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.

Havana – Cuba

I went to Cuba for two weeks and went to four places on the island; Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad and Vinales. I also attempted to go to Sancti Spiritus however that is a story I will tell in the following series of posts. I will do four further posts on Cuba over the next four weeks one for each place that I went to.

Cost of trip
My return flight from London to Havana via Madrid cost £585 and it took 15 hours in total, there are direct flights from London to Havana that cost around £900 and take 10 hours.
I paid £114 for all my accommodation over the two weeks, however I will specify further in the following posts.

Currency
There are two currencies in Cuba one is Cuban Peso (CUP) for locals, the other is the Convertible Peso (CUC) for tourists. there are 24 CUP’s to 1 CUC.  Tourists can use the CUP, but it is mostly used by Cubans to pay for their rations, their electricity and water, to buy food in the markets and from stallholders in the streets and to eat or drink in ‘peso’ bars and restaurants.  Basically, as a tourist, you do not have to worry at all about the Cuban peso.

The Convertible Peso is a closed currency, which means it cannot be purchased outside of Cuba. You can change your money at the Cadeca (Money Exchange Bureau) at the Airport on landing in Cuba or at your hotel.

If you reside in the UK you should take Sterling; clean, untorn bills with no writing on them, in £10, £20 or £50 denominations.  Please note that Scottish notes are not acceptable.  Canadians should take Canadian dollars and if you are from a European destination that uses the Euro, then take Euros.  The exchange rate varies on a daily basis, however it is approx 1.5 CUC’s to £1.

Havana

I went on this trip with my current housemate but Cuba is very safe for lone travellers, however it was nice having someone else there to share the experience with. Our trip started in Havana in which we stayed 2 nights before moving on to Santiago de Cuba.

The Weather
We went to Cuba from the 6th to 18th October 2015 which is during the hurricane season however the weather in Havana on the first two days was blue sky and sunshine with the weather being 27 degrees both days.

Where I stayed
We had decided from the beginning of our trip to only stay in Casa particulars as we felt we would have a more authentic trip, also Casa Particulars are a fraction of the price of staying in hotels. Casa particulars  are similar to bed and breakfasts in their operation, the only difference is that most times the Casa Particular also serves as the familiar home, so you get to mingle, chat and live with Cubans.

When booking a Casa particular it is advisable to book one recommended in the travel books or otherwise lookout for the sign below which is the state approval for an abode to operate as a legal Casa Particular.

Casa Particular sign In Cuba. Arrendador Divisa
Casa Particular sign in Cuba. Arrendador Divisa

Havana Vedado- Ada Colonial
Our first stay was in Ada Colonial which was an impressive Casa particular we managed to book online from the UK via Travel Republic. The exterior is not a reflection of the well-kept and nicely decorated interior. The owner was lovely and greeted me with a big hug and a kiss, a pleasant surprise for a stiff British girl like me.
The room was humongous and it had an en-suite with a large jacuzzi bath that four people could have comfortably fit in. The shower was the best of all the Casas we stayed in, there was hot water and the water pressure was good.
Ada colonial was the most expensive Casa we stayed in, at CUC105 for two nights for two people but it was worth it to start of the trip in a great place.

Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
The room we stayed in at Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
The room we stayed in at Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
The ensuite bathroom of our room at Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
The ensuite bathroom of our room at Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
Living room of Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
Living room of Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
Dinning room of Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba
Dinning room of Ada Colonial, Havana, Cuba

What I did

Havana Plaza Vieja
The square was quiet, peaceful and very beautiful, it is also a great place to visit as there are many bars and restaurants on the square, also it is a great place to just sit and people watch. The square is also home  to a memorizing and somewhat sexual statue called Viaje fantastico which is of a naked woman wearing high heels riding a cockerel whilst carrying a fork.

Plaza Vieja
Plaza Vieja, Havana, Cuba
Plaza Vieja, Havana, cuba
Plaza Vieja, Havana, cuba
Statue by Roberto Fabelo called Viaje fantastico
Statue by Roberto Fabelo called Viaje fantastico
Statue by Roberto Fabelo called Viaje fantastico
Statue by Roberto Fabelo called Viaje fantastico

Walked around Havana Vieja
Aimlessly wandering, getting lost and finding new things if you have read my previous blogs is one of the things I love best when travelling. We walked around Havana Vieja away from the touristic hustle and bustle and found ourselves on quiet streets with the locals. The buildings had the charm of French or Spanish colonial influence, the colours of the tropics and dilapidation all rolled into one. I have never seen crumbling and old buildings so beautiful anywhere else I have been.

Gran Teatro de La Habana, Cuba
Gran Teatro de La Habana, Cuba
Capitol building, Havana Cuba
Capitol building, Havana Cuba
Coco taxi park Havana Vieja, Cuba
Coco taxi park Havana Vieja, Cuba
Bicitaxi Havana Vieja, Cuba
Bicitaxi Havana Vieja, Cuba
Classic Cuban cars, Havana
Classic Cuban cars, Havana
Art, Havana Vieja, Cuba
Art, Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Havana Vieja, Cuba
Men playing chess Havana Vieja, Cuba
Men playing chess Havana Vieja, Cuba

Meet two Cuban salsa teachers
We meet two salsa teacher who took us to Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro where they kindly gave us a list of things we should do and also not do. The Museo de la Revolucion was highly recommended but it turned out that the ladies were club promoters and they kept recommending that we go back that evening to Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro as the Bueno Vista Social Club were performing to celebrate their 50 years anniversary. Not swayed by their sales pitch to buy tickets for the evening event we left to make our way to Museo de la Revolucion.

Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro, Havana, Cuba
Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro, Havana, Cuba

Museo de la Revolucion
Entry to the to the museum costs CUC8, cameras are allowed however all bags must be checked into the cloakroom. The Museo is a beautiful white stone building. It took some damage during the revolution with some 130 bullet holes riddling the front entrance at the peak of the revolution. The exhibits take you through the history of the revolution, giving you insight into some of the goings on during the troublesome time. You can also learn about the revolution heroes such as Che Guevera and Fidel Castro. Mosts of the exhibitions are written in Spanish but it was easy to get the gist.
The wall of cretins was a humorous piece caricaturing the people credited with enabling the revolution through their bankrupt and immoral policies the wall depicts Fulgencio Batista, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush Snr and George W. Bush, Jr.

Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
The inside of Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
The inside of Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Dome of Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Dome of Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
The inside of Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
The inside of Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Me at The Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Me at The Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Me in a Jeep at Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Me in a Jeep at Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Wall of cretins Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba
Wall of cretins Museo de la Revolucion, Havana, Cuba

Walked along Malecon (Havana Harbour)
We walked along Malecon during the late afternoon which was nice and relaxing, on the way we meet another traveller named Jessica who joined us on our walk to enjoy the beautiful views of the harbour.

Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Building along Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Building along Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Building along Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Building along Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Primerva by Rafael M.San Juan, Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Primerva by Rafael M.San Juan, Malecon, Havana, Cuba

Centro Havana
Centro is a district of Havana that has many historical places to visit but is also the down town area of Havana. The area was not as clean as other areas we had been to and many of the buildings were dilapidated but they had a certain charm and beauty to them. Whilst walking around and taking pictures two local women separately warned us to put our cameras way as we would be mugged otherwise. It wasn’t until we left the area that we read in our travel book that Centro Havana is an area to be weary of due to tourist muggings. I didn’t feel unsafe walking around Centro Havana until the women approached us, I didn’t feel any air of hostility from those in the area.

Iglesia Del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, Centro Havana, Cuba
Iglesia Del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, Centro Havana, Cuba
Iglesia Del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, Centro Havana, Cuba
Iglesia Del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba
Centro Havana, Cuba

Walked Vedado
Vedado is one of the wealthy districts of  Havana and it is very evident when walking around the area, the houses are grand and impressive remnants of Spanish and French colonial rule.

