Cervo Mountain Resort: a feel-good retreat in Switzerland

Cervo Mountain Resort: a feel-good retreat in Switzerland

Cervo Mountain Resort: a feel-good retreat in Switzerland

Carnaby is synonymous with the Swinging Sixties. Get there now and experience a brand new jive.

It watched me from behind wispy clouds, tall, bold, stoic and wearing what seemed to be a white shawl wrapped around its frosty peak. The Matterhorn, the jewel of the Swiss Alps was the majestic view from my terrace of Cervo Mountain Resort my neighbour and backdrop soaring to a breathtaking height of 4.478 metres.  


What better symbol of strength and confidence to accompany me as I ventured on my first holistic healing retreat in southern Switzerland?

The Cervo Mountain Healing Holistic Summit  

Nestled in the rugged beauty and high altitude of the Alpine landscape, Zermatt proved the appropriate location for 17 strangers to gather together to reset goals, pursue ambitions, to let go of negativity and the emotional scars of the past.  Travelling from pockets around the globe – New York to LA, London to Oxford and places in between, this retreat was billed as a Holistic Healing Summit, led by a celebrity specialist and arranged by the retreat company, Travelgems.  The group was aged from 17- 79, but there was no age limit, and no fitness level expectation.

 For some, this was a first-time experience, for others a reunion. An immersion into a new culture and miles away from that safe personal comfort zone. Each one bringing the determination to add more to their lives in a part of the world new and foreign to them.

The Travelgems Retreat Programme

The common denominator at Cervo Mountain Resort was Eloise Joan, an American celebrity fitness and life coach supremo, prominent on US networks. Each participant knew her courtesy of fitness apps, platforms and magazines. Over the months and years, she has been their online instructor, appearing on their screens and hearing through headphones and speakers but the retreat brought her into real-time.

Over the 6 days, she was the leader, coaching and guiding each individual to conquer fear, strengthen self-esteem and improve fitness levels. And, of course, to perfect the mountain pose.

Each day started with an active body session, a blend of soulful yoga, stretch, “Barre Blend”, and mindfulness. A well-deserved nutritious breakfast presented a time to share experiences and socialise in readiness for the challenges of the day, be it paragliding, a five-hour hike or sustainable wakeboarding. Success stemmed from facing and overcoming physical and emotional obstacles, or not.

No pressure, no guilt. Group support and encouragement were apparent as was positivity, friendship and fun.


It is said that it takes 6 days to transform behaviour. At the end of the Cervo Mountain retreat, it was evident that the investment in time and personal effort resulted in dividends. Gone were the stressed expressions. Instead, there was laughter and joy. Goals had been reset, paths mapped out, friendships forged and a brighter future ahead. Before leaving I stood on the hotel terrace to see the Matterhorn in its full glory, the clouds had blown away and had been replaced with the energy and strength of nature itself. The air is fresh, the scenery breathtaking, and the Matterhorn radiates confidence from a feel-good retreat in Switzerland.

The Village of Zermatt

 Group gatherings, individual coaching and leisure time to off-load weighty thoughts and overcome deep-rooted barriers, hidden for a decade, were scheduled as well as time to build friendships and indulge in time alone to rethink and reset. And there was time to soak up the location and culture. Snuggly cradled in the Swiss Alps, the village of Zermatt is quaint and definitely a draw to tourists, come sun and snow.

Car-free, it has preserved its original character. It’s lined with shops selling outdoor leisure wear, posh boutiques and accessorized with displays of expensive Breitling watches.

Traditional restaurants serve rösti and fondues with Swiss cheeses while hand-made Swiss chocolates and Toblerones, of course, are displayed on every corner.

This is a destination popular with explorers, adventurers and pioneers, drawn to the legendary Matterhorn. British mountaineer, Edward Whymper was the first to climb this pyramidal peak back in July 1865 which led to global recognition of this area. The “Matterhorn glacier paradise” is Europe’s largest and highest-lying summer skiing region. Over 400 kilometres of hiking trails lead through and out of the Matter Valley, including the mule traders’ trails, which date back to the 13th century (a part of these paths is paved).

These natural surroundings are postcard portraits of sky-high peaks, mountain lakes, alpine meadows, larch forests dotted with cuddly, black-nosed goats and accessible by bike, rope, foot or four-wheels.

The Retreat Hotel

Perched high is the 5-star Cervo Mountain Resort, trendy, cool and laid back which provided the perfect ambience for the retreat.

A place at one with its environment dotted with contemporary alpine elements using natural materials and food sourced from local farms and fishermen.  It offers 54 rooms, suites and lodges and a contemporary spa, a haven for weary explorers.


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Why you must visit the Carnaby area in London’s West End.

Why you must visit the Carnaby area in London’s West End.

Why you must visit the Carnaby area in London’s West End.

Carnaby is synonymous with the Swinging Sixties. You can get there now and experience a brand new jive.

