TNT

Little Black Book to Buenos Aires

Want to know where to eat, stay and play in Argentina’s charismatic capital? JAT has the answers…

 

Until recently the Paris of the South was starved of direct, affordable flights from the UK but - happily - change is on the horizon.

From Valentine’s Day, budget airline Norwegian Airlines will be showing its love for the South American giant with the launch of the longest-ever nonstop route from Gatwick to Buenos Aires.

On arrival, spend the money you have saved on fantastic food (Argentina’s steakhouses are legendary), Malbec (Argentina’s signature grape which is responsible for the lush, dark red wines we all know and love) and futbol games, before tangoing up a storm.

TNT’s Argentine aficionado, Kaye Holland, opens her address book and shares some of her favourite spots in her beloved Buenos Aires.
 

Eating out: Peron Peron restaurant
For a politically charged dinner, pop into Peron Peron - a Palermo hotspot where food and fun are always on the menu.
The heart of Humboldt Street (a popular haunt of Buenos Aires’ middle classes) isn’t where you would expect to find a restaurant paying homage to Evita and her husband General Juan Peron but regardless of the fact that Mauricio Macri - Argentina’s first non Peronist president in over a decade - is in power, this place is always packed.
The menu is packed full of Peron’s favourite foods - think Pastel de papas (shepherd’s pie) and loco (pork and red chorizo stew), while Evita memorabilia and graffiti adorns the walls.
Expect your meal to be punctuated by Evita's passionate speeches to the Peronist masses, which play every so often from loud speakers - as does the Peronist march, with diners rising to sing along while slapping the table.

www.facebook.com/ElPeronPeron/


The Office: The Clubhouse

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Looking for somewhere to work? You’re in luck: co-working in Argentina is on the rise but, as remote offices go, The Clubhouse stands head and shoulders above the competition.
By day this Palermo Soho destination for all things cool serves as a much needed work sanctuary for the creative industries, in a metropolis plagued by poor WiFi.
By night it’s a lively scene straight out of a magazine: model-esque staff serve top notch cocktails around the prettiest of pools, while other ‘after work’ events include art exhibits, tastings, talks by opinion leaders, theme parties, fashion shows and private dinners.
The Clubhouse also features four distinctive rooms (like the guests, no two rooms are the same) for those who are keen to make their ‘commute’ to the ‘office’ as short and sweet as possible.

www.clubhouseba.com


Shop to it: Feria de Mataderos
An excellent market - and one of BA's best kept secrets - is the Feria de Mataderos, which is held every Sunday in the working class barrio of Materados.
Admittedly Materados is a bit of a schlep to reach (you’ll need to take bus 126, 155 or 180 from downtown for around 90 minutes) but it’s worth it to watch gauchos (Argentine cowboys) and folk singers entertain the crowds, while chewing down on hearty dishes such as humitas (corn cakes).
However the standout of La Feria de Matadero is without a doubt the La sortija show: gauchos gallop at their fastest along a corridor of sand, before rising up out of their saddle – leaving just their feet in the stirrups – in an attempt to spear a small ring, all the while cheered on by rowdy locals.
www.feriademataderos.ar
 

Sleepover: 133 Libertad

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Most people will tell you to stay in a hotel in Palermo but personalIy I’d advise avoiding the pre packaged path and checking into Airbnb abode, where you’ll get character and local charm rather than inflated prices. 
There are lasting memories to be gained from staying at 133 Libertad – a gorgeous courtyard apartment that will have you checking house prices before you leave. Many of the rooms boast patios and all are tastefully furnished – proof sophistication is possible on a shoestring budget.
The atmosphere is instantly relaxing and the hosts, Matias and Cande – a friendly and unfeasibly good looking young Porteno couple – will go out of their way to make sure you fall under the spell of their city. T
he central location can’t be bettered either, enabling you to hastily tick of the sights and then lose yourself in the street life. 
http://life.www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/2087059


After dark: La Bompa del Tiempo
Buenos Aires may be famous for its sultry tango – a passionate dance that has seduced the world – but La Bompa del Tiempo is out to change this.
Every Monday from 7-10pm in Abasto’s Konex Cultural Centre, this hugely talented percussion group takes to the stage to blend Argentine rhythms with Central American and African beats to enraptured gringoes and locals alike. It’s fast becoming one of Buenos Aires’ biggest and best parties and is an experience not to be missed.
Two tips: unless you like a queue arrive early (by 7pm the queue snakes half way around the block) and leave your iPhone et al at home. Argentina has banned the sale of iPhones meaning shiny Apple products are irresistible to the city’s pickpockets, something I can, sadly, attest to.