Iglesia Metodista Univeritaria del Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Iglesia Metodista Univeritaria del Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Building in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Building in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
House in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
House in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Houses in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Houses in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Houses in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Houses in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Houses in Vedado, Havana, Cuba
Houses in Vedado, Havana, Cuba

Hotel Havana Libre
This hotel is not as impressive as you would imagine, it took us ages to find the hotel as we kept getting lost. However we felt it was worth the visit to see one of the places Fidel Castro had made his head quarters during the revolution. It is worth going to, to see an important piece of Cuban history but I suggest making it part of something else you are doing; like walking along Malecon.

Havana Libre, Cuba
Havana Libre, Cuba

Food and Drink

Breakfast was included in the price of our stay in the Casa, Cuban breakfast is very nice and large, due to the size of breakfast we didn’t need to eat lunch. The best bits about breakfast were the fruit salad and coffee, Cuban coffee is like silk very smooth and rich. The tropical fruit salad usually consisted of melon, guava, banana and papaya it was a good way to start the day.

Casa Ada Colonial breakfast, Havana, Cuba
Casa Ada Colonial breakfast, Havana, Cuba

Esquinas Trattoria
The restaurant is not far from Museo de la Revolucion, the pizza was delicious, huge and only CUC4. The Mojito I had at the restaurant was also the second best I had in all Cuba and believe me I had load of Mojitos.

Esquinas Trattoria, Havana, Cuba
Esquinas Trattoria, Havana, Cuba
Esquinas Trattoria Pizza, Havana, Cuba
Esquinas Trattoria Pizza, Havana, Cuba
Esquinas Trattoria Mojito, Havana, Cuba
Esquinas Trattoria Mojito, Havana, Cuba

Bar Montserrat
Bar Montserrat is a very cool bar near the Capitol building, with amazing cocktails, good food and live music, the bar is popular with Cubans and tourists alike.

Bar Monserrate, Havana, Cuba
Bar Monserrate, Havana, Cuba
Bar Monserrate Band Havana, Cuba
Bar Monserrate Band Havana, Cuba

Review of Havana
Havana set a very pleasant tone for the rest of the 12 days we would spend in Cuba, staying in Ada Colonial in Vedado which is akin to Manhattan in New York or Chelsea in London was very nice , meeting the Cuban salsa teacher and Jessica also left us on a high after the first two days.

What next?
The next stop was Santiago de Cuba in the south of the island.

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

Lake District – England

The holiday to Glenridding in the Lake District of England happened during the holidays Easter of April 2014, the trip lasted 4 days and 3 nights.

The weather
For April the weather was surprisingly pleasant. It is no secret that British weather is temperamental at best, during the 4 days we were there it only rained once.

Cost of trip
We hired two cars to drive to Glenridding; the cost of the car hire and the cost for accommodation meant we paid £150 each.

Where I stayed
I went on the holiday with five other people, we decided it was best to hire an apartment and luckily we found a lovely apartment in Patterdale hall, an old stone building, the interior had been updated and was clean and fresh.

Patterdale Hall Estste, Glenridding, Lake District
Patterdale Hall, Glenridding, Lake District
Patterdale Hall Estste, Glenridding, Lake District
Patterdale Hall, Glenridding, Lake District

What I did

Aira Force
Aira Force is a waterfall situated within the Ullswater Valley which also flows into Ullswater Lake. The grounds on which Aira Force is situated is owned by the National Trust and it is well looked after.
We did the recommended walk around the waterfall, the walk is a circular route of 1.99 miles / 3.2 km, the walk took us in 1 hour 30 minutes to complete. We had walkers of varying abilities in our group, with I being one of the less able but I found it comfortable and pleasant.

Aira Force Waterfall, Lake District
Aira Force Waterfall, Lake District
Aira Force, Lake District
Aira Force, Lake District
Aira Force walking path, Lake District
Aira Force walking path, Lake District
Stream at Aira Force, Lake District
Stream at Aira Force, Lake District
Me at Aira Force, Lake District
Me at Aira Force, Lake District

Visit to Pooley Bridge
Pooley Bridge is a little village on the Ullswater Lake, the drive from Glenridding to Pooley Bridge was  approximately 30 minutes. There isn’t much to do in this little village but we were lucky to stumble across a church hall sale in the quaint St Paul’s church. We spent an hour or so looking at the interesting items and antiques with a few purchase made.
The highlight of going to Pooley Bridge was finding the Pooley Bridge Inn where we had a really good meal.

St Paul's Church, Pooley Bridge, Lake District
St Paul’s Church, Pooley Bridge, Lake District

Walk from Penrith to Howtown
I decided to challenge myself by going on a walk from Glenridding to Howtown  the distance is 7 miles / 11 km, until this trip I hadn’t done any mountain or hill walking but we completed the walk in 2 hours 30 minutes, I was very thrilled with myself and the walk left me feeling exhilarated.

View from a mountain walking to Howtown, Lake District
View from a mountain walking to Howtown, Lake District
A farm i passed whilst walking to Howtown, Lake District
A farm i passed whilst walking to Howtown, Lake District
Walking to Howtown, Lake District
Walking to Howtown, Lake District
View from a mountainwalking to Howtown, Lake District
View from a mountainwalking to Howtown, Lake District
Me on a mountain on walking to Howtown, Lake District
Me on a mountain on walking to Howtown, Lake District
Me on my walk to Howtown, Lake District
Me on my walk to Howtown, Lake District
These boots were made for walking, Lake District
These boots were made for walking, Lake District
View walking to Howtown, Lake District
View walking to Howtown, Lake District

Visit to Windermere
Windermere lake is the largest natural Lake in England so we decided to drive to Windermere to spend some time in the town and by the lake. Unfortunately it appeared everybody else had the same idea as us, we couldn’t find a parking space but worse than that, it was far too busy and we knew finding a quiet spot to unwind would be impossible.
Staying in Glenridding on the quieter Ullswater Lake was nice and relaxing, Windermere by contrast was far to busy.
We didn’t stay in Windermere but drove around until we found a quiet little picnic area in Orrest Head with beautiful views of the Windermere Lake we ate our lunch and relaxed.

Ullswater Steamer
Do not be deceived by the name, the Ullswater steamer is not a steam boat, however the boats are still lovely. The boats sail up and down Ullswater Lake from Glenridding Pier to Pooley Bridge Pier. A round trip around the lake took 2hours 15mins at a cost of £10.20. The ticket allows you to hop on and hop off at other towns along the way.

Ullswater Steamer, Lake District
Ullswater Steamer, Lake District
Glenridding Pier, Lake District
Glenridding Pier, Lake District
View from Ullswater Steamer, Lake District
View from Ullswater Steamer, Lake District
Making waves on the Ullswater Steamer
Making waves on the Ullswater Steamer
On the Ullswater Steamer, Lake District
On the Ullswater Steamer, Lake District
Me on the Ullswater Steamer, Lake District
Me on the Ullswater Steamer, Lake District

What I ate
I had a good meal at Pooley Bridge Inn, I had the Fish and Chips, this is the only place where I have been able to eat the batter as it was nice and light.
Apart for the meal at the Pooley Bridge in we cooked all our other meals ourselves.

Pooley Bridge Inn, Pooley Bridge, Lake District
Pooley Bridge Inn, Pooley Bridge, Lake District

In and around Glenridding

Further pictures of some of the sights in and around Glenridding.

On the way to Glenridding, Lake District
On the way to Glenridding, Lake District
Fog over Ullswater, Lake District
Fog over Ullswater, Lake District
Mountain around Ullswater, Lake District
Mountains around Ullswater, Lake District
Mountains around Ullswater, Lake District
Mountains around Ullswater, Lake District
Glenridding, Ullswater, Lake District
Glenridding, Ullswater, Lake District

My Ratings of Glenridding

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

People/Friendliness =  7/10
It was very difficult to tell who was a resident or a tourist but they local people I met were lovely and  welcoming.

Attractiveness = 9/10
The Lake District is beautiful, the scenery is unspoilt which is a testament to the good work the National Trust has been and is still doing to preserve parts of the area. Whilst walking around the mountains and forest/woods I kept feeling like I would encounter fairies and elves.