As heydays go, Carnaby’s was phenomenal and part of the tapestry of the Swinging 60s. For an entire decade, you could eat, drink, and be merry alongside music stars, including David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, and style icons Brigitte Bardot and Elizabeth Taylor just by hanging out there. And, here’s a fun fact: Paul McCartney met Linda on 15 May at Bag O’ Nails Club, 9 Kingly Street in Carnaby.

Though the Swinging 60s are no longer, the Carnaby area is back in motion with its jive style. Look upwards on Carnaby Street and see the Shimmer Disc Union Flag, the Rainbow Arch, and the Carnaby Street Arch that heralds 14 streets with over 100 shops and 60 restaurants, bars, and cafés.

Shopping in Carnaby

Start at Great Malborough Street, where Liberty looks dapper in its historic Tudor building – six floors made from timbers of two ancient ‘three-decker’ battle ships amounting to 24,000 cubic feet of vessel woods, including their decks now being the shop flooring.

Swatch, Sweaty Betty, Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, The North Face, and Timberland have outlets there. Still, Carnaby’s independent boutique shops shine their light with ingenuity and creativity, making it a must-visit.

Annie’s Ibiza on 3 Newburgh Street could not be more distinct. This is where you shop to find the perfect dress to party in. The rails shimmer with glitz and sparkle. Annie’s wardrobe reflects her shop, including some vintage pieces. I would love to meet her after seeing her flair and the clothes she has curated.

Being far too bashful (and not skinny enough), I could only admire these one-off and sometimes highly revealing pieces.

There’s more creative fashion at 8 Newburgh Street. Hayley Menzies is most famous for her long cardigans and her general use of bold prints and luxurious natural fibers. You will find a highly curated mix of pieces at her beautiful new boutique, which she describes as a contemporary luxury brand creating the vintage of the future.

IKKS Paris has its bright and spacious UK flagship shop on 3 Carnaby Street. The vibe is urban style with a rock and roll attitude. The pieces are stylish, and it would be easy to shop here for a complete capsule wardrobe, not just for you but for all ages, from baby to toddler and teens to adult.

You can almost sense when a tongue is being poked at you. But it would help if you went in when it is a shop RS No.9 Carnaby, and the language is a vast red sculpture of their logo. The flagship store under the famous Spirit of Soho mural is everything Rolling Stones, and every item is exclusive to their rock n’ roll style.
At number 10 is Ksubi. This brand has existed since 1999, and many think it is Australia’s hottest fashion label. It’s best for teens/early 20s, those years when the rebel attitude suits this fashion. I liked their distressed denim and cross logo.

I nipped into a white-washed cavelike Bloobloom boutique at number 24 only to find a lifetime deal. They design and sell specs at £99, including an eye test. On top of that, they donate a pair to someone in need with each team they sell. No brainer. I am returning soon for my eye test.

Shoes can become an obsession; they must be at Kat Maconie shoe store on 29 Carnaby Street. You cannot miss them; they are instantly recognizable with dazzling colors and hardware frames on architectural heels. You cannot be more maximalist. I particularly enjoyed looking at highly colorful tasseled sandals (£330). The Great Frog on Ganton Street’s black exterior is the perfect frame for its skulls and Gothic. It has been there for almost 40 years and has served the likes of Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Motorhead among its clients. Their black diamond skull is always associated with London’s avant-garde design.
Last but not least, the quality of the local charity store must reflect the area. At 8 Ganton Street is Mind, a permanent store that curates its offerings carefully. You’ll find designer clothes topped up daily—a great place to find a bargain.

Inko Nito offers top-notch unconventional Japanese food served in tapas style. The environment is lively, the room bright and spacious, and perfect for couples and groups. The centerpiece is a robata grill, where meat is perfectly grilled and served directly. The food was flavoursome and delicious. I liked the cocktails, too. Go for the Premium Tasting Menu and taste the best choices.

Drinks and snacks: In Cahoot

Kingly Court has many enticing places, but I went deep underground in a fantasy, disused London train station called Cahoots at 5 Kingly Street. It’s darkish, all very hush hush, invoking 1946. Staff are dressed accordingly, and my Winston Curchill cocktail (a tropical number among ten other signature drinks, beers, and wins) was served in a Winston Churchill lookalike mug. Snacks arrived, sausages, croquettes, and other treats.

Here, patrons are referred to as London Scoundrels. Though I could have stayed in this underground facility, I crossed the road to check out Cahoot premises opposite, where live music was playing to channel my inner scoundrel.

Where to Stay

 Karma Sanctum Rock n’ Roll Hotel, with its late-night roof terrace, Michelin-starred restaurant, and members club, puts the fun in funky. Check out our full review of Karma Sanctum Hotel.