www.labombadetiempo.com


Coffee break: Las Violetas

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Buenos Aires has a great and enduring obsession with coffee. Caffeine runs in the blood of Portenos, bringing them out of their homes and onto the streets, in search of a coffee house like Las Violetas - a French style 1884 patisserie and cafe that’s located over in Buenos Aires’ Almagro neighbourhood and was declared a Heritage Site back in 1998.
Here the cortado (a shot of espresso, with an equal amount of steamed milk) is served on silver platters by waiters in white jackets, in stunning surroundings: think black and white floors, stained glass windows and marble columns. This special spot offers more than merely a cup of Joe: it guarantees a thick slice of middle class Porteno life. 

www.lasvioletas.com/

 


Tango time: La Viruta

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Only a philistine would leave Buenos Aires without taking in some tango (arguably Argentina’s greatest contribution to the world). One caveat: skip the overpriced tango shows (the preserve of tourists) and make for a milonga (tango club). Even if you’ve got two left feet, milongas like La Viruta are worth visiting for the atmosphere and phenomenal people watching alone. Just don’t forget to factor in a power nap before you head out: Buenos Aires is all about the night and, as such, if you leave a milling much before 4am (when it comes to partying, Portenos don’t do things by half), you’ll be labelled an amateur.
www.lavirutatango.com

 

Culture vulture: Buenos Aires Street Art

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The Argentine capital is one of the world’s best cities for street art. Graffiti artists have quite literally made BA their canvas, helped by the fact that there are almost no restrictions as to where they can paint in the city: all that spray-paint Picassos require is the permission of the home-owner. As such, expect to see inspiring murals brightening up every barrio from Villa Crespo to Colegiales.

One of the best ways to see Buenos Aires’ spectacular street art scene is by signing up-to a walking tour with Buenos Aires Street Art. Founded by Matt Fox- Tucker, a Brit who co-authored the book Textura Dos – Buenos Aires Street, the tour takes guests through the grime and glamour of the ‘Paris of the South’ via the streets of number of different neighbourhoods in the northwestern part of the city.

www,buenosairesstreetart.com/


Read all about it: El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore

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Book lovers rejoice! Book shops may be shutting down left, right and centre in every other city, but Buenos Aires is brimming with brilliant bookshops including  El Ateneo Grand Splendid – voted the world’s second best bookshop by The Guardian

El Ateneo Grand Splendid was once a theatre – as the balconies, white and gold-leaf boxes, crimson stage curtains and high painted ceilings bear testimony to. 

Subsequently El Ateneo attracts as many photographers - and gourmands (the stage has been turned into a majestic cafe) - as it does book-worms.It’s a must see see.

www.yenny-elateneo.com

 

Bar chick: Floreria Atlantico
Floreria Atlantico – a secret, basement speakeasy – is arguably the hottest bar in BA right now. And that’s saying something in a city with no end of trendy places to go….
Upon entering the rather charming flower shop, look for the industrial freezer door and then descend the stairs to this decadent drinking den – the brainchild of renowned Argentine mixologist Renato ‘Tato’ Giovannoni.

Thanks to its modernist lighting and decent drinks mixed (plump for the Principe de los Apóstoles, aka gin mixed with yerba mate, Argentina’s iconic herbal tea) by cool staff, this long and narrow bar is great place to meet both hip locals, expats and a perhaps a few celebs: Mexican actor and director, Gael Garcia Bernal, is a fan. 

www.floreriaatlantico.com.ar


Vegging out: Vita
Argentina’s meat obsession is intense, but veggies are far from neglected either.
If you’re looking to go meatless in the metropolis, venture to Vita which serves as refuge from the madness of nearby Plaza de Mayo – an always lively square. Choose from an array of homemade vegetarian and vegan salads, sandwiches, soups and hearty hot dishes like lasagne. Desserts don’t disappoint either: the coconut tart is definitely worth the calories.
The complimentary and reliable (a rare thing in Buenos Aires) WiFi is a further treat.

