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April 2019

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Friday night’s in London are usually sacred.  The end of the week means relaxing at home after hectic days at work, or any number of after-hours activities.  You’re never short of things to do in London, especially if you are visiting for a short time.

That said, allow me to suggest ‘Friday Lates’ at the British Museum.  And, when I say lates, it’s only 8:30 pm late.  You’ll still have time for dinner afterwards and a night on the town.  Add a bit of culture Friday evenings when the museum hosts a nice range of lectures, discussions, film screenings, and special music and dance performances.  Most of the activities revolve around current exhibitions at the British Museum, so check what’s on before you go.

 Do keep in mind not all galleries are open during late hours at the British Museum, but rest assured you won’t be disappointed. Included below is the list of the galleries opened late on Fridays.  Feel free to download the list to take along with you during your visit.  

Why visit the British Museum on Friday night?  First of all, you’ll avoid the crowds.  With over eight million exhibits in the museum, it’ll be difficult to see it all and even more so with thousands of other visitors.  During the late opening, you can take your time whilst drinking in the vast amount of artefacts.  

The Egyptian collection is one of the finest (and largest) in the world.  When you have the museum to yourself, you’ll have the time to absorb the specially curated treasures.  You’ll discover stone tablets from the ancient Library of Alexandria, reliefs of lions from Assyria dating back to the seventh century, sculptures from the Parthenon, the first depiction of Jesus as well as artefacts recovered from the Sutton Hoo Viking ship burial.

The beauty of visiting the British Museum on a Friday night is you’ll avoid the throngs of people who nonsensically whip out their mobile phones for a selfie with the Rosetta Stone.  And if you are a consummate selfie-taker, you’ll have no fear of photo bombers.  Just don’t climb the Parthenon for your next viral selfie.  All joking aside, you can walk through one of the finest collections of humanity and enjoy your time in peace.  

I think your visit to the British Museum deserves the enriching experience you’ll have with few others around.  Walk through all the world’s continents and ancient eras of human development and civilisations.

I’ve visited the museum on several occasions after normal hours.  Each time I’ve captured interesting images of the Great Court, which is fascinating all by itself.  On this night, I basically had the British Museum to myself.

British Museum
Directions :
Located on Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London. The entrance is a short walk from the Holborn and Tottenham Court Road Underground stations. 
OPENING TIMES
10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily  Fridays Open Till 8:30 pm

British Museum GPS Coordinates :  51.5194° N, 0.1270° W
Map Showing Location of the British Museum ::

 
List of British Museum Galleries Open Late on Fridays :: 

Africa
Africa 
The Sainsbury Galleries
Room 25

Americas
North America 
Room 26

Mexico 
Room 27

Ancient Egypt
Egyptian sculpture 
Room 4

Egyptian life and death: the tomb-chapel of Nebamun 
The Michael Cohen Gallery
Room 61

Egyptian death and afterlife: mummies 
The Roxie Walker Galleries
Room 62-63

Early Egypt 
The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery
Room 64

Sudan, Egypt and Nubia 
The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery
Room 65

Ethiopia and Coptic Egypt 
Room 66

Ancient Greece and Rome
Greece: Minoans 
The Arthur I Fleischman Gallery
Room 12a

Greece: Mycenaeans 
The Arthur I Fleischman Gallery
Room 12b

Greece 1050–520 BC 
Room 13

Greek Vases 
Room 14

Athens and Lycia 
Room 15

Nereid Monument 
Room 17

Greece: Parthenon 
Room 18

Halikarnassos 
Room 21

Alexander the Great 
Room 22

Greek and Roman sculpture 
Room 23

Greek and Roman life 
Room 69

Roman Empire 
The Wolfson Gallery
Room 70

Etruscan world 
Room 71

Ancient Cyprus 
The AG Leventis Gallery
Room 72

Greeks in Italy 
Room 73

Asia
China, South Asia and Southeast Asia 
The Joseph E Hotung Gallery
Room 33

India: Amaravati 
Room 33

Chinese Jade 
The Selwyn and Ellie Alleyne Gallery
Room 33b

Europe
Clocks and watches 
The Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly Gallery
Room 38-39

