Sailing Croatia. The Prestigious Way…

 

Its 3am and my alarm startles me as I surprisingly leap out of bed and scurry around the room trying to get ready for my delightful early flight at 6am.  I failed to mention that I was so ridiculously excited that the thought of being up at some godly hour of the morning hadn’t yet crossed my mind……

 

 

 

I will warn you that is an extra long post with a bucket load of photos but there was just so many amazing things to cover over the 7 days that I couldn’t afford to leave anything out 🙂

 

 My very first time flying with Austrian airlines and I have to say werent a bad airline at all.  Fairly new airbus and the hostesses actually seemed to give a damn. Refreshing. When I arrived in Vienna I had 5 hours to kill and lets say to begin with it wasnt the best of arrivals. Being in an unknown place is always a little touch and go at first but because I was connecting I had no idea where I was. After twenty minutes of walking around someone finally came to my rescue and directed me to exactly where I needed to go, the business class lounge. A great little set up if you do have to deal with a long layover in Vienna then all you need to do is pay €29 and its all yours for as long as you want. They have an alright selection of spirits, wine and beer + nibbles and the facilities I noticed were very modern with a clear view of the runway. I couldn’t really decide if I wanted to have a nap, sip on some bubbles or dig into some lunch. Its a tough life.

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Once I finally touched down at Split airport (after having to deal with the fact that I had just flown on a turbo pop plane) I was greeted by the pleasant warm breeze and that glorious thing in the sky called the sun.  I had a driver of the hotel I was staying at called Authentic luxury rooms come and collect me and at this point it was early evening so I couldn’t wait to chill at the hotel and catch up on all the latest with my travelling partner, Sera. The room was almost like a little cottage, comfy and super cute with the most amazing shower – built-in radio, seat and three different shower heads. Epic!

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Dinner  was enjoyed at Bistro Toc just down the way. An alfresco dining which was perfect for that hot, humid evening.  Croatia is known for its fresh seafood so I had to go with the grilled fish, vegetables and an accompanying glass of their local sparkling wine – Henkell Trocken. Very nice drop of bubbles if you like it on the sweeter side. A walk around the square to finish off the evening and a quick beer to squeeze in around all the chaos that this place seems to portray.  Extremely busy, packed with tourists bars, restaurants, street performers and markets, is a must to see even if you come down to Riva promenade and check out the beautiful backdrop of port. Absolutely exquisite and great for people watching.

 

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After a well rested sleep we were up bright and early to grab some breakfast, pack and head straight to the port where our magnificent vessel was moored. (along with a lot of other boats ready to sail for the day).  We had to complete the usual paperwork and familiarise ourselves with the boat.  Mia was our guide and host for the week along with the captain, a couple of sailors, the cooks and the lovely ladies behind the bar.  The boat I was on was called Prestige and really the name says it all. Only 3 months old I have to say was pretty luxurious with hotel style rooms plus your own bathroom, plunge pool out the back and full top floor decking for those must do sun baking sessions. Im actually glad I made the decision to choose this sail over a party boat. Im getting far too old anyway for that kind of craziness….

 

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Saturday 23rd Aug –

We set sail to our first Island, Makarska after a filling three course lunch which consisted of soup, salads, a fish dish and dessert. This was a great time to get to know a few peeps that we would be sharing this experience with for the next 7 days. Is amazing the people you come across in your life. There happened to be someone on my boat who lived in Christchurch and  two doors down from a relative of mine. Just bizarre I tell you! Along the way we stopped for our first swim in the gorgeous ocean. I cant begin to tell you how refreshing and luke warm the water was but incredible salty so don’t try and swallow any – not recommend.  

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We arrived in Makarska around 5pm where we docked for the evening. I tried to leave the boat and take a walk around the port area but I was stopped in my path by what looked like a huge storm brewing and hastily made my way back just in time before the dramatic sights of lightning, thunder and torrential rain hit us. The most prettiest sunset then followed and all I could do was sit there and take in all its glory. One of the passengers decided to brave it and ordered in pizzas as a back up plan. Good thinking ninety-nine. After all that and once Sera was back from her Kayaking experience we headed to restaurant Susvid for dinner. Now because I was so full from the pizzas I didnt feel like eating something on the heavy side. I saw on the menu that they had a cucumber salad and thought that this would be a nice light option to go for. Well you are never going to believe what was put in front of me. A plateful of sliced cucumbers to be exact. Hilarious. Literally made my evening. Nice bottle of local red was ordered and we were even given the spelling of how to say cheers in Croatian – Zivili!