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Things To Do In Portugal

The Top Places to see and Things to do in Portugal

The Top Places to see and Things to do in Portugal

Portugal is a country of rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant cultures. Here’s a list of top places to see and activities to do:

Top Places:

  1. Lisbon: The capital city is known for its historic neighborhoods like Alfama and Bairro Alto, the Belem Tower, Jerónimos Monastery, and the LX Factory – a hub of shops, restaurants, and cultural activities.

  2. Porto: This northern city, known for its port wine, offers the stunning Ribeira District, Livraria Lello (one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world), and the Dom Luís I Bridge.

  3. Sintra: A UNESCO World Heritage site, it boasts the colorful Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, and Quinta da Regaleira.

  4. Algarve: This southern region offers beautiful beaches and cliffs, especially in areas like Lagos, Faro, and Albufeira.

  5. Coimbra: Home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, the University of Coimbra, and the beautiful Joanina Library.

  6. Évora: Another UNESCO World Heritage site, known for its Roman temple, chapel of bones (Capela dos Ossos), and medieval walls.

  7. Douro Valley: Famous for its terraced vineyards along the Douro River, it’s a must-visit for wine lovers.

  8. Madeira and Azores: These Portuguese archipelagos offer stunning landscapes, from volcanic craters and lush forests in the Azores to the terraced gardens in Madeira.

  9. Óbidos: A charming medieval town surrounded by walls and known for its picturesque streets and the Óbidos Castle.

  10. Cascais and Estoril: Coastal towns close to Lisbon, known for their beaches, the Boca do Inferno cliffs, and the casino in Estoril.

Things to Do:

  1. Wine tasting in Porto: Sample world-renowned Port wines.

  2. Tram 28 ride in Lisbon: A historic tram ride that offers a tour of the city’s most famous sights.

  3. Attend Fado show: Experience the soul of Portuguese music in an intimate setting, especially in Lisbon or Coimbra.

  4. Surfing in Nazaré or Peniche: These are among Europe’s top surfing destinations, with Nazaré known for its record-breaking big waves.

  5. Visit the Caves of Benagil: Accessible only by water, it’s a stunning sea cave in the Algarve.

  6. Hiking in the Azores: Particularly on Sao Miguel Island, which offers diverse landscapes, including the Sete Cidades twin lakes.

  7. Eat Pastéis de Nata: No visit is complete without trying these iconic Portuguese custard tarts.

  8. Nightlife in Bairro Alto, Lisbon: This neighborhood comes alive at night with a plethora of bars and street parties.

  9. Hot springs in the Azores: Particularly in Furnas on Sao Miguel Island.

  10. Visit a “quinta” in the Douro Valley: Experience wine production and enjoy a tasting session.

This list merely scratches the surface of what Portugal offers. Depending on interests, visitors might also delve into historical tours, culinary adventures, nature excursions, and many more enriching experiences.

Cheapest Places to Travel

Cheapest Places toTravel in the World

Cheapest Places toTravel in the World

Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean sacrificing exciting experiences. Several destinations around the world offer affordable travel options without compromising on fun and adventure. Here are some of the cheapest places to travel in the world:

  1. Vietnam: From the bustling streets of Hanoi to the serene landscapes of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam offers a rich cultural experience at a fraction of the cost compared to many other Asian destinations.

  2. Cambodia: Home to the magnificent Angkor Wat temple complex, Cambodia boasts affordable accommodations, delicious street food, and a welcoming atmosphere.

  3. Bolivia: This South American gem offers stunning landscapes, including the otherworldly Salar de Uyuni salt flats. Prices for food, transportation, and accommodations are relatively low.

  4. Indonesia: With its beautiful beaches, lush jungles, and vibrant culture, Indonesia is a budget traveler’s paradise. Bali, Lombok, and the Gili Islands are popular destinations.

  5. India: India is known for its diverse culture, historical sites, and delicious cuisine. Traveling within the country is affordable, making it an ideal destination for budget-conscious travelers.

  6. Nepal: A haven for trekkers and adventure seekers, Nepal offers breathtaking mountain views and a range of affordable activities.

  7. Bulgaria: Eastern Europe provides an opportunity to explore charming cities like Sofia and Plovdiv without breaking the bank. Bulgaria offers affordable food, accommodations, and sightseeing options.

  8. Thailand: While some areas in Thailand can be expensive, overall, it is a budget-friendly destination with affordable street food, accommodations, and transportation.

  9. Morocco: Morocco offers a fascinating blend of cultures and landscapes, with affordable markets, accommodation options, and local experiences.

  10. Nicaragua: This Central American destination offers beautiful beaches, colonial cities, and diverse nature at relatively low prices.

  11. Portugal: Portugal provides an affordable European experience with stunning coastlines, historic cities, and delicious cuisine.

  12. Egypt: Discover ancient history and explore iconic landmarks like the Pyramids of Giza at affordable prices in Egypt.

Remember that even in affordable destinations, your travel budget will depend on factors like your travel style, activities, and accommodation choices. By researching and planning ahead, you can enjoy incredible adventures and cultural experiences while staying within your budget. Additionally, consider traveling during the off-peak season or taking advantage of deals and discounts to stretch your travel funds even further.