Medieval Europe 1050–1500 
The Sir Paul and Lady Ruddock Gallery
Room 40

Sutton Hoo and Europe, AD 300–1100 
The Sir Paul and Lady Ruddock Gallery
Room 41

Europe 1800–1900 
Room 47

Europe 1900 to the present 
Room 48

Roman Britain 
The Weston Gallery
Room 49

Britain and Europe 800 BC-AD 43 
Room 50

Europe and Middle East 10,000–800 BC 
Room 51

Middle East
Assyrian sculpture and Balawat Gates 
Room 6

Assyria: Nimrud 
Room 7-8

Assyria: Nineveh 
Room 9

Assyria: Lion hunts 
Room 10a

Assyria: Siege of Lachish 
Room 10b

Assyria Khorsabad 
Room 10c

Ancient Iran 
The Rahim Irvani Gallery
Room 52

Ancient South Arabia 
The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery
Room 53

Ancient Turkey 
The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery
Room 54

Mesopotamia 1500–539 BC 
The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery
Room 55

Mesopotamia 6000–1500 BC 
The Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery
Room 56

Ancient Levant 
Room 57-59

Themes
Enlightenment 
Room 1

Collecting the World 
Room 2

Living and Dying 
The Wellcome Trust Gallery
Room 24

Money 
The Citi Money Gallery
Room 68

Having travelled the world so much, I’m all too familiar with tourists and how frustrating they can be. Sure, most are friendly and upbeat once you have the chance to meet them, but they don’t walk or talk with consideration to the locals, they’re finicky and tough to accommodate in restaurants, cause a cringe-worthy scene whenever a celebrity is around, and tend to display a general lack of situational awareness.  And what do they usually all have in common? They haven’t done their homework on local culture, which is the only way to seamlessly blend in with native strangers in unfamiliar territory. Feeling at home in a new city can be simple once you’ve studied up a bit, and it doesn’t take a ton of effort to appear respectful, in-the-know, and completely comfortable in new surroundings. No matter the destination on your suitcase tag, you can bet that a bit of preparation will make your transition go a lot more smoothly.

Study the Local Manners

Most people who haven’t ever left the United States would be shocked at how something as simple as a handshake can have all kinds of nuances depending on where in the world you’re travelling. So keep in mind that every country has its own unspoken social rules, manners, and customs. You can’t take it for granted that even your best manners will be understood or properly interpreted abroad. Before the landing gear deploys, you should be familiar with the local dos and don’ts of navigating and interacting with your temporary home. Learn how to greet people casually and respectfully, get familiar with proper local table manners, study up on what culturally taboo topics you’ll want to avoid, and memorize a few foreign language keywords you’ll need to get around to avoid fumbling through a translator app every time you need to ask for directions. This’ll make it simple to avoid stepping on any toes and will help to make each interaction with strangers a positive and memorable one.

Dress the Part

While you should always be comfortable and dress to your preference, it’s embarrassing (and potentially dangerous) to be labelled a gullible tourist at first glance. Looking too casual or travel-ready (I’m talking cargo pants, big backpacks, and gym sneakers) is a dead giveaway.

You can’t go wrong with well-fitting, slightly dressed-up gear in neutral colours. If it fits well and it has a collar, chances are it’ll look great no matter where you are. And avoid wearing flashy jewellery and accessories, or risk being a target for pickpockets. Yeah, your Rolex looks great and makes being on-time easier, but it’s probably not the best idea to flash it in a foreign environment where your street smarts are lessened.

