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Riga – Stop 2 of the Baltic Trio

March 16, 2015 1 comment

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The Top Line: Yes, I am super-bummed that I couldn’t badge it, but even so, Riga is an old, beautiful city where you can really live like a local so take advantage.

We landed a bit late on a Friday night, so just got a bus to our cute airbnb apartment. Our hosts gave us some good recommendations, but it was beginning to look like we wouldn’t be able to grab anything to eat since it was 11pm. Until we mentioned that we’d read about Folkssklub and they realized that must still be open! So we headed there for a quick bite and got so much more. Though the larger area was super crowded and live music was ongoing, we, being the Olds we are, looked for and found seats in a smaller back room. In this back room, there were competing forces – the Youngs singing merrily around a piano, versus the Olds, at a table with a couple of guitars, who sprang into action when the Youngs went out for a smoke. We seemed to be the only non-natives there and it was just so much fun to watch everyone there having so much fun. We were really glad we immediately immersed ourselves that night so we could experience it!

Saturday

The next day, we headed to the Kalnciena Street Quarter Fair. We did get a little lost on the bus, but eventually made it. The market had not only Latvian vendors, Read more…

Categories: London, Natasha, Travel bug Tags: , ,

citizen*N* says

June 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Earlier this month, Sarah and I pretended we were livin’ the dream and were travel bloggers. Thanks to the Tumi Golden Ticket competition I’d been trying to win, I found out about a new branch of the trendy boutique hotel citizenM opening in Paris, and they were offering free nights to ‘test sleep’ at their newest hotel in exchange for feedback. Sounded good to me!

The Top Line: If you’re looking for a hotel in the CDG airport area for a good price, citizenM is a great option with its cute, creative and modern set-up and very friendly staff.

Here were our top ‘liments and ‘laints: Read more…

A Glacial Adventure

June 12, 2014 1 comment

This guy’s gonna be a long one because I want my oldie self to be able to remember as much of this as possible, so let me give you the bottom line first (hey. I am an accountant after all, okay) – aka

The Top Line: You should go to Norway. And climb a glacier. Asap. (PS Don’t forget to drink glacier water and eat whale and/or reindeer while you’re there.)

I mean, look where we got!!!

I mean, look at this!!!

As previously documented, although I don’t purport to love outdoor activities, I do participate because James loves them, and I end up liking them in the end anyway. I guess I just like to whine 🙂

James had been talking about wanting to camp wild in Norway last summer when we struggled to find places you’re allowed to do it in England, so I decided that it would be a pretty cool birthday present. One of the hardest parts of planning this trip was probably keeping it a secret until March 13! I gave him a map to figure it out because we’re fun like that 🙂

Anyway, a few Fridays ago, it was finally time to set off. It was nice to be able to fly out at 8:45pm because it meant I could still work a full day, which was good since it’s been a bit crazy over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, when I booked the trip, James hadn’t even applied for the Cambridge job yet, so Gatwick wasn’t the most convenient airport for him to leave from, so he had to take the day off so that he could make it down to London and then Gatwick in time (in a relaxed manner). At work, we ended up getting an email from HR saying we could leave at 3:30 if our work permitted, and miraculously, mine did, so I headed off to meet James at a sports shop so I could pick up some appropriate shoes (unlike other hiking or climbing expeditions) for our weekend adventures. I ended up choosing some pretty quickly because they would serve the purpose, they fit and they were only £20. Thanks, Sports Direct. Had to get the hiking socks to go with, of course, though I didn’t know it was an ‘of course’ until I tried to wear the shoes ‘a short distance’ from my apartment to the train station (a 10 minute walk) with just short socks and ended up with a rubbed raw part on my ankle from a shoelace hole. Lesson learned.

We got to the airport and James shrink-wrapped his brand spanking new Osprey backpack to protect it from the trauma of international travel in the bulkhead. We had time to sit for a bit before boarding, so I gave Mummy (who was conducting google image search research on Jostedal(pronounced: Yosstehdahl)) a call to brief her again on our planned locations and activities. Then we had on-board wifi. Sweet.