Hipolito Yrigoyen 583,Buenos Aires, Argentina (43420788)


Tea time: Queen of Tarts

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A British tea room serving the daintiest of sandwiches, fluffy freshly-baked scones and a selection of cakes, is the one thing you almost certainly wouldn’t expect to find in Argentina’s capital.

Think again. Queen of Tarts - a traditional British tea room - was opened 18months ago by Brits, Emily Farmer and Claire Griffiths, and business has been better than either expected.

Homesick expats, curious locals and inquisitive travellers, in need of a break from beef, who are looking to experience BA’s secret world of dining (the exact address of the tea room is revealed, once a reservation has been made) are flocking to Queen of Tarts in their droves.
They come for the classic afternoon tea but also for the antique-style furniture, that’s aimed at transporting guests to olde England.
www.queenoftarts.com.ar/

View the post here: http://www.justabouttravel.net/2018/04/09/little-black-book-to-buenos-aires-2/

10 reasons why Athens is Europe’s coolest new city break destination

Our lives are short and the world is interesting so why do we spend so many of our weekends away in bland, well behaved cities? Athens is anything but.
The charismatic Greek capital - easily one of the most exhilarating cities right now - is often overlooked by travellers in favour of Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and Rome. Error.  If good nightlife, bars and shops are your thing, then Athens is where it’s at.

Here’s 10 reasons to book a sun drenched city break….

 

The Acropolis

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There are many sites to explore in Athens, but the best is the iconic Acropolis - the greatest symbol of ancient Greece and a wonder of the world.
Crowned by the Parthenon, this epic monument towers over the city with a history that dates back to 447 BC.
Even if you’re of the opinion that you’re after a holiday, not a history lesson, it’s worth climbing the citadel for Instagram worthy views of Athens.
For more information, visit http://odysseus.culture.gr/ 

 

Cafe culture

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Despite being home to blockbuster sights such as the aforementioned Acropolis, Ancient Agora and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Athens isn’t about sightseeing per se but about exploring.
It’s about wandering around neighbourhoods like Kolonaki and stopping for a leisurely coffee in a people watching cafe.
Make no mistake: Athenians have  great and enduring obsession with coffee. Coffee culture brings people out of their homes and into the streets cafes. Coffee lovers would do well to indulge their cravings at Da Capo (https://www.facebook.com/CAFFEdacapo/) which pours inarguably some of the best coffee in the world.

 

Best bars

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Behind heavy unmarked doors lie lively bars with courtyards and secret rooftops - the perfect place for some raucous antics in a city that exudes sheer joie de vivre.

Hip spots include Clumsies (www.theclumsies.gr), where you can enjoy the most gripping people watching in the world, and Drunk Sinatra (210 331 3733; Thiseos 16, Syntagma). The lines at the latter can be long, but they’re worth it for a mean cocktail at what is currently the hottest place gather post midnight.
Be warned though: bars only close when the last customer has left, so pace yourself as the nights are long. TNT never made it to bed before 2am - this is how Athens rolls - so it’s best not to make too many plans.



Fantastic food
 

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Chances are all this partying will make you feel hungry but fortunately food is a passion in  Athens - just ask locals to recommend favourite spots to start a lively debate.
TNT can vouch for Nikitas (210 325 2591; 

Agion Anargyron 19, Psyrri) - a tried and true taverna in Psyrri that serves reasonably priced and tasty, traditional food.
Chow down on dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves), baked moussaka, mouthwatering mezze, succulent souvlaki, feta and Greek fava dip mopped up with delicious bread so good that you won’t be able to resist munching your way through the whole basket. You'll fast find yourself slipping into a food coma when in Athens….

 

 

Wallet friendly

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What more could you want from a city break? Bargain prices? Well since you ask, Athens offers those too - great news for those whose budget is more push bike than Porsche.
The cost of a coffee or cocktail is embarrassingly low - especially if you’ve arrived from London - and we reckon that a long weekend in sunny Athens would cost you the same as a couple of hours in icy Scandinavia. Hmmm, tough choice.

 

 

The weather

 

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Athens puts out the welcome mat all year round: the city basks in sunshine for the majority of the year, and even if you travel in the height of winter, you can expect temperatures of around 10 degrees.
TNT visited in mid November when it was t-shirts by day and jumpers by night. What’s more if you visit in autumn/winter, the weather is less stifling than in summer while going now also whittles down the crowds.

