This week’s Newsweek magazine offers another of those “must see” round ups which got me thinking about my own personal list.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know. What’s on your list? In no particular order….

Iguazu Falls from the Brazilian side

(1) Go to Paris. Just walk around and get lost with no set agenda.

(2) Go hiking in Nepal, to Annapurna base camp and back. Waking up in a tea house in the morning and looking up to see those humongous mountains against a clear blue sky is almost beyond words.

(3) Take an overnight bus – in these days of “budget” airline travel that has stripped us of all dignity, taking a bus just reminds you it’s quite a big world out there full of ordinary people. Turkey has a great network, and in Argentina you can get seats that recline 180 degrees, but my most memorable journey was from Katherine to Alice Springs in Australia. I woke up when we got to a rest stop about 5.30am, looked out of the window and there was the silhouette of a tall wind mill set against the reddest soil I have ever seen in my life. It’s just an image that has always stayed with me.

(4) Take some children to Disneyworld in Florida. Cheesy? You bet – but the sight of a small child’s face when they see Mickey, Minnie or Donald for the first time is a really wonderful thing, however cynical you may be.

(5) Go star gazing in the southern hemisphere – try Namibia or outback Australia. Just somewhere far away from light pollution. It will blow your mind.

(6) Do a safari in as remote a place as possible. I was very lucky to be in northern Zambia a few years ago (north Luangwa). In the middle of the night a hyena let our a scream about ten feet from where I was sleeping that put the hairs on the hairs on the hairs on the back of my neck on edge, and they didn’t come down for about six months. And the same trip I went up in a microlight first thing and saw lions yawning as they woke up and swooped over a pod of hippos. Expensive, very; magical, definitely.

(7) Drive through small town America. As Brits we tend to go for the “big names” even on third or fourth trips to the States but I have done driving trips in Missouri, South Dakota, Utah and Tennessee and there’s heaps more to do in “smaller name” states than you’d think, above all unbridled hospitality when they hear an English accent. Stay in a non-chain motel with slightly sticky carpets. Have those eggs over easy. Yes your waitress really is called Betty Sue. Now y’all come back ya hear.

(8) Iguazu Falls. I’ve been to a few waterfalls and it was always “yep, pretty impressive, snap snap snap with the camera, OK now back on the bus”. But Iguazu Falls are different. Wow. Amazing. Wow. I was there three days and could have stayed longer. Did I mention “wow”?

(9) The Taj Mahal in India – for me, the only man made structure that lives up to the hype and then some. I mean the Sydney Opera House certainly gets points, and I love the Chrysler Building in Manhattan but I don’t remember being wowed by the Great Wall of China (was it the Mastercard advert hung on the side of it?)

(10) New York. Full stop.

 

 

Except for brief stints in Paris and New York 41-year-old photographer, journalist and filmmaker Luca Ragazzi, has lived all his life in Rome.

 His first feature documentary with partner Guatav Hofer “Suddenly Last Winter” (www.suddenlylastwinter.com, 2008) won more then 20 prizes at international film festivals and their latest film “Italy – Love it or Leave It” (www.italyloveitorleave.it , 2011) has also won a ton of accolades including audience awards in Milan, Thessalonika and Brussels.

Luca Ragazzi


What is your favourite view in Rome?

I especially like the one from the top of the old Vittoriano Monument in Piazza Venezia in the centre of town. Romans never liked it but I do. For the last six years or so you can go to the top by in a lift, and from there, there are awesome views of the forum, the Colosseum, the church of St Peter, Via del Corsaetc.

Favourite bar?

I live in Pigneto, which is a lovely neighbourhood and there’s a bar there called Necci, which I like because there’s a terrace with wi-fi and you get lots of artists hanging out there.

A beautiful elegant one is in Via Nazionale, where you have a huge building, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, and in there is a revamped spot which is very designer and modern, called the Open Colonna and at night they serve great cocktails with a perfect view over the city.

Where is your favourite place to get lunch?

In Piazza Augusto Imperatore there is a restaurant called Gusto.  For lunch they have a great, fresh buffet where you load your plate and then go and get it weighed so you pay depending on what you’ve taken and you’ll pay around 15 euro.

And for dinner?

There are many good trattoria with typical Roman cuisine. My favourite is probably Gino al Parlamento in Vicolo Rosini, but also there’s Otello a la Concordia in Via della Croce. just around the corner of Spanish Steps and then In Trastevere you have Augusto, very old – it looks nothing special but the food is phenomenal.

