Sunday, March 30, 2014
Rail Europe has released its top ten picks of Europe’s Wild and Wonderful Festivals for 2014. With the aim to inspire adventurous travellers seeking out new experiences beyond the usual hotspots to enhance their next European trip, the list is in order of the calendar months and include festivals that are cultural, musical and downright unusual.
- Battle of the Oranges in Turin, Italy (2-4 March)
Taking place in the ancient town of Ivrea in Turin, this free-to-watch annual event attracts over 100,000 spectators. A re-creation of a historic fight between the town’s people and a ruling tyrant, the event sees competitive teams battle with oranges. Turin is an hour’s train ride from Milan on the high-speed Trenitalia Frecciarrosa service. Click for suggestions on a travel itinerary within Piedmont.
- Lass Fallas in Valencia, Spain (19 March)
A celebration that dates back to the middle-ages where excess winter supplies are burnt, today’s rendition is a musical and explosive pyrotechnics celebration of Spain’s history and culture. Revelers dress in traditional costumes dance and dance to fiesta beats and gunpowder explosions. The best way to get to Valencia is on the high-speed AVE train from Madrid, which takes 1.40hrs or 3.00hrs from Barcelona. Travellers can also visit Rail Europe Connexion for travel ideas in the Valencia region.
Las Fallas Festival
- Oerol in Terschellings, The Netherlands (13-22 June)
1982 saw the island of Terschellings turn into a venue for art installations and the performing arts. Requiring three train rides and boat journey from Amsterdam, this artistic haven attracts hundreds of artists and thousands of visitors to the island over the 10 days each year. Amsterdam is about 3.30hr from Paris on the Thalys.
- Roskilde Festival in Roskilde, Denmark (28 June - 6 July)
One of the largest music festivals in Europe, the Roskilde Festival features 180 performers on a dozen stages entertaining more than 100,000 music revelers. With all genres of music available, the festival donates all profits to humanitarian and cultural causes. The best way to get to Roskilde is via the 20minute train ride from Copenhagen. Click on the Rail Europe Connexion site for suggested itineraries in Denmark.
- Tomorrowland in Boom, Belgium (18-27 July)
With more than 20 stages that transform into different storybook themes, crowds are transported into whimsical worlds where they dance to beats by world-renowned DJs. Attracting music revelers from more than 85 countries around the world, Tomorrowland is an extravagant two-weekend event. The journey to Boom is an hour on a train from Brussels. Click for itineraries around Brusells and Flanders.
- Secret Garden Party in Abbots Ripton, England (24 – 27 July)
One of the most sought-after summer festivals in the UK, the annual party carries a theme each year where party go-ers fancy dress, play, watch performances, compete in games and parade to summer tunes. From camping to glamping, this event draws in crowds from all societies. The train journey from London to Huntingdon is 55 minutes. Itineraries around that region of England can be found on Rail Europe Connexion site.
- Sziget in Budapest, Hungary (4-11 August)
Known as Eastern Europe’s ‘Burning Man’, Sziget is a music festival that runs around the clock with non-stop music, performances, cultural experiences and food. With over 1,000 performances during the week-long fest, the event set on the island of Obudai-Sziget in the Danube river attracts about 400,000 fans. Budapest can be reached via leisurely overnight trains from many countries in Europe including France, Switzerland and Germany. From Budapest, travel to other parts of Hungary is only a short train ride away.
- Zurich Street Festival in Zurich, Switzerland (2 August)
Zurich’s annual Street Parade Festival sees 30 love mobiles, a handful of stages and more than one million people dancing and partying to electronic tunes spun by 100s of volunteer DJs from around the world. Along with the free parade, more than 100 smaller parties sprout around Zurich over the parade weekend. Zurich is a 4hr train ride from Paris. Travelling around Switzerland is best with a Swiss Pass.
