LG... Life's Good
I'm writing this blog as I sit in my hotel lobby in Sanremo, Italy, waiting for my taxi to Nice, where I will begin my long journey back to Australia. For the past 10 days I've been in Sanremo for the PokerStars.it European Poker Tour. When flying all the way to Italy from Australia, it would have been crazy of me to not extend my stay a few days to be able to take the time and explore, so Angel and I did just that. The original plan for our days off was to spend an afternoon or two in nearby towns, but we loved Sanremo so much that we stayed here the entire time.
Sanremo is a pretty small town, so it's easy to explore on foot. La Pigna (The Pine Cone) is the oldest part of town, and the center of almost everything you need to see. Getting lost throughout these streets narrow streets was simply awesome, as you climb the steep hills and find yourself up atop of the entire city. Check out the following to see exactly what a mean:
We stayed at Hotel Miramare Continental Palace for 10 nights. The hotel is an old castle from the 1800's, overlooking the beach, and just a short walk from the casino. Our room had the most beautiful double doors that opened out to a balcony with a view of the beach - I loved it! While I haven't stayed anywhere else in Sanremo, I still could not recommend this hotel enough - provided that you receive a room with a balcony. It's well priced, a basic continental breakfast is included and lovely hotel staff. Just make sure you get a spacious room - as every room is completely different. A couple of my teammates at PokerNews were not as lucky and were squashed into what felt like a closet.
While I've been here, the amount that everyone has been raving about Ristaurante Mare Blu has been beyond belief. The key to its popularity, on top of the fantastic menu, is that in recent years, the clever owner recognised that catering for the hundreds of poker players in town for these two weeks each year was a huge business. They adjusted their schedule and menu to suit poker players on a limited dinner break, with a featured ravioli dish that is guaranteed to be served up in speedy time. Sarah Grant and I paid the restaurant a visit to see what all the fuss was about:
Casino San Remo is situated right in the centre of La Pigna, and was conveniently our office for the EPT, which drew in 797 players who each paid €5,000 to take part in the Main Event. It was an absolute festival of poker last week with excellent side events drawing in huge fields and awarding millions and millions of euros. The main spotlight was on the Main Event though, and the ever-so-deserving Frenchman, Ludovic Lacay was the one to take that title. Here is my interview with him straight after his win.
Thanks for reading my blog, now it's time for me to head home and get ready for ANZPT Melbourne at Crown Casino!
Wow, Barcelona is AWESOME. I've been here once before and loved it, but it was a whirlwind trip. This time, I was lucky enough to have a couple of days to chill out before the PokerStars.com EPT Barcelona kicked off. I managed to wander the streets aimlessly, eating amazing paella & tapas, while drinking the best sangria I've ever tasted. The vibe in this city is awesome with a quirky, kicked-back coolness, reminding me of a giant version of St Kilda - one of my favourite areas of my hometown, Melbourne. Here's a tour around town we filmed for PokerStars.tv, showing off some of my favourite spots:
I'm in Monaco for the PokerStars and Monte-Carlo®Casino EPT Grand Final. I came here straight from EPT Berlin like most others here, and I'm in heaven. This place doesn't feel real. The riches, the cars, the yachts, the cleanliness and beauty of this city all make it feel like you've just busted in on the set of a Hollywood film. Here is a quick tour of the town:
I have been in Berlin for five days now, and I am fascinated by it. The first drive from the airport to our hotel was stunning. It’s such a beautiful, cosy feeling city with incredibly friendly people. The least of what I was expecting from my very little knowledge of Germany. Touring around the town is so intriguing, with each and every stop offering a slew heartbreaking and inspirational stories to tell.
I’m in town for my first European Poker Tour since back in February 2010. After two years of being focused on the Southern Hemisphere, it’s an exciting change to come back to Europe.
My favourite video from any stop is always the one showing off the city sights. Seriously, a day of work is researching and exploring a new city. This is work??? So, here is this week's guided tour, around Berlin:
Another favourite video of mine is when we match up two poker players, usually friends, who are sharing a table and ask them questions about each other. This week, Adam Levy and Chris Moorman were put to the test. Dammit for forgetting to ask Moorman to imitate Levy's poker face though!! Sorry about that...
