The Tate Modern, London

The Tate modern is a huge sight that impresses its visitors. Formerly a Bankside Power Station, it is today a modern art museum, thanks to the work of the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. A perfect example of how something which was destined to be abandoned can be turned into a famous attraction. Not very attractive from the outside, but astonishing inside. Probably not as complete as the Pompidou Museum, but still not to be missed. The access is free, just like other museums in London. Free guided tours are organized daily. You pay for the extras and the temporary exhibitions, which are hosted in the enormous Turbine Hall; they are quite expensive, it is really subjective whether they might be worth it. The price of the audio guide is 4£; it gives an explanation of several of the artworks exposed.

tate-modern

Source: www.londres.es

The permanent collection is organized chronologically and by theme on levels 2 to 4. We are talking about more than 60000 pieces of art, from different artists which are very well known to the public: Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, among others. It opens from 10 am to 6 pm from Sunday until Thursday, while the closing time is extended until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy the museum. If you are not a passionate about modern arts you might not appreciate it, some of the artwork appear to be odd to some people. On the other hand, since it is free you can still go and take a look, you will see something completely different. And if you get tired pretty quickly, if you like enjoying a coffee with a view, make sure you do not miss the bar on the fifth floor.

For the most passionate, it is possible to book a private tour:

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The Cathedral of Toledo: la Primada

A Cathedral, especially when it is the first one built in the Spanish Peninsula, is always worth a visit. It occupies the place of the main Mosque of Toledo, which was built itself on the rests of an ancient Visigothic Church. Which means we are talking about a site charged with symbolism. In fact, you can still assist to a Visigothic Mass once a day. Is is not necessary to be a religious person in order to appreciate its marvellous architecture.

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Source: www.ciudadesyrincones.com

But you should bear in mind a couple of things in case you want to visit the Cathedral of Toledo. First of all, its peculiar opening times. In Wintertime it closes at 6 PM, while in Summertime at 6.45 PM, a little early considering the season. The entry cost 8€, while for 11€ you can access as well the Bell Tower, from which you can enjoy wonderful views of the city. Children below 12 years old can enter for free. On Sundays Spanish nationals can access for free, after 2 PM and, without the option of the Bell Tower. If you are coming by car, there is plenty of parking space available along the city walls. Quite easy to get in.

The audio guide, approximately 90 minutes, costs 3€ and is totally worth it. The Cathedral itself is well preserved and has some little treasures you should not miss. The Chorus and the Custodia de Juan de Arfe, among others; while in the Sacristy you can find a small but important collection of paintings from el Greco, Caravaggio, Velasquez and Goya. Even though the price is a bit high for a Church, do not forget you will be in a sacred place. It is forbidden to take pictures inside, and there could be several religious services going on at the same time during your visit.

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Source: antonioheras.com

There are a couple of day trips from Madrid that include the Cathedral you might be interested in:

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The British Museum, London

With about five million visitors each year, the British Museum is without any doubt London’s most important tourist attraction. It is very close to Russell square, not too far from the National Gallery. It was founded back in 1753 and opened for the public for free 6 years later. The collection has grown considerably during the years, basically as a result of British Imperialism. Today it covers a huge period of history (over 7000 years): ancient Egyptians, Greeks, China, Middle Age…and the list goes on.

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Source: www.britishmuseum.org

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The Roman Collection – Source: www.londontown.com

The place is huge so you have different options when visiting; the entrance is free, just like the National Gallery you pay for the extras (such as the iPad tours) and the temporary expositions, which are generally worth the little supplement. You can reserve a couple of hours and have a general view or stay there the whole day (it opens from 10.oo A.M. to 5.00 P.M.) and have lunch inside, the restaurant has very reasonable prices. You can also make some focused visits, depending on what interests you the most; there are 15 free tours of individual galleries per day (eyeOpener tours) and Highlight tours (paid separately).

Of course it’s always busy, but if you want a little more time to browse at leisure, try to pick an “off-time” when school groups likely won’t be there. This avoids the general frustration that comes when you visit such a musuem. You can spend hours there and probably not see everything. If you like taking pictures, take a spare battery with you, because you will need it. You definitely should not miss Rosetta’s stone (the key to ancient Egypt’s writing system) and the Bust of Ramesses the great on the ground floor, while on the upper floor do not forget to check the Egyptian mummies and different artifacts from Anglosaxon England.

