Krakow – Poland

I visited Krakow  from the 1st April to the 3rd April.  The city is not very big  but the centre has retained much of it’s historical architecture and features. The currency is the zloty (PLN)  and £1 (GBP) is equal to 5.40 zlotys.

Where I stayed
Quality System Hotel
Supposedly it was a 3 star hotel, it was 20-25 minutes away from the city centre  and it felt more like a 2 star hostel. The room I stayed in was an en-suite but the room was too cramped and decorated with unnecessary furniture that would be best removed to allow for more circulation space.

What I did
Wawel Royal Castle
It must be a trend in Eastern Europe for Castles to be a mix of architectural styles. The castle is mostly of gothic architecture but traces of Danish and Eastern influences are also present. The Castle is also home to Smok Wawelski, the Wawel Castle dragon which periodically breathes fire and has a fantastical legend associated with it.

Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
View from Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
View from Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
View from Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
View from Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
Me at Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland
Me at Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland

Walking tour of the Jewish District
Unfortunately for me I paid 56 zlotys (£10.40) for a walking tour of the Jewish District only to discover that there were free walking tours that also covered the same location we went to, so if you visit Krakow make sure to look out for the free walking tours.

Klezmer- Hois
Klezmer-Hois is a vintage restaurant that echoes the spirit of pre-war Kazimierz (Jewish District), its tables are covered in lace, and artwork inspired by the shtetl (Jewish town). The restaurant is also the haunt of Leopold Kozłowski a famous musician and actor in the movie Schindler’s list, and he just happened to be in the restaurant at the time I visited, such luck.

Klezmer-Hois, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Klezmer-Hois, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Inside Klezmer- Hois, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Inside Klezmer- Hois, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Leopold Kozłowski at Klezmer-Hois, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Leopold Kozłowski at Klezmer-Hois, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland

Other things in the Jewish Quarter

Old Synagogue, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Old Synagogue, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
The best for a Zapiekanka, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
The bes place for a Zapiekanka, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Memorial Stone at Krakow Jewish District, Poland
Memorial Stone at Krakow Jewish District, Poland
Replicas of old Jewish Shops, Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland
Replicas of old Jewish Shops, Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland
Outside The Singer Restaurant, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Outside The Singer Restaurant, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland

The Empty Chair Memorial Monument
The square is the actual place SS soldiers made selections. The memorial monument is dedicated to all the Jewish people who were put through the inhumane process and for most met their death during the holocaust.

Chair Monument, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland
Chair Monument, Jewish District, Krakow, Poland

Schindler’s Museum and Factory
The walking tour ended outside the Schindler’s Museum, I had watched the film before visiting Krakow and I really wanted to see the museum, but I chose not to go in because the actual factory had not been preserved but it had been turned into a museum. I personally did not want to see the exhibition but the  entrance fee is  inexpensive at 19 zlotys (£3.50).

Schindler Museum, Krakow, Poland
Schindler’s Museum, Krakow, Poland

Rynek Underground
The original Krakow is 4 meters below ground and Rynek museum gives you the opportunity to go underground and walk along the old streets. It is a new museum but I found it lacking in content, however I appreciate that for those interest in archaeology it would be fascinating. Entrance to the museum  is inexpensive at 19 zlotys (£3.50), this museum would be great for a rainy day. Note that the museum’s entrance is on the opposite side of the ticket office.

Inside Rynek Underground, Krakow, Poland
Inside Rynek Underground, Krakow, Poland
Insdie Rynek Underground, Krakow, Poland
Inside Rynek Underground, Krakow, Poland

The Cloth Hall
I loved this building and best of all it was home to an indoor market selling cool wares and souvenirs. It is also the location to ticket office and entrance to Rynek Underground.

