April – June or Things I’ve Been Doing While Abandoning This Blog

2nd July 2017

It has come to my attention that it’s July. Like, when did that happen? It’s been three months since I did my last ‘Things I’ve Been Doing While Abandoning This Blog’ so here are all the amazing things I’ve seen and done in the past three months.

Been There
Italy: La Spezia – Vernazza – Corniglia – Monterosso al Mare – Riomaggiore – Florence – Pisa: for some village hopping and to catch up with my friends

Austria: Innsbruck and surrounding villages: just to escape for a few days.
Done That

The hiking and going offline-ish in Innsbruck was my favourite trip. Hiking is not something I regularly do or am even made for but being in the mountains makes me so happy.

I’ve never had the urge to visit Italy’s major tourist sites. Rome, nope, Lake Como is where you retire/go to die and Sicily is a hassle to get to. Even the Olsen Twins, Lizzie McGuire and all the history in the world hasn’t yet persauded me. So when Cinque Terre came to me via Pinterest and Instagram I took a mental note and a few years later my friends and me booked a last minute trip and we we 4/5 villages and crammed all the Italian food we could find into our mouths.

The Air Bnb in La Spezia was idyllic. A garden house next to a mansion on top of a hill – very Ryan’s poolhouse from the OC, but without the pool. We arrived later in the evening and as the bus wasn’t running we decided to walk up, but not before we grabbed pizzas. The climb turned out to be around 180 stairs + 10 minute walk down the road, so you can image the circular bits of cooked dough were very welcome.

On the last full day in Innsbruck I did a little hike that started in a small village and took you on a scenic walk back down to the city. Walking through the little village, seeing farm animals and crops growing very much reminded me of home in Bosnia. Which always makes me slaps a smile upon my face.

For a lot of people Rome is the symbol to Italy but for me it has always been the Leaning Tower of Pisa and I was so happy that it didn’t disappoint. Watching the people for posing inspiration, taking a cheesy photo and sitting down at the McDonalds (if you still watch The Simpsons this is actually a bucketlist moment).

In London I didn’t sit that still and next to the usual social gatherings I escaped a room at Lock’d, hid from the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park and visited some great, and some not so great, exhibitions. But my favourite bit was walking around the deserted South Norwood Country Park on a Sunday morning. Not for the place itself necessarily, but for the peace I found there, it was an out of London experience, if you’d like.
Bucketlist moment?
How about having pasta and/or gelato every day in Italy.  And then taking back as much pecorino cheese and pasta would fit in my suitcase so I could continue the holiday at home?
Lowlights
I’ve written about some most of the frustrations in the Cinque Terre high and lowlights post.
The Imagine Moscow exhibition at the Design Museum was a missed chance and a complete rip-off for the price. I don’t mind paying for a well-curated exhibition, but £10 for a poorly-curated one was a crime. The main museum is free, but with random stuff cramped in a little space without a real goal or context. It’s a shame as it’s a really interesting space with a bit of history behind it too.
Online
If you missed the posts, they are: on daytrips from London (that are not Brighton, Cambridge or Oxford), some random thoughts on Cinque Terre, a round-up with London posts I’ve written, Part One and Part Two of my trip to Innsbruck, what (not) to do in Florence, some of my favourite Tokyo memories, ways to cool off in London and photos to inspire you to visit Kotor.
What have you been up to?

35 Photos to Inspire You to Visit Kotor, Montenegro

21st June 2017

My first time in Kotor was super short and very last minute. We were on a Balkan backpack trip and arrived in Podgorica after a 13 hour train trip from Belgrade. One of the girls we met on the train told us there was nothing going on in Podgorica and recommended Kotor.

After 3 hours in Podgorica we had seen it all, so we took a bus to Kotor and arrived in the late afternoon, and knew this was the best decision we had taken: ten steps in we learned that Kotor was picturesque, historic, and just plain beautiful. The one hostel I had written down was full (this was way before the Hostelworld app!) but the staff managed to find us a room that an old lady rented (this was also pre Air BnB). Sadly, by the time we dumped our luggage and wanted to hike up the fortress we learned it was closed and the bus we HAD to take was leaving at 7 AM the next morning. I knew one day I had to come back.

And I did, five years later I woke up at 6 AM to walk up to the fortress and to see what the fuss was about, it was well worth the wait. I grabbed a watermelon on the square where my friend had lost her earring and 10 people helped us search for it. I made friends with new cats, probably related to the ones I saw years ago. I noticed the restaurants hadn’t changed at all and they still offered pasta, pizza and schnitzel. I challenged myself to walk up the Ladder of Kotor, stopped for homemade grapefruit juice and cheese at this tiny farm house halfway in the mountains and stayed for too long and listened to stories from the couple that live up there.

