24 Hours in Dublin

When two travel bloggers go on a trip, you better expect something like this.
Co-authored by Anne Steinbach 

If you are a student with innate wanderlust, you take opportunity of every free weekend. Naturally when studying in London, going to Ireland is a must especially when 1) It’s only an hour away by plane, 2) RyanAir and Aer Lingus offer competitive flight deals, and 3) Guinness tastes better at its source.

So, we found a free weekend in November and hopped over to the land of leprechauns.

Our first stop was the cute capital city of Dublin. More pints of Guinness are poured annually in Dublin than anywhere else in the world. From street performers on Grafton Street to Gaelic football fanatics, Dublin is brimming with all kinds of quirky characters. In all honesty, 24 hours is probably not enough to get a full flavour of the city, but we tried and this is how we did it.

Dublin

7 am Getting from the airport to the city

Hop on the convenient 747 bus that runs regularly between the airport and the city. Costing £6 one way for students, the bus has several drop off options in the city. But, make sure you press the stop button ahead of time because our bus driver just sped past our stop. Luckily, Dublin isn’t too big so it was easy for us to just cover the distance on foot. Continue reading

Historic Berlin

If Rome is called an ‘open-air museum’, then Berlin is at least a powerfully gripping history lesson. Within half a day of walking around this edgy city, you can see some of the most important landmarks from the last century.

In 1871, Berlin became the capital of reunified Germany. After two horrific wars, the city was divided into East and West Berlin and became the battling grounds for ideological struggles of the Cold War era. Even though modern-day Berlin is precisely as old as I am, the city boasts of so much history, art and culture to make any traveller burst with enthusiasm.

I did a free walking tour with Sandemans (which I would highly recommend), but if you would rather grab a map and explore Berlin on your own, here are some of the must-visit sites to reflect on recent history.

Brandenburg Tor

This iconic German symbol is located in the pedestrian-friendly Pariser Platz. Now a bustling tourist hub, it was the site of many important historical events including Hitler’s selection as German chancellor and Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech.

Brandenburg Gate

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Best views of the Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is the most iconic symbol of the city, gracing the Bennelong Point in the Sydney Harbour. Inaugurated in 1973, after almost 15 years of construction, the Sydney Opera House is a UNESCO World Heritage site valued for its “achievements in structural engineering and building technology.” Stemming out of Sydney’s CBD (short for central business district, or as us North Americans would say, “downtown”), and recognizable from miles away, the Opera House is definitely one of the most photographed sites in the city.

But, what’s the best place to photograph it?

The Sydney Opera House has a bit of an advantage in that case: it looks amazing no matter where you take a picture from. But, some spots are better than others. Here are my top 7 favourite spots to snap a shot of the Opera House (in no particular order):

East End of Circular Quay 

Sydney Opera House
When you get off a bus to go to Circular Quay, and walk towards the Opera House, this is the first view you are likely to see of this landmark. Chances are you’ll reach for your camera instinctively and snap a shot. This is one of the first photos I ever took in Australia, and it’s definitely one of my favourites.

Taronga Zoo 

Sydney Opera House
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Fraser Island Tour

Fraser Island-ShipwreckEven though I am a pro-guidebook girl and I preach independent travel, there are some places you need to visit with a tour company. Fraser Island, world’s largest sand island, is one of them. Unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, a Telstra cell phone (for Googling the history of the place; Optus and Vodaphone don’t get reception on the island), and training on how to deal with dingoes, just take a tour.

My Danish friend, Annemiek, and I went for the two-day Fraser Explorer Tour and we totally recommend it! Here are some of our highlights:

Lake McKenzie is arguably the most popular of over 100 freshwater lakes found on Fraser Island. The white sands around the lake are made of pure silica, and from personal experience I can attest that they are an excellent natural scrub. The water of Lake McKenzie is also supposed to leave your hair feeling baby soft, but that one didn’t quite happen. However, just swimming in this fresh water, lukewarm (by Canadian standards) lake, is what draws so many tourists.

Fraser Island-Lake Mackenzie

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Melbourne’s Graffiti Walls

Before I went to Melbourne, many of my Aussie friends told me, “Roop, you’ll love Melbourne – it’s so artsy!”

I have seen cities and neighbourhoods drown in an overdose of forced artsy-ness, so I was slightly skeptical as I started exploring Melbourne’s CBD. But, my worries were misplaced. Melbourne is the right kind of artsy: the buskers are in love with their music, the street art is organic, and the thriving alleyways are rich cultural communities.