Plan Your Menu

Authentic, local food is indisputably one of the best parts of travelling. And while playing it safe and sticking only to stuff you’re already familiar with (I’m talking to you, picky eaters) isn’t necessarily disrespectful or rude, it’s a massive missed opportunity. A trip to a new country is the perfect time to experiment with new cuisines impulsively, but it doesn’t hurt to get familiar with some of the local delicacies, and the way they’re commonly served and eaten before you arrive. So do a bit of research, make a short list of a few dishes your host city or country does best, and gravitate towards those when you bib up at a new restaurant. No need to memorize every dish or local ingredient; if you’re lost on what to order, it’s always an option to ask your server for a recommendation as long as you’re polite. With those details in mind, you’ll get more out of your trip – and then return home a more experienced, well-rounded traveller. Now, have fun out there. And don’t forget to grab meaningful memories to share with everybody back at home.

Founded in 1123, St Bartholomew The Great is one of the oldest places of worship in London.  Parts of the original church still remain though in the year 1539 King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries meant almost all of the nave of St Bartholomew The Great was destroyed by 1543.  The remaining traces of the monastic building is what you see today.  The nave of a church is the long centre narrow part of a church between the main columns.

The church also survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was one of the few London churches spared from damage in the German Blitz during World War II.   St Bartholomew the Great wasn’t so great during the 18th century as it fell into severe disrepair. Determination and faith led to repair and restoration efforts in the late 1800’s which saved it from destruction.

Today the priory church is an Anglican church and an important architectural monument.  It was established by Rahere, a clergyman for King Henry I.  Folklore tells us Raher erected the church as thanks to God after recovering from a severe fever.  The clergyman’s miraculous recovery led many to believe the church had curative powers, so sick people filled the aisles every 24 August, which is St Bartholomew’s Day.

St Bartholomew The Great is a living, active church but it also welcomes those of no particular religious affiliation because of its history and architecture.

One step inside and you know you’ve entered a special place unlike the more famous St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey. Inside is the most intact Norman interior in London, with a suitably ancient atmosphere.  There is simple architectural beauty which draws you in and it almost seems as if you’re part of history.  The remains of the original Norman church consist of a transept crossing, chancel, and ambulatory with large round pillars.  The low, wide side aisles have groin vaults.  

If you are a movie buff, you may recognize St Bartholomew The Great.  The church has been a popular film location for Four Weddings and A Funeral, Sherlock, The Other Boleyn Girl, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Amazing Grace, and The End of the Affair. One day I was there The Hollow Crown : Richard II with Patrick Stewart was filming.

The entrance of the church from Smithfield now goes into the churchyard through a tiny surviving fragment of the west front, which is now surmounted by a half-timbered Tudor building.  From there to the church door, a path leads along roughly where the south aisle of the nave used to be.

Prepare yourself to be in awe and add St Bartholomew The Great to your things to do in London list, especially if you enjoy stepping into history.

 
Map and Guide for St Bartholomew The Great

Where is St Bartholomew The Great?
GPS Coordinates for St Bartholomew The Great ::  51.518905° N, 0.099574° W

Map Showing the Location of St Bartholomew The Great:

  • Venice is spectacular in every shade of light
  • The night is Venice’s time of tranquillity
  • Water and Acqua Alta are beautiful even if they are menacing
  • You’ll marvel at every canal you encounter
  • Getting ‘lost’ in the maze of narrow streets and alleys are what makes Venice fascinating
  • Watching night fall over Venice is ever so romantic
  • Walking through St Mark’s Square after midnight
  • Venice is pure magic
  • Venice is arguably the most romantic city in the world
  • The city is charming at every turn
  • It’s possible Venice has more bridges than streets
  • Palaces, churches and museums
  • Rich, remarkable history of Venice
  • Cruising the canals on a private boat
  • You’ll be inspired by the art, which is everywhere and part of everyday life
  • Just because it’s Venice and there’s no other place in the world like it
  • Be stunned by the detail in everything
  • Pause and drink in every square in Venice.  Or, stop and have a drink in every square in Venice
  • The enduring and formidable architecture
  • Private water taxi, especially from the airport.  What a way to arrive in Venice
  • Picture perfect views 
  • You’ll think you’re in a movie
  • Mysterious streets especially in the darkness of the night
  • Your love affair begins here whether you’re with someone or not

