Destinations At a Glance: Europe Mini Reviews

1 week, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, destination, europe, holiday, home, itineraries, itinerary, return, review, travel, Uncategorized

Hello!

If you’re planning your next holiday or backpacking trip in Europe then take a look at my brief overviews of the places I’ve been.

Some travel advice can be all waffly with more information than you really need.         The whole point is that YOU find your own way and do what YOU want to do.

You can save the images, or you click the location from the list below to read the full blog.

So without further chat, here are the good and the bad about the places I’ve been…

(Updated every time I venture out)

Here you can find the following mini reviews and links to my full reviews:

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Mostar – (Read the Mostar blog)

Belgium – Ypres, Bruges and Brussels full blog

Croatia – Dubrovnik, Lokrum,

England – Windsor & Eton, Oxford

France – Paris,

Germany German Tour’ blog for wider Germany, and Augsburg blog

Hungary – Budapest (Read the Inside Budapest and Outside Budapest blogs)

Italy– Rome,

Poland – Kraków

Portugal – (see separate ‘Portugal, Itinerary‘)

Slovakia – Bratislava

Slovenia (full Slovenia blog here and Horse riding in Bled )

Spain – Majorca

Ypres Belgium review Holiday review of Croatia DubrovnikHoliday review of lokrum Croatia

Kew Gardens review Review of Windsor and ErinReview of oxford in EnglandReview of backpacking in France Paris Hungary Budapest review

Italy Rome reviewKrakow poland reviewBratislava Slovakia reviewMajorca Spain review

Watch this space for more Europe Mini Reviews.

Germany: All over the place

1 week, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, destination, europe, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, travel, Uncategorized

Beer, nature, history, art, fashion – you name it Germany has it.

Germany is frequently overlooked as a backpacker destination, with many heading there for nothing more than Oktoberfest or it’s renowned beer gardens.

I’ve complied a quick list of the main attractions that I have visited during my time there.

Destinations below are: Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Dresden, Frankfurt, Meißen, Potsdam.

For visiting Augsburg check out this blog

BERLIN

Thing to see and do:

The Reichstag building is beautiful, combining old and new architecture. It provides amazing views of the city. If you can tear your eyes away from the architecture of the building itself. You must register on the website here to get in.

Checkpoint Charlie is an interesting place to peruse around. This historical landmark will usually be manned by people in military uniform.

Street Art is everywhere. It’s easy to spend half a day looking at the many pieces of art.

Topographie des Terrors is a necessary trip if you are interested in history. This was a memorable stop during our time there.

Berlin Wall – no need to plan for this. You will 100% bump into the wall when aimlessly wondering around.

Eating and drinking is much pricier here than other parts of Germany. Set a good budget so you don’t over spend.

Getting out of Berlin to see the rest of the country is super easy with the SBahn.

BONN

Thing to see and do:

Drachenfells and Schloss – hike up the big hill or grab the tram and get ready for spectacular forest views and a view of the mini Disney lookalike castle.

Feeling Outdoorsy? Bonn is the place to go. There are trees aplenty and lots of places to hike around in the great outdoors.

Quirky Accommodation – Basecamp Bonn is where it’s at. Ever wanted to sleep in a converted car? Or a train? or maybe a Chinese tour bus? Check them out here.

Botanical gardens and the zoological museum are another couple of nice laid back activities during your time in Bonn.

Overall, Bonn is super chilled so you may just want a couple of days wind down time here.

COLOGNE

Thing to see and do:

The Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is unmissable. If you are arriving by subway you will be greeted by it as soon as you emerge from the underground. It is stunning to look at, outside and in. Entry is free.

The River Rhine is a lovely backdrop to the city. Take a ride on it or walk down it at your leisure.

Partying is easy in Cologne. The nightlife is booming and there are many local festivals. Be sure to check the German calendar before you go. I still have no idea what festival we were celebrating whilst I was there but we had a laugh.

Eat, eat, and eat some more. You will never be without naked good in Cologne.

DRESDEN

Thing to see and do:

One of my top destinations in Germany. Very beautiful and historic.

Frauenkirche Dresden is a giant feat of gothic style engineering that should not be missed. Visit at night to see it beautifully lit up.