The Cloth Hall, Krakow, Poland
The Cloth Hall, Krakow, Poland
The Cloth Hall, Krakow, Poland
The Cloth Hall, Krakow, Poland
The Cloth Hall Market, Krakow, Poland
The Cloth Hall Market, Krakow, Poland

The Other Sights and Things in Krakow

St Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland
St Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland
Saint Peter and Paul Church, Krakpw, Poland
Saint Peter and Paul Church, Krakow, Poland
Krakow, Poland
Krakow, Poland
Bicycle of Flowers, Krakow, Poland
Bicycle of Flowers, Krakow, Poland
Krakow, Poland
Krakow, Poland
Town Hall Tower, Krakow, Poland
Town Hall Tower, Krakow, Poland

What I ate
 Pierogi Mr Vincent
I highly recommend Pierogi Mr Vincent in the Jewish district, it is a small restaurant with only 6-8 tables but the squeeze is worth it. Pierogi is a simple but hearty meal of dumplings, I tried the cabbage, onion and Mushroom  and the Spinach pierogi and they were delicious I ate the whole plate quickly.  For dessert   I had the apple and cherry pierogi and they were also scrumptious, especially the apple on that just melted in the mouth. My meal was very cheap at 27 zlotys in total (£5).

Yummy Pierogi from Pierogi Mr Vincent, Krakow, Poland
Yummy Pierogi from Pierogi Mr Vincent, Krakow, Poland

Zapiekanka
A long baguette with a base of mushroom and cheese which can be topped by various  combinations. It was very good and at 7 zlotys (£1.30) for a basic Zapiekanka it was worth trying. The best Zapiekanka are said to be found in the Jewish district.

Zapiekanka, Krakow, Poland
Zapiekanka, Krakow, Poland

Cupcake Corner
If you want something sweet other than a savoury pierogi, I highly recommend Cupcake Corner, the Reese’s peanut butter cupcake I ate was very good.

Reese's Peanut butter cupcake from Cupcake Corner, Krakow, Poland
Reese’s Peanut butter cupcake from Cupcake Corner, Krakow, Poland

My Review of Krakow City
My ratings are out of ten and are my own personal views therefore feel free to disagree.

Culture = 7/10
Krakow is a little city that can be explored in 2 days or 3 days if you also include a trip to the salt mines.  It has a rich history even though a big chunk of it is steeped in blood from the holocaust. This is a great city to learn more about the holocaust and of course visit Auschwitz which is 1 hour away.

Attractiveness = 6.5/10
The beauty of the city is concentrated to the small centre, outside of the centre felt like any other European city.

People/Friendliness = 3.5/10
I did not find the people of Krakow particularly welcoming, I found this unusual considering that large number of people who emigrate from Poland. I am sure this will change as a more diverse set of people continue visiting the country.

Food = 8/10
The Pierogi and Zapiekanka are so delicious, food is so cheap you can eat very well for a reasonable price.

Affordability = 8/10
If you want a cheap holiday this is the place to be, a good meal at a restaurant will cost approx £10.

Vibe = ?/10
I couldn’t really determine the vibe as I felt so uncomfortable with the people I met, tourism from people of colour is clearly new to Poland so people are still apprehensive.

Overall = 6/10
At this point I have no desire to return to Krakow, however I am pleased I visited the city  and got to experience Eastern European culture.

If you’ve enjoyed my review or not leave a comment.
Or if you want any advice for your trip leave a comment and I will be sure to do my best to help you.

Save

Budapest – Hungary

Budapest is the capital  city of Hungary and certainly one of the most beautiful cities I have been to, it was also a great introduction to Eastern Europe. The name comes from the the two main parts of the city divided by the River Danube Buda and Pest.

I visited from the 30th March – 1st April 2016. I spent a day and a half in the city and I wish I had stayed much longer, I would recommend visiting for 3-4 days to truly get a feel of the city.

The currency is the Hungarian forint (HUF), and £1 (GBP) is approx HUF 400.

Where I stayed

Wombats Hostel
The hostel is very central and one of the best I have stayed in, the room was spacious with a bathroom which is a big plus for a hostel in my book. The breakfast was also good, it was typical European breakfast buffet but also included an option for toasted sandwiches.

Wombats Hostel, Budapest, Hungary
Wombats Hostel, Budapest, Hungary

What I did

As I was only in the city for one day I bought a hop on hop off city bus ticket for HUF 5000 (£13) this also included  a cruise along the River Danube. It was a very good choice as I got to see a lot of the city and learn some of its history along the way.

