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10 Reasons to Fall in Love with Athens

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Athens has hit a new stride thanks to a glorious revival in art, food and architecture that has been underway for the last decade. Here, the concierge team at Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens offers are ten reasons to fall in love with this flourishing metropolis.

An Epic Heritage: The Parthenon is visible from almost every street corner in central Athens and must be seen up close to appreciate just how imposing these famous and majestic columns are. Fast forward a few millennia and you will find yourself at the Panathenaic Stadium, also made entirely of marble and the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.

A City by the Sea: Bon vivants know that you can experience almost everything the Greek islands have to offer in Athens. With some of the most beautiful beaches found along a 31 mile (50 kilometre) coastline, you can enjoy life just as the ancients did, with fresh seafood all year round, while swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea for the majority of the year.

Music and Theatre Beneath the Acropolis: From majestic ballets and arias to ancient Greek tragedies, witnessing a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus (June–October) is something you’ll unlikely forget. Despite being nearly 2,000 years old, the theatre is heralded for its exemplary acoustics.

Temple of Poseidon: Erected in the middle of the 5th century BC and located at the end of the Sounion peninsula, this ancient temple was built to honour Poseidon, god of the sea. A sunset here is one of the most magical in Greece, blanketed by vivid reds and oranges.

Evzones: Rain, hail or shine, the Greek Presidential Guards or Evzones march towards Hellenic Parliament every Sunday morning in a spectacular ceremonial parade that has become synonymous with Athens.

Wines of Athens: As a city surrounded by small historical vineyards, Attica is the largest wine region in Greece, touting talented winemakers who are producing award-winning wines using the indigenous savatiano grape.

An Athenian Way of Life: The weekly farmers markets or laiki agora are an inherent part of Athenian society. Setting up in neighbourhoods all around the city, these food markets allow locals to stock up on fresh produce while socialising within their community. The largest, known as the Varvakeios Markets in downtown Athens, operates daily and offers seasonal harvests and local delicacies.

Byzantine Churches: For anyone that appreciates beauty, the churches in Athens are among the most special in Greece, hailing from the Byzantine era and defined by their tall domes with arched windows. The Church of Panagia Kapnikarea is one of the oldest in Athens, built around 1050 AD. All are welcome to enter and appreciate the rare frescos and beautiful iconography inside.

Art and Culture go hand in hand in Athens beginning with the Acropolis Museum. With floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ancient city, thousands of sculptures and artefacts found around the Acropolis are displayed and bathed in natural light. At the Museum of Cycladic Art, a stunning collection of Cycladic figurines and ceramics from the 3rd millennium BC can be seen. Over at the National Archaeological Museum, a treasure trove of antiquities await including the gold mask of Agamemnon and the Antikythera Mechanism.

Athens’ New Agora: Athenians received a contemporary agora at the newly opened Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. The Agora, emblematic of the central gathering spaces in ancient Greece, upholds this tradition with regular events held throughout the year. The entire building is a significant addition to modern day Athens and an architectural feat by architect Renzo Piano.

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Ten Trinity Square

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Steps from the River Thames, the gentle hillside where Ten Trinity Square now stands was first populated over 2,000 years ago by the Romans, who formed the settlement of Londinium. This was the centre of the city, around which the great capital has grown.

Recognising the significance of this point on the river, William the Conqueror built the Tower of London nearby after his invasion of England in 1066. Today there is a sign in the lobby marking the distance of an arrow’s flight – the boundary where people had to stop or risk being shot by archers on the Tower.

During the Middle Ages, this became one of London’s most important neighbourhoods. As a royal residence, the Tower attracted the nobility and gentry to the surrounding area. With the city’s ongoing growth, this riverside location became the province of medieval merchants who set up their guilds to look after the interests of tradesmen and their families.

In 1666, much of the city was destroyed by the Great Fire of London, which started just west of the Ten Trinity Square site. The fire was witnessed by Samuel Pepys, the great diarist, who worked in the Navy Office adjoining the property and lived in the adjacent street, now Pepys Street. It is said that he rushed outside to bury his highly prized Parmesan cheese to protect it from the approaching fire, while Sir William Penn (later the founder of Pennsylvania) buried a bottle of wine. The location was the site now occupied by Seething Lane Gardens.

Growth Of Riverside Business

After the fire, London was rebuilt and the port extended downstream to the east. By the 19th century, London had become the beating heart of world trade, as ships offloaded their cargo. The docklands grew into a major source of wealth and power. Tea and pottery arrived from China, silks from Arabia, and coffee and spices from the East Indies.

The docks were being run by private enterprises, leading to many conflicting interests. In 1908, full control of the River Thames and docking management was given to the Port of London Authority, created by Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

Building Ten Trinity Square

The headquarters of the Port of London Authority was opened in 1922 at Ten Trinity Square. Designed by renowned architect Sir Edwin Cooper – who won the project through a design competition – the building was constructed at a then-astronomical cost of EUR 1 million.