 

Fab accommodation
Move over dark and dingy hostels. Athens is home to a plethora of accommodation options that are worth your time, as well as your money.
We love Fresh Hotel (www.freshhotel.gr) - a boutique hotel in the hectic heart of downtown Athens - whose bright white balconied bedrooms are perfect for urban explorers who don’t like too much fuss. However the jewel in Fresh Hotel’s crown is the ninth-floor Air Lounge bar which serves up unrivalled views of the floodlit Acropolis, together with a decent drinks list.

 


A creaking calendar of events

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Athens is a city that rarely sleeps. Each month of the year, there’s something happening somewhere - a festival, a show or an exhibition - and often at the same time.
TNT was in town for the Athens marathon - aka the mother of all marathons, whose finish line is in Athens’ magnificent Olympic Stadium (the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games).
According to legend, the race covers the same ground that the Athenian messenger Pheidippides ran when he brought news of victory from the battlefield of Marathon 2,500 years ago. All of which means that when you run the Athens Marathon, you run in the very footsteps of the ancient gods and heroes that gave birth to western civilisation. 

 

To market, to market

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Athens’ buzzy Central Market - a cacophony of shopkeepers, food sellers, scents and performers - is remnant of an older, miraculously unspoiled world

Put your bargaining skills to the test by haggling for spices and this year’s olive oil, then make for the famous Monastiraki Flee Market at Avissynias Square to barter for everything from books to paintings, clothes and trinkets. Even if you come away empty handed, listening to stallholders sing and shout about their wares is half the fun.

 

 

Athenians
Athens is made even more inviting by its people who are happy to share their world with you. Charming and hospitable, they always have time to talk.  Everyone knows somebody who has a friend, who has a cousin, who can help you out.



For more information on Greece, visit DiscoverGreece.com

To make the most of your time in Athens, pick up Lonely Planet’s Pocket Athens (http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/greece/pocket-athens-3/)

Words and pictures: Kaye Holland

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View the post here: http://digitaledition.tntmagazine.com/10-reasons-why-athens-is-europes-coolest-new-city-break-destination/

Eight things you need to know before visiting Ecuador


Ecuador may be of the the smallest countries in South America but don’t be fooled by its size for there is plenty to see, do and experience in Luz de América (the light of America). Planning a visit to this Andean country? Here’s 10 things you need to know before you go

 

 

Middle monument is in the wrong place

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Ecuador is named after the equator that runs through the country and, as such, standing on the thin yellow line that marks the middle of the world tops most travellers’ to-do lists. One caveat: make sure you select the right spot.
Built in 1979, the Mitad del Mundo monument and complex dedicated to the equator is the most visited site in Ecuador but it’s not actually on the equator.
If you want to genuinely stand with one foot in each hemisphere, you’ll need to head 240m down the road to the real equator - a site that was discovered only a few years back thanks to Global Positioning Services (GPS) devices. The true spot is called the Intiñan Solar Museum and aims to answer all your equator related science queries including “Can you balance an egg on a nail?” and “Does water really change direction in different hemispheres?”

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Get ready to gorge on guinea pigs
Cuy asado (roasted guinea pigs) is one of the country’s most famous dishes that reportedly dates back to Inca times and is said to be high in protein and low in cholesterol.
Ecuadoreans traditionally eat cuy either on holidays or special occasions as these little furry creatures don’t come cheap (a whole roasted guinea will set you back around   $US25). Cuy are typically skewered with a thick rod before being rotated over a fire during roasting, and taste like gamey chicken.
However the furry rodent isn’t just for dinner in Ecuador. Cuy are used to warm the house and keep rats away, in addition to being used for medicinal purposes. Folk doctors called curanderos will rub guinea pig over a patient’s sick body, with the furry creature set to squeak when it passes over an afflicted area.
Consuming cuy may seem controversial given that in the UK and Australia,  guinea pig are cherished as cuddly companions for children, but when in Rome…right?