Your favourite place for ice cream?

It’s embarrassing because there are so many good places but in areas a tourist would go, the best is Via dei Coronari and it’s called La Gelateria del Teatro. They serve very particular flavours. For classic flavours go to Giolitti around the Pantheon – it’s the oldest gelateria in Rome and they make huge cones. Even the little one which is 2 euro is massive – you can’t really finish it. Sometimes American tourists want the bigger ones but that’s ridiculous because even the little ones are too huge for me.

Where’s your favourite day trip out of Rome?

If it’s summertime I love to go to the beach in Ostia – you can travel by train in half an hour from Ostiense station. Lots of great fresh pasta con le vongole restaurants. If you have a car you can go to Martignano, a little lake half an hour from Rome, very beautiful. And then there’s something very special, less than one hour’s drive, it’s called Giardino di Bomarzo, a sculpture park from the 16th century. You walk in a wild garden and you see giants and dragons but Romans don’t really know about it and most have never been.

Rome always seems quite noisy – where is your favourite place to get some peace and quiet?

There are many beautiful villas and parks and the most well-known is Villa Borghese, which is very central and inside you have plenty of museums like the Museo Borghese and the Villa Medici, but also Villa Pamphili and Villa Torlonia – so beautiful. Next to the Colosseum there’s the Colle Oppio, which is a nice park, a perfect stop for a coffee with a great view.

Shopping?

My favourite area for shopping is a neighbourhood called Monti, especially Via del Boschetto, which has lots of boutiques and also Via del Governo Vecchio, near the Pantheon, lots of shops, restaurants and second-hand boutiques.

Luca’s favourite Italian films that he thinks everyone should see:

A Special Day (Una Giornata Particolare, 1977)

Amarcord (1973)

Eclipse (L’eclisse, 1962)

Two Women (La Ciociara, 1961)

Nights of Cabiria (Le notti di Cabiria, 1957)

Bellisima (1953)

Europa 51 (1951)

Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio all’italiana, 1964)

Luca’s Links

www.centocitta.it/index.cfm/dettaglio/Roma/54/Il-Vittoriano

www.necci1924.com/site/

www.opencolonna.it/home.asp

www.gusto.it

www.2spaghi.it/ristoranti/lazio/rm/roma/trattoria-dal-cav-gino

www.otello-alla-concordia.it

www.tripadvisor.it/Restaurant_Review-g187791-d1717793-Reviews-Da_Augusto-Rome_Lazio.html

www.giolitti.it

www.lago-di-martignano.it

www.parcodeimostri.com

www.villapamphili.it

Think you know east London? It’s the Queen Vic, spirit of the Blitz, cheeky Cockney cabbies, Banksy, bankers, immigrants and of course the Olympics, innit me old sparrow. In a way, yes, those stereotypes fit, but what you don’t see when the camera pans away from Albert Square – and actually Eastenders is filmed in Hertfordshire – it’s also London’s most dynamic area where independent shops flourish, trendy art galleries and buzzing nightlife give New York and Berlin a run for their money, you get the spiciest lamb chops this side of Chittangong, and a spate of new hotels that are shaking up the capital.  So if you’re coming to the Games this summer, or just want to see a different side to London once they’re over, head east.

Where to stay

If cost is your bottom line Tune Liverpool Street (tunehotels.com) has doubles from £35 – it’s extra for windows, towels and TV though, but all rooms are en suite.  The trendy-on-a-budget Hoxton hotel (hoxtonhotels.com) near Old Street holds periodic £1-a-night room sales but more realistically you’re looking £80 and up for a double. A ten minute walk away private members club Shoreditch House (shoreditchhouse.com, from £105) has bedrooms that are bookable by the public, and which gets you access to all the members’ facilities including rooftop pool, gym, bar and restaurants.  Further east, Aloft at Royal Victoria Dock (aloftlondonexcel.com, from £173) is the first of that US brand in the UK, a more affordable offshoot of hip “W” hotels. Also nearby there’s a brand new Travelodge (travelodge.co.uk, from £40) that opened in July near the Excel Exhibition Centre, and another at Stratford, close to the Olympic stadium and Westfield shopping centre. For somewhere with bags more character than a chain try 40 Winks (40winks.org) in Stepney Green where the two B&B doubles start from £105.

