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Category Archives: Travel

Exploring Norway’s north on the Nordlandsbanen

A journey on the Nordlandsbanen will allow you to experience fascinating tales of the past, to be stirred by the power of nature, and to taste the fresh flavours of the region.

The journey

Though perhaps less well-known than the Oslo-Bergen train ride, the Nordlandsbanen, which stretches northwards for 729km between regal Trondheim and spirited Bodø, could certainly lay claim to being the more unique route. As well as being Norway’s longest train line, it also crosses the Arctic Circle, one of the few railways in the world to do so.

An efficient service and spacious, comfortable trains make it a delightfully sedate way to make the ten-hour journey, but it’s the huge diversity of scenery that’s most appealing. Gently rolling, emerald-green fields rest under huge skies, and Norwegian flags whip proudly over the pillar-box red hytter (cabins) dotted haphazardly over the hillsides. Moments later, the train will track its way through dense woodland, a wall of pine trees on either side of the train breaking just long enough to snatch a two-second-long postcard of mist haunting the treetops in a shadowy forest beyond.

Then, coasting out of a tunnel, the ground falls away to one side, and suddenly a 100m-high waterfall appears. Plummeting into a churning white froth below, the roaring deluge plays out silently on the other side of the train window. Such spellbinding scenes speed past repeatedly, and then evaporate into the distance, only to be replaced by another a few moments later.

All aboard at Trondheim

Before you board the train in Trondheim, take some time to explore the picture-postcard pretty city itself. The compact centre is relatively flat and easy to explore on foot or by bike. Marvel at the mighty Nidaros Domkirke, an ornate Gothic cathedral built on the burial ground of the much-revered Viking King Olav II, then linger as you cross over the quaint Old Town Bridge for views of the 18th-century waterside warehouses.

Trondheim’s old-world charm continues at Baklandet Skydsstasjon. Owner Gurli serves up hearty, homemade fare such as super-fresh fish soup and silky-smooth blueberry cheesecake. Wash it down with that most Nordic of spirits, the potent, herby aquavit: there are 111 varieties to choose from here. Meanwhile, across town, sleek Mathall Trondheim (mathalltrondheim.no) – part store, part bar-restaurant – offers a more modern take on classic Norwegian cuisine, serving up a variety of smørbrød and a good selection of craft beer.

Verdal for Stiklestad and The Golden Road of Inderøy

After a little less than two hours on the train from Trondheim, alight at Verdal for Stiklestad, the location of the famous battle of 1030 that saw the demise of King (later Saint) Olav. It’s now home to the Stiklestad National Cultural Centre, which hosts a variety of events throughout the year, and the 11th-century Stiklestad Church. This ancient place of worship was reputedly built over the stone on which Olav is said to have died.

Verdal (or alternatively Steinkjer, the next stop along) also makes a good jumping off point to explore The Golden Road – a route through traditionally agricultural Inderøy – which brings together a collective of sustainable culinary, cultural and artistic attractions, such as farm shops, restaurants and art workshops.

Swing by Nils Aas Kunstverksted, a workshop and gallery dedicated to one of Norway’s most celebrated artists. Aas’ famous statue of King Haakon VII stands near the Royal Palace in Oslo, but a collection of his pieces is also on display in a small sculpture garden just a few minutes’ stroll from the workshop.

Must-see Mosjøen

A further three-hour train-glide north brings you to diminutive Mosjøen, nestled in the imposing Vefsnfjord and surrounded by wooded peaks. The oldest part of the town, Sjøgata, is almost an open-air museum in its own right: saved from demolition in the 1960s, the beautifully-preserved 19th-century wooden buildings tell the tale of a historically prosperous town, of hardy fishermen and thriving sawmills, a story echoed at the small but informative Jakobsensbrygga Warehouse museum.

Nowadays in Mosjøen the main industry is aluminium, and a factory hums somewhat incongruously amid its pristine surroundings. Nevertheless, the surrounding hills of the Helgeland region beckon visitors to explore. Hike up the 818m-high Øyfjellet for spectacular views of the town and beyond.

Blink and you’ll miss it: crossing the Arctic Circle

From Mosjøen the landscape seems to change in preparation for the Arctic Circle crossing, as lush trees give way to the rolling, rocky terrain and barren peaks of the Saltfjellet mountain range.

With no defining geographical features to signal your passage across The Circle and into the chilly wilds of Arctic north, you may have to use your imagination. But keep an eye out for the two large pyramidal cairns either side of the tracks, and Polarsirkelsenteret, a visitor centre visible some distance from the train line, to indicate that You Were Here.

Last stop Bodø for street art, sky-gazing and the Saltstraumen

The final stop on the line, Bodø is a proud and lively cultural hub, with the world-class concert venue, Stormen, and an impressive clutch of murals painted all over the city by international street artists. One particular gem is After School by Rustam Qbic, a heart-warming homage to the aurora borealis that ensures the Northern Lights are always on show in Bodø.

If you’re not content with an artist’s impression, cross your fingers and hope to catch sight of the elusive aurora with your own eyes. The most vibrant sightings usually happen away from the light pollution of urban centres, but gaze skywards with a cocktail in hand on the balcony of Scandic Havet’s Sky Bar (scandichotels.com), and you might just be in luck.