 

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The jewellery in Croatia is beautiful and insanely cheap. Thus meaning we just had to take a detour and stop by a local jewellery store and purchase a nice pair of sparkly earrings each.  The night was ended by a couple of cocktails at club Deep. An underground type bar perched in a cave and full of young ones (assuming from off all the party boats that were told to come here) but after looking at the time and seeing it was nearly 1am we decided to call it quits and head back to the boat.

 

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Sunday 24th Aug –

Woke up feeling slightly groggy (im blaming the wine) but  funnily enough being on a boat seems to take that awful feeling away quicker than you think. A swim in the ocean followed by some food and you are fixed within moments. Today we  were headed to Mljet and went with the idea of hiring bikes for the afternoon.  It was scorching hot and had to endue a few steep road climbs along the way until we got to the National Park. Great way to burn off all that alcohol huh.  I haven’t really ridden a bike for years so it was quite an interesting ride down to the lake without trying to fall flat on my face.  I was keen to get straight in the water and my word it was so crystal clear. I dont think I have seen water so clean before but it reminded me of being back in New Zealand as a kid visiting our local watering hole.  We had the chance to take a boat across to St Mary’s monastery which is on its own island.  I had the pleasure of meeting the resident goat, Malita. Oh she was super cute I just wanted to take her back the boat with me.  Tonight we had the option of going BBQ style on the boat for dinner.  Quite a large selection of meats, trays of chips and really nice red pepper relish. Far too much food but I didn’t care at this point. I had seen probably seen the same amount of sun for the day which meant a lobster looking back. Whoopsie.

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Monday 25th Aug –

Cruised over to Dubrovnik early Monday morning. By this point I had actually forgotten what day it was and had to be reminded. Such a nice feeling, I just love being on holiday.  Another swim stop around the south side and yet at another picturesque part of the island.  Temperature of the ocean, once again spot on. We arrived into the port of Dubrovnik around lunchtime and we were told we had to take a bus over to the old town which then turned into a taxi ride as it was so unbelievable hot standing in the massive queue…. The Old Town is stunning.  Filled with cobble stoned lane ways we managed to find our way around to a bar called Buza which is on the cliff looking out to some fantastic views of the water. If your brave enough you can even jump off the rocks and go for a quick dip. I went for the choice of a glass of bubbles and at a safe haven.  I had booked the Game of Thrones Tour which was approximately two hours and gave an insight into the filming location and different scenes around the town. Not quite sure if it was the best decision doing it in the unbearable heat but if you are a fan then this might be something worth checking out while you are here or you can have the option of climbing the city walls for some spectacular views.  I was so starving hungry by the end of it (no surprises there!) and feeling very unenergised by the humidity that I just couldn’t wait to sit down and tuck into some fresh sushi at a restaurant called Bota Sushi and Oyster bar, which was recommended we give a go. I have to add a small mention about the honey liquor shots they serve. Absolutely divine and highly dangerous. You could seriously have a few too many of these babies.  The food to go with it was extremely rateable. The freshest oysters and sushi with flavours I had never tried before. 10 out 10. Well done. √

 

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The Dubrovnik music festival was also ending today so were lucky enough to get full viewing of the orchestra from a classy wine bar called La Bodega. I was overly exhausted by this stage but was strong enough to hang in there and ordered a glass of  Croatian Cab Sav.  I’ve been pretty impressed with all their wines so far and this red was fantastic.  Back to the boat after this and finishing off with a lovely cup of mint tea while coping some light verbal abuse about how much of a party pooper I was. Were these people actually talking to me?!

 

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Tuesday 26th –

Woke up as fresh as a daisy and ready to take on the day and plenty more sunshine.  Unfortunately I had a bad case of the wobbly sea legs so everything was feeling a wee bit wonky. Today was more about relaxing and tanning on the boat but after a few hours of sitting in the piercing sun we decided to take a quick walk around the area and visit a local fruit market. Did I mention how damn hot it was?! I am definitely acclimatised to the British weather…ekk

 

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Lunch was served at the usual time of 12.30pm and we made our way over to the island of Trstenik.  More swim stops along the way and another sun session. Geez its a tough life…..