The Dresden Zwinger is impossible to miss. The grounds are huge and a few hours should be spent walking around it. The gardens and walls are well kept and well worth visiting

Siempre Opera House is stunning. If you have the cash and time I would recommend getting inside under the beautiful ceilings.

Markets, museums and more – Dresden is full of things to see and do. Allow a couple of days minimum here.

DÜSSELDORF

Thing to see and do:

Düsseldorf is another really chilled place to visit for when Berlin’s fast face gets the better of you.

Film Museum – as a film lover I was keen to visit here and it was not disappointing. Check out the website to see it’s diverse exhibits and take an hour or so to stop by. Well worth the money!

Rheinuferpromenade is a lovely chilled place to take a walk down the river. Start from parliament and stroll down from there.

The Rhine Tower is recommended for those unafraid of heights. To enter you will need to buy a ticket when you get there which varies depending on the time you arrive. Allow between £5-£12.

Shopping on a high-end budget is definitely doable here. Get the credit card out for some expensive brand shopping.

FRANKFURT

Thing to see and do:

(Altstadt) Frankfurt Old Town is enchanting with it’s Römer (old town hall). Take a seat to admire the old buildings and grab lunch.

Street Performers seem to be everywhere here, and they were all generally pretty good. Allow a few hours to get swept up in the random entertainment that the streets provide.

Beer is really good here. I’m not a beer lover but I enjoyed it here. Hard not to after the twentieth gulp from the GIANT glass.

MEIßEN (MEISSEN)

Thing to see and do:

Fairytale territory – This tiny town is a lovely day excursion from the cities. Peaceful and friendly with lots of little places of interest like the Dom Zu Meissen below.

Comfy shoes needed – Although it is small, you will need comfy shoes to navigate the cobbled streets. Have fun getting lost here in the bending streets.

Markets and the river – Not too bountiful on this front, but if there is a market then do stop to take a look before heading to the river.

POTSDAM

Thing to see and do:

We did a day trip here. It’s a quick train ride out of Berlin (around 45 minutes) so nice and easy.

Sansoucci Park – This park is massive and with plenty to explore including Sansoucci Palace. Allow a day here and bring snacks.

Botanical Garden – flowers within a beautiful building. What’s more to say.

New Palace – tickets are cheap and the building is just another example of Germany’s impressive gothic architecture. Extend your day by booking to go inside.

As I explore more of Germany I will update this post. Hope you have a fabulous time there!

When Travel Goes Wrong: Learn From My Mistakes.

1 week, architecture, backpack, backpacker, beaches, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, travel

The ultimate guide to not being an idiot when travelling. Learn from my mistakes –

1. Do not put your passport in your mouth:

Ok so I wasn’t salivating all over my passport. I promise. I wrapped my lips (not even moist) around the folded edge of my passport in an attempt to juggle two pieces of luggage and my phone. For a split second I put it in my mouth. It was either that or it would have fallen on the floor. As I approached the (not so) lovely Croatian border control I was immediately shouted at. “DON’T PUT PASSPORT IN MOUTH.” He continued … “ITS NOT NORMAL”. I will not be doing that again. In front of him.

2. Don’t joke around with Houston passport control:

“Hi” I said to a (not so) lovely border force man. “GET IN LINE” he replied… I was already in line. This was pretty much the tone of every Houston staff member I encountered there whilst in the way to Nicaragua… both times.

3. Don’t get off the bus to Bosnia during a rest stop … EVER:

Two hours into the bus journey across the border from Croatia and into Bosnia. “Ten minute break” explains the driver. So off I jump to go to the toilet (which is a 5 second walk away). I leave my passport on the bus with my bags, assured that they are in safe hands with trusted company and assured that I don’t need my possessions to pee. I walked into the available cubicle and attempted to pee whilst trying to hold the door closed with my foot and grab the toilet roll with my hand. I exit the toilet 2 minutes later. The bus has disappeared. Long story short. After a lot of swearing (and unanticipated sprinting) I make it to the bus. If it weren’t for the screaming of “STOP THE BUS” I’d probably still be Bosnia selling my clothes to get enough cash to bribe border control to let me across.

4. Don’t queue for the bus in Croatia:

As a British person I just LOVE to queue. It’s basically part of my DNA. A word of wisdom. Unless you enjoy being shut in a moving vehicles door, don’t queue. Push the pensioners and the children out of the way. Don’t feel rude because they sure as hell don’t. You have places to be.