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Roses are ridiculously cheap
You might think of Ecuador as athe ultimate “banana republic” - the small South American country is the world’s biggest exporter of bananas - but in recent years Ecuador has become famous for its flower industry.
Ecuador is the world’s third-largest exporter of cut flowers, 73 per cent of which are roses thanks to the country’s volcanic soil, perfect temperatures and abundant sunlight. And no one beats the equatorial sun in terms of rose variety.
Even better? Visitors can discover unparalleled colour, radiance and aroma - for a pittance. You read right: it costs as little as US$2.50 for 25 long stemmed red roses in Ecuador meaning even cash poor travellers can play Romeo.

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Cocoa leaves can help cure altitude sickness
Head spinning? Having trouble sleeping? Or perhaps the hotel stairs are making you breathless? If you answered yes to any of the aforementioned questions, chances are you’re suffering from altitude sickness which isn’t surprising given that most visitors arrive in Quito, the Spanish colonial stunner that has an elevation of about 3000m. Symptoms typically dissipate within a day or two but you can help minimise them by  avoiding alcohol and caffeine and drinking plenty of water and tea de coca (coca leaf tea). After a couple of sips pf the latter, you’ll notice that the throbbing in your head has begun to subside and you can breathe again.
Just don’t even think about bringing a stash of coca - the plant that is used in the manufacture of cocaine - leaves back to the UK, where they are banned.


Ecuador uses the US dollar
Ecuadoreans waved goodbye to their national currency, the 116-year-old sucre,  during a severe economic crisis in 2000 and has been using U.S. dollars ever since like nearby Panama (where the US dollar is called a balboa) in order to stabilise its economy.
Nearly 18 years later, dollarisation remains highly popular, with 85 percent of Ecuadorean supporting the continued dollarisation of the economy. However although on an emotional level, not everyone is happy that U.S. historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington  have replaced Ecuadorian national heroes on their currency.

Dress like an onion when in Quito
Visiting Ecuador’s enchanting capital, Quito? Don’t forget to pack layers - and lots of them. 
The weather in Quito is unpredictable  - Quitenos claims that they experience all four seasons in one day - so it’s essential to dress in layers. Be ready to take your coat and sweater off and put them back on again, in a matter of hours.

Panama hats are made in… Ecuador
The toquilla straw hat that most of the world knows as the Panama hat was actually invented in Ecuador.
The mistake dates back to the 18th century when Spanish entrepreneurs in South America recognised the quality of the brimmed straw hats and began exporting them via Panama.
During the 19th century, workers on the Panama Canal wore these hats to protect their heads from the tropical sun. On a visit to the Panama Canal construction site in 1906, US President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing a Panama hat. The picture went on to appear in The New York Times and ever since then, the headwear has been misleadingly known as Panama hats.
The best Panama hats are made in and around Montecristi, a village some 90 miles from the coastal city of Guayaquil.

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Look to a limpiadora
Suffering from insomnia, angst, nervous tension or depression? Forget visiting a traditional doctor when in Ecuador and look to a limpiadora (herb healer) who can cure virtually any ailment using candles herbs, nettles and egg yolks.
While limpiadoras have been performing limpia (spiritual cleansing rituals) for centuries, in recent years, the Ecuadorean folk medicine has become increasingly popular.
This sudden surge of interest in a medicine that has been around for thousands of years can be attributed, in part, to the twenty first century wellness mantra of illness prevention over the modern approach of cure. For while western medicine is high cost and high tech, something that in this age of austerity feels uncomfortably wrong, limpias cost on average US$8 meaning they are affordable - in addition to being a safe and natural form of medicine.

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Beijing on a budget

Looking for a break that blends blockbuster sights, historic hutongs, cutting edge architecture and stellar street grub? You’d better make a beeline for Beijing. Check out TNT’s tips on how to make the most of the Middle Kingdom on a budget…

 

Seek out street markets
Chances are ‘chi fan’ (lets eat), is the phrase you’ll hear most often. Beijing has a thriving local gastronomic scene but, if money is too tight to mention, avoid high end dining joints like Beijing Da Dong Duck (www.dadongdadong.com, even if the restaurant does serve up superior versions of Beijing’s signature dish) and head to a night market like Donghuamen. The latter isn’t for the faint hearted (Beijing is city that adores its meat and subsequently you’ll see vendors peddling silkworms, scorpions, seahorse, snake and starfish and such) but it’s certainly lens friendly! Select your food-stall and then sit and feast with locals eating street nosh like noodles and jiaozi (steamed dumplings) that are guaranteed to have you keeling over in bliss.