End your journey on a high-octane note, by witnessing the fearsome force of the Saltstraumen, one of the world’s strongest tidal currents. Swirling into a frenzy every six hours, this furious maelstrom 33km from Bodø is caused by 400 million cubic metres of water rushing through a strait just 150m wide.

Winter sports in the Slovenian Alps

Unspoilt wilderness in Vogel

The only ski area situated within the Triglav National Park, Vogelbenefits from an almost unbelievably picturesque location, surrounded by towering mountains and with views over Lake Bohinj towards Mt Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak. The terrain is unusually beautiful too – an array of snowy hillocks, which feels like skiing on the contours of a fluffy cloud or through a Renaissance vision of heaven.

Despite its relatively diminutive size (22km of pistes), the area’s varied topography makes it feel much bigger, and there’s a magical laid-back atmosphere, perfect for carefree coasting down the well-groomed blue and red runs. When conditions are right and there’s plenty of snow, it’s also a great destination for off-piste skiing and ski touring.

Most skiers stay down in the pretty Bohinj Valley, taking the high-speed gondola up from Ukanc, but there are restaurants, bars, ski-hire facilities, chalets and even a hotel up on the mountain.

Family-friendly facilities at Kranjska Gora

Uniquely for Slovenia’s major ski resorts, Kranjska Gora’s ski area is located directly adjacent to the village, allowing many of its hotels to offer ski-in, ski-out access. The piste layout is compact and straightforward, with several parallel lifts providing access to a range of side-by-side nursery, blue and red slopes. It’s a perfect proposition for families and beginners, as it’s virtually impossible to lose anyone and super-easy for parents to swing by and check on their kids in ski school.

Plenty of artificial snow cannons make up for the relatively low altitude, and night skiing until 10pm makes it easy to pack plenty of slope time into even a short visit. More advanced skiers can test their mettle on the steeper red and black runs over the hill in Podkoren, including a challenging world-cup downhill run that seems almost vertical in places.

Cross-border skiing at Kanin

Slovenia’s highest ski area, right on the border with Italy, Kaninreopened in the 2016–17 season after refurbishment of the cable-car connecting it to the town of Bovec in the Soča Valley below. In contrast to the Cold War era, when the border with Italy was guarded by soldiers with guns, skiers can now pass freely across into Italy thanks to a state-of-the-art cable car connection with the resort of Sella Nevea.

Kanin’s runs are sunny and south-facing, ideal during chillier conditions, whereas Sella Nevea’s north-facing runs come into their own as conditions warm up. The scenery on both sides is spectacular, with dramatic rocky outcrops and views all the way to the Adriatic sea on clear days.  Thanks to high altitudes of up to 2300 metres, conditions remain good into the spring, allowing the unique possibility of a combining winter- and water-sports in the same holiday once the rafting season has begun in mid-March down in the Soča Valley below.

Slovenian Alps Regional Ski Pass

Although most of Slovenia’s ski areas are relatively small, suitable for beginners, families and those on short breaks, a great option for more experienced skiers is to combine more than one resort in the same holiday, using the regional ski pass. This currently covers Vogel, Kranjska Gora, Krvavec (30km of pistes located close toLjubljana’s airport), Cerkno (a family-friendly area incorporating a thermal spa) and Dreiländereck, just over the border in Austria, and may be expanded to include Kanin in the 2017–18 season.

Though not a winter-sports hub itself, picture-postcard Bled, with its pretty lake and castle, is located just a 35-minute drive from Vogel, Kranjska Gora and Krvavec. You can get a great deal by buying your ski pass as a package with accommodation in Bled, with some three-star hotels charging as little as €69 for one night’s accommodation and a two-day lift pass.

Cross-country skiing and biathlon at Pokljuka

The Pokljuka Plateau is the perfect place to get back to nature, skiing through towering coniferous forests and beautiful alpine meadows, without the infrastructure and hustle-bustle of a major ski resort. The heavily forested plateau is situated on the eastern edge of the Triglav National Park at an elevation of around 1,100 to 1,400 metres.

What to do in Québec in Winter if You’re Not a Skier

Montréal

In place d’Armes, a historic square in Old Montréal, there is a pair of bronze sculptures standing on either side of the plaza. The first is a man clutching an English pug; the other is a woman holding a French poodle. The owners are turning their exaggerated noses away from each other, while the two dogs are staring at each other, eager to meet.

This take on Montréal’s mixed heritage says a lot about a city (and a province) characterized by dualities – it’s at once French and English, Québécois and Canadian, old and new, and all the more compelling for it. Montréal was recently voted the best city in the world to be a student, and with its laid-back attitude, hip neighborhoods, astonishingly good coffee, and lively drinking scene, it’s not hard to see why.

For an intimate exploration of the city’s streets, consider a local tour guide. Thom Seivewright (livinglikealocal.com) injects enthusiasm and knowledge as he shows visitors around his city. He tailors each tour to suit individual interests, but it’s worth asking him to show you some of the murals around boulevard St-Laurent, which are a riot of color and artistry.