Copenhagen is the royal capital of Denmark, Europe's oldest kingdom, with a population of 1.2 million. It is one of the world's premier design capitals, full of extravagant palaces and cobbled squares, all with over one thousand years of history.
Last year I was lucky enough to work at my first European Poker Tour, with 423 players filling out Casino Copenhagen, each laying down 35,000+2250 Danish kroners for the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour Main Event, and this year we can expect the same. With two Day 1s in the schedule, everyone is guaranteed at least one day off, so there is plenty of time to explore town. Within 10 minutes of the hotel and casino are some of Copenhagen’s best attractions. This time of year is stunning – freezing, yet stunning. On our day off last year, I froze the tips of my toes being a not-so-regular in the snow and not wearing the appropriate shoes, but if you wear waterproof shoes and keep warm, it’ll be hard not to appreciate walking around this stunning city.
Nyhavn is my favorite spot in all of Copenhagen. It’s a quaint strip of colorful townhouses, pubs and restaurants along the riverbank, although I imagine it would be even prettier in the summer when the sun is shining and the river isn't frozen over.
Another favorite spot is the quirky town of Christiania, just a short walk from Casino Copenhagen. Last year, some of the PokerNews Team spent a Friday night in a smoky jazz club after successfully dodging all the sketchy people lurking the dark streets selling weed and hovering over barrels of fire. Christiania is a hippy town within the city of Copenhagen known as "Free Town" with no laws, hence the open Marijuana sales on the street. They've got signs around the streets requesting no photos, so I obliged, having an appreciation for my life. I relied on Google for the images shown below thanks to others who were clearly more willing to risk it. I saw some market stalls and got excited thinking I could pick up some crazy jewelery, but quickly learned they were selling nothing more than bongs! I'm certainly not endorsing any sort of drug use, but it's definitely a place to see.
Of course, some of the other must-see sights include all the royal history in Rosenberg Castle, and current presence in Amalienborg Palace, where I may have stood out front and dreamed of being Princess Mary for just one minute. One place I regret never having the chance to visit was Strøget – the world’s longest pedestrian street full of shopping.
As for the tournament venue, my highest recommendation is a hot dog at the gas station directly across the street from Casino Copenhagen. If you’ve been there before then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, then you can thank me later. They’re far from gourmet and not exactly what nutritionists would label as “brain food,” but with the struggle to find a quick bite on your short breaks, these hot dogs are the perfect solution!
I won't be in Copenhagen this time around because I am in Sao Paulo for the PokerStars.net Latin American Poker Tour. Gloria Balding and Sarah Grant will bring you the videos and our fabulous blogging team will do their thing, so before you religiously refresh our Live Blog when the Main Event begins on Monday, why not update yourself with Gloria's summary of how last season's stop panned out.
To stay up to date with all of our live coverage throughout the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour, follow us @PokerNews_Live on Twitter or click on the following banner:
There are few cities in the world where you'll find yourself walking past a buck naked man in the middle of a busy street. Three years ago, I traveled through Europe with a group of girlfriends, and one of our favorite stops was the oh-so-eccentric Barcelona, Spain. Once again, the PokerStars.net European Poker Tour will return there for another season.
- Language: Spanish, but English is widely spoken
- Currency: Euro (1 euro = $1.55 USD)
- Timezone: Central European Time
- Weather: around 55-60 °F
Getting There and Around
Assuming that you would be flying into Barcelona, a 20-minute cab ride will get you to the city center from the El Prat International Airport, setting you back about €15-20. Or for €3.75 you can catch a bus that will add just another 10 minutes to your trip, or even cheaper again, a €2.40 train direct from the airport’s Terminal B will take you straight into town. However, we didn't have such a luxury of flying in, and instead endured the bus for 10 hours from France.
