LONDON IS A CITY OF GREAT ATTRACTIONS FOR TOURISTS
London is a town with a character and atmosphere of its own. The charmand spirit of history hangs in the air in this metropolis. This city is a Mecca for tourists and has something for everyone. There are glories practically at every turn. Its museums boast priceless collections of art treasures and its narrow cobblestonestreetsbeckon you to go for a walk and admire picture-postcard houses. But if you are tired of the hustle and bustle of city life, you can relax and enjoy the delights of parks. London caters for all tastes and is sure to exhaust you before you exhaust its possibilities!
To make sure you make the best of London, hop on the bus and go on a sightseeing tour which includes the most obvious landmarks. You donít have to search for history in London, there is history around virtually every corner.
No visit to London would be complete without a look at the Tower of London. It is an open historybook of England. It has been a fortress, palace, home of the Crown Jewels and national treasures, prison and tourist attraction. It was started by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. The tower of London conjures up images of imprisonment, torture and violent death. The men who guard the Tower are Beefeaters. They can tell you everything about its history. Another famous sight of the Tower is the ravens. Legend says that without them the Tower and the Kingdom will fall.
If you are a culture-hunter your prime destination is one of numerous museums and galleries. The British Museum is a treasure-chest, brimming with things of world historical importance. It was founded in 1753 and includes every kind of artifact from all over the world.
If you need relaxation and want to get away from the crowds, turn off a busy thoroughfare and you will find yourself in a park, a green island of peace and quiet in the middle of the noisy sea. St. Jamesís Park boasts an elegant lake on which wild ducks live. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens provide an escape from the cityís maze of streets and buildings.
There is no denying the fact that London is steeped in heritage. Here you come face to face with history and draw inspiration.
A TOUR OF MINSK
Minsk is an unavoidable stopover for tourists on their way from Warsaw to Moscow. Itís a town with a long and colourful history, ready to award you with enchanting images. This ancient city, a sprawling cosmopolitan metropolis, merits you visit. The citizens are justifiably proud of the city with its tree-lined avenues, busy thoroughfares and shady parks. Whether you prime interest is the arts, architecture, sightseeing or shopping, Minsk caters for all tastes.
Minsk is a magnet for culture-hunters, as it is packed with landmarks and architectural glories.
Mention must be made of the Trinity Suburb. It was reconstructed and modernized to make a single architectural ensemble. It is a quiet and isolated neighbourhood where the old picture-postcard houses seem to be whispering their secrets across the cobbled way. Meander along its streets, explore its lanes and plungeinto the atmosphere of bygone days. Here you come face to face with history. A complex of curio shops and restaurants attracts visitors for a break from a day of work or hectic sightseeing.
Another remarkable highlight is Church of St. Simon and Helena. The ďred churchĒ was built by a noble family in 1910 after the death of their two children. The towers house three bells named after the church founder, his father and hid dead son. The church was a cinema and a film studio. Today itís the main Catholic cathedral and a place of worship and pilgrimage.
Minsk is dotted with parks. And if you are tired of hustle and bustle and want to get away from the crowds, turn off a busy thoroughfare and you will find yourself in one of numerous parks, green islands of peace and quiet in the middle of the noisy sea. The Central Botanical Gardens, Gorki Park, Yanka Kupala Park are at once playgrounds and tributes to nature. They provide an escape from the cityís maze of streets and buildings. Indulge yourself in just sitting back and watching people go by and children play. At the Botanical Gardens you can stroll from a rainforest to a formal French park, explore an alpine rock garden or learn about plants of the Far East.
All of this and much more await you in Minsk. Your visit to the capital will be both educational and enjoyable!
SHARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF A GOOD PERFROMANCE
Last month, while walking, my friends and I noticed a poster for a new production to be presented by our local Drama Theatre. A play written by a famous playwright was put on by a talented young director. After the opening night the play got favourable reviews from critics and we decided to see it.
As the theatre box-office didnít accept bookings by phone we didnít book tickets in advance. Having met in the foyer an hour before the performance we bought four seats together in the balcony. Of course, we would have preferred something closer to the stage as we were afraid that we wouldnít get a good view from the balcony, but the stalls, boxes and the upper circle had already been sold out. To tell the truth, we were lucky to get tickets at all!
