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A Walk Through Sofia with Fuel Fandango

Fuel Fandango is a duo made up of the producer, Alejandro Acosta (also on the Mojo Project) and the Cordovan singer, Cristina Manjón, better known as Nita. The project has been ongoing since 2010 and the duo have built up one of the largest fan bases in Spain, with a large following beyond its borders, too. They made their recording debut in 2011 with a disc and publication of the same name. It was an instant hit with its bold style blend of funk, electronic, flamenco and copla. “Trece Lunas”, an even greater success, emerged two years later. Here at My Vueling City we love Fuel Fandango, a fact that prompted us to ask them for a rundown on the spots they liked best in Sofia during their concert tour there.

“This is the third time we’ve played in Sofia. We love the city and each time we discover new parts of it with a charm all their own. The people are very hospitable and warm. We always feel welcome whenever we come here”, Fuel Fandango told us on their return from the Bulgarian capital. Theirs was a working trip: “We played in the Sofia Live Club, one of the most delightful spots we’ve visited. It’s like a New York jazz club, but on a larger scale, with spectacular sound and a pleasing stage. Most of the international stars that tour Sofia have played at that venue.” However, they also found time to enjoy themselves.

Eating Away

Yoghurt,lukanka (a kind of sausage) and salad are some of the most typical foods in Bulgarian cuisine. Fruit and vegetables are also plentiful, thanks to the good climate. Very popular, too, are barbecues of pork, chicken and lamb. “We went to several typical Bulgarian restaurants – gastronomic tourism is our thing! The first night we went to Bulgary, an inviting, traditional-style eatery founded in 1922. Bulgarian food and wine are wonderful!” But things did not stop there: “We also visited another Bulgarian restaurant; this time, a more modern one. We can wholeheartedly recommend it – it’s called MoMa and the decor is really cool. It combines traditional design elements with contemporary ones.” Also characteristic of Bulgaria’s gastronomy is the variety of local wines and other alcoholic drinks like rakia, mastika and mint. Bulgarian has some fine wines, prominent among them being Dimiat and Mavrud.

Hidden Treasures and the Crown Jewel

They also found time to sightsee and uncover some small gems: “We also stopped off at record shops, as we always do when we tour abroad, to seek out new music and hidden treasures. They took us to this basement store, in a really out-of-the-way place. In the second-hand section, Ale went to town, coming away with some authentic jewels, including some vinyls of traditional Bulgarian music.” The store is called Dukyan Meloman, said Nita, adding: “The city centre is rather small, but it’s really nice to wander through its streets, with small shops of all kinds. It’s very lively.” Although Alejandro would have liked to stay on longer in that bargain basement, they still had time to see other charming spots in the city. “In the square with the Alejandro Nevski Cathedral (one of the largest orthodox churches in the world, and really priceless), there are antique stalls with loads of intriguing objects from the old Soviet Union.”

It was clearly an emotionally charged trip: “We’ve played in Sofia three years on the trot and each time it gets better. We’re still blown away when we see fans in the front rows singing our songs. One girl sang one of our tunes and her mother said she had signed up for Spanish classes at the Instituto Cervantes because she wanted to learn our songs. These are the stories we find the most touching.” The Instituto Cervantes is a Spanish state institution with the mission to promote and teach the Spanish language, and to spread Spanish and Latin American culture. It played a major part in organising and publicising this concert. They also helped us get in touch with the group.

Come and discover Sofia now! Check out our flights here.

Text by Fuel Fandango e ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Images by Fuel Fandango, n-Off Entertainment, Dennis Jarvis, Bulgary, MoMa, Instituto Cervantes

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Vintage Barcelona

Whoever lands in Barcelona for the first time is well aware of its fame as a design hub. For decades the city has been known for its openness to new trends and its links to modernity. It is precisely that flair for the modern that has led dozens of stores specialised in vintage objects and furniture to be opened in the Catalonian capital.

From a Scandinavian teak sideboard to Formica worktops, all manner of lamps, French garden chairs and furniture by anonymous craftsmen, veritable gems are to be had in these shops, which you should not miss during your stay in Barcelona.

You’re Sure to Find it in Gràcia 

One of the highest concentrations of retro furniture stores is in the district of Gràcia. What with its array of long-standing establishments, neighbourhood cinemas, artists’ studios and designers’ workshops, the district has become one of Barcelona’s main leisure and shopping areas. Strolling through its picturesque squares and narrow streets, Gràcia oozes charm throughout and is one of the best spots to experience the city’s genuine ethos. It was here that Alzira (C/ Verdi, 42) opened over ten years ago. Mónica, its owner, personally restores all the pieces of furniture on sale and the store has become a landmark in the sector, with a selection ranging from industrial trolleys to dining-room tables with tapered legs, psychedelic lamps and French crockery. Make sure you also see her collection of brooches from the 20s through the 70s. A short distance away, hard by the celebrated Plaça del Diamant, is La Mueblerí (C/ Topazi, 17), a veritable temple of furniture, where Aurora and her son import select pieces from various countries to merge them with traditional Spanish furniture. On sale in this former workshop converted into a store is a wealth of vintage school maps, sun wall mirrors, chairs of all kinds, doctor’s glass cabinets from the fifties and mid-century furniture. They also restore furniture and have an online sales website. Coco, their Jack Russell, would love you to stop by.

