It was not too long ago that Lisbon was often dismissed as the unfashionable capital of Portugal, the ‘Poor Man of Europe’. This was harsh on a city that spectacularly straddles the River Tejo with a flurry of old world architecture, rich African cultural influences and a notoriously wild nightlife scene.

Today, savvy city breakers are finally cottoning on that budget airline flights have opened up the city. Delights such as the old world streets of the Alfama and the Biarro Alto, plus one of Europe’s most impressive urban renewal projects, the Parque das Nações, await.

Why is Lisbon great for a weekend break?

Because it has never been easier nor cheaper to get to Lisbon. Gone mercifully are the days when the only ways of getting here were ridiculously expensive flights with scheduled airlines. Budget carriers now compete, on the London routes especially, making a weekend break more tempting than ever before.

Getting around Lisbon is both easy and a joy. In fact, the city is like a giant theme park for adults. Myriad little cruisers and ferries ply the river, trundling old trams rattle on up to its landmark castle and suburban trains drift off to the Atlantic beaches at Cascais and Estoril. There are funiculars too, as well as the unique Elevador de Santa Justa, an early twentieth-century lift you go up just to take a look at the view then nip back down again.

What is there to do and see?

Kicking off in the heart of the city, the Baixa is based on an easy to navigate grid system built after the devastating earthquake of 1755. The new viewing gallery at the landmark Arco Rua Augusta lets you enjoy a bird’s eye view of the area.

The Baixa and the nearby Chiado are ideal for a shopping splurge with plenty of pavement cafés on hand for respite.

Afterwards, jump on vintage Tram 28, which snakes its way from the Baixa in a screech of metal as it lurches upwards, past the city’s cathedral and towards St. George’s Castle, which opens up the finest views of the city. They have a café where you can enjoy a cold Sagres beer or milky Galao coffee as you plan your sightseeing from this lofty perch.

Further seawards there is evidence of Lisbon’s Golden Age, which came in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when its brave explorers sailed out of the River Tejo in search of the New World.

Catch a train or tram to Belem, the historic quarter dedicated to those days. The Belem Tower is the last thing the sailors would have seen of Lisbon as the land shrunk in their wake, while the hulking Monument to the Discoveries strikes out towards the sea, with myriad cultural events breathing contemporary life back into it.

Away from the water, the Jeronimos Monastery is easily the city’s most striking building with its elegant fairytale-esque curves and the flourishes of its Manueline architecture.

The more modern face of Lisbon is on show at the Parque das Nações site, where the Expo 98 was held. It is a model of urban regeneration and home to the Oceanário, one of the largest aquariums in the world, with everything from playful otters to hulking sharks.

There are concert venues, museums and a flurry of restaurants and bars too. Visit the Pavilion of Knowledge science museum and take a ride on the cable car, which opens up the whole site.

So the nightlife is good – where should I party?

The tight, packed old lanes of the Biarro Alto attract a mixed crowd of locals and visitors, who flock to enjoy a chaotic collage of fado groups, characterful independent bars and bustling little clubs.

Walk uphill from the Praca Luís de Camoes and embark on a bar crawl. Clube da Esquina (Rua da Barroca 30) with its live DJs is a great place to take the area’s pulse and pick up flyers for one off events.

Some of the hottest action – especially later on in the night – is out in the converted warehouses of the Doca de Santo Amaro and the Doca de Alcantara, where riverside bars, clubs and restaurants tempt. K Urban Beach is a sushi bar and club rolled into one right on the water.

The more central area around Santa Apolonia is also on the up. Legendary super club Lux, ideal for a cocktail on a sink in sofa before hitting the dancefloor with the locals.

What’s for dinner?

Atlantic seafood is a highlight on many menus in the Portuguese capital. Look out, too, for delicious goat’s cheese from the Alentejo just across the river.

The old world restaurants of the Alfama are the place for simple grilled fish dishes. For a more upmarket seafood feast though – the cod baked in salt is a stunner – head to Frade dos Mares.

Fried chicken is also something of a local budget institution – try it at El Rei d’Frango.

Make sure to enjoy the seriously underrated Portuguese wines too, especially hearty reds from the Alentejo and crisp whites from the Douro Valley.

Out at Parque das Nações, Ilha Doce dishes up the type of hearty, expertly cooked food you find all over budget pleasing Lisbon. Tuck into clams in garlic and white wine or pork Alentejo style with clams and potatoes. They dish up a mean plate of sardines with water views too.

Where can I finally get some sleep?

As Lisbon’s popularity has soared so have room rates. Look out for discounted deals at business hotels at weekends, when the besuited crowd flees the city. Apartments are a good value option. The Santos River Apartments are brightly furnished with river views in increasingly hip Cais de Sodre.

If you’re looking to splash out, the new Myriad is a sleek option at Parque das Nações. This soaring five-star tower hotel offers views of the River Tejo, as well as open plan bedrooms and in-room hot tubs. They have spa too, complete with bubble jets, a steam room and a sauna with a view.

Explore more of Portugal with the Rough Guide to Portugal, or buy the Pocket Rough Guide Lisbon to explore the city in more depth. Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Banish thoughts of Miami Vice or ‘God’s waiting room’. The Sunshine State’s most flamboyant city is rapidly changing and there’s more to discover than golden sand and neon nightclubs. Down-at-heel neighbourhoods are being revitalised, the art scene is spreading and with its variety of cultural influences from Latin to Caribbean, Miami has grown into a city full of fantastic food.

Art in all shapes and sizes

Art Basel and its celebrity-studded parties have become a regular December fixture, but Miami is home to a thriving community of artists, designers and collectors and you can find art year round.

Pink Snails – Art Basel by Ines Hegedus-Garcia via Flickr (cc license)

Wynwood, a decaying district in Miami’s midtown, has been transformed into an arty enclave. Warehouse walls were a blank canvas for local artists and now Wynwood Walls is one of the world’s largest collections of street art. Exhibition spaces range from impressive private galleries, such as the Rubell Family Collection and the Margulies Collection, to experimental pop ups. Every second Saturday, Wynwood Art Walk run gallery and graffiti tours.

The state-of-the-art Perez Art Museum Miami, opened in December 2013, showcasing contemporary art from the Americas, Western Europe and Africa. Then came the inauguration of Museum Park, the waterfront space overlooking Biscayne Bay in which PAMM is located, where the Frost Museum of Science will open in 2016.