After buying the tickets we went to the auditorium. An usher showed us to our seats. We were not surprised to see that the house was filled to capacity. When the audience noticed the curtain rising, they broke into enthusiastic applause greeting their favourite actors on stage.
The play was set in the 18th century, and the fabulous scenery and highly effective costumes made us forget the present days. Both the leading actors and the supporting castdelivered an inspired performance. No praise could be too high for their brilliant acting, perfect technique and superb timing.
When the curtain dropped after the performance, the members of the audience gave the cast a standing ovation. The actress who played the title female parttook five curtain calls. The director won a storm of applause too.
To cut a long story short, the production proved to be a huge box-office success. It is likely to run for at least a year.
SHARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF A BAD PERFROMANCE
Last month my friend and I got complimentary tickets for a new production to be presented by our local Drama Theatre. None of us had heard about the playwright and the play was put on by a young director who had just come to our city, but we decided to go anyway. Generally speaking, we attend our theatre regularly and find it exciting to see a play on its opening night.
Having met in the foyer an hour before the performance we went to the auditorium. An usher showed us to our seats. Frankly speaking, we were a bit surprised to see that the members of the audience were few. Theatre-goers didnít seem to be very enthusiastic about the premiere.
Finally, the lights went down, the curtain came up and the actors appeared before the footlights. Having seats in the stalls we got a good view of the stage and could see clearly that the scenery and the costumes were ineffective. The costume designer and the set designer may not have understood the plot. Neither did we, to tell you the truth. To cut a long story short, the plot was weak and tedious.
As for the performersÖ Well, first of all, I am sure the director shouldnít have cast that actor as the hero. Roughly speaking, he was only fit for being a stagehand. The only thing he could do was to play to the gallery. (And as long as the gallery wasnít sold out, he was playing to nobody.) The actress in the leading female part kept forgetting her lines. (The best prompter in the world couldnít have helped her!)
On the whole, the acting of the cast was amateurish. I think we are lucky to have had seats close to the orchestra pit, because due to the loud music we couldnít hear some of the lines. The actors didnít deserve applauding and the audience remained cold and listless. I guess, everybody felt like walking out.
When the curtain dropped, hisses rose from all parts of the auditorium. The production got terrible reviews and turned out to be a total flop.
A FAVOURABLE FILM REVIEW
I am absolutely sure that cinema is the best civilizing device ever developed. I adore romantic comedies and consider them to be the best cheap entertainment. They are such a joy to see! Thatís why whenever I see a trailer for a new film I immediately go to the box-office to buy tickets.
The comedy I saw last week was no exception. It was a screen version of a book I hadnít had a chance to read. Now, after seeing the film, I feel inspired to read the book as well, hoping that it is as good as the script written by a famous screenwriter.
The film is set in London, telling a story of a young girl looking for love. Though shot in the studio, the film doesnít lack realism. The plot is uncomplicated, but we never expect a romantic comedy to have a sophisticated story, do we? A perfect production with imaginative sets, photography, costumes and make-up is enough to make it a blockbuster.
The finest filmmaking techniques and excellent special effects help the plot to become truly funny. The acting of the all-star cast is superb. The leading actors are at their best and give a breathtaking performance. They make the audienceapplaud as if forgetting that the actors on the screen canít hear them.
Of course, I canít claim this film to be the best in a long time, but it is well reviewed in the newspapers and is sure to provide a harmless pastime for many young people. The film is on now at a number of our cinemas and it is sure to attract capacity audiences and become a good box-office.
AN UNFAVOURABLE FILM REVIEW
Last week we went to the cinema to see a new action filmshot by a famous director. The trailer promised a smash hit with an all-star cast and the finest filmmaking techniques, imaginative direction and a plot written by a talented scriptwriter, an author of numerous blockbusters.
To say that we were disappointed upon seeing the film is to say nothing. Of course, nobody expects an action film to increase our appreciation of beauty. But we hoped to have found excitement and suspense in it, and found nothing.
To start with, the plot is tedious and clichéd. It lacks realism and makes the hero and the heroine look like characters of a Brazilian soap opera. The stars cast for the title roles are not as profound as usual, to say the least. Their acting is mediocre and leaves the audienceunresponsive and unsympathetic. They donít seem to have had any rehearsals before coming to speak their parts in front of the camera. Only Jack Smith is brilliant as always in his supporting part.
