Monthly Archives: April 2016

Hej from Copenhagen

25th April 2016

Oh hai! I dabbled for a few days in Copenhagen and here’s a few loves, hates and general thoughts for you.

copenhagen tips (1)Yup, this was my welcome to Copenhagen. From the station it was a 20 minute walk to the air BnB and for the first 10 minutes you see a lot of these and other XXX and GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS signs. I later learned that the street is known as a center for prostitution and drug trafficking and the easiest place to get illicit substances in Copenhagen.

copenhagen tips (2)Then gentrification happened and instead of crack, XXX and GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS it all became about smacked avocado, ankle jeans and gin beer. It also means Air BnB places look like something from a catalog.

copenhagen tips (3)After a good night sleep it was time to hit town. First stop: Christiania, the free town I had high (wink wink) hopes for and it was definitely an interesting experience but I didn’t feel very comfortable. From what I’ve heard I expected a hippie community living from art, producing their own goods and living the life. But when I got there all I saw was trash, torn down sheds and people smoking hash. Could also be the fact I walked through Pusher Street first where men in masks were selling drugs and a lot of huuuuuuge dogs were walking around, which freaked me out a bit. Anyhow…for me this place was as hippie and arty as Camden, I hope maybe I just missed the good bits.

copenhagen tips (4)There are about three days a year where the sun decides to illuminate Copenhagen and I was lucky enough to be there for this so I headed to the Sandeman New Europe tours as they are always a great way to get oriented outdoors with the city on a first day.

copenhagen tips (6)One of the things I learned was that Copenhagen has suffered from a lot of fires throughout the ages. And I mean a lot. This meant the city got rebuilt a lot and it influenced the architecture. You might notice the corners on a lot of buildings are cut off – no it’s not “out of the box design’, but it was apparently to make it easier to move for the fire and horse wagons to get around the narrow streets.

copenhagen tips (5)The Little Mermaid, and boy is she small – and also cliche but hey, this is Copenhagen. And I can now say that I’ve seen one of Europe’s most disappointing tourist attractions. Not sure if I was more disappointed about the mermaid or the fact that Prince Eric or even Max were nowhere to be found – I guess they were ‘under the sea’…which is where I’d much have rather gone to visit!

copenhagen tips (7)Never waste the good weather excuse to get a soft serve smothered with sprinkles, or really sprinkles with a bit of ice cream in my case!

copenhagen tips (8)You’ve been waiting for the obligatory harbour picture with the boats and hygge (Danish word that describes the social coziness) haven’t you? I have to say that the canal is beautiful and great for people watching, but there are so many people (other tourists mainly) and it is such a small space, so it can feel really cramped. The restaurants were ridiculously expensive, so best to be avoided when you are on a budget. I highly recommend taking one of the boat tours from there as they are only 40 DKK (around £4/£5) and take you in an hour around the famous places.

Have you ever visited and had a hygge time in Copenhagen?

3 Amazing Stops You Are Likely to Make on the Golden Circle Route

20th April 2016

As one of Iceland’s main highlights is its beautiful landscape, one of the things you’ll likely hear about is the Golden Circle (not to be confused with x ). The route takes you to three popular attractions all within 100 km of the Reykjavik: Geysir (a spouting hot spring), Gullfoss (a roaring waterfall) and Þingvellir (meeting-point of the continental plates and site of the ancient Icelandic parliament).

You can rent a car where you’ll have the freedom to wait as long (or short) as you like at each site but booking a tour with one of the companies is doable too (where you might have a surprise stop at a tomato greenhouse and learn about why they’re red, round and taste of stuff)

golden circle iceland golden circle iceland golden circle iceland

First stop is The Geysir, fun fact: all the other geysers in the world are named after it. But the Geysir itself isn’t as active these days, it only gets it up every few years at best, and it’s the Strokkur that youthfully erupts every four/five minutes instead. It’s also worth staying at least half an hour to see Strokkur erupt a few time as the power and height of its blasts are a bit random.

golden circle iceland golden circle iceland golden circle iceland

Then there is the Gullfoss (Golden Falls) waterfall, I believe our guide called it the Niagra Waterfall of Europe (but don’t hold me on for that). Gullfoss is beautiful even when it’s bitterly cold, miserably raining and topped off with a biting wind. I absolutely loved it! Despite its name and the rainbow I spotted, I didn’t find any pots of gold. It’s such an incredibly large chunk of land and water, you can’t really get to grips with how impressive it is with our puny eyes. Would love to see it in winter when it’s all covered up in ice and snow, speaking of which, all three of these places (Geysir, Gullfoss and Þingvellir) were backdrops for Game of Thrones, particularly the icy Wall stuff.

golden circle iceland golden circle iceland golden circle iceland

Þingvellir (or Thingvellir) was the site of first Icelandic Parliament from about 900 A.D. Sadly the politicians don’t meet here no more with their axes and shields and cloaks (is this why we’re no longer politically engaged?!) Aside from that it also features a unique geological landscape that overlaps two continental plates and when you reach the top you get the impression the phrase ‘sweeping landscape’ was coined here. It’s a place to get lost in your imagination in a setting that looks like a thousand fairy tales have taken place there.