 

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I had booked to do an afternoon of wine tasting with sea truffles, wine, cheese, meats and oysters. The first part was tasting two Croatian wines from the nearby region. Their wines are some of the best in the world so if you are a bit of a wine buff then I would definitely go and explore some of their multiple wineries that they have on offer. Ive never tried a sea truffle and as you know I open to trying anything food related but this just didn’t do it for me. At all. I do happen to love the texture and taste of most seafood so was very satisfied with the divine Oysters they had. The Captains dinner was followed straight after  and all the tables were nicely decorated with candles and seashells – very appropriate. A couple of glasses of red wine and three courses later, everyone was well up for a party out on the back deck to let their hair down. I wont lie, I was in full party mode after over 5 months of being so well-behaved I couldn’t help but suggest we check out the local bar across the road. A few too many frozen margaritas and mojitos and you can probably guess that the rest of the night was a bit of a blur after we creeped back on the boat rather noisily after 2am. 

 

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Wednesday 27th –

Woke up nursing the expected very sore head the next day. Why is it always a good idea at the time to do these things.  Of course isn’t it ironic that today the sea’s were its choppiest and therefore meant the boat was swaying the worst it had done all week. Just what I needed.  The only thing I could do from this point apart from feeling very sorry for myself was head to the top deck, perk on a chair in the shade and enjoy the fresh air.

 

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We sailed over to Korkula with a quick swim stop along the way. Pretty much saved the day and after a snooze I was feeling cured within minutes. We docked around 5pm and got ready to explore the Old Town and find somewhere for dinner. This place was just absolutely gorgeous. A very small seaside town packed with jewellery stores, a few cathedrals, loads of local cuisine and the Zakerjan tower that has some of the best sunset views I have ever captured in my entire life. The Massimo bar is a must to go to and if you order a cocktail you can watch it being pullied up as the only way to get to the top of this place is by some very narrow and steep stairs.  So for those who have a fear of heights this might be a no go zone. The sea legs started to kick in again so this was a sign to head off to the restaurant. We had dinner at a highly reputable restaurant called Aterina which overlooked the port and some average views of all the amazing yachts. This is the life.  They happened to be one waitress down for the evening but i was prepared to wait if the food if it was so highly rated. We ordered a bottle of the Korta Katarina rose which by the way I will note that I am not a huge lover of Rose wines but to my surprise it was very delightful to drink (or should that be easy?) The onion marmalade and goats cheese bruschetta was de-lish and when my prawn pasta finally arrived I was very satisfied with what had been put in front of me. You can really tell the difference when something has been made from scratch.

 

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After dinner I was advised to stop by and visit this beauty shop called Kaisiopea which is all organic and made on the island. Having our hands and arms exfoliated with mint tea leaves, honey, lavender and different oils is definitely a wonderful way to finish up the evening.

 

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Thursday 28th –

Much to my despair I woke up feeling not myself at all. After being told that there was unfortunate nasty sea bug on board I knew that I was in for a tough ride for the next 24 hours. Thankfully (and I will not go into too much detail here) it was not coming-out both ends like it was for the other poor people on board. Today we were setting sail to Hvar which was the island I was looking forward to the most. I was determined to get off the boat regardless of how I was feeling (im stubborn like that) and in hind site this probably wasn’t such a great idea. with most of my afternoon spending lying on a couch drinking tea at a plush hotel on the water. On a more positive note I got to hang out in a very nice hotel, with some friendly waiters and had some great views in front of me of the bright lights and luxurious boats moored in the harbour.  I was more disappointed  about the fact that I couldn’t go over to Carpe Diem for some party time…. I guess it just means that I will need to come back again and experience! Hvar is known for its clubs and bars and full of plenty of lively yachts including the utmost prestigious ones. My invitation was even extended to a boat by some german men but as we know my excuse for not accepting their offer was that I was far too ill right…

 

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Friday 29th Sept –

I am pleased to report that today I am almost back to being my normal self again. There was only one way of knowing this. I was hungry again. There is definitely something not quite right with me when I say no to food or skip a meal.  As I was up so early I got to enjoy breakfast at back with some truly amazing views of the calm seas and baby blue skies. Another fabulous day out to sea meant another swim stop on the Island of Brač.  The island is one of the biggest at 396 square km’s large and what a beautiful one at that. We had to take a small boat across to the island and honestly this place is just dreamy. The water-colour is nothing like I have ever seen before. Surrounded by pebble stones and rolling hills in the background, the crystal clear aqua blue and green water is as appealing as its tepid conditions. Apart of me wished we could stayed here all day with the beach bar staring at me from the other side and plenty of fun water sports equipment to hire I was considering not going back on board the boat again. I don’t think they would have missed me too much.