Fisherman’s Bastion
This sit atop a hill and offers stunning views of the city, as you approach the area you are immediately met with a sight of white stone and Mattias church which wouldn’t be out-of-place in a Disney film, the beautiful white stones are crowned with beautiful ornate tiles of various colours.

Fishermans Bastion, Budapest, Hungary
Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary
Fishermans Bastion, Budapest, Hungary 2
Matthias Church Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary
Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest, Hungary 4
Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary
View from Fisherman Bastion, Budapest, Hungary
View from Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

House of Terror
While I did not visit the museum, I loved the building and how the word ‘TERROR’ was carved and illuminated on the building. The museum is worth a visit to learn more about the atrocities carried out during the Nazi occupation of the country.

House of Terror, Budapest, Hungary
House of Terror, Budapest, Hungary

Heroes Square
A large square with monuments commemorating the Hungarian founding fathers and the fallen soldiers of war who died unknown.

Heroes Square, Budapest, Hungary
Heroes Square, Budapest, Hungary
Statues on Heros Square, Budapest, Hungary
Statues on Heros Square, Budapest, Hungary
Me at Heros Square, Budapest, Hungary
Me at Heros Square, Budapest, Hungary

Museum of Fine Art
An impressive gold decorated building. Whilst most people were drawn to the monument and seven figures on Heroes Square the Museum of Fine Arts building was my first call, it drew me in like a moth to a flame.

Museum of Fine Art, Budapest, Hungary 1
Museum of Fine Art, Budapest, Hungary
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary
Museum of Fine Art, Budapest, Hungary
Museum of Fine Art, Budapest, Hungary 2
Museum of Fine Art, Budapest, Hungary

City Park and Castle Vajdahunyad
The City Park is next to Heroes Square and is also where the Castle Vajdahunyad is located. The castle is an eclectic mix of architectural styles: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. It was initially made from cardboard and wood, but it became so popular that it was rebuilt from stone and brick between 1904 and 1908. Today, it houses the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, the biggest agricultural museum in Europe.

Castle Vajdahunyad in the City Park, Budapest, Hungary
Castle Vajdahunyad in the City Park, Budapest, Hungary
The entrance to Castle Vajdahunyad, Budapest, Hungary
The entrance to Castle Vajdahunyad, Budapest, Hungary
Part of Castle Vajdahunyad, Budapest, Hungary
Part of Castle Vajdahunyad, Budapest, Hungary
Part of Castle Vajdahunyad, Budapest, Hungary 4
Part of Castle Vajdahunyad, Budapest, Hungary
Part of Castle Vajdahunyad, Budapest, Hungary 2
Part of Castle Vajdahunyad, Budapest, Hungary
Statue of Anonymous, Budapest, Hungary
Statue of Anonymous, Budapest, Hungary

River Danube Cruise
With the temperature in the 20s and blue skies the day was perfect for a cruise along the river, it took about 1hr 30mins to complete the circuit, and it offered the best views of the impressive parliament building.

The Parliment Building, Budapest, Hungary
The Parliment Building, Budapest, Hungary
The Parliment Building, Budapest, Hungary 1
The Parliment Building, Budapest, Hungary
View from the River Danube, Budapest, Hungary
View from the River Danube, Budapest, Hungary
View from the River Danube, Budapest, Hungary
View from the River Danube, Budapest, Hungary
View from the River Danube, Budapest, Hungary
Calvinist Church from the River Danube, Budapest, Hungary

St Stephen’s Basilica
An impressive cathedral sitting in pride and place on St Stephens Square. The architecture is simply stunning. I really wish I had the time to go inside, I will make sure to go in on my next visit.