5. Never ask the person selling the ping pong show what a ping pong show is:

In my defence, this one wasn’t my mistake. I knew exactly what a ping pong show was. My boyfriend however did not. After aimlessly walking the streets of Phuket in Thailand he turned to me and asked (in the cutest most naïve fashion) “why is everyone so obsessed with table tennis here”. HA! Bless him. I, being the supportive loving girlfriend that I am, told him to ask the next lady that offered us a show. The results. Hours of laughter on my part and on his part… embarrassment.

6. Don’t tell a City person that you hate cities – unless you’re ready for a debate;

Working in London sparks the question “so …( because everyone starts the question with the presumptuous word SO) when are you moving to the city”. If you don’t have a well prepared answer for this question that declines the offer whilst also showing your love for the city then don’t bother responding.

7. When the guy renting you a bike tells you it’s too far, believe him, and don’t Rent a bike without having ridden a bike in years for a long journey:

Yea this happened. We just wanted to go to the beach for cheaps. A mile and a half in, during what felt like the hottest summer South East Asia has ever experienced, we were regretting the bike decision. We just ended up spending what could have been a short taxi drive’s money on bottles and bottles of water.

8. Don’t say yes to a tour your not interested in / not going to understand:

Whilst in Poland my mum and I decided that the Salt Mines were a must see attraction. Eager to get on a tour we stupidly agreed to joining a Germany group rather than shopping around. Whilst the tour was interesting we spent the entire time being referred to as “THE ENGLISH” as we fell behind trying to work out what the heck was going on. If tours are not available in your language then maybe just book in advance or go back another time. Otherwise, be prepared to hear “THE ENGLISH ARE TOO SLOW” for most of your tour.

9. Never assume that the perfectly perched Vietnamese man is going to let you get away with taking his picture and wandering off:

Ok ok I admit, this was terribly rude tourism on my part. In my defence, despite the language barrier I did point to my camera and charade style ask him if it was ok.  He was sitting in a rice field on top of a giant water buffalo. He nodded and I proceeded to hop off of the bike and snap away. As we tried (emphasis on tried) to walk away he grabbed my boyfriends arm. “Now ride”. Excuse me? He wanted us to ride that thing. Did I mention he was sat on a GIANT buffalo? Before we had a chance to decline we were lifted up into its back and paraded down the field before being promptly thrown off and asked for money. What a rookie mistake.

10. Never assume that people want to learn your mother tongue or that your language is more universal than it is:

I am proud to say that I do not fall into this category. I have however witnessed one too many fellow backpackers that assume or expect others to speak their language. This is not true. Whilst in Tanzania this couldn’t have been more true. Of the many people I met, not many actually found the idea of learning English appealing. And why should they? Unless it’s going to benefit them then what is the point?

11. Don’t jump off the surfboard in shallow water:

Cling onto that board for dear life or suffer the consequences of a broken toe like I did. If the water looks rocky, then it probably is. Don’t assume a broken big toe is manageable whilst backpacking either… It isn’t.

Close Up shot of a girl in a bright blue hoodie on the cliffs of dartmoor with the rocks and lush green hills rolling behind her

Dear backpacker,

Travel wisely and stay safe.

Use your brain.

Don’t be stupid

Portugal, From Bottom To Top: 1 week Itinerary

1 week, architecture, backpack, backpcker, beaches, destination, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, travel, Uncategorized

Portugal is as it has always been.  Interesting, fun and friendly. From North to South, East to West there is a never ending stream of activities and sights to keep your wanderlust fulfilled.

This 1 week itinerary I have put together is based on the time we spent exploring the western edge of Portugal. This itinerary is a no nonsense GET IT DONE itinerary with room for the smallest amount of chill time.

You can easily switch the plan around, ending where we started or, starting where we ended. If you do think that you will need more “chill time” then extend your trip by a few more days where recommended.

Side accommodation note: Whilst staying in Lisbon I highly recommend staying at Sunset Destination Hostel. They have 3 hostels and you can enter any of them whenever you fancy a nap or a new chill out spot.