Walk through ancient Babylon, meet an Egyptian queen, clamber up a Greek altar or be mesmerized by Monet’s ethereal landscapes. Welcome to Museumsinsel (Museum Island), a one-of-a-kind collection of five grand museums capturing diverse cultures and historical periods through rare artifacts.


Museumsinsel is situated on the northern half of Spreeinsel, a small island in the River Spree, where Berlin’s settlement began in the 13th century. Spread across five buildings constructed under Prussian rulers, Berlin’s most important treasure trove spans 6000 years’ worth of art, artifacts, sculpture and architecture from Europe and beyond. The first facility to open was the Altes Museum, which presents Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities. Behind it, the Neues Museum showcases the Egyptian collection, most famously the Nefertiti Bust, and also houses the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte (Museum of Pre- and Early History). The temple-like Alte Nationalgalerie focuses on 19th-century European art, while the island’s top drawcard, the Pergamonmuseum, displays monumental architecture from ancient worlds, including the stunning Ishtar Gate from Babylon. Last but not least, the Bode-Museum, at the island’s northern tip, is famous for its medieval sculptures. In addition to the museums, Museumsinsel is also home to the lovely Lustgarten park and Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral).

The history of Museumsinsel

Each of Museumsinsel’s five buildings were designed by different architects, who were commissioned by a succession of Prussian kings between 1830 and 1930.

The Altes Museum (originally known as the Königliches Museum) was the first cultural facility to open on Museumsinsel in 1830. It is considered the most mature work by Prussia’s most important architect, Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Dedicated to Enlightenment ideals of furthering art and science, the museum made significant historical collections and artworks – including Old Masters paintings, prints and drawings – publicly accessible for the very first time.

The Neues Museum (New Museum) was conceived as an extension for the overflowing Königliches Museum, which was struggling to display its growing number of artifacts. It was designed in neoclassical and Renaissance Revival styles and opened in 1855. As a consequence, the existing Königliches Museum was eventually renamed to the Altes Museum (Old Museum).

By 1876, the Alte-National Galerie, which takes the form of a traditional Greek temple, opened its doors to display paintings and sculptures donated by a prominent banker. This was followed by the opening of the neo-baroque Kaiser Friedrich Museum, today’s Bode-Museum, in 1904, and the Pergamonmuseum in 1930. Exactly 100 years after construction began on the original museum, Museumsinsel was finally complete.

World War II, however, brought a turbulent period to the Museumsinsel. Bombings destroyed entire sections of buildings and bullet holes pockmarked facades. The worst hit was the Neues Museum, which, as a consequence, was disused until the 2000s.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Altes Museum and Alte-Nationalgalerie were renovated and reopened, along with the Pergamonmuseum in 1959 (although a thorough restoration only began in 2013 and remains ongoing). However, in a divided city, the museum complex fell on the East Berlin side of the wall, making the facilities difficult to access for those in West Berlin during the years following the war.


In the direct aftermath of the fighting, items from the museums were also taken as war trophies, notably by USSR forces. Most items have since been returned, but some still remain outside Germany. The Trojan Gold (a collection of gold from ancient Troy), for example, remains on display to this day at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.

After the reunification of Germany in 1990, it was decided that the complex should be restored and renovated for contemporary times. In 1999, the government developed what was termed the “master plan” – a decade-long, billion-euro project to transform Museumsinsel into the modern spectacle that greets visitors today. That same year, Museumsinsel was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Besides overall restoration work, the master plan included the reopening of the Neues Museum (which had remained closed since the war) in 2009, with a brand-new visitor center and art gallery – both designs were spearheaded by British “starchitect” David Chipperfield. More recently, the Humboldt Forum, encompassing the Ethnological Museum of Berlin and the Museum of Asian Art, opened in late 2020 in the Berlin Palace opposite the Lustgarten park.

Like many large historical museums in major European cities, the facilities on Museumsinsel face a growing backlash over displaying ancient artifacts taken from other countries following historical wars, expeditions and invasions. To aid in addressing this issue, a handful of items, including the 3000-year-old Sphinx of Hattusa from Turkey (formerly on display in the Pergamonmuseum), have been returned to their country of origin. In addition, in 2021 a new government initiative, MuseumsLab, was launched, with an aim of decolonizing Germany’s museums and “fostering international cooperation”.

Plan your visit
Museumsinsel is one of Berlin’s busiest areas. The grounds, indoors and outdoors, are always bustling with school children, buskers and tour groups. As such, use common sense and be aware of potential pickpockets.

The most budget-friendly way to visit the different museums is by getting the WelcomeCard for Museum Island. For one price, it grants access to the island’s five museums as well as free public transport in central Berlin over three consecutive days. Alternatively, the Museum Pass Berlin offers entry into Musueminsel and some 30 other museums such as the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) and Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum).