The film is set in London and was shot on location, in the streets of a busy city, which makes it look like a documentary. But this doesnít help the director to make us believe the story. To make the matters worse, many of the dialogues delivered by the actors can hardly be heard through the traffic noise.
The cinematography deserves praising and some of the shots are a joy to see, but they donít make up for the weak plot. The special effects which are essential for adventure films look amateurish and fail to impress the audience and make it gasp with admiration.
Having our seats at the back of the auditorium we could see the members of the audience stand up and walk out without waiting for the film to end. We stayed only because we sat in the middle of the row and didnít want to disturb anybody. The auditorium which was filled to capacity in the beginning turned to be half empty when the lights went up after the final scene.
The film is on now at a number of our cinemas but it is unlikely to attract large audiences, especially after the poor reviews it got.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF DIFFERENT MEANS OF TRAVEL
In order to reach our destination we usually have to use some means of travelling. And we often have a choice between travelling by air, or by rail, or sometimes, by sea.
Nobody will argue that travelling by air is the fastest. Besides, there are no traffic jams which may drive you crazy. On the other hand, it is rather expensive, especially if you travel first class. You are to arrive at the airport at least an hour before the departure time in order to check in for the flight. It means that you will have your luggage checked-in and weighed, and sometimes you are to pay an excess luggage charge. Of course, you may choose a seat to your liking at the check-in counter when getting a boarding pass. I prefer having a window seat in the non-smoking section or sitting in the area with extra leg room. But if your flight is fully booked and you arrive late, all window seats and aisle seats may be occupied and you will have to sit in the middle.
After going through the security check where your carry-on luggage is searched, you go to the departure lounge and wait for your flight to be called. But if you think that all the troubles are over you are an incurable optimist. The flight may be delayed for hours or even cancelled because of the weather conditions. While waiting you can go to a duty-free shop and buy something duty-free, but how much time can you kill shopping? You canít even leave the airport for fear of missing your flight!
After boarding the plane the flight attendant will remind you to fasten the seat belt. It will make you safe while taking off or touching down but it canít do you any good if the flight is bumpy and you have to go through some turbulence. So, if you are airsick, think twice before travelling by air.
Fortunately, after landing the procedure is not very long, especially if you have nothing to declare. You just come into the Green Channel and go through passport control where a passport officer will ask you about the purpose and length of your visit.
As for me, there is nothing like travelling by train. First of all, railway fares are lower. Berths in the sleeping compartment are very comfortable. Even if the weather is bad trains usually leave and arrive on time. If your luggage is heavy a porter will help you with it and even go to the carriage with you and put your suitcases on the luggage rack. If nobody meets you when the train pulls into the station, you may leave the luggage in the left-luggage office and pick it up later on. If you feel hungry, go to the dining car.
Some may say that trains canít cross the ocean and in this case you have to change from train to plane. Others may remember falling off an upper berth while travelling by an overnight train, but I wonít change my mind. Every time I get off a train I feel sorry that my journey is over.
As for travelling by sea, you may enjoy it unless you are a bad sailor. If the sea is not rough, come on deck and gaze at the sea renewing your energy and refreshing your spirits. If the ship calls at different ports, you may go ashore and promenade on the quay. Time spent on board a ship will definitely make you feel refreshed. However, few people can afford to go on a cruise, to say nothing of an around-the-world voyage.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A HOLIDAY?
Whether I work or study I canít help thinking of a holiday and planning it long in advance. Like many other people I dream to get away from it all for a while and to soothe away stress. I canít say what type of a holiday-maker I am, because I may feel happy about anything which gives me an opportunity to relax my body, renew my energy and refresh my spirits.
Like sun-worshippers I may go on a seaside holiday. I will laze around on the beachin the middle of nowhere, bronzing myself and gazing at the sea. By the way, I donít need a five-star hotel with luxury accommodation facilities. I only want my hotel to overlook the sea and to be a stoneís throw away from the beach. There, on the beach, apart from basking under the sun I can indulge in sports activities and, who knows, look for a holiday romance. These watersports enthusiasts look so attractive!