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Hold your nerve and haggle hard
Beijing’s trendiest shopping street is without a doubt the pedestrian-only Wangfujing , but it’s also one of the most expensive. The budget conscious would do well to seek out the Silk Market or Yashow where industrious bootleggers will be happy to test your conscience by offering DVDs of Hollywood blockbusters long before they hit screens for a couple of quid. Here - so long as you haggle hard - you can pick up a pair of Louboutin look-alikes for a snip. Lastly if you’re in town on a Saturday or Sunday, head for the colourful Panjiayuan Antique Market – Beijing’s biggest and best-known arts, crafts, and antiques market and a photographer’s dream.

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Park life
Worried about all the calories you have been consuming on your hols? Your worry isn’t misplaced. Beijing adores the body beautiful - and that, my friend, demands a devotion to exercise. Ditch the gym though and tune into the Beijing vibe, by practicing Thai Chi, for free, in Ritan Park – easily one of Beijing’s prettiest parks. China’s capital city is punctuated with parks and, for most Beijingers, they are akin to a second home – a place to socialise, relax and yes stay fit.
 

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Walk this way
Walking is the best way to see Beijing - everywhere has something of interest - and happily it’s a free form of transport. However if you’re suffering from sore feet, hop on the subway which is cheap, clean, efficient and easy to use. Alternatively take a taxi. Drivers rarely speak English which can prove problematic if your Mandarin is miserable but they are inexpensive and (unless it’s raining) in plentiful supply.

Enjoy time out in Tiananmen Square
Only a philistine would leave Beijing without visiting the free attraction that is Tiananmen Square. Standing at 880 metres long and 500 metres wide, the world’s largest public square has enough space to accommodate up-to one million people. The square was originally designed and built in 1651 but has been enlarged four times since and is considered the symbol of the People’s Republic and the centre of Beijing’s landmarks. The iconic square owes its name to to its location - it’s situated in front of the south gate (Tiananmen) of the Forbidden City.
 

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Karaoke calling
Sanlitun - a popular nightlife destination - is where Beijing’s elite and expatriate population head when they want to let their hair down in a hip (read eye-waveringly expensive) haunt. However if you want to party for peanuts like a local and not a laowai (foreigner), look to a karaoke (KTV) bar. Karaoke might not top your Saturday night agenda back home in Blighty but trust TNT when we say that once you pick up the mic and play air guitar, you’ll soon discover that it’s actually a whole heap of fun. Prices for room hire vary according to time (as a rule, the earlier you go the cheaper it is) but as rule of thumb, expect to pay around 200RMB per room, per hour.

Try TCM
Body aching following a long flight? Try TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). TCM aims to balance your yin and yang and ward off disease and illness through a combination of nutrition, exercise and treatments such as acupuncture (where fine needles are inserted into the skin), moxibustion (an alternative to acupuncture which involves a therapist moving a heated cup of herbs above your body), mediation and traditional Chinese massage. All of the aforementioned can be tried on the cheap in any street corner parlour.
 

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Go to the Great Wall
Built between the fifth and 16th centuries, The Great Wall of China - the longest wall in the world - is arguably the symbol of China and no visit to Beijing is complete without making a pilgrimage to this UNESCO World Heritage listed site. Or as Mao Zedong himself once put it: “He who has not climbed the Great Wall, is not a true man.” 
However as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, guided tours to the Great Wall - built to function as an impenetrable line of defence - can be crazy expensive. If you don’t fancy forking out a fair amount of dosh, skip the official excursion and travel to the wall (we recommend the less touristy Mutianyu or Simatai sections) independently by bus. 
 

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Tea time
China is celebrated for its tea, which first rose to popularity during the Tang Dynasty over 1,000 years ago. As such, lost-in-time tea houses abound. You can while away a whole afternoon in a tea house enjoying an inexpensive cup of scented tea (spring), green tea (summer), Oolong tea (autumn), or black tea (winter) while watching Beijingers eating, drinking, doing business, chatting, playing chess and simply enjoying each other’s company.

