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.

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

 

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

Marine biologist Robin Aieilo at Halaveli

Marine biologist Robin Aieilo reports on her latest diving adventures at Constance Halaveli.

Octopus at Constance Halaveli, Maldives

Octopus at Halaveli

I can’t believe that my month on Halaveli is already over. How sad! The last week, like all the others, was full of adventure and fun. The diving seemed particularly good with wonderful sightings of sharks, manta rays and, with the full moon, lots of spawning fish.

Octopus sighting
One of the most memorable sightings for me was a very large octopus that gave us quite a show. We found it when it was hiding in a small crevice in the reef. After a few minutes of waiting, it seemed like it wasn’t going to come out and play, so we headed off to continue our dive. But as we started to leave I looked back and saw it start to emerge. So we waited…and out it came.

Parachute feeding
It was a stunning creature, nearly a metre long. We watched as it swam over to a nearby cave, settled down and started to feed. It would position itself over a particular spot on the cave wall and then extend out its long arms, one at a time, and reach into a small nearby hole to grab prey. Sometimes it would launch itself and suddenly ‘pounce’ to one side. As it landed the skin between its arms would balloon out, trapping all small animals beneath it – this is called ‘parachute feeding’.

We must have stayed with the octopus for at least 10 minutes, fascinated by the way it would instantaneously change colour and texture to blend in with whatever background it was sitting on for the moment. It really was a spectacular sighting.

Hawskbill Turtle

Hawskbill Turtle

Communication and interpretation training course
As the time for my departure from the island approached closer and closer, it seemed like I got busier and busier. I was deeply honoured to be asked by the dive team to run a course on communication and interpretation – this is a course that I have been running for the Great Barrier Reef tourism industry staff in Australia for the past 15 years.

We actually had a lot of fun – gathering on the Dive Center jetty after work, and discussing such topics as what is the difference between education and interpretation, what makes a good nature interpreter, and what are the best body language techniques to use to get your messages across.

The Halaveli Dive Team
For me, as an educator, it was especially wonderful to watch the staff use some of these new techniques into action during the following days. The staff of Halaveli Dive Team are the most wonderful group of instructors that I have ever worked with – they are professional, friendly and nothing, I mean nothing, is too much of a hassle for them to do.

And they have incredible eyes for spotting marine life underwater.

Especially turtles. One of the most popular snorkeling activities on offer through the Dive Centre is the ‘Snorkel with Turtles’ excursion. There is a reef nearby that has 7 resident Hawksbill Turtles, so the chance of seeing these gorgeous sea creatures is very good.

Here’s some insight into these amazing creatures.

Creature Feature – the Hawksbill Turtle

Hawksbill Turtle, Halaveli

Hawksbill Turtle, Halaveli

There are two common species of turtles in the Maldives – Hawksbills and Greens. Around Halaveli, we see only Hawksbills.

Why don’t we see Green turtles? Because Green turtles feed almost exclusively on sea grass, and there are no seagrass beds nearby – thus, no Green turtles. However, Green turtles are seen on other reefs that have lagoons full of sea grass.

Endangered
All sea turtles are endangered and in most countries they are fully protected. Sea turtles have been harvested for centuries, mainly for their meat, but in the case of Hawksbills they were also harvested for their beautiful brown mottled shell (carapace) – known as tortoise-shell.

The shell, when cleaned and polished, is made into decorative objects like jewellry, combs and other personal ornaments. Objects made out of Hawksbill turtle shell have been found in tombs and burial sites of many Egyptian pharaohs.

Watching Turtles
Hawksbill sea turtles are beautiful rare, animals. We are lucky that the ones at the reefs near Halaveli Island are very calm and undisturbed around people.

When you see one, the best thing to do is to stop swimming and just float above it and wait. Eventually, they must come to the surface for a breath – remember, these are not fish, they are reptiles, and cannot breathe underwater. In fact, their ancestors evolved on land but returned to the sea about 150 million years ago. They are one of the few species of animals alive today that are so ancient that they were also around before, during and after the time of dinosaurs.

Normally, when feeding, turtles come up for air every few minutes, but if they are sleeping or resting, their heart rate and overall metabolism slows, and they can stay down for many hours. But they always have to come to the surface!

So it is very important that you never to try to touch or grab a turtle – if startled or scared they might drown.

Hawksbill vs Green Turltes
Telling Hawksbill and Green turtles apart is easy – there are a couple key features that distinguish them form one another.

First – look at the head and beak. Hawksbill turtles have long, curved strong beaks for tearing the reef apart to get to sponges, soft coral and corallimorphs. Green turtles, on the other hand, have a very stubby, short beak that it used like a lawnmower to cut the seagrass. Remember, turtles do not have teeth – instead they cut the food with thier sharp boney beaks and swallow the chunks without chewing.

Second – look at the back end of the shell. Hawksbill shells are jagged and serrated whereas Greens have a smooth shell edge.

Male vs Female
It is easy to tell male from female turtle apart just by looking at their tails. Males have longer tails that extend out past the edge of their shell, while females have shorter tails that do not stick out past their shell.

A Final Note
So, the next time you see a turtle diving or snorkeling, take your time and wait. The ones around Halaveli are so used to divers and snorkellers that they do not swim away. In fact, they will usually come up to the surface right next to you. It is an amazing experience to have one of these special creatures so close and so curious. Sometimes they will even approach you and look right into your mask.

Enjoy!

Robin.

Find out more

Top travel photography blogs

Capturing the exact moment the sun kisses the sea, taking photos at night without the glare of a flash or catching a child playing in the waves – it’s sometimes tricky to catch the perfect picture.