St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest, Hungary
St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest, Hungary
St Stephen's Bascilica, Budapest, Hungary
St Stephen’s Bascilica, Budapest, Hungary
St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest, Hungary
St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest, Hungary

Other Sights of Budapest

The Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary
The Chain Bridge, Budapest, Hungary
Szechenyi Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Szechenyi Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Szechenyi Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Szechenyi Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Calvinist Church, Budapest, Hungary
Calvinist Church, Budapest, Hungary
Inner City Church, Budapest, Hungary
Inner City Church, Budapest, Hungary
Funicular Railway, Budapest, Hungary
Funicular Railway, Budapest, Hungary

The food I ate

Goulash
The national Hungarian dish is the Goulash, a meaty and heart stew. As I am a pescatarian, I opted of a mushroom Goulash which was delicious. My meal cost HUF 3500 (£9) inclusive of a glass of wine.

Goulash, Budapest, Hungary
Goulash, Budapest, Hungary

Kürtőskalács
Kürtőskalács (“doughnut”) is doughnut batter wrapped around a hot rod to get the spiral effect. I paid HUF 990 (£2.50) for my cinnamon Kürtőskalács and it was worth it.

Kürtőskalács Shop, Budapest, Hungary
Kürtőskalács Shop, Budapest, Hungary
Kürtőskalács, Budapest, Hungary
Kürtőskalács, Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian Perec (Pretzel)
The Perec is rather large and looks very appetising, however it was far too salty for me. I could only eat a couple of mouth full before I had to throw it away, a shame because I was expecting a buttery sweet/salty taste rather than just salt thankfully I only paid HUF 400 (£1).

Perec (Pretzel), Budapest, Hungary
Perec (Pretzel), Budapest, Hungary

My Ratings of the City

My ratings are out of ten and are my own personal views therefore feel free to disagree.

Culture = 8/10
I have given the city an 8 even though I spent a short amount of time there,  there was loads to do and even much more I didn’t do that I am planning my next trip back to the city. The City has bath houses, museums, theatre production and so much more.

People/Friendliness = 6/10
Well, I didn’t really feel any warmth from the locals I met, I met indifference. I was concerned about going to Eastern Europe as generally the region is not as exposed to other cultures as the rest of Europe but as a lone black woman I felt safe in Budapest.

Attractiveness = 8.5/10
This City is beautiful, I was really impressed with the beautiful architecture and history. I am certain this city has inspired many folk tales.

Food = 8/10
The Hungarians love paprika and it can be found in virtually everything, I like paprika so I was happy. Normally the vegetarian option of many national dishes tend to leave much to be desired but the mushroom Goulash  I ate was very delicious.

Affordability = 9/10
If you want a cheap holiday this is the city to be, a good meal at a restaurant will cost approx £10.  I spent £50 for the two days I was there and that included doing all the touristy things.

Vibe = 8/10
Budapest has an amazing vibe, history, and a new unexplored kind of vibe. Paris and London need to watch their backs, because Budapest is coming for the best tourist destination crown.

Overall = 8.5/10
I loved this city and I will certainly be returning to it,  the vibe, affordability and food are definitely things for which I will return.

If you’ve enjoyed my review or not leave a comment.
Or if you want any advice for your trip leave a comment and I will be sure to do my best to help you.

Edingburgh – Scotland

I went to Edinburgh in August 2015, mainly for the annual Fringe festival. It was my first time going to the festival and my first time in Scotland. I arrived during the opening week of the month-long festival  and stayed for 3 nights from the 6th-9th August 2015.

Cost of My Trip
My flight from London Stanstead to Edinburgh airport cost £59 and my stay at Baxter’s Hostel cost £130, so in all I paid £190 for my flight and accommodation.

The weather
Even though it was August the weather was still chilly averaging about 16 degrees and windy, I was unprepared so I had to buy a scarf and a light jacket for extra warmth. The weather in London at the time was about 21-22 degrees and I assumed it would be the same in Edinburgh but I was very wrong.

Where I stayed
I stayed at Baxter Hostel which was centrally located. The staff was amazing, from the outside it doesn’t look like much but it is cool, clean and breakfast (scrambled eggs and toast) was made fresh for you everyday by the staff.

Baxter Hostel, Edinburgh
Baxter Hostel, Edinburgh

What I did
I went to Scotland mainly to visit Edinburgh and experience the  Fringe festival, so most of my activities centred around going to shows and watching street performances. But I did also explore the city and beyond.