Have you braved or are planning to brave Iceland?

Less Awesome Things I’ve Seen & Done in Lisbon

13th April 2016

 

Before I tell you all of the awesome things I did and saw in Lisbon (which I already kind of did here and here) I want to look at the less awesome things or little disappointments to help you avoid a similar fate.

The public transport ticket system was a bit confusing. You get a so called Viva card and top it up. It has pictogram of a bus, train, tram, metro and even boat so you would think that you can access all of them with the same top up, but no, not in Lisbon. For some reason you have to go to the metro to top up for the tram – or at least that’s where I was sent to. And no one bothers to mention this when you buy the card. I think I may be spoilt with the Oyster.

Then there was the Air BnB horror. I don’t want to re-live it again, so you can read the story here. There are much worse Air BnB horror stories out there, but you can imagine it kinda put a ‘damper’ on the trip.

instax polaroid

I had the most inspiration-less sandwich at Museu da Cerveja. It was our fault but we when were in-between tours our guide took a few of the group there and they better have got a good commission because this was an insult to whoever invented two bits of bread stuffed with stuff. Let me set it out for you: it was a piece of bread and one of those super dry minute steaks in it – no veggies, no seasoning and no sauce, no reason for existence. I’m pretty sure it I paid a tenner for a sponge with a shoesole in it.

The New Europe free walking tours are my go-to whenever I’m in a new city, and they are usually brilliant and a great way to get an overview of the city, but unfortunately their paid tours have disappointed me twice now. But we were not as excited as we normally are during these tours, so it’s hard to put a finger on it as the weather was great and Alfama has an amazing history and great sights, but I just didn’t get that feel. Alfama is an area where you should wander around by yourself so spare the €12 and get lost.

When doing an orientation walk at the indoor food market I spotted some drop-dead-gorgeous cakes and couldn’t think of anything else for the rest of the day. But then I picked the wrong cake, one that seemed like it had just been defrosted and cost way too much. Don’t worry though, I had a heaven-sent ice-cream afterwards and everything was good.

What was the last bad experience you encountered on your travels?

 

Instant February – March

10th April 2016

I must confess. I skipped my update last month. I know, I am hanging my head in shame. My excuse is I may have had a bit of bloggers’ block or possibly hating everything I type, but looking back I might have been overreacting so I thought I’d share February and March together in some sort of catch-up photo sandwich (the sandwich filling will be my witty commentary).

instax (4)

Snapped this one on my way a comic expo, which turned out to be pretty boring and I had actually forgotten about it until I tried to figure out where I took the photo. At least that guessing game was kinda interesting.

instax fuji polaroid

In the Instant January
I showed some London landmarks and this month I managed to get another (what I like to call) London Bingo shot. My next goal is to combine something with a red pillar box.

instax (2)

Back in February I escaped to Groningen and on the way I took this one, it might be my new all-time favourite.

instaxThe famous Olle Grieze Tower which is a giant blip on the rather low-rise skyline of the town. I blogged about Grunn here and mentioned it in my beyond Amsterdam post.

instax (3)
Dullsville, the village where I grew up in Holland is the type of place where the best place is the bus stop – as it gets you outta there (well, there’s only one an hour). The place has zero clothes shops, one church and two windmills. In the words of Chandler Bing: ‘ Can it get MORE stereotypical?’ Why a Friends reference? Well, it may sum how how much the place is stuck in the past.

polaroid project impossible (1)Back in London I stopped by for a pancake brunch at Three Eight Four in Brixton. They do brunch on weekends. That won me over. But also, these pancakes dotted with blueberries and swimming in Maple syrup, plus bottomless coffee/tea only comes in at £5 (or £7 if you insist on bacon) which is ridiculously cheap for a London place. They also have a small plates menu that I need to investigate.

polaroid (1)You know when once in a while you got that one shot you plaster all over your social media? Yeah, this is that shot for me. It was taken on my birthday between a food coma and presents.

polaroid (2)Photos don’t always turn out great sadly. With a Polaroid I only got 8 chances at a time and I have to carefully choose what moment is worth capturing. It’s a great back to basics learning experience and by summer I hope to get 8/8 amazing shots. I’m going to Copenhagen in two weeks, hoping for some good weather so I can practice a bit and not bore you with the London snaps.

What have you been up to post-January?