Food = 7/10
Whilst nearly all out meals were home made, the meal I had at Pooley Bridge Inn was very tasty. Plus Cumbrian Cheese and Chutney is amazing.

Affordability = 7/10
I found the trip very affordable, everything was reasonably priced for example the Ullswater Steamer was only £10.20.

Vibe = 8/10
The vibe is peaceful and relaxed, the Lake District was a lovely break from the chaotic city of London that I live in.

Overall = 8/10
I really enjoyed my holiday to the Lake District, thanks to this holiday I gained a new interest in walking and will be looking to include one walking holiday to my travels every year.

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.

Lauterbrunnen – Switzerland

I visited Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland in December 2014, it was part of a mini tour of Europe through Topdeck. The overall trip lasted 12 days and we visited 6 countries, 2 of which we used in visiting Lauterbrunnen in the Swiss Alps.

The weather
The trip took place in December therefore it was very cold. I need all the layers I could physically wear.

Where I stayed
I stayed in Schutzenbach Camping & Backpackers, it was so cool, quaint and surrounded by mountains. The cabins were basic with only bunk beds in them. The bathroom facilities were in another building two floors up, however the beautiful surroundings  compensated for this and the cold morning air was a nice wake up call.

Schutzenbach Camping & Backpackers, Lauterbrunnen Switzerland
Schutzenbach Camping & Backpackers, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Cabins at Schutzenbach Camping & Backpackers Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Cabins at Schutzenbach Camping & Backpackers Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
The surrounding of Schutzenbach Camping & Backpackers, Lauterbrunnen Switzerland
The surrounding of Schutzenbach Camping & Backpackers, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

What I did

Jungfraujoch
The Jungfrau Experience at €150 is expensive but it is very worthwhile, it takes two hours to reach the top of Jungfraujoch, which is the official top of Europe. The views are breathtaking, the scenery idyllic and it will have you wanting to build your own  Olaf whilst singing ‘Let it go’.

Once you reach the mountain there are several shops and restaurants to keep you occupied, my favourite shop was the Lindor chocolate shop naturally.

Jungfrau train, Switzerland
Jungfrau train, Switzerland
Jungfrau Top of Europe, Switzerland
Jungfrau Top of Europe, Switzerland
View from Jungfrau, Switzerland
View from Jungfrau, Switzerland
Looking out onto Jungfrau, Switzerland
Looking out onto Jungfrau, Switzerland
Ice sculptures, Jungfrau Switzerland
Ice sculptures, Jungfrau Switzerland
Ice tunnel, Jungfrau Switzerland
Ice tunnel, Jungfrau Switzerland
On Jungfrau, Switzerland
On Jungfrau, Switzerland
Me on Jungfrau, Switzerland
Me on Jungfrau, Switzerland
Me on Jungfrau, Switzerland
Me on Jungfrau, Switzerland
Jungfrau, Switzerland
View from Jungfrau train, Switzerland

Klein Scheidegg
On the way up to Jungfrau is the town of Klein Scheidegg. On the return journey back to Lauternbrunnen I and some friends stopped in the town to have lunch and look around. We found a nice restaurant to eat lunch and a teepee tent to have a warming glass of hot wine.

Klein Scheidegg, Switzerland
Klein Scheidegg, Switzerland
Drinking hot wine with friends in a tippee tent, Klein Scheidegg Switzerland
Drinking hot wine with friends in a teepee tent, Klein Scheidegg Switzerland
Hot wine at a tipee tent in Klein Scheidegg, Switzerland
Hot wine at a teepee tent in Klein Scheidegg, Switzerland

Horner Pub
We went for several drinks at the Horner pub, it appears to be the main pub in Lauterbrunnen as the pub got rather busy for the little village. The locals were friendly and did not mind the invasion of young tourists. The bar lady was very lovely and beer was reasonably priced.

Horner Pub, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Horner Pub, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

What I ate
I tried a fondu which was really good, however the cheese was a little stronger than I am used to.
I also had a decent meal at the Restaurant Eigernordwand in Klein Scheidegg.

As previously mentioned, there is Lindor shop at the top of the mountain, the selection is extensive and the price for the chocolates is much cheaper there. I bought and ate loads of the delicious chocolate.

Lindor shop, Jungfrau, Switzerland
Lindor shop, Jungfrau, Switzerland

In and around Lauterbrunnen
The following pictures were taken in Lauterbrunnen or on the way to Jungfrau or leaving Lauterbrunnen.

Swiss house, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Swiss house, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Snowey Mountain, Switzerland
Snowey Mountain, Switzerland
Snow, Switzerland
Snow, Switzerland
View of a valley in Switzerland
View of a valley in Switzerland
View from Jungfrau, Switzerland
View of Lauterbrunnen from train, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland

My Ratings of Lauterbrunnen

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

People/Friendliness = 8/10
The locals were rather friendly and welcoming considering we had invaded the little town. Some of the locals even came and had drinks in the bar at the Schutzenbach Camping & Backpackers.

Attractiveness = 9/10
Lauterbrunnen is one of the most beautiful place  I have been to,  the scenery  really is picture perfect like a postcard or a painting, there was something magical and fairytale like about the place.

Food = 6/10
The Swiss food i tried was decent but Swiss chocolate is much better it is sublime.

Affordability = 5/10
Switzerland is expensive, it is a rich country and this is reflected in the prices of things.

Vibe = 8/10
Being in the mountains in December the vibe was magical and festive.

Overall = 7.5/10
I truly enjoyed my visit to Lauterbrunnen, you should definitely  consider it as a bucket list destination, being on the top of Europe is an experience I will forever cherish. I cannot imagine visiting Lauternbrunnen in any other season but winter. The fluffy white snow made everything so magical.

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Or if you want any advice for your trip, leave a comment and I will be sure to do my best to help you.

Venice – Italy

I went to Venice in December 2014 as part of a mini tour of Europe thorough Topdeck.

The weather

For December the weather was pretty mild, it was chilly but dry.

Where i stayed
I stayed in a the fantastic Hotel Ambaciatori which is just just 10mins away by bus from the centre of Venice.

What i did

St Marks Basilica
The Cathedral is truly amazing with its ornate features on exterior and interior of the building. The Cathedral is one of the city’s most iconic and famous landmarks. The pictures I took do not do it justice as the day was very cloudy and grey.

St Marks Basilica, Venice
St Marks Basilica, Venice
St Marks Basilica, Venice
St Marks Basilica, Venice
Me at St Marks Basilica, Venice
Me at St Marks Basilica, Venice

Gondola ride
A trip to Venice is not complete without a ride on a Gondola down the famous canals. A Gondola ride can be expensive as prices start from €80 for 40mins and can go up to €100. Luckily as I was part of a tour group I only paid €25 for a 30mins ride.

Gondolas on The Grand Canal, Venice
Gondolas on The Grand Canal, Venice
Gondolas on a Canal, Venice
Gondolas on a Canal, Venice
Gondolas on a Canal, Venice
Gondolas on a Canal, Venice
Me on the Gondola, Venice
Me on the Gondola, Venice

Lace making demonstration
I watched a lace making demonstration at a Burano lace school, they still make lace in the traditional ways. Whilst  I wasn’t so interested in the lace making, I loved the building and architecture.

Inside the Burano lace school, Venice
Inside the Burano lace school, Venice
Ceiling and lights at a Burano lace school, Venice
Ceiling and lights at a Burano lace school, Venice

Il Genio di Leonardo da Vinci Museo, Venice
This was a fascinating museum showcasing some of Da Vinci’s work. It is well worth the visit to see  some of the machine and works by one of the greatest artist and inventor that ever lived.

Il Genio di Leonardo da Vinci Museo, Venice
Il Genio di Leonardo da Vinci Museo, Venice

Walking around
I just loafed around with my friends enjoying the sights and sounds of Venice. It is very easy to get lost in the City but it is also easy to find a central point to help point you in the right direction.

