Parisian Lunch Rendezvous

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The first time I went to Paris was in 2012. I remember feeling content at the end of the few days that I didn’t really feel compelled to return to the city again. Despite being one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful places I’ve even seen, I just didn’t get the magic of it at the time. In hindsight, this was probably because I had a nasty sinus infection, it was the third stop in a month-long trip, I was tired and it was January so absolutely poured with rain the entire time. Fun, right?!

Serendipitously, I’ve found myself drawn back to Paris no less than four times in the past two years. Most recently, to make like Carrie Bradshaw and pop over for lunch with a couple of the girls.

There’s really not much else to say, other than I get it now. I mean – when you find yourself drinking champagne, watching the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower, it’d be hard not to.

Paris, je t’aime.

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Ich bin ein Berliner: Autumn in Berlin

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There’s some cities that I’ve been to which have been purely and utterly love at first sight: New York City, Venice and London, obviously. Berlin was not one of them.

My love for Berlin has been more of a slow burn. There’s something cold and quiet about the city that makes it feel, on the surface, unwelcoming and a bit disinterested. It’s not crowded and its best bits are decidedly hidden – but as you come to learn,  part of Berlin’s charm is having you discover them on your own.

It goes without saying, but Berlin’s obviously seen some dark days. The history in the city is overwhelming and totally humbling. This most recent trip in late November marked my fourth trip to the city and I can honestly say that every single time I’ve been, I’ve learned something completely new. I don’t think anything I’ve seen in my travels has really had the same impact as when I first stood at the Berlin wall – I mean, they just put up a WALL. It’s crazy.

Aside from all this though, Berlin has so much to offer in terms of shopping, design, food and some of the best coffee you’ll find outside Melbourne. Having now travelled a bit more around the rest of Germany, there’s really nowhere else like it. It’s affordable, quirky and ultimately, such a rewarding place to spend some time.

Until next time, Berlin.

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24 hours in Prague

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A couple of weeks ago, in a bout of restlessness on a lonely Saturday night, I booked an impromptu trip to Prague. I’d heard nothing but great things about the city and was excited to start exploring more of Europe (this is the furthest East I’ve ventured so far) so it seemed like a good time to start.

I only had a short time in the city (29 hours, to be exact) but really didn’t feel rushed at all. Prague’s relatively small and very walkable. Aside from this practicality, there’s something inherently mysterious about its winding streets which make them a joy to get a bit lost in – even if only briefly.

Here’s a glimpse of what I got up to in my 24 hours in Prague…

DAY 1:

My flight at 7:20am on a Saturday morning seemed like an excellent idea at the time of booking but on travel day, pre-caffeine, progressively grew in its silliness. Regardless, I was happy to be out on the streets of Prague by 11am that same day having woken in London that morning and had soon forgotten all about the early start.

 

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After getting my bearings from the hostel, my first stop was to source lunch. I made a beeline for a vegetarian place called Lehka Hlava which I’d read about on World of Wanderlust and wasn’t disappointed by its cosy and intimate atmosphere.

I then followed the meandering streets towards Old Town, stopping all too frequently to admire the beautiful cobblestone laneways along the way.

 

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I met my tour group for a Sandemans free walking tour around 2pm and we spent the next three hours exploring Old Town. Our tour guide, despite his penchant for bad jokes and semi-relevant pop culture references, was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. As we walked through the streets, discovering everything from medieval rebellion to WWII, to beer and how the Rolling Stones are to thank for the lighting of Prague Castle, I was so humbled by the depth of Prague’s history and, by extension, how little I knew of it.

 

DAY TWO:

Day two’s brevity meant an early-ish start was in order to maximise the day’s exploring. I started by twice taking the 22 tram in the wrong direction (…yep) before abandoning the idea of public transport and setting off towards Charles Bridge, one of the oldest in Europe, on foot.