With the one hour time change, we landed at midnight and just went straight to bed at the Clarion hotel airport so that we could get our rental car bright and early.

Bergen

In the morning, we headed to Hertz to pick up our rental car. I don’t rent cars often (actually, I’m not sure if I ever have. I think I somehow always weasel my way out of the actual booking part because I get worried about which extras cover what.), so I was a bit shocked to find out that we had to pay 300 NOK because we had booked the car for 8am, i.e. ‘out of hours’ instead of 9am. So that was annoying. But after that, the car was good (upgraded from a VW to some Volvo) and the GPS worked, so no complaints. We headed to Bergen, but since it was a bit early, not many places were open for breakfast/brunch and we needed to grab a bite and head off so we could make it to Flåm in time. We headed to the Fisketorget on the harbour and surveyed both sides of the row to see what the vendors had on offer—smoked salmon on a bagel; salmon tartare marinated in herbs and spices on a bagel; whale on a bagel…plus fresh fish and eel and giant shrimp everywhere. (Our choices, for brunch and the rest, get their very own post elsewhere.) Not to mention the landscape. So beautiful! Mountains! Water! Blue skies and fluffy clouds!

We took a quick spin around the monthly market that happened to be up that day as well — most notably, I got a giant pancake as big as my giant face and we picked up some reindeer meat for our camping sandwiches — and then we were on our way!

Read more…

Venturing to the Near East

March 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Last year, on our flight to Vienna, Sarah and I made a napkin list on our flight of all the places we still wanted to visit, especially because we hadn’t really done all that much traveling in 2013. I actually don’t remember if Tallinn made it onto that list, but whatever circumstances led us to book Tallinn, I’m grateful for!

Sidenote: If you’re on an easyJet flight with a flight number that starts with 8, your flight will leave from the North terminal and if it starts with 5, your flight will leave from the South terminal. I never remember this, so thought I might if I wrote it down here and then it might be helpful to others too. Note it!

I might have said that it was a short 3 hour flight from London to Tallinn, but a, I have been spoiled by short European flights and b, we had to spend those 3 hours with multiple groups of drunk, disgusting, loud, obnoxious bachelor parties. Apparently Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius have become big bachelor party destinations. Some of the quotes I couldn’t get out of my head include:

LGW to TLL:
“Yeah I don’t really remember the wedding. [My wife’s dad] was pretty pissed. When we watched the video, it was cringeworthy.”
The one next to me marvelled at my shuffling as Sarah and I readied for a game of rummy (yes, oldies next to rowdy idiots doesn’t turn out well) and told me to do it again. Instead I blanked* him and dealt the cards.
TLL to LGW:
“Oh, it’s fine, I washed all the guilt off in the shower”
“I don’t know, that’s when she was putting her knickers back on”

And some of these losers had wedding bands on. Is anyone else vomming yet? Yes, I can be judgemental, I know you all think that anyway ;p
Thankfully, we didn’t run into these idiots again until our flight back, at which point they were a shade quieter, probably because they were hungover.

Anyway. Once we landed in Tallinn (the cosiest airport in the world), it was a short 2.5 miles from the airport to the Old Town (and only €10!). I would definitely award it most convenient airport in the world, to add to its cosy accolades.

We stayed at a place we found on airbnb, and it was convenient, secure, reasonably priced, and probably one of the coolest rooms I’ve ever stayed in since the ‘headboard’ was actually part of the stone wall that used to separate the upper and lower parts of the Old Town!

After putting our things down, we did a little foursquare research refreshing and headed to SfääR Cafe (but again, more on the food over on RostsEatLondon).

Read more…

It’s still Christmas in Warsaw

February 11, 2014 1 comment

This is what James the my Great gave me for Christmas:

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🙂

Not only was it a great surprise that we were going away somewhere, it was a riddle!! I love riddles.