A Building, Venice
A Building, Venice
Rialto Bridge, Venice
Rialto Bridge, Venice
Santas on Gondola parade,Venice
Santas on Gondola parade,Venice
Santas on Gondola parade,Venice
Santas on Gondola parade,Venice
Venetian masks, Venice
Venetian masks, Venice
Me trying on a Venetian mask, Venice
Me trying on a Venetian mask, Venice
Venice Street
Venice Street
Venice Street
Venice Street
Venice Bridge
Venice Bridge

BEFeD Brew Pub
BEFed is an amazing pub, I went there for a night out with friends and we had such a good time. There was no pretentiousness, the beer was ridiculously cheap at €12 for a jug of beer and you get free monkey nuts. The shells of the monkey nuts end up all over the floors and make for a great slip resistance.
However the female toilets were rather peculiar, see the picture in the bottom right had corner below.

BEFed Brew Bar, Venice
BEFed Brew Bar, Venice

My Ratings of Venice

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

Culture = 7/10
Venice is a rather small city, nevertheless it has loads to offer with museums, St Marks Basilica  and gondola rides to keep you occupied.

People/Friendliness = 7/10
The Italian people I came across were rather pleasant, they were friendly and welcoming.

Attractiveness = 6.5/10
Venice is not as attractive as I thought it would be, perhaps my view is coloured by the fact that when I went, the  weather was rather grey and dull and it made the city feel a little drab.

Food = 7/10
I ate at a local restaurant, I particularly liked the seafood risotto I had.

Affordability = 7/10
Venice is pretty affordable in my opinion. Everything was reasonably priced.

Vibe = 7/10
Venice had a nice historical vibe, it felt like a city I knew because of books and films. The narrow canals, bridges and streets make for a very throw back in time feel.

Overall = 7/10
I truly enjoyed my visits to Amsterdam and I would definitely be going back to visit. The say that a people make the place and the Dutch people certainly made both my trips to Amsterdam very memorable and special.

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Or if you want any advice for your trip leave a comment and I will be sure to do my best to help you.

Oslo – Norway

I went to Oslo, Norway in March 2015, it was my second Northern European country to visit and my second trip to Scandinavia.

How long I stayed
I stayed 3 days and 2 nights, I arrived Friday afternoon and left on Sunday afternoon.

The weather
It was March and the weather was as still very cold, it wasn’t more than 4 degrees and the Saturday was overcast making it feel even cooler.

The cost of trip
A return flight from London Stanstead to Oslo Rygge cost £40 return, it would have been £20 but that is a story for another day. 3 days and 2 nights stay at the hostel cost £53, so in all flights and accommodation cost £93.

Where I stayed
I stayed at the Oslo Hostel Central, the hostel was in a good location, being 5 mins walk to Akershus Fortress and Oslo Harbour and 10mins walk from the Oslo central station and Oslo Opera and Ballet House. The hostel was clean and the staff friendly.

Oslo Hostel Central
Oslo Hostel Central

What I did

Oslo Cathedral/ Oslo Domkirke
I was privy to watch a youth choir rehearsing for a show, they sounded amazing and truly angelic. Oslo Cathedral/ Oslo Domkirke is gorgeous and I loved the internal decor.

Oslo Catherdral - Oslo Domkirke
Oslo Catherdral/ Oslo Domkirke
Oslo Catherdral/ Oslo Domkirke
Oslo Catherdral/ Oslo Domkirke
Inside Oslo Catherdral - Oslo Domkirke
Inside Oslo Catherdral/ Oslo Domkirke
Inside Oslo Catherdral/ Oslo Domkirke
Inside Oslo Catherdral/ Oslo Domkirke

Oslo Ballet and Opera House
I felt like a child at a candy store, I loved that Oslo Ballet and Opera House felt like one giant piece of interactive sculpture. You can walk up the sides onto the roof, the roof has different levels, falls and surface textures to play with. I went there twice, once during the day and the second was at night the view of Oslo were amazing and I got some amazing pictures of the city and of my shadow against the building.

Oslo Opera and Ballet House
Oslo Opera and Ballet House
Oslo Opera and Ballet House
Oslo Opera and Ballet House
Oslo Opera and Ballet House
Oslo Opera and Ballet House
Oslo Opera and Ballet House
Oslo Opera and Ballet House
View from Oslo Opera and Ballet House at Night
View from Oslo Opera and Ballet House at Night
View from Oslo Opera and Ballet House at Night
View from Oslo Opera and Ballet House at Night
View from Oslo Opera and Ballet House at Night
View from Oslo Opera and Ballet House at Night
My shadow on Oslo Opera and Ballet House
My shadow on Oslo Opera and Ballet House
My shadow on Oslo Opera and Ballet House
My shadow on Oslo Opera and Ballet House

Akershus Fortress
Akershus Fortress sits overlooking Oslo harbour. Akershus Fortress was the first place I went to when I arrived in Oslo, it was a happy accident as I had thought I was going to Old Aker Church but I had misread the map and ended up at the fortress. I visited during early evening, it was quiet and peaceful,  a very good place to unwind, I felt serene watching the sun set over Oslo harbour. Entrance is free to the fortress and guided tours can be organised.

Akershus Fortress from Oslo Harbour
Akershus Fortress from Oslo Harbour
Akerhus Fortress, Oslo
Akerhus Fortress, Oslo
Akershus Fortress, Oslo
Akershus Fortress, Oslo
Akerhus Fortress, Oslo
Akerhus Fortress, Oslo
Akershus Fortress Castle, Oslo
Akershus Fortress Castle, Oslo
Side of Akershus Castle, Oslo
Side of Akershus Castle, Oslo

Old Aker Church
Old Aker Church is the oldest building in Oslo and was built in the 1100s. A quaint little church that sits high up, the views from the grounds over Oslo are pretty amazing. It is very peaceful, spiritual and a good place to sit and reflect. There are graves on the grounds but I didn’t mind them and I spent an hour there.
I walked from the hostel to the church, the hostel was central located and it took about 30mins to walk there and the same back.

Old Aker Church, Oslo
Old Aker Church, Oslo
Back of Old Aker Church, Oslo
Back of Old Aker Church, Oslo
View from Old Aker Church
View from Old Aker Church, Oslo
View from Old Aker Church
View from Old Aker Church, Oslo
View from Old Aker Church, Oslo
View from Old Aker Church, Oslo

Astrup Fearnley Museet
Astrup Fearnley Museet is one swish gallery, beautifully situated on Oslo bay the modern architecture sits in and compliments the bay area very well.
There is a cafe in the gallery that over looks the harbour, I recommend having lunch there, although it is a little pricey.

Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo
Eyes by Louise Bourgeois in the Astrup Fearnley garden, Oslo
Eyes by Louise Bourgeois in the Astrup Fearnley garden, Oslo
Spalt by the late Franz West on Astrup Fearnley Gardens, Olso
Spalt by the late Franz West on Astrup Fearnley Gardens, Olso
Snow white and the seven dwarfs, Astrup Fearnley garden, Oslo
Snow white and the seven dwarfs, Astrup Fearnley garden, Oslo

Museum of  Contemporay Arts/Museet for Samtidskunst
No entrance fee is payable to get into The Museum of Contemporay Arts/Museet for Samtidskunst The main reason I went to the museum was to see the works by Louise Bourgeois. It was worth the visit as there were other contemporary artist such as Karl Holmquist who I discovered.

Louise Bourgeois's Cell VIII, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Louise Bourgeois’s Cell VIII, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Louise Bourgeois's Quarantania, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Louise Bourgeois’s Quarantania, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Louise's Bourgeois, Fee Couterie, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Louise’s Bourgeois, Fee Couterie, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Installation, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Installation, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Karl Holmquist, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Karl Holmquist, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Karl Holmquist, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
Karl Holmquist, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo

The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset
The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset is very clean lines and no drama, you are treated to great views of central Oslo from the palace. The best time to visit is around 1.30pm as the changing of the guards takes place at this time daily.

