Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Win a Mystery trip for 2 to Europe worth €500!!!!!

Mysterytrips.ie has just launched a great competition to win an exciting Mystery trip for 2 people to Europe!  The prize is worth €500 and is a fantastic opportunity to test out this unique form of 'Travel with a Twist'!

Entry is FREE and very EASY!  All you need to do is:

1.  Become a fan of Mysterytrips' Facebook Fan page


2.  Share a status with your friends-details available here!

This is a great prize!  Good Luck to all!  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

French Week @ the Dublin Docklands

Following up on my Bastille Blog post on Tuesday-and as a final farewell to The Top Tips for Trips 'French week[-(which has in fact ended up more like 'French fortnight'!)-I decided to take a little trip to the Dublin docklands to see how their first ever French week is going. I found it to be a small, but atmospheric festival with plenty to amuse and entertain. There are still 2 days of the festival left, so if you are thinking about attending here is a taste of what is in store for you.  

A rare chance to step on board a beautiful tall ship! 

Lots of little stalls selling jewellery, clothes, toiletries, bikes, tiles, a chance to win a goldfish.....

lots of tasty gourmet food including crepes, bon bon, traditional French bakery,  a fantastic cheese stand, olives, nuts, macaroons, the cookie man from Amsterdam, the friendly candy floss kart and lots more.  Yummy!


And a lovely flower market :)

All brought together with some great French music!


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Bastille Day!

After the recent coverage on The Top Tips for Trips Blog of all things French and wonderful it would be rude not to wish our French friends a very happy Bastille Day!  

If you want to take advantage of this celebration to break up the week why not indulge in some French wine and cheese tonight, or go the whole hog and treat yourself to some French cuisine in one of the many exquisite French restaurants around Ireland.  For a detailed list of French restaurants in Dublin click here
For all other counties in Ireland visit MenuPages.ie and search for your local area.  Bon Appetite!

For a more festival type celebration then head to the Dublin Docklands, where for the first time ever, all things French are being celebrated for a whole week!  The celebration takes place on the 13th - 18th July (11 AM -10 PM).  It coincides with the 50th anniversary of Alliance Française and as part of the celebrations, the Belem, the oldest sailing ship in Europe, will sail into the Docklands.  For details of what to expect please click here

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Enjoy Paris in London

As France's Les Blues bombed out of the World Cup, a disgruntled President Sarkozy ( citing austerity measures) announced the cancellation of the annual Bastille day celebrations at the Elysée Palace on July 14th. Not to worry. Parisians eager to enjoy their national holiday can now hop on a Eurostar to London, where, 3 days early, the largest Bastille day celebration outside of France will take place.

London is now home to about half a million French people. Not surprising then that they have their own lifestyle group and London-French newspaper-Macadam. The group was created by Caroline Sivilia, who came to Britain 6 years ago in order to set up her own business and share the French culture with the British. The Bastille event is run by Macadam and is now in its second year. It takes place this Sunday at Battersea Park.

Among the attractions are a can-can show and a revue given by the Lido dancers, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the world famous Champs-Élysées-based night spot.  Partygoers can eat and drink at a pop-up bistro, dance to retro accordion music or snack on French tarts and treats at an outdoor market specialising in regional delicacies. Sports lovers who can tear themselves away from the World Cup Final can instead watch a petanque (a form of boules) tournament.

Festivities start at 10:30 AM with a hearty breakfast of croissants and crepes served, de rigueur, on red and white checked tablecloths. Learn some traditional French dancing skills and work up an appetite for lunch at the free 'bal poplaire', followed by an afternoon of games and races, such as the 'Course des Garçons du Café', in which waiting staff race while balancing trays laden with pints of frothy beer!

For more information on this event please visit the Bastille London Garden Party website.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heavenly Hossegor

Completing the Top Tips for Trips mini Tour du South West France is Hossegor.  This sleepy town is cradled in one of the most beautiful natural settings in the country.  Nestled in an emerald green forest clinging to a glittering salt-water lake, Hossegor emanates bucolic bliss with the added bonus of being beside the sea.   Indeed the beaches of Hossegor and Capreton are amongst the finest in France; their endless golden strands and rough surf a hit with both surfers and sunbathers alike.  

Surfing is big business in Hossegor and it is often grouped with Biarritz-a 40 min drive south-as the surfing capital of Europe.  It is home to many of the large surf manufacturers' headquarters, as well as the prestigious Quicksilver Pro Surfing Tournament, held annually in September.  With big names like Tony Hawks participating in the event, the competition draws a huge crowd and helps to extend the tourist season of Hossegor beyond its peak period of July and August.  

Hossegor's idyllic location lends it a peaceful and serene atmosphere, more concerned with outdoor pursuits than late night sessions.  Walking, cycling, fishing and horse-riding can all be enjoyed in relative isolation, ensuring a thoroughly relaxing experience and an opportunity  to be at one with nature.    

The town itself has everything you need, which for me means yummy boulangerie and glaciers!  There are also some lovely interior boutiques and of course the high street surf stores.  A market featuring mainly clothes, textiles and jewellery takes place on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings in the town centre.    

The main meeting point in town is the Cafe du Paris, which sits on the crossroads of the town, making it a perfect spot for people watching.  Pretty much everything takes place around the cafe-when I was there last it was the anniversary of Michael Jackson's death; while sitting in Cafe du Paris I was witness to a very surreal flash dance to 'Beat it' commemorating the occasion!  Quite possibly one of the liveliest things Hossegor town had seen for a while!  

