As you all know, the world has changed quite a lot in the past year. People are increasingly skeptical of outsiders, policies have been challenged, and borders – both physical and psychological – have been reinforced. This all came to the surface last week when Donald Trump (I flat-out refuse to call him president) implemented a ban on immigrants coming to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) and halted any Syrians seeking refuge in the States indefinitely – directly reinforcing Islamophobia from the top down.
This website was never meant to be political in nature, and I apologise if you came here looking for fluffy travel reviews by a 28 year old girl from the UK. However, I can’t wholeheartedly sit here, posting cutesy reviews about ice cream and airport transfers, and pretend that none of this is going on. Because it is.
The United States of America is a country I adore – I’ve seen a hell of a lot of it, lived in it, and some of the best people I know are there. It’s on my bucket list to visit all 50 states, and I have 29 to go (21 by the end of 2017!). It makes me angry to think that this amazing country, with all of the opportunities it can provide, is restricting access to some of the neediest people in the world based on ignorant pre-conceived ideas about their religion. Unfortunately, I only see this getting worse as more countries start subscribing to a right-wing ideology (keeping an eye on France’s election in May).
This blog is proudly liberal, and proudly supports immigration – two things that the world currently is not. It may be slightly difficult to keep doing what I’m doing given the current climate – and to be completely honest, I’m really reconsidering my trip to the States in April/May out of solidarity with those who are banned through no fault of their own. However, as long as I can travel freely, I will. I just hope that others who are not Christian and Caucasian are allowed the same.
Another classic Skyscanner deal strikes again, this time to Milan in Italy! I’d never been to Italy prior to this (shocking, I know), so, even though it was only going to be a night, I very much treated this trip as a dip in the water before fully submerging myself in Italian culture (looking at you, Rome!). And I was not disappointed.
I will take this opportunity to rant about Ryanair. I’m an Easyjet girl when it comes to cheap flights – even though the vast orange mass hurts the eyes a little, I’ve yet to have a bad experience with them (aside from a misunderstanding in Switzerland). Unfortunately, Ryanair have the cheap flights down to a tee, and for those on a budget, £25 return flights are hard to resist. Despite this, the seats were horrendous (I was basically cuddling up on one of my fellow traveller’s laps at one point, poor thing), the flight quality was pretty poor, and the whole interior was covered in a film of grime. Nice.
Anyway, shit flight aside, I landed in Milan Bergamo Airport at about 7pm and took a Terravision coach to the central train station (side note: Terravision were fantastic, €9 return if you book online and only took 45 mins to Centrale!). I chose a hotel very close to Centrale Station, thankfully – the Hotel Mennini on Via Napo Torriani, so walked the ten minutes to the hotel and checked in. The hotel itself was quite run-down (don’t let the website fool you!) – the lift was terrifyingly old and creaky, and the room reminded me of school trips of yesteryear when we were all crammed into one room in single beds. Still, the bed was comfortable and the breakfast in the morning was extensive, so *shrug*.
I woke up early the next day and set out to explore the beautiful city! The subway was unbelievably easy to navigate, especially by someone as dense as me (when it comes to public transport, I am most definitely not on it), and pretty darn cheap (something like €5 for all day access). Very impressed. I took the train to Cadorna FN on the M2 subway line from Centrale (destination Abbiategrasso) and hopped off there for the Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church where ‘The Last Supper’ by da Vinci is located.
The exterior of Santa Maria delle Grazie in the beautiful but cold Italian sunshine…
The interior of the church. Beautiful, non?
I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the Last Supper annoyingly (the guide mentioned something about light and damage, although I definitely saw some sneaky tourists take pictures when the guide wasn’t watching), but suffice it to say it was beautiful. If not a little wrecked after all this time, but really, what would you expect?
From there, I took the M1 subway towards Sesto FS, and stopped off at Duomo (where else?) in order to take in the sights of the beautiful Duomo di Milano and dodge pigeons…
The largest church in Italy, and the fifth largest in the world, but arguably the most beautiful.
More of the cathedral square.
The author piss-arsing around.
