Warsaw is a working city, full of offices, banks and financial institutions, a place that can be deserted on national holidays as people go back to their home towns for long weekends.
Modern glass-fronted skyscrapers sit uneasily next to 1960s brutalist blocks. In the centre of it all is the gift from Stalin – The Palace of Culture – a giant Empire State like building with museums, offices, a cinema and concert hall inside.
Although not really a tourist destination, it is possible to speak English in shopping centres, hotels and some restaurants and bars in the city. Quite often menus are in English especially in the Old Town.
However, small shops, railway stations and places with an old-fashioned attitude are unlikely to cater for English speakers.
British Native Speaker rating: MODERATE-GOOD LEVEL OF ENGLISH SPEAKING
A city so full of British references, from the street names and buildings to the language and the people, that we just had to experience it for real.
The names of the streets and districts have a British and Aboriginal influence from Woolloomooloo to Kings Cross. Queen Victoria Building (QVB) is a luxury shopping centre on George Street. Hyde Park (after London’s famous park) is a good place to have a rest.
The city centre is vibrant and the suburbs stretch for mile after mile. Pockets of skyscrapers dot the landscape and the streets are filled with the sights of a rich, multi-ethnic society. China town offers a good selection of restaurants and eateries. We loved the fresh fish and seafood on offer throughout the city but especially at the Fish Market, where the local Asian population try and find their catch of the day.
Life here revolves around the harbour. With the world famous Opera House (opened in 1973 by the Queen) on one side and the Harbour Bridge on the other, it is a bustling place with ferry boats coming in and out every few minutes. Across the harbour is Luna Park, an old-fashioned theme park and a fun place to spend a few hours.
Heading out of the city there are plenty of beaches to try surfing and swimming. The most famous is Bondi Beach although probably more attractive is Manly with its huge stretch of sand.
The people of Sydney are very warm and friendly and with such a mix of nationalities, Sydney really is a great cultural experience.
British Native Speaker rating: NATIVE SPEAKING
Summary: Australian English is somewhere between British and American English but is distinctive because of its rising intonation at the end of sentences.
PICTURES OF LUNA PARK, SYDNEY
LAAX (Swiss Alps)
Our roving reporter spent a few cool days surrounded by the majestic Swiss Alps. Whether you like skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing or trekking, there really is something for everyone here. A fantastic blend of cutting-edge architecture mixed with traditional Swiss charm.
However, our mission was to find out if Switzerland is an English-friendly country. There are many languages and dialects spoken in Switzerland including French, German, Romansh, Italian and Portuguese but English is rarely mentioned in this list.
We needed to test the English of the locals by going into shops, bars, cafes, ski-hire places and talking to cable car attendants, waiters, ski-instructors and such like. Armed with a German phrasebook just in case the plan failed, we set to work.
After a few days of idle chatting to the locals and tourists alike, it soon became clear that virtually everyone speaks English. Couple this with a polite and friendly manner and you have a place bursting with atmosphere.
BOND REFERENCE: For the James Bond fans, the scenery rivals that of ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, which was shot in the Swiss Alps, just a few kilometers away from Laax.
Some local words: piz (peak), crap (mountain). We loved how they say ‘cheers’ and ‘hello’.
British Native Speaker rating: HIGH LEVEL OF ENGLISH
Summary: An easy place to speak English.
Tower Bridge (designed in 1884)
One of the most famous bridges in the world can now be seen from the inside. Enter inside the Victorian engine rooms and even climb the walkways. The walkways offer spectacular views of the City of London.
Fact: Tower Bridge is raised about 1,000 per year!
Massive cultural institution with room after room of ancient history. There is so much to see here that it can take a few hours to go round, so allow time. What we like now is that you can handle precious artifacts at various locations with the help of handlers (trained staff who are experts in the artifacts). It is a real chance to lay your hands on ancient history. Literally!