And I still think I would go back, but more importantly: I want you and everyone I know to add it to their wanderlist. But if you’re like me and have a wanderlust for pretty much everywhere, it won’t be too long, but just in case here are some photos to inspire you to visit Kotor.

I’ve heard a lot people say that the city reminds them of entering another world and I hope this comes across in the pictures.

6 Things To Do In London When It’s Too Hot

18th June 2017

This summer is set to break the record of hottest summer ever (what global warming?) in the UK and this weekend the thermometer exploded past the 30 degrees mark in London. Oxford Street might be too hot and crowded to walk around, a train to the nearest beach might be too expensive or you just might want to escape your boiling hot room. So what do you do when you’re melting in the capital?

Get Wet at the Lido
Go dust off that swimsuit, grab a towel and lather up the sunscreen, and you’re good to splash your way through the day. Some of my favourite and easily accessible outdoor swimming pools include the Serpentine Lido, Hampstead Heath Ponds and Brockwell Lido.

Indulge in Frozen Treats
It’s cold, it’s sweet and it will make things better. There’s Chin Chin Labs, which serves liquid nitrogen ice cream in flavours like tonka bean, strawberry hay and burnt butter caramel. Snow Flake gelato have a guilt-free sorbetto range or perk up your ears to listen out for the ice cream van tunes and bag yourself a classic 99 Flake.

That other Ice
When everything is melting outside, the best thing to do is jump into a fridge, so if you are not into the above-mentioned kind of ice why not go to the Alexandra Palace or Queens ice rink to cool off and show off your moves?

Chill Out at the Movies
I don’t know about you but sometimes on a sunny day all I need is a blockbuster in a cool dark theatre, air-con to the max and a big ‘ole bucket of popcorn and a cold drink of your choice. For art house movies, head to Curzon in Soho or Picturehouse Central and for the blockbusters shimmy on down to the nearest Odeon/Vue multiplex.

Check out Museums and Exhibits
Hot days are perfect for exploring a museum and London’s museums have some amazing collections, exhibits and most of them are free, but most importantly they all have air-conditioning systems -for keeping paintings safe that is, they don’t really care about you. The British Museum and the National Gallery are two of the big ones where you can easily spend hours and hours of discovery.

Enjoy a Cooling Drink on a Rooftop Bar
I have to start with saying that water is of course the essential part of staying cool – either drinking it, swimming in it or pouring directly over your head. But at end of the day why not take in the city skyline with a refreshing cocktail or a cold beer or six in hand. Mondrian London, Frank’s and Netil 360 are some of the best spots to do this.

What is your ultimate heatwave tip for the city?

my favourite Tokyo memories

15th June 2017

Last month I watched Steve Backshall’s Japan’s Northern Wilderness documentary and I loved it as it was so passionate and took me to a world I didn’t know. So I was excited to see a new documentary called The Art of Japanese Life, but the first episode soy didn’t do it for me (like, what’s with the suit Dr James Fox?) Anyhow … it did remind me some of my favourite Tokyo memories which I want to share with you.

The visit to Studio Ghibli museum was probably one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Japan. But before I went, online tickets were sold out for the period of my trip and I almost didn’t want to go, because how could I possibly not visit the birthplace of one of the things that introduced me to the country? Thank God my friends and me managed to find arrange tickets in the end and I cried. The museum itself was small but packed with intricate secrets and magic and I felt like Kiki discovering her new place. (Yes Kiki is one of my favourites, I know it’s not their most artistic or heartbreaking one but to someone who loves coming of age stories and finding your way in the world this has to be a favourite). The only down side was my mouth hurt afterwards from smiling so much.

I arrived at Asakusa directly from the airport and after having dropped my suitcase at the hotel and taking Asakusa in from the top it was time to go out and explore. It was a warm Sunday afternoon, so it meant everyone was out and about and I got thrown into it the best way possible without getting too overwhelmed after a long flight.

The stay at a ryokan was definitely one of the highlights of my trip! Who would have thought I loved sleeping on a thin mattress and boiling in an onsen bath? It was almost a little adventure within an adventure and the walk to the ryokan cuts you off from Tokyo business life. I loved everything about it, from stepping into the traditional, to finding a kimono set in your room and making green tea and pot noodles after a long day out. If you are heading to Japan I highly recommended booking one if you’re looking for a step back in time and for a quiet stay away out of the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Like any basic white girl I’ve dreamt of crossing at Shibuya ever since seeing ScarJo and Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. And it all was there: the crowds, the chaos, the see-through umbrellas, the neon lights, the loud music and the traffic. Bucketlist moment.