The Laurentians

The Laurentian mountains are a one-hour drive or a slower bus ridefrom Montréal and are a paradise for winter sports freaks. There are few better ways to experience this wonderland of white than dog-sledding at the Kanatha-Aki activity center (kanatha-aki.com) at Val des Lacs. Brace yourself on the side of the sleigh as it careens through a maze of pines while a gang of huskies barks excitedly up ahead; the trees periodically open out, allowing you to drink in views of dramatic mountains or a snow-bordered lake along the way.

Skiers should head over to Ville de Mont-Tremblant – aficionados consider this place to be one of North America’s foremost ski destinations, and gazing up at the 968m namesake mountain, you won’t disagree. But this cheery little Alpine-style resort offers up a whole host of activities all year round. No longer a summer-only activity, specially designed ‘fat-bikes’ allow cyclists to take to the mountains all year round. You can rent one of these mountain bikes with super-wide tires at Centre Adventure Chalet des Voyageurs (tremblant.ca/plan/rentals/bike-rentals) and follow a signposted cycle trail. Full disclosure: operating one of these beasts on hilly terrain is not an easy task. But if you’re in reasonable shape, it’s a lovely way to escape the crowds of the ski resort and sample the icy beauty of the surrounding area.

Québec City

You can get to Québec City on a three-hour train ride from Montréal (viarail.ca). It’s a comfy, civilized journey, and on a sunny day, sitting back and soaking up the scenery is almost as good as being out there in it.

Where Montréal is all modern skyscrapers and asphalt, smaller and sedate Québec City features stone walkways and centuries-old fortifications. Your visit here will no doubt start in the Old Town, a confection of cobbled lanes and 17th- and 18th-century buildings huddled at the foot of imposing Cap Diamant. The crowning glory at the top of the cliff is Le Château Frontenac, which, with its striking green roof and dramatic turrets, looks too fancy even for your average fairytale. Staying here doesn’t come cheap but treat yourself to a taste of the high life by popping into its famous bar Le Sam (bistrolesam.com) and quaffing a cocktail. Outside, the Terrasse Dufferin offers glorious views over the St Lawrence River, and is also home to the Au 1884toboggan slide. Three toboggans can race down side-by-side, and the slide’s rickety demeanor only adds to the thrill.

Make sure you head out to Montmorency Falls, only 12km from the city center. These falls stand 30m higher than Niagara, but are narrower (which might explain why they’re less famous). A suspension bridge spans between them, offering views over the deluge that will enrapture and terrify in equal measure.

Practicalities

Winter is a fantastic time to visit Québec, but temperatures can plummet to -20˚C and you’ll only get the best out of your trip if you pack for the cold. Layers are key, including thermals, ski pants and jacket, fleece, lined hat, ski gloves and a decent pair of winter boots. Sunglasses and hand and feet warmers can also be a godsend.

Tom traveled to Québec with assistance from Destination Québec (QuebecOriginal.com), Laurentians (laurentides.com), Québec City (quebecregion.com), Tourisme Montréal (tourisme-montreal.org) and WOW air (wowair.co.uk). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

7 Spectacular Sunset Spots in Dubrovnik

Bird’s-eye views from Mt Srđ

Towering 418 metres directly above Dubrovnik’s Old Town, Mt Srđ is perhaps an obvious choice, but the views certainly deliver, stretching all the way across the Adriatic Sea to Italy on clear days. A four-minutecable-car ride, a short twisting drive or a brisk 45-minute hike up a serpentine path brings you to the top of the hill. As the sun begins to set, walk past the Napoleonic fortress to the barren karst plateau, where views of the Elafiti Islands bathing in a pink haze redefine infinity. Then toast the Old Town’s glowing terracotta roofs with a glass of local wine at Panorama restaurant by the cable-car station.

Picture-perfect views of the Old Town from St Jacob’s beach

This west-facing beach boasts full-frontal views of Dubrovnik’s Old Town from its vantage point a couple of kilometres to the east. The pebbles of St Jacob’s (Sveti Jakov) beach sit precisely 163 stairs beneath road level, so for a more serene and stylish arrival, inquire about boat transfers with any of the vendors at the Old Town harbour. The low-key beach restaurant makes St Jacob’s beach a great option for a full day of sunbathing followed by a million-dollar sunset view.

Paddle off into the sunset

If you’re looking for an active way to enjoy the Dubrovnik sunset, kayaking pioneers Adventure Dalmatia have the answer. Their three-hour sunset kayaking tours set out from the small bay below Fort Lawrence (Lovrijenac) and paddle beneath the monumental City Walls towards mystical Lokrum Island, stopping off at the striking Betina Cave beach for a snorkel on the way. The trip includes snacks and a glass of local wine to toast the sunset, and you’ll definitely feel like you earned it.

An evening stroll round the City Walls

Although Dubrovnik’s famous medieval City Walls generally close before sunset (with last entrance at 7.30pm in high summer and 3pm in winter), smart visitors come towards the end of the day when day-trippers have departed and the midday heat has begun to subside. Swallows rise for their last swirl of the day, dotting the Old Town’s red roofs with the hypnotic synchronicity of their flight. Start the two-kilometre anticlockwise walk around the walls at the Ploče Gate entrance to get the steepest climbs out of the way first and finish your visit with the best views out over the sea.