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Rosetta’s Stone – Source: www.britishmuseum.org

If visiting with children it might get more complicated, since they tend to get tired pretty quickly. You might want to cut your visit in two days, check our what they like the most or hire the activity packs for each area. It is basically a backpack of the area of your choice with different activities inside for the kids to follow. They ask a ten pounds deposit. The museum encourages the parents with small children to bring their strollers in and use it during your visit. It would make your time much easier.

The museum is always crowded, but you can avoid the peak hours, especially when the students are visiting in groups. If you wish, you can hire a guide throughout the collection:

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The National Gallery of London

The National Gallery is among the most important attractions in London, and a must-see for those people who are passionate about arts. It is one of the richest art galleries in the whole world. You can appreciate its collection even if you are not an expert. The paintings, about 2300 pieces, cover a period from 1250 to 1900, and are located in different rooms.

For example, the High Renaissance is covered in the West Wing. where you can find paintings of Michelangelo, Rubens and El Greco among others. The most popular section is the East Wing (1700-1900), where Van Gogh and Monet hold court. The masterpieces of the National Gallery of London are very well known to the general public:

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Venus and Mars by Botticelli – Source: www.nationalgallery.org.uk

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Sunflowers by Van Gogh – Source www.nationalgallery.org.uk

The building is huge, you might need hours or even a couple of days in order to see all the paintings. Since its foundation  in 1824 it gradually grew thanks to private donations. If you do not have much time the best thing is to select a particular section so that you can see what interests you the most. The restaurants are quite good, if you feel like taking a break and continue with your visit after lunch.

The most astonishing fact is that you can access the National Gallery of London for free, you pay for the extras (map of the building, audioguides…) and for temporary expositions. Beware, the gifts shops are particularly expensive. The audioguides (3.50 pounds) can be very useful, although for some languages they are not complete and do not have comments for all the paintings. You can give a donation if you wish, either on site or online

Some parts might be closed, which is why it is better to check in advance. There have been some proposals for the privatization of the museum, which resulted in strikes and the consequent closure of some parts, due to the lack of staff. In such a case you might want to leave your visit for the future if there are some parts you really wanted to see or just enjoy the rest, there is more than enough.

Being one of the most important museum of the whole world, you might want to take covers and avoid the queues. This can be done if you access the building first thing is the morning (it opens at 10.00). The busiest time if from 15.00 to 18.00 approximately, especially if a group of students is visiting the museum. For a more personalised visit, you can book a private tour, just check the link below:

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Your Bicentennial Concierge remains at your disposal for further information.

Luxury Yacht in Greece, Fiskardo

This luxury yacht in Greece is an American Californian Veneti 44 Motor Cruiser powered by two 375HP caterpillar engines.

For the 2015 season it will be based in the south of Argostoli, the capital of Kefalonia. It is located at a 15 minutes drive from the airport.

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Source: www.tripadvisor.com

The yacht has 2 double cabins with ensuite showers and washroom facilities, a spacious lounge with TV, CD player and stereo system. A third cabin has two single beds. Linen is provided.

For a comfortable stay, inside the yacht there is air conditioning, a microwave, an iron, a kettle and wifi connection.

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8bSource: www.tripadvisor.com

The upper deck has a large sunbathing area with sunbeds and an outdoor dining area.

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Source: www.tripadvisor.com

Different classes are available, the prices for the individual ones are calculated on before the booking process, depending on the classes required. This way you will have a personalized price and will be sure that the necessary equipment will be onboard when you will be enjoying your holiday. In addition to SCUBA diving equipment they also provide snorkelling equipment.

Day trips are available, starting from 600 euros per day plus fuel costs, which are calculated on a daily basis and are to be paid by the guest at the conclusion of the holiday.

Please check other customers’ opinion and send a message to the owner in case you need further information. Your Bicentennial Concierge is available for assistance.