Perez Art Museum by Phillip Pessar via Flickr (cc license)

Midtown’s Design District is home to the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami and the De La Cruz Collection Contemporary Art Space and by the end of the year, the Paseo Ponti, will end in the public art-filled Paradise Plaza.

The glamorous island playground of Miami Beach also celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Its living museum of Art Deco design is best explored on foot, with a walking tour from the Miami Design Preservation League, or by bike.

Culinary highlights

Miami used to be all about down-at-heel diners and style-over-substance restaurants, but now there’s everything from hotel dining from star chefs to farm-to-fork restaurants and gourmet food trucks.

Miami’s culinary revival began in the 1990s with the Mango Gang, four pioneering local chefs who were inspired by South Florida’s indigenous ingredients and mixed them up with Caribbean cooking to create Floribbean cuisine.

Taco Heat Food Truck by Phillip Pessar via Flickr (cc license)

At the food trucks, taste Latin flavours in Colombian empanadas, Peruvian ceviche, Puerto Rican mofongo and doorstep-sized Cuban medianoches (slow-roasted pork sandwiches). Or you can feast off the tourist track at one of the ever-expanding range of down-to-earth restaurants.

There are also hundreds of hole-in-the-wall joints. A good way to uncover the best bites and get a real taste of Miami culture is to go on a foodie walkabout around South Beach, Little Havana or the Wynwood Arts District with Miami Culinary Tours.

For a locals’ hotspot, try one of the ever-expanding range of Pubbelly restaurants created by three Miami chefs, including Pubbelly Sushi, PB Steak, the pop-up Taco Belly, or the original Pubbelly gastropub. The atmosphere is laidback, tables are communal and the food is great – wash it down with beer from a local microbrewery.

Retail therapy

From mega-malls to independent shops, Miami has enough to satisfy the most ardent shopaholic.

The warehouses of midtown Miami, now converted into the Design District, see international luxury brands rub shoulders with galleries and restaurants from the world’s top chefs. Still under construction, by the end of 2016 there’ll be more than 200 retailers in this compact space.

Genius Jones – Miami Design District by Ines Hegedus-Garcia via Flickr (cc license)

For more haute design head to Bal Harbour Mall in North Miami Beach. Known as the ‘Shopping Hall of Fame’, it’s home to all the top European designers; the open-air mall’s architecture is unmistakably 1950s Miami-Modern, or MiMo.

Another architectural gem is The Alchemist in Lincoln Road. The brainchild of a former fashion editor, this sixty-foot-high glass box perched on top of a garage is the place to shop for high-end labels.

The Webster’s exclusive collaborations with up-and-coming designers and regular events make it a fashionista’s favourite. Also popular with A-listers and their stylists, C. Madeleine’s Vintage Showroom is where gorgeous vintage gets reincarnated.

Chic sleeps

The city’s makeover also extends to its accommodation. Sleek, design-led hotels seem to open by the week, all paying homage to Miami’s rich architectural history.

Newcomers include the Metropolitan by COMO, its art deco lines complemented by Paola Navone interiors, a Bali-inspired COMO Shambhala Spa, a seafood-focused restaurant and a tranquil stretch of beachfront.

This year, the eco-conscious, 426-room 1 Hotel South Beach opened in a 1925 Art Deco building, channelling green-but-glam with reclaimed wood, living walls and hemp-filled mattresses, with farm-to-table food from Tom Colicchio and the city’s largest rooftop pool.

Room view by Paolo Gamba via Flickr (cc license)

The Edition, a collaboration between Ian Schrager and Marriott Hotels, occupies a renovated 1950s landmark on Collins Avenue, where many of the 294 minimalist rooms and suites boast ocean views and you can try disco bowling downstairs.

And the 380-room beachfront Thompson Miami Beach set in a 1940s skyscraper captures the mid-century modern aesthetic with eclectic furnishings and colourful interiors.

In November, Faena’s reworking of the historic Saxony Hotel will include a cabaret theatre, an enormous spa and an Argentinian restaurant with an alfresco barbecue. While the Faena-owned boutique Casa Claridge’s offers accommodation in ornate Mediterranean Revival style.

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So you’ve gawked at the guards of Buckingham Palace, hiked up Snowdon and hit the beach – what next? From lethal motorcycle races to mountain towns that look like something out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, here are 8 unconventional things to do in the UK.

1. Horse about at Scotland’s Common Ridings

The Common Ridings of the Scottish border towns of Hawick, Selkirk, Jedburgh and Lauder are an equestrian extravaganza that combines the danger of Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermin and the drinking of Munich’s Oktoberfest. At dawn on each day of the ridings, a colourful and incredibly noisy drum and fife band marches around the streets to shake people from their sleep. It’s a signal: everyone get down to the pub – they open at 6am – and stock up on the traditional breakfast of “Curds and Cream” (rum and milk). Suitably fortified, over two hundred riders then mount their horses and gallop at breakneck speed around the ancient lanes and narrow streets of town, before heading out into the fields to race again.

By early evening, the spectators and riders stagger back into Hawick to reacquaint themselves with the town’s pubs. Stumbling out onto the street at well past midnight, you should have just enough time for an hour or two of shuteye before the fife band strikes up once more and it’s time to do it all over again.

2. Find Middle Earth in Northern Ireland

The mountains rise above the seaside town of Newcastle like green giants, with Slieve Donard the highest, almost 3000ft above the sandy strand of Dundrum Bay. Donard is just one of more than twenty peaks in County Down’s Mourne, with a dozen of them towering over 2000ft.

Conveniently grouped together in a range that is just seven miles broad and about fourteen miles long, they are surprisingly overlooked. On foot, in a landscape with no interior roads, you feel as if you have reached a magical oasis of high ground, a pure space that is part Finian’s Rainbow and part Middle Earth. This is ancient land and prehistoric cairns and stone graves – said to mark the resting place of Irish chiefs – dot the hills, peering through the mist to meet you.