A drink and a dip at a hole-in-the-wall bar

Part of the adventure of drinking at Dubrovnik’s buža bars (literally ‘hole-in-the-wall’ bars) is finding them. After passing through Bošković square, you hit the City Walls and decide whether to turn left along the walls towards swanky Bard or right for the more rustic Buža. Either way, you’ll pass through a hole in the wall and emerge at a perfect sunset drinks venue perched on the rocks above the waves. Don’t forget to bring your swimwear if you want to take a refreshing dip from the rocks.

Sunset cruise aboard a three-masted ship

What could make you feel more like a VIP than sailing into the sunset holding a glass of champagne? It couldn’t hurt to do so aboard a ship that actually starred in hit TV-series Game of Thrones – the Karaka (karaka.info), a faithful replica of a 16th-century merchant ship. The 2.5 hour cruise includes a buffet dinner served at dusk. The route circles around the island of Lokrum and gives great views of the City Walls, all dreamy in the twilight. Departure times from the Old Town harbour vary according to sundown times, so double-check when booking.

Classy cocktails with a panoramic sea view

The Sunset Lounge bar at the Dubrovnik Palace hotel at the southwestern tip of the Lapad peninsula justifies its name in one swift glance. Enormous panoramic windows reveal a blissful backdrop: a vast expanse of deep blue sea, punctuated by the tiny lighthouse on Grebeni Island in the foreground and the Elafiti Islands on the horizon. To enjoy Mediterranean cuisine with your uninterrupted views, head down to the hotel’s Taverna Maslina restaurant. If you decide you’d like to stay, all rooms here come with a sea view. Otherwise, bus number 4 runs between the hotel and the Old Town until shortly before midnight.

7 Porto’s Coolest Bars to Drink

Miradouro Ignez

If you were to pick a place in Porto to kick back with a beer and sigh ‘ahhh, this is the life’, Miradouro Ignez would be it. Tucked behind the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal on a deck overlooking Porto’s red-tiled rooftops, this casual bar lets you turn your chair towards the sunlit city as the day’s final rays beam down the Douro River.

Capela Incomum

Venture off the bustling Cedofeita shopping strip down a cobbled backstreet to find a 19th-century chapel converted into the trendy Capela Incomum wine bar. On the ground floor, small tables surround an engraved wooden altar set against blush pink walls, while a cosy upstairs area features additional seating. Pair one of the 70-odd wines on offer with a platter of Portuguese cheeses and cured meats.

BOP

True to its name, BOP is the place to bop along to your favourite tunes while enjoying a wine, single-origin pour-over coffee or BOP’s own tap beer. The bar is lined with a collection of more than 2500 records and patrons are invited to spin a vinyl on one of the communal record players with a set of headphones. The intimate space tends to attract a laidback crowd of laptop-wielding hipsters by day and small groups by night. Select a burger or bagel from the bar menu if you get the munchies.

360º Terrace Lounge

On a technicality, Espaço Porto Cruz’s 360º Terrace Lounge is in Porto’s neighbouring city of Gaia, but the short walk over the Dom Luís I bridge is hands-down worth it for the view. Upon entering the modern tiled building (which glows a funky blue at night), zip up the elevator to the rooftop and admire Porto’s stacked cityscape of red, orange and yellow from the comfort of an outdoor lounge. As a bar attached to one of Portugal’s famous port wine cellars, the drinks menu is laden with port cocktails, and a bar menu is offered during the summer months.

Armazém

Colourful chairs stuck to the exterior of this old wine storage warehouse make Armazém easy to pinpoint. From the road, a concrete ramp leads into a huge space decked out with all manner of vintage products, such as ceramics, jewellery, glassware and furniture. The jumbled collection is kooky and fun, and wraps around a cosy bar where you can sip a warming tawny on a chilly day. Then, when the weather heats up you can enjoy wine and tapas on the relaxing outdoor terrace.

Catraio

While Portugal may not immediately spring to mind when you think of craft beer, the country’s artisan beer movement is gaining momentum and Catraio jumped on the trend in 2015 as the city’s first dedicated craft beer bar. The space, which includes a mix of alfresco tables and indoor seating, has more than 100 varieties on offer including a rotating selection of tap beers. Catraio primarily supports domestic producers but also serves a range of international brews.

Bonaparte Downtown

The walls of this dark and quirky pub are adorned with paraphernalia including worn briefcases and old machinery parts, while dolls locked in birdcages hang from the high ceiling. Big groups can convene in the smoky haze of Bonaparte Downtown’s spacious rear section, while smaller groups can enjoy pints of Guinness from studded leather booth seats near the entrance.

Best Cocktail Bars in San Juan’s

El Batey, for dive bar vibes

Chandeliers made of old business cards, walls filled with graffiti and cryptic messages (some from the 1970s and 80s) and a vintage record player featuring the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Draco Rosa albums – these are all part of the delicious mashup that is El Batey, a dive bar found on Cristo Street. The place is tattered, scribbled on, and bewitchingly dark in the best possible way; as soon as you cross the dilapidated door of El Batey, you get into their groove, and everyone else here seems to be under the same spell – soulfully jamming to the vintage music, sharing deep thoughts with the bartender and writing stories on the walls. The bartenders are good at crafting the classics (like homemade mojitos), but when left to their own devices they improvise based on a patron’s mood, coming up with adventurous concoctions.