Gallery of Venice Photos

 
Watch and listen to the Campanile Bells in Venice

Venice Italy GPS Coordinates ::  45.4408° N, 12.3155° E

Map of Venice Italy

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The Westminster Abbey Choir is regarded as one of the finest in the world.  The choir consists of thirty boy choristers and twelve adult singers known as Lay Vicars.  The young boys, ages 8-13, are pupils at the Westminster Abbey Choir School located in Dean’s Yard near the abbey.  The school is the last remaining choir school in the United Kingdom.

It’s believed the choir originated around the year 1560 as the choir of Westminster Abbey have been educated there since Elizabethan times. So, it’s quite an honour and accomplishment to be part of such history.

There are numerous recordings of Westminster Abbey Choir and they travel the world performing concerts, including a performance with the Sistine Chapel Choir at a Papal Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in 2012.  The choir also plays a central role in royal, state and national occasions that take place at Westminster Abbey.

If you’re curious to listen to the choir in London, plan to attend a Choral Evensong.  There is no charge to attend the service, though do be prepared to dress appropriately as you would at any church.  Everyone is welcome.  I’ve attended Evensong on numerous occasions, including Easter Sunday.  The experience is ecumenical, to say the least, but sitting in Westminster Abbey with over 950 years of history adds to the special experience.  You’ll have an appreciation for the abbey unlike most visitors and it is possible emotion will overcome you. 

The choir boys and men sing Evensong Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 5 pm.  Simply arrive at the main entrance of Westminster Abbey and state you’re there to attend service.  No cameras, video or audio recording is allowed.  Be sure to check the choral service schedule before arriving at the abbey.  

Oftentimes I’ll stroll through Westminster on a Sunday afternoon. One stop I’ll make is Westminster Abbey Cloisters.  During summertime, the cloisters are a splendid place to cool off.  More than this, I’ll time my arrival near 2:30 pm so I can watch the choir procession from the choir room to the abbey door.  With my camera always at my side, I’ve captured many a fun photograph in long exposure form.

I’ll stay in the cloisters throughout the choral service as the choir’s voices float like a graceful feather from inside the church.  I suppose this is a casual way to enjoy the music and beautiful voices without properly dressing.

Video of Westminster Abbey Choir During Church Service :

Too, there is no admission fee to visit the cloisters at Westminster Abbey.  I enter through Dean’s Yard at the right side of the church.  If you’re unfamiliar with a cloister, it is a covered walk or open arcade running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle. The attachment of a cloister to a church or cathedral, usually indicates it was part of a monastery at some point in the church’s history. 

The cloisters would essentially act as a barrier separating the monks from the ‘outside world.’  You could refer to this as an enclosed religious order.  Cloister derives from the Latin term, claustrum, or enclosure.  You’ll find cloisters at many medieval churches around the world.

Where is Westminster Abbey Cloisters?
GPS Coordinates of Westminster Abbey Cloisters ::  51.4993° N, 0.1273° W

Map Showing the Location of Westminster Abbey Cloisters :

The moment I saw a photo of Mont Saint Michel in a magazine I was mesmerized.  The notion of an island off the coast of France topped by an awe-inspiring medieval monastery still in use today immediately captured my imagination.  The realization that I could not only visit Mont Saint Michel but also stay at the very base of the Romanesque chunk of history sent me over the moon.

Mont Saint Michel is one of the world’s most magnificent sights, there is no doubt.  Aside from picturesque, why should you visit Mont Saint Michel?

Mont Saint Michel is connected to the mainland via a causeway which until recently was a thin natural land bridge.  During high tides, the bridge was engulfed by water during high tide and revealed at low tide.  Victor Hugo described the tides as á la Vitesse d’un coeval au galop, “as swiftly as a galloping horse”.   What a superb description because the tides can roll in at one meter per second.  You wouldn’t want to be caught in that.  In fact, over the years more than a few lives have been claimed by the tides and even quicksand.  In 2014 a new causeway opened which allows visitors to safely cross to the island but also opens the flow of seawater so once again the mystical quality of Mont Saint Michel reveals itself during high tide.  You can download the current tides schedule at Mont Saint Michel before your visit.