And, before leaving Gràcia, make sure you drop in on Topitos Furniture (C/ Torrent de l’Olla, 30), featuring one of the best selection of lamps in town, on display in a small space. David is a lighting lover and the treasures he has on offer include Lumica designs, mushroom lamps in sixties colours, opalines from the forties and lamps from Manises. Additionally, perched atop the garden tables and other furniture  you will find a careful selection of bronze and ceramic animal figures, crockery and glasses in many colours and all kinds of decorative objects.

Vintage Stores in El Raval and El Born

And, from one tasteful quarter to another. El Born is one of the liveliest districts in Barcelona. Wending your way among restaurants, ebullient terrace cafés, historic buildings and droves of tourists you will come to Gidlööf (Passatge Mercantil, 1), a must-see for enthusiasts of things Scandinavian. Here, the Swedish textile designer, Sofia Gidlööf, and the Barcelona architect, Gium Costa, have crafted a space where 20th-century furniture and other items from northern Europe are on display alongside their own designs.

Still in the city centre is a charming lane near La Rambla which reveals a hidden gem in the form of El Changuito (Passatge de la Pau, 13), a shop specialising in retro garden furniture, vintage mirrors and lighting. The premises are spacious and the displays well curated; indeed, you can easily get lost inside it for a while. From El Changuito you can head into El Raval, one of Barcelona’s most multifarious districts. After a short walk you will come to Fusta’m (C/ Joaquim Costa, 62), a priceless store owned by Lidia and Oriol where original furniture and objects rub shoulders with vintage remakes. Oriol, a carpenter by trade, also makes super, customised furniture.

Now, all that’s left is to find the piece you were looking for. Why wait to seek it out in Barcelona? Check out our flights here.

 

Text and images by Aleix Palau for ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

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Venice The Loveliest City Every Built

Venice is a city in north-eastern Italy made up of 118 little islands separated by canals and joined by bridges. It is famous because of the beauty of its setting, and its architecture, and its art. This is why the whole city, including the famed lagoon, has been designated a World Heritage Site.

It is named for the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region in the tenth Century before Christ. The city is known variously as La Dominante, la Serenísima, the Queen of the Adriatic, the City of Water, the City of Masks, and the Floating City. In a piece inThe New York TimesLuigi Barcina described it as "the most beautiful city ever built by man”. It is universally regarded as one of Europe’s most romantic cities, where visitors can enjoy the waterway, gondolas, palazzos, old treasures, and delicious cuisine, as the water laps ceaselessly against the walls of fabulous churches and other ornate buildings. A boat ride down the Grand Canal makes you feel like a figure in an old painting.

Venice is an open-air museum. Its architecture, monuments, and buildings reflect its Byzantine heritage, and nowhere more strikingly than in the mosaics of the Basilica de San Marcos. Very near the Piazza de San Marcos (St. Mark’s Square),we find the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), where the city’s ruler once dwelled, and which exemplifies the ostentation of the Renaissance period. Visitors may descend to the gloomy palace dungeons, and then get some fresh air on the famous Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), where prisoners often caught their last glimpse of the Adriatic.

The city’s main street isn’t a street at all, but the celebrated Grand Canal. This is a good place to buy a City Pass, the most economical option for moving around Venice on its vaporetto water buses, with many stops along the Grand canal.

One of the numerous mansions along the canal is the sumptuous, 14th C. Palazzo de Santa Sofia; better known as the Ca d’oro, (house of gold), because the abundant gilt in the polychrome and white marble exteriors that once made this lovely Gothic building shine like a jewel. There is also the famous Rialto bridge, which retains all the elegance that made it such a sensation when it was completed in 1591, 400 years after the first pontoon bridge was built on the site.

A city’s true character is often to be found in its markets, and Venice has two that should not be missed by visitors. One is the Erbaria product and fish market in the Rialto district, where you should check out the local asparagus and artichokes. Then there is La Pescheria for a dazzling variety of mainly local fish and seafood.

For connoisseurs of Italian cuisine, the Riva del Vinis the place to find the café or restaurant of your dreams in a quiet riverbank setting. Other excellent restaurant districts are Campo Santa Margherita, with its floating terraces, Zattere, where you can watch the sun set over the Laguna Veneto, and the streets near the fashionable Campo Giacomo di Rialto,where many Venetians take their “aperitivi” in the late afternoon. Try a Spritz and a snack of delicious codfish. The classic Venetian recipe for Spritzes, by the way, is 1/3 dry wine like Prosecco, 1/3 soda or bubbly mineral water, and 1/3 sweet Aperol or bitter Campari.

Outstanding amongst the city’s numerous museums is the Guggenheim, with possibly the continent’s best collection of European and American art from the first half of the 20th C, housed in the old Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal, where it was opened in 1980 to show Peggy Guggenheim’s personal collection, masterpieces from the Gianni Mattioli collection, a garden of sculptures by Nasher, and temporary exhibitions.

