Servus From Innsbruck, Austria

31st May 2017

Inns…where? Is what I got a lot when I told people about my next destination. I was on the hunt for somewhere that would tickle my Kotor itch: compact with beautiful nature where I could log out, go digiless (more on that later) and just enjoy some walks. Spoiler alert: my step counter nearly died of surprise at how many steps it tallied up!

After I picked up my Innsbruck Card* I headed to the top of the Nordkette to witness an amazing view from the top looking down along the massive valley. Innsbruck is lucky as it’s busy all year-round, great for skiers and snowboarders from December to April, and then mountaineers/hikers the rest of the year. First you take the funicular to the Hungersberg, then hike up to the Seegrubbe and take the lift to Hafelekarspitze to top it all off! The wind was so strong at the top it actually turned people away, and for a split second I did wonder if I jumped would I get blown away – would have been a quick way to reach the city again.

Hofburg is the royal palace in the city centre with has lots of rooms and paintings, but the highlights are a Barbie pink room where Empress Elisabeth (aka Sisi, anyone remembers this?) played real life dollhouse with Stacey and Krissie circa 1860. There are also Maria Theresa’s Rooms in its original style of the 18th century, I’m sure Austrians know her story, but for the rest of Europe I got the feeling Maria Theresa got a bit overshadowed by Sisi and one of her 11 daughters – Marie Antoinette, yes that Marie Antoinette. My highlight was the Giant’s Hall, one hell of a ballroom which could put Disney to shame. It’s wall to wall decorated with huge portraits of Maria Theresa’s children and grandchildren along with colourful frescoes and there’s even table mirrors so you don’t hurt your neck so much staring at the gorgeous murals on the ceiling – so thoughtful!

A 20-minute tram drive and a 10 minute walk up a hill gets you to Schloss Ambrass, a Renaissance palace filled with shiny armour and more paintings than you can shake a stick at. Most of the canvases portray important looking Austrian people including an Eddie Redmayne- and Uma Thurman look-a-like – the best ones are the very rare ones who actually smile and the bizarre gothic monstrosities! Although from outside it looks like the more impressive of the two, compared to Hofburg it was a bit bland. The park around the castle did make up for it and you can enjoy the peaceful surroundings until late afternoon when I was literally kicked out by an old man and his cute security dog – complete with its own uniform.

*I was gifted a 24H Innsbruck Card* City passes can be a great investment for a city break or total waste of money and the Innsbruck Card is definitely a saver. To give you an idea: a 24-hour card costs you €39 and even if you take the bus once, go up the mountain, visit one museum and climb the church tower you’re going to make your money back. Not only does it only give unlimited travel on public transport, free one-time admission to all museums and visitor attractions but also 1 return trip on each (!) lift and cable car in the Innsbruck region and many many more. With the 3 attractions I visited and public transport, I saved €25,80.

I keep forgetting that you should book a table pretty much anywhere outside London, so when I hopefully walked into burger hotspot Ludwig I got laughed at when I asked for a table. Here I got reminded that how rude and unfriendly Austrian hospitality people can be – something I learned the hard way when I worked in Austria during a ski season. But they did take-away and the burger and fries were delicious, but don’t bother with the Mac and Cheese. Also, a little note that a lot of burgers in Austria contain added spices or flavours in the patty itself, just a heads up. However, the food and service were superb at the Breakfast Club (no relation to the fancy London chain) – I definitely recommend it for satisfying those early/mid-morning cravings.

Have you been or would you be interested in going to Innsbruck?

Been There London That

2nd May 2017

So far I’ve written over 100 posts around London ranging from awesome things I’ve seen and done that you should do too to answers to some questions that might pop up but aren’t bothered to look up and this quiz where you can find out if you’re a real Londoner. Here’s a quick round-up of those posts you can’t afford to miss!

Flights to London can be relativity cheap, but hotels bite a massive chunk out of your budget. So it’s always nice to balance the pain by doing a few things on the cheap. And even for free. Ok, you do need an Oyster to get around but once that’s sorted there are enough free things to do in London and you can read here how to save £200 on your visit and still have fun. I think that last one is one of the best posts you’ll find here, TBH.

Sure, Borough and Camden Market are iconic and essential. But Broadway Market, Brixton and Maltby Street Market are some of my favourite places to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. You can stuff your face with all kinds of treats while at the same time relaxing and watching people go by. I’m actually lying … I haven’t been to Broadway or Maltby Street in the last 6 months, but now winter hibernation is over I’ll be putting on my comfiest shoes and venturing out into the world again.