The Royal Palace/ Konghuset, Oslo
The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset, Oslo
View from The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset, Oslo
View from The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset, Oslo
View from The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset, Oslo
View from The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset, Oslo
Me at The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset, Oslo
Me at The Royal Palace/ Kongehuset, Oslo

Just walking around
I walked everywhere in Oslo and I came across many things that made me stop and take a picture.

Colourfully painted houses, Oslo
Colourfully painted houses, Oslo
Colourfully painted houses, Oslo
Colourfully painted houses, Oslo
Oslo street with colourful houses
Oslo street with colourful houses
Nobel Peace Centre, Oslo
Nobel Peace Centre, Oslo
Street monument, Oslo
Street monument, Oslo
St Olavs Cathedral, Oslo
St Olavs Cathedral, Oslo
Trinity Church, Oslo
Trinity Church, Oslo
Trinity Church, Oslo
Trinity Church, Oslo
Oslo Harbour
Oslo Harbour
Oslo Harbour
Oslo Harbour

What I ate
Norway is expensive for eating out generally but you can also find inexpensive good quality food. It was recommended that I try whale meat, however I couldn’t bring myself to try it.

My booking at the hostel included breakfast which was served buffet style. The breakfast was very good with a variety to choose from. Cheekily, as I knew food is expensive in Oslo and as I was on a budget, I made packed lunches at breakfast.

As with Stockholm (read my post on Stockholm) I found a good Sushi and Thai restaurant where I ate most of my dinners. The sushi selection and pad Thai were  delicious.

Sushi and Thaimat, Oslo
Sushi and Thaimat, Oslo

Pastel De Nata
The coffee shop across the road from my hostel did a good deal on coffee and cake for £4 The coffee was good and the cake even better.

Pastel De Nata, Oslo
Pastel De Nata, Oslo

My Ratings on Oslo

Culture =7/10
Oslo was an interesting city, I loved  the museum and galleries, there is also The City hall and The Nobel Peace centre to explore.

People/friendliness = 5/10
The people in Oslo were even less friendlier than in Stockholm. Perhaps the northern chill gets into their bones.

Attractiveness 6.5/10
Unfortunately for Oslo I went to Stockholm first and so I was forever comparing the two cities.  I found Stockholm to be the more photogenic of the Scandinavian siblings. Nevertheless it is not to say that Oslo is not a beautiful place it is, but her sister just got more of the looks.

Food =7/10
My motto is good grub is good grub. I didn’t eat any traditional Norwegian meal but the food I had tasted good.

Affordability = 4.5/10
Compared to London my home city, Oslo is expensive but with careful planning you can have a relatively inexpensive trip like I did.

Vibe =6.5/10
Oslo has a vibe of pride, the Norwegians love their country/city and their country/city loves them back. It also has a chilled vibe which is good for a main city.

Overall = 7/10
Oslo was an interesting place to visit, I loved Akershus Fortress, Old Aker Church and playing on the Oslo Opera and Ballet house. It was a good experience and served to quell part of my desire to visit Northern European countries. At present I have no desire to return  but I am grateful I have been.

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Or if you want any advice for your trip leave a comment and I will be sure to do my best to help you.

Stockholm – Sweden

I went to Stockholm Sweden in February 2015. Sweden was the first Northern European and Scandinavian country I visited.

How long I stayed
I stayed for 4 days and 3 nights, I arrived on a Friday afternoon and left Monday afternoon.

Cost of Trip
My flight from London Stanstead to Stockholm Skavsta cost £32.35 return. I then paid approximately £22 for a return coach using the Flygbusssarna service to get from Skavsta to Stockholm City centre.   The cost for a 3 days and 4 nights stay at a hostel cost £44, so in all I paid £98.35 for my flight and accommodation.

The weather
February was very cold  whilst I was there the weather was no more than 4 degrees but it was sunny and dry so it was pleasant to walk about. I wore my thickest coat, I need a hat, gloves and two pairs of socks. Sweden is cold during winter, very cold.

View from airplane Skavsta airport
View from airplane Skavsta airport

How I got around
Even though it was winter and snow was everywhere, I walked all over the place mostly. I enjoy walking as it is a good way to find new places and things that may otherwise be missed. I did also take the metro and local bus which was relatively cheap. For £6 you could buy a pass that allowed you 4 single journeys on the buses, tram and metro.

Where I stayed
I stayed at the City Backpackers Hostel, this hostel was very good, it was clean and the amenity spaces were fantastic. The hostel is centrally located and situated at the end of Drottninggatan (Queen Street), the longest shopping street in Stockholm.
There is one quirky rule in the hostel; no outside shoes can be worn past the reception areas, but it is really safe to leave your shoes in lobby area or simply take of your shoes and carry them to your room.
Lest I forget there is also a sauna in the hostel that is free to use, so I recommend you pack swimwear if you are going to stay here. After a long day walking in the cold it was very nice to unwind in the sauna.

City Backpackers Hostel Stockholm
City Backpackers Hostel Stockholm

What I did

Stockholm Walking Tour
I went on three city walking tours, with the Free Tour Stockholm group. They offer three tours a day on specified days of the week. No booking is required and no fee is paid, just turn up and walk and listen to the tour guides. At the end of the tour, there is an opportunity to  give a tip. The tour lasts between  1.5 hours  to 2 hours dependant on which tour you go on.  I really enjoyed the tours and found them a great way  to learn about Stockholm.

Free Tour Stockholm
Free Tour Stockholm

Stockholm  Moderna Museet/ Museum of Modern Art
Moderna Museet/Museum of Modern Art holds modern and contemporary art, it is located on the island of Skeppsholmen in central Stockholm. The Entrance fee to the museum was £9.50. I saw pieces by artist such as Michael Elmgreen, Louise Bourgeois, Salvador Dali, Henri Matisse, Robert Rauschenberg,  Andy Warhol and Alexander Calder.
Without a doubt my favourite piece was Louise Bourgeois’s spider, that took pride and place at the main entrance. I spent nearly 4 hours in this museum, it is not a large museum but it is filled with amazing pieces of art that require time to be studied.

Alexander Calder - The four elements
Alexander Calder – The four elements
Louise Bourgeois - Spider
Louise Bourgeois – Spider
Art in Modena Musset
Art in Moderna Museet
Art in Modena Musset
Art in Moderna Museet
Robert Rauschenberg - Monogram
Robert Rauschenberg – Monogram
Andy Warhol - Moderna Musset
Andy Warhol – Moderna Museet

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts/Konstakademien
The Royal Academy of Fine Arts or Konstakademien, is in central Stockholm and is located  in the  former Sparreska palace. Entrance to the museum costs £8. It is well worth the visit, especially if you like sculptures.

Statue in Konstakademien
Statue in Konstakademien
Statue in Konstakademien
Statue in Konstakademien
Statue in Konstakademien
Statue in Konstakademien

The Kaknas Tower/Kaknastornet
The Kaknas Tower/Kaknastornet is the hub of all TV and radio transmission in Sweden. The 155-metre tower offers fantastic views of Stockholm and the city’s surroundings. There is a viewing gallery, café, restaurant, sky bar and a gift shop in the tower. The entrance fee to go up to the viewing tower is relatively inexpensive at £4.50. It took about 45 minutes to get from the city centre to the tower using both buses and the metro.
A visit to the tower was well worth the trip, however it was very cold and windy on the viewing platform that standing was even a problem. I had to psyche myself up to take my gloves off to take pictures as the wind chill made my fingers feel like they where going to fall off if left exposed. The views of Stockholm were lovely, white blankets of snow complimented the clear blue sky.

View from Kaknastornet
View from Kaknastornet
View from Kaknastornet, Stockholm
View from Kaknastornet, Stockholm
View from Kaknastornet, Stockholm
View from Kaknastornet, Stockholm
View from Kaknastornet, Stockholm
View from Kaknastornet, Stockholm
Me on Kaknastornet viewing platform
Me on Kaknastornet viewing platform

Gamla Stan
Gamla stan (The Old Town), until 1980 was officially Staden mellan broarna (The Town between the Bridges), it is the old town of Stockholm, Sweden.
Gamla stan is a lovely area and my favourite part of Stockholm, I loved the old richly painted  unique north German architecture. Gamla stan is home to the Royal Palace, Stockholm Cathedral, the narrowest street in Stockholm, Riddarholm Church,  and  The Nobel Museum.