Oveja Negra, for turn-of-the-century charm

Oveja Negra, meaning ‘black sheep’, was created as a nod to the speakeasy, Prohibition style of the 1920s. The bar is known mostly by word of mouth, as the owner refuses to promote it anywhere and asks for a password to get in. Follow them on Instagram to get the password and then head to Bartola restaurant in Miramar. Once inside, look for a liquor shelf by the restrooms and knock as if it were a door. The shelf will open to let you inside Oveja Negra, with its burgundy wallpaper, early 20th century furniture and mixologists clad in film noir fashions and attitudes. You can stick to what’s on the menu – like the ‘Malas Palabras’, the ‘Something Sexy’, or the ‘Nutcracker’ – or ask for a drink to be invented just for you right on the spot by one of their award-winning mixologists.

La Factoria, for bar-hopping in one place

The suspender-wearing bartenders and the decaying glamour of the decor will help you identify this bar on San Sebastian street. An intriguing red bulb by the bar table goes on after 6pm, signaling the opening of three additional bars hidden behind a crooked door next to the restroom. Layers upon layers of peeling paint from decades past help set the mood, as well as the penciled name of the previous bar – the beloved Hijos de Borinquen – that peeks through the plasterwork. La Factoria is famous for their ‘Lavender Mule’ (vodka, ginger beer, and a homemade lavender infusion), but the ‘Ginger Spritzer’ (vodka, German Riesling, Cava and ginger) and the ‘Spiced Old Fashioned’ (aged rum, homemade dried herbs syrup, and bitters) will take your tastebuds on a wild ride.

Bar La Unidad, for relaxed glamour and Sinatra tunes

Following the same thread of Prohibition-era bars, this atmospheric speakeasy establishment lies hidden beside a restaurant named Soda on Cuevillas street. A minimalist symbol (three interlocking circles) is displayed on the door and is the only reference to the bar. The brainchild of restaurateur Mundi Morin, La Unidad resembles the lobby of an old hotel with over-sized vintage couches, moody decor and lighting, and Sinatra tunes enveloping it all. The same philosophy about cocktail improvisation holds true here – ask your bartender for something tailored to your taste or try one of their famous concoctions, like the ‘Cortadito’, their version of an ‘Old Fashioned’ made with hand crafted bourbon, espresso, and chocolate bitters and shavings.

La Coctelera, for a chic escape into the gastrobar world

Because it’s disguised as a run-down venue from the outside, it’s hard to believe the pristine interior of La Coctelera. With a clean industrial look and well dressed mixologists (the uniform consists of suspenders, a bowtie, and a beret), it’s obvious this is not your average cocktail bar. They call themselves a gastrobar, and serve high-end food and inventive drinks like the ‘Reina de Carnaval’, a mix of rum, lime, pineapple and a touch of ginger, and the ‘Tesla’, made from vodka, limoncello, tonic, and Jenever, served inside a light bulb.

El Bar Bero, for a drink and maybe a haircut

Need a drink and a haircut? El Bar Bero can give you both. This is a barbershop during the day and a high-end cocktail bar at night. Hair is a theme here: the perennial mustache symbol serves as decoration and barbershop chairs serve as bar stools. Three different Carlos’ run the place and they are all chatty and welcoming. The ‘Tiki Man’, ‘La Vieja del Barbero’ and their homemade ginger beer – all served in vintage flasks – are worth a sip.

Five Best Restaurants in Addis Ababa

Oda Cultural Restaurant and Cafe

Inside the Oromo Cultural Center is the Oda Restaurant and Cafe, which you might recognise from Anthony Bourdain’s Ethiopia visit onNo Reservations. The Oromo are one of the largest ethnic groups in eastern Africa, and the Center’s restaurant showcases the best of Oromo culture. The hall is furnished with pinewood-carved furniture and curtains made of traditional fabric. Injera made of tikur teff (a black grain about the size of a poppy seed considered to be more nutritious than the more refined white teff), spiced butter and beso (roasted and ground barley) are at the heart of Oromo cuisine. Chumbo is prepared with black teff baked thick and yoghurt, cheese, and spiced butter spilled on top so that it looks like cake. Buna qalaa (roasted coffee dipped in butter) is a cultural snack that gives coffee deeper flavours. The Oromo Cultural Center is near the National Stadium.

Puagmea African Restaurant

Addis Ababa is the diplomatic capital of the Africa, so every country on the landmass is represented here. To sample cuisine from all over the continent without travelling too far, head to Puagmea African Restaurant. Located near the Bole International Airport behind the DHGeda Tower, Puagmea is decked out with paintings, traditional chairs and the coffee ceremony décor typical to Ethiopia. Among the dishes on the menu are ugali (a staple of the Great Lakes region made of millet, corn or sorghum boiled into a sticky porridge) and nyama choma (a Kenyan dish of grilled bone-in lamb, chicken or Nile perch fish). Live music is also on the table with DJs on Thursday nights and jazz on Saturday evenings.