 

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After our last lunch we had the opportunity to stop and have another swim stop before the final leg into the Port of Split. Everyone made the most of getting their last dip whether they were still under the weather or not. A few braved doing jumps right off the top of the first balcony. I could only deal with the first level as I’m really not the dare-devil when it comes to stuff like that.  Once we made our way to Port and were back on flat land I wanted to get a few more hours of the sun since it was our last day. Can you believe it?! We found a great spot around the corner which had a sandy pocket of beach called Bacvice with loads deck chairs, umbrellas and a few little bars. Beer and a quick swim was on the cards.

 

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Our last dinner was enjoyed at a very nice roof terrace restaurant in the Old Town of Split called Paradigma. We stumbled across this place after not being able to find anything to fulfill our taste buds desires. This place was fine dining at its best and with a view of the promenade we decided to treat ourselves on the last night out on the Dalmatian Coast.  Since I had hardly been eating I had managed to work up a bit of an appetite (well so I thought) I had to have the scallops with foie gras, cauliflower puree and pine nuts as a starter. Jeepers creepers this was damn good but also damn rich. I dived straight into the main meal of a veg casserole and a few glasses of red but do you think I could finish this. No! A wave of a food coma came over me and the eyelids were ready for some timeout. Clearly I was still unwell but sometimes you just have to man up, ignore and carry on.

 

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Saturday 30th August –

Well sadly the holiday has come to an end and the reality of dealing with airports and crowds of people was slowly starting to kick in…….

 

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Id personally like to thank the crew on board representing Sail Croatia for making the 7 days an absolutely pleasurable experience and one I will never forget. Everyone on board was super easy to get along  and being mostly Australian made me feel right at home. Croatia is one of the most popular destinations in Europe at the moment and hands down one of the most breathtaking places ive been too so far to date.  If you get the fortunate chance to visit this coastline of pure beauty then I can’t recommend enough that you do it by boat. The most relaxing and chilled holiday ive actually been on, there was never a moment where I felt like my style was being cramped or I had cabin fever. Being on the water and waking up to beyond perfect surroundings will make this holiday a trip of a lifetime. I promise!

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For more info about Sail Croatia you can go to their website –

www.sail-croatia.com

 

Happy travels!!! 🙂 

 

Barcelona, España

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If you have never done a city break in Europe before then let me enlighten you on what to expect when you only have three days to normally A. try to pack as much in as possible and B. get to the destination as quick as you can without any unexpected delays.  This was my second time to this wonderful and city and also a chance for me to catch up with my Mum and her partner before they embarked on their Mediterranean cruise which was leaving from the port in Barcelona.  

I took the 8pm flight straight after work and it probably wasn’t the best idea after a manic day at work and then accidentally catching the slower train to Gatwick – fail!! Unfortunately it didn’t end there with being sat on the plane for over and hour while paramedics were called for a unwell woman. I really couldn’t be mad but you know what its like when you just want to get somewhere quick smart and you feel like everything is just going at snail’s pace – not so great when you have little patience for anything. 

Anyway… I did arrive in one piece and once off the plane I could feel the humidity in the air so it didn’t take me long to be back in my happy place again. 

 

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Friday morning we were up early digging into some traditional Euro breakfast or better known as meat, cheese and bread. I would never normally eat anything like this before 9am but when you are visiting these countries you have to appreciate and enjoy what is on offer and im big on embracing the culture and trying new things. We weren’t so lucky with the weather – typical rain but still fairly mild. Our first stop was visiting Parc Guell, inspired and designed by the Flamboyant Antoni Gaudi and commissioned by Eusebi Güell.  Situated in Barcelona’s Càrmel district, a rugged area, with steep slopes that Gaudí negotiated with a system of viaducts integrated into the terrain.  I wouldn’t class myself as being unfit but walking up that steep street almost left me out of breath so im pretty thankful I was wearing some decent shoes and the fact that they had many escalators in place to make the journey to the top a lot less painful. The Parc itself is huge with windy footpaths leading in all directions, lush garden landscape and stunning views over looking the entire city. Worth it for the climb!

