Authors Posts by Camille Poiré

Camille Poiré

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After almost 9 years in the UK, "ex-French" girl Camille quit her job in Publishing to travel the world in February 2013, and hasn't stopped since. She has lived temporarily in South Korea and Thailand and visited many countries working as a travel writer, content editor, and proofreader. She likes riding scooters, poetry, arthouse cinema, and scaring her mother trying extreme/adventure sports. She sadly hates beer, but you can buy her a glass of wine or cider instead. She rants – er, writes about her travels and life at Camille in Wonderlands - come say hello!

Would you brave Bolivia’s Death Road, one of South America’s ultimate challenges? In a land of adventure and wilderness, going down this windy, unbarriered mountain road 56 km northeast of La Paz remains one of the continent’s biggest adrenaline experiences. While riding the 58 km down the Death Road may seem like a crazy endeavor, the activity is offered by well-established, licensed tour providers with many years of experience helping tourists tackle it.

The Death Road (or Ruta de la Muerte in the original), is the ominous nickname given to the north section of the old Yungas Road linking Coroicos and La Paz. It was voted the “world’s most dangerous road” by the Inter-American Development Bank in 1995, and a 2006 estimate suggested that 200-300 travelers were killed along the road each year. Besides the facts that sections of it can get wet and visibility can be significantly impaired on foggy days, what makes the Road so dangerous is its very narrow size.

Despite this chilling reality, the Road has become a popular attraction on the South American travel trail. Today, the traffic and number of casualties have been culled by the construction of a safer alternative, and the old Yungas Road is the perfect terrain for thrill-seeking mountain bikers. While the Road is barely large enough to let one car through and needs to be navigated very carefully by motored vehicles, it is much more manageable on a smaller bike… and rewards you with epic vistas from its 4,650 m-high starting-point to the end!

death road bolivia

Flickr photo via wanderlasss

Perhaps surprisingly, you don’t need to be an accomplished mountain biker or cyclist to enjoy those views: the descent of the Death Road is not particularly physical or technical, and is open to almost anyone who can pedal! Your experience will start with a 20 km ride down a more securitized road in order to familiarize yourself with your bike and to master the turning and braking techniques. Once you’re comfortable with your gear and have found your cruising pace, a short minivan drive will take you up to La Cumbre Pass, the start of the actual North Yungas Road. Then it’ll be time to whizz down the remaining 38 km – with many stops for photographs along the way!

You’ll have a chance to relax and calm your nerves after the effort with a drink in a mountainside bar and a late lunch at a wild animal shelter. There is also the opportunity to sign up for optional activities, including zip lining, swimming, and tours of the shelter’s monkey area. Finally, you will set off for perhaps the scariest part of all: your minivan drive up the Death Road and back to La Paz.

After reaching the capital city in one piece, you’ll have earned major boasting rights: After all, you’ll be an official survivor of the world’s most dangerous road!

* Tips for a successful (near-)Death Road experience: This is not an activity you want to skimp on! There are tens of providers offering Death Road tours from La Paz – make sure that you do your research and choose a reputable company providing modern bikes with good suspension and appropriate riding gear. Although the Death Road is mainly downhill, it contains small flat and uphill sections towards the end. You will need minimum levels of fitness and confidence on two wheels to enjoy the ride.

So, will you brave Bolivia’s Death Road?

barcelona attractions

With its seaside location, surrounding hills, pedestrian Gothic center, and masterpieces of Modernist architecture, fun-loving Barcelona is an all-round photogenic city. Once you’ve explored the Catalan capital on ground level, why not seek a bit of elevation to admire it from above? Here are five Barcelona attractions that will afford you the best panoramic views of the city.

Montjuic swimming-pool

barcelona attractions

Flickr photo via van Ort

If you’re old enough to remember the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics, you’ll probably recall the stunning images of the swimming and diving competitions featuring the whole city as a backdrop. Today, this outdoor swimming-pool is open to everyone between the end of June and the beginning of September. If you’re in Barcelona out of season or don’t fancy a dip, there are plenty other opportunities to catch a bird’s eye view from the Montjuic Hill, including from the cable car on your way up or from one of the terraced cafes at the top.

Finally, an outlet for your "ostalgia"!

Coming out of the Ostbanhof train station, you will quickly spot the big sign painted on the façade of the Soviet-style concrete apartment block, asking you to walk another 50 meters and go up the stairs to the reception. There, in what looks like an old-fashioned waiting-room, a receptionist resembling an administrative secretary is sitting behind a giant counter, framed by a row of wall clocks indicating the respective times in Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, and Havana. In the corner, a voluminous television set resting on a wooden cabinet projects washed-out, hazy images of political summits from a bygone era.

There is no doubt: This is Ostel Hostel, the Berlin budget accommodation that decided to appropriate the hoax from the movie Goodbye Lenin and run away with it!


Ostel Hostel

The concept of this GDR-themed hostel is simple: to recreate the look and atmosphere of 1970s East Germany housing. Playing on the idea of “ostalgia” (nostalgia for the East), it mimics the traditional block apartments inhabited by East Berliners before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The hostel’s commitment to the GDR theme extends to every part of the building, from the “lobby area” (an impersonal row of doctor’s waiting-room chairs) to the bedrooms decorated with pattern wallpaper that would just about be acceptable in your grandmother’s house, and kitsch furnishings.

Ostel Hostel

The charm lies in the attention to detail: it’s hard to repress a grin as you discover the retro transistor and Soviet-approved pile of books on your bed table, or the vintage pictures in the – otherwise clean and modern – bathroom.

While it offers single rooms, double rooms, and a holiday apartment in addition to dorms, Ostel Hostel nevertheless remains mainly a budget option: the rooms are small and the amenities limited. If you’re after space and luxury, then this may not be the right place to lay your head.