I was a little chilly and knackered by walking around an unfamiliar city at this point, so when I saw a terrace with an Aperol sign directly opposite the cathedral, I may or may not have taken advantage of it. I’m not going to lie, this was one of the highlights of the trip.
Came for the views, stayed for the alcohol.
After this, I decided to indulge in a little pasta, because I was in Italy and it would have been sacrilegious if I hadn’t. I’m gluten intolerant but decided to risk it with normal pasta. Well worth the stomach ache on the plane.
Fusilli pomodoro, whilst people watching. This was perfectly al dente, and absolutely delicious. Doy.
After all of this excitement, it was time to hop back to Centrale and get on the coach back to Bergamo, for yet another fun Ryanair flight back to the UK.
Milan was beautiful, surprisingly cheap, and charming. I’d recommend also trying to fit in trips to La Scala opera house and the National Museum of Science and Technology if you can – I didn’t manage either and regretted it somewhat (La Scala in particular is meant to be beautiful). Stay close to Centrale, take good walking shoes, and you won’t go far wrong. Bellissimo!
SAFETY OUT OF FIVE – 5/5. I walked a little by myself at night and felt perfectly safe – as I’ve said before, keep safe and be sensible, but you should be A-OK.
COST OUT OF FIVE – ££- I was really surprised at how inexpensive everything was, considering it’s one of the main cities in Italy. The bowl of pasta above cost me £5, and the subway ticket was about £4 for the day.
RECOMMENDATIONS – see above re La Scala and the National Museum of Science and Technology. The Duomo was wonderful, as was the Santa Maria delle Grazie, but make sure to book in advance for the latter or there won’t be any spaces left, and you’ll have to pay through the teeth for a tour like yours truly.
Until next time (Belfast!),
So, nearly the end of 2016! I secretly love New Years and all it encompasses (the feeling of new beginnings, a potential better self through resolutions, a brand new year for me to get into debt through travel), and seeing as this year has been such a colossal shitshow, I’m looking forward to it even more. Especially since I made some pretty exciting travel plans for 2017 …
* Mid January: Milan, Italy. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve never been to Italy, so very much looking forward to this trip! It’ll only be a fleeting trip to gorge on pizza/culture/more complex carbohydrates, but still, EXCITED
* End of January: Belfast, Northern Ireland. For the day. Because why not?
* April/May: A two week road trip around the west coast of the States. CA, Mexico, AZ, NM, CO, WY, UT and NV. By myself. In a giant SUV. Partly excited and partly crapping myself about this one. If anyone has some good podcast recommendations, let me know!
* October: Tokyo, Japan. It’s booked. Sweet mother of Moses. I’m flying to Tokyo with a friend of mine (£520 return flights via Dubai with Emirates!) where we will go to fish markets, sing karaoke with old Japanese businessmen, and eat sushi until we pop.
Hopefully more to come, but I don’t think that’s too bad going considering I have a full time job and limited funds (oh hey house deposit!). What are your 2017 travel goals? Let me know!
In between regular travel posts (and some new website features coming 2017!), I thought it might be fun to do a few random posts about travelling, specifically solo as a woman. Travel has become more accessible than ever, and with the influx of apps and technology (including my favourite IoT!), it will likely get easier and easier to get away every so often. Add that to the rise of feminism and gender equality (although who knows how long that’ll last *cough* Trump *cough*), and you get more women travelling solo. Which is great!
If you’re the kind of traveller who likes to take everything up to and including the kitchen sink, like yours truly, then this post will act as a reminder of what to pack in your hand luggage. If you like to travel light, these are the things I would highly suggest you pack – everything else is relatively optional…
- Currency. Duh. Namely the currency of your chosen destination and ‘generic’ currency such as Euros or US dollars that could be traded. Remember also to take a credit card just in case, although try and use this only in an emergency because of the bloody extortionate fees…
- Deodorant/freshening-up wipes. Especially if you’re on long flights over multiple days and nights. Never underestimate the power of a clammy overpopulated aeroplane to make you feel less than fresh. You may also be in a bind in a hostel where the water pressure is hardly ideal… learn from my mistakes and thank me later!
- A good book/iPod (old school)/iPad/some form of entertainment. Do not rely on the in-flight entertainment options. Trust me on this. PS don’t laugh at my iPod – 12 years old and still going strong!