Chane’s Restaurant

In the heart of the Cazanches district near a stack of popular chain hotels, delicious Ethiopian fare is served up in a centuries-old house once owned by a military hero. The house preserves the 19th-century way of life with old artworks and black-and-white photographs of royals and foreign dignitaries. From the kitchen drifts the aroma of traditional Ethiopian dishes from the recipe book of the famous chef Chanyalew Mekonen (aka Chane), who used to cook at the German Embassy and for the Emperor of Ethiopia before starting this restaurant. Chane died in January 2017, but fortunately he left his legacy and the art of cooking to his son and wife. The restaurant serves a limited selection of dishes, many of which Chane invented.

Don’t leave without trying Ethiopia’s favourite dish, the doro wat (a spicy chicken stew that can be tempered with injera and mild goat cheese). On Wednesdays and Fridays, traditional fasting days when no animal products should be eaten, shiro wat (a mild nutty-tasting stew made from chickpea flour) is served instead. Although shiro is a common and easily made dish, Chane’s shiro is widely regarded as the best in town.

Yod Abyssinia

Yod Abyssinia highlights all of the cultures and cuisines that Ethiopia has to offer. A lot of effort has been put in to make the place look as authentic as possible. The spacious main hall is designed to resemble a typical hut and is full of eye-catching materials, from traditional hand-woven curtains to serving dishes made of woven grass. Diners sit at the traditional tables and chairs, wide, short wooden tables surrounded by three-legged stools. Yod Abyssinia serves nearly all of the dishes from the country’s many ethnicities, and the food is presented by culturally dressed staff. During the day, the mood is calm and relaxed, but at night, the meal is accompanied by a traditional music and dance performance. Pack your dancing shoes because guests are encouraged to join in. You’ll find Yod Abyssinia behind the Millennium Hall in Bole, near the airport.

Brundo Butchery

Ethiopia is home to people of diverse ethnicities, and the mix of their tastes and cultures has produced some amazing cuisine. Raw meat is one of most the highly regarded Ethiopian dishes, and it’s usually reserved for special occasions. Even if you’re not celebrating, you can try one of Brundo’s many popular meat dishes, such as kurt (raw meat taken from the choicest parts of an ox) and tibs (cooked beef tips).

However, the restaurant is best known for its kitfo, which is made from the softest and reddest parts of the meat, which is ground and mixed with spiced butter and mitmita (a spice made of ground birds eye chilli pepper, salt, cardamom seeds and cloves). If you don’t like the taste of the raw meat, ask for a heated kitfo, called kitfo leb leb, which looks like highly seasoned minced beef. Tej, a traditional Ethiopian alcohol made from fermented honey, is the perfect accompaniment to such a meal and is also served here.

Family Adventure in The Wintry Canadian Rockies

The best downhill skiing in the Canadian Rockies

Many Canadians start skiing as soon as they can walk. As a result, the Rocky Mountain area has plenty of facilities for children on its slopes. For a full-on downhill experience, the local national parks (Banff and Jasper) are particularly well-endowed offering four major ski resorts with several others perched temptingly on the periphery.

Top of the pile in more ways than one is Banff’s Sunshine Villagewedged high up on the Continental Divide and famed for its heavy snowfalls and ski-in hotel. Next comes diminutive Mt Norquay, an under-the-radar day-use area located just outside Banff town.

However, the prize for the most family-friendly ski resort in the Rockies has to go to Lake Louise. Named for the robin-egg blue lake that enamours hikers and honeymooners in the summer, Lake Louise is the second-largest ski area in Canada (after Whistler) and offers an impressive web of 145 varied runs including lots of beginner terrain. Adding to its kudos are a tube park, bags of ski schools, guided wildlife tours (on snowshoes), and the finest snow-encrusted mountain views you could ever wish to see.

Cross-country skiing in Canmore and beyond

People with kids often dismiss cross-country skiing as too difficult, the lofty preserve of ridiculously fit Norwegian Olympians with hearts the size of elephants. But, while it might not have the rollercoaster appeal of downhill, cross-country skiing has a long Canadian heritage and it’s the only effective way to explore the Rockies’ rugged trails in winter.

A good initiation to the sport’s energy-efficient push-and-glide technique is the Canmore Nordic Centre. Nestled in the crock of the mountains to the west of town, this huge trail centre was originally developed for the 1988 Winter Olympics. In summer it’s one of the most comprehensive mountain-bike parks in western Canada, with over 65km of trails. In winter, many of the trails are specially groomed for cross-country. With its well-mapped network of terrain graded for different skill levels and anchored by a warm clubhouse that plies refreshments and offers equipment rental and lessons, this is one of the safest, family-friendly ski resources in Canada. The national Olympic team regularly use it for training.

Skating

Skating is a national obsession in Canada and one of the most sociable ways for families to keep warm. Forget traditional rinks. Indoor skating is considered anathema in the Rocky Mountains, where ponds and lakes etched against a backdrop of heavenly scenery regularly freeze over for months at a time. You’ll never want to skate inside again once you’ve experienced the beauty of the world’s most spectacular ice rink, aka Lake Louise, framed by an amphitheatre of glacier-covered mountains.

Further north in Jasper, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge sweeps a large floodlit area for skating on Lac Beauvert, as well as another Zamboni-cleared oval on nearby Mildred Lake. Enterprising locals set up benches for sunny relaxation, while spontaneous hockey games erupt and free hot chocolate reinvigorates shivering youngsters.