Built in the Beaux-Arts style, which was fashionable for civic buildings in the Edwardian era, the quality of Ten Trinity Square represented the status of the organization. Its majestic façade hints at trade links going back to Roman times, while the original central rotunda was topped by a magnificent glass dome, created to emulate that of nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral. Rising atop the building at the front entrance, a sculpture of Old Father Thames stands proudly, holding his trident and pointing east, paying homage to the trade between nations.

In the peak days of the Port of London Authority, more than 1,200 people each day came to the rotunda to pay port dues for all the boats that were arriving in London. Such was the importance of the building that, in 1946, the General Assembly of the United Nations held its inaugural reception here, in what is now known as the UN Ballroom.

A key feature of the building is its view of the lush greenery of Trinity Square Garden, laid out in 1795 as the setting for Trinity House. Ringed with pieces of the wall from the ancient Roman settlement, the garden was preserved as open space under a Special Act of Parliament in 1797. This unique sunken garden now features the Tower Hill War Memorial, including the WWI Mercantile Marine Memorial and the WWII Merchant Seamen’s Memorial.

During the Blitz in World War II, Ten Trinity Square was badly damaged by enemy bombing and the domed rotunda was destroyed. In the 1970s, after the Port of London Authority moved to its current location in Tilbury, the building was renovated and the central courtyard was filled in with office space. The building was then occupied by the European headquarters of the insurance broker Willis Faber Limited and continued to serve as offices until 2008. When Willis Faber moved on to a new location, the building lay vacant for several years.

Vision For The Future

Ten Trinity Square was purchased in 2010 by Reignwood, the Chinese investment company. The firm brings a deep respect for London’s history and culture, and began the process of restoring the building as a hotel and residences. It took six months to secure conditional planning permission before conversion work could begin on this Grade II*-listed building. (The “Grade II*” designation from Historic England reflects “particularly important buildings of more than special interest.”)

During excavations to support the original foundations, a number of significant Roman archaeological finds were made, including chalk-walled cellars, cesspits, animal remains and a well. All of these items were given to the Museum of London Archaeology.

Rather than create reproduction interiors, Reignwood chose to restore and preserve as many surviving original features as possible. A team of stone-restoration experts spent years on the exterior stonework and carvings. Inside, specialist restorers have brought new life to the original plasterwork, wood carvings, marble floors, and the soaring grand staircase.

Following this six-year, multi-million-pound renovation – and now with the renowned management of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – Ten Trinity Square stands once again as one of London’s most desirable addresses.

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Newest Family Travel Trend: “Skip-Gen” and “Gramping”

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Multi-generational travel has been gaining popularity in recent years, and its latest iteration is on the rise as families continue to find new ways to create experiences and memories together.  The trend of “skip-gen” travel – or more recently called “gramping” – focuses on grandparents bonding with grandchildren, without the presence of parents.  Picking the right kind of vacation for playful kids and baby boomers may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Consider these suggestions from Marriott International for an unforgettable summer “gramping” experience across the Americas:

New York, NY – New this summer, the Statue of Liberty Museum opens in May and the final section of the High Line elevated park opens in June. Warm weather, new openings and major events make the Big Apple an ideal place for skip-gen travelers to spend a summer weekend. New York Marriott Downtown is situated in Lower Manhattan, close to the waterfront, with cool summer breezes and most of its guest rooms have views of the harbor and city. It’s walking distance to multiple attractions including Battery Park, Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, several museums and the new shops and restaurants of Brookfield Place. Take a quick subway or yellow taxi uptown to see a Broadway show, explore Central Park and check out the Empire State Building, there are activities for all ages.

Boston, MA –  Nestled in Boston’s scenic Seaport District, Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel  is walking distance to the Boston Children’s Museum, The Institute of Contemporary Art, and The Greenway which has seven water features, public art, a carousel, and summer concerts and movies. Whether exploring Boston’s Freedom Trail on the red brick path throughout the city, taking a famous Duck Tour on land and sea, or enjoying a baseball game at Fenway Park (and don’t forget the Fenway Frank!) this iconic New England city is great for grandparents and grandchildren.

Atlanta, GA – The Aloft Atlanta Downtown is in walking distance of endless activities and attractions located throughout the city, such as a tour of CNN studios, marine life at the Georgia Aquarium, and the Fountain of Rings in Centennial Olympic Park. Giant twin pandas can be seen  at the Atlanta Zoo and those familiar with Winnie-the-Pooh will want to explore the exhibit at the High Museum of Art.