 

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After all that walking we had worked up an appetite so headed over to La Rambla way to Placa Reial a quaint quarter just off the famous street.  We ate at a restaurant called Ambos Mundos which seemed to be the busiest out of the other surrounding places. I was dying to try some traditional Valencian Paella – a rice and seafood dish originating from the 19th Century and ever so popular with the tourists. Teamed up with a nice drop of spanish white wine and watching the world go by, I think I of could have easily sat there all afternoon. In fact I was ready for that siesta by the time we had left, its interesting how the Spaniards have incorporated this into their everyday life and why it hasn’t really adapted anywhere else in the world.  While writing this, I conveniently stumbled across this article so thought I would share  some light reading with you.

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/uk-companies-should-embrace-siesta-culture-says-top-neuroscientist-1451542

 

 

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Being the organiser I am in both my work and social life I had planned out an evening of dinner at Tapa Tapa, followed by a cocktail at the eclipse bar in the W Hotel and then hoping to catch a late night glimpse of the Magic Fountain.

Dinner I have to say was rather average – the staff were unhelpful and the service… well there was none to put it lightly. Luckily the food made up for it! The potatoes braves is always a favourite of mine and the Pebrots del Padro (deep-fried green peppers) always gets me every time. Of course I had to have a jug of fruity sangria – it would just be rude not too. After all this a short stroll was needed so we headed over to the Port area and hailed a cab up to the hotel. It’s at least 3km’s so unless you are willing and capable of walking it then just catch a taxi – it’s far quicker. The Hotel is remarkably beautiful and also one that caused quite a stir with city planning who originally objected against it being built. Once inside and out of the lift to the very top, you can hear the funky house beats coming from the bar and breathtaking views over the ocean and the entire city. Eclipse bar in London used to be a local haunt of mine a few years ago so I was very keen to check it out and I must say it’s definitely something that needs to be done if you are thinking of visiting.

The Magic Fountain is exactly what it says it is – magical!!! Now make sure that you check the times of this water performance as they only run for certain times of the year and always at night from 9.30pm. The fountain itself changes colour and even has classical opera music making it somewhat dramatic and mesmerizing at the same time if that makes any sense?! Definitely a crowd pleaser and reminded me a little of the Trevi fountain in Rome at night. A must to see – you wont believe your eyes how amazing it really is.

 

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Saturday I woke up to sun beaming through the curtains which put me in a very good mood and I was ready to leap out of bed and enjoy it as soon as possible. Today we planned to visit the spectacular Sagradia Familia – another impressive design from Antoni Gaudi. I recommend you book online and choose a set time as this place is rammed with tourists all day, every day and I don’t particularly fancy waiting in a cue the length of a football field when I only have limited time in such a place.

I noticed that there were dozens of Cranes hanging off the arches of the grand building and I would be right to say that the Roman Catholic Church has never been finished and has been an ongoing project after Gaudi passed away for many years. If I had to use one word to describe it I would have to say ‘Magnificent’.  I loved the stain glass windows with the mix of all the rainbows colours. He certainly is a very clever man.

Some technical info on the interior of the church –

The church plan is that of a Latin cross with five aisles. The central nave vaults reach forty-five metres (150 ft) while the side nave vaults reach thirty metres (100 ft). The transept has three aisles. The columns are on a 7.5 metre (25 ft) grid. However, the columns of the apse, resting on del Villar’s foundation, do not adhere to the grid, requiring a section of columns of the ambulatory to transition to the grid thus creating a horseshoe pattern to the layout of those columns. The crossing rests on the four central columns of porphyry supporting a great hyperboloid surrounded by two rings of twelve hyperboloids (currently under construction). The central vault reaches sixty metres (200 ft). The apse is capped by a hyperboloid vault reaching seventy-five metres (250 ft). Gaudí intended that a visitor standing at the main entrance be able to see the vaults of the nave, crossing, and apse; thus the graduated increase in vault loft.  (supplied by wikipedia.org)

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After an hour in the church and far to many tourists with their clicking cameras, I was ready to vacate the premises and head to the beach for some well overdue sunshine.  A little stop off on the way to grab some delicious gelato – mint chocolate which by the way was just as good as the stuff in Italy. The beaches were flocked with plenty of people sun-baking, drinking sangria in the local bars, biking along the footpaths and even a game of what looked like intense dominos with a group of elder men. If you love people watching – this is the place to be but please make sure you are watching your bag at all times because it’s also known to be the highest pick pocketing place in the world and no one needs their holiday ruined in that way.

