Budapest

Budapest was the best. And I am not only saying that because it rhymes.

It was probably my favourite new city that I visited in 2014. It’s been on the wish list for a while but I haven’t gotten around to checking it out. I’d kind of been saving it for the right time and the right company.

A group of friends from Canada and I decided to meet up in Budapest for a long weekend. Even though it was the middle of October, we were blessed the most stunning summer-like weather. I actually spent some time getting my tan on!

Budapest St. Stephen's Basilica Budapest Danube FountainSo here are some quick reasons why Budapest is so awesome: 1) It has every single type of architecture you may be into – baroque, neoclassical, Secessionist – you name it! 2) It is two cities in one, split by the mighty Danube in the middle 3) The city has a rich history and you don’t have to dig deep to see it 4) The thermal baths 5) Ain’t no night out like the parties in Budapest’s ruin bars.

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Oktoberfest in Munich

Since I moved to Europe, I told myself every year, “I’m gonna go to Oktoberfest this year.” But something came up and I didn’t go. Either I thought of it too late and flights were too expensive or I didn’t have a travel companion.

2014 was the year to stop making excuses, find a dirndl and get down to Munich for Oktoberfest.

Along with the dirndl, I managed to find a lovely travel companion as well – my trusted permanent plus one, Catherine.

We landed in Munich on a crisp Saturday morning, made our way to our airbnb, changed, took some shameless selfies and headed straight down to the festival.

I have to admit, I thought Oktoberfest was going to be a collection of beer gardens and tents in the middle-of-nowhere. I was bracing myself for a barren wasteland brimming with drunk tourists. Boy, oh boy was I pleasantly surprised to see a bustling, colourful carnival decked with rides, food trucks, games, shops and both tourists and locals rocking some sexy dirndls and lederhosen.

We indulged in the festive spirit for two days of the closing weekend of the festival and embraced everything German – from the dresses and hairstyles to the food and beverages.

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Summer in London

Nothing beats a good Canadian summer. And my first English summer hammered the point home. The only way I made it through this summer without going back home was thanks to the constant influx of familiar faces that came to visit me in London. A visit from my parents followed by girlfriends coming to see me from Canada, Australia and parts of Europe made this summer in London quite a memorable one. And of course, London being so awesome helped a little bit. St. Paul's London viewAfter showing all the guests around my favourite bits of London, I have become a semi-pro tour guide. That got me thinking, why not share my favourite spots with everyone? Continue reading

Tallinn

I absolutely loved Tallinn. And I am sure so will you if you like a bit of medieval flavour coupled with an architectural culture clash of Nordic and Russian influences at affordable prices.

Tallinn skylineDuring the August long weekend, my coworker Melissa and I went to Helsinki for three days and decided to take a day trip to Tallinn, which actually ended up being the highlight of our holiday.

We got off the ferry and headed straight for World Heritage-listed Tallinn Old Town. The cobblestoned streets and the bright buildings feel a bit like a romantic film set. It’s your quintessential medieval town, but better than most that I have seen. Literally every corner we turned was stunningly picturesque, so we were shamelessly trigger happy as we set to explore the city.

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Helsinki

I am on a mission to visit all the Nordic countries.

Considering I lived in Denmark and visited neighbouring Sweden and Norway two years ago, there were just a couple left to check off my list. So when I found out that my coworker Melissa was jetting off to Finland for the August long weekend, I invited myself along.

Helsinki is interesting. I don’t think it’s as charming as Stockholm or as creative as Copenhagen, but it’s definitely got a unique character that neither of those do. It’s the only European capital without a medieval past – and even after visiting nearly 20 European countries, I’ll have to admit I am a sucker for old town squares, cobblestone streets and towering churches. Therefore, I wasn’t particularly impressed with Helsinki’s architectural beauty, but it surely has attractive features that make it perfect destination for a weekend trip.

After all, put me in any city with a harbour and I’ll be happy and snappy!

Helsinki Helsinki

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Lausanne and around

It’s taken me wayyyy too long to visit Lausanne. Almost as long as it’s taken me to finally get around to writing this blog post.

One of my best friends – and superstar extraordinaire – is from Lausanne. Well, he’s actually from Berlin and we were flatmates in Sydney – but his life deserves another blog post of its own.

A’ite back to my story: So as I was saying, my friend Gerrit is from Lausanne and over the years I have virtually/electronically/telepathically gotten to know many of his family and friends. Obviously I had to go visit the beautiful lakeside Swiss town one day, both to enjoy the heavenly Alpine scenery and to say hello to all these lovely people I keep hearing about.

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Lisbon and Sintra

Let’s start with a disclaimer: I did not spend enough time in Lisbon.

To be more precise, I didn’t spend enough time exploring Lisbon. My first afternoon was spent watching Germany beat Portugal – and then celebrating afterwards. And half of my second day was spent exploring the Unesco World Heritage Site of Sintra.

From the little that I did see of Lisbon, here’s the verdict: it’s buzzing, it’s beautiful and it’s half as frustrating as some of the other European capitals. What I mean by that is Lisbon is relatively raw and not as commercialised as other historic, big cities. But that doesn’t mean it’s not as cool as them: it has the beach right around the corner, a historic castle with a killer view, colourful quarters and legendary pastel de nata.

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Porto

Even though I have travelled a fair bit this year, I keep going back to familiar places. India, for example. And I travelled again to Spain in March and went to Amsterdam twice in May alone. It’s been a great first half of 2014, but my geeky country count has been at a standstill.

In the hopes of checking off at least one new country, I decided to go to Portugal. I flew to Porto and met up with my old friend Sheila, who currently lives in Barcelona. We are both active travellers so we checked out almost all of Porto in 40 short but action-packed hours.

Porto PortugalSet gracefully at the bank of Rio Douro, Porto rises steeply upwards with orange-hued roofs chaotically spread among the narrow streets of the old town. It is a romantic little cities with a lot of medieval flavour. We walked through the narrow and steep streets checking out old relics, towering churches, abandoned monasteries and vibrant river-side of Ribeira. Continue reading

Patio Season in Amsterdam

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I am a sun worshipper. If the sun is out, I can’t be kept indoors. Basking in the sun is definitely one of my favourite activities whether that means I am out walking, cycling or just grabbing a coffee on the patio.

Being Canadian definitely has something to do with the sunshine fixation. We love our short summers and all the things that come with it. My favourite being eating and drinking outdoors.

This past weekend I went over to Amsterdam for my friend Fanny’s birthday and to attend a charity concert put on by my friend for a not-for-profit based in Guatemala. While the evenings were taken up by celebrations and festivities, the afternoons were put to good use: biking around de Pijp, eating outdoors, walking in parks and then grabbing another coffee outdoors.

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Sunny Sundays at Hyde Park

London has had a glorious spring this year. I know that’s not what my friends in Canada want to hear, and to be quite honest, I wish the weather was a bit crappier so that I wouldn’t feel tempted to go outside all the time. I am writing my masters dissertation these days (and hence, blogging less) and the sunshine pouring through my window is not helping the pace of my project.

I was quite proud of myself for waking up early today and having a two-hour speed writing session that I decided to indulge in some sun-bathing at Hyde Park with my friends. Cheesy crackers, grapes and good company is all I needed to make this gorgeous spring day even more perfect.

Hyde Park Hyde Park Hyde Park
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