100 Yen Shops, Don Quichot, Tokyo Hands and pretty much every supermarket was an attraction that needed exploring. Baby’s first chopsticks? Hello Kitty battery? 15 types of green tea? Did I need it? No! Did I want all of it? YES. I’ve posted a selection of my some of my favourites here.

Have you been to Japan or are planning to go? What was your favourite place you visited or thing you did?

Yes, No, Maybe: What (Not) To Do In Florence

10th June 2017

Having soaked up the coastal vibes in Cinque Terre, I headed inland to Florence to spend a few days in the birth place of not only the Renaissance but also ICE CREAM (gelato). There’s also a Michelangelo’s David if you’ve heard of that.

So today I’m sharing some yes, no, maybes for your first time Florence experience.

Walk up the Piazzale Michelangelo for the best free photo opp. It’s apparently the place to sit on the stairs, with wine and cheese and watch the sun go down. But the sunset didn’t blow me away, so it must have been the sitting and wine that makes it really shine. I was more interested in a group of guys drinking in some courage and trying make contact with a group of girls only to end up taking photos of another group (fail!). 

My favourite attraction was the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in town that was once it was home to butchers, fishmongers and tanners. But that smelled too much for the Renaissance guys so it was turned into jewellery and goldsmith shops. Now it’s mainly full of stinking tourists, so you may still need to hold your nose…

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo is Florence’s most iconic landmark and dominates the city scape from every corner. You also climb to the top and see the inside artwork for €10. But keep in mind there’s a ton of queues and you’ll likely spend more time waiting than walking around inside.

In the historic city centre you won’t see any street art or murals, but instead the street artists have focused their creativity on the traffic stop signs. So keep an eye for those – but also keep an eye out for traffic!

But what about the most important thing Tea…? What about the FOOD?

 

I can recommend two places: Trattoria Za Za, where pretty much every tourist stuffs their face – I loved the Boccalona-style spaghetti, but their menu was thicker than pasta at over 10 pages so there must be something for everyone. Then there is Boccadama, which has a  way smaller menu, but the thing you should go for is the lasagna, it’s so scrumptious that once you finish you want to gar-lick the plate clean. And as for the gelato, I only had it twice on my trip, but fellow travellers recomended Gelataria dei Neri, Fiesole and Carabe to get your ice cold sweetness fix.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is overshadowed by Il Duomo, but is as gorgeous. The first great basilica has some great the history that the tour guide explained, but that I can’t remember because I was too distracted by the gorgeous blue doors and imagining how much of a photo opp they would be like some instagram zombie. Turns out my friends were thinking the same same, so when we saw the opportunity we went for it but in our excitement we forgot to snap the rest of the building.


Don’t buy your bus ticket on the bus, it’s cheaper to get them at Tabacchi (newsagents) shop (look out for a T sign with a black or blue background). There are also multi trip and multi day tickets so plan ahead on where your accommodation is and what you want to do so you don’t waste too much money on travel

Talking about buses … no need to take the overcrowded bus up to the Piazzale Michelangelo, unless you are ok to go second base with at least four people (romantic eh!?). Instead wander through Oltrarno, a quiet neighbourhood compared to the rest of Florence and walk up via the Japanese gardens and then have an extra gelato to make up for it.

Or more of a definitely … but if you want to leave Florence cultured, inspired and smart AF you should visit one of the two big galleries. There is the Accademia which is home to David and there is the Uffizi, where Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael and the Birth of Venus all hang out and gossip about the tourists. Fast track tickets to see David  were sold out by the time I knew I would be visiting and I didn’t feel like paying 24 euro for fast track tickets to see Birth of Venus. Don’t have time or budget to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see David? Hit up Palazzo Vecchio and check out the pigeon-shit-covered replica in its full glory for free! All the crap is more authentic right?

Get out of the city and take a day trip to Pisa. A day is more than enough wander around and do some hilarious poses at the Leaning Tower (though it might be more fun to watch other’s attempts), walk along the river and check out the multi-coloured Keith Haring mural.

Want to feel even more cultured? If you are in Florence between now (June) and 27th of July 2017 and you want to see an opera check the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Festival, one of the oldest traditional cultural events in Florence, so you these guys do know how to put on a show. This seasons operas include: Rossini’s La Cenerentola and Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Verdi’s La Traviata, Donizzetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore. One of the other big events in the calendar is the Carnival in February – essentially a big bunch of colourful Renaissance-dressed people in a big procession along with musicians and dancers, starting at Piazza Ognissanti and wrapping up at Piazza della Signoria.

Who is your favourite Ninja Turtle? Have you been to Florence?