Riddarholmen Church
Riddarholmen Church
Riddarholmen Church
Riddarholmen Church
Riddarholmen Church
Riddarholmen Church
Saint George and the Dragon statue, Stockholm
Saint George and the Dragon statue, Stockholm
Kaffekoppen and Chokladkoppen, Stockholm
Kaffekoppen and Chokladkoppen, Stockholm
Sankt Jacobs Kyrka, Stockholm
Sankt Jacobs Kyrka, Stockholm

City Hall/ Stadshuset
The City Hall/ Stadshuset is one of Sweden’s most famous buildings, and one of the Stockholm’s most visited tourist attractions. The City Hall/ Statshuset is also the venue of the Nobel Prize banquet held on 10th of  December each year.
I spent about an hour or so just walking  around the area, it was peaceful and I wished I had brought lunch with me, for it was a great location for sitting and reflecting.

Stadshuset Stockholm
Stadshuset Stockholm
Stadshuset Stockholm
Stadshuset Stockholm
View from Stadhuset Stockholm
View from Stadshuset Stockholm
Me posing on the grounds of Stadhuset Stockholm
Me posing on the grounds of Stadshuset Stockholm

Walking Round
I enjoy walking around in order to find new things and I am not deterred by the weather. Luckily for me Stockholm was cold but dry; see below for some pictures of my discoveries.

Exploring Stockholm
Exploring Stockholm
Red boat Stockholm
Red boat Stockholm
The Riksdag building Stockholm
The Riksdag building Stockholm
View of Stockholm
View of Stockholm
Snow covered road Stockholm
Snow covered road Stockholm

What I ate
Eating out in Stockholm can be expensive, however there are several restaurants  and places you can eat at inexpensively. I didn’t try any Swedish food, also as I had recently given up eating meat I couldn’t try Swedish meatballs.

I had breakfast at the hostel which was reasonably priced at £5.50, breakfast consisted of a cereal, a waffle or a sandwich roll, yoghurt and fresh fruit orange juice, tea or coffee.

Vapianos
I had a meal at Vapianos, for a pizza and a drink I spent £9, which is really good in my book.

Cupcake STHLM
Cupcake STHLM sell really good cupcakes, what I really liked was that the cupcakes were not too sweet, I am assuming this is due to the high tax on sugar in Sweden. The cupcake shop I went to was in the Skrapan mall in the Gotgatan shopping district.

Cupcakes at Cupcake STHLM
Cupcakes at Cupcake STHLM
Yumtastic Cupcake by Cupcake STHLM
Yumtastic Cupcake by Cupcake STHLM

Kungshallen
Kungshallen/ Kings Hall is a food court to get good quality inexpensive food. I visited twice and had two meals, one meal was Turkish and the other was Mexican, both meals cost £7 each, the meals were good and value for money.

Kungshallen Stockholm
Kungshallen Stockholm

Thai and Sushi
I found a little Sushi and Thai restaurant that was on the same road as the hostel I stayed in. The restaurant is a small family run restaurant but the food was very good, so good that I ate there thrice during my trip. A meal consisting of a sushi selection and a Thai green curry and rice cost £7, excellent value for money. Sweden was the first country I came across where Thai and Japanese food were being sold together but it really works.

Sushi and Thai Stockholm
Sushi and Thai Stockholm

My Ratings of Stockholm

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

Culture = 7/10
Stockholm is a beautiful city with so much to offer, the museums and galleries even though they require an entrance fee are worth visiting.

People/Friendliness = 5.5/10
Swedish people are very attractive but I found  them to be a little cold generally.

Attractiveness = 8/10
Stockholm is most definitely an attractive city and is ideal for photography enthusiasts. Everything felt very clean and fresh except for  Gamla stan of course that had a more rustic lived in feel.

Food = 7/10
I ate loads of good food in Stockholm, I really liked the cup cakes from Cupcake STHLM, I wish they would open a branch in London and The food from Sushi and Thai was also superb.

Affordability = 5/10
Compared to London, Stockholm is expensive, I found it an anomaly that I had to pay to get into galleries and museum. Stockholm is expensive but with careful planning you can have an inexpensive trip.

Vibe = 7.5/10
Stockholm’s vibe is very functional and clean. The Swedes have a very good lifestyle, they are practical and it reflects in the city and resonates all round in the air.  It is very hipster and cool.

Overall = 8/10
I had a very good time is Stockholm, it was the first trip in 2015 and it really inspired me to keep on traveling. I would definitely go back to Stockholm but during the summer,  I am curious to see what the city is like during summer. All in all a great city and a wonderful experience.

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Paris – France

I have been to Paris twice, the first time was in August 2013 and the second time was in December 2014. This post mixes my experience during both trips. I will try to specify below the trip each experience relates to.

How long I stayed
August 2013- 1 day, 1 night
December 2014-  1 day 2 nights

The weather
August 2013- the weather was very warm and it was sunny all day as you will see in the pictures below.
December 2014- the weather  was mild and I didn’t need gloves or a hat. However it rained non-stop.

Where I stayed

August 2013- Comfort Inn Saint-Pierre Hotel
Being Naive I assumed a hotel near the main station and some what centrally located would be ok. Well whilst the hotel was ok, the area around Gare du Nord is not. The only word I can use to describe it is as is…scary. I would not recommend that a single female book a hotel around the main station as I felt very unsafe.

December 2014- B&B La Villette
This was a nice clean 3 star hotel , the breakfast was very good  but  again I did not like the area. I had no choice about this hotel as it was part of a  Topdeck tour holiday I was on. I wouldn’t recommend walking around or going out around the hotel as a tourist late at night.

How I got around
I did buy a metro pass but I like walking so I walked everywhere. The metro pass was really in expensive and costs £10, which gave you 10 single journeys to travel all over Paris.

What I did

The old Grand Palace of Louvre and the museum
The palace is impressive, beautifully preserved and a stunning piece of architecture. The historic palace buildings wrap themselves around the magnificent modern glass pyramid of the Louvre Museum.  The old and new work together in harmony and is testament of how historical and new architecture can compliment each other.
This area and it is a must see if you ever decide to come to Paris.

One my first visit I did not go in the Louvre  as I was on a day trip and being an artist I take my time when I go in to galleries, I would have spent the whole day viewing the pieces. Even though I am yet to go to the Louvre museum, I recommend if you do go to Paris, going to the Louvre Museum should be on your agenda, as it is the home of the famous Mona Lisa and a truly magnificent museum with some of the worlds best pieces of art.

The Old Grand Palace and Louvre Museum, Paris
The Old Grand Palace and Louvre Museum, Paris
Underside of Louvre Pyramid, Paris
Underside of Louvre Pyramid, Paris
The Louvre Pyramid, Paris
The Louvre Pyramid, Paris
The Old Grand Palace and Louvre Pyramid
The Old Grand Palace and Louvre Pyramid

Arc De Triomphe
After my visit to the Louvre Palace, I walked to the Arc De Triomphe, where I decided it would be a good idea to run across the most notorious roundabout in the whole of Paris if not France. I later found out during my second visit that the French government does care about tourist and  public safety and had built a safe subway for access to the Arc De Triomphe, removing the need to run through Parisian traffic. I seriously had believed running across the roadways the only way to get across to the Monument, might I add that I wasn’t alone in my daredevil act of taking on Parisian motorists. Running across the  Arc De Triomphe roundabout is not recommended.

