of spectacular views across the sea from this monument’s location. Visitors are permitted to walk around the 20 well-preserved columns and the view at sunset, along with the tranquil atmosphere, will provide an unforgettable experience.


The most beautiful Greek Island



Yes, Santorini does seem to win hands down as the one of Greece’s most stunning and picturesque islands. This island is also home to the ancient Doric town of Thira (the classic name for Santorini), which dates back to the ninth century BC. Many of the ancient ruins here date back to the Hellenistic era but you will also find examples of Roman and Byzantine buildings. Sites include the Temple of Dionysos, the Sanctuary of Artemidoros and the cemeteries of Ancient Thira.


One of the most famous Greek islands



Rhodes is a very popular Greek Island destination and is in many ways a living museum. The island is home to the majestic Palace of the Grand Masters of the Order of St John, and this is an amazing example of Grecian gothic architecture. The Archaeological Museum is worth visiting for the collections of pottery, coins and sculptures, some of which date back to the 1st century BC. Other historic sites on Rhodes include the Citadel and ancient temple ruins such as the Pythian Apollo and the temple of Athena Polias.

The Greek Islands are indeed a place of beauty and if you know where to look you can find many amazing historical treasures not too far from the beaches. Take a little time to explore these historic works of art and watch Ancient Greece unfold in front of your eyes.

Images by Σπύρος Βάθης, Jack Keene, Ava Babili, George M. Groutas and Paul Simpson used under creative commons license.

The Ancient Roots of Barcelona

Barcelona is a bustling, fast-paced, and modern city in the northeast corner of Spain. Antoni Gaudi, a renowned Spanish architect, designed and built many of the whimsical structures that dot the landscape of Barcelona today. For example, La Sagrada Familia and Casa Mila confront the viewer with their dripping, undulating forms that mimic nature and the up-and-coming Art Nouveau style of the early 1900s. 


However, despite all the quirky modern buildings, the long, paved streets with glitzy high-end shops, and the touristy beaches that beckon all types of sea-goers, Barcelona has a rich ancient history that often gets shoved unceremoniously to the side. Barcelona was once a satellite city of Ancient Rome, and conventional wisdom has it that the Romans were in this part of Hispania as early as 218 BCE. 

However, the vibrant city did not start to grow in its commercial trading and Mediterranean importance until the early 1st century CE. This was because Augustus, the Roman Emperor who thrived on conquering foreign areas, “Romanized” it, and transformed it into a fruitful province for Rome. Although the best example of preserved Roman ruins in Spain are the Aqueducts in Segovia, a sleepy town of under 55,000 residents, there is something captivating about witnessing ruins in the heart of a modern, bustling city.


The first extensive example of Roman ruins is stored in the City History Museum of Barcelona. This hole in the wall museum (only two floors!) is hard to find as it is tucked into a dark, cobblestoned alleyway; however, just ask a local and they will be happy to point you in the right direction. On the Tuesday night that I visited the museum, the admission was free; interestingly, my family and I basically had the underground portion of the museum to ourselves. 

This underrated museum houses a wealth of Roman ruins from a wine factory to a cloth dyeing shop. The dyeing shop purportedly featured colors such as “Egyptian Blue” and “Pompeii Blue”; pigments are still noticeable on several of the concrete slabs. The other neat aspect is that one can literally “walk with the ancients” because there is a clear, plastic walkway that snakes through the ruins at the same level as them. 

I could well have been walking in the footsteps of a deceased Publius or his wife, Livia. The preserved ruins also included a pedestrian street (the Cardo) with columns /sewers and a Garum factory. Here, vats were built for fish to be skinned, cut, and processed into Garum, an ancient fish sauce that was popular with the Romans. 


Lined ceramic vessels were sunk into the floor to hold the sauce and the fish remnants. Because the staple beverage of Ancient Rome was diluted wine, naturally this complex included a wine making factory. Again, large amphorae were used to hold the processed wine, grape pulp, and tartrates (3rd-4th century). Although this museum also includes Christian ruins (i.e. a small church), I find the characteristic Roman ruins the most fascinating because they tell the story of everyday citizens that were part of the most influential and powerful Empire of the ancient world.

The second “must see” ruin in Barcino (the Roman name for Barcelona) is the Temple of Augustus. This Temple is over 2,000 years old, which makes it the single oldest ruin in Barcelona. It is located in the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gótic), the oldest portion of the city. Sadly, the only part left of this once glorious Temple dedicated to the first Emperor of Rome is the majestic (and grime-ridden) Corinthian Columns. This Temple used to be the focal point of an imperial Forum built in Barcino, and it was likely constructed by Tiberius, the adopted son and heir of Augustus. 