Or I may enjoy an adventure holiday, like a true traveller. I will look round the cities, exploring the obvious attractions and taking the best of the local cuisine. If I get tired of places swarming with people I can always find something completely off the beaten track Ė for example, a chalet in a bijou village or a boarding house providing homely food Ė and stay there for a weekend
I may even follow the example of home-lovers and stay at home, spending precious time on my own and with people I like and love.
The only holiday that doesnít appeal to me is camping. Pitching a camp is tiring and tents always look as if going to collapse. Besides, sitting round the fire singing songs in a place swarming with mosquitoes doesnít sound like my scene at all.
As you see, my list of holiday must-haves is not very strict. The only thing I really look for in a holiday is something which will make me feel refreshed.
THAT IS MY IDEA OF A PERFECT HOLIDAY
Whether I work or study I canít help thinking of a holiday and planning it long in advance. Like many other people I dream to get away from it all for a while and to soothe away stress. It is not easy for me to decide where to go and what package tour to choose. On the one hand, I am a confirmed sun-worshipper. I need a seaside holiday. I look forward to lazing around on the beach. On the other hand, I am an enthusiastic culture-hunter and believe that travel broadens the mind. So, one of my holiday must-haves is an opportunity to do some sightseeing.
Last year I was happy to go on a holiday which turned out almost perfect for me. The travel agency I always travel withoffered holidays at reduced rates because of some last-minute cancellations. I decided to go on a tour to the Baltic. They made all the necessary travel arrangements and I didnít have to worry about accommodation, meals or entertainment.
I was to travel by air and felt a bit nervous about it. Fortunately, everything went smoothly. The check-in procedure didnít take me long. The plane took off on time. The flight wasnít bumpy and I didnít feel airsick. The air-hostesses couldnít have been more considerate. After landing I was picked up by a coach which took me straight to the hotel and dropped me off there.
To say that the hotel was up to my expectations is to say nothing. It was a dream coming true. The hotel receptionist told me that the travel agency had reserved a single room with private bath for me. The room was packed with luxury facilities and had a wonderful view of the sea. The hotel was a stoneís throw away from the beach.
I spent the next week as if living in paradise. I basked under the sun and indulged in sport activities. I also went on excursions every day looking round the nearby cities, visiting historical and cultural attractions and taking the best of the local cuisine.
That holiday gave me absolutely everything. I relaxed by body, renewed my energy and refreshed my spirits. Checking out of the hotel I was sure that one day I would get back there.
THE HOLIDAY THAT WENT WRONG
I strongly believe that everybody needs to get away from it all at least once a year. I always look forward to my summer holiday and usually I make arrangements beforehand. Last summer after a hectic year at work I went to a travel agency to book a holiday of my lifetime. When I was looking through brochures, I came across a picture of a fascinating hotel in a searesort in Turkey. I was captivated by the picturesque scenery around it. I fell in love with it when I saw that the hotel was a stoneís throw away from the sea. The price was reasonable and I booked the tour.
But my holiday went wrong from the beginning. On the day of the departure I arrived at the airport 2 hours earlier. I was shocked to see that all the flights had been cancelled because of the bad weather conditions. The airport was crowded. I managed to fly only the next day. My mood was really bad, but I hoped for the better. The plane wentthrough turbulence and I suffered from air-sickness. Nobody picked me up from the airport and I had to take a taxi, which broke down in the middle of nowhere.
When I saw the hotel, I understood that the facilities promised in the brochure were not up to my expectations. I simply canít describe it. I was absolutely speechless when I saw it.
The swimming pool was a complete fantasy, just a big muddy hole in the ground. The window in my room overlooked an ugly brick wall. The beach was so far that you had to climb the staircase and take binoculars to see it. There was only one shower on the floor and we had to queue in the morning. The hotel was not finished yet and every day we were woken up by workmen. The beach was always swarming with people. The entertainment life was poor, and I killed time in the local restaurants. But one day I had food poisoning and had to stay in my tiny stuffy room for 2 days. The scenery was monotonous and I wasnít able to take any nice photos. I was offered no excursions, and being a keen culture-hunter, I was bored to death. I was counting days till the day of the departure. And I gave a sigh of relieve when the airplane touched down at the airport in my native town.