Edinburgh Castle
This castle is truly impressive, it sit proudly up high overlooking the city like a guardian. The only downside about going to visit the castle are the hordes of people there, it is a big tourist attraction. The entrance fee is £16.50 for adults.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle at night, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle at night, Scotland

The Scott Monument
This was one of the most favourite part of my trip, the impressive Gothic structure dominates Princes Street, a popular shopping district. Located next to Princes Gardens it is a great place to visit and take some time out eat lunch, bask in the sun, sit and think or just get some fresh air. The best part is that admission is only £4, there are 287 steps to the top which offers a magnificent view of the city.

The Scott Monument, Edingburgh, Scotland
The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland 1
The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
Inside The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland 1
Inside The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
Inside The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
Inside The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
View from The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland 2
View from The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
View from The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
View from The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
Me on The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
Me on The Scott Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland

St Giles Cathedral
As a lover of old architecture, especially churches and cathedrals, I fell in love with St Giles Cathedral. It is not as grand as some other cathedrals I have visited but there is a special air about the place that pulled me in. There is no entrance fee and it was great for me to practice my photography skills.

St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
Entrance of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
Entrance of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
Stainglass windows of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburg, Scotland
Stain glass windows of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburg, Scotland
Inside St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
Inside St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland

The Palace of Holyroodhouse
Holyroodhouse  is the home of the Her majesty the Queen in Scotland,  entrance fee to the palace is £12 for adults.

The gates of The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland
The gates of The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland 1
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

Firth of Forth River Tour
For £20 you get a 24 hour hop on hop off bus tour of the city and a tour on the Firth of Forth river which included a visit to Inchcolm Island. The tour on the Firth of Forth river which goes along the Edinburgh and Fife coastlines alone is worth paying the £20, I went on a dry day and it was very beautiful and calming and I even got to see some seals.

The Forth Belle, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Forth Belle, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Forth Rail Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Forth Rail Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland
Forth Road Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland
Forth Road Bridge, Edinburgh, Scotland
Seal on the Firth of Forth River, Edinburgh, Scotlnd
Seal on the Firth of Forth River, Edinburgh, Scotland
Seals basking on an Island on the Firth of Forth River, Scotland
Seals basking on an Island on the Firth of Forth River, Scotland
Inchcolm Island, Edinburgh, Scotland
Inchcolm Island, Scotland
Inchcolm Abbey on Inchcolm Island, Scotland
Inchcolm Abbey on Inchcolm Island, Scotland

The Harmonium Project
The Fringe Festival opened with a large, free, public outdoor event which saw a spectacular digitally animated artwork projected onto the front of the Usher Hall, set to music. The Harmonium Project, outside the Usher Hall celebrated Edinburgh’s relationship with architecture, learning, music and its role in developing technology.  I was very pleased I went along and witnessed the display.

The Harmonium Project, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Harmonium Project, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Harmonium project, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Harmonium Project, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland

Walking around
Doing what I love best when visiting a new city is to walk and explore and find new and exciting things. See below some of the sights and things I discovered.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland
Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland
Bank of Scotland Building, Edinburgh, Scotland
Bank of Scotland Building, Edinburgh, Scotland
St John's Church Edinburgh, Scotland
St John’s Church Edinburgh, Scotland
I love Scotland, Edinburgh
I love Scotland, Edinburgh
St John's Highland Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
St John’s Highland Church, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland

Fringe Shows and Events
There were so many street performance and shows, and I managed to get free tickets for two shows and both were very good.

A Yurt, Fringe Festival Venue 2015, Edinburgh, Scotland
A Yurt, Fringe Festival Venue 2015, Edinburgh, Scotland
Fringe Festival 2015, Edinburg, Scotland
Fringe Festival 2015, Edinburg, Scotland
Fringe Festival 2015, Edinburgh, Scotland
Fringe Festival 2015, Edinburg, Scotland

My Ratings of the City

My ratings are out of ten and are my own personal views therefore feel free to disagree.

Culture = 8/10
There is so much to do in Edinburgh during the festival but even without the festival there are loads to do in the city  which includes, museums, galleries, hiking, theatre and of course comedy shows.