Seattle, WA – With ideal weather, seasonal festivals and outdoor activities aplenty, it’s no wonder that Seattle shimmers in the summer. Situated amid incredible shopping and iconic attractions, The Westin Seattle offers easy access to celebrated attractions including the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Great Wheel at Pier 57. There is no shortage of gorgeous views of the Seattle skyline, Puget Sound, Lake Union and Cascade mountain range. Younger grandkids will be excited to hear that Sesame Street’s Muppets will be in Seattle in July, while teenagers may want to check out Google’s new campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood.

Washington, D.C. – Located in the breathtaking waterfront destination of National Harbor, Maryland, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, has added complimentary, resort-only activities designed for all ages to enjoy. Active guests can experience nightly laser light shows, Silent Disco Parties, and a nature-loving scavenger hunt. More low-key activities include movies in its 19-story garden atrium, a “Campfire and S’more” experience, live music and more.

Vancouver, BC – What’s different about this Canadian city is how quickly you can go from hiking or boating to watching an outdoor movie in a park or exploring a pop-up market. No matter how energetic or active the group, there’s truly something for all interests, including restaurants for the family foodie. With Western Canada’s mountaintops as its backdrop, JW Marriott Parq Vancouver is anchored in the middle of it all. In between the stylish neighborhoods of Gastown and Yaletown, the hotel is at the epicenter of downtown Vancouver’s dynamic entertainment district, Parq Vancouver.

Lima, Peru – The trend of skip-gen trips is attributed to baby boomers who may be retired and have more time to take a far-flung trip with their grandchildren and Lima is a great option for these types of vacations. Popular attractions for all ages include Kennedy Park, the Indigenous Market and LarcoMar. Boasting an unbeatable location at Malecón de la Reserva with stunning ocean views of Miraflores, AC Hotel Lima Miraflores is located just a short walk from all of the above.

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New York City As Seen On Screen

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Whether it be an unplanned holiday trip, an epic clash to save the world, friends experiencing daily life in the five boroughs or anything in between, storytellers in film and television have long chosen New York City as their setting. No matter your favorite genre, a trip to NYC is an opportunity to see where some of these iconic scenes came to life, including:

For the sitcom lover 

Friends  

While Friends was primarily filmed in a studio, the West Village apartment where Rachel, Monica, Joey, Phoebe, Ross and Chandler live and hang out is a real building on the corner of Bedford and Grove Streets. At its street level, you will find Mediterranean restaurant The Little Owl in the same space as the Central Perk café where Rachel works and Phoebe famously performs “Smelly Cat.” Additionally, the neighborhood houses a number of prominent Off-Broadway theaters including The Lucille Lortel Theatre, where aspiring actor Joey performs in the show’s earlier seasons.

How I Met Your Mother

While retracing Ted’s 11-season search for his wife, be sure to grab a drink at McGee’s, the Midtown Manhattan bar that inspired the gang’s go-to spot, MacLarens; try what Marshall declares to be the best burger in NYC at ‘21’ Club; tour the Columbia University campus where Ted (unwittingly) first meets his wife; and have a legen…wait for it…dary time at NYC icons featured in the series, such as the American Museum of Natural History and Empire State Building.

30 Rock

The iconic address of the studio where Liz Lemon, Jack Donaghy, Jenna Maroney and Kenneth Parcell make the sketch comedy show TGS with Tracy Jordan is the actual home of NBC Studios. The Tour at NBC Studios offers a behind-the-scenes look at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, including Saturday Night Live, the source of showrunner Tina Fey’s inspiration for the beloved comedy.

Seinfeld  

Contrary to Jerry and friends’ experiences, nobody will yell, “No soup for you!” at The Original Soupman on West 55th Street in Midtown or at the eatery’s kiosk in Times Square. Meanwhile, Morningside Heights’ Tom’s Restaurant (Monk’s Diner) has all the great no-fuss comfort food and 75-cent coffee the cast enjoyed on-screen. Finally, Gray’s Papaya really does have some of the best hot dogs in the City—“better than filet mignon!” if you ask Kramer.

For the hopeless romantic

When Harry Met Sally

Thirty years later, you can still have what Sally was having at Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side, double date at the Upper West Side’s Café Luxembourg, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Washington Square Park, where Sally first tells Harry to “have a nice life” at the beginning of the film.

You’ve Got Mail

Relive this ’90s romance at sites of important scenes such as Café Lalo on the Upper West Side, “The Most Famous Café in the City”; Zabar’s, the great local market where Joe saves Kathleen’s Thanksgiving; and the 91st Street Garden in Riverside Park where the film concludes as the pair realize their feelings for each another.

For the girls’ trip planner

Sex and the City

New York City has often been said to be the series’ fifth character, and fans can get retail therapy at the Greenwich Village boutiques Carrie and friends frequented, snack on cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery, walk with a loved one to the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, and do your best to catch a foul ball (and a date) at a New York Yankees game—to live like Carrie and the girls.