- Passport/Visas and travel documents/ID cards/health and travel insurance information. AKA the boring but essential bits. I know the iPad is more interesting but you kinda need some/all of the above to actually travel, so, y’know, remember them.
- Medication, such as ibuprofen, paracetamol, hand sanitizer (to prevent illness in the first place),
feminine hygiene productstampons and pads, and stronger stuff if you need it. Because the last thing you want is to get sick when you’ve booked a fabulous, life-changing trip.
- A clean, spare pair of underwear. Because, y’know.
- A scarf or shawl, because you will no doubt get cold on the constantly air-conditioned flights (why, God? WHY). Also useful if you go to a more conservative country and need to quickly cover up shoulders etc.
- A fake ring. This will be highly controversial, but hear me out. Until women can travel freely and not be harassed by men regardless of their marital status, a decoy wedding ring can really help you out. I obviously don’t agree with it but it’s helped stop harassment for me before when travelling alone. This is optional but recommended if you’re going to a more conservative country where you might get hounded for travelling by yourself/being unmarried (if you are).
- Sunglasses. To look cool af while travelling in style, you sassy thing, you.
- Plug adapters and chargers for obvious reasons. A USB stick or dongle can also be quite useful if you just can’t switch off from work.
Any other recommendations? Let me know!
So, in possibly my craziest mini adventure yet, I went to Poland for the afternoon on Saturday.
I have to be honest, Poland has never really appealed to me as a destination (despite a lot of my friends being Polish/of Polish origin), but when I saw £35 return flights on Skyscanner (where else?), I decided that a day in Poland would be a perfect way to experience the Christmas markets of Warsaw and to hang out in a largely new city with minimal commitment. As I am nothing if not a travel commitment phobe. As it turns out, I ended up spending the afternoon there rather than the day…but first, the adventure.
I got up early and drove to Stansted, parking at the Hilton Stansted car park which I would absolutely recommend (Fiver for the day?! Hell yes!). The flight was at 8.45am but me being a big fan of airports, I just had to get there early to mosey around duty free and try and get cheap access to a lounge. I flew with Ryanair who have seriously dropped standards in recent years – it used to be that I preferred them over EasyJet but actually Stelios’ airline has far surpassed Ryanair. Namely for the shabby seats and interior, the ridiculously militant way they track hand luggage, and the fact that the flight was delayed for an hour while we were sat on it, with zero explanation. Grrrrr.
We finally got to Warsaw Modlin airport at 1pm, where I took a coach for the grand total of £6 each way (with touch screen entertainment on the back of each seat – I was VERY impressed!). There are a few coach terminals in the airport arrivals side, but I would recommend buying the tickets online here to save time and money. The coach dropped us off outside the Palace of Culture and Science (picture above!) where I went for a wander.
Warsaw as a city is old, but the architecture within it is new (considering that 85% of the city was bombed/obliterated in the Warsaw Uprising and they had to rebuild pretty much the whole city). There are some pretty Stalinist buildings as a result, which obviously as a committed Deutschophile and fan of Eastern Europe I’m into, but appears to be quite different from Krakow where the architecture is a lot more old-school. I didn’t end up going to the Old Town which was a shame, as it looks as though it was a lot more traditional in style (but I guess I now have a reason to go back!). I have to say I didn’t explicitly love the city for this reason – nothing about it stood out hugely to me, but it was fun to visit somewhere I’d never been before, and it was a good little taster of Polish culture.
In terms of activities and things to do, see a little selection below of the kind of stuff I got up to in the afternoon, as well as absolutely obliterating my Fitbit count.
I would recommend going to Warsaw if you’re particularly interested in 20th Century history and cheap beer, but if you want a more authentic Polish experience, I hear Krakow is a lot prettier – plus cheaper because it’s not the capital. Warsaw wasn’t wholly expensive but I’m sure prices were slightly inflated than elsewhere in Poland. Make sure to take your zloty!
SAFETY OUT OF FIVE – 5/5 – I didn’t feel uncomfortable once, aside from the hundreds of times people spoke Polish to me.
