We're looking back at the best bits from a year in Travel. Here are our Europe highlights.
DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE
In Boulevard Saint Michel, Paris, is a restaurant called Le Petite Cluny. It has some terrible reviews on Yelp from British visitors who ordered the filet mignon and beef bourguignon. I stumbled upon it, desperately in need of a €6 Aperol Spritz — after being crammed on to a hop-on-hop off packed with potential Yelpers. Perhaps, if I'd had Wi-Fi and read the reviews — I wouldn't have gone. I certainly wouldn't have gone to 'that place by the Eiffel tower' and spent €11 on a cafe au lait and been yelled at by the barista.
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I fell for the waiter immediately, because he was nice to me. Over four hours, he smoked cigarettes and I made my way through the cocktail list. We talked about the sadness in Christchurch, Notre Dame, where he was born and what I was wearing.
For my last supper I enjoyed the frites and happy-hour champagne. I asked my new friend if it was a strange mix and he told me, "you and I are strange, people are strange, that is not strange". I people watched from the cobblestone streets for while longer, before realising I could hook into the McDonald's Wi-Fi nearby if I wanted. Five stars.
— Anastasia Hedge
ETHICAL DARK TOURISM
If you find disaster tourism tacky and intrusive but remain curious about our darker impulses then a Geneva museum will jolt your senses and keep your ethics intact.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum is 20 minutes by bus from a terminal near the lake.
The permanent exhibitions cover decades of the human experience — brutal periods of suppression and conflict, the search for displaced peoples and the capacity of nature to wreak havoc on crowded settlements.
The museum is arranged for visitors to experience as a journey. The concept permits reflection, offers the chance to absorb and process some harrowing displays, and to emerge inspired by the work of Red Cross.
During a tour, visitors encounter 12 witnesses who all have a story to tell. They are projected into the room where the visit begins, and they each reflect on their distinct history.
The main exhibition is split into three — the idea of defending human dignity, where one witness is a former Sudanese child soldier; the restoration of family links, where the story of a child soldier is recounted; and the final theme of reducing natural risks.
Beyond King's Landing: A break away from Dubrovnik's crowds
There are some startling displays. In one darkened room, a huge foot tramples on images of terror and oppression. On a wall, simple artworks made by prisoners of conflict are displayed. They were collected by Red Cross delegates who visited the detainees, and they convey a sense of gratitude that the prisoners were not forgotten and offer a ray of hope that life could improve.
Suspended chains guard the entrance to the section devoted to restoring family ties. Visitors pass through the metal curtain into a collection of six million index cards assembled by the International Prisoners of War Agency. The story behind the cards is one of dislocation, internment and capture. The outcome for many — both those identified and their families — would frequently be tragic.
The permanent display ends with a survey of 21st-century disasters. For New Zealanders there is an echo in a cardboard structure designed by Shigeru Ban, the Japanese architecture behind Christchurch's post-earthquake cardboard cathedral. The message is that simple solutions can often be the best.
— Andrew Stone
WALES WITH A BAG OF SWEETS
Rolling chocolate Jaffas down Ffordd Pen Llech in Wales might sound petty, but I like to think it was an important diplomatic mission.
When I arrived in the town of Harlech in North Wales, things were tense between New Zealand and Wales. More important than the play-offs in the Rugby World Cup, the valley had recently been awarded the Guinness World Record for "steepest street", over Dunedin's Baldwin St.
Two countries united by a national sport; divided by surveying. The mood was tense.
Turning up with a bag of orange chocolate sweets was just the thing to diffuse the situation; even if I did have to pick up every single one.
— Thomas Bywater
Let me paint you a picture. Pun intended, you'll see what I mean soon.
You're sitting on the top deck of a luxury river ship on the outskirts of a quaint French town, a glass of Bordeaux wine in one hand and a paintbrush in the other.
Fresh cut sunflowers are fluttering in the breeze nearby, and a handsome local artist who doesn't speak a word of English is leaning over your artwork telling you it's "tres bon" even though you both know it's, well, garbage.
This was me just a few short months ago, enjoying a paint and wine class on board Uniworld's SS Bon Voyage in France.
There's a hundred beautiful things to see on this cruise, but some of the best moments are found when you sit down, take a breath, drink wine, attempt to paint some wisteria, and fail miserably.
If you travel to the other side of the world, you really owe it to yourself to experience the simple pleasure of sitting and watching the world float by in between paintbrush strokes.
In all the moments I experienced in southwestern France, this was by far the most peaceful, and the best way to make sure you let your gorgeous surroundings soak in properly.
Even if I couldn't bring the feeling alive on canvas, at least I could commit it to memory.
— Melissa Nightingale
CHEERS ALL ROUND
Sitting in a Dublin pub, it almost felt too good to be true. Like a scene from The Truman Show, or the kind of staged tourist experience you might encounter in parts of Asia. I'd wandered into a random bar, on a random Tuesday night, on a random street in the Irish capital, and happily chanced upon most of the best Irish cliches you could imagine.
The Guinness was perfect, a black and white work of art in a glass. The air frizzled with humour and craic, and the barman was full of banter, as we commiserated each other on our respective Rugby World Cup failures.
Perhaps best of all, a solo musician belted out songs in the corner, with verve, gusto and pride. We tucked into hearty pub fare, before the undoubted high point of the night, as the singer completed his set. He finished with some traditional favourites, including The Galway Girl, which prompted most of the punters present to join in with him, in a truly spine tingling moment of patriotism, unity and good old fashioned fun. Cheers, Ireland.
— Michael Burgess
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
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This coming week at Pop, we've got... 🎧 Baked Bean DJ Workshops - for those with disabilities | Tuesday 12-3pm 🎤 Special Guest - open mic | Tuesday 7-10pm 🍁 Big Indie Autumn Sessions: Eliza Shaddad | Wednesday 7pm-close 🦋 Camberwell Connection - South London reggae veterans grace the decks | Friday 7pm-close 🐦 Premature & Birds Present: You're No Good - dancehall, house and techno | Saturday 7pm-close #popbrixton #brixton #lambeth #djworkshop #openmic #livemusic #liveband #djset #reggae #dancehall #house #techno
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We hadn't intended it. Old friends from Auckland - one of us now living in London, the other (me) on an extended European summer holiday. Saturday afternoon catch-ups like we used to - drinks and food and gossip and news. But this time we were in Brixton, London - the gritty suburb now conflicted with gentrification - and somehow we ended up here. The New Zealand Cellar: a New Zealand bar, where we drank New Zealand wine, Six60 playing on the sound system. I'm unashamed to say we sang along. You don't have to fly the Kiwi flag at Pop Brixton - an urban garden built from former shipping containers, now bursting at the seams with bars, street food, vintage shopping and late-night live music. We ate plant-based "burgers" from Halo, drank Brixton craft beer from S11 Bar, but eventually, we found ourselves at home.
— Stephanie Holmes