Once you’re in the city, head straight for La Rambla. This is my favorite street because it is lined with shops, market stands, restaurants and street performers leading down to the ocean. It was here that we stumbled across La Boqueria, a market that blew us away with the bright colors of the fresh fruit and vegetables. This is the place to go to pick up a snack of the freshest fruit you've ever tasted, or some lunch on the run. For a sample of old tradition, take a seat at El Quim De La Boqueria, a world-famous tapas bar inside La Boqueria.
Of course, Barcelona is home to some of the world’s greatest artists and almost every corner you turn will prove this. The most outstanding attraction within the city is Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, a church that bursts through the city’s skyline. A church has been under construction for approximately 200 years, its most amazing feature is that there is not one single sharp edge to the detail. All carvings are rounded to give it the appearance of being made of wax.
If you need to go to the bathroom while you’re walking around the sights, find a McDonalds somewhere. I was warned against going anywhere else, but I still made the mistake of sneaking into a pub’s bathroom. When the owner realized we weren’t customers, she nearly lost her mind – I actually though she was going to slap me in the middle of the Spanish abuse she was hailing at me. But hey, at least the task at hand was complete. Lastly, please remember that Spain is home to many clever pickpockets, so be sure to keep your bags closed and close to your body at all times.
The Gran Casino de Barcelona, host of the PokerStars.net EPT, is situated on the waterfront opposite Port Olimpic, a long strip of bars and nightclubs. This area is a hot tourist spot, which means the bars love to rip you off, but at the same time they also bend over backward to get you inside their club with all the competition nearby, especially if you’re walking along the pier before midnight as the party only gets started when the clock ticks over to the a.m.
Each bar has promoters standing out the front trying to reel you inside with a “free shot.” Don’t be fooled, though, because the alcohol in this “free shot” might as well be water. We haggled with one persistent salesman about this scam and he insisted it was the real deal, so we joined him inside. When the waitress saw him enter with new customers, she went to do her routine pour of the shots, but he stopped her and told her to get the real bottle of vodka – and that it was. This may just be the power of five blonde Aussie girls in Europe, but there’s no harm in giving it a go yourself.
EPT Location and Accommodation
The PokerStars.net European Poker Tour will be held at the following venue:
Casino de Barcelona (annexe at The Arts Hotel)
Marina, 19-21 (Port Olímpic)
Tel: +34 93 352 1010
If you're heading to EPT Barcelona and are still yet to book your accommodation, PokerStars has a dedicated EPT Hotels website for bookings at special rates. However, if you qualified online, then you won't need to worry about accommodation because that will be part of your prize package. Any queries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month, hundreds of poker-playing peeps will be gathering in The Big Smoke for many reasons: the World Poker Tour which just wrapped up, Poker in the Park last weekend, World Series of Poker Europe coming up next week and PokerStars.com European Poker Tour London later in the month. Basically, a whole lot of poker.
It’s hard not to love London, one of the biggest cities in the world. I’ve been there a few times, and got so excited when I was a kid seeing all the streets I knew so well from my days playing Monopoly. We’ve all seen pictures of the world-famous landmarks and read about the Royal Family, but if you haven’t yet had the chance to actually visit London, and you're going to find yourself walking around Leicester Square shortly, then read on!
- Weather: average 68°F (20°C)
- International Dialing Code: +44
- Currency: The ever-so-expensive Pound; USD$1 = GBP£0.64
Getting There and Around
If you’ve done any European travel in your time, then you’ve most definitely experienced the nightmare that is Heathrow. That airport is so insanely huge that you’ll just want to get out of there as quick as possible. There’s a convenient train that takes you from the airport straight into town. Perfect for a budget, or if you’re in a big group trying to stick together. Otherwise a taxi should only take about 20-30 minutes.
If you’re feeling outdoorsy, then pick up one of the 6,000 hire bikes that have been recently installed across the city, with over 400 docking stations within central London. This is the newest, easiest, cheapest and greenest way to get around town. Besides walking, obviously.
The Casino at the Empire
Located smack bang in the middle of London, The Casino at the Empire is a dark, intimate casino that is once again hosting this year’s World Series of Poker Europe. It's open 24-hours a day and the bars don’t close until 6 a.m. so there’s plenty of post-play drinks to be had.
