France, Paris

Eating my way through Paree

Paris was a food mecca. My initial plan was to crash-diet for 1 week before Tomorrowland, in a feeble attempt to at least get back into shape. But famous restaurants and good food beckoned, so the diet never happened. Instead of sightseeing, I felt that my trip in Paris was more of a eating my way through Paris trip, which I’m not complaining about.

My first stop was Restaurant Chartier, which was superb quality for the price. I first tried escargots in Morocco but didn’t like it. Over here though, it was SO good, and filled with pesto sauce and tasted sublime with bread. The duck confit with potatoes were really good as well, crispy and juicy! And it only amounted to 16.40 euros! Really crowded and popular place, even amongst locals.

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Also, the stereotype that the French are unfriendly people is not true at all! I expected everyone to be hostile, but everyone I met was really nice. The waiters were jovial, friendly and helpful, and there was a lovely old couple beside me at Chartier, who tried their best to talk to me, even though it was hard with the language barrier.

For dinner, I ate at le Relais de l’Entrecote, where there is no menu. It is an interesting concept because there is only 1 dish, which is steak and frites, and you can either choose to have it raw, medium or well-done. No option for medium-rare over here. They refill your plate once, so you get 2 servings of steak and frites, as well as a salad. This comes up to 26.40 euros, so a bit pricey but it was very good as well. Long queues over here, so it is advised to go before it opens!

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The next day I had L’as du Falafel for lunch, which has both a sit-down area and a takeaway counter. A really popular option for vegans and vegetarians. However, the portion was really big and I couldn’t finish it! Value-for-money at 6 euros. There was also a L’éclair de genie outlet nearby, but I totally regret not buying it because I was too full and I never got the chance to go back to try it 😦

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For a snack, I went to Odette, which has seen a surge in popularity due to it’s cream puffs or pate a choux in french which were sooo delicious and cute-looking. Recommended flavors online were the caramel, praline and green tea. I tried the praline one and it was really good! 1.90 euros per piece.

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The supposedly best crêpe is at Au P’tit Grec, where there are both savory and sweet crêpes. I wish I could have tried both, but obviously I couldn’t finish both. I tried the savory crêpe, with eggs, ham and cheese and it was delicious. As I walked along the streets, you could really see everyone looking enviously at it lol. For 5 euros, the portions are huge, and I could only manage to finish three-quarters of it!

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For the best icecream, go to Berthillion. I personally felt that their ice-cream flavors were better than their sorbet flavors though. I had vanilla and passionfruit, and you could really taste the quality in the vanilla icecream but the passionfruit sorbet was just average.

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For my final meal in Paris, I went to Café Constant. As both the famous Les Cocottes and Café Constant were in the same street- Rue Saint Dominique, and in fact a few shops away from each other, I was torn between where to go for lunch. But I decided to go to Café Constant because they had a set lunch menu that was pretty worth it. For 16 euros, I got an entrée and a main course, but you could also choose to get a main course and a dessert. And for 23 euros, you could have all 3! The restaurant was filled with Asians though, like practically the entire floor was Korean lol. I also decided to indulge in dessert, since it was my last meal in Paris, and I had profiteroles with hot chocolate, and it was SO good. The dark chocolate was very rich, but not too sweet.

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Would highly recommend all these places in Paris! It’s hard to have a bad meal here, as long as you do your wee bit of research. Bon Appetit!

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Budapest, Hungary

Budapest

Budapest falls under the category of “It’s so beautiful I can’t even” cities. It’s often named as one of the prettiest cities in Europe and that accolade is not undeserved. As you walk along the Danube river, there’ll just be so many WOW moments because the scenery is just breathtaking, both on the Buda and the Pest side. I don’t think anyone could ever get tired of the view! I also think it’s one of the most romantic places one can take a date too.

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Salisbury, United Kingdom

Day trip to Salisbury//Stonehenge

4/5

I thought to myself, when in the UK, I have to visit Stonehenge! So I did. Even if it’s a tourist attraction, it’s still a must-do. Travelling from Guildford however, was pretty troublesome because I had to change trains twice, once at Woking and once at Basingford.

