The surprise palace.

The surprise palace

In the early 1700s, Peter the Great gave his wife Catherine some land and she secretly had a palace built on it. A generation later, their daughter, the Empress Elisabeth, got Italian architects in to turn it into the sumptuous residence which is the Catherine Palace.  

(St Petersburg Episode 04)

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Classy coffee stop in Munich

Classy coffee stop in Munich 

One of the classiest coffee stops in Munich is the Café Luitpold, opened in 1888, where you can enjoy the same elegant surroundings as Wassily Kandinsky and other writers and artists of Munich’s Golden Age.  Perhaps order a slice of Prinzregententorte, the multi-layered chocolate cake named in honour of Prinz Luitpold, Bavaria’s much-respected Prince Regent between 1886 and 1912.

(City Breaks Munich Episode 13)

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Giotto’s perfect circle

Giotto’s perfect circle

In the 13th century, Pope Benedict asked Giotto to prove his artistic talent in order to earn a commission.  Giotto sent him a freehand drawing of a perfect circle, saying ‘that is enough and more!’   It worked and today you can see some of his best work in Florence: his madonna is in the Uffizi gallery and his crucifix hangs in the nave at the church of Santa Maria Novella. 

(Florence Episode 06)

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Cheer yourself up in a cemetery

Cheer yourself up in a cemetery

The author Balzac, famously workaholic, did leave his desk occasionally: ‘I rarely go out’ he wrote, ‘but when I do wander, I go to cheer myself up in Père Lachaise’.  It’s the world’s most-visited cemetery.

(Paris Episode 18)

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The power of flamenco

The power of flamenco

The writer Andre Gide recalled that a flamenco performance ‘touched a secret part of my heart’ and said that to hear the song again he would have ‘travelled over three Spains.’  

(City Breaks Seville Episode 09)

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Soviet Art

Soviet Art
Where best to see art in St Petersburg, other than at the Hermitage? There’s a thousand years of Russian art at the Russian Museum.  You can see, beautifully displayed in chronological order, everything from 11th century religious icons right up to works from the soviet era – like this one – and beyond.   It’s a masterclass which you can access for 500 roubles – that’s about £5!  
(St Petersburg Episode 14: Art and Architecture)
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Intellectual Paris

Intellectual Paris

You know you’re in academia as soon as you step off the metro at Cluny la Sorbonne in Paris. Dozens of French intellectuals have ‘autographed’ the ceiling!  Look out for Racine, Heloise and Simone de Beauvoir.

(Episode 11 of the Paris series: Montparnasse and the Latin Quarter)

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Renaissance Art

Renaissance Art

Want to brush up on renaissance art in advance of (or instead of!) a trip to Florence? We suggest checking out https://www.italian-renaissance-art.com/ where you’ll find the history and a timeline, loads of info on the artists and their work and even a special section on The Renaissance in Florence. So many lovely pictures …..

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City Break Idea: Gdansk

City Break Idea: Gdansk

Thank you to Art and Julie, who run a travel podcast (theplaceswherewego.com) and whose suggestion for a city-break idea we borrowed: Gdansk! ‘We fell in love with the history and the food’ they said. The history includes the Royal Way where Poland’s kings used to promenade, the huge outdoor WW2 museum and memorial at Westerplatte and the European Solidarity Centre in the city’s dockyard, where the Solidarity movement’s success in the 1980s led to the fall of communism. And the food? Think sauerkraut, beetroot, gherkins, sour cream, kohlrabi, mushrooms, sausages and smoked sausage.

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