Getting there
Museumsinsel is easily accessible by public transport. The U5 line stops right outside at Unter den Linden station. Museumsinsel is also a short walking distance from the S-Bahn stations Friedrichstraße and Hackescher Markt. Trams M1 and 12 will take you to nearby Kupfergraben, while buses 100 and 200 stop at the Lustgarten on Unter den Linden.


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Windsor Castle

The world’s largest and oldest continuously occupied fortress, Windsor Castle is a majestic vision of battlements and towers. Used for state occasions, it’s one of the Queen’s principal residences; when she’s at home, the Royal Standard flies from the Round Tower.

The story of Windsor Castle began in 1071, when William the Conqueror ordered the construction of a hilltop, earth-and-timber fortress. A century later, his great-grandson Henry II replaced it with a stone round tower. Edward III added a Gothic palace; Elizabeth I, the sturdy North Terrace; and Charles II gave the State Apartments a baroque makeover, creating an ‘English Versailles’. George III stuck on turrets and battlements, to make it look more medieval, while George IV inserted a modern palace into the ancient ensemble. After a thousand years of rebuilding, the 951-room castle thus displays an amazing range of architectural styles, from half-timbered fired brick to Gothic stonework.

Inside Windsor Castle
The castle precincts are divided into the Lower, Middle and Upper Wards. A visit will take you through the lavish State Apartments and beautiful chapels; certain areas may be off limits if in use. Here are some of the highlights:

Inner Hall
Created by George IV in the 1820s as a welcoming area for heads of state and official guests, this hall was later closed by Queen Victoria in 1866 – its entry sealed by a stone wall – and used primarily for storage space for 150 years. Reopened to the public in 2019, restoration works included chipping off layers of paint to reveal the intricate Regency ceiling bosses created by stuccoist Francis Bernasconi, and linking the visitor entrance on the North Terrace with the State Entrance Hall on the south side, which offers an uninterrupted view of the Long Walk. Also on display are stone remnants believed to be part of the buildings constructed by Henry I around 1110.

Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House
Filling a side chamber as you approach the State Apartments from the North Terrace of the Upper Ward, this astonishing creation is not a toy but a masterpiece of artful miniaturization. Designed at 1:12 scale by Sir Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary, and completed in 1924, it displays a phenomenal attention to detail. It’s equipped with fully functional plumbing, including flushing toilets, plus electric lights, tiny Crown Jewels, a silver service and wine cellar, and even a fleet of six cars in the garage.

State Apartments
The State Apartments, in the castle’s Upper Ward, reverberate with history and style. Around two dozen rooms are usually open to the public, with the crossed swords, suits of armour and banners of the initial Grand Staircase setting the tone.

A seated statue of Queen Victoria presides over the Grand Vestibule at the top, which displays tribute and trophies from the British Empire. Highlights include a life-sized tiger’s head of gold with crystal teeth, seized from Tipu, sultan of Mysore, and the musket ball that killed Lord Nelson. The Waterloo Chamber beyond, commemorating the 1815 battle, is festooned with portraits of triumphant generals and diplomats.

Two self-guided routes – ceremonial and historic – take in the fabulous St George’s Hall, the headquarters of the 24-strong order of the Knights of the Garter, which is still used for state banquets. Its ornate ceiling, re-created following a devastating fire in 1992 – it began in the adjoining Lantern Lobby – holds the shields of Knights past and present. Blank shields record “degraded” knights expelled from the order; most are foreign royals who declared war on Britain.

Beyond the Grand Reception Room, where the Queen hosts state visits, lie 10 chambers designated as the King’s Rooms and Queen’s Rooms. Largely created by Charles II, they’re bursting with opulent furniture, tapestries, frescoed ceilings and carved wall panels, as well as paintings by Hans Holbein, Bruegel, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Van Dyck and Gainsborough. The Queen’s Guard Chamber, bristling with pistols and swords, holds statues and busts of military leaders including Sir Winston Churchill.

St George’s Chapel
This elegant chapel, commissioned for the Order of the Garter by Edward IV in 1475, is a fine example of Perpendicular Gothic architecture. The nave and beautiful fan-vaulted roof were completed under Henry VII, and the final nail driven under Henry VIII in 1528.

Along with Westminster Abbey, it serves as a royal mausoleum. Both Henry VIII and Charles I lie beneath the beautifully carved 15th-century Quire, while the Queen’s father (George VI) and mother (Queen Elizabeth) rest in a side chapel. It’s also where Prince Harry married Meghan Markle in May 2018, and where Prince Philip’s funeral took place in 2021.

Albert Memorial Chapel
Built in 1240 and dedicated to Edward the Confessor, the small Albert Memorial Chapel was the place of worship for the Order of the Garter until St George’s Chapel, alongside, snatched away that honour. After Prince Albert died at Windsor Castle in 1861, Queen Victoria ordered the chapel to be restored as a monument to her husband, adding a magnificent vaulted roof that incorporates gold mosaic pieces from Venice.