Getting all patriotic at the Olympic Park

Where to eat

If you want to get breakfast before heading out for sightseeing you could do worse than Salvation Jane (salvationjanecafe.co.uk) near Old St tube, which opened in May, and whose Aussie owner does a great job of recreating the laid-back atmosphere and food of a stylish Melbourne café.  In the shadow of the Olympic stadium the Counter Café (thecountercafe.co.uk) also does a great Antipodean take on brekkie (try poached eggs on crispy potato cakes with salmon for £6.50), best accessed via Hackney Wick station. For something a bit different head to Little Georgia (littlegeorgia.co.uk) on Goldsmith’s Row for a taste of the Caucasus, or E Pellicci at 332 Bethnal Green Road where the Kray Twins used to be regulars.  For a lazy Sunday brunch with friends book ahead at Bistrotheque (bistrotheque.com) on Wadeson St. It’s not the easiest place to find, but worth it, with great food and friendly staff, accompanied by tinkling on the old Joanna with Xavior the pianist. For lunch on the go, get change from a fiver and grab a delicious Moo pie (steak and ale) from Pieminister (pieminister.co.uk) at the pop-up Boxpark, Bethnal Green Road.  And literally a minute away is the eclectic, antique-strewn Trois Garcons (lestroisgarcons.co.uk), a good choice for dinner. Both are near Brick Lane but if you fancy a Ruby Murray, bypass the touts who’ll try and draw you in and head towards the Whitechappel High Street area instead where for some of the best Pakistani food you can choose between the Lahore Kebab House (Lahore-kebabhouse.com), Tayyabs (tayyabs.co.uk) and Needoo’s (needoofrill.co.uk).  At any of them, you can make a whole meal of the kebabs and spicy lamb chop starters mopped up with roti flat breads.

Where to drink?

In need of a pint? There are so many good pubs in this part of town it’s difficult to know where to start so let’s pass the buck and just say you should get the opinion of locals at fancyapint.com or beerinetheevening.com. If cocktails are more your thing, start off at Callooh Callay (calloohcallaybar.com) on Rivington Street but email in advance to get a table in the secret Jubjub room. A stagger away is intimate Lounge Bohemia (loungebohemia.com) with a louche air of old Prague, and a short walk east on Artillery Lane head to the Breakfast Club (thebreakfastclubcafes.com) and ask to speak to the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town (themayorofscaredycattown.com) – all will be revealed when you step inside the Smeg fridge and descend the stairs inside.  Near Old St tube, there’s Night Jar (barnightjar.com) where above-average snacks include prawns flambéed in vodka. (For all bars mentioned it pays to make a reservation rather than just turn up).

Evenin' all

What to see

You can check out all things Olympic at london2012.com and if you’d like to be shown round by someone who knows what they’re talking about see tourguides2012.co.uk.  If you’re a moocher, wander down Redchurch Street for its mix of graffiti and quirky one-off shops, or Broadway Market on a Saturday and Columbia Road Market on Sunday for a large range of quirky stores and stalls. At 18 Folgate Street in Spitalfields, Dennis Severs’ House (dennissevershouse.co.uk) has ten rooms that recreate snapshots of life from the early 18th to early 20th centuries in this original Huguenot home. The Geffrye Museum (geffrye-museum.org.uk), next to Hoxton station, is set in a row of 18th-century almshouses and has original furniture, paintings and art, and there’s a restaurant and gardens too. At the Ragged School Museum (raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk) you can experience a slice of East End Victorian life and see where Dr Barnado taught.  Near Canary Wharf, the Museum of London Docklands (museumindocklands.org.uk) is housed in a 19th-century listed warehouse that traces the history of the capital’s docklands the Thames.  Search firstthursdays.co.uk  for a list of events taking place on the first Thursday of each month in local galleries and museums.  Check out bit.ly/Nhv6e3 for a list of Banksy locations. And if you want to soak up some of the area’s gorier history, take one of the Jack the Ripper Tours that leave most evenings from outside Tower Hill or Aldgate East tube stations, which are not suitable for children.

Websites and info

Getting around: Make sure you get an Oyster travel card (tfl.gov.uk) to use on buses, underground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which is much cheaper than using cash. See visiteastlondon.com, londoneastside.co.uk, visitlondon.com and timeout.com/London.

Copyright (C) Will Hide 2012

Not sure where they're from

I was recently a guest on the Rick Steves radio show, which is broadcast across America on National Public Radio.

The programme went out on July 22nd and you can listen to me chatting with Rick about one of my favourite subjects – Cape Town

If you click HERE you’ll go to a link where you can listen to the show either on iTunes or Windows Media Player.

The Mother City seen from Robben Island