London Alternacheap – how to save around £170 on your next London visit

5th April 2016

sky garden london

London can be a dangerous place for your bank account to visit, but it also can be a fairly inexpensive as well if you do it right. It’s 2016 so good and delicious food can be found on the cheap pretty much everywhere. Flights are supercheap if you book ahead and fly with a budget air line and even non-hostel accommodation can be affordable if you look in zone 3 and beyond. Activities can extremely expensive to absolutely free. I’ve put together a list of free things here and today I’m focusing on how you can save around £170 by choosing alternative and cheaper versions of London’s most famous and overpriced attractions. Talk is cheap, so let’s begin.

Swap the Shard for the Skygarden
I loved the Shard, but I can image you’d rather spend your £30 on Oxford Street or Westfield, so why not visit the Sky Garden. I don’t particularly like the place -you can read here why- but hey, it’s free of charge and that’s all that counts right? Make sure to book ahead, come on time and bring your ID – but leave your picnic for an actual garden or park.

Swap the London Eye for The Emirates Air Line
If there’s one thing I would want to scrub out of guidebooks, it’s the London Eye. If you want to see London from the top on a moving thing then head to the cable car or The Emirates Air Line sponsored by Emirates Airline. You can even use your Oyster and it will cost just under £9. And since no one really uses it it’s unlikely you’ll have to queue up.

Swap the hop off hop on bus for Bus 11 or 24
A hop on hop off tour sounds fun, but you might end up getting distracted by the other tourists, so why not hop on bus number 11 or 24, take your own tour and save £25. These lines drive past the famous landmarks like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the Bank of England. And the best thing is that they don’t come with that annoying loud family, instead you will enjoy some typical London characters on the bus. One quick thing; buses don’t accept cash, so you gotta reach for an Oyster or contact-less payment card for which a single bus journey is £1.50.

Swap fancy Afternoon Tea for M&S Afternoon Tea
You can’t go to London and not have a classic Afternoon Tea, but what really puts me off is the price (and finding someone who wants to go with you for that price), sure you pay for the experience and you can combine it with a lunch and dinner, but still often the places could be too posh and quiet or a too hip place that will charge you £45 just for breathing their air, so it can be a bit of downer. Well that’s where Marks & Spencer Cafe on Oxford Street comes in handy. They offers them for £6.95. It’s all about scones and clotted cream and M&S knows how to do them. No frills, that makes a difference as the Dutch would say.

Swap the view from St. Paul for the view from Westminster Cathedral
The view from St. Pauls is amazing, but the £16.50 admission might hold you back. Why not visit the Westminster Cathedral – not to be confused for Westminster Abbey – instead? Yes, I know it doesn’t have a Whisper Gallery, but is three times cheaper, they both look impressive from the inside and outside and have a tower you can climb to enjoy looking down like an emperor. Which one would you choose? £16.50 or £5. The landlord, God will love you either way.

Swap The Tower of London for The Monument
I’ve always wanted to go Tower of London as it’s one of my favourite buildings in the city, but from what I’ve heard it’s not focused on about the architecture but more on the fake replica jewels which you’ll have to queue to behold. So instead, I will keep enjoying it from the afar until one day someone will buy it off and put it on Air BnB or something like that. But you know another tower in London that’s much cheaper and much higher; the Monument is an overlooked attraction that happens to also be an old tower that you’ll likely have come across in a history book.

London Eye

Swap the London Aquarium for the Horniman Aquarium
Do you have the urge to queue up and go to the overcrowded and overpriced London Aquarium? This must only appeal to tourists because I literally don’t know anyone London based who has been. But if you want to see some fish for the cheap head down to south London to the aquarium at Horniman Museum for just £4.40, it’s obviously not a big as the the London one, but they have fish, frogs and jellyfish. Plus the museum and garden are worth a visit (and free!), it’s a kitschy museum in the south of London that holds a a collection of dried insects, a lot of stuffed animals, musical instruments from all around the world.

Swap Harry Potter Filmtour for a Harry Potter walking tour
It is magical, but a visit to the Harry Potter Studio will cost you a wand and a half! Well, £35 + a trains ticket. Alternatively you can take yourself on a magical tour of some of the sites which inspired the series. You’ll get to know which street inspired JK for Diagon Alley, you can take a photo at Kings Cross and there is even an official merchandise shop where you can spend all of the money you saved on above and below. I did one with Muggle Tour and enjoyed it almost as much as I did at the Harry Potter Studio.

Swap Madame Tussauds for real stars
I have never gotten the hang of paying to get into Madame Tussauds and take badly lit photos of wax people, why not skip that and go to a premiere on Leicester Square and spot some A-class and D-listed meat in the flesh for free, well you might need to get there early to get face to face with your celeb obsession. You can also go to a TV show recording, TV shows like Graham Norton (chock full of celebrity candy) and Whatever Talent Show is on at the moment need live studio audiences and you can be part of it! Here is how you can get a ticket.

You’re welcome.