COST OUT OF FIVE – £££. As mentioned above, I think prices were slightly inflated in the city as opposed to other areas in Poland, but they were still relatively cheap (a fruit tea with real apple and a huge slice of homemade quiche cost me the equivalent of £4).
RECOMMENDATIONS – the Palace of Culture and Science was beautiful and even more gorgeous at night, but to be honest I mostly walked around and did a bit of shopping. Hardly a Polish culture vulture now! I’ve heard that the Old Town is well worth visiting, though…
Until next time!
In the last month or so, I’ve been busy with work, various other social engagements, and Barcelona (again, for work, although no complaints here!). However, I may or may not have booked a few more little trips here and there courtesy of Skyscanner, the girls of ‘Girls Love Travel’ on Facebook and an insatiable wanderlust and desire to see everything the world has to offer. Deets below:
Off to Warsaw for a full 12 hours next weekend, where I fully intend on shopping the Christmas markets and taking advantage of the cold weather to sip on some kind of mulled alcohol. Another 24 hour adventure to tick off another country – but I’ll try and visit some tourist traps too. Any recommendations appreciated!
Another classic “Rosi finds cheap flights and decent accommodation in her lunchtime” scenario. I’ve shockingly never been to Italy, to the dismay of most people I know after they hear about my love for travel, so when I saw £25 return flights to the oh-so-fashionable Milan in January, I knew I had to go for it. I’ll have to go to Rome at some point to visit the Vatican (one more country!) but this will be a great introduction. I’m very much looking forward to scoffing unbelievable carbohydrates to celebrate the New Year and break all my resolutions in style.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
I’ve gone to all of the countries in the U.K. apart from NI, so £13 return flights in February have sorted that out. It’s bizarre to me how it’s cheaper to fly over oceans than it is to go to Bristol on the train from Reading, but until they sort out that clear pricing glitch, I’m obviously going to take advantage of it. Looking forward to exploring the city and hearing the beautifully melodic Northern Irish accent for 24 hours.
I’ve been tracking my travelling using a great app called Been (free on App Store) which tells me I’ve only been to 11% of the world and 38% of Europe… so next year’s plan is to get that up to 50% 😉 let’s see how that goes…
Update post Poland!
As promised, the start of my ‘Throwback Travels’ series will start with Kazakhstan – one of the more ‘out-there’ countries I’ve visited by myself. I actually went for work in my old job – I was responsible for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia – but as Kazakhstan was so vast and far, I managed to do a little sight-seeing too. Multi-tasking and all that.
Most Westerners will think ‘Kazakhstan’ and automatically think of a mankini-clad Sacha Baron Cohen repeating the phrase ‘verrry niiiiiiice’ surrounded by relics of the Soviet Union. And indeed, that’s pretty much all I heard when I told people I was going. But to everyone else’s surprise, Kazakhstan was not like that whatsoever. Keep reading to discover what it was REALLY like…
I flew into Astana on a red-eye 7 hour flight early in May 2015. British Airways have since stopped direct flights to Kazakhstan – possibly because there were only 20 Chinese businessmen and me on this particular flight, and I very much doubt it was a huge money-maker from their perspective. I got a taxi from outside the terminal which was my first no-no and resulted in quite a scary taxi ride after he demanded in broken English and Russian that the fare had to be doubled for no reason whatsoever. If you do fly to Astana and need to take a taxi, for all that is good and holy, PLEASE go to one of the official taxi stands BEFORE you collect your baggage and leave the carousels. From memory there’s one yellow stand that looked reputable – but please don’t be an idiot like me. I blame lack of sleep.
Little bit of background – Astana is the newish capital city of Kazakhstan, and came about because President Nazarbayev decided in 1997 that the old capital Almaty was no longer capital city material (or something). Anyway, he decided to build this city in the middle of nowhere, Vegas-style, and when I visited 23 years later, a large part of it was still under construction – although to Astana’s credit, what was there was pretty lovely.