Outside of the town there are some restaurants and bars along the beach as well as a casino to try your luck in.  

Hossegor is a true gem on the South West coast, a perfect place to unwind after a hectic tour du France.  Enjoy!

For more information on visiting Hossegor please click here

A day out in Bayonne

Just 10 minutes north of Biarritz is the beautiful old town of Bayonne.    Its commercial status and long history make it the capital of the Basque county and an absolute must visit for tourists to the South of France.  The town enjoys a splendid location that spans the path of two rivers, the Nive and the Adour.  

It boasts the best shopping in the county, in the most stunning of settings.  With every turn the vestiges of Bayonne's rich past can be admired; its distinctive colombage houses, the remains of fortifications laid in Roman times, the magnificent 14th century gothic Cathedral Sainte-Marie in the town centre and the ramparts and forts constructed by Vauban under Louis XIV.  

Bayonne is famous for the excellent Basque museum, the Bonnat museum of art, the summer festival (the Fêtes de Bayonne/Baionako pestak) and for the invention of the bayonet.  As well as all this, Bayonne is the chocolate capital of France!  It is home to some of the most tantalising boutique choclatiers in the country.  Just a glance in their windows is enough to make your mouth water! 

Yummy!  A day out in Bayonne is a real treat. Enjoy strolling around its pretty streets, people watching from a riverside cafe, shopping in its boutiques and specialty stores and munching on its chocolate delicacies!  

For more information on Bayonne contact the Bayonne Tourist Office. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Glitz of Biarritz

The large, stylish town of Biarritz, located just 11 miles from the Spanish border, is the principal resort on the Côte Basque and definitely the most famous. It was brought to fame in the mid 19th Century, when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) fell in love with this part of the Basque country. She built a Palace on the beach (now the world class Hotel du Palais) and a centre with natural springs at Eugenie les Bains in the Landes. Foreign royalty and their entourages were invited to holiday at the palace- turning Biarritz into a destination of choice for European nobility.

This history of aristocracy in Biarritz is reflected in the town's architecture. It is not typically Basque, but rather a blend of 19thcentury city residences, large and luxurious, made of local stone bricks. If you were to buy one of these houses now, you would most likely find titles such as the Prince, Duke, Baron, Marquee etc. on the title deeds. The grandeur of the past remains in Biarritz today, evident in its elegant pathways and landmark buildings such as the magnificent Russian Orthodox Church, the beachside pleasure palace-the Casino Barrière de Biarrit. and La Gare Di Midi, originally a train station built by the Empress, now home to the Centre Chorégraphique National - Ballet de Biarritz.

Although an air of grandeur and exclusivity remains, this is purely aesthetic. Biarritz has moved with the times and is now a vibrant and cosmopolitan town that can be enjoyed by holiday-makers with varying agendas and budgets. One significant shift for local tourism has been the establishment of Biarritz as the surf capital of Europe.

In 1957 surfers from California discovered the Atlantic waves of Biarritz. Surfing became a large part of the local culture and news of the perfect waves spread across the world. Surf schools and speciality stores soon spring up- further increasing wave-seeking traffic to the town. Biarritz has embraced this culture with special areas designated for surfing on La Grand Plage, as well as an annual festival celebrating the sport.

Non-surfers can enjoy the surf-free bathing zones on Grand Plage, the beautiful cliff walks or the many -18 to be exact!- golf courses near the town. A word of arning for swimmers however -always abide by the lifeguards and their flags and signs; currents along the coast can be very strong and have resulted in some unfortunate fatalities over the years.  

There are some great day/overnight trip options from Biarritz-my favourite being the beautiful old town of Bayonne and a tapas tour of San Sebastian.  Reviews of both to follow soon on the Top Tips Fro Trips Blog.  

Shopping in Biarritz is another great activity. The town is packed with designer stores, fabulous boutiques, jewellers, interiors and textiles specialists, perfumeries, chocolatiers and of course surf shops. The delicate French glamour of the windows alone is enough to set me giddy! Paris chic at the sea side, who could want for more?

Eating out in Biarritz is also a treat. There is a host of French restaurants and cafes that offer everything from informal snacks and boat-fresh seafood to regional specialities and nouvelle cuisine. Tourists are often drawn to the eateries around the port, however the quality of the food is often better and less expensive elsewhere, for example on rue Victor Hugo. The proximity of Biarritz to Spain is evident in the presence of some Spanish-influenced menus and tapas bars, my favourite of which is Bar Jean.

If you have a sweet tooth like me and always fancy a sugary treat after dinner my top tip would be to skip ordering desert off a menu in a restaurant and go straight to one of Biarritz's many fine glaciers for an ice-cream.  There are flavours to suit every taste and you can order as much as you want, yummy!@  

My recent visit to Biarritz coincided with l 'Le Temps D'Aimer' a food and music festival that takes place along the beach in June. If you are lucky enough to be in Biarritz at this time make sure to pop along and enjoy the bustling atmosphere as you ramble down te line of temporary bistros and bars.

If you don't happen to be in Biarritz at the time of one of it's many festivals fear not.  There are plenty of options for after dark including quiet roadside cafes, busy bars and lively nightclubs.  If you are lucky enough to go on holidays to Biarritz then you may as well try your luck at its famous casino too!

If Biarritz is not appealing enough already then why not throw convenience into the mix.  Ryanair operates daily flights from  Dublin to the town during summer months.  The airport is about 10 minutes from the centre so getting to and from this seaside haven is easy!  

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