Fat-biking

Fat-bikes are sturdy off-road bicycles with over-sized, low-pressure tires that are ideal for riding through snow. They’re perfect for Jasper National Park, Banff’s wilder, steelier northern neighbour. Jasper is revered by insiders for its extensive network of multipurpose trails. In contrast to stricter US parks, cyclists experience few limitations here and, over the years, the park has developed some of the most varied and technically challenging bike rides in North America. These trails have recently experienced a winter renaissance thanks to the relatively new sport of fat-biking. Jasper has plenty of fat-bike options from easy ambles through the Athabasca Valley to bracing workouts that will stretch, challenge and entertain teenagers and young adults. Numerous local operators rent bikes.

Ice walks

In winter, many of the Rockies’ iconic waterfalls freeze solid. Equipped with rappels and ice axes, fearless climbers can be seen tackling the slippery behemoths with breath-taking agility. Those with more modest ambitions (and who may have kids to entertain) can study the trippy ice formations, including ice caves, on a guided ice walk while observing the climbers vicariously. Wildlife sightings, an oft-forgotten winter attraction in the Rockies, will keep children happy along the way. Excursions to Banff’s Grotto Canyon and Jasper’s Maligne Canyon are organized by local tour operators. Warm boots and cleats are provided.

Hit the hot springs

Up here, the ultimate post-adventure winter indulgence is a hot bath, preferably taken in a steaming outdoor pool where you can still feel part of your frosty surroundings. The Canadian Rockies has three hot springs, two of which remain open during the winter. First is the family pool at Banff Upper Hot Springs, which sits at the base of the Sulphur Mountain and looks out at the giant geology lesson that is Mt Rundle. Quieter and less famous is Radium Hot Springs in BC, where, unlike Banff, the pools are odourless. Radium’s westerly location also provides a good excuse to explore the snowy wilderness of Kootenay National Park.

A base to stay

The quintessential base for most Rocky Mountain adventures is the town of Banff, the hub of Canada’s oldest and most popular national park. Banff’s appeal is legendary. It’s close to a ton of snowy activities including three major ski areas; there’s a wide variety of shops and restaurants; plus there are plenty of travel agencies and rental shops splayed around town to sort you out with gear, guides and gizmos.

Banff’s popularity means it’s relatively expensive, gets booked up months in advance, and is not everybody’s idea of an away-from-it-all Canadian wilderness experience. Purists in search of more tranquillity can head north to Jasper, which gets less than half the visitors of Banff. Jasper offers guards plenty of affordable hotels and B&Bs and – for ultimate adventurers – keeps one of its campgrounds open year-round. If budget is a major consideration, it’s also worth looking at accommodation further south in the sports-mad town of Canmore, which has good deals for families in apartments and apart-hotels.

7 Tips for Tackling Your First Bike Tour

Avoid unnecessary detours

Once upon a time a wrinkled, dog-eared, hard-copy map was the ultimate bike tour companion. Now, it’s a reliable GPS or navigation app. Opt for a durable and multi-use GPS product designed with adventurers in mind.

Smartphones are also a fantastic option if you’re likely to have regular access to electricity and the internet. You can download maps that don’t just show you the best roads, but the best off-the-beaten-track routes for cycle touring. The Maps.me app is detailed, easy to use and now shows the route elevation on the bike option in most countries.

Create a budget and start saving

Bike tours can cost very little; if you’re willing to live on rice and porridge and wild-camp at every opportunity, then a budget of a few US dollars a day is achievable.

Visas, hotel stays and restaurant visits add up, but if you’re hoping for a happy medium (a lean food budget and plenty of low-cost or free accommodation with occasional splurges) then expect to spend about $15-$20 USD a day depending on the country. Factor in travel insurance and emergency money for bike repairs and kit replacements.

Set your own personal goals

World cyclist Jonathan Kambsgaro-Bennett says the question he gets asked most is how far he pedals in a day. His answer? ‘It depends on the hills, the wind, the road and about a million other things… Especially the wind.’

Setting daily distances can be tough but having a rough idea of what you want (and are able) to achieve will help you plot an itinerary. Many bike tourers average between 60km and 80km per day, depending on conditions, while those just starting out may aim for much less. Besides the weather and quality of the roads, your personal goals should also influence the decisions you make along the way – and will often push you to keep going.

Become a camping pro

Pitching a tent in the wild after a long day in the saddle can be stressful. Fortunately, fatigue often overrides fear – and the more you do it, the easier it gets. Some places welcome wild camping as long as you’re out of sight (Scotland, Iran, Japan) while others forbid it which makes a stealthy camp much tougher (Switzerland, Australia and the USA) – it’s worth being aware of the laws wherever you choose to cycle.

While a nice, secluded, flat piece of turf near a river is the goal, anything can make a fine camp spot and the key to overriding those initial fears is to keep well hidden and off private property, or to simply ask the landowners for permission to camp. Locals are often keen to help – and if you have their blessings, you’ll sleep like a baby. Check out world cyclist Tom Allen’s top tips on how to wild camp.

Become familiar with cyclist resources

If you like Couchsurfing, then Warmshowers– a tight-knit international community of cycling enthusiasts catering to pedal-powered travellers – will be your best friend on tour.