And because I didn’t click the details of the trains, I was really surprised when I first found out that I had to switch trains! Thankfully though, I didn’t get lost, phew!

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I took the Stonehenge tour bus, because it seemed like the easiest way to get there. My ticket was 27 pounds, and this included admission into Stonehenge (which is already 14 pounds for admission – student price). The bus ticket alone was 14 pounds, thus I thought that it was more worthwhile to get the bus + Stonehenge ticket, and this included the admission to Old Sarum as well! The Old Sarum mainly consists of ruins from the Roman and Iron Ages and admission is 3.50 pounds if I’m not wrong.

I think that on the website it’s not stated clearly enough that the 27 pounds includes admission into Stonehenge (it says admission into the visitor center) and my first reaction was like what? Only the visitor center? Does that mean that I have to buy my tickets there again? But thankfully, my fears were unfounded.

If you’re not on the tour, you’ll have to buy timed tickets (online preferably) and this means that you can only enter at certain timings. However, if you were to take the bus, you can enter anytime, so your schedule is more flexible! A downside is that the bus only comes every hour in springtime; so if you miss one bus, you’ll have to wait another hour for it, so plan carefully!

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I spent about 2.5 hours in Stonehenge, where you can choose to take the free shuttle bus to the stone circle or walk there (20 minutes walk?) I took the bus there and chose to walk back. There was a free audio guide, which was pretty detailed and informative as well as a museum explaining the mythical Stonehenge. I especially liked the “Wish you were here” exhibition where they showcased how Stonehenge has been constantly referenced in our pop culture.

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I met Swathi from India on the bus and we did Stonehenge together! She was taking advantage of the bank holiday to check out Stonehenge and she was telling me about India, its’ language and its’ foods. Not to forget the dancing in Bollywood movies ha ha ha. I think that’s the perks of solo travel, you get to meet new people and stuff!

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Because I missed the 2.43 pm bus at Stonehenge, I had to wait for the 3.43 pm bus and this completely messed up my schedule so I had to hurry along. I couldn’t even get to see Old Sarum properly because I wanted to see Salisbury Cathedral and the Magna Carta before it closed! There was a siege at Old Sarum, which seemed interesting but I didn’t get to hang around much 😦

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And then I did the #yolotravel thing that people always talked about and hitchhiked! The church was going to close at 5, and the bus was only going to come at 5, so there was no way I was gonna make it so I took a leap of faith and randomly asked this elderly man who seemed to be heading to the carpark and I scored on the first try!! Yay!!!

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

He dropped me off at the edge of the city, and from there it wasn’t too far a walk to the Cathedral and I managed to stop by the Parish church of St Peters and St Edmund, famous for its’ medieval doom painting before going to the cathedral!

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There’s currently a Magna Carta exhibition where it’s celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. There are only 4 original copies in the world, and the one at Salisbury Cathedral is the most well preserved one where all the words and the parchment are still intact!

Before researching, I thought that Magna Carta was some Christian thing, because it sounded very you know Jay Z and Kanye West, like it was what they would name their songs or albums. But the Magna Carta is actually a constitutional document, which states that everyone is subject to the law, including the king, and no one is above the law. Thus, it is the foundation of democracy in England and is an international symbol of liberty today. I think travelling definitely broadens my general knowledge.

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At first I thought I needed a timed entry ticket to enter, but the assistant told me that that was only for busy periods, and usually you can just walk in. And the church/exhibition closes at 5.30pm not 5pm! So I kind of rushed for nothing, but still, hitchhiking is a cool story to bring home.

I didn’t get to walk around The Close because by the time I got out, it started raining already, but I think 1 full day would be enough for a leisurely stroll around Salisbury//Stonehenge.

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Austria, Vienna

Vienna: City of Culture

My first stop in Central Europe before doing the triangle that everyone does, Vienna-Budapest-Prague!

Although my knowledge about classical music and classy stuff like that is embarassingly little, I have still enjoyed myself thus far! Actually, I came to Vienna specially to watch the Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert because:

1. It is the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

2. It is free!

At first I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate it, but the orchestra played popular classical pieces that were really easy to enjoy! And I was so lucky because I was standing in the 3rd row actually, and barely able to see anything, and a really kind guy offered his space in front of the railings so that I’ll be able to see better! 🙂 I was sooo grateful because I had the perfect view afterwards.