Ostel Hostel

However, budget travelers looking for a unique and amusing experience can’t do much better than step 45 years back in time to spend a night in the former German Democratic Republic. And for a complete GDR experience, why not follow your stay at the Ostel with a visit of Berlin’s interactive DDR Museum?

Would you stay at the Ostel Hostel?

Let’s be honest: Paris is so full of sights, culture, history, and atmosphere that you’re not likely to run out of things to do anytime soon. But like any big city, visiting the French capital can get tiring. So if you need a break from museums, a little nature and outdoorsy action, or if you’re simply on a longer trip with a few days to spare for the fantastic attractions lying within easy reach of the capital, rejoice: there is plenty to lure you out! Whether you’re on a romantic city break or traveling with your young ones, here are 3 exciting suggestions to escape the capital for a day trip that will appeal to children and older children alike.

Versailles

day trips from paris
Flickr photo via Panoramas
An hour ride on the RER D train from one of the central Paris stations will lead you straight to Versailles Rive Gauche. From there, it’s only a short walk to the gates of the majestic Royal Palace built by Louis XIV, France’s most emblematic monarch, also known as the “Sun King”. Although the Château de Versailles is currently the world’s most visited non-religious building, the castle’s 2,300 rooms and 2,013 acre grounds will guarantee you’re not fighting for space! To make the most of your day, book your visit of the Palace’s landmarks (€15) or a themed guided tour (€7 extra) ahead of time from the Château’s website. For a perfect mix of history and greenery, follow your walk down the Hall of Mirrors with a lazy afternoon strolling around the landscaped gardens, fountains, statues, trianon castles, and Grand Canal Lake that make up the Palace’s park.

* Top tips: Entrance to Versailles is free on the 1st Sunday of the month from November to March. Between April and October, the Grandes Eaux (High Waters) and Jardins Musicaux (Musical Gardens) Festival brings the gardens to life. The park can be enjoyed in many different ways – the paddle boats on the lake are particularly prized by children and couples!

The Greek island of Santorini is rightly famous for its volcanic cliffs and views of its sea-filled caldera, beach resorts, whitewashed buildings with blue domes, and spectacular sunsets. One thing you may NOT expect to find there, however, is one of the world’s coolest independent bookshops: Atlantis Books.

Hidden down a flight of stairs on the lower floor of a traditional cave, Atlantis Books is a real treasure den for bookworms of all countries, crammed full of books in nearly every European language. The shop specializes in philosophy, travel writing, and literary fiction, and the story of its creation is almost as entertaining as the ones it sells.

This literary h(e)aven is the charming brainchild of friends Oliver and Craig who, at a time when bookstores were disappearing from the high street, one drunken evening dreamt up an idyllic little bookshop to be opened on the island on which they were vacationing. Whilst most of us would have shelved the idea as soon as we had recovered from our hangover, the two boys returned to the UK to complete their studies, and, after enrolling their friends from all over the world to lend their skills and enthusiasm to the project, headed back to Ia immediately after graduation, determined to turn their fantasy into reality.

atlantis books

Flickr photo via yuankuei

Having populated it with heaps of books, a dog, a cat, and a boat docked to their terrace (how perfect does that sound?!), in the spring of 2004, the ever-growing group of friends opened Atlantis Books below Ia’s castle, directly facing Santorini’s trademark sunsets. One year later, they relocated to their current spot at the heart of the village, where the team continues to sell international literature in the original language – including old books and collector’s editions – and to organize numerous events, from author readings to film screenings, live gigs, and bonfire parties.

The young entrepreneurs also set up their own publishing venture, Paravion Press, which prints postcard-sized limited editions of world classics, to be mailed on to loved ones after reading. With an eclectic catalogue currently featuring short works by James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, or Rudyard Kipling, each booklet is sold with its own envelope, perpetuating the ideals of travel and exchange on which the shop was built.


9395531481_47bc5d9f97_k

Flickr photo via Alma Ayon

But what makes this unique bookshop even more special is the way it is run: intended not only as a store but also as a base for the owners’ visiting friends and as a writing studio, Atlantic Books relies on volunteers to keep trading and houses its transient staff… inside the shop itself! Rows of wooden bookshelves compete for space with bunk beds, a concept inspired by the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris.

Like its Paris older sister, Atlantis Books is occasionally looking for temporary staff to help out for a minimum of 3 months. So if you fancy a long holiday on picturesque Santorini or some time off to write that novel you’ve been planning for ages, this might just be the retreat you need!

* Tips for visiting Santorini: Although stunning all year round, the island is best enjoyed in shoulder season, when the crowds are gone but the sun lingers behind and prices are discounted. If you’re inspired by Atlantis Books, why not time your visit to coincide with the bookshop’s September Caldera Arts & Literature Festival?

Have you visited Atlantis Books?

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They may not be an obvious choice, but it’s not difficult to see why Latvia and its Baltic neighbors have been on the rise as European travel destinations: They’re cheap and easy to roam, they offer a little bit of everything – from history to nature, beaches and cultural traditions to adventure… AND the food is delicious! In fact, along with Riga’s colorful medieval Old Town, Latvia’s culinary specialties might just be one of its strongest selling-points. Need convincing? Here are 5 Latvian foods you should put on the menu!

Rye bread

Latvian Foods

Flickr photo via Rebecca Siegel

Forget plain toast or white wheat: in Latvia your daily bread comes black and made of tasty sourdough rye, a cereal that grows abundantly in Nordic and Baltic countries. It’s particularly healthy and nutritious, but beware: You might get addicted to its strong flavor, and your usual bread may start to taste a little bland in comparison!

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