3. Mountain bike on world-class trails in Wales

It’s not often that the modest mountains of Wales can compete with giants like the Alps or the Rockies, but when it comes to mountain biking, the trails that run through the craggy peaks of Snowdonia, the high moorlands of the Cambrian Mountains, and the deep, green valleys of South Wales are more than a match for their loftier counterparts. Indeed, the International Mountain Biking Association has long rated Wales as one of the planet’s top destinations.

Over the last decade or so, a series of purpose-built mountain-biking centres has been created throughout the country, providing world-class riding for everyone from rank beginner through to potential-world-cup downhiller. From easy, gently undulating trails along former rail lines that once served the heavy industry of the South Wales valleys, to the steep, rooty, rocky single tracks that run through the cloud-shadowed hills of North Wales, this is mountain biking at its finest.

_MTB1662 by Dai Williams (license)

4. Explore Britain’s most mysterious beach in Scotland

Cape Wrath is a name that epitomizes nature at its harshest, land and sea at their most unforgiving. In fact, the name Wrath denotes a “turning point” in Old Norse, and the Vikings regarded this stockade of vertical rock in the most northwesterly corner of Scotland as a milestone in their ocean-going voyages. As such, they were surely among the first travellers to come under the spell of Sandwood Bay, the Cape’s most elemental stretch of coastline.

Here blow Britain’s most remote sands, flanked by epic dunes and a slither of shimmering loch; a beach of such austere and unexpected elegance, scoured so relentlessly by the Atlantic and located in such relative isolation, that it scarcely seems part of the Scottish mainland at all. Even on the clearest of summer days, when shoals of cumuli race shadows across the foreshore, you are unlikely to encounter other visitors save for the odd sandpiper. You might not be entirely alone, though; whole galleons are said to be buried in the sand, and a cast of mermaids, ghostly pirates and grumbling sailors has filled accounts of the place for as long as people have frequented it.

5. Discover heaven on Earth in Cornwall

A disused clay pit may seem like an odd location for Britain’s very own ecological paradise, but then everything about Cornwall’s Eden Project is far from conventional. From the concept of creating a unique ecosystem that could showcase the diversity of the world’s plant life, through to the execution – a set of bulbous, alien-like, geodesic biomes wedged into the hillside of a crater – the designers have never been less than innovative.

The gigantic humid Rainforest Biome, the largest conservatory in the world, is kept at a constant temperature of 30°c. Besides housing lofty trees and creepers that scale its full 160ft height, it takes visitors on a journey through tropical agriculture from coffee growing to the banana trade, to rice production and finding a cure for leukaemia. There’s even a life-size replica of a bamboo Malaysian jungle home, and a spectacular treetop Canopy Walkway.

6. Call in the heavies at the Highland Games

Throughout Scotland, not just in the Highlands, summer signals the onset of the Highland Games, from the smallest village get-togethers to the Giant Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, which draws a crowd of around 20,000. Urbanites might blanch at the idea of alfresco Scottish country dancing, but with dog trials, tractors, fudge stalls and more cute animals than you could toss a caber (tree trunk) at, the Highland Games are a guaranteed paradise for kids.

The military origins of the games are recalled in displays of muscle-power by bulky bekilted local men, from tossing the caber to hurling hammers and stones, and pitching bales of straw over a raised pole. Music and dance are also integral to the games, with pipe bands and young girls – kitted out in waistcoats, kilts and long woolly socks – performing reels and sword dances. A truly Scottish sight to behold.

7. Take bonfire night to extremes in Lewes

The first week of November sees one of the eccentric English’s most irresponsible, unruly and downright dangerous festivals – Bonfire Night. Up and down the country, human effigies are burned in back gardens and fireworks are set off – all in the name of Guy Fawkes’ foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 – but in the otherwise peaceful market town of Lewes, things are taken to extremes. Imagine a head-on collision between Halloween and Mardi Gras and you’re well on your way to picturing Bonfire Night, Lewes-style.

Throughout the evening, smoke fills the Lewes air, giving the steep and narrow streets an eerie, almost medieval feel. As the evening draws on, rowdy torch-lit processions make their way through the streets, pausing to hurl barrels of burning tar into the River Ouse before dispersing to their own part of town to stoke up their bonfires.

Forget the limp burgers of mainstream displays and lame sparklers suitable for use at home – for a real pyrotechnic party, Lewes is king.

8. Browse one of England’s oldest markets in Birmingham

There’s enough chaos and colour to rival any frenetic southeast-Asian market here, as a stroll around Birmingham’s Bull Ring markets is an overdose for the senses. The pungent aromas of fresh seafood; the jewel colours and silken textures of miles and miles of rolled fabrics; the racket from hundreds of vendors bellowing news of their latest offerings in hopes of making a sale.

Around 850 years ago Birmingham became one of the first towns in medieval England to hold a legitimate weekly market, selling wares from leather to metal to meat at a site they named the Bull Ring, and cementing the Anglo-Saxon settlement on the map for centuries to come. But while Birmingham has much-changed since medieval times, the noise, excitement and commotion of its Bull Ring markets have barely changed at all – only now you can buy almost anything from neon mobile phone cases and knock-off superhero outfits to fresh meat, fruit and veg.


Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

Some sights are touristy for a good reason. They’re the ones you go to Europe to check off: a wobbly gondola on the canals of Venice, or a mandatory Eiffel Tower selfie. Europe has countless sights all worth a visit in their own right, but there’s so much more to the continent than cathedrals and beaches – and some of it’s pretty bizarre. So from plastic hammer fights in Portugal, to a night behind bars in an ex-Soviet prison, here are a few things to do in Europe you probably never considered.

1. Sleep with fishes at Sweden’s Utter Inn

In many ways, Sweden‘s Utter Inn is your archetypal Swedish house: its walls are wood-panelled and painted red, there’s a white gabled roof, and the location – propped on a little island in the middle of Lake Malaren – is classic Scandinavia. But things get slightly surreal once you look out of the window of the hotel’s solitary room. A large Baltic salmon glides past, followed by a huge shoal of smelt. These are not your average lakeside views, but then you’re not actually lakeside. The island is actually a tiny pontoon, the red house just the tip of the architectural iceberg: Utter Inn lies 3m below the surface of the lake. A night spent here is literally like living in a goldfish bowl.