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Topkapi Palace in Istanbul

The Topkapi Palace in Istanbul (www.topkapisarayi.gov.tr) is one of the attraction you must see. It was constructed between 1470 and 1478, after the city was conquered by Mehmet the conqueror. It has been the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for almost 400 years, and even though it was abandoned when Abdül Mecid I decided to move to the new Dolmabahçe Palace, it never lost completely its importance. After the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, the Topkapi Palace was converted into a museum, the first one of the newly born State.

Today it covers an area of approximately 400.000 square meters, on a promontory that overlooks the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn. The view you get from several points of the Palace is breathtaking. You should take half a day if you want to see the different parts properly. It consists of several buildings and four different courtyards. A special authorization is needed if you want to take pictures inside.

The Imperial Gate, which recalls the portals of the medieval castles, is the door to the first courtyard, the largest one. It was the only section open to the public, which served mainly as the waiting area when the Sultan received important people for special events. In this area you can find as well the Byzantine Church of Hagia Irene, which was never destroyed although it was used for storage. The Karakol restaurant, probably a little expensive, offers some good food and wonderful views over the Bosphorus.

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The Imperial Gate – Source: www.tripadvisor.in

The Gate of Salutation is the door from the first to the second courtyard. Only important people could pass through, but only the Sultan was allowed to do that on his horseback. The buildings you can find here are mainly administrative ones. The main ones are the Imperial Council (where all the official meeting took place), the Imperial stables, the Tower of Justice and the Palace Kitchens. It is strongly advisable to have a look at one of the finest collection of Chinese porcelain (about 10.000 pieces); the arms collection, a rich assemblage of Islamic weapons, is also remarkable.

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The Gate of Salutation – Source: www.webturkey.org

The third courtyard, with the actual Palace, is located beyond the Gate of Felicity. That is where the Sultan spend his everyday life, beside the Harem. One of the most important buildings in this area is the Audience Hall, where the Sultan received foreign ambassadors.

But there are more building to see. For example the The Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force, which houses the Imperial Wardrobe collection (about 2.500 garments). Then there is the Conqueror’s Pavilion, one of the oldest parts of the whole structure, was mainly used as a storage room where the items of the treasury were conserved; you can get a wonderful view from the terrace.

The Dormitory of the Royal Pages houses the Imperial Portraits Collection, which consits of rare portraits of the Sultans and some photographs of the last ones.

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The Gate of Felicity – Source: www.tripadvisor.co.uk

From the third courtyard you can access the Harem (you will have to buy an additional ticket); it had hundreds of rooms, for the Sultan’s mother, his wifes and concubines, as well as his children. There is no particular furniture here, reason for which some people think it is not worth seeing.

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Life in the Harem – Source: www.panoramio.com

The Fourth and last courtyard was mainly a sactuary for the Sultan and his family. The Circumcission room is here, as well as a Mosque and several kiosks and gardens. You can get a very nice panoramic view of the Sea of Marmara from here.

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The Baghdad Kiosk – Source: www.panoramio.com

The information reported here is not complete, there is so much to see at the Topkapi that you will need about 4 hours in order to have a satisfying general visit. During the summer have always water with you, since most rooms are not air conditioned. As said earlier, there is a restaurant for lunch, plus several bars in the different courtyards. The shaded gardens are a plus when it is very hot. More opinions can be read here: 

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As you could probably imagine, this attraction is mainly massified; it receives lots of groups, which can make disturb your visit. You have two options. The first one is buying the tickets or the Istanbul Museums Card in advance (so that you can avoid the queues), go right after the opening and rent an audio guide for a deep explanation of what you will be seeing. The second one is a tour, with entrance fees included and a guide:

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In any case, your Bicentennial Concierge will be glad to help you out.

The Picasso Museum in Malaga

Since 2003 Malaga, a Spanish city located in the souther part of the country (Costa del Sol), is housing a museum dedicated to the universal artist Pablo Picasso.

It has to be said that even though he spent most of his life in Paris, he was born in Malaga on the 25th  of October, 1881.
the creation of an arts centre which could house his work, but for different reasons the project was aborted. It was reconsidered again in 1996 cuando se reinició el proyecto, but it finally became a reality in 2003, 50 years later.