(One even has a cute little swimming pool and a funky dome /bar tent space)

a plastic dome tent with a bar and seating inside in Lisbon Portugal on a roof top. It is night time and raining

 

 

Portugal, West Coast Wonders: 1 week Itinerary

DAY 1: Start by arriving in Lisbon. Settle into your accommodation (quickly! There is much to do!). Put your walking boots on and head for Rossio square. Spend the day here eating, drinking and sight seeing. There’s a lot to do and see here for all ages.

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DAY 2: Belém – Today is a day for exploring. Spend a good half hour looking at Belém Tower, grabbing an ice cream and, wishing your house looked this good. Take a stroll around and see if you can find the huge raccoon painting. If you fancy a museum trip, walk over to the navy museum. Don’t leave Belém before you’ve spent a while walking around the family friendly gardens (Jardim de Belém and Jardim da Praça do Imperio) and visiting Jerónimos Monastery. This gothic monastery is enormous and architecturally brilliant. If you like panoramic views then walk up to Padrão dos Descobrimentos before it gets dark. Head back to Rossio Square for the evening to experience the friendly atmosphere at night.

person pretending to eat the mini model of Belem tower in Portugal

DAY 3: Beach Day – You can’t go to Portugal and not see the beach.

The morning: If you’re looking for a great beach near Lisbon to relax and soak up the sun then Cascais is just one of the bigger sandy beaches you can head to. If you like to surf or just want to give it a try then contact Gota De Agua Surf School. These guys are brilliant teachers and will look after you ( especially if you break your toe like I did!) For lunch why not stay by the beach and sample the delights of the yummy restaurants near by.

The afternoon: The afternoon can be well spent in Almada. Take a short ride over to Almada to see the enormous statue of Christ (Santuário Nacional de Cristo Rei) – when we went surfing with Gota de Agua this mini trip to Almada was included in our lessons so ask them and you may get the same trip!(if you love the beach then perhaps add another day here)

one man and two women are on the sand on their surfboarsd. the first man and woman are in a crouching pose facing the camera and gripping the board ready to stand up. The other woman is stood up balancing with her face looking towards her feet.

DAY 4: Sintra – Wake up early, Travel light, wear comfortable shoes and, pack water and snacks! Sintra is an incredible place to spend the day. If you have an extra day in Portugal then Sintra is worth another day. If you’re up for a climb then scale the pathway up to the Castle of the Moors, reward yourself by going inside and admiring the picturesque views and ruins. Trek back down to ground level and explore the area. Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira and so much more are waiting for you!

The big hill at Sintra. You can just about see the small forttress at the top. in the foreground you can see some of the buildings in Sintra. One is bright yellow and the others are grey and white

DAY 5: Coimbra – Pack up your bags, it’s time to change base. Jump on the train to Coimbra, the home of Fado music, to spend the next day and a half roaming around the UNESCO World Heritage Site Coimbra University. Entry is cheap and you can either take an organised tour or a self guided one for a small cost. Use the rest of your day for shopping and indulging in sweet treats and souvenirs on the Main Street. Spend the night near the Main Street at a Fado House listening to incredible traditional music. Stay near the Main Street to allow for more adventure and less commuting.

three musicians play on the streets of Portugal. One man in a checkered shirt plays the accordian on the floor. The middle man plays a brass instrument and the final man is playing bass.

DAY 6: Coimbra to Porto – Rise early and continue your exploration of Coimbra. Check out the Convent of Christ for some more gothic architecture. Stroll down the river where you’ll be greeted by an enormous Astro turf bear (Mondego Bear). Give him a hug, take a selfie and then it’s lunch.At lunch time get on the train from Coimbra City to Porto via Coimbra-B station . Your final stop.

A huge bear 4 times a mans average height sits in the park made from astro-turf. In between his legs sits a man in a grey hoodie.

DAY 7: Porto – Make today count. It’s your last day so do whatever will make you say “WOW”. Walk across the Dom Luis Bridge (whether it’s sunny or not) to see the river in its full glory. Then go buy a book from the Harry Potter-esque library Livraria Lello. Stare at the fine detailing on the walls of Church São Fransisco, or tour around the ever so grand Pálacio da Bolsa.

A bronze statue of a man is delivering post into a red post box

Leave Portugal feeling cultured, well informed, walked half to death and inspired to see more of the wonderful country. If you aren’t ready to go home stay another day.

 

I wish you a wonderful trip!

OBRIGADO.

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