 

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Back on the subject of La Ramblas, this 1.2km treelined street located in central Barca, is constantly buzzing with loads of people and I believe, has one of the best food markets in Europe. For a person like me who adores food so much, its absolute heaven but even if you aren’t into food that much, you definitely need to check it out just to view all the amazing stalls of colours and the variety that it has to offer. The experience in itself is interesting enough but I must warn you though, its extremely busy so if you want to avoid the crowds then get there as early as possible.  I have to admit after about 20 minutes, the blood pressure was starting to rise. Time to move on. 

 

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There were a number of other activities I would have liked to have done but with limited time it was unfortunate that I couldn’t see everything. Bearing in mind that this is my second time to this wonderful city, I had already seen so much from my previous visit including a wonderful day out to a few wineries for some tasting of the local wine and cava – one I would recommend which you can book through Viator. 

My local friend did provide me with a couple of tips that I am happy to share with you –

 

Cal Pep restaurant – for traditional spanish food.

Tibidabo – if your thirsty.

Encants – if you love a good market.

If you are planning on coming for more than a few days then I suggest you purchase a T-10 card. This can be used on the Metro, buses and trams and is a bargain at €12. I much prefer to walk however the metros are clean and safe, very easy to follow and always run frequently and on time.

 

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I had a fantastic couple of days in this ever so liveable and relaxed city. I have never had an issue with the language barrier although sometimes I wish it would be nice to just roll some spanish off the tongue. As much as I would have liked to have stayed an extra day especially to be with my mum, I felt fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity on this occasion to meet up and spend some time with her, especially in such a cool part of the world.

I will definitely be back again, perhaps to experience one of their many festivals they host, maybe Sonar, maybe Primavera but it goes without saying that this is still one of my favourite destinations in Europe to visit and like I said can be done in one busy, crammed weekend!

 

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Happy and safe travels,

My Swiss adventure 25.04.14

 

Before you read on I must warn you that this post will contain photography that might make you just a tad bit jealous ………..  🙂

I certainly got very lucky having the opportunity to visit a small part of this beautiful country with my ‘local’ friend to show me her heritage. Having someone to share with you the knowledge and background of the areas you were about to visit was an added bonus and something I was definitely not complaining about. 

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Switzerland and has always been on my top list of countries to visit, so I was most excited when my lovely friend Fabienne kindly asked me to join her to visit her home town of Goldau Arth and Zurich or Züri.  The city itself is home to a large number of financial institutions and big banking names that you probably know all too well. According to resources it is known as one of the wealthiest cities in Europe so what does this mean as a tourist? Well I think you know what im going to say next then. Do not be shocked about how expensive everything is……. eg. a coffee from Starbucks will cost you around 5 Swiss Francs.

Now don’t be put off by the hefty price tags because I tell you, this fantastic city and extraordinary countryside has alot to offer in return.

My first day started with some tasty homemade Swiss brunch courtesy of Fab’s lovely mum. We caught the train to Goldau Arth which is approximately 30 minutes from the central station. The first thing that caught my eye was all the yummy breads in the basket on the table. My tummy usually can’t handle many types of wheat but fortunately for me the quality of the ingredients used over there really made a huge difference. I also enjoyed some delicious yogurt, apple and banana type bircher muesli with a selection of gorgeous cheeses and different meats. A good breakfast is always a great way to start the day when you are on the go and when im in Europe I make the conscious effort to dig into all the food they have to offer.

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We had to catch a train up to Mount Rigi which was my next destination. My very first time going on a train up a steep mountain and no I wasnt freaked out by this at all in fact I reckon the big kid in me came out and I couldn’t wait to jump on. All aboard!

Unfortunately with my horrible weather curse that everyone believes I have, meant that I didn’t have much a view by the time we reached the 1700 metre point. In fact I don’t believe ive ever been ‘in the clouds’ before, it was such a bizarre sight but the crisp mountain air was so refreshing I had to stay up there for a good 15 minutes to breathe it all in. I don’t think many of you can say that you have been stuck in a cloud before. So basically the outcome was that I could not see a thing but was assured that the views on a nice clear day are unbeatable looking out to the lake. I guess I was just forced to use my imagination this time around….