The abbey built high on the island catches your eye from great distances.  If you’re driving, it will seem as Mont Saint Michel gradually appears out the earth like magic.  The slow emergence into your view only adds to the anticipation of what lies ahead, though the sheer magnitude of this wonder is only appreciated when you stand mere feet away from the entrance.  For me, it is inconceivable how such a grand structure could be built on an island over a thousand years ago.

When you enter, you’ll walk directly into a medieval town though the buildings are filled with modern restaurants, souvenir shops and museums.  Many of the tourists walk no further as the climb to the abbey, which is at the very top, is difficult.  If you choose to climb to the abbey, you’ll have peace of mind knowing few others will join you.  Walk the steps.  By the time you’ve reached the famous Escalier de Dentelle (Lace Staircase) to the gallery around the roof of the abbey church, you’ll have climbed no less than 900 steps.  The climb is worth every inclined step you take.  I guarantee it.

Halfway up Grande Rue is the medieval parish church of St Pierre, which is still used today.  The church features a beautifully carved side chapel with a dramatic statue of St. Michael slaying the dragon.  The day I visited I was treated to the sight of a monk pulling on a long rope to ring the church bell.  When the rope ascended toward the bell, the monk was lifted off the ground.  The memory stays etched in my memory and I can only hope to witness this again.

The Grand Degré, a steep, narrow staircase, leads to the abbey entrance, from which a wider flight of stone steps leads to Salt Gautier Terrace outside the dignified church.  Alongside, you’ll find stunning arcaded cloisters which offer sweeping views of the bay. Be sure to wander at your leisure amongst the maze of rooms, staircases (yes more) and vaulted halls that make up the abbey.

If you’re able, let your creative imagination take you back hundreds of years to enhance your experience.

Information about The Abbey at Mont Saint Michel ::

The Abbey is open every day except January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th.
From May 2nd – Aug 31st, the hours are 9 am to 7 pm with the last admission at 6 pm.
From Sept 1st – April 30th, the hours are 9:30 am to 6 pm with the last admission at 5 pm.
The entry fee is 9 euros for individuals age 25 and older.
The rate is 7 euros for individuals age 18 to 25.
Under age 18 is free.
Under age 26 and citizen of a European, Union Country is free also.
Mass is celebrated at 12:15 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and on Sunday’s at 11:30 am. Other masses are conducted at 7 am during the week and at 8 am on weekends.

Interesting Facts About Mont Saint Michel ::
During the 100 Years War, England captured all of Normandy except for Mont Saint-Michel.
The Statue of Archangel Saint Michael atop the Abbey spire also acts as a lightning rod to protect the island from electrical storms.
Mont Saint-Michel was the first site in France to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stage 11 of the 2013 Tour de France ended at Mont Saint-Michel.

Where is Mont Saint Michel?
GPS Coordinates of Mont Saint Michel ::  48.6361° N, 1.5115° W

Map Showing The Location of Mont Saint Michel

Old Map Showing the Layout of Mont Saint Michel

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Operatic performance in London stretches back more than three hundred years, though the organisation of the current theatre began in 1946 as the Covent Garden Opera Company.  The theatre we attend today was built in 1858, but it wasn’t until 1892 when it officially became the Royal Opera House.

The first opera I attended was Don Giovani in London during the 1980’s.  It’s safe to say I slept through much of the production.  I don’t remember much besides the bellowing voices carried through the theatre.  My mind was unwilling to understand the language and my age prevented me from interpreting what took place on stage.  In an odd way, the opera intimidated me.   But, I could say I attended the opera for what that’s worth.