You can read here about some of the hidden gems of Covent Garden, because yes, even in one of the most visited places in London there are new things to uncover. Though it can be busy in London, you can easily escape to places with fewer tourists. What about going to an underground jazz club in Peckham, having a bite at London’s second most fanciest Nando’s in Camberwell, playing a drunk game of Operation in Kentish Town and taking in architecture heaven in Bloomsbury. Or be brave, go to Zone 4 and visit an Art Deco house and remains of a medieval palace.

The Shard is my favourite place to see London from the top, but I understand it can be a bit expensive so ok … The Sky Garden IS soulless and nothing like the floating gardens of modern Babylon they wanted it to be, but is free and who really cares about ethics when it comes to saving a bit of your budget? What about the Eye, you might wonder? Well I’ve explained here why it’s not worth your money.

Have you ever wondered what an empty London feels like? Well I come close to it during a walk on Christmas morning and you can read about it here.

I have ideas for another 100 posts, but is there anything about London you’d like to know more about?

Cinque Terre: the highlights and lowlights

27th April 2017

4/5 of the Cinque Terre villages: Vernazza, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, and Riomaggiore. The five coastal villages with coloured houses, little boats and dramatic mountains form the perfect Instagram background. Seriously, you walk into one of the towns, and it’s like you enter a behind the Instagram scenes set.

Although it was busy, it wasn’t overcrowded – like for example in Plitvice Lakes – and I loved the fact that there wasn’t actually that much to do. A bit of walking around, enjoying the views and people watching is one of my favourite ways to ‘pasta time’.

Me and my lazy ass actually enjoyed the hike trail between Manarola and Corniglia. On my visit, 20 and 22 April 2017, two out of four trails were closed indefinitely due to landslides so you could choose between the average trail – Corniglia to Vernazza- or the most difficult trail – Vernazza to Monterosso. We went for what they say is average, but were out-walked by an 80 year old woman and a 5 year old kid so I’m sure what that says about us or them.

I also love the fact that there are water taps around the towns so you don’t have to pay for h2wow. My Dutch cheapskate side loved this and I’m not even sorry.

Trains between the villages only go twice an hour, which clogs up the place, with all the tourist money they should be able to invest in more choo choos. Guess we have to forget about it.

The lack of ticket machines and information cheesed me off. At one of the stations, with only one ticket machine had a huge queue and it wasn’t till 2 minutes before departure that we found out they sold tickets at the shop next door.

Focaccia, focaccia and some more focaccia. With pesto, with garlic, with cheese, with veggies… there weren’t enough lunches to try them all. Despite my rucksack’s objections, I think I brought back enough goodies to sustain me until I can return.

Yes, but one day when/if all paths are open. And also to try the remaining focaccia toppings and visit Manarola as I didn’t see that one.

Meh, depends … I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who doesn’t get the allure – so anyone who uses less than 20 hashtags on Instagram.

Is the Cinque Terre something you want to visit? Or have you been already? Or have any other Italy recommendations?

January – March or Things I’ve Been Doing While Abandoning This Blog

9th April 2017

I must admit my weekly and even monthly round-ups weren’t doing it for me, so instead I’m presenting a quarterly update on things I’ve been up to while partly abandoning this blog.

Been There

Dullsville – an afternoon in Groningen – an afternoon in Breda – an evening in Amsterdam, Netherlands: mainly to catch up with family and friends, eat lots of food and to fly my next destination

Barcelona, Spain: to see what the whole fuss was about (yes, I hang my head in shame as a so-called travel blogger who hadn’t visited yet!)

Canterbury – Dover – Leigh-on-Sea, UK: as I may or may not have to leave the country at some point I better start seeing more of it.

Done That

I went into a blissful food coma after indulging in the amazing 7 course tasting menu at The Marquis, Arkham. Radish and gnocchi, who knew? So diverse! So flavorful! Thankfully it was good, as it was a bit remote, so no cheeky Nando’s was an option…

The Great Tower at Dover Castle English Heritage that was furnished as if Henry II and his court was residing at the castle. From the traditional kitchen to the dining hall and the bedrooms: the interiors give you an idea of how the castle looked and an insight of how lives were when it was used as a royal palace. It was nice to put my imagination hat on and imagine what they all got up to with swords, beards and lots of ale!

I was so lucky to have gotten tickets (#nospon) to see Neil Gaiman’s Q&A and read one of the stories from his new book, Norse Mythology in February. The man has such an amazing reading voice and is a brilliant writer and storyteller – his child is so lucky to have him storytelling before bed!