While it’s tough to find hosts in Central Asia, Africa and parts of the Middle East, Warmshowers has a huge network throughout Europe,Iran and the Americas. Many hosts will do more than give you a place to rest your head after a day on the bike, often feeding you dinner and sharing their own tales of adventure.

Learn how to cook on a camp stove

Unless you’re happy with a two-minute noodle diet, spend some time getting to know your stove. Most small camp stoves have just one setting and few bike travellers carry more than two small pots, but with a little creativity you can whip up a delicious meal after a tough day of pedalling.

Pasta, rice and porridge are great value staples. To make your meals more exciting, throw some chilli, garlic salt, pepper and curry powder in light, plastic containers. Peanut butter turns even the worst meals into a satay delight and soup mixes make for lightweight yet delicious sauce bases.

Overcome your fears

‘What if someone steals your bike? What if you get attacked while camping? What if you get hit by a truck?’ These aren’t just the questions your family will fling at you – they’re the ones you’ll ask yourself repeatedly before setting off.

To deal with those recurring fears, expect the best but prepare for the worst. Commit to reading the fine print and get insurance with comprehensive cover that will replace your kit if it’s stolen. Keep a personal alarm or bear spray in an accessible place and consider carrying a SPOT tracker; these devices (when turned on) emit your location to allow friends and family to keep an eye on where you are. Stay vigilant and you’ll be fine. The majority of cyclists report overwhelming generosity and kindness from the road.

Tips to Prepare a Perfet Voyage to Antartica

Lean on an outfitter for the logistics

Antarctic cruises have the benefit of organized pre- and post-voyage transportation and sometimes include additional excursions aroundUshuaia, Argentina (where most Antarctica-bound vessels call in to port) plus accommodations, on-board meals and expedition gear included in the price. Pick a reputable, International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators-affiliated (iaato.org) outfitter to ensure a safe and environmentally responsible experience.

The more you know, before you go

Reading about Antarctica’s history, geography and wildlife will not only provide pre-trip inspiration, but will help you appreciate the journey as you reflect on the tales of those first explorers who charted the very same waters you’ll be sailing. Antarctica showcases wildlife on a magnificent scale, so learning about the life-cycle and food chain of the continent’s species will provide insight on the mesmerizing and sometimes curious behavior you’ll bear witness to.

If you don’t get a chance to read up before you go, most ships have reference libraries and offer lectures by on-board scientists. You may find yourself sitting next to one of them in the dining hall – pick their brains and you’re guaranteed top-notch dinner conversation.

At the very least, brush up on ice – it’s good to know the difference between a glacier and a ‘berg (the former chills on land while the latter floats out to sea).

Get the right gear

Many outfitters supply essentials like parkas, boots and waterproof trousers. These items are likely to commandeer most of your luggage space, so check with your operator to find out if these will be provided or if you must bring your own. Consult any packing list they supply, which should include items like hats, scarves and gloves (it’s wise to pack a back-up of each), wool socks and base layers.

Layers are everything on an Antarctic expedition, which goes for on-board time as well – you may be cozy with a cup of tea and a book one moment, then rushing outside to spot a pod of killer whales porpoising beside the ship the next. Best have a fleece and a down mid layer quick at hand, plus a pair of waterproof shoes with good grip for the slippery decks.

Non-clothing essentials

Bringing a quality pair of binoculars is wise, and if you want to get good photos of fast-moving wildlife, a zoom lens is ideal for your camera. Be sure to bring some kind of waterproof casing for your camera or mobile phone as splashes while riding on Zodiacs (the smaller boats used to venture out from the cruise ship) are certain.

Despite being a land of ice, the sun is incredibly strong in Antarctica and reflects blindingly off the snow, so sunscreen (at least SPF 45) and sunglasses are necessary. The cold wind can wreak havoc on your lips, so stock up on lip balm with SPF.

As minimal as you should strive to be, it’s nice to have a couple of creature comforts…particularly, edible ones. Most voyages have set meal times and the grub is plentiful, but outside of that, food may be hard to come by. Bring along some trail mix and chocolate or protein bars.

There’s often a strict weight limit on what you can bring on the ship (checked and carry-on luggage combined) and the average ship cabin is scant on square footage. Unless you find comfort in clutter, leave any unessential items at home – your cabin mate will appreciate it.

Shape up to ship out

You don’t have to be a triathlete to go on an expedition cruse to Antarctica, but general physical preparedness and sound mobility make for a much more comfortable voyage. One of the defining realities of a cruise expedition to Antarctica is the crossing of the Drake Passage – twice. This 600-mile stretch of sea between Tierra del Fuego (shared between Argentina and Chile) and the Antarctic Peninsula is notorious for rough waves. It’s the confluence of three oceans: the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Southern; their temperatures and currents meld to create swell that once saw explorers perish.

Though the vessels of today are well equipped to maneuver such choppy waters, brace yourself for what will be a bit of a bumpy ride at best and vomitous at worst. When the ship starts to sway as you amble from deck to deck, good balance and leg strength well keep you sure-footed as a goat. When walking around, always keep one hand somewhere on the boat. The handrails you see everywhere serve a purpose (just don’t forget to hit a hand sanitizing station every time you pass one).