Photo by Antonio Garcia Martinez at Constance Ephelia, Seychelles

Photo by Antonio Garcia Martinez at Constance Ephelia, Seychelles

So we’ve rounded up some of the best travel photography blogs offering tips on techniques and equipment to use when taking photos abroad.

1. Aviators and a Camera  is run by photographer and travel writer Kirsten Alana who extols the virtues of using an iPhone to capture spontaneous images on the road. She now runs her own workshops and tutorials on travel.

2. Nomadic Samuel describes himself as a perpetual backpacker but his passion for photography lifts his blog above the crowd. Along with a photo and video blog Samuel also posts advice to aspiring photographers, guest photographers and a guide to the best travel photographers on the web.

3. Unique Travel Photo was created by husband and wife team Kim and David Walker. With destination guides and photo essays their site is a treat for the eyes. Also useful are their equipment reviews and how to techniques guide.

4. Momentary Awe  is the blog of professional photographer and photography teacher Catalin Marin. His stunning photographs and video tutorials make this well worth a visit. Check out his stunning pictures of Madagascar.

5. The Polar Route creator Ed Graham sets out to post one of his beautiful travel photos a day, describing the site as ‘a daily exploration of our world’. His range of photography guides are invaluable covering everything from Photoshop hints to photos with moving subjects. A useful tool.

 

Constance hot list: The best of what’s on in Europe this weekend

Make the most of the long Easter weekend with our list of hot tickets across Europe.

Inside British Museum, London

Inside British Museum, London

London

The Boat Race 2013: Sunday, March 31
It may be cold outside but don’t be put off, the excitement generated by this annual race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities’ rowing teams will warm you up. The entire route is lined with stylish pubs and eateries.

Find out more about the boat race from Time Out London

The Easter Film Hop: March 29 – March 31
If you’re looking for an edgier weekend experience head to London’s hip Shoreditch and enjoy a very different style of movie watching. Retro musicals including Grease and Purple Rain are shown on a massive screen and the audience are given wireless headphones so they can drink, dance and party along with the film. Screenings are followed by a headphone disco.

For full details visit Experience Cinema.

Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum
Opening at The British Museum this weekend, this fascinating exhibition features a collection of over 250 artefacts from the ill-fated towns. Pompeii and Herculaneum were both buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79 and many of these items have never been seen before outside of Italy. The exhibition focuses on the lives of ordinary people and their homes.

For details or to book online visit the website for British Museum.

Pompidou Centre, Paris

Pompidou Centre, Paris

Paris

Festival Cinéma du Réel: Until 31 March
The acclaimed documentary festival traditionally hosted at the Centre Pompidou has this year extended to include venues across the city. With filmmakers from across the world gathering to show their work there is something for everyone.

For details of screenings visit Cinéma du Réel

Julio Le Parc exhibition at Palais de Tokyo
Having snubbed the Musée d’Art Moderne’s proposals for a retrospective back in 1972, founder of the op art movement, Le Parc has remained relatively obscure. But now the Palais de Tokyo has succeeded in persuading the 84-year-old painter and sculptor to allow an exhibition of his work from 1950 to today. Alongside his classic op art pieces are a series of huge installations, paintings, sculptures. A rare treat.

More info from website Palais de Tokyo

Le Festival de l’Imaginaire: 27 March – 13 April
This renowned festival celebrating all forms of dance from around the world kicks off this week with Hayachine Take Kagura, Japanese masked dancing, at the Maison des Cultures du Monde.

Full details on the website Festival de l’Imaginaire

St Peter's Square, Rome

St Peter’s Square, Rome

Rome

Good Friday and Easter Sunday celebrations
Whatever your religious persuasion seize the chance to watch history in the making this weekend as the Vatican celebrates Easter with a new pope. Events include an evening procession and ritual of the Via Crucis on Good Friday in which a huge cross with burning torches lights the sky and Easter Sunday Holy Mass held in St Peter’s Square.

Helmut Newton. White Women/Sleepless Nights/Big Nudes: 6 March – 21 July
A collection of over 200 photographs make up this exhibition at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni with highlights from the prolific photogrpaher’s three volumes of photographs from 1976 to 1981. The exhibition features Newton’s provocative stylish black and white shots.

Find out more from Palazzo delle Esposizion

Tiziano: Until 16 June
The Italian name for the artist Titian, this exhibition at the Scuderie Del Quirinal traces the Italian’s work from his early days in Venice to his great commissions by Charles V. With loans from galleries across Europe this is a rare chance to see the progression of Titian’s work. There’s also an app to download so you can use your phone as an audio-guide.

More info at Scuderie Del Quirinal

Berlin

Auch Heute: until 11 April
The Kunstsaele gallery brings together the work of contemporary artists from around the world to examine the dialogue between different styles. Auch Heute, meaning today, aims to invite the viewer to see similarities in works by artists including Stephen Antonakos, Donald Judd, Sandra Peters and Dieter Kieg.

Full details on the Kunstsaele gallery website.

Dummy – Varieté 2.0: until 21 July
Billed as a futuristic variety show this cutting edge production at the Chamäleon Theatre features a fusion of modern dance, music and technology. A tilting stage, robotic puppetry and video projections by self proclaimed ‘light magician’, Frieder Weiss, this show is truly out of this world. This weekend enjoy a celebration of spring with ice-tea cocktails at the theatre bar.

Find out more at Chamaeleon Berlin

Sergej Jensen: until 17 June
An exhibition at the Berlinsche Galerie (Museum of Modern Art) celebrating the work of this year’s winner of the Fred Thieler Prize for Painting. Jensen uses materials including linen, coarse cotton and jute sacks to paint on to add texture and depth to his prize-winning work. Well worth checking out.

More info on the Berlinsche Galerie website.