Drinks Cabinet: Ron Zacapa Rum

Ron Zacapa Rum

If you’re ever in Berlin it would be remiss not to visit the palace of all things afternoon tea and patisserie: Café Einstein. Its two cafes are featured in every guidebook going and its opulent surrounds are as exquisite as its cakes, but a lesser known hidden treasure lies up the back stairs of the Stammhaus location on Kurfürstenstraße.

I’d scribbled something about an upstairs bar in the margins of my lonely planet guide having seen a reference to it online, but only after poking around in the entryway looking confused did we find an unassuming wooden staircase that led up to the most impressively stocked drinking den I’ve ever had the pleasure of patronizing.

Behind the bar at Bar Lebensstern

beind the bar – just a small snapshot of the drinks in stock

As we entered and took our seats a the gleaming mahogany bar and gazed at the line upon line of back-lit spirits, the barman, dressed immaculately in traditional waiter’s uniform, leaped in the air, cheered, and then apologised profusely. It wasn’t our arrival that caused such a reaction, but (as he surreptitiously revealed) the Champions League final he was secretly watching on a laptop hidden behind the bar. The whole of Berlin was buzzing about the match as it was the first time two German teams had gone head to head in the final (Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund), and every bar and coffee shop we walked past had leigons of fans glued to TV screens to cheering for Dortmund (Berliners having adopted the underdog).

The refined gentleman’s club feel of the establishment would clearly have been ruined by a big screen TV (which probably explained why we were one of only 3 groups in there that evening) but the flash of a muted laptop screen was like catnip to the men in the room.  Within a few seconds a mini crowd had gathered to watch the last 20 minutes (Ste included, obviously) and the barman was nervously positioning the laptop on the bar, hoping the manager wouldn’t drop by….

[continues after the cut]

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Discovering Airbnb

I first discovered air BnB through A Cup of Jo in her post about renting houses on vacation, and have been evangelising about it ever since.  It’s an online marketplace for people who have rooms, houses, apartments, castles, eco-pods, treehouses, caravans, etc. to rent out to travellers looking for a place to stay.

It was borne out of San Francico, but  has grown to have worldwide coverage, and it allows travellers to search by the usual dates /location / facilities etc. but also seek inspiration by browsing the curated lists  put together by the folks at AirbnB on themes like ‘Boats on Land‘, ‘Fairytale cottages‘, ‘Homes of Famous Authors

Air BnB is particularly good for finding fantastic value accommodation in cities like New York, Venice and Paris where money doesn’t tend to go very far.  It also allows you to ‘virtually’ nosy around the pads of very stylish people.  And unlike Rightmove or Elle Decor magazine – these aren’t just unattainable bastions of design – they’re real homes you can actually stay in.

picture of geodesic dome

[above and right: the geodesic dome we stayed in, in the woods of Connecticut]

I’ve used it for holidays in Nice, Boston, New England and for upcoming holidays to Venice and Somerset (the Somerset house is particularly special – I’ll be featuring that in a future post).  All my experiences have so far been positive, and it runs on a system of reviews similar to eBay so you can judge whether others have had a good experience before booking.  As well as developing shortlists for each of the places I’ve booked so far, I’ve also been building up fictional wish lists of places I’d love to visit in future and so I’ll be sharing these in upcoming posts.

20131011_090323[the Vermont treehouse apartment we stayed in last October]

 

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