2. Play for high stakes at Italy’s Il Palio

Siena’s famous bareback horse race – Il Palio – is a highly charged, death-defying dash around the boundary of the city’s majestic Piazza del Campo.  The race is held twice every summer and takes only ninety seconds. The only rule is that there are no rules: practically anything goes as riders shove each other off their mounts. The course is so treacherous, with its sharp turns and sloping, slippery surfaces that often fewer than half of the participants finish. But in any case it’s only the horse that matters – the beast that crosses the line first (even without its rider) is the winner.

speed by Giorgio Montersino (license)

3. Ponder Armageddon at the Plokštine missile base in Lithuania

It’s not often you’re invited to join a guided tour of a nuclear missile base, especially when you’re in the middle of one of northeastern Europe’s most idyllic areas of unspoilt wilderness. However, this is exactly what’s on offer at Plateliai, the rustic, timber-built village in the centre of western Lithuania’s Zemaitija National Park. It’s perversely appropriate that Soviet military planners chose this spot as the perfect place to hide a rocket base. Closed down in 1978, it’s now eerily empty of any signs that would indicate its previous purpose. Until, that is, you come to one of the silos themselves – a vast, metal-lined cylindrical pit deep enough to accommodate 22m of slender, warhead-tipped rocket. The missile itself was evacuated long ago, but peering into the abyss can still be a heart-stopping experience.

4. Get naked in France’s Cap d’Agde

Of a size and scale befitting a small town, France‘s Cap d’Agde legendary nudist resort has to be one of the world’s most unique places to stay. The resort’s sprawling campsite is generally the domain of what the French call bios: hardy souls who love their body hair as much as they hate their clothes, and are invariably the naked ones in the queue at the post office. But the bios share the Cap with a very different breed, libertines for whom being naked is a fashion statement as much as a philosophy: smooth bodies and intimate piercings are the order of the day – and sex on the beach is not necessarily a cocktail. Come evening, throngs of more adventurous debauchees congregate in the Cap’s bars, restaurants and notoriously wild swingers’ clubs for a night of uninhibited fun and frolicking.

Horizontal by Björn Lindell (license)

5. Spend a night at the cells in Latvia’s Liepa–ja prison

Being incarcerated in a foreign country is usually the stuff of holiday nightmares. Unless you want an insight into Latvian history, that is. The former naval prison in Karosta, a Russian-built port that stretches north from the seaside city of Liepāja, is now the venue for an interactive performance/tour that involves such delights as being herded at gunpoint by actors dressed as Soviet prison guards, then interrogated in Russian by KGB officers. Stay the night and things get even harder – you may find yourself mopping the floors before bedding down in one of the bare cells, only to be brutally awoken by an early morning call.

6. Lose your grip on reality in Austria

Pegging yourself as the “Museum of the Future” is, in our ever-changing world, bold. Brash, even. And that’s exactly what the Ars Electronica Centre in Linz is. Dedicated to new technology, and its influence within the realms of art, few museums on Earth have their fingers quite as firmly on the pulse. Come here for the CAVE (Cave Automatic Visual Environment). This room, measuring – cutely enough – 3m cubed, is at the cutting-edge of virtual reality; the simulation uses technology so advanced – 3D projections dance across the walls and along the floor, as you navigate through virtual solar systems and across artificial landscapes – that you feel like you’re part of the installation. 

AEC Linz by Konstantinos Dafalias (license)

7. Play with fire at Spain’s Las Fallas

Catholic Spain traditionally holds fast to old habits, synchronizing Saints’ days with ancient seasonal rites. The most famous – and noisiest – festival of all is Las Fallas: in mid-March the streets of Valencia combust in a riot of flame and firecrackers, ostensibly in celebration of St Joseph.  It’s (barely) controlled pyromania, a festival where the neighbourhood firemen are on overtime and beauty sleep is in short supply. The fallas themselves are huge satirical tableaux peopled by ninots, or allegorical figures – everyone from voluptuous harlots to Vladimir Putin – painstakingly crafted out of wood, wax, papier-mâché andcardboard. They’re exhibited during nightly street parties, before all five hundred of them literally go up in smoke at midnight every March 19.

8. Toboggan without snow in Madeira, Portugal

However you make the 560m climb up to Monte, the hillside town that hangs quietly over Madeira’s capital, Funchal, there’s only one way we recommend getting back down: toboggan. There’s no snow, of course – this is a subtropical paradise. The road becomes your black run as you hurtle towards sea level in a giant wicker basket. At first, progress is slow. Then gravity takes over, powering you to speeds of up to 48 km/hr. When you think you’re going too fast to stop (there aren’t any real brakes here), your wheezing guides will dig their rubber boots into the tarmac – giving you  the first chance to jump out, look down and admire the sparkling blue Atlantic that stretches out before you.

photo by A m o r e Caterina (license)

9. Get hitched at the Roma Bride Market in Bulgaria

While the setting – a dusty field next to a cattle market, perhaps, or a car park – couldn’t be less glamorous, the atmosphere is anything but dull. Heavily made-up girls, blinged to the nines in seductive sequined dresses and high heels, dance provocatively on car roofs, which themselves have been rigged up with speakers pumping out ear-splitting pop. Meanwhile, leather-clad boys strut and pose, eyeing up potential partners as they go. Each year, the nondescript town of Stara Zagora, some 200km southeast of the capital, Sofia, plays host to one of Europe’s more unorthodox happenings: the Bride Market, which typically attracts a couple of thousand people. Nowadays the event is more of a fair than a marketplace though – the space where the courtship process begins before anything more serious is considered.

10. Join a hammer festival in Portugal

Porto’s Festa de São João is a magnificent display of midsummer madness – one giant street party, where bands of hammer-wielding lunatics roam the town, and every available outdoor space is given over to a full night of eating, drinking and dancing to welcome in the city’s saint’s day. No one seems to know the origin of this tradition of hitting people on the head, but what was customarily a rather harmless pat with a leek has evolved into a somewhat firmer clout with a plastic hammer. Midnight sees the inevitable climax of fireworks, but the night is far from over. The emphasis shifts further west to the beach of Praia dos Ingleses, where youths challenging each other to jump over the largest flames of bonfires lit for São João.

photo by Lachlan Heasman (license)

11. Discover the Human Fish in Slovenia

Postojna‘s vast network of caves, winding 2km through cramped tunnels and otherworldly chambers, is the continent’s largest cave system, adorned with infinite stalactites, and stalagmites so massive they appear like pillars. Despite the smudged signatures etched into the craggy walls that suggest an earlier human presence in the caves – possibly as far back as the thirteenth century – this immense grotto’s most prized asset, and most famous resident, is Proteus anguinus, aka the Human Fish. The enigmatic 25cm-long, pigmentless amphibian has a peculiar snake-like appearance, with two tiny pairs of legs – hence the name – and a flat, pointed fin to propel itself through water. Almost totally blind, and with a lifespan approaching one hundred years, it can also go years without food, though it’s been known to dabble in a spot of cannibalism.