Arc De Triomphe, Paris
Arc De Triomphe, Paris
Under Arc De Triomphe, Paris
Under Arc De Triomphe, Paris
Me at the Arc De Triomphe, Paris
Me at the Arc De Triomphe, Paris

Eiffel Tower
After visiting Arc De Triomphe, I walked to the Eiffel Tower but I decided not to go up the tower, should I have decided to wait to go up the tower, I suspected I would be writing this blog from the queue even now. If you wish to climb up the Tower I suggest you get  there as early as possible to avoid the very long queues.
After taking several pictures and selfies  trying to get the iconic tower as I wanted it, I left. During my second visit to Paris I went to the tower at night and it was even more impressive lite up. Paris is not titled the city of light without just cause.

Eiffel Tower, Paris
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Eiffel Tower at Night
Eiffel Tower at Night
Me at the Eiffel Tower, Paris
Me at the Eiffel Tower, Paris

River Seine cruise
This was one of my favourite part of my trip, I love boats and being on the water. I went on the river cruise during my first visit to Paris in August and the weather was perfect.
A river cruise is great way to see any city and Paris is no exception. The cost of the cruise was €23 and that included a waffle with Nutella and strawberries and a drink. The waffle was very tasty too. The cruise was an 1hr and half long, I highly recommend this.

Views from the River Seine Cruise
Views from the River Seine Cruise
Pont Alexandre iii Bridge
Pont Alexandre iii Bridge
Lovers Padlocks on a bridge
Lovers Padlocks on a bridge
Assemblee Nationale, Paris
Assemblee Nationale, Paris
La Conciergerie, Paris
La Conciergerie, Paris

Moulin Rouge
During my second trip in December 2014, I decided I wanted to go to the Moulin Rouge, not for a cabaret show but to see the iconic building to take some pictures. It was also on the way to Mont Marte and Sacre Coeur so it was a good detour.

Moulin Rouge at night
Moulin Rouge at night
Posing outside Moulin Rouge
Posing outside Moulin Rouge

Monte Marte
After taking several pictures of Moulin Rouge, I headed to Monte Marte the artist quarter, where my kindred spirits reside. Unfortunately the artists of Monte Marte only really come out during summer so the area was rather quite.

Steps leading to Sacre Coeur
Steps leading to Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur Cathedral
This beautiful Cathedral sits at the highest point in Paris. An impressive functional Cathedral, there were a number of people praying as I walked round, it was very sombre, but in a good way. The little gift shop is offers good value on religious trinkets if you are that way inclined.
The view from Sacre Coeur even on the damp grey December day was still impressive, Paris looked so chaotic but peaceful at the same time.
The garden of Sacre Coeur is also very beautiful and idyllic perfect for asking that all important question.

Sacre Coeur, Paris
Sacre Coeur, Paris
View from Sacre Coeur
View from Sacre Coeur
View from Sacre Coeur
View from Sacre Coeur
Me at Sacre Coeur
Me at Sacre Coeur
Steps up to Sacre Coeur
Steps up to Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur gardens
Sacre Coeur gardens

The Grand Palace/ Le Grand Palais
I can’t ice skate, heck I can’t even shuffle, therefore whatever I did on the ice for the time I was at The Grand Palace was very undignified. However the experience and atmosphere made it very memorable and worth all of the €25 to cling to side of the rink. I did build up courage enough to go one full circuit without clinging to the sides but that took every ounce of strength and determination.  If you are going to Paris during Winter I highly recommend this.

Le Grand Palais, Paris
Le Grand Palais, Paris
Le Grand Palais
Le Grand Palais
Le Grand Palais Ice Skating
Le Grand Palais Ice Skating
Le Grand Palais Ice Skating
Le Grand Palais Ice Skating

Notre Dame
What a cathedral! It’s everything I imagined and more it sits very impressively on the banks of the River Seine and was beautifully lite up for the festive period.
During my first visit in summer I took some amazing pictures from a boat on the River Seine. Notre Dame is an amazing feat of gothic architecture and it free to get into.

Notre Dame from the River Seine
Notre Dame from the River Seine
Notre Dame from the River Seine
Notre Dame from the River Seine
Notre Dame at Night
Notre Dame at Night
Notre Dame and River Seine at night
Notre Dame and River Seine at night

Christmas market
The stalls had the festive spirit in abundance, the cute stalls lined both side of  the Champs Elysees,  and were wonderfully lite. The snack food and especially hot wine make walking though the different stalls even more pleasant.

Paris Christmas Market
Paris Christmas Market
Sampling hot wine at the Christmas Stalls
Sampling hot wine at the Christmas Stalls

What I ate

Standard Restaurant
I tried french onion soup but I really disliked it and I definitely will not be trying it again.
I also tried some snails, this surprisingly I liked, it could be due to  fact that the part of  Nigeria my parent are from, giant snails are a delicacy so I had eaten snails on many occasions. The food at the restaurant was ok, simply ok.

Standard Cafe
Le Petit Josselin had been recommended for its savoury crepes. The Crepe was lovely and at £10 for a lunch menu that included a savory crepe,a desert and a drink it was well worth it.

Le Petit Josselin
Le Petit Josselin
Lights at Le Petit Josselin
Lights at Le Petit Josselin
Market food
During my summer trip I bought some sausages and chicken from a Farmers/ antique market on my way to the Eiffel tower however both were gross. The chicken had not been seasoned not even with salt and the sausage was far to rich for me.
Laudere
Laudere is dessert and sweet heaven. The cakes and macaroons were divine and worth every Euro. You must go there, French sweets/ desserts have no competition in my book.
Laudere
Laudere
Cakes at Laudere
Cakes at Laudere
Laudere Cake
Laudere Cake
Laudere Macaroons
Laudere Macaroons

My Ratings of Paris

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

Culture = 8/10
Paris is a city of culture there is so much to do and see, with so many museums, theatres and places of historical significance you will have loads to keep you occupied.

People/ friendliness = 4.5/10
Well the Parisians were stylish as expected but a little too cold for my liking. I felt unable to approach the locals for help and when I did manage to get someone to help, it felt like i was a bother.
The Parisians are not the friendliest is all I will say.

Attractiveness = 8.5/10
Paris is a beautiful city, a very proud city with the architecture to match. Being a city girl, i thrive in the chaos of a city and Paris certainly had enough chaotic charm.

Food = 7/10
Of the 7 points the 5 goes to the desserts at  Laudere. Perhaps it was the food or restaurant I ate but I found french food to be rather average. If i was scoring desserts alone it would probably be a 8.5 if not a 9.

Affordability = 7/10
As a Londoner there are not many places I find expensive as I am used to being ripped off. Paris was affordable in my opinion, the most I spent on an activity was £25 euros  and that was to ice skate in The Grand Palace.

Vibe = 7/10
Paris has a chic and cool vibe. I could also sense that it would be very romantic and there are so many locations to make ones partner feel special.

Overall= 7.5
Paris is a beautiful city with lots to do and see.A day trip is fine as a taster but I recommend a three-day weekend trip to really get a feel and experience some of the things Paris has to offer. Paris should be on your bucket list of cities to visit, even if it’s for the cakes.

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Or if you want any advice for your trip leave a comment and I will be sure to do my best to help you.

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Amsterdam – The Netherlands

I have been to Amsterdam twice both times were during winter, the first time was in February 2014 and the second time was in December 2014. Therefore this post includes my experiences from both trips, I will try where possible to specify which trip I am referring to.

How long I stayed
February 2014– 1 day
December 2014– 2 days

Cost of Trip
February 2014– The trip cost £79 for two (£39.50 per person) people sailing from Newcastle, England to Amsterdam, The Netherlands. As I live in London also paid £30 for a return train ride from London to Newcastle.
So all in all I paid £69.50 for accommodation and travel, this cost included the coach ride from IJmuiden habour to Amsterdam city centre.

December 2014– My Trip was part of a Topdeck Winter Express mini Europe tour, therefore I do not have the costs for my time at Amsterdam as it was all wrapped up in the overall tour price. I will be writing a post about my Topdeck Winter Express trip soon.

The weather
The weather in February and December was cold as is to be expected. I needed gloves and a scarf but not a hat.