The Picasso Museum in Malaga is located in a very peculiar building, the palacio of Buenavista. It dates back to the 16th century; Diego de Cazalla, who helped the Catholic Monarchs to get back the city against during the Reconquista, ordered its construction. During the 19th century it became a property of the Counts of Buenavista, who gave them today’s name to the museum. It is in fact a building with a renascentist style, with some moorish elements and a beautiful tower: a typical Andalucian building.

Sin t+¡tuloFuente: www.museopicassomalaga.org

In the underground right below the Palace there are some exceptional archeological remains of phoenician, roman, moorish and renascentist origins , which gives an added value to the collection housed in the building.
It is today perfectly restored with all the facilities and services which are necessary for a nice visit. Since this is not a big museum we do recommend to see it quietly and not in a hurry, so that you can appreciate all the details.

For the correct conservation of the artistic material the temperature inside is about 20 º, which means that, especially during the summer, there is a big difference compared to the outside temperature.
It can be accessed without any problems by people on a wheelchair. You would have to warn the staff at the entrance.

In 2006 the American Institute of Architects gave the Picasso Museum a recognition with Institute Honor Awards for Architecture. The judge noticed “the beautiful work of architectural restoration, which iserted the Museum inside this Mediterranean city. The new sections fit with elegance with the surrounding area as well as a palace of the 16th century and its patios”.

MPMFuente: www.museopicassomalaga.org

The Picasso Museum of Malaga houses 233 pieces of art, plus 43 more for a temporary exposition about Pablo Picasso, thanks to a 15-year agreement with the Almine & Bernard Ruiz-Picasso Foundation for Arts (FABA).

Even though the sole fact that the museum has several original paintings, there are not any particularly known piece of art, since the most famous are located in others museums of the world . On the other hand you can find some high valuable work, such as the ‘’frutero’’ (fruit basket), painted in Paris in 1919, ispired by the still life of Paul Cézanne. You can see here as well a portrait of Picasso’s wife, the dancer Olga Khokhlova with a mantilla (below images).

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frutero. pARIS 1919

Fuente: www.museopicassomalaga.org

It is very useful to make the visit accompanied by one the guides working for the museum, although for a deeper explanation itmight be best to hire a private one. Historians specialized in Picasso’s life can give you a wonderful tour of the whole museum.

In conclusion, a very interesting museum in a very interesting part of Spain.

Please check the following websites for reference, and do not forget that your Bicentennial Concierge is always at your disposal:

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Plaza de España in Seville

The Plaza de España in Seville is a clear example of regionalist architecture. Located inside the Park ok Maria Luisa, out of the Old Town, it was built to be the main building of the Ibero American Exposition of 1929; the park itself was a donation from the Dukes of Montpensier to the city for the occasion. The whole square is mainly built using bricks, while the ceramic dominates the decoration. Its benches represent the  Spanish Provinces, while its semi-eliptical shape symbolizes Spain embracing the ex-colonies. Once the Exposition was over, the Plaza was supposed to be part of the University of Seville; nevertheless, it ended up being the military headquarter, leaving the interior parts out of the tourists’ sight.
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plaza de españa
© 2014 The Bicentennial Concierge

It is a spectacular complex, which does not remain unnoticed; in fact, it has been used several times in the past as the background of different movies. Many cinephiles definitely remember  the classic «Lawrence of Arabia»: the Plaza de España was the general headquarter of the British Army in Cairo. Many years after that, George Lucas shot a part of  Star Wars in 2002.

Source: YouTube

The Plaza de España in Seville is without any doubt one of the main symbols of the city, which anyone should visit,  even though some regular maintenance should be done to the building, and the fact that the interior parts cannot be seen, except for special occasions. The Military Museum is insteresting, but nothing extraordinary. During the summer, it is advisable to go there during the first hours of the morning or in the evening. The Park can be seen all day long.

You can visit the Plaza de España with a private guided walking tour, on a bike (bit.ly/1lXnFQ9), or even with the Hop-on Hop-off bus (bit.ly/1tAq6Xh).

You can also check other people’s opinion for further information and the guided tours.  In any case, your Bicentennial Concierge remains at your disposal 


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