12. Attend the World Alternative Games in Wales

Bathtubbing? Wife-carrying? Combined mountain biking and beer drinking? No one does wacky quite like the Welsh, it seems, at least not like the natives of Llanwrtyd Wells. Each year, a series of bonkers events takes place that belies this small town’s sleepy appearance – indeed, with a population of just over six hundred, it can justifiably claim to be Britain’s smallest town. Conceived in 2012 as an antidote to the Olympic Games in London, it involves more than sixty madcap events. Utterly pointless, all of them, though try telling that to the legions of well-honed finger jousters, gravy wrestlers and backwards runners who descend upon the town in their hundreds (sometimes thousands) in search of fame and glory, of sorts. Perhaps the best thing about all these events is that anyone is free to participate – so what are you waiting for?


Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

 

What once began as a marketing ploy for a therapeutic mud found near Boryeong, a small city on South Korea’s sandy west coast, has since transformed into a unique festival that draws millions every year. But this is no spa day.

Mud Fest 2008 by Hypnotica Studios Infinite (license)

The annual Boryeong Mud Festival is where people come to get dirty. Filthy. Caked from head to toe in wet, grey earth that is – according to Korean research institutions – exceptionally good for your skin.

Try keeping those cosmetic benefits in mind as you speed down inflatable super-slides into mud pools. Challenge others attendees to a wrestling match in the much-famed mud ring, fly high in a slimy bouncy castle, or try some marine-style mud training if you’re feeling tough. All this and more is situated right on Daecheon beach. So if you feel the need, just wash off in the placid Yellow Sea.

Mud Fest 2008 by Hypnotica Studios Infinite (license)

Boryeong Mud Festival runs for ten days, from July 17th–26th, and is open to all ages. The final weekend has proven to be the wildest in the past, kicked off by a Friday night hip-hop rave, but don’t underestimate the party-power of mud on any given day.

Muddy people 2 by Jordi Sanchez Teruel (license)

Whether you’re trying to sort out where wet earth ends and your body begins, or comprehend the paradox that mud is actually cleaning you, this festival is definitely worth the trip. Who’s up for it?

Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

After 150 years of boom and bust, Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood is being redefined. Mary Novakovich takes to its bars and restaurants to discover what’s hot about the city’s hippest neighbourhood.

Things weren’t looking too promising when the taxi dropped us off on a dusty road with a railway on one side and grim-looking industrial units on the other. “We’ll take you out to the Junction,” my Toronto friends said. “It’s a cool place. Lots going on. Full of craft breweries. You’ll love it.” Possibly, but the initial signs weren’t good.

I lived in Toronto in the mid-1980s, when my flat was a good 5km east of the Junction yet still felt like the Wild West in the days when Queen Street West was the hub of the hip universe. Thirty years later, Toronto’s twentysomethings have been priced out of the centre and are discovering a new Wild West where the rents are much cheaper.

Only the Junction isn’t so new. And you could argue that it’s less wild now than it was in the nineteenth century. The Junction – named for the four railways that crossed into the neighbourhood – was a hive of industry back then, with a large number of taverns to keep the many railway and factory workers well watered.

Image © Adam Batterbee

A once-dry neighbourhood making up for lost time

Unfortunately, the taverns did too good a job: by 1904, residents had had enough of the debauchery on their doorstep and voted for a ban on the sale of alcohol. The district stayed dry until 2000. They’ve been making up for lost time ever since.

While the Junction has had its periods of boom and bust over the past century and a half – some really quite bleak – this is clearly boom time. Shops and small warehouses that had gone bust in low periods have now been taken over by juice bars, restaurants and cool cafés.

The industrial shock we faced on arrival was all forgiven within a few minutes of walking through the door of Junction Craft Brewing – part tap room, part shop and total brewery. It had all the hipster hallmarks you would expect from a small-scale yet busy craft brewery: industrial chic interior, chunky wooden tables, artfully arranged barrels and some really good beer in an agreeably laid-back atmosphere. If you can’t decide on which beer to choose, you can have a flight of four small glasses of whatever’s on tap. The Tracklayer’s Krolsch was particularly refreshing.

Image © Adam Batterbee

“The promise of Toronto’s best southern fried chicken was waiting for us”

It was tempting to stay for a third round (the first two went down far too easily), or even pop next door to the Toronto Distillery Co for a taste of organic gins and whiskies. But the promise of Toronto’s best southern fried chicken was waiting for us. And more craft beer.

Within a few minutes we escaped the nondescript railway sidings and wandered down Keele Street to Dundas Street West, which was one long line of bars and restaurants – all of them buzzing. A Canadian friend told me how he grew up in this neighbourhood and still couldn’t quite believe how it became so trendy. It was such an ordinary-looking district, he said, and I couldn’t help but agree. Architecturally, its appeal wasn’t obvious, but the answer wasn’t long in coming.

On Dundas Street West we entered our second craft brewery of the evening, Indie Ale House. It was less rough and ready than Junction Craft Brewing, with warm exposed brick walls and a beer shop at the entrance. And the best southern fried chicken in Toronto? It really was, even if I couldn’t do justice to the gargantuan portion on my plate. And the accompanying glass of Iron Lady was considerably more palatable than its steely namesake.

Big plates for small prices

Our next stop on the Junction line was 3030, a cavernous space that combines a bar with a restaurant and a music venue. A row of vintage pinball machines made one wall glow and flash and ping, and at the far back was a stage where a bearded DJ was setting up his computer.

The bar was championing Ontario craft beers, with offerings from Mill Street Brewery, Hogtown Brewers, Beau’s and, of course, its near neighbour Junction Craft Brewing. A pint of Beau’s Lug-Tread slipped down pleasantly, though I discovered later that Beau’s makes an ale that has possibly Canada’s best beer name: Beaver River IPEh?.