For years afterwards, I turned to musical theatre.  ’42nd Street’ at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane sealed the deal for me.  I was mesmerised by the show, the mighty tap dancing and tunes that stayed in my head long after the show ended.  The list of shows I’ve seen is endless, and for the most part, I enjoy each one I see.  In fact, just recently I saw ‘Hello Dolly’ with Bernadette Peters not once, but twice, in New York City.  The shows are hugely entertaining but in a casual dining out sort of way.  You can have a splendid time with comfort food, or in the case of musical theatre, a song you can hum or tap your foot to.  The shows are mainstream if you will.

On the other hand, opera and ballet productions tend to be more sophisticated and cerebral.  Some see a night at the opera as something only the elite do.  Yes, you might see a sea of black ties adorning the audience, but beneath the grandeur on stage are poignant and dramatic human stories set to beautiful music.  The opera nor the ballet are untouchable.  The productions at the Royal Opera House are for everyone – young to old.

The set designs, lighting, costumes, exquisite music, glorious and heavenly voices, and graceful ballet dance leave you in awe.  When you are at a Royal Opera House performance, you’re part of an experience – and one you won’t soon forget.  What transpires on stage can inspire a lot of emotions.  You might even go through in two and half hours what many people spend their entire emotional lives living through.  You’ll feel everything on stage.

If you get swept away, so be it.  Cry, laugh or gasp.  Some shows might be hysterically funny, horribly devastating, sexy, thrilling, tense, gorgeous, poignant – and yes, sometimes boring.

Royal Opera House :: Favourite Romantic Ballets

And no, wearing a tuxedo or a long gown is not a requirement to attend opera or ballet.  I’ve attended numerous productions at the Royal Opera House and I fit right in wearing slacks and a button-down shirt.  It’s possible I once wore a nice pair of jeans.  Do leave your scuffed up trainers at home.  For ladies, dress pants or a skirt and blouse will work nicely.  Even a cocktail dress is acceptable.  The most important thing for you to remember is this is your night, so make the most of it the best way you know how.  Even be creative and colourful if you choose.

When the curtain goes up, the audience may mysteriously begin to applaud.  Know the conductor is walking to his or her stand.  Simply applaud as the others applaud.  Unlike a concert, there are the right times to applaud during the show.  If you’re unsure, the easiest approach is to take a cue from the rest of the audience.  If they start clapping, join along.

The opera and ballet are for you, me and everyone.  After one performance at the Royal Opera House, you’ll be richer than you were before the curtain rose.  The productions are like fine dining and the flavours arrive in layers.  Each layer ignites your senses in luxurious tantalizing fashion.

Royal Opera House ::  What Do You See?

Photos of Programs and Tickets from Various Royal Opera House Productions:

Royal Opera House :: A Photo From Every Seat

For a better understanding of behind the scene operations of the Royal Opera House, consider taking the backstage tour.  You’ll receive an overview of the fabulous building, the massive backstage area, the Front of the House and Paul Hamlyn Hall.  Better still, you’ll gain an insight into the illustrious history of the theatre, learn about the state of the art technology utilised to pull off each production and see firsthand various aspects of current productions.

Keep in mind, the Royal Opera House is a fully working theatre, so it is possible to catch a glimpse of performers practising or a workshop.  The day I took the tour the Royal Ballet was in class and I couldn’t get enough of the intensity and grace displayed before me.  Royal Opera House productions change day-to-day, so it’s fascinating to learn how backstage technology is used to move around scenery which can weigh up to 30 tonnes.  

The backstage tour is brilliant and one I highly recommend whether you love opera and ballet or not.  The tour lasts a little over an hour.  Currently, tours begin at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm, Monday through Saturday.  Check ahead to be sure tours operate as scheduled.  The cost for the Royal Opera House Backstage Tour ranges from £9 – £12 

Video :: Discover: Royal Opera House – Backstage Tour

Where is the Royal Opera House?
GPS Coordinates of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden ::  51.5129° N, 0.1222° W

Map Showing the Location of the Royal Opera House :

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Qatar is known by many as a layover at Doha’s fabulous airport or a mere day stopover.  For a couple of years, all I knew of Doha was the drive between the airport and the hotel.  During the airport-hotel transfers, I’d notice Doha’s interesting elements that were enough to decide to give Qatar enough time to explore.  