I can quite honestly say that Prague’s beauty really took my breath away. As one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, it’s beauty is different to that of Paris but equally as stunning, if not slightly more unassuming and hidden.

 

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I ignored advice about getting to Charles Bridge for sunrise and now wish I hadn’t. The sun had started to peek out from the clouds by the time I arrived but the crowds remained. Lesson learned.

Making my way over the bridge, stopping for the obligatory selfies and moments to enjoy the music from buskers along the way, the Lennon wall was next on the list. The wall is hidden amongst some laneways and blissfully peaceful compared to the chaos of Charles Bridge which leads you there. Despite some tagging here and there, Prague’s street art was decidedly concentrated compared to the ubiquity you find in Berlin, for example. The wall was colourful and happy, another busker playing Here Comes the Sun providing an optimistic soundtrack to the experience.

 

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Feeling positive and relaxed, I went for a wander – how nice it was to walk at a leisurely pace, compared to the purposeful strut you inevitably adopt on the crowded streets of London.

 

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Soon enough though, some food was in order. I headed to Café Savoy which was near by and Wallpaper Guide recommended. The interiors were unexpected from the outside and made the 20 minute wait for a table quite picturesque.

I opted for the French breakfast platter which I struggled to finish – the fresh bread and pastries, beautiful cheese and ham were absolutely scrumptious and just what the doctor ordered. The star of the show, however, was their signature Café au lait – coffee with milk, cinnamon and a dusting of chocolate. Incredible and not to be missed!

 

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Approaching my departure, I headed back to collect my things with one final stop to buy some chocolate (obviously) before heading to the airport to return to London Life. I didn’t get a chance to do everything on my Prague bucket list but I kind of think it’s nice to have left things unfinished – I’ve left the door open for a repeat visit.

Prague – I’ll be back.

 

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STAY: I opted for hostel life this trip. I stayed at Sophie’s Hostel which was centrally located, inviting and recommended to me by some friends. It was a rather poshtel but be warned – the walls are thin and you may be woken by the stag do’s returning from their escapades in the very early hours of the morning.

EXPLORE: As I had limited time, I did a heap of research before I headed over to really focus on the highlights. The most helpful things I found were trusted sources Lonely Planet and Wallpaper Guide.  Hats off to Lonely Planet for budget recommendations – I spent exactly the amount of koruna I’d withdrawn #winning.

EAT: It’s very difficult to sort the good food from the average so research is vital. In addition to Lehka Hlava and Café Savoy mentioned here, I’ve also heard good things about Café de ParisKolonial & Prazirna which are all on my list for next time.

SHOP: I didn’t do much shopping but highly recommend Cokalada, this tiny little hidden place here for chocolate from all over the world. YUM.

Cold, dark and feeling positive: surviving my first London winter

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No one can say I wasn’t warned.

What seemed like mere moments after the official end of ‘summer’, the sage warnings about how miserable and lonely London becomes post Christmas and New Year’s started flooding in. It’s dark, cold and wet, they said, with no more Christmas parties and no one will want to do anything fun because they will be broke (or should i say ‘skint’) and doing dry January. The list seemed a little bit endless and, quite frankly, a little over dramatic. And don’t get me started on Blue Monday.

But what can I say: they weren’t entirely wrong.

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Why the Helsinki not?

I’ve made no secret of my plans to live my European life to the fullest whilst I am here – a key part of that being frequent trips to ‘The Continent’. But where to start? When travel is so inexpensive and quick, how does one possibly choose where to begin?

Following my first weekend in Paris, I then proceeded to make a list and from there, practically picked at random. My first solo stop, (in a slight homage to my hometown of Melbourne) – Helsinki, Finland.

My knowledge of Helsinki was limited to fun anecdotes from a close friend whom had studied there, comparisons to my time in Denmark and Architecture in Helsinki (there’s the connection to Melbourne, in case you missed it). So I bought a book and studied up on the plane trip over to the land of Santa Clause and Marimekko.

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