I think it’s worth mentioning at this point that Kazakhstan is in the middle of a bit of a transformation from Soviet Chic to Large International Hub. Astana is home to the 2017 International Expo which has seen a considerable amount of money being piled into construction in the city, and partnered with the fact that it’s a relatively new city anyway means that there’s very little traditional KZ there – it’s all very flashy and new and impressive. Which is lovely, but did smack slightly of artificiality. It’s clear that Astana is KZ’s attempt at appealing to Western businesses and tourists for investment reasons, and I guess time will tell as to whether or not it’s successful, but it did taint my view of the city somewhat.
(picture of the main city square complete with the Bayterek Tower – unfortunately I only saw this from the inside of several aforementioned terrifying taxi cabs so had to rely on Google for the high quality image you see above)
I don’t have that much information about Astana as I was predominantly there for work, but I will say that the hotel I stayed at was lovely (the Jelsomino Boutique Hotel, which doesn’t appear to have a website…), and everyone was so kind to this solo British traveller whose knowledge of Russian was lacklustre at best. There were a few amusing episodes whereby I ordered penne arrabiata via room service only for it to contain some kind of mince (?), and the time they inexplicably put salty butter on top of my porridge at breakfast… never has Google Translate been utilised so heavily. Astana is a relatively expensive city in comparison to the rest of Kazakhstan, so bear this in mind if you decide to visit – I very nearly ran out of tenge (KZ currency).
I stayed in Astana for a few days before taking a domestic flight to Almaty via Air Astana, KZ’s national airline (which was bloody fantastic, by the way). There was an electrical storm in Almaty so landing proved interesting – more turbulence than I’ve had in my life, emergency announcements in Kazakh (which obviously I do not speak), lights flickering on and off, and me bursting into tears/having a massive freak out because I truly believed I was going to die in a Kazakh plane accident. Upon landing safely, I met with my PRE-BOOKED taxi driver (shout out to Welcome Taxi) who was amazing and drove me safely to my hotel (the Grand Sapphire Hotel on Dostyk Avenue), dodging the huge trees that had fallen down from the storm (I kid you not – it was a big storm!).
I much preferred Almaty to Astana – it felt much more European and had gorgeous scenery and buildings. The stark difference between the ‘old’ Kazakhstan which struggled hugely in the Soviet era, and the emerging Kazakhstan with high-rise buildings, flashy cars and beautifully-dressed people really stood out here, as you can see below.
(pictures I took around Almaty, including Zenkov Cathedral in Panfilov Park which was made entirely of wood!)
The city was also very cheap compared to Astana – I vividly remember paying roughly £2/3 for some pasta in a restaurant, and to my shame I became obsessed with this luminous iced tea drink which cost a grand total of 33p per bottle (I’m not sure my internal organs have recovered yet). Almaty was considerably greener too, with beautiful mountains overlooking the city and huge parks such as Panfilov in the centre (above). There are some stunning attractions in Panfilov including Zenkov Cathedral which is a Russian Orthodox cathedral made entirely out of wood, and some beautiful WW2 monuments and tributes. Also, the place where I saw the most pigeons in my entire life.
All in all, Kazakhstan was strangely enjoyable. It’s a very odd country in a lot of ways, and I doubt I’ll ever get to go anywhere like it again, but I’m glad I went. I’m also very glad I spoke a little Russian, as literally no one speaks English, so that was an interesting experience (I managed to bargain with a taxi driver by just repeating the word пятьсот at him – ‘500’)…
SAFETY OUT OF FIVE – 3/5 – I didn’t feel wholly comfortable at times (in unmarked taxis as there didn’t seem to be any taxi companies, and when I was walking in Almaty I heard what I thought was a gun), but maybe this was because I was going to a completely alien country to what I’d known? I would still keep a watch out though – KZ doesn’t get many tourists so be prepared to use street smarts.
COST OUT OF FIVE – ££ – like I said, Astana is more expensive, but Almaty is dirt cheap when it comes to most things, including transport and food. Astana = UK prices, whereas Almaty = Eastern Europe prices.
RECOMMENDATIONS – Panfilov Park in Almaty is stunning, and full of very traditional KZ sights. It’s also free (obviously). It would have been lovely to have gone up into the mountains and hiked, which you can find more information and recommendations on here. Astana’s Bayterek Tower is worth going up (there’s a lift to the observation deck where you can also put your handprints inside Nazarbayev’s!) in order to survey the post-modern Lego set that is Astana.