The White Cliffs of Dover is a literal highlight and one of my favorite things I saw during these three months. The views are just breathtaking and not only because I was out of breath from the walk from Dover Castle. AND free chalk! As much as I could carry! (N.B. Please buy chalk from your normal supplier and don’t head to Dover to stock up, it’s possibly illegal).

The scones at Tiny Tim’s Tearoom in Canterbury were absolutely another level. I actually had so little expectations that I didn’t even bother to take a photo as scones mostly disappoint, so you’re going to have to trust me on this one. The scone was bigger than your head – so you may be able to share one between two, three or four people.

I had seen The xx at a festival, in a tent, where it was hot, overcrowded and barely had any atmosphere so I could not image they could play an intimate show. But they proved me wrong and I felt they played for me at their Brixton gig until the lights went on that it, then it was back to the harsh reality.

Like every white basic girl I love a good map so I had to go wandering into the 20th-century maps exhibition at the British Library. My favourites included a Soviet plan of Brighton, Tolkien’s Middle-earth and the one map of Yugoslavia. Sadly you couldn’t buy the rare ones in the gift shop 🙁

Bucket list moment?
Finally setting foot on Spanish soil –  it is after all one of those countries that everyone and their Grandma visited, but a self-proclaimed adventurer like me hasn’t. This month I’m actually crossing off another classic holiday destination of my list.

Well, just this little thing called Brexit, you probably haven’t read about. How I feel about it? To express myself in the words of USA’s 45th president: “sad!” I was born in a country that fell apart 25 years ago and I was assured it wasn’t me … but obviously it is me and I can’t help but wonder what next kingdom I’m going to break up in 25 years.

Six posts went live over the three months, how pathetic! But now I’ve gotten out of winter cocoon, I predict great things coming up. In case you missed it: I wrote on Videy Island and another one on 6 places to eat and drink in Reykjavik, a post on my day exploring Dover Castle, one on monumental changes you’ll face when visiting London in 2017, highlighted some of my favourite things to see and do in Bloomsbury and New Year’s Resolutions For Travellers.

How have you been?

3 daytrips from London – that aren’t Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton

2nd April 2017

If you’ve been to London once, chances are she’ll charm you back over and over and over again.

But even Camden Town gets boring after your third visit right?

So to avoid death by boredom in yet another street market, I’m here to save you with some great day trips from London that will let you see a different side of UK that you won’t find in the capital.

To start off we’re be looking at three places which aren’t Oxford, Brighton or Cambridge (because you’ve probably already been there too) …


Wandering the cobblestone streets criss crossing the small alleys felt like I had been wizarded away to an open air Harry Potter museum and heading from Hogsmeade towards Hogwarts … but that’s not all.

The cathedral grounds reminded me of the Hogwarts’ school grounds, the boarding school where kids in uniforms rushed to their class added a little extra to the feel and one bit in the cathedral made me feel I WAS in the Great Hall. I’m not the only one who thought this by the way…When scouting for film locations Warner Bros wanted to use the cathedral and turn it into Harry’s wizarding school, but was turned down by authorities concerned about the story’s ‘pagan’ themes. Thankfully for us – that means it’s still pretty empty if you go early, I can’t imagine how packed the place would be if it had been the actual home of Harry and co !

How to get there from Central London? Take the train from London St Pancras Intl, which will get you in 1 hour 12 minutes to Canterbury West

Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea Leigh On Sea

Leigh On Sea

Just a 45 minutes train ride away from London, Leigh-on-Sea is a world apart from the busy city life. It’s a place with quaint little streets, lots of eateries/pubs and tea-houses, and not forgetting benches to sit and enjoy the view.

This place is not a hidden or undiscovered gem by any means and if it hasn’t rained that morning it’ll be pretty busy by midday. But if you get there early morning, you’ll most likely have the entire promenade to yourself and a few lost dogs here and there. The tide going out is quite impressive to see, with dozens of boats strewn across the sand waiting for the water to come back in and rescue them from the crabs.

How to get there from Central London? Take the train from Fenchurch Street Station to Leigh on Sea

Eltham Palace

Way way back in the 14th century Elham Palace was the place to be but it fell into disrepair and ruins until it was saved by the new owners who put a definite Art Deco spin on their new digs. The couple were the ‘talk of the town’ at the time, the celebs you wanted to get to know, and if you were lucky enough be invited to one of their famed extravagant parties.

What I love about the place is that it allows you to pretty much explore every room in the palace and all the rooms have books, diaries and personal touches to feel like you’re looking at a living, breathing house, rather than a stuffy, cold exhibit behind glass.

How to get there from Central London? Take the train from Charing Cross or London Bridge to Mottingham and from there it’s about a 10 minute walk.