Thursday, May 31, 2012

Eindhoven, the city of lights, the Netherlands

Set in the province of North Brabant, Eindhoven is perhaps best well know outside of the Netherlands as home of PSV Eindhoven, the football team that regularly challenges at the top of the Dutch Erdedivisie. During the 19th century the old market town of Eindhoven was merged with the villages of Strijp, Woensel, Tongelre and Gestel. In the last century the growth of the city was stimulated when Philips, the electronics company, sited its factory there, giving Eindhoven it's name as the "city of lights".

the Philips Witte Dame
Perhaps the best know of the Philips buildings is the Witte Dame, built in 1922 by architect L. Scheffer, it has now been sold and converted into a design college, library, centre for artists and apartments. It is set right in the city centre just a short walk from the PSV stadium.

the Markt

Icerink on the Markt, December 2012
Eindhoven is a relatively small city with around 200,000 inhabitants. The Markt in the city centre seems to attract many of them, on a sunny day when the square is crowded with people enjoying the sun and a biertje (small beer). There are plenty of bars to chose from most of which serve food as well.

Piazza shopping 

The Blob
The main shopping area in Eindhoven, like the city is fairly compact. The Heuvel Galerie and the Piazza are the two shopping centers with plenty of other shops in the surrounding streets. The Blob, seen above is the latest addition to Eindhoven's shopping landscape. Best cup of coffee to be found is in the Selxyz book store, close by to the Blob, there you'll also find free wi-fi access.

Kleine Berg

De Baron on Kleine Berg
You'll find more shops and bars on Kleine Berg which is set in the area called the Bergen. Here you'll find an area of Eindhoven which is older than the rest of the generally modern city centre. Its a very relaxed area, home to many artists and over the last few years has attracted a lot of new designer stores.

Van Abbemuseum, original building

Inside the Van Abbemuseum

Van Abbemuseum, new building
From a tourists perspective, Eindhoven does not have as much to offer as the likes of Maastrich, Delft or Leiden. Yes, it has plenty of stores, restaurants, bars etc but it lacks the beauty of some of the other Dutch cities I've mentioned. It's worth spending some time, an overnight stop should be enough. The Van Abbemuseum and the Philips Light Museum are worth a visit. If you visit the Van abbemuseum of modern art, be sure and take the lift from the top floor to the ground floor. Why? You'll just have to wait and see....

For some great food, you can try Auberge Nassau which also has its own B&B, as well as Restaurant 1910. Both are fairly central on the picturesque Wilhelmina Plein. If you choose either of these restaurants, have a drink before or after in the Gaper which is close by.

Eindhoven Marathon startline
If you're a keen runner with ambitions to run a marathon or to set your personal best time, the Eindhoven Marathon is worth considering. Why? Simply because like the rest of the country Eindhoven is flat, very flat, no hills to tire you out. The event is held annually around the middle of October.

Queens Day Market in Eindhoven
Koninginnedag or Queens Day, celebrated on  April 30th (or the 29th if the 30th falls on a Sunday), it is Queen Beatrix's official birthday. Although the current Queen was born on 31 January, the holiday is observed on 30 April as it was the birthday of her mother, Juliana. If you find yourself in Eindhoven or anywhere in the Netherlands on this day, you'll come across a blaze of Orange, market stalls, bands and generally a great party, something the Dutch do very well.

Throughout the Netherlands cycling is a way of life, so be aware and look before you step onto the cycle paths as cyclists have right of way and tend to take no prisoners. The whole country is criscrossed by cycle paths which are a great way to escape the cities and explore some of the flat but still beautiful countryside.

Eimdhoven, Glow.

Every year during the month of November, Eindhoven lights up in an event called Glow, through a forum of interventions, installations, performances and events based on the phenomena of artifical light. Its a major event in the city which attracts large crowds who walk the Glow route.  For some photos of the 2012 event, enter Eindhoven Glow 2012 into the Search Box.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A short break in historic Salamanca, Spain

During our most recent trip to Madrid, we hopped on a train to Salamanca for an overnight stay in this wonderful university city. Less than three hours by train from Madrid's Chamartin station, Salamanca is easily accessible and well worth a visit as hopefully our photos will show. Spanish trains are great, clean, bright, lots of baggage space and they even have power connection in the seats to charge your portable digital devices.

We stayed overnight in the hotel Rua Salamanca, which is a matter of minutes from the impressive Plaza Mayor. Great value, good breakfast and the best welcome we've had in a Spanish hotel. The staff are very helpful and only too happy to explain all you need to know about the city. The rooms are spacious and give you the feeling of being in someone's home rather than a characterless hotel.

Inside the Rua Salamanca
Salamanca is said to be Spain's finest showcase of Renaissance and Plateresque architecture. Pre-eminent among its artists and master craftsmen of later years were the Churriguera brothers. Their work can be seen in many of Salamanca's golden stone buildings, notably in the Plaza Mayor.