Unfortunately though, before I figured it out (because it was hard! And my Google skills are waning/I never went past page 1 on any of my searches, because I don’t remember the last time I went past page 1 on any of my searches…), I had a mishap and clicked a subscriber email from TripIt, emails which I NEVER open, when I meant to click something else entirely, and saw that ‘James has a trip planned to Poland’ and before I knew what was happening, it was too late. I didn’t even know James used Tripit!

The night before, I was actually so excited that I couldn’t sleep, so only ended up getting about 4.5 hours before I had to up and shower and head to the airport for our flight before noon on Friday. As we landed, we could see snow blanketing the ground. It was kind of the best because we didn’t have to stay indoors because of wet, freezing weather, but still got to walk around for the weekend seeing beautiful snowy whiteness and hearing the satisfying crunch under our shoes. We settled down at our hotel, (The Warsaw Intercontinental!) in our room with an amazing view of the Palace of Culture and Science:

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aka best hotel room timepiece ever

and got ready and headed out for some drinks and the Polish National Ballet’s production of Read more…

State of my Shoenion

February 6, 2014 Leave a comment

Heel-o! A warning: today’s post is super frivolous.

Some people accuse me of being a shoeaholic (Hi Papa). This post will probably leave me no room to deny this allegation. But as I broke in my new Blue Shadow Supergas walking home the other night, I thought about how some of these guys have really stuck it out with me (and for some of them, the effort really shows…), so it might be fun (for me) to catalogue them. I do love them dearly after all. So here we go.

The Raindancers

Before London, I had one pair of rain boots that I can remember as an adult. My family definitely remembers those bright yellow guys and tried to pretend to forget me when I wore them. Then I came to London with one pair of rain boots. They were black&white checkered and I have no pictures. They are long gone. Since then, I think I’ve had 5 more pairs. Here are 4 of them, though half are semi-retired unless a guest is in town and needs to borrow a pair (Julie).

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Birthdate, city/parents: January 2014, London/Kurt Geiger
Insp/Asp-irations: Sarah G’s wedge rainboots
Greatest accomplishment: trekking up Widcombe Hill in Bath very quickly and then walking downhill through fields #hikinginheels, as they say (Sarah L was simultaneously impressed and not impressed at all)

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N is for Natasha, Norway and Nigardsbreen

Birthdate, city/parents: May 2014, London/Sports Direct
Insp/Asp-irations: Panic, emergency purchase before trip to Norway
Greatest accomplishment: CLIMBING A NORWEGIAN GLACIER! One of the coolest (lit and fig, obv) coolest coolest things they (and I) will ever do; getting engaged at the end of the North Downs Way! Are these my most accomplished shoes??

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Bows are cute

Birthdate, city/parents: January 2014, London/Dorothy Perkins
Insp/Asp-irations: keepin’ feet dry without hottin’ up the rest of the legs
Greatest accomplishment: having giant mouths but not letting water inside

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Birthdate, city/parents: October 2013, London/Aldo
Insp/Asp-irations: people at work have told me I look like someone from some show, but it’s a reference that was over my head that I’ve now forgotten
Greatest accomplishment: attending The Limerick Show

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Birthdate, city/parents: Unsure, London/Redfoot
Insp/Asp-irations:
Greatest accomplishment: Being foldable!

The Mile High Club

These shoes, quite appropriately, cradle my weak, weak Achilles heel.

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Birthdate, city/parents: circa 2010, Austin/Strut
Insp/Asp-irations: to roam sexily a la Carrie Bradshaw, Season 4 finale en Paris, but without the dog poo
Greatest accomplishment: staying white

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Birthdate, city/parents: circa 2010, Austin/Strut
Insp/Asp-irations: I hate peep toes but for some reason couldn’t resist these. Must’ve been a good bargain
Greatest accomplishment: attending a wedding in a Welsh Castle
Read more…