People/Friendliness = 8/10
Scottish people are friendly and I find them more welcoming than the English, I can say that as I have spent all my life in England.

Attractiveness = 9/10
Edinburgh is a very attractive city with the perfect combination of history and innovative architecture.  If you love historic architecture Edinburgh is the city for you.

Affordability = 7/10
Edinburgh is affordable, my benchmark is London (my home) and I did not feel I was paying more that I would pay at home.

Vibe = 8.5/10
The vibe was excellent, I was on my own but did not feel alone, there was so much happening it was truly amazing. However please note that I visited the city at a time when the city is most alive and bustling.

Overall = 8.5/10
I really loved this city and if the weather was warmer I would love to relocate to the city.  The city affords a good lifestyle.

If you’ve enjoyed my review or not leave a comment.
Or if you want any advice for your trip leave a comment and I will be sure to do my best to help you.

Glasgow – Scotland

I went to Scotland mainly to visit Edinburgh and experience the  Fringe Festival.  But as  Glasgow was only 1 hour away by train and approx £12 for a return ticket i decided to visit the city on my first day in Scotland for some sight seeing.

What  I did

Glasgow Cathedral
It is free to go into the Cathedral and it is well worth the visit. A small Cathedral but it has a special feel and magic to it.

St Giles Cathedral, Glasgow Scotland.jpg
Glasgow Cathedral, Scotland
Inside St Giles Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland 3.jpg
Inside Glasgow Cathedral, Scotland
Inside St Giles Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland 2.jpg
Inside Glasgow Cathedral, Scotland
Me outside St Giles Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland
Me outside Glasgow Cathedral, Scotland

St George’s Square and Glasgow City Chambers
St George’s square is a great place to sit, think and people watch and the Glasgow City Chambers make a great backdrop for the beautiful square.

George Square, Glasgow, Scotland.jpg
George Square and Glasgow city Chambers, Scotland
Glasgow City Chambers, Scotland
Glasgow City Chambers, Scotland

Glasgow Botanic Garden and Doulton Fountain
Glasgow Botanic Garden and Doulton Fountain are both in the same area of the city. Entrance to the amazing gardens is free and the Dolton Fountain in the target terracotta fountain in the world, both are indeed worth a visit.

The Doulton Fountain, Glasgow Scotland.jpg
The Doulton Fountain, Glasgow Scotland
Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Scotland
Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Scotland
Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Scotland 1.jpg
Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Scotland

Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art and Other sights of Glasgow
As I walked the city I came across many beautiful buildings and sights.

Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland.jpg
Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art, Scotland
Cylesdale Bank Headquaters in Glasgow, Scotland
Cylesdale Bank Headquaters in Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland.jpg
Glasgow, Scotland
Argyll Arcade, Glasgow, Scotland.jpg
Argyll Arcade, Glasgow, Scotland
A nice building in Glasgow, Scotland
Glasgow, Scotland

Review of Glasgow
Glasgow has a rather unpleasant reputation however I found the city to be charming and full of surprises. I may not take a trip to Glasgow in the future but if I am in close proximity to the city, I will definitely visit the again.

Shortly I will upload a blog of my trip to Edinburgh and my experience of the Fringe Festival, please follow my blog to find out more and you will be notified as I upload more posts.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

 

Santiago de Cuba – Cuba

Santiago de Cuba is only 16 hours away from Havana via Viazul (the Cuban intercity coach service) however it felt like a world away from Havana. The cost of the Viazul from Havana to Santiago de Cuba was CUC51. You will need ID to book your ticket so make sure you take it with you, also the route from Havana to Santiago is very popular so it is advisable to book 24hours in advance.
Havana is where my trip began in Cuba and you can read about it in my previous via this link. We stayed 3 days and 2 nights in Santiago de Cuba.

The city was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and it was still recovering from the aftermath, with many buildings destroyed and in disrepair. This is one of the reasons I believe the Cubans we met in Santiago De Cuba were a little more aggressive in selling you their wares or services. The worst offenders were the taxi drivers who were very persistent adopting a hard sell and stalk sales pitch.