Take advantage of the 72-Hour Free Transit Visa
Thanks to blockbuster sights such as the Great Wall and Forbidden City, Beijing is top of the bucket list for a lot of travellers - but obtaining a tourist visa isn’t exactly hassle free. The amount of detail required on the application (expanded from two to four pages back in 2011) plus the steep fee proves a little off putting to say the least. The good news, however, is that passport holders from 45 countries - including the UK, the US and Australia - can make three-day visa-free visits to the Chinese capital provided they have a valid passport as well as a confirmed flight ticket (to a third country or region) that will depart within 72 hours.

Read the article here: http://digitaledition.tntmagazine.com/beijing-on-a-budget/

Kent calling



Don’t let autumn get you down. Recharge the batteries with a wellness getaway in the Kent countryside, says Kaye Holland


My feelings about London are complicated. The very things I love - the hustle and bustle, bright lights and sheer size - are also the things that threaten to overwhelm me.

If, like me, you need a reprieve from grey, drizzly mornings, busy commutes and the general urban crush, allow me to suggest Green Farm Kent. 

Those in the know are so passionate about this small farm estate in the Kent countryside, that they might resent the fact that I’m spreading the word. So hush: this is just between you and me.

Nestled amidst 12,000-acre ancient woodland - and yet a mere 40minute train ride away from London St. Pancras - Green Farm Kent represents the perfect tonic to the frenetic pace of urban life.

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A wealth of rural skill honing activities is on offer from exploring enchanting Fairyland - a natural opening in the forest, replete with fabulous oak trees and wonderful ancient woodlands that’s surely the stuff of childhood fantasies - to feeding the farm animals (egg laying hens, lambs, ducks and cows are all present and correct), clearing the head on a countryside walk and visiting the community vegetable garden.
 

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They also offer regular yoga and fitness classes, while art and garden flower workshops can be arranged. Or you can just follow in my footsteps and float in a hot tub under the canopy of a graceful weeping willow, while enjoying a glass of bubbles… I wouldn’t blame you.

However if you’re visiting in October - a time when indoors matters more than great outdoors, when comforts and pleasures of home are paramount - you’d be forgiven for spending most of your stay in the beautiful Grade 11 listed country house itself.

Setting foot in the recently refurbished barn that was originally a Kentish Hall House built 600 years ago (around the time that Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field), is akin to stepping back in time to an older, simpler world.

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A strong sense of character prevails throughout the house - which the owners bought on an auction in September 2008 - from the individually decorated bedrooms to the living room that boasts an Inglenook fireplace, to curl up in front of with a good book. (Although with so much on offer at Green Farm Kent, I didn’t manage lay a finger on my book the entire weekend).

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Other standouts include the boot room with its well, which its still in use today, the conservatory offering, as it does, arresting views across the orchard and fields and last, but not least, the dining room with its beautiful beams.

This is the place to enjoy hearty yet healthy meals- think freshly baked bread and fragrant curries, that use home grown ingredients from the farm’s community garden - washed down with organic wines. Make no mistake: the food can’t be faulted.

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Yet while it would be easy, at this time of year, to hole up in the house with the amiable owners Mary and Martin - who go out of their way to welcome you like family -  it would be a terrible shame not to take in a treatment at the luxurious on-site spa. (www.greenfarmkent.co.uk/spa)

The range of therapies – all of which use ESPA products – is mind boggling but I can vouch for the skin radiance facial, aka 55 minutes of bliss that myskin feeling baby soft and begging to be booked in for further treatments with spa therapist, Helen, and her magic hands. Seriously: I can’t count number of people who said I had a certain glow about me, upon my return to the big smoke.

Yet Green Farm’s real charm -  those that get under your skin - is its attentive and always smiling owners and staff. I was made to feel like I belonged and enough to know that one day I’ll return.

All told, Green Farm is the perfect spotto switch off without having to jet off.

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NEED TO KNOW

Address:
Green Farm
Church Lane
Shadoxhurst
Kent
TN26 1L

Tel: +44 (0)1233 733 997
Email: info@greenfarmkent.co.uk
Web: www.greenfarmkent.co.uk
 

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Getting there:
By rail

Located just 10 minutes taxi journey from Ashford International Station, The high speed train from London St Pancras takes just 37 minutes. Trains from Charing Cross / Waterloo East / London Bridge take about 75 mins and Eurostar trains from Paris take 90 minutes.

Read the article here: http://digitaledition.tntmagazine.com/kent-calling/