Although the chapel holds a monument to the prince, he’s actually buried, with Victoria, in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore House in Windsor Great Park. Their youngest son, Prince Leopold (Duke of Albany), is, however, buried here.

Changing of the Guard
A fabulous spectacle, with triumphant tunes from a military band and plenty of foot stamping from smartly attired troops in red uniforms and bearskin caps, the changing of the guard draws crowds to Windsor Castle each day. Although the Household Troops march through the streets of Windsor, the actual handover happens in the Lower Ward or, when the Queen is in official residence, the Quadrangle in the Upper Ward. Weather permitting, it usually takes place at 11am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but this is subject to change. Check the Household Division website for more information.

Entry is timed and tickets must be booked in advance. The price includes a multimedia guide. If you wish to visit again, your ticket can be converted to a year-long pass – just ask a member of staff before you leave.


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If the most incredible masterpieces on earth are wrought for the glory of God, St Gallen’s Stiftsbibliothek (Abbey Library) is like a living prayer. Religious or not, you can’t help but look up to the heavens and fall silent as you step across its creaking wood floor, breathe in the scent of 1000 years of parchment, ink, patience, and purity, and cast a careful eye across its stucco-encrusted ceiling, biblical frescoes, playful putti (cherub-like figures), magnificent globe and shelves lined with 170,000 beautiful leather-bound books. Some of the world’s most precious and elaborate medieval manuscripts are hidden here, occasionally dusted off for exhibitions for all to admire.

Once the beating heart of one of Europe’s finest Benedictine monasteries, the library gave St Gallen a solid foot up the celestial ladder in the Middle Ages. Today, this wondrous space forms the centerpiece of the Unesco World Heritage Stiftsbezirk (Abbey District). If you pilgrimage to just one abbey in Switzerland, this should be it.

History of Stiftsbibliothek St Gallen

Local lore states that St Gallen began with a bush, a bear, and an Irish monk who should have watched where he was going. In AD 612, as the tale goes, itinerant monk St Gall (Gallus), one of the twelve companions of Saint Columbanus, was on a mission from Ireland to the continent. He fell into a briar (bush) and considered the stumble a calling from God. After a fortuitous encounter with a bear, in which he persuaded it to bring him a log, take some bread in return and leave him in peace, he used the record to begin building the simple hermitage that would one day evolve into St Gallen’s cathedral.

Whether or not you believe the bit about the briar and the bear, St Gall was instrumental in sewing the seeds of what would blossom into one of the world’s most splendid Benedictine abbeys, founded by Abbot Otmar in 747 AD. The city of St Gallen sprang up around the abbey and developed into one of Europe’s most important intellectual and religious centers.

In the Middle Ages, monks flocked here from afar to pray, read, study scriptures, and devote years to copying and illustrating manuscripts, a painstaking, solitary act that required a patient hand and a peaceful heart. Arts, letters, and sciences flourished here, and the library grew to impressive proportions, with its manuscripts inspiring accomplished artists and leading literary scholars: from Notker Balbulus to Ekkehart IV.

The abbey survived the threats and fires that ravaged the town over the centuries and the turbulent times of the Reformation. Based on plans by the star architect of the baroque age, Peter Thumb of Vorarlberg, the new abbey was built in the mid-18th century, just before the abbey lands were secularised and the monastery dissolved in 1805. The former abbey church became a cathedral in 1848, and the whole site, including the Stiftsbibliothek, was granted Unesco World Heritage status in 1983.

Architecture of Stiftsbibliothek St Gallen

A style, Peter Thumb of Vorarlberg didn’t do things by halves. Completed just before he died in 1767, the library was his parting gift to the world and magnum opus: a swirling confection of curling stucco and frescoes depicting the early church councils. The plump putti (cherub-like figures) in the window niches embody professions – poet and doctor, botanist and carpenter, musician and painter, astronomer and architect.

A balcony unfurls gracefully along the upper level, with 34 windows allowing a painterly light to stream even on overcast days. No expense was spared on the materials, with bookshelves and bookcases carved out of exquisite walnut and cherry wood. Above the entrance, a pair of gilded cherubs hold a sign saying psyché ratio, the Greek for “sanctuary of the soul” or “soul pharmacy.”

Treasures of Stiftsbibliothek St Gallen

Books & manuscripts
Only 30,000 of the total 170,000 volumes are in the library at any time, arranged into special exhibitions. Among these are 1650 incunabula (books printed before 1501). Of the library’s 2100 precious manuscripts – some of which are true works of art and remarkably well preserved – just a handful are on display. The oldest manuscript, dating to 760, was penned by the monk Winithar, who complained about insufficient parchment.