The menu carried the two words that usually make my heart sink: small plates. But from what I could see, 3030 was sensibly subverting the rip-off European version of this insidious trend by offering relatively big plates of food for small prices – about $5 (£2.60) a pop. That was more like it.

The whole area was shabby-chic central. Some of the interiors probably came from a shop like Smash (smash.to), a local showroom where salvaged furniture has been given a new lease of life in fun and innovative ways. Rather like the Junction itself, which has finally found itself on the right side of the tracks.

Explore more of Toronto with the Rough Guide to Canada or get the Rough Guides Snapshot TorontoCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Featured image by Wyliepoon on Flickr Creative Commons

Ever since the 1960s Berkeley has been synonymous with left wing politics and student protests. And while the city has stayed true to its progressive credo, it offers numerous other reasons for visitors to the Bay Area to make sure they don’t only get trapped in the albeit sublime honeypot of San Francisco. Former US resident and Rough Guides author Nick Edwards runs down the top things to do in Berkeley and explains why you should make a point of jumping on BART to the East Bay.

Beards, books and Birkenstocks

For half a century now the city has been at the forefront of anti-establishment activism and the anti-war movement, ever since the students of UC Berkeley clashed with then Governor Ronald Reagan and the National Guard during violent Vietnam protests.

The university campus, with its iconic campanile, bustling Sproul Plaza and the quieter lush grounds beyond is still the best place to start getting a feel for the place Berkeley occupies in recent American history. It also boasts most of the town’s museums.

Image courtesy of Visit California

The left-leaning atmosphere extends far beyond the confines of the campus, however, to the numerous cafés that populate the town, where earnest academics can sometimes be seen poring over weighty tomes or deep in serious discussions.

If you want to mug up and be able to join in, you won’t have to go far to find a well-stocked bookstore either. Berkeley is famous for noble establishments such as Black Oak Books, Revolution Books and Lewin’s Metaphysical Books.

Wandering the pleasantly quiet streets that fill the space between the busy commercial strips of Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues near the campus, 4th Street in West Berkeley and Solano Avenue to the north, you will lose count of bearded, besandled residents walking dogs and checking out curios in numerous quirky shops. Just try spotting a Republican placard or bumper sticker – the Grand Old Party long ago gave up even trying to field candidates here.

The cradle of California cuisine

Food activist Alice Waters really started something when she opened Chez Panisse in 1971, setting her stall out to source high-quality organic local produce for her innovative recipes.

This style of embellishing American cooking with European and ethnic touches of flair and promoting a close relationship with local farms became known as “California cuisine”, which has spread the length of the Golden State and beyond.

So if you want to feast on the likes of grilled Becker Lane Farm pork loin with roasted figs, wild fennel cakes and Early Girl tomato confit, this is the place for you. Just be prepared for a hefty bill.

Chez Panisse is still the jewel in the crown of Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto”, a section of Shattuck Avenue lined with a number of quality restaurants and fine emporia such as Alegio chocolate shop, tucked inside Epicurious Garden along with an array of exclusive food outlets.

Top restaurants are not confined to Gourmet Ghetto though, with other notable places to eat such as Lalime’s, Revival and Gather dotted around town.

Don’t be alarmed if your budget does not stretch to such high-end cuisine though. Berkeley is also blessed with a huge number of excellent and inexpensive multicultural restaurants. You can enjoy chunky burritos at Cancun Taqueria, superb masala dosas at Vik’s Chaat Corner, or a range of authentic Indonesian recipes at Jayakarta.

Musical nooks and crannies

Good old Jonathan Richman, still occasionally to be found strumming on the university steps, named his record label Beserkley when he moved to the state in 1975, a nod to the city’s nickname of Bezerkley. Indeed the local music scene is as underground as its political one, with a variety of eclectic venues and record stores.

Ashkenaz is a quirky world music and dance centre on busy San Pablo Avenue, which is also home to the legendary Albatross Pub.

Balkan Dancing via photopin (license)

Meanwhile, Freight and Salvage provides a classic coffee house setting for hearts-on-their-sleeve singer-songwriters and La Peña Cultural Center showcases Latin and folk, as well as encouraging cultural activism.

Perhaps the best example of Berkeley’s musical credibility is the uncompromisingly alternative 924 Gilman club, a haven of hardcore and experimental acts that helped launch the likes of Green Day and Sleater-Kinney.

Immediately south of the campus, Telegraph Avenue is a riot of stalls selling tie-dye clothes, political stickers and jewellery in the shape of peace symbols.

It also contains a string of cheap cafés, takeaway joints and two major record shops in the shape of Rasputin Music and the original location of even more iconic Amoeba Records, where there was never any need for a vinyl comeback because it never went out of fashion. Half a block behind it, People’s Park is another site of sixties dissent and still a community-controlled urban space.

The green, green hills above

It’s not all urbanisation in Berkeley though. In fact, the higher you go up the dramatic, verdant hills that rise abruptly to the east, the more you find yourself amidst some surprisingly sublime natural surroundings.

You can start this ascent from the beautifully landscaped thirty acres of the university’s Botanical Garden, featuring a dazzling array of plant and cactus species.

Alternatively, a more northerly route out of town takes you via the exquisite Berkeley Rose Garden and the grey basalt lump known as Indian Rock, so named in honour of the local Ohlone tribe, to the uppermost ridge that gives onto the semi-wilderness of Tilden Park.

Here an impressive expanse of over two thousand acres encompasses thick woodland, numerous trails and delightful Lake Anza, perfect for a soothing dip in the warmer months.

Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to pick a spot somewhere along Grizzly Peak Boulevard, where you can gaze back west across Berkeley and the Bay to the gleaming skyscrapers of San Francisco, the elegant span of the Golden Gate Bridge and the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean beyond.

Explore more of America with the Rough Guide to the USACompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Nobody does midsummer like the Swedes. They down tools and head for their summer houses on the coast for a family gathering lubricated by beer, herring and shots of the local firewater. Whether you’re a builder or a banker, it’s the one day of the year that everyone casts aside their daily routine and goes back to the land.