How I got around
I walked everywhere in central Amsterdam but took the tram to get back to my hostel. You can also hire bikes, this is a really good way to see Amsterdam, with the provisions for cyclists in Amsterdam being second to none.

Where I stayed
February 2014- DFDS Segway Ferry
I booked a cabin as we sailed over night to Amsterdam. We left Newcastle at 5pm and arrived at Amsterdam at 9.30am.
Whilst the cabin was basic and small, it was clean and the bunks were surprisingly comfortable. The ensuite however was so small that as I showered if not careful I could touch the toilet bowl, with only a shower curtain to separate the toilet and the shower area, showering was done hurriedly. However do not let this deter you, it is a worthwhile experience which is value for money.  For couples there are also cabins with double beds but they cost more money to book.

The ferry was pleasant with lots of amenity space however the price of food on the ferry is astronomical, for  example  the cheapest meal of burger and chips cost £18. I had viewed the menu before boarding so, I bought my own food (Chinese takeout) on board which the staff at the canteen of the ferry were nice enough to warm up for me. I recommend taking your own food and drink on board as this is allowed.

On the DFDS Seaway Ferry
On the DFDS Seaway Ferry
This is the cabin we stayed in on the ferry
Example of the cabin we stayed in on the ferry
View of Newcastle habour from the ferry
View of Newcastle habour from the ferry
Me on the ferry at night
Me on the ferry at night

December 2014-  Stayokay Amsterdam Zeeburgh
The hostel which was only a 10mins tram ride from the centre of Amsterdam. The hostel was nice, clean, safe and in a pleasant residential area too. I shared a 6 bedroom dorm with 6 other girls and there was enough space for all of us, our dorm had the shower and toilet in the room which was a big plus for me.

Stayokay Hostel Amsterdam Zeeburg
Stayokay Hostel Amsterdam Zeeburg

What I did

Anne Frank House
I am not going to go into the history of who Anne Frank is. I just recommend going to the house to learn about her and engage with the not too distant past atrocity that was the holocaust that made the tragic story of Anne Frank a reality.

Anne Frank House
Anne Frank House
Me outside Anne Frank House
Me outside Anne Frank House

Canal Cruise
I love river/sea/canal cruises any mode of traveling on water is right up my street. You would assume coming to Amsterdam by ferry I would have had enough of the water.
I don’t know the exact number of canals there are in Amsterdam, I just know there are loads and I enjoyed travelling on them.  The price of the canal cruise was about €13 for an hour.  I went on a canal cruise during both my trips.

Me posing by the boat that took us on the canal tour
Me posing by the boat that took us on the canal tour
Views from the Canal cruise
Views from the Canal cruise
Views from the Canal cruise
Views from the Canal cruise
Views from the Canal cruise
Views from the Canal cruise
View of the Eye Film Institute from the Canal cruise
View of the Eye Film Institute from the Canal cruise
Bridges and Canals
Bridges and Canals
View from the Canal cruise
View from the Canal cruise

De Simonehoeve – Clog/Cheese making factory
We visited a farm on the outskirts of Amsterdam and we were taught by a husband and wife tag team on how to make cheese and clogs.
The cheese making was first, all I can say is brace yourself for the smell. It was pongy but after a while my nose adjusted and I was able to listen to the process and it was actually interesting, plus I got to sample free cheese.
The clog making demonstration  was a little more exciting than the cheese making. Mr farmer was engaging, funny and a little naughty.
The farm also had a souvenir shop where I was able to buy good quality souvenirs

De Simonehoeve Farm
De Simonehoeve Farm
De Simonehoeve Fram rear entrance
De Simonehoeve Fram rear entrance
Example of childrens clogs
Example of childrens clogs
Me trying on clogs
Me trying on clogs

Shopping
Amsterdam has some of the best vintage cloths shops of any city I have been to, I and my pal spent ages going through one particular store for bargains.

Red light district
For those who didn’t know prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, the girls pay taxes like with a normal job and in some sense they are better protected that other sex workers who operate under the radar. I walked through the district as I had heard so much about it, it didn’t feel seedy, dark or gross, it was just fascinating.

Coffee shop/weed shop
Believe it or not I actually went into the coffee shops and ordered a lemon tea to go. I was rather  unwell,  self inflicted I might add therefore any drugs or alcohol would have killed me off.
Back to the main goods sold in coffee shops. I was amazed at how relaxed and easy it is to buy marijuana. There is menu, you select what you want, pay and you are handed your goods, which you can either smoke in the coffee shop or on the street. You can also buy marijuana muffins or brownies if smoking is not your thing.

Walking Round
Just walking around, getting lost and finding new and exciting places is one of the many things I do on a trip. I did this whilst in Amsterdam and it was amazing, dutch architecture is splendid and Amsterdam has such a nice chilled and relaxing vibe.  See below for some of the things i encountered as i wandered.

Dutch Architecture
Dutch Architecture
On a bridge with a Canal behind me
On a bridge with a Canal behind me
Looking down a Canal
Looking down a Canal
Amsterdam Tulip Museum
Amsterdam Tulip Museum
A cheese shop
A cheese shop
Dutch Cheese
Dutch Cheese
Rijksmuseum
Rijksmuseum
I am Amsterdam sign outside Rijksmuseum
I am Amsterdam sign outside Rijksmuseum
Hermitage Museum
Hermitage Museum
Dam Square at night
Dam Square at night
Lights on Lake IJ
Lights on Lake IJ

Party
Being with 47 other people during the December 2014 trip at Christmas time there was a natural party atmosphere within the group. Some of us went out Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve was weird due to the place we found ourselves in, partying with old ravers (60yrs +) is not my idea of fun, also one Dutch local took too much of liking to all the ladies in our group.
However Christmas Day was much better, we didn’t have to pay an entry fee to get into the bar we stayed in, we partied until 4am and the vibe was all good. The drinks were also very responsible priced at £4/5 for a bottle of beer.

What I ate
I cannot tell you what Dutch food is, I guess I should have sought it out but  as I walked round there were many generic restaurant.

Dutch cheese on the other hand is really good, I spent nearly an hour in one shop sampling cheese and deciding what to buy.

February 2014– I found a nice Turkish restaurant and had an amazing meal that was every in expensive. I think I paid £10 for my meal.

December 2014– For lunch I had sushi, it was really good and reasonably priced, my meal and green tea cots £15 (if you continue to read this blog you will notice that this will be a trend).

Sushi lunch
Sushi lunch

For one of my dinner, I eat at a Thai restaurant, I had a King Prawn Thai green curry and it was really good.  The restaurant was tiny and cosy but the food was really good and cheap at £12 for a two course meal.

I was in Amsterdam over Christmas and for Christmas dinner we had a Chinese buffet at the Sea Palace (a floating pagoda-style restaurant on Lake IJ) , the food was incredible.

Sea Palace Restaurant
Sea Palace Restaurant

My Ratings of Amsterdam

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

Culture = 7/10
Amsterdam has loads to do with many museums and activities a three-day weekend trip will be jammed packed with activities

People/Friendliness = 9/10
Dutch people are the friendliest of all the  people I have met on my travels. It felt very easy approaching strangers for help and I  was able to converse with several locals and it was very nice. Dutch people speak perfect English (I am not saying all people should speak English), which removed the awkwardness of trying to communicate.

Attractiveness = 7/10
Amsterdam is a hipster city. Its just a cool city with its canals, awesome architecture, bicycles and barges.

Food = 7/10
I ate loads of good food in Amsterdam but none of them were Dutch meals, still good grub is good grub.

Affordability = 6/10
Amsterdam is affordable my benchmark is London and I did not feel I was paying more that I would pay at home.

Vibe = 8/10
Amsterdam has such a good vibe, so far it is the only European country I would consider relocating to. It just seems that the Dutch have the perfect work life balance, I like their lifestyle.

Overall = 8.5/10
I truly enjoyed my visits to Amsterdam and I would definitely be going back to visit. The say that a people makes a place and the Dutch people certainly made both my trips to Amsterdam very memorable and special.

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.