I especially love the architecture in Doha, by the way.  The buildings aren’t your run of the mill square or rectangular boxes we so often see in London or New York.  Doha’s buildings are inspiring and spark a creative mind’s imagination.  Can you imagine a building touching you enough to make you decide to make a place a destination?  

During my first extended stay in Qatar, I quickly received a warm welcome.  Yes, the weather is beyond your normal hot and humid. In fact, when you outside expect to perspire and expect it to be part of the experience.  What I really mean by warm welcome is the feeling I got from everyone in the city wherever I happened to be.  I’m always met with smiles and a genuine sense of belonging. I especially appreciate being greeted with a handshake then placing the hand over the heart.  There’s a warmth to the gesture that I find most endearing.

In Qatar you’ll discover a country rich in tradition yet you will discover it to be dynamic and exciting at the same time.  The country is indeed a land of contrasts where contemporary sophistication melds beautifully with old world hospitality.  Qatar is unexpected in so many wonderful ways.  Think of the Middle Eastern land as a rich cultural tapestry waiting for you to discover.

If this isn’t enough to convince you to make Qatar your next destination, consider the following top reasons to visit.

Museum of Islamic Art 
Mathaf Al-Fann Al-Islami (Museum of Islamic Art) houses one of the world’s most impressive collections of artworks crafted according to traditional styles from across the Middle East and central Asia.  It’s in this museum you’ll find glorious decorated ceramics, glass and textile items, stunning carpets, metalworks and richly detailed antique manuscripts.  The museum building is iconic, designed by architect, I.M. Pei.  The Museum of Islamic Art building itself is a work of art both inside and out.

The Corniche
Curved around Doha Bay is a long waterfront officially called the Corniche.  Enjoy splendid vistas of Doha, from the inspiring high rise buildings in the business district to the distinctive shapes of the Museum of Islamic Art.  Traditional wooden dhows (boats) line the bay reminding us of Qatar’s seafaring past.  The area is pedestrianized for a safe stroll from end to end.

Katara Cultural Village
I visited Katara Cultural Village out of curiosity.  I reluctantly left the cultural centre wanting the same in my city.  In fact, I want to conduct a photography workshop with the Qatar Photographic Society.  Katara is a creative interpretation of the region’s architectural heritage.  The village consists of a stunning amphitheatre, small theatres, various art and photographic galleries and performance venues where you can see concerts shows and exhibitions.  All arts housed in one innovative place.

Souq Waqif (Shopping)
Doha offers shopping for any and all discerning shopaholic.  You’ll find luxury brands galore and glorious scents not readily available in the western world.  But, for an authentic taste of traditional commerce, make your way to Souq Waqif after the sun sets. Meander through the maze of small shops and vendors who offer anything from spices to perfumes, jewellery, clothing, Middle Eastern handicrafts or a treasure trove of trinkets.  As you stroll through the souq, you’ll be treated to cultural shows, traditional music, and art.  The atmosphere in the night air is eclectic and one not to miss.

Desert Safari
For a true sense of Qatar’s terrain, be sure to set aside time for a desert safari.  The largest area of sand dunes in Qatar lies to the southwest of Doha.  The high dunes are brilliant for viewing, climbing – and if you’re adventurous, dune bashing.  Like most dunes around the world, the desert scenery changes constantly with shifting winds.  The colours of the sunset are especially breathtaking from the dunes and you’ll be treated to a change in the colour of the sand as well.  And while you’re at the desert sand dunes, travel further south for the impressive Inland Sea, Khor Al Adaid.  The sights are simply beautiful and ones you’ll remember long after you leave.

I offer only a handful of reasons to explore Qatar, though there is so much more to discover in this magnificent country.  Not only will your senses be touched, but your mind is encouraged to think.  As I visit Doha over and over again, I’ll update this page.