So if you want to party like a Swede, then head west. The best place to join the midsummer festivities is around Gothenburg and the Bohuslan coast, the archipelago of some 8000 midnight-sun islands.

Swedish Midsummer’s Eve falls on Friday, June 19 this year but how best to join in the fun? Here is an essential guide to surviving midsummer in Sweden.

Step 1: escape to the country

Most Gothenburgers escape the city for their midsummer fun, heading to the family summer house on one of the islands or staying in a cottage by a lake to get close to nature.

If you hire a car, it’s a ninety-minute drive north from Gothenburg through a bucolic landscape of grazing pasture and produce-yielding farmland to reach the central-archipelago island of Tjorn.

Alternatively, you can hire a bike and ride out of Gothenburg along the harbour, picking up a ferry at the terminal at Saltholmen to island hop around the nearer southern archipelago. It’s a two-hour jaunt through some of Gothenburg’s most interesting districts, such as historic Haga and bohemian Majorna to reach the coast. Download a map of the cycle route here.

Image by Emil Fagander

Step 2: make your own Krans

The symbol of midsummer is the krans, a headband of summer flowers entwined around soft birch branches. Children head out to the fields in the morning to gather fresh flowers and no midsummer outfit is complete without your very own personalised crown.

Villa Sjotorp, a romantic, lakeside estate turned chic country hotel in the village of Ljungskile, hosts an annual midsummer banquet. The festivities begin with a class in making your own krans, followed by a traditional Swedish fika, an afternoon snack of fresh coffee and pastries.

According to popular Swedish folklore, you should place the headband under your pillow that night to dream of your future lover.

_MG_8339 via photopin (license)

Step 3: learn the frog dance

By mid afternoon crowds are gathering in parks and on village greens around West Sweden to watch the annual midsummer dance around the maypole.

The spectacle blends elements of ancient German and British folklore but, while the phallic maypole and spiritual embracing of warming rays both feature heavily, you’ll be relieved to hear the event is a strictly Morris Dancing-free zone.

Children in traditional dresses clutch their parents’ hands while local teenagers, resplendent in their finest summer garb, exchange flirtatious glances as the accordion player strikes up a rousing chorus of folk tunes.

But beware: casual bystanders may be dragged into the ensuing series of line-dancing style displays, culminating with the quintessential midsummer routine — the squatting frog dance.

IMG_4609 via photopin (license)

Step 4: eat a fish supper

After the build up of the afternoon, it’s time get down to the serious business that evening of celebrating with traditional food and drink.

The essential three-course supper includes a starter of three types of herring, served with crème fraîche and new potatoes, followed by cuts of beef, chicken and lamb, served with tomato salad and a deliciously tangy smoked mayonnaise. There are fresh strawberries to finish.

Most dinners are small family occasions but you can get a flavour of the festivities at Gabriel, the seafood restaurant located in Gothenburg ‘Fish Church’ seafood market, or at Villa Sjotorp.

Traditionally, the first tasty new potatoes and strawberries of the season are used to prepare the extensive spread.

Step 5: take a midnight swim

Midsummer is also about being together with families or friends reuniting for one weekend of the year. And, by the time the lights softens and the fresh breeze of summer blows across the al-fresco gathering, the schnapps will be in full flow.

By this point expect dancing on the jetty by the lakeside or on the ocean-washed beach and hearty singalongs to traditional folk tunes played on the accordion. It’s a rare moment in time when nobody has a care in the world and all feels right in life.

Summer Sunset via photopin (license)

“For me, midsummer has elements of light, nature, family and nostalgia. It’s a special night,” explains Bibban Ryden, of Gothenburg-based tour company Kulturbåtarna, who organise island-hopping cruises around the archipelago.

“I may no longer be young but, come midnight,” she smiles cheekily, “I’m still ready for skinny dipping.”

Featured image by Midsummer at Öland via photopin (license). Explore more of Sweden with the Rough Guide to SwedenCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Taken from the new Rough Guide to Prague, here’s our guide to Czech beer – and where to drink it.

The Czechs drink more beer than any other nation, downing approximately a pint a day for every man, woman and child in the country – in fact, more beer is drunk here than water. Czech beer (pivo) ranks among the best on the planet and the country remains the true home of most of the lager drunk around the world today.

What’s the history of Czech beer?

Sugar cubes and Semtex aside, you might say the Czechs’ greatest claim to fame is that they invented the world’s original Pilsner beer. As every Bohemian pub regular knows, by the late 1830s, the German-speaking inhabitants of Plzeň (Pilsen), 90km west of Prague, were disgruntled with the local beer, a top-fermented, dark, cloudy brew of dubious quality. In disgust, they founded the Bürgerliche Brauhaus, and employed a Bavarian brewer, Josef Groll, who, on October 5, 1842, produced the world’s first lager, a bottom-fermented beer stored in cool caves.

The pale Moravian malt, the Saaz hops and the local soft water produced a clear, golden beer that caused a sensation. At the same time, cheap, mass-produced glass appeared on the market, which showed off the new beer’s colour and clarity beautifully. The new rail network meant that the drink could be transported all over central Europe, and Pilsner-style beers became all the rage.

Brewing methods remained traditional until the fall of Communism, after which the larger breweries almost all opted for modernization: pasteurization, de-oxidization, rapid maturation and carbon dioxide injections – which resulted in longer shelf-life, less taste and more fizz. The republic’s smaller breweries were either swallowed up or went to the wall.

By the mid-1990s, there were just sixty Czech breweries left, with the biggest (except Budvar – still owned by the Czech state) owned by multinationals. However, in the last decade a new breed of microbreweries has sprung up, eschewing modern technology and producing some of the tastiest, most individual brews you’ll ever encounter.

What should I order?

Czech beer is served by the half-litre; if you want something smaller, you must specifically ask for a malé pivo (0.3l).

The average jar is medium strength, usually about 4.2 percent alcohol. Somewhat confusingly, the Czechs class their beers using the Balling scale, which measures the original gravity, calculated according to the amount of malt and dissolved sugar present before fermentation. The most common varieties are 10° (desítka), which are generally slightly weaker than 12° (dvanáctka).