Among its other literary treasures are the 9th-century Cod Sang 555, the earliest portrait of St Columba, a version of The Rule of St Benedict, the cornerstone of medieval monastic life, and Manuscript B of the Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs), an epic poem written around 1200.

St Gallen Globe

Igniting the adventurous spirit in any born traveler, the library’s earth and the celestial globe are a beauty, more than two meters high, replete with naturalistic detail, and still incomplete as some countries were yet to be discovered. The 16th-century original was stolen more than 400 years ago, so you see a very convincing replica now.

Vaulted cellar

For more insight into St Gall and his life and work, delve into the vaulted cellar. This houses the Lapidarium, showcasing a collection of the former church’s Carolingian, Ottonian, and Gothic sculptures. There’s also some interesting background, albeit mainly in German, about the art of illustration. The standout is the late 9th-century Evangelium Longum, an illuminated manuscript with an intricately carved ivory cover bearing the hallmark of the monk and artist Tuotilo.

Egyptian mummy

Hailing from the Deir el-Bahri Temple Complex, Shepenese, the library’s ancient Egyptian mummy dates to 700 BC and was given as a gift to the mayor of St Gallen in 1820, together with two wooden sarcophagi. Shepenese was the daughter of a priest and lived at the start of the Saite Dynasty (672 to 525 BC).

Dom St Gallen

Taking the stylistic leap from baroque to classicism, St Gallen’s twin-towered, mid-18th-century cathedral is only slightly less ornate than the world-famous library nearby. A riot of mint-green stucco and rose marble, the cathedral dances with dark, stormy frescos, cherubs, and saints gazing down from heavenly clouds. The cupola (ceiling dome) shows a vision of paradise with the Holy Trinity at the center. To experience the cathedral at its uplifting best, visit during one of the Dommusik concerts.
Exploring St Gallen
While you’re in St Gallen, factor in time for a stroll around the Altstadt (Old Town), where many houses are embellished with Erker (oriel bay windows), especially around Gallusplatz, Spisergasse, Schmiedgasse, and Kugelgasse, locals have totted them all up and reckon there are 111. Some bear the most extraordinary timber sculptures – a reflection of the wealth of their one-time owners, primarily textile barons.

Need to know
Multilingual audio guides are available at the abbey library and exhibition space counters, as are felt slippers, which are obligatory to protect the parquet floor. Photography is strictly forbidden (even without flash). The abbey ticket cost includes public 45-minute guided tours in German that depart at 2 pm daily; no booking is required.

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Abbaye du Mont St-Michel

Abbaye du Mont St-Michel

Abbaye du Mont St-Michel

Mont St-Michel’s one main street, the Grande Rue, leads up the slope – past souvenir shops, eateries, and a forest of elbows – to the star attraction of a visit here, a stunning ensemble crowning the top: the abbey.

Bishop Aubert of Avranches is said to have built a devotional chapel on the summit of the island in 708, following his vision of the Archangel Michael, whose gilded figure, perched on the vanquished dragon, crowns the tip of the abbey’s spire. In 966, Richard I, Duke of Normandy, gave Mont St-Michel to the Benedictines, who turned it into a center of learning and, in the 11th century, into something of an ecclesiastical fortress, with a military garrison at the disposal of both abbot and king.

In the 15th century, during the Hundred Years War, the English blockaded and besieged Mont St-Michel three times. The fortified abbey withstood these assaults and was the only place in western and northern France not to fall into English hands. After the Revolution, Mont St-Michel was turned into a prison. In 1966 the abbey was symbolically returned to the Benedictines as part of the celebrations marking its millennium. Mont St-Michel and the Bay became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1979.

Guided tours

Most areas of the abbey can be visited without a guide, but check if the 1¼-hour tour is running; English tours (usually) begin at 11 am and 3 pm from October to March, with three or four daily terms in spring and summer. You can also take a one-hour audio guide tour in 10 languages.

Tickets and other practicalities
Tickets and audio guides should be booked online in advance. Audio guides are available for a small fee and must be requested as part of your booking. Benedictine monks hold services in the abbey, which are accessible to worshippers.

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St Mary Lake

St Mary Lake

St Mary Lake

Located on the park’s dryer eastern side, where the mountains melt imperceptibly into the Great Plains, St Mary Lake lies in a deep, glacier-carved valley famous for its astounding views and ferocious winds. Overlooked by the tall, chiseled peaks of the Rockies and with the northern slopes dramatically thinned from the lake shore to Going-to-the-Sun Rd by the 2015 Reynolds Creek fire, the valley views are still spectacular and punctuated by numerous trailheads and viewpoints.

St Mary’s gorgeous turquoise sheen, easily the most striking color of any of Glacier’s major bodies of water, is due to the suspension of tiny particles of glacial rock in the lake’s water that absorbs and reflects light.

The landscape-altering effects of the 2006 Red Eagle Fire is still very much visible on the southern slopes of the lake.