 

 
Where is Qatar?
GPS Coordinates of Doha Qatar ::  25.2854° N, 51.5310° E

Map Showing the Location of Qatar

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At weekends I meet a good friend for drinks at our member’s club in Shaftesbury Avenue.  He always asks where I’ve been during the week. When I tell him, his response is always, “Where is that?” or “I’ve never been there.”  The reaction never varies, and I believe him.  His world revolves around the home, the office, a spot of lunch on Saturdays and drinks at the club.  I’d go as far as to say my friend isn’t alone.  Most Londoners, even those living in Central London, don’t know the city very well.

Before Instagram and the rapid growth of blogs, there were numerous ‘secret’ places in London.  Today, a popular London Instagrammer posts a new London discovery and then hordes of others follow in his/her footsteps to take and post the same place. The practice doesn’t seem original, but it happens. 

One good example is Peggy Porschen Cakes in Ebury Street around Victoria Station in Belgravia.  The cake shop is a hop, skip and a jump from where I live. When the shop opened in 2010, it was popular with the residents in the area and Londoners “in the know.” When Instagrammers discovered Peggy Porschen’s and posted photos of the stunning store exterior, the secret was no longer a secret.  London bloggers are no different as one after another writes a post about the cute bake shop on the corner.  Now everyone in London knows.  I can only imagine how much business increased since the rise of the popular social media platform.  Any good marketer will tell you word of mouth is the best form of advertising.  The cake shop struck gold.

Screenshot of photos of Peggy Porschen Cakes :

Out of curiosity I popped over to Pinterest and searched ‘Secret Places in London.”  If you’re unfamiliar with Pinterest, their search page is one that scrolls endlessly toward the bottom, except you never reach the bottom.  The page keeps on going all the while proposing ‘pins’ of secret places in London from a vast array of people or bloggers.  Everyone it seems is an expert of London places about which you need to know, but no one else knows.  A popular buzz term these days is ‘hack,’ which isn’t a congenial sounding word, but everyone seems to use it.

ST DUNSTAN’S IN THE EAST

These are the titles of the ‘Secret Places in London’ according to a myriad of experts :
7 Secret Places in London – You Have To Discover Them
15 Secret Places to Discover in London
10 Secret Places In London
21 Amazing Secret Places To Find In London
15 of the Best London Hidden Gems
10 Quirky, Hidden and Secret Spots in London You’ll Love
15 Secret Spots You Have To See In London
10 Secret and Free Spots to Discover in London
Six Secrets in London

There are more listings but I only chose nine.  For each, I clicked the link and I’m not surprised to find St Dunstan In The East on every secret place in London list except for one.  Most of the bloggers place the bombed out church turned into a garden as their number one secret place.  Even the ever popular Londonist site recently suggested you toDiscover This Secret Garden in a Bombed Out Church.”  It’s a true hidden gem, you know.

My photo of St Dunstan In The East

So, I have to ask – is St Dunstan In The East a secret anymore?  Or, the noses of Soho?  Postman’s Park?  The smallest police station in London?  Each ‘secret place’ shows up on everyone’s list.  Is there any place in London that is a secret anymore or is everyone simply copying one another?  The latter makes no difference to me, though the repetition does make me wonder.

Perhaps when Instagram loses favour, and it will one day, will London’s secrets return?  The same question can be asked when the wave of London blogs recedes and the notion that influencers promote better fades away.

All that said, not everyone uses social media or read blogs to discover London.  If you’re like my friend I meet each week, you’re in this category. There are still secrets in London.  If you’re like me, you discover something new in London every day you walk around the city.  In fact, I found St Dunstan in the East simply be meandering from Tower Hill to Monument over ten years ago.  No one told me the bombed out church garden was there; I simply found it and it instantly became my favourite secret place in London.  The difference is – I didn’t share it with anyone online.  And, St Dunstan in the East is more than a secret, it’s special.  

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