Light beer (světlé) is the norm, but many pubs also serve a slightly sweeter dark variety (tmavé or černé) – or you can have a mixture of the two (řezané). Kvasnicové pivo is yeast beer, nefiltrované is, you guessed it, unfiltered (cloudy) beer. There’s also nepasterované and pšeničné as well as combinations of all the above.

Where should I drink Czech beer in Prague?

Today Prague‘s smoky old pubs (pivnice), traditionally filled with men drinking copious quantities of Czech beer by the half-litre, are a dying breed, but a few survive beyond the centre of town. We’ve picked our favourites.

U Černého Vola (The Black Ox), Oretánské Náměstí 1
This is a great traditional Prague pub, which does a brisk business providing the popular light beer Velkopopovický Kozel in huge quantities to thirsty local workers, plus a few basic pub snacks.

U Kocoura (The Cat), Nerudova
This old-school Czech pub inevitably attracts tourists, but the locals come here too for the pilsner urquell and the Budvar, plus various other Czech belly-formers.

U Hrocha (The Hippo), Thunovská 10
An old, smoky been-here-forever Czech pivnice close to the British embassy, usually full with a close-knit bunch of locals.

U Rudolfina, Křížovnická
A bona-fide Czech pivnice very close to Charles Bridge, serving expertly kept Pilsner Urquell and typical pub grub that gets more expensive as the day progresses.

U Zlatého Tygra (The Golden Tiger), Husova 17
A small central pivnice, always busy with locals and tourists trying to get a seat; the late writer and bohemian Bohumil Hrabal was a semi-permanent resident and still has a seat reserved for him (he died in 1997).

 

Explore more of Prague with the Rough Guide to PragueCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John are sitting in a red 1950s convertible under the stars. Giant ice creams march across a giant screen. A giant hot dog dances with a giant bun. He yawns, sliding a surreptitious arm around her neck. She turns away. He moves in, she slaps him and I’m hooked.

My first experience of the all-American drive-in movie was Grease, a world where teens dressed in leather and gingham drove pink Thunderbirds and watched epic romances in glorious Technicolor in the open air. Sound came from speakers clipped to the car window and hamburgers were delivered by girls on roller skates.

The first drive-in movie theater opened on June 6, 1933 in Camden, New Jersey and was an immediate hit in Depression-slumped America. A whole family could pile in the jalopy for the same price as a single cinema ticket. No car? Take the bus and sit in tip-up tin seats and share a soda from the concession stand.

By 1958 there were nearly 5000 drive-ins in America. Today there are just 336 left. The Pickwick, in Burbank, California, used for that scene in Grease, now lies under a shopping mall. In the 1980s, one drive-in closed per day across the US; in the 1990s, it was one per week. Some of my own favourite drive-ins have bitten the dust in the past ten years (I particularly mourn the glorious Mission in San Antonio, currently being redeveloped as a cultural centre, which at least makes a change from the usual supermarkets and housing projects), but it’s not all bad news. Of those 336 remaining theaters, some are brand new; others reopened by children and grandchildren of the baby-boomers who grew up with drive-ins, keen to introduce the experience to the next generation. ‘Retro’ and ‘vintage’ are still relatively small concepts in the States, but nostalgia is big.

Today’s great drive-in movie theaters

Every drive-in is different. Mainly independently-owned, they’ve escaped the stranglehold of the mega-chains and each has its own quirks. Some have sloped parking lots, so your car’s at a good angle to see the screen, and others retain the old speaker-posts as markers, though these days you tune into the soundtrack via your car radio. Some have attendants in golf buggies selling sodas and hamburgers while others have concession huts with anything from crazy golf and flea markets to games arcades and church services as extra-curricular activities.

Drive-ins are not swanky affairs. Often in the run-down parts of town, they can be dusty, rusty and tired-looking by day. As the sun goes down, though, they acquire a neon-soaked glamour straight out of Hollywood’s golden age. It is still possible to find a slice of true 50s Americana – if you’re prepared to sniff it out. Here are five great places to experience the nostalgia of a drive-in movie theater:

Shankweiler’s, Pennsylvania
For a truly vintage feel, Shankweiler’s, opened in 1934 in Orefield Pennsylvania, was America’s second drive-in. A destination for cinema-loving locals and movie history buffs the world over it is now the oldest outdoor movie theater still in use.

The Brazos Theater, Texas
The 1952 Brazos Theater, 30 miles south west of Fort Worth, Texas, comes complete with its original screen, concession stand and rather rusty seating for those who come by bus. Arrive to wafts of country music, cicadas and distant birdsong in the dusty heat of a hot Texas evening as you join the queue of ozoners waiting to grab the best positions when the box office opens.

Benjies, Maryland
Celebrating its sixtieth birthday this year, Benjies in Baltimore, Maryland boasts the biggest movie screen in the USA and state-of-the-art FM broadcast system for your viewing and listening pleasure. Enjoy nostalgic snacks in the classic, space-age concession shack.

Warwick Drive-In, New Jersey
Beth and Ernest Wilson run the Warwick Drive-In Beth’s father Frank bought after working at drive-ins as a windshield washer from the age of 13. The cinema, six miles from Vernon, New Jersey, was opened in 1950 and continues to serve family fare and home cooking to generations of movie-goers.

Wellfleet Drive-In, Massachusetts
If you’re desperate for the authentic, crackling, mono, in-car sound experience, head for Wellfleet Drive-In, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, where such is public demand they have retained and renovated the original 1950s field speakers at Cape Cod’s only remaining drive-in movie theater.

7 tips for the perfect drive-in experience

Sadly, now most folk arrive by SUV or pick-up truck rather than that 1950s convertible – pick-up drivers park facing away from the screen then set up camp in the back with folding chairs, iceboxes and even barbeques. If you want to join them, here are seven tips for making the most out of your movie experience:

  • Bring a blanket or even a sleeping bag at the beginning or end of season
  • Check the cinema’s policy on bringing your own food and drink. Some sell a ‘permit,’ others don’t allow outside fare at all.
  • Insect repellent is vital
  • Allow time to find the venue; astonishingly drive-ins can remain hidden until you’re right upon them.
  • Arrive early to get a good position
  • Bring a portable radio to tune into the soundtrack if you are planning to sit outside the car
  • Turn over your motor occasionally to avoid battery-drain

Explore more of the States with the Rough Guide to the USABook hostels for your trip, compare flights, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

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