Apart from those selling service or wares there are also young people who go around trying to befriend foreigners in the hopes of a tip or a hookup. We unfortunately encountered one such young man within 10mins of leaving our Casa particular on the first day in the city and it took 2 hours to get rid of him.

The Weather
The temperature in Havana was a manageable 27 degrees for a British person like me, Santiago de Cuba on the other hand was HOT, the first day was a sweltering 37 degrees at the highest point

Where I stayed

Hostal Atardecer
This wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad either, the lady in charge of the Casa (Yulia), was very lovely and made us feel very warm and comfortable. The breakfast was good and Yulia did her best to give us tips on things to do in the city. We paid CUC74 for 2 people for 2 nights and this included 3 lots of breakfast.

Hostal Atardecer, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Hostal Atardecer, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Hostal Atardecer, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 2.jpg
Hostal Atardecer, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Hostal Atardecer, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
Hostal Atardecer, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

 

What I did

Balcón de Velázquez
This is a balcony overlooking the city facing seawards. It is great place to hide from the hot afternoon sun. It is literally just a balcony with a small shop selling souvenirs, therefore I suggest taking a packed lunch and some snacks along with you in case you want to spend some time there. Entrance is free but if you want to take pictures it is CUC1.

Balcón de Velázquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 4.jpg
Balcon de Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Balcón de Velázquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 5.jpg
Balcon de Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
View from Balcón de Velázquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
View from Balcon de Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Balcón de Velázquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Balcon de Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
View from Balcón de Velázquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
View from Balcon de Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Casa de Diego Velazquez
The museum is the oldest building in Cuba and it is very well-kept. This museum is home to some of the best antiques I have seen anywhere. The French, Italian, Dutch and mostly Spanish influence are clear and evident. The only annoyances were the museum attendants that persisted in taking you around the museum so that you would tip them. However do not let that put you off the museum is too beautiful to pass by, I cant recall the exact entrance fee but I know it is less that CUC5.

Casa de Diego Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Casa de Diego Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Inside Casa de Diego Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
Inside Casa de Diego Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Inside Casa de Diego Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Inside Casa de Diego Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Courtyard of Casa de Diego Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
Courtyard of Casa de Diego Velazquez, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Basilica del Cobre and Castillo del Morro
We organised a short excursion with Cuba Tour to Basilica del Cobre and Castillo del Morro, the tour costs CUC18 per person and included the hire of a classic car to the attractions and back to the city centre.

On the way to Basilica del Cobre and Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
On the way to Basilica del Cobre and Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Me in the classic car on the way to Basilica del Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Me in the classic car on the way to Basilica del Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

The first stop was to Basilica del Cobre a beautiful red dome Cathedral some 18 km north from the centre of Santiago de Cuba. The drive to Cathedral was so lovely that the hot afternoon sun became a distant memory as the wind lapped against our faces as we drove along. The cathedral is truly magnificent, it sits atop a hill overlooking the town below like a guardian. We were very lucky that at the time we went it was quiet and peaceful, which allowed us to really take in the views and feel reverence for the place. The drive to and the Cathedral itself was well worth the price of the excursion.

Basilica del Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Basilica del Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
View from Basilica del Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
View from Basilica del Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Inside Basilica del Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Inside Basilica del Cobre, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

After the cathedral we drove to Castillo del Morro, a fort some 8 km south of the centre of Santiago de Cuba. Leading up to the fort were stall selling souvenirs, trinkets and such like there is also a restaurant and a bar. It was very calming being in the fort looking over the water and feeling the cool sea breeze. Like with many historical buildings in Cuba the fort is very well-kept. Entrance fee to the fort cost CUC4.

Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
View from Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
View from Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
View from Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
View from Castillo del Morro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Museo del Carnaval
It was interesting to go to this museum to see the history of the carnival in Santiago de Cuba and to see costumes used in past parades. The city holds an annual carnival festival every July. It was free to go inside the museum but to take pictures was CUC3 and an attendant followed you around to make sure you didn’t take any pictures, don’t mind this as the museum is still worth a visit.

