Insider’s guide to the top bars in Europe

Find the perfect bar with our insider’s guide to the top drinking spots in London, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona.

Trailer Happiness, London

Trailer Happiness, London

Bars in London

Best for vibe
5CC
Upstairs in a great East End pub, this buzzing bar serving pints and fresh oysters but it’s downstairs in the cocktail club where things really get going. Low ceilings, dim lighting and arched alcoves give this place a speakeasy cool in the heart of London’s Shoreditch.

Best for business
The booking office
Set in the grand Victorian elegance of St Pancras Station the bar is literally based in the magnificent vast ceilinged, wooden floored former booking office. Nowadays the space is decked out with stylish modern sofas and armchairs.

Best for design
Trailer Happiness
The design here celebrates 1950s lounge bar kitsch while at the same time managing to feel modern and cutting edge. Enjoy perfectly concocted cocktails from the comfort of sleek vintage furniture.

Bars in Paris

Island Bar, Mama Shelter, Paris

Island Bar, Mama Shelter, Paris

Best for vibe
Island Bar, Mama Shelter
This vibrant, bustling hotel bar is also the hotel lobby, library and restaurant. A great energetic ambiance with live music at the weekends. Very bobo Parisian.

Best for business
Le Bar, Park Hyatt Vendôme
This chic, sophisticated hotel bar blends traditional elegance with stunning works of modern art. The bar menu boasts an extensive list of champagne available by the glass and tapas created by the hotel’s executive chef.

Best for glamour
Le Bar, Shangri-La Hotel
A small, elegant space in the heart of 5 star luxury. The bartender here rustles up some fantastic creations including the bar’s signature cocktail Pink Lady.

Bars in Berlin

Tausend, Berlin

Tausend, Berlin

Best for  vibe
Tausend
A large iron door is the only outward sign of this hip high-end bar. Those in the know will find a wide range of cocktails being sipped by über-cool Berliners inside.

Best for business
Reingold
Combining an old speakeasy charm with stylish modern retro fittings this place exudes a lounge bar cool. With a warm ambiance and an extensive cocktail menu it’s a good place to meet colleagues or friends.

Best for design
Bar Lounge 808
Fantastic 70s retro furniture, complete with fish-tanks set into the walls and sleek wood panelling, with a vibe so bang on beat it’s classic Berlin cool.

 

Bars in Barcelona

Bambú Lounge Bar, Barcelona

Bambú Lounge Bar, Barcelona

Best for vibe
Bambú Lounge
S
ituated in the Gracia district, this is where Barcelona’s It crowd head for killer cocktails and an atmosphere so deliciously electrifying you’ll never want to leave.

Best for business
Sky Bar, Grand Hotel Central
Enjoy the views across Barcelona from this elegant rooftop bar above the Grand Hotel Central. Spend the day lounging in the sun and swimming in the infinity pool then settle by the bar for cocktails into the night.

Best for design
Boutique Bar, Ohla Hotel 
Sleek modern design and sharp clean lines combined with warm woods and stone  make this a stylish place to stop for an award-winning cocktail. For a change of scenery, try the roof terrace for stunning views across the city.

What do you think?

Well travelled with a passion for seeking out the coolest places to drink in a city. Let us know where’s your favourite bar in the world. Post a comment here or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Wedding cake trends 2013

Looking for inspiration for your wedding day? While a certain amount of stress is inevitable in planning your big day, there’s plenty of fun to be had when choosing the wedding cake of your dreams.

Ruffle wedding cake by Pink Rose Cakes

Ruffle wedding cake by Pink Rose Cakes

Here, Fay Millar of Pink Rose Cakes reveals the hottest trends for wedding cakes this year.

What’s new in 2013

With the renaissance in home baking and the surge in popularity in television shows like the Great British Bake Off, it is hardly surprising wedding cakes have undergone a bit of a transformation too.

2013 is an exciting year for cakes with more variety available than ever from hugely popular vintage designs to more avant garde creations, and the styles brides are picking are changing all the time.

But there are certain key trends which are proving particularly fashionable.

Ruffles, ruffles, ruffles

Ruffles are huge this year. Wherever you look there are cakes decorated in the most gorgeous soft folds of icing in every imaginable colour, from crisp whites and soft ivories to bolder pinks and reds.

Ruffles are great because they are not perfect, they don’t all look the same, but they do lend a softer, more romantic look to cakes.

They are a perfect addition to the whole vintage theme which is still going strong with lots of lace effect piping and antique jewellery adornments.

Naked cakes

There certainly seems to be a more laid back, DIY feel with many wedding cakes at the moment, even if they are anything but.