Til next time!
Warsaw it is!
After spotting a deal for £35 return flights to Warsaw this morning, when I was still a little bleary-eyed after a busy week of minimal sleep, I went ahead and booked the flight for late November. Perfect timing for the Christmas markets. Funny that. I’ve never been to Poland before so it’ll be a great opportunity to learn a little more about the country, despite being a whirlwind trip…#daytriptoPoland
Other news on the horizon:
- US Road Trip is BOOKED! 8 states, 2 weeks, solo. I’ll be meeting up with friends throughout the trip, but the bulk of the trip will be spent by myself, driving 2500 miles approximately, around California, Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. Can. Not. Wait. May 2017 for that one.
- I’ve decided to do a Throwback Travels series on this blog, where I’ll document solo adventures I went on pre-RR. There are only a handful, but they’re to some pretty out-there places… first stop, Astana and Almaty in Kazakhstan.
- Anyone know of a decent, reasonably priced SLR? I’ve been looking at Canon models but open to suggestions!
All for now – I’ll be going to Barcelona in early November for work, so will not be blogging this, but happy to speak about recommendations if y’all want…
Berlin has to be one of my all-time favourite cities. Friendly people, easy transport system, cheap as chips, and incredible buildings with wonderful social history behind them (and we all know social history is my kinda thing). So, when I decided to go away for a mini weekend break for my birthday, Berlin was right up there. Unbeknownst to me, the weather was forecast at a ridiculous 32C for the entire weekend, and I hate the heat with a fiery passion (no pun intended) but that wasn’t exactly Germany’s fault so I sucked it up and flew out there on Friday 9th September, straight to Tegel, and got the 109 bus straight into Kurfuerstendamm.
Ku’Damm is one of the best shopping areas in the city (absolutely no coincidence that I’m staying there) and my hotel, the Lindner Hotel, was right slap bang in the middle, just a stroll away from one of my favourite department stores, KaDeWe..
Just popped in for a quick overpriced, but beautiful, lunch 😉
To be perfectly honest, I spent most of the weekend shopping – I’ve already been to the Berlin Wall in past trips, as well as Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate, so had no need to see them again, although they’re all definitely worth visiting (especially Checkpoint Charlie which, if you love 20th century social history, is absolutely fascinating and quite beautifully haunting, if you excuse all the tourist stands trying to sell you replicas of signs and other cheap tat). Nope, my number one destination this trip was, weirdly enough, the DDR Museum.
I have a huge interest and fascination of East Germany and the DDR – you only have to turn a corner in Berlin and you’re whisked back to socialism with a sighting of an Ampelmann on a traffic light, a Trabi racing through the roads on a tour, or a Humana selling various polyester monstrosities and plastic bangles. I’d always wanted to go to the DDR Museum to discover more about this world, but completely forgot like an idiot the last time I visited Berlin, so made it a priority this time. And it did not disappoint.
An assortment of Ostolgie, including a Trabi that I didn’t get to sit in because some kids were hogging it, and some exquisite pieces of East German clothing. Bagsie the nude pantsuit in the middle.
The museum had also painstakingly recreated a typical new East German flat, right down to the pots and pans used. I found this part of the museum absolutely fascinating – possibly more so than the slightly stale political chat. I also saw quite a lot of familiar looking products, weirdly… Big shout out to various family members for using similar dinnerware to these:
All in all the museum was definitely worth going to – it was worth the €7/8 entry fee, gives you something to do on a Sunday in Berlin when inexplicably all the shops shut, and offers a unique look into what life was like for a large number of people stuck in an aging world at a time when the rest of the world was rapidly advancing. Plus it’s opposite the Berlin Cathedral which is also beautiful:
I spent Sunday afternoon eating ice cream and drinking pricey cocktails overlooking the monkey enclosure at Berlin Zoo with a friend and her husband – the Zoo being conveniently close to my hotel (did I mention it was a FABULOUS location?). Bikini Berlin is a new complex that was once a bikini factory (fun fact), and is definitely worth going to if you’re in the area.