During a short free walking tour of Melbourne, graffiti walls grabbed my attention. After the orientation, I grabbed a map indicating the city’s most impressive graffiti walls, and set out on an afternoon of exploration with another Canadian.

Here are some of my favourite shots:

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Sydney’s best beaches

While my friends in the Northern Hemisphere are probably rolling their eyes at the title of this post, I am going to go ahead and gloat that today marks one month anniversary in with Sydney. I thought it would be a short, summer fling, but this relationship is getting quite serious. And how could I not fall in love? Sunshine, beaches and buzzing cities are three of my favourite things, and Sydney offers it all.

Since winter is coming (PS: who is stoked for Game Of Thrones season 3?!), I made it a point to explore as many beaches as possible in my first month here. While there are many popular spots and hidden gems in the greater Sydney area that I am yet to discover, here are my favourite beaches so far:

1) Coogee Beach

Surprise! My neighbourhood beach is number one on my list. While I may be biased because the beach is a 5-minute walk from my apartment, it is the coolest kid on the Eastern suburbs. It’s bigger than Bronte, but not as busy as Bondi. You can snorkel on the North end, surf on a good day, play volleyball at one of the four available spots, picnic on the park, and swim in the playful waves.

Coogee

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24 hours in Glasgow

Edinburgh usually steals the Scottish spotlight, but Glasgow gives it a run for its money. With an overwhelming number of museums and galleries, there is ton to feed your artistic, as well as, touristy appetite. Speaking of appetite, Glasgow is also home to some amazing restaurants, including Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian Glasgow branch.

Glasgow tour busYou can spend days exploring the Glaswegian galleries (and years fully trying to understand their accent), but if you have limited time, here is my list of top to-dos in Glasgow.

In order to successfully explore most of Glasgow in one (or two) days, I recommend the Glasgow City Sightseeing bus tour. One ticket is valid for two days and this hop-on-hop-off bus makes a stop at all major attractions that I am going to mention in the remainder of the post. On a side note, traveling in winter has its advantages because when I took the tour, I had the whole top floor of the bus to myself.

Start your day bright (let’s be honest… it’s Scotland. It will be raining) and early to maximize on the daylight hours. You can get on the bus from any of the 24 of stops, but George Square is where the tour officially begins. One of the first stops is the Glasgow Cathedral. Get off your bus and admire this stunning Cathedral’s exterior and interior, before hiking up a small hill to the Glasgow Necropolis. The Necropolis is a Victorian cemetery on a small hill overlooking the city. The magnificient tombstones lend an eerie feel to this place, but it’s also impressive at the same time.

Glasgow Cathedral

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Edinburgh’s Magical Mile

I’ll be honest: Scotland has never been high on my bucket list. So, when I went to visit this month, I was blown away by the natural beauty, stunning architecture and the lively spirit of all the cities I visited. Edinburgh was the highlight of my Scottish adventure, and my favourite day in this city was spent discovering a new surprise at every step on the Royal Mile.

Edinburgh

The Royal Mile connects the Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street, Canongate and Abbey Strand make up this touristy part of Old Town which runs for one Scots mile (that’s about 1.81 kilometres).

Edinburgh Castle view

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Gaudi’s Barcelona

My favourite day in Spain was the one dedicated to exploring Antoni Gaudi’s magnificent architecture. Even though I am posting some, pictures don’t do justice to how interesting his architectural gems are, and I am not a good enough writer to take a stab at describing them.

So, I recommend you head over to Barcelona and check out his work for yourself. If you need some guidance on what to see, well then you are in the right place.

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København in 24 hours

Copenhagen København is everything I imagined a Scandinavian city to be like: stunning architecture, cozy cafes and a relaxed vibe that North Americans, like myself, find hard to embrace at first. But then the hygge grows on you and you casually start strolling around the harbour, ignoring what time it is. If the clouds sneak up on you with surprising sun-showers, you can find shelter under one of the many umbrellas on the patio street. If you are sitting with a Dane, you won’t realize that hours have passed while you have been casually talking about everything under the sky while sipping on your coffee (or beer, as per your preference).

But, if you don’t have time on your side and need to catch your train to Stockholm (or better yet, your bus to Aarhus to visit me), here is what you must see and do while you are in Copenhagen.

Disclaimer: I didn’t make it to Vesterbro or Norrebro while I was in Copenhagen. 

Start your day by walking through Stroget and the Latin Quarter. Stroll carelessly on this longest pedestrian friendly, shopping street in Copenhagen. Stop to buy an overpriced souvenir or the most expensive coffee of your life before making your way to Nyhavn (pronounced as “New Hawn” as I was sternly corrected by a local).

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