To view the city in all its splendour from a distance you can take a number 42 vaporetto at the San Sacaria stop in St. Mark’s Square to the island of Murano, passing the Fondamento Nuove and stopping to visit the San Michelle cemetery, a “cemetery island”, where you can see the graves of such luminaries as Igor Stravinsky, Joseph Brodsky, Sergei Diaghilev, Ezra Pound, and Luigi Nono.

If all the water makes you hanker for a beach, there’s the legendary,Lido –a 7-mile long sandbar in the lagoon– with its many stylish cafes and restaurants.

To really discover Venice, you need to get lost there, so use the vaporettos freely and get off at any stop –the streets are safe even after dark. And a night-time visit to St. Mark’s Square is an experience you will always treasure.

Venice. There’s simply nothing like it. However often you visit, the surprises keep coming! Now’s the time to book a flight there with Vueling. Check out our prices here!

Photos: Fernando Sanz
Text: Tensi Sánchez de actitudesmgz.com

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Versailles House of The Sun King

When you first set eyes on Versailles, you realise why it was the jewel in Louis XIV’s crown. Starting with what had been his father’s hunting lodge, the Sun King had Europe’s largest palace built. The opulent interiors and splendid gardens could accommodate up to 20,000 people. The king had the leading artists and architects at his disposal – Louis Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart designed the building; Charles Le Brun, the interiors, while André Le Nôtre remodelled the gardens. Everything was ready to receive the court.

Europe’s Largest Palace

The main rooms in the residence were on the first floor. There we find the Chambers of the King and Queen, arranged around the Marble Court, the latter set behind the last railing in the access to the palace from the street. If you have seen films like Marie Antoinette, by Sofia Coppola, or the television series, Versailles (we can wholeheartedly recommend both), you will know that their chambers were anything but private. The queens of France used to give birth before the court, while the kings went through the daily waking routine known as le lever du Roi (the king’s rising), attended by courtiers and family members, who came to see the monarch getting up.

The king had areas where he worked, including the Council Chamber, where he received his ministers and family, or the room known as the Louis XVI Library, characterised by the sovereign’s globe of the world and its priceless Neoclassical panelling. The chambers of the king and queen are connected by the Antechamber or Oeil-de-boeuf(Bull’s-eye)Roomon account of the large round window. The story goes that, on the night of 6 October 1789, when a group of revolutionaries stormed the palace in search of Queen Marie Antionette, she fled through this room to her husband’s chamber and safety. The following day they abandoned the palace forever.

Also on the first floor, on the side of the palace giving onto the gardens, are the State Apartments. The most famous of these is the 73-metre-long Hall of Mirrors, with its views over the gardens, where major official ceremonies were held. It was there that in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed, marking an end to World War I. Other rooms well worth seeing include the War Drawing Room, located next to the Hall of Mirrors and featuring a large relief of Louis XIV on horseback trampling his enemies under foot, the Apollo Drawing Room and the Hercules Drawing Room, which houses the monumental painting, Feast in the House of Simon, by Veronese, a gift from the Republic of Venice to Louis XIV.

Household Chapel and Opéra Royal

Also on the first floor is access to the Royal Chapel, used by the king and his family, and to the Battles Gallery, the outcome of a renovation by Louis-Philippe on former apartments used by nobles. It was turned into a gallery of historical paintings housing works by the likes of Delacriox and Gérard.

A must-visit site on the ground floor are the priceless Apartments of the Mesdames Adélaïde and Victoire, the daughters of Louis XV, who never married and lived here until the time of the Revolution.

Another grand edifice in the Palace of Versailles is the Opéra Royal. This theatre, built in 1770 to mark the engagement of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, is not open to the public. It does, however, host an interesting opera season which is the perfect excuse to spend an evening there and feel like a regular courtier.

Gardens, Fountains and Lost Palaces

After a visit to the palace, the best thing is to wander around the huge gardens and enjoy the fountains. Various shows are staged on different days, so it is worth checking out the programme before planning your visit.

The gardens are laid out in formal fashion, with geometrically-shaped pathways lined with tree groves, hedges, flowers, fountains and ponds. Fountains such as Neptune, Latona, the Colonnade and the Dragon Fountain provide some of the most impressive sights. It is rewarding to stroll among them and end off by heading for the Trianon, one of the jewels of Versailles. Here you will find two buildings – the Grand Trianon, a palace commissioned by Louis XIV as a retreat from court life and to host his mistresses, and the Petit Trianon, built for Louis XV but which became Marie Antoinette’s favourite retreat. She also had a quaint little theatre built in it. Be sure to also visit the Queen's Hamlet, where Louis XVI’s wife had an estate of twelve buildings modelled according to the aesthetic of a rural village, peasants and farm animals included. She would seek refuge here to get away from the demands of court life.

Book your Vueling to Paris and head for Versailles, which is just a half-hour’s train ride away. You won’t regret seeing such a splendid palace and feeling like a king for a few hours.

Text by Aleix Palau for Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

 

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