Museo El Carnaval, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Museo El Carnaval, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Museo El Carnaval, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
Museo El Carnaval, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Jardin de los Helechos
It was worthwhile going to the mini rain forest on the outskirts of the city. The garden started out as a hobby by the owner Manuel G.Caluff  in 1976 and has grown through love and care into one of Santiago’s  most famous attractions.  Entrance to the garden is only CUC3.

Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 2.jpg
Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 3.jpg
Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 4.jpg
Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Frog in Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Frog in Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Me in Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Me in Jardin de los Helechos, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Truck taxi
To get to the Jardin de los Helados we decided to travel like the locals. Unfortunately we couldn’t figure out which local bus to take, although it was very likely that we wouldn’t have been let on board anyway. However we did manage to get on truck taxis to take us there and back. We later found out that foreigner are normally also not allowed on the truck taxis. Lucky for us though we had two separate guys who didn’t mind foreigners. We did pay over the odds for our fare but for us it was still way cheaper than taking a tourist taxi. We paid CUC5  (CUC2.5 each) there and CUC2 (CUC1 each) back, the first guy certainly ripped us off.

Me in the Truck Taxi, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Me in the Truck Taxi, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Truck Taxi, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Truck Taxi, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Paseo La palcita Show at Parque Céspedes
Parque Cespedes is the main square at the centre of the city and we happened to come across some people setting up for the closing ceremony of Paseo La Placita. The festival is held every year as a closing ceremony for summer. The show was amazing with salsa dancers, Afro-Cubano song and dance and other forms of entertainment.

Paseo la Placita performers, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Paseo la Placita performers, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Paseo la Placita performers, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
Paseo la Placita performers, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Paseo la Placita Afro- Cubano performance, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Paseo la Placita Afro- Cubano performance, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Paseo la Placita Salsa Dancers, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Paseo la Placita Salsa Dancers, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Paseo la Placita young performers, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Paseo la Placita young performers, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Paseo la Placita musicians, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Paseo la Placita musicians, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Walking around
We walked around and explored the city, aimlessly wandering was a great way to discover the city’s unique and quirky character.

Classic car on the street of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Classic car on the street of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Scalinata di Padre Pico, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Scalinata di Padre Pico, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Mural of Virgen de Regla at Malecon, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Mural of Virgen de Regla at Malecon, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Boat at Malecon, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Boat at Malecon, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Food and Drink

Breakfast
We paid an additional CUC5 each morning to have breakfast at the Casa and it was worth it. Cuban breakfast is the best.

Casa Micaela
Casa Micaela was one of the best restaurants we ate at, in Cuba, I say this because it served wholesome food for a very reasonable price and not surprising it has a good rating on Tripadvisor and it is recommended in most travel books. We ate there every night we stayed in Santiago de Cuba. A meal with a drink was about CUC8.

Casa Micaela, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
Casa Micaela, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Meal at Casa Micaela, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Meal at Casa Micaela, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

El Baturro
El Baturro is a cool bar and I had the best Mojito I tried a Mojito in Cuba. The atmosphere was chilled and nice.

El Baturro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba 1.jpg
El Baturro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
El Baturro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
El Baturro, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Hotel Casa Granda
We avoided this Hotel’s bar because it looked too plush and also we felt we would be surrounded by tourists only. However we went there and it was very nice, we sat on the balcony overlooking Parque Cespedes, a great place for people watching and the drinks were not much more expensive than the local bars.

Hotel Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
Hotel Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
View of Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncio from Hotel Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
View of Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncio from Hotel Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
View of Parque Cespedes from Hotel Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.jpg
View of Parque Cespedes from Hotel Casa Granda, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Review of Santiago de Cuba
Santiago de Cuba although not as beautiful or bustling as Havana has its own charm, I am sure it was even better before Hurricane Sandy came along. Nevertheless it is still worth the visit with many things to do mostly around the city, I would recommend hiring a car so that you can get around easily. If I ever go back to Cuba I will return to this city.

So what next
Next stop is  Sancti Spiritus in the middle of the island.

Do you want to find out what we did in Sancti Spiritus and how it compared to  Santiago de Cuba and Havana? Then follow my blog to find out more and you will be notified as I upload more posts.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.