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Gamla Stan,Stockholm,Sweden,Europe

A massive structure with more than 600 rooms on 11 levels, Kungliga Slottet (the Royal Palace) dominates the north end of Gamla Stan.

Kungliga Slottet

The official residence of the Swedish monarch, the palace is both a working government building and an important historical site with fine baroque and rococo interiors and furnishings that reflect the shifting tastes of nearly 400 years of royal occupants.

History of Kungliga Slottet

Around the mid-1200s, Birger Jarl, the powerful earl credited with founding Stockholm, erected a stone fortress on the site of the present royal palace. Under the Vasa rulers of the 16th and 17th centuries it developed into a magnificent Renaissance palace that became known as Tre Kronor for the three gilded crowns placed atop the main tower in 1588.

Following the Thirty Years War, which ended in 1648, Sweden entered an era of great power. Extensive rebuilding of the palace began in 1692 under the royal architect Nicodemus Tessin the younger, who gave the northern wing its current baroque appearance.

On 7 May 1697, a devastating fire broke out, destroying everything except the newly renovated north wing. Six weeks later Tessin presented designs for a new palace that he estimated would take six years to build. In fact, it would take nearly six decades before the royal family was finally able to take up residence.

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Museum Tre Kronor

Remnants of the original Tre Kronor palace can still be seen in the north wing, where Tessin simply covered over the medieval walls and towers as he erected his new baroque facade. Start your visit here to follow the palace’s history in chronological order.

Entering Museum Tre Kronor from Slottskajen, you pass through walls 5m (more than 16ft) thick that have stood since the 14th century. Inside, exhibits trace the development of Tre Kronor from defensive fortress to Renaissance palace, using models and objects rescued from the fire.

The Royal Apartments

The Royal Apartments consist of a series of grand rooms used for royal receptions, gala dinners, cabinet meetings and other official state business, as well as more intimate living chambers. Every royal resident has left a mark on the interior design, beginning with King Adolf Fredrik and Queen Lovisa Ulrika, who moved into the newly completed palace in December 1754. They resided in the 14 rooms now called the Bernadotte wing after the present dynasty, which has occupied the throne since 1818. The last to live in these apartments were King Oscar II and Queen Sofia, whose portraits hang in the main gallery along with those of other Bernadotte family members.|

The nine rooms comprising the State Apartments include the bedchamber where Gustav III died in 1792, two weeks after being shot at a masquerade ball; Karl XI’s Gallery, a gilded chamber modeled after the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles; and the Don Quixote Room, with walls covered in 18th-century tapestries depicting scenes from the classic novel by Miguel Cervantes. Another highlight is the Hall of State with Queen Kristina’s silver throne, a gift for her coronation in 1650.

Kungliga Slottet is open year round, except for major holidays. Parts of the palace may be closed at other times due to state functions; check the website for the latest details.

The Royal Treasury

Although there has been a church at the palace since the 13th century, the present chapel was designed by Nicodemus Tessin and completed by architect Carl Hårleman as part of the rebuilding of the palace. The previous chapel had been inaugurated just five months before being destroyed in the fire.

The chapel is open to visitors during the summer.

The Changing of the Guard

If you can time your visit accordingly, don’t miss the changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place in the outer palace courtyard daily at 12.15pm (1.15pm on Sundays and holidays) and lasts approximately 40 minutes.

Every day from late April through August, the royal guards march or ride in formal procession through the streets of central Stockholm to the palace, an impressive sight in their blue uniforms and glittering pointed helmets. In September and October the parade takes place on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Details of the route and timing are listed on the Swedish Armed Forces website.

Tickets and other practicalities

A single ticket costs 140 SEK ($16) for adults and 70 SEK ($8) for children ages 7-17. and includes access to all the attractions in the Royal Palace complex, including Museum Tre Kronor, the Royal Apartments, the Royal Treasury, the Royal Chapel and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities. Tickets are available at the entrance and online in advance. Combination tickets are available for the palace and nearby Riddarholmskyrkan, the medieval church where almost all Swedish royals until 1950 are buried.

Guided tours of the Royal Apartments cost 30 SEK ($3.50) plus regular admission and are available in English at 10.30am and 1.30pm, with an additional English-language tour at 3.30pm from June through August. There’s no extra charge for the tour for children under 18 (regular admission tickets are required). Tours of the Royal Treasury in English take place at 2.30pm daily. Free audio guides to the Bernadotte Apartments and Gustav III’s Museum of Antiquities can be downloaded onto a smartphone or borrowed on site.

During the COVID-19 pandemic only the Royal Apartments are open to visitors, and tickets are timed. There are no guided tours, and only the download option is available for audio guides. The changing of the guard ceremony and parade are also not taking place during the pandemic.

The Royal Palace also houses Livrustkammaren (the Royal Armoury), a free museum that traces the history of the Swedish monarchy since 1523 through armor, clothing and other items that once belonged to various royals. It’s accessible through a separate entrance off Slottsbacken.

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