It is probably why the so-called naked cake has seen a meteoric rise in popularity during 2013.

Naked cakes are simple tiered cakes but without the fondant icing and decoration on top. You get the sponge cake underneath and nothing else, which can then be dressed up with fresh seasonal fruit or flowers.

Tiered, vintage style cake by Pink Rose Cakes

Tiered, vintage style cake by Pink Rose Cakes

Bold is beautiful

At the other end of the scale though, some brides are choosing increasingly bolder cakes with lots of artistic hand painted images and detail, different-sized tiers or single piece decorations that really pop.

Pastels and a bird-theme

Pastels are still popular and mint is going to be massive this year but also in the offing are more bird-themed cakes – vintage bird cages, nests, hand painted scenes and Iced Wedgewood-style bird imagery.

Fay Millar is Creative Director of Pink Rose Cakes. Find out more about cake designs from the website: Pink Rose Cakes or visit them on Facebook.

Find out more about weddings and honeymoons in the Indian Ocean

Visit our website to find out more about each of our 7 resorts in the Indian Ocean, and discover more about destination weddings and honeymoons with Constance Hotels & Resorts.

Top 5 wildlife adventures in the Seychelles

The beautiful tropical islands of the Seychelles are a paradise of biodiversity ripe for discovery.

Pink  pigeon, Seychelles

Pink pigeon

Rare birds, plants, marine life and animals abound on these idyllic islands. Seize the opportunity to explore two UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as extensive national and marine parks.

Conservation in the Seychelles
Conservation is taken seriously across the archipelago and eco-tourism is actively encouraged by local and government conservation groups. As a result over the last 40 years access to areas of ecological interest have been improved making exploration easy and fun for tourists of all ages.

1. Seychelles National Botanical Gardens
An ideal place to see some of the rare species of flora and fauna of the Seychelles is the Botanical Gardens in Victoria, Mahé.

Come and discover the beautiful collection of exotic and endemic plants, and meet some of the local inhabitants including a population of giant tortoises – some of which are over 150 years old – and a colony of fruit bats.

2. Birds of paradise
Bird lovers flock to the Seychelles to see the nearly 250 different species, including 12 endemic to the islands. Many can be found on Mahé but for keen ornithologists an exhilarating boat trip to Aride or Cousin island is a must. Read more about the Top 5 Seychelles islands for bird lovers.

Some notable birds to watch out for:

  • Seychelles magpie robin and Seychelles warbler, both brought back from the edge of extinction by local conservationists
  • Sunbird
  • Blue pigeon
  • Scops owl
  • Frigatebirds
  • Terns, sandpipers and herons are particularly prevalent with more than 60 different species
Diving in the Seychelles

Diving in the Seychelles

3. Discover the ocean
The whole family can enjoy the wonders of discovering over 1,000 species of fish that are found in the six national marine parks and crystal waters around the archipelago.

Whether you decide to try scuba diving at Constance for adults and children over 8 years, or you prefer snorkelling there is plenty to discover.

The vibrant coral reefs around our shores are home to a wide variety of marine life including the rare hawksbill turtle, yellow snappers, clown fish, humphead parrot fish and manta rays.

4. UNESCO World Heritage Sites
For those who fancy travelling a bit further afield an excursion to the World Hertiage Sites are a real treat. The Atoll of Aldabra is the largest raised coral atoll in the world and home to the Aldabra giant tortoise.

The Vallée de Mai on Praslin, rumoured to be the original ‘Garden of Eden’, is home to the famous Coco de Mare the largest seed in the world. Wandering into the Vallée is like discovering an ancient world of giant palms with leaves measuring 6 meters across and an abundance of rare flora and fauna. Keep your eyes peeled for the national bird, the Seychelles Black Parrot, which is only found here.

Baby turtles at Constance Lemuria, Seychelles

Baby turtles at Constance Lemuria, Seychelles

5. Constance turtle conservation
Budding conservationists and naturalists alike should visit Constance Lémuria to meet our turtle manager.

Dedicated to protecting the endangered hawksbill and green turtles who return to our beaches year after year, he will be happy to show you any currently nesting or hatching turtles and is always keen to share his knowledge on these rare, beautiful creatures.

Whether you’re looking for intrepid exploration or just to immerse yourself in the dramatic biodiversity the Seychelles has to offer there are plenty of discoveries to be made here.

Find out more

 

Guide to big game fishing in Madagascar

Feel the thrill of a tug from a big game fish at the end of your line as you float above waters so clear you can make eye contact with your catch.

Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Constance Tsarabanjina

April to June is the perfect time for fishing the idyllic, teaming waters around Constance Tsarabanjina in Madagascar. Here are our top 5 reasons for game fishing in the area.

1. The experience of a lifetime
Pit yourself against the great giants of the sea as you cast a line into waters teeming with exotic sea-life. Feel the sun on your face as you explore northern Madagascar’s deserted bays, headlands, rocky outcrops and remote islands. The beauty of the location combined with the high density of big game fish means fishing here is like nowhere else on earth.

2. Perfect conditions
The ideal climate and the calm, clear waters off Madagascar’s northwest coast with few shore breaks ensure visibility is extremely high. It makes it the perfect place for first timers and experienced fishermen alike.

3. High density waters
Game fishing in the area is still a fairly new activity so the density of fish including giant trevally, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, kingfish, barracouda, wahoos, sailfish and Marlins is high. From April through to July over 100 sailfish a day, many more than 100lbs, have been seen near the surface.

Beach view at Constance Tsarabanjina, Madagascar

Beach view at Tsarabanjina

4. Live a life of adventure
Game fishing in the ocean around Tsarabanjina will deliver thrills and excitement unlike any other. Venture out with our expert guides who will help beginners and experienced fishermen feel the thrill of the chase. For those looking to try something new, why not seize the opportunity to try the different types of fishing available at Tsarabanjina including traditional Malagasy fishing with drag nets and even a full moon hand-line fishing excursion.

5. Finish the day in 5 star luxury
At the end of an adrenalin-pumping day on the ocean come home to the luxury of your own private beach villa designed in boutique Malagasy style with air-conditioning. Relax and unwind on your own sundeck as you watch the sun set over the ocean and dream about what adventures you’ll encounter there tomorrow.

Find out more

Yoga instructor Steve Bracken reveals how to maintain good health naturally

Yoga and movement therapist Steve Bracken is sharing his expertise with guests at Constance Halaveli this month. Here, Steve outlines health tips we can all follow.

Steve Bracken, yoga teacher and bodyworker

Steve Bracken, yoga teacher and bodyworker

Movement therapy
My approach to health, yoga (movement therapy), fitness and bodywork was influenced greatly by the work of KRI Jagadish when I volunteered at his clinic in Mysore, India.

In his clinic people are treated with soft tissue manipulation, massage, yoga therapy and only food is used as the medicine. There I literally saw miracles of recovery on a daily basis and I came to realise the importance of treating health in a holistic manner.

Holistic approach & the health mandala
With the knowledge I gained there, combined with what I already knew, I put together the health mandala – a holistic approach to improving health that looks at the areas of exercise, diet, vitality/energy levels and our attitude. If we want to improve our health we need to look at all of these areas in relation to our health goal.

However, to begin we first must check that we are not coming from a place of self-blame or recrimination for any health or body issues we may have. If we attempt to make war on our body to force it into a healthier state we will ultimately fail. We need to accept but not necessarily like that we are in our present condition due to our unique life history.

Positive thinking
The next step is to focus on positive outcomes and understand the benefits of those outcomes. We can visualise living a healthier life and enjoying the benefits. We also need to have a highest goal that is not dependent on outside validation or an ideal image of ourselves. For example, instead of trying to lose weight we can focus on feeling healthier, lighter and more energised.

This is a goal that is growth orientated and flexible. It does not set us up for failure if we don’t reach our specific goal. We may still aim to lose weight, for example, but it should not be our highest goal. When we feel good about ourselves it is easier to treat ourselves well.

Steve Bracken at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Steve Bracken at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Stress relief
Another tip is to learn to listen to the messages of the body. The body will respond to any unhealthy stresses, especially if they are chronic, that are placed upon it in a negative way whether it is from food or drug toxins, nutritional deficiency, harmful physical activity or inactivity, emotional or psychological stress and so on.

The body is hard wired for health and happiness and lets us know when we are going against its best interests. Hence, an awareness of what causes us stresses and a willingness to deal with the cause through this mindfulness will change them or our attitude to them, and guide us to a healthier and happier way of living.

Steve’s holistic health tips

  • Exercise regularly and do something you enjoy but generally work to only 70% of your maximum capacity.
  • Eat less meat and that includes chicken. People generally consume far too much protein.
  • Watch less news and television in general. It is mostly negative, generally not the truth and does nothing for relaxation.
Find out more

Visit his website to find out more about Steve Bracken’s approach to yoga and movement

Get Steve’s expert tuition online with his Simple Mobilisation video 

Read Tanya Kemp’s guide to improving your health through yoga