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tree swiss

Once we were back on a horizontal land I was told that our next stop would be over to Lucerne about 40 minutes by boat across Lake Strattersee. This Swiss-catholic town with a population of only 76,000 is a favourite among tourists afar and known for its famous chapel bridge which dates back to the 14th century. A pleasant walk around the lake was just gorgeous, the water so clear, still and noticeably very clean. I was really taken back by the stunning buildings, in fact very quaint would be a nice way to describe it.  Boutique cafes and restaurants lined up, row by row along the cobblestone streets with a lovely outlook of the waterfront.  There were also plenty of fresh fruit/veggie markets so I can assure you of this, you will not go hungry. While we were there they had a milk festival going on which I really have no idea what it was all about but was assured I was not missing out on too much. I did quite like the sound of live music coming from the facility – I always find this puts people in a pleasant mood while they are strolling around.  We had a pit stop at one of the many cafes and I wanted to try a Swiss beer, something I always like to do when im in Europe. The beers are always far too easy to drink and I apologise because I cannot for the life or me remember the name of it however I do know that it is renowned as the best beer to drink in Switzerland so just casually mention this to the waiter and hopefully someone will point you in the right direction.

me at lake

swiss lakes

On the saturday night, dinner and drinks had been arranged so I was ready to experience how the Swiss really like to entertain and party.  I was told that the restaurant we were heading to (called Schutzengasse) was very popular with the locals so I was uber excited in anticipation to try out what sort of menu they had to offer.  I must say this has to be the most wacky and crazy dinner ive probably ever encountered in my life. The owner was hilariously erratic, running around all over the place trying to cram everyone in to the small but intimate restaurant. As soon as I opened the menu I had a giggle (as you can see below in the picture) and I knew that this place was no ordinary place to dine. After about a thousand wines and having endless bottles of champagne bought to our table we finally got our food two hours later. I went traditional as I was advised to order the Zuri Gschnatzlets which was consisted of meat, potatoes, mushrooms and cream. Not food I would generally go for but I needed to embrace the culture and I was pretty impressed with the fact that it wasnt at all as heavy as it looked.  

By the time I had finished my meal the rowdy table of about 20 behind us had started dancing on the table for some light entertainment for all. Totally standard behaviour in a restaurant and with the music blasting, the lights dimmed, over the top kooky atmosphere, I couldn’t believe where the past four hours had gone.   After all these shenanigans we left to hit the town for a dance and what not. I am a huge fan of house and if you do appreciate good music and a dance then Zürich may be the place if you fancy hitting the clubs. We managed to get into a club called Hive which was heaving with an hour-long queue. I was most delighted at the fact that they were playing minimal house however at 3am I had to call it a night. If there is one thing I have learned when you are away on a sightseeing trip, is that you just cannot stay out until the break of dawn (unless you have the stamina to do so). There is nothing worse than traipsing around town with a nasty hangover, sore feet and feeling sorry for yourself. There is no time for that when you are trying to cram everything into a few days 🙂

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Sunday was my day to check out the sights of the city and the weather really turned it on with some brisk showers and grey skies. This did not stop me. The streets were spotless and the annual street parade had already started in full swing; I couldn’t help but notice all the children looking mega cute in their outfits. We got the chance for the first time ever to go up and check out Mr Boog. A snowman which is lite on fire and then everyone waits eagerly for it to explode. Im told that the quicker this happens the better the summer is going to be.

After all the walking around I had worked up my usual appetite so I treated myself to one of the best sausages ive ever tasted aka Bratwurst at Sternen Grill (a local favourite) followed by some spectacular cakes at the well-known Peclard Cafe. Both places were well worth the wait to get a table. 

swiss trip

For brunch on the Monday I was feeling rather naughty and needed to have a sugar fix. Yes I know, like it wasnt enough that I had been eating chocolate everyday all ready but I couldnt say no to the famous Sprungli Cafe could I. Known for their mouth-watering cakes and the best macoroons you will try I will also suggest the hot chocolates they have there are just to die for!!! Chocoholics beware – you may be left feeling  I might I say that you make a point of visiting the place. They are all over Zürich and if do you happen to miss out there is always the airport for extra precautionary.

About mid afternoon the annual Sechseläuten parade kicked off and the streets were buzzing with people dressed in traditional Swiss gear and thousands open thousands of flowers. I don’t think I have ever seen so many before but im told that the women have to buy these and give to the men who they may know walking in the parade. I did find this rather odd seeing men with bunches of roses but it was also quite sweet in a way and I loved just how it seemed to bring the community together. Everyone seemed so happy – a rare sight these days. I also found it rather amusing that they throw apples and bread into the crowds lining the streets and then watching them all having a good old munch. Hilarious.