Gossip Girl

On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, visitors can climb the steps of The Met Fifth Avenue, where Blair and company famously held lunch breaks, before heading further uptown to the Museum of the City of New York, filmed as the Constance Billard and St. Jude Schools. After getting spotted at these elite schools, you can check out the home of Chuck Bass and the Van der Woodsen family at the Lotte New York Palace, just five blocks north of Grand Central Terminal, where Serena makes her dramatic entrance to the show in season 1.

Girls

See where Hannah, Marnie, Jessa and Shoshanna try to navigate their early 20s. In Greenpoint, Brooklyn, enjoy a latte at Café Grumpy, the real coffee shop that is fictionally managed by Ray and frequented by the girls, and venture to Manhattan to see when the story begins as Hannah’s parents tell her they will no longer financially support her, at Murals on 54 restaurant.

For the superhero superfan

Avengers

While the film’s famous battle of New York included scenes all over the City, most of the action takes place in Midtown Manhattan. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye first meet the alien attackers in front of Grand Central Terminal, while Stark Tower is a couple of blocks west at 4 Times Square, formally the Condé Nast Building. In the end, Hulk defeats Loki for good, with Manhattan still standing, in front of the historic Chrysler Building before Thor beams him back to Asgard for trial from Bethesda Terrace in Central Park.

Batman

The masked hero that earned NYC the nickname “Gotham” has been portrayed in areas throughout the City for more than 80 years. With his Wayne Enterprises headquartered at One Liberty Plaza, just a block from the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, Batman defeats Bane in the final fight scene of the Dark Knight trilogy on the steps of the New York Stock Exchange while the Queensboro, Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges also play prominent roles in the film.

Spiderman  

Your friendly neighborhood Spiderman has made harrowing rescues all over NYC over the years. In the original Spiderman film, Peter Parker saves love interest Mary Jane from the Green Goblin in Times Square before defeating the villain on Roosevelt Island. Other high-flying fights in the films take place at the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

For the thriller enthusiast

Ghostbusters  

The 1984 paranormal film has found new life in New York City thanks to the Ghostbusters Experience at Madame Tussauds New York in Times Square where visitors can fight ghosts through a hyperreality experience. In addition, the functioning firehouse Hook & Ladder Company 8 (Ghostbusters headquarters), Spook Central (55 Central Park West) and The New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building are film locations that can be visited.

Men in Black  

Agent K and Agent J fight aliens all over the five boroughs in this action-packed trilogy. In two of the most prominent scenes, Agent J chases and captures the first alien he encounters on the job in the Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side, and the agents save the galaxy in Corona Park, Queens, after thwarting a hidden spaceship that lived atop the World’s Fair site for years.

Ocean’s 8

In addition to the Costume Institute Gala at The Met, targeted by the crew in the film and featuring “Camp: Notes on Fashion” this May, several prominent NYC landmarks are featured in the latest installment of the Ocean’s franchise. The TWA Flight Center at JFK, soon to be the TWA Hotel (opening May 15), houses the fashion show where Debbie Ocean and crew recruit an integral teammate; the Cartier Mansion guards the necklace they are after; and a Bushwick, Brooklyn, loft acts as the team’s headquarters.

For the whole family

Home Alone 2

Although Kevin didn’t mean to visit New York City, he managed to check out some of the best attractions in Midtown Manhattan while he was there. As he successfully thwarted the bandits’ plan to rob Duncan’s Toy Chest (filmed at FAO Schwarz), Kevin also enjoyed all the amenities offered at The Plaza Hotel, caught a show at Carnegie Hall from a VIP point of view, fed the pigeons in Central Park and met family at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

School of Rock  

Imposter substitute teacher Dewey Finn and his students put on a show for their “final exam” in a Battle of the Bands shot inside Staten Island’s St. George Theatre, while their yearlong practice at Horace Green Prep School was filmed at the borough’s Wagner College.

The Muppets & Sesame Street

At the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, The Jim Henson Exhibition provides an illuminating behind-the-scenes look into the creation of iconic productions The Muppets and Sesame Street, filmed to this day at Kaufman Astoria Studios. Character sketches, scripts, clips and unseen footage are among the nearly 300 items on display celebrating Henson’s work and Legacy.

Night at the Museum

Although the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side closes at 5:45pm, you can still see the exhibits protected by night guard Larry Daley in the film, seven days a week. One of the most prominent characters, Rexy, is now in a temporary solo exhibit including fossils, virtual reality experiences and life-size T. rex models that explore this famous predator in greater depth than ever before.

In addition to providing the backdrop to some of the most iconic moments in TV and film history, NYC is home to countless live television experiences and various film and TV festivals. For a deeper dive on a film- and TV-inspired visit, go to nycgo.com. Visitors looking to explore TV and movie locations with the help of an expert can also check out curated experiences by On Location Tours.

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