The casino is situated in Leicester Square, in London’s West End – surrounded with restaurants, bars and comedy clubs so you don’t have to go far for some entertainment. Just ensure you pick wisely if you see a comedy show – unfortunately I ended up walking out of one in Leicester Square last year, if only I could remember what the place was called! Within West End you’ll find some awesome bars around Soho, and Oxford Street has more shopping than you could imagine, and plenty of tattoo and body piercing shops if you get spontaneous like I did and decide to stick a metal rod through your nose as your London souvenir.
Hilton London Metropole Hotel
If you’re kicking on later in the month for the European Poker Tour, then you’ll find yourself at the Hilton London Metropole each day, in the Paddington area directly across from the Edgeware Road underground station. You may find yourself using that station quite a bit to head out, unless you’re a lover of Middle Eastern food as there’s plenty surrounding the hotel such as Tarboush 2 on Edgeware Road which has been highly recommended for some authentic Lebanese food. The Hilton also has its own Asian Restaurant, Nippon Tuk, on the 24th floor for a nice view.
A walk through Hyde Park will take you to Knightsbridge, home to Harrods – the most extravagant department store I’ve ever seen. If you’re in the mood of a chilled afternoon and the weather is nice then grab some snacks and bottles of Magners and sit by the lake in Hyde Park. There’s a free date idea if you happen to meet a pretty Brit.
So Much to Explore!
There are plenty of tour operators to show you all that London Town has to offer, but I did most of it on my own two feet. It is a huge city, but the main attractions are a lot closer to each other than you think, and if not, there will be a Tube station nearby, or you can pick up one of the hire bikes I mentioned earlier. If you do love a bit of history then having a tour guide paint all the barbaric details of each spot is pretty intense, so I’d recommend you jump on a Big Bus Tour. Otherwise, get yourself a map and some good walking shoes. If you start from Leicester Square, head through Piccadilly Circus toward Buckingham Palace. Once you’ve had your eye-opening dose of the gigantic royal residence, head through St James’s Park toward the water for even more mammoth-ness along the River Thames like Big Ben, London Eye, Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge a little further down.
From September11 through 12, the Thames Festival will decorate the waterfront from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge with a carnival and exhibitions all weekend long, finished off on Sunday night with fireworks and performers on floats along the river, so heading that direction is a must if you’re there this weekend.
If you love a good market then you must head to Portobello Road in Notting Hill – it’s my absolute favorite. Or for something more alternative Camden Market is a great spot to pick up some black and metal.
Another favorite spot I stumbled across last year, was Carnaby London. It's a dainty little shopping and nightlife district just around the corner from Leicester Square with more than 150 shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs. This may not sound like your thing, but once again, a little cosmopolitan cafe on Carnaby Street is another brilliant date idea for whoever that lucky lady may be. Do yourself a favor, look it up.
Wine and Dine
Every time I’ve been to London I’ve just wandered the streets to find places to go, that’s the beauty of such a bustling city, there’s something around every corner. The only time I didn’t do this, was when I splurged on the most amazing Thai food at Nahm in Knightsbridge, the first Michelin-starred Thai Restaurant in Europe. With an Aussie chef cooking my favorite cuisine, I just couldn’t resist! If you love Thai and don’t want spend that much, then try Busaba, there are a few around town, with one right by Leicester Square, where you’ll get some great dishes for less than £10.
If you like Italian, then head to Spaghetti House just around the corner from The Casino at the Empire in Leicester Square. Or how about sitting in the shadow of Tower Bridge while eating lunch? Or for an amazing view at night like my friends and I had in the picture above, catch the Tube to Tower Hill station, walk toward the river and pick any bar or restaurant along Shad Thames (yes, that’s the street name). I had some great Italian food at Cantina del Ponte in a perfect spot outside by the water. Don’t forget to head that way this weekend for the Thames Festival I mentioned earlier.
Lastly, Good Luck!
I won't be joining you in London for the next crazy month of poker as I will be covering the PokerStars.net APPT Auckland and PokerStars.net LAPT Grand Final in Argentina, so I wish you all the very best of luck and thanks for reading!