The Columns today are enclosed in a small medieval courtyard with modern apartments built around them. Imagine opening your dusty blinds and looking out onto some of the most dignified and historically rich ruins in Barcelona—incredible. When I visited this structure, I had the Temple to myself (well, at least until a hoard of tourists stampeded the place, but no matter). The Temple was excavated in the 20th century and draws in a modest stream of tourists during peak seasons (although it too is tucked into a nondescript street corner!)

For a taste of the city’s culture and the haunting ruins of the past, I would walk to Placa Nova, a square that looks out onto Barcelona’s massive, heavy-looking Gothic Cathedral. People (on this day, the elder population) were dancing together in a tradition Spanish jig in the middle of the square in the sweltering afternoon sun. It was the quintissential travel expereince; with an impressive Cathedral behind me, the vestigages of an aging, native Spanish population danicng in front of me, and the remains of an Ancient Roman wall in the rear, the day was considered a cultural success.

By Mackenzie Krauss from Learn Travel Art

How to Protect Your Art

Last month, Norwegian industrialist Christian Mustad discovered that the unsigned Van Gogh-style painting he had left languishing in his attic because he believed it was a fake, was in fact the genuine article. He was lucky. Not only because he found himself to be the owner of an internationally important masterpiece but also because that masterpiece hadn’t been damaged during its long banishment.

Paintings

Mustad is a collector so presumably he knows a thing or two about storing paintings (key points as follows: ensure the storage room has stable atmospheric conditions, remove all fixings, stack framed works back-to--back and unframed ones face-to-face, use pads to protect the base and corners and invest in a storage rack) but had the picture been harmed or stolen, he would have been in trouble. As Tom Sargent, Client Manager of Aon Private Client’s art team says, ‘the most fundamental question to ask [when buying art works] is what settlement will be made in the event of a loss.’

Inadequate insurance is a common problem. Standard insurance policies not only tend to have low single article limits, they also disregard any depreciation following partial loss. For example, if a painting valued at £100,000 is damaged, incurring restoration costs of £1,000 and subsequent depreciation of £10,000, a standard policy will only pay for repair. A comprehensive policy that accommodates fine art and antiques, on the other hand, would also settle for the depreciation. ‘There is a significant difference between insurers that understand the nature of art and insurers that deal in mass market products,’ says Sargent. ‘Trying to explain to a standard insurer the impact a hair line crack has on the value of a Song Dynasty bowl is a hard task.’

Of course, avoiding damage in the first place is the best policy of all and while it’s impossible to protect against every eventuality, there are some simple steps collectors can take to reduce the possibility of harm. The most important of these is to display art works appropriately. Ideally, paintings should be hung from brass chains attached to two hooked plates screwed into both sides of the frame back and since fluctuations in temperature cause the most damage, all works from oil paintings and bronze sculptures to ceramics and art glass must be kept at a consistent temperature away from direct heat and light. Try not to hang paintings in high traffic areas of the house such as stairways and always steer clear of the spaces behind doors.

Cleaning requires care. If you must dust your paintings (if the paint is flaky don’t), always place them on a cushioned surface and lean them towards you so that the dust falls forwards. Then, using an artist’s brush, move slowly and gently across the surface. Bronze pieces should be dusted with a soft cloth or, when necessary, sponged with neutral soap and water, while glass and ceramics are best wiped with a damp cloth. Never soak ceramics as the clay can absorb water.

Damage is often environmental so it’s advisable to examine your art works on a regular basis. For example, check canvases for areas of buckling or discolouration which may be indications that damp is seeping in (if so, remove the painting immediately) and inspect the hanging arrangements for signs of wear. Frayed picture wires, stretched chains or loose plates can all be replaced at home but damage to the works themselves should always be dealt with by a conservator.

Thankfully, theft is pretty rare but it’s essential that you are properly protected. Object ID, an international standard for describing cultural objects, recommends that collectors photograph their art works and write a detailed description of each piece. These documents should be kept in a safe box along with the bill of sale, artist’s statement and a letter of authenticity – all of which should be obtained at the time of purchase.
But the right policy, correct display and meticulous care will count for nothing if, should the worst happen, you find that your art works are undervalued. ‘With prices rising and fluctuating so frequently, we recommend that our clients get valuations carried out every three to five years,’ says Tom Sargent. It’s sound advice.

Photo by A Silent Republic via Flickr Creative Commons