All in all, a very fleeting visit, and I apologise for being a bit rubbish with travel tips etc. Some travel blog, huh? I will however say that Berlin has to be one of the friendliest, cheapest, most convenient cities I’ve ever visited. I speak German relatively well but even if you don’t, everyone pretty much knows English or can point you in the direction of someone who can. Transport is dirt cheap – I used the bus and U-Bahn while I was there and both cost me roughly €2 and €7 (for a day ticket) respectively. The hotel only has breakfast available, but there’s an awesome salad bar opposite the hotel called Dean and David which served mega salads for around €6 each. Failing that, there’s a supermarket next to the Zoologischer Garten (zoo) train station which is open relatively early/late, and restaurants all over the damn place of course.
All in all, not much to say other than see you again soon Berlin, and please keep the temperature down next time…
So I’ve got Berlin coming up next week, and the West Coast of America next year… but my feet are itching for another 24 hour adventure.
I quite fancy hitting up more Eastern European countries, so the below are all shortlisted… which should I opt for?
- Warsaw, Poland
- Bucharest, Romania
- Sofia, Bulgaria
- Skopje, Macedonia
- Belgrade, Serbia
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Vilnius, Lithuania
- Riga, Latvia
- Tallinn, Estonia
Answers on a postcard – and the closer to Christmas, the better! 😉
After America I had a huge sense of wanderlust, so, settled with a bag of popcorn and a glass of wine one night, I indulged in my favourite hobby – looking for cheap flights on Skyscanner. There are always cheap flights to Scandinavia for some reason, and I travelled to Denmark and Sweden last November this way, but hadn’t yet been to Norway… At £20 return, it was cheaper for me to go to Norway than it was to go to London on a weekday. Bring. It. On!
I left Stansted on an 8.30am flight and arrived in Oslo Rygge at 11am local time (approx). I found some awesome people on the coach to Oslo, one of whom I ended up hanging out with for most of my time in Norway (shout out to Fez! ❤️). I stayed at the Thon Hotel Astoria, a relatively inexpensive hotel just off of Karl Johans Gade which appeared to be one of the main streets in Oslo, and conveniently placed next to the central train station. Thon Hotels seems to be like a Norwegian Holiday Inn Express – budget rooms (with amazingly comfortable beds), en-suite and free breakfast which, given the excruciating cost of Oslo, I obviously took full advantage of. I was only in Oslo for one night but it was a great base at a good price, and I’d definitely recommend. It’s not exactly luxury but it certainly does the job.
The city itself was exceptional. Clean, friendly, easy to navigate, and some truly stunning buildings and sights:
I went shopping with Fez in the afternoon (standard), and then, after a brief disco nap, went out with a friend of mine in the evening, where we drank exceptional chilli cocktails at a tiki bar and ate fried cheese balls until I could barely move.
One of the best things I found about Oslo was the dirt-cheap price of public transport – especially compared to the UK. I managed to get a 24-hour pass for all of Oslo city centre for the equivalent of about £9 – which was exceptional when you consider that these included ferries! So, on Saturday morning, Fez and I obviously took advantage of this and went island hopping…
These pictures don’t show how bloody cold it was, to the extent that it snowed while we were on the ferry… And guess who forgot her coat?
Ultimately Oslo was stunning. Friendly people, clean, efficient, easy to navigate, and felt very safe walking around at night. It was expensive which I knew going, but if you’re savvy you’ll be absolutely grand.
SAFETY OUT OF FIVE – 5/5. I walked a little by myself at night and felt perfectly safe – obviously be sensible and stick to main areas but I really didn’t have any problems.
COST OUT OF FIVE – ££££. Pretty bloody expensive – prepare beforehand if this is an issue, or shop at grocery stores for food. The krone has tanked a little due to oil over the past few months, but it was still expensive compared to the UK. I paid around £9 for a tea and pastry.
RECOMMENDATIONS – a ferry ride out to the islands was beautiful and relatively cheap (just get a 24 hour pass for 90NOK, around £8, from the main station). You can also go to the Viking Ship museum via a ferry ride which is more expensive as its a private boat, but might be worth looking into if that’s your kinda thing. The Oslo opera house is stunning, as are the Houses of Parliament – and the main shopping street has some cute little boutiques if that’s your thing!