Spontaneous Stockholm

Nothing beats a spontaneous trip away, especially not one with great company. All you need is £50 return flights and some enthusiastic friends. After a 3 week trip home to NZ, this is exactly the sort of thing that gets booked when you’re deliriously jet lagged.

As it turns out, there was a catch with the flights that cheap, as they were actually flying into an airport that was a 1.5 hour bus ride from Stockholm. Not the most ideal situation when you arrive at 12.30am. Oh well. We made it to bed eventually, and rallied the next day to make the most of our trip.

After a delicious hotel breakfast, which obviously included meatballs, we braced ourselves for the sun and sub zero temperatures to explore the city. First up was the Vasa museum, built around the remains of a ship built in the 1600s, which sunk within the first few hundred metres of its maiden voyage, still in Stockholm harbour. The ship was brought to the surface almost 60 years ago, and places where it is today. It was refurbished and is now a world famous museum. The ship is definitely spectacular.

After the museum, it was time for some Fika, also known as coffee and cake, before we joined a walking tour. The tour took us all through the old town and by the royal palace and parliament and was very informative, although also very cold. There was lots of ice about in the cobbled streets of old town which required concentration to dodge and not slip on.

After warming up with some more fika, it was time for the most anticipated part of the trip, the ABBA museum! Despite the crowds, it was a great interactive experience which saw us singing and dancing to ABBA’s greatest hits. Steph was absolutely in ABBA heaven.

It was now getting dark and we’d had a full on day. Queue Meatballs for the people! Dinner was delicious, with some of the best mashed potato you’ve ever had. I genuinely could have eaten another full serving, but as Sweden isn’t the most budget friendly of European getaway destinations, it was time for bed after a full on day.

The next morning was slow and chilled. After a sleep in and breakfast, we made our back to the airport and then home to London.

Advertisements

Belgium

Belgium, land of waffles, frites, beer and chocolate. My friend Steph and I decided to take a weekend trip to explore Brussels and Bruges. What better way to get to Europe than on the train from central London, with M&S picnic on hand?

After the train and some interesting Uber experiences, we finally made it to our Brussels hotel. Saturday we were up and off to explore the city. Our first mission was to find the pissing boy, pissing girl and pissing dog. The pissing boy is very famous and in a main tourist area. The pissing girl however, is hidden off down some back alley. Not sure I’m entirely impressed with this comparison, for obvious reasons. The pissing dog was out next stop, and we managed to find some very cool street art on the way. We then checked out the main square before making a bee line for some Belgium beer and frites. Everyone warns you about the strength of the beer, and they are not kidding. Two small beers had us giggling and carrying on as we made our way to the train to Bruges. I believe the beer was also responsible for accidentally ending up in first class on the train, and the naps we both had enroute.

After arriving in Bruges and checking into our less then impressive hotel, we made our way out to a traditional Belgium restaurant, for Steph’s Birthday dinner. I have to say I am definitely a fan of Flemish stew, and definitely a fan of the restaurant for the surprise birthday waffle and for taking our drinks off the bill. Such a lovely gesture!

The next day and a half we enjoyed ourselves exploring Bruges, eating chocolate, frites and waffles, and drinking beer. We even went to the chocolate and frite museums respectively. Bruges is a very beautiful and quaint place, but it actually has quite an interesting and sad history which has led to it looking the way it does today.

After a lovely weekend it was time to head home to London, but not before hunting down Brussels smurf statue before jumping on the Eurostar back to London.

Bratislava

Bratislava is a place I’ve wanted to visit for some time, but it’s somewhere that has taken me a while to get to. It has held a special place in my heart for a while now for reasons I don’t want to share here, but I am very grateful to have finally visited.

Lucky for my friend Maya and I, I have a kiwi friend Adie, who is currently living in Bratislava. Adie offered to meet us on our first morning to introduce us to some of his local friends, Sasha and Martina, and show us the sights. This was a better offer than we could of hoped for, and made for a brilliant day.

After meeting at the markets having just had breakfast, we were immediately plied with food including traditional potato pancakes with goose fat and Slovak strudel with cherry and poppy seeds. We also tasted some Slovák wines and sat down and shared some wine and cheese at 11am! I can’t say I was a fan of the pancakes but the strudel, wine and cheese were all delicious. Next we were off to explore the city including the famous blue church, the castle and various other places along the way. Lucky for us, we got a sprinkling of snow much to our delight, although not enough to settle.

After several hours of wandering the city and sight seeing, we finally sat down for some food. Not that we were hungry again yet! I enjoyed some local beer, tradition Sauerkraut and pork sausage soup and also shared some potato dumplings with sheeps cheese and bacon. Next up we all shared some Slovák spirits in Pear, cherry and plum which were very strong. After a final coffee and cake with Adie and our new friends, we went our separate ways.

Having a friendly face and some fantastically fun locals to show us around for a day was a lot of fun and very informative. Absolutely an experiment O want to repeat and hopefully a favour I can return.

The rest of our evening was simply relaxing and having some dinner before an early-ish night.

On Sunday Maya and I were hoping to wake up to some snow, but all we got was a very little bit. Oh well. First on the agenda after breakfast was Devin Castle a little out of Bratislava, which looked like a great set of ruins from the outside but were unfortunately closed. We did manage to climb onto the icey roof of an abandoned building for a bit of a view and also got some sort of attempt at snow. After Devin Castle we made our way to the Slavin Monument, built in memory of the Soviet soldiers who lost their lives in WW2. As the monument was right up on a hill, it was all covered in snow and still snowing quite nicely when we arrived.

After exploring the monument we made our way back to the old town for some warm tea and a healthy lunch, and some time to relax. This then left time for one more item to be ticked off the list, climbing the tower inside St Michaels gate. This is the only surviving city gate of the old city as the rest were knocked down to allow the city to expand. The view looked out over old town and the castle, but also showed off the varied architecture of Bratislava. It is a very strange mix of historic, communistic and modern, all jumbled in together.

After the tower we were off to airport for our delayed flight home.

Kiwi Christmas in Vienna

For Christmas this year I decided to head off to Vienna with a group of friends for a kiwi orphans Christmas. Vienna turned out to be an absolute treat at Christmas time. It was freezing cold, no snow unfortunately but we did get some sun. What was even more special, was enjoying the beautiful city while hopping between Christmas markets. I particularly enjoyed the beautiful Hapsburg palaces and stunning architecture of the city. This was more or less how we spent our time, exploring the city and Christmas markets.

Christmas Day we started with a Christmas breakfast at our AirBnB, compete with secret Santa presents. Once that was done and dusted, we headed out for what was intended to be a few drinks, but ended up being the 12 pubs of Christmas, Vienna edition! Pretty unique but also fun way to spend the day and pub number 12 provided us with an unusual Christmas dinner complete with schnitzel!

On the 26th all we really accomplished was finding food and climbing a disappointing church tower before our flight home.

Hooooome to Kiwiland

In November I had a pleasure of traveling home for the first time in 18 months. This was to attend the wedding of very good friends, as well as to catch up with family and friends.

Nothing beats quality time in little old New Zealand with those you care about most. Home for me in New Zealand is a combination of Auckland where I grew up and went to school and uni and worked, and the Bay of Plenty where I spent all my school holidays with my extended family, and where my parents and majority of all family still live. I shared my time between both on my trip, and was sure to get out and experience NZ’s best while I was there.

And with that, I share a snippet of my trip through pictures.