- La Mercè in Barcelona, Spain (20-24 September)
A four-day end of summer celebration all around Barcelona, this is the best time to see the city alive with non-stop entertainment, events, free concerts and free entries to museums. Each day starts with a parade of mythical characters that fill the streets. The Thalys high-speed train service links Paris and Barcelona in about six hours and onward itineraries can be found on Rail Europe Connexions.
- Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Scotland (29 December – 2 January)
Originally an ancient pagan song and fire celebration to ward off winter spirits, today, Hogmanay is a five-day fest in and around Edinburgh with performances, parades, open houses, firework displays, concerts and more. Edinburgh is leisurely 4.30hr train from London.
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Thursday, March 27, 2014
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
It couldn't be further from Las Vegas than from here to the moon. But hey! this hotel is looking very Nevada-ish old-school neon with extra curricular enticement. Before walking through the doors of the historic Hotel Nevada & Gambling Hall I'm stepping on the stars in the footpath. Wayne Newton, Ingrid Bergman, Gary Cooper and other Hollywood and Las Vegas notables. This was surprising as Ely is a bit off the beaten track and certainly not in the grand five-star food chain.
The hotel was built in 1926 (six storeys too) and was the first building in the state to be fire-proofing.
Rooms were rented for $1.50 and up - touted as all with private toilet, '85 per cent private baths'.
Prohibition was still in effect and the hotel entertained with bootlegged refreshments and you could have a punt all day.
Ah, the heady days of 'Bathtub Gin' made from raw alcohol, water and flavourings and the gentle tipple of 'White Lightning' supplied by the locals made for an interesting aperitif or two!
The hotel is as she was all that time ago. OK modern appliances and all that comes with the 21st century but is hasn't been tricked up at all - in fact it's a classic, historic, atmospheric mess.
Walk in the door and the pokies (slot machines) are winking and blinking, paraphernalia of the past Wild West and Wild Rocker days adorn the walls and lots of wonderful nostalgic black and white images crowd the walls.
I enter a small lift and am deposited on the third floor for my room - damn, I don't get the Jimmy Stewart room.
Small room (as they were built almost 90 years ago); get my WiFi mojo happening and cosy up on my bed with a few chains hanging over it - more rustic décor than S&M.
A great sleep and down to a full-on Nevada breakfast - I'll have the lot'. Gotta love American breakfasts - this meal would take me out rustling cattle, fighting a range war, starting a gold rush and back home again for a barn dance - yeeha!
Many of the rooms have nameplates including John Wayne - this hotel was a stopping overnight place as the starts from the 30s onwards would be motoring to Sun Valley and other holiday resorts.
If you are ever in this neck of the woods - check out Ely, as it's got a wide-street, quiet nights kind of appeal - it's High Desert country and most of the downtown buildings have quaint painted murals depicting the city's colourful history of pioneers, miners and the Pont Express AND . . .
the rich railroad history is classic here. You can even have a holiday and pay about $800-900 for the privilege of working on a classic loco - for train buffs this is holiday Nirvana.
The Nevada Northern Railway National Historic Landmark is the last of its kind - the sole survivor of the grand era of railroading in the Silver State. But there's no death throes here - it's a living, breathing, operating railroad. No pretty glass cases here holding polished remnants of machinery - this is get down and dirty, gritty equipment in the vast complex of buildings.
There are four original steam locomotives, six original diesel locos, and more than 60 pieces of original rolling stock - the oldest piece dates to 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant sat in the White House (and not on a $50 bill).
Climb aboard and travel back in time - the train's waiting for you.
You can have Railway Reality Week - to work on the Railroad, for a hands-on experience for around $US999; a Winter Photo Shoots special - witness railroading as it was last century and photograph century-old original steam locos pulling vintage freight and passenger cars, around $US500.
Ely is in White Pine County, in the heart of Nevada's scenic heartland - founded in 1970 as a trading post called Murry Station, and eventually grew to be one of the country's major copper mining regions.
It's located at the crossroads of US Highways 50, 93 and 6.
www.nnry.com and the facebook page for the railway is www.facebook.com/nnry1 and on check out www.youtube.com/nnry1Happy trails and Rails . . .