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Finally we finished up at Rosaly’s which was a secluded bar in a back street just off the main road. Apparently this is where all the cool kids go for a couple of drinks and then continue the party on elsewhere. The weather had not improved and I was trying to shade myself from the rain drops for about 3 hours. Never the less after a few glasses of bubbles that was the least of my worries. I know they say the Swiss are known to be rude or ignorant but I have to say the people I came across were welcoming and all spoke fantastic english.

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To sum it all up I really had an enjoyable experience. Yes the weather was slightly miserable however I wasnt in Spain so I didn’t expect it to be blue skies and 30 degree temperature. I’ve only really seen a small part of what this beautiful country has to offer so im thinking a trip back in the summer time and maybe a weekend skiing trip may be on the cards.  All I know is that it definitely lived up to its reputation.

 

Happy travels,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of Johann Sebastian Bach at St Paul’s Cathedral, London

Having lived in London for nearly three years, this was my very first visit to this grand masterpiece and yes, you are probably wondering why it has taken me this long but better late than never I say! My first impressions of this magnificent building was the striking architecture and how big it actually really was. I took a walk around so I could get a photo from every angle. The dome itself framed by the spires of Wrens city churches, has dominated the London skyline for 300 years and is one of the highest in the world. Known as the most famous and recognisable sights around this town, at 365 feet it was one of the tallest buildings from 1710 to 1962.

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I had been invited to St John Parish worship – Johann Sebastian Bach. This consisted of the Cathedral choir and chorus with the Mozart Players, all sung in German and narrating the events leading to the Crucifixion of Christ.
The interior, well what can I say… dramatic would certainly be one word to describe it. I have to admit I am not religious nor do I go to church but being in the presence of this amazing place and listening to the hollowing sounds of the choir was somewhat hypnotic. Growing up as a child I was always into classical music – being in an orchestra, involved in school choirs and listening to my Mum’s Vanessa Mae CD’s (no judging please!)

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If you happen to be in London or visiting and you haven’t had the chance to check out this wonderful cathedral, then I do recommend you take the time, even if it’s just to view the exterior and facade of the building.

I will share one little tip with you. If you happen to be out and about sightseeing and get lucky with some lovely sunny weather, head up to Madison roof top bar which is only a 5 minute walk around the corner. From here you will not only have the most amazing views of the Cathedral but most of this incredible city. I can very much guarantee you will not be disappointed.

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For more information –

www.stpauls.co.uk

My blissful skiing trip to the Austrian Alps!

Steph and lucy

On the 27th March 2014 I travelled to a lovely destination called Kitzbuhel with some friends. A ski resort town in Austria with a population of about 8000, my first thoughts were how beautiful and quaint it was. We had arrived at the end of the ski season so it was also very quiet which was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of London. This photo is taken in the centre of town, not far from their casino.

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Lots of pretty coloured buildings lined the cobblestone streets, filled with plenty of high-end market shops which I only dared to peak in the windows of! Kitzbuhel is known for its wealth (without the pretentious vibe) so I was not surprised to see plenty of luxury cars cruising around.

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At lunchtime I decided to treat myself with a glass of bubbles – why not when you are 1800 metres up in the middle of no where! The views were absolutely breathtaking. There is something about being up in the mountain air that brings you clarity and makes you feel so good. Cheers!

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We spent two days on the slopes. The weather had been very good to us with fresh powder and beautiful blue skies of about 18 degrees – absolutely picturesque. Our first day we had an all day lesson with a young swedish instructor. Lets just say we aren’t the best skiers in the world nor did we have the confidence, so the poor guy was probably left somewhat scared with our ranting and complaining about falling off the edge of the cliff all day!!! Besides all this we really did have a great time regardless of our skiing ability!!

House that Hitler stayed in

This picture I had to take and share. The exquisite building which dates back to 1903, is now a hotel and spa resort called the Grand Hotel.

Dessert edit blog

We dined at many fabulous restaurants in Kitzubel. This was the dessert from a restaurant at Hotel Zur Tenne called the slice of piemontese and hazelnut. Absolutely divine!! My favourite menu item is always dessert and this certainly impressed my taste buds. A very snazzy and sophisticated restaurant with fantastic food, which is always the way to go after a hard day on the slopes. After all we deserve it 🙂

Austria photo blog

If you are looking at organising a skiing trip for next season, I seriously recommend you consider this charming little town or just Austria in general. Even if you are not a seasoned skier there are many activities to consider with 120km of biking paths and 500km of hiking tracks.

Highly underrated, its lush country side and friendly people will definitely make it worth your visit.

Happy travels,

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