Entering the Plaza Mayor

A very quiet Plaza Mayor
The Plaza Mayor is one of Spain's grandest city squares. On the east side is the Royal Pavilion which is decorated with a bust of Felipe V, who built the square. As you'd expect the Plaza is surrounded by bars and restaurants where you can enjoy the view and relax for a lot less than the prices in Madrid's namesake.

Casa de las Conchas

These days, apart from tourists, Salamanca is bustling with students from the university as well as its language schools. The university was founded in 1218, making it the oldest in Spain, the University buildings are truly impressive. Above you can see the Casa de las Conchas, taking its names from the golden stone scallop shells that cover most of its walls. The Casa houses the university library.

Torre del Clavero
The tower in the photo above is the last vestige of a palace than once stood here which was built around 1480. It stands opposite the House of the Dead, Casa de las Muertes, which takes its name from the small skulls that embellish its facade.

Casa de las Muertes

The city is home to two Cathedrals, Catedral Vieja (built in the 12th - 13th century) and Catedral Nueva built in the 16th - 18th century). The new cathedral was built alongside its predecessor and you can enter the Old through the New. The latter version combines a mix of architectural styles, mainly Gothic with Renaissance and Baroque additions, the original is Romanesque. You'll leave the two catehdrals inspired by the beauty of the architecture and the history, especially of the Catedral Vieja.

Catedral Nueva

The dome inside Catedral Nueva

Inside Catedral Vieja

For something from a very different period to most of the wonderful architecture of Salamanca, take some time to vist the Art Deco museum, as well as housing some beautiful works of art it has a great cafe with lovely coffee and delicious pastries...highly recommended.

Salamanca's Art Deco museum

Salamanca has to be one of Spain's most beautiful cities, the old town is not too large so a couple of days is all you really need to really sample all that the city has to offer. We were only there for one and left having had a fantastic time. To end this post a few more photos of this great city, hasta luego Salamanca.

Salud, from Plaza Mayor

Monday, May 21, 2012

The seaside town of Scarborough, England

Scarborough is a seaside town on the North Sea cost of North Yorkshire, a holiday destination which we visited many times as when we were children and which we recently revisited for a trip down memory lane. The town offers everything that you would expect of a seaside resort, a lovely long beach, great coastal views, slot machines, dodgems, fish and chips, putting greens and more.

Never to cold for a 99
View towards the harbour and Scarborough Castle
The town has a spectacular setting above two beautiful white-sand bays, graced by a host of handsome buildings, built at various times during the reigns of Edward, Victoria and the four Georges. Over looking the harbour, Scarborough Castle dominates the landscape.

In these hard economic times, the town and its attractions offer all a young family could want to keep the kids entertained, relying perhaps on a little luck with the weather. Its situation close to other towns and cities in the area such as York and Whitby also make it a great place to spend a night if you are touring in the area. We stayed in the Crown Hotel which has a great location overlooking the bay, the rooms were comfortable and very clean and the breakfast was great. Parking is limited so try and book in advance, if not the hotel will give you a voucher which entitles you to free onstreet parking.

One thing for sure is that when you visit Scarborough you'll have a lot of fun, we did 30+ years ago, and nothing changed 30+ years later and the same pretty well applies to Scarborough.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Castle Howard, Yorkshire's finest historic house & estate

We're just back from a wonderful family weekend in the lovely English county of Yorkshire. Whilst there we visited Castle Howard. Many people of a certain age will remember this wonderful stately home as being the setting for the hit 80s TV series, Brideshead Revisited. More recently the cameras were back there again to film the 2008 movie of the same name.

Castle Howard
Home to the Howard family for over 300years, Castle Howard is a magnificent 18th-century residence set within 1,000 acres of breathtaking scenary in the Howardian Hills. As well as being a visitor attraction, Castle Howard is a thriving rural estate with many traditional enterprises such as farming and forestry.

You can visit the impressive interior of the house which features world-renowned collections, in most of the main rooms there are friendly guides who are delighted to share stories of the house and family as well as answer your questions. Their passion for the house and its history is plain to see.

Make sure you give yourself a couple of hours to enjoy the house as there is a lot to see, at the end of it you can relax over a nice lunch in the restaurant. Once you've finished take some time, weather permitting, to enjoy the landscape of the impressive gardens. You'll come across temples, lakes, statues and fountains as well as an 18th century walled garden and ornamental vegetable garden.

If for some reason you don't have the time to visit the house and gardens but are looking for somewhere to stop for a break, the lovely surroundings of the Stable Courtyard offer a selection of estate shops and cafe which are open all year round with free admission and parking.

Castle Howard is located just 15 miles North East of York, on the road to Scarborough, the A64. We stayed in the lovely city of York the prior evening, before moving onto Scarborough for a trip down memory lane in this lovely English seaside resort.