Although most people say that 1-2 days is more than enough to cover Vienna, I’m glad I chose to spend 3 days here! Initially I was worried that I’ll have nothing to do, and be really bored (especially since I covered most of the landmark sights in half a day) but the good thing is that, you’ll always find things to do. I spent 3 nights in Vienna because I wanted to watch the orchestra, the ballet as well as the opera. I mean it’s Vienna, you’ve just got to embrace the State Opera House! Definitely getting my culture fix here, because I get to do all 3 at once!

And have I mentioned Viennese food? And their cakes? Simply heavenly :3

 

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

We went into Schloss Gardens at around 6.45pm because that’s when the gates open, but by then we were already too late to get seats, so we stood at the side instead! Even a non-classical music fan like me really enjoyed the concert – I felt that sometimes you could feel your soul being lifted up out of your body as the crescendos rose higher and higher. It was wonderful just immersing yourself in the atmosphere.

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BALLETT: van Manen | Ekman | Kylian

On my 2nd night, I went to watch a Ballet at the Opera House. I bought a seating ticket for 22 euros, but in hindsight, I should have really bought the standing ticket instead! This was a 3 part ballet, comprising of Adagio HammerklavierCacti and Bella Figura. My favourite was Cacti because it didn’t feel like a ballet performance. There was a lot of rhythm, voiceovers and props, so it made it really visually appealing! Bella Figura was interesting as well, because for one part of the dance, the females were actually half-naked. I wasn’t surprised because I read up on it beforehand that there would be nude dancers but still, it’s a different experience because this would never be allowed in Singapore.

DAS RHEINGOLD|Richard Wagner

And on my last night, I went to watch the opera Das Rheingold and it was so good! It was my first time watching an opera, and also my first time buying stand-up tickets. I was pretty lost at the start because I had no idea how it worked, but it seemed like everyone was also pretty new at this thing. I also made friends with 2 French guys that were totally new to this opera thing as well – it’s always fun to meet new people 🙂

I knew that this was an iconic piece of Wagner’s, and I wanted to buy tickets like a month ago, but it was all sold out! So I decided to queue up for the standing tickets. I heard from my friends that you should queue up about 1 hour before the ticket admissions start, so I went there at about 4pm (tickets started selling at 5.10pm) and there were already about 2 full lines of people!

I had no idea that it was that popular till I realized it was also because the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was playing as well, and the conductor Sir Simon Rattler was renowned. Like people will actually go to the opera just to see Sir Simon conduct, so it was pretty cool, i got to listen to the Vienna Philharmonic Opera twice!! 🙂

I found the opera and storyline to be really interesting and I really enjoyed the experience overall. The only annoying thing is that you kept having to look down on the screen to understand what they were singing.

**Tips for buying a standing ticket**

1. Check the popularity of the show

My friend went for the standing ticket for the ballet, and he said 1 hour beforehand, there were only 10 people in line, and even though he went just 45 minutes before the show started, he could still be in the 3rd row. On the other hand, my other friend went 1 hour before Das Rheingold started, and he only managed to get one of the few remaining tickets left! So, it all depends on what is being performed. To be safe, I think 1.5 hours would be a good estimate.

2. 3 euro and 4 euro tickets

I got the 4 euro ticket because you get to be on the first floor, so I think the view would obviously be better, that’s why it’s more expensive. The 3 euro tickets are for the 2nd and 3rd floors.

3. Bring a scarf

So how it works is that once you find a good spot, you are supposed to tie a scarf on the bars to show that that place is reserved, and no one else can take your place. After that, you can walk around the state opera house or go to the washroom and still be secured of your place!

4. God Bless Subtitles

A German Opera? Fret not! Because there are tiny screens on the railings, where there are English subtitles, so that you’ll be able to appreciate the splendour of the piece.

5. Dress decently

You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but they don’t allow you to wear shorts into the opera, so dress properly if you don’t want to get turned away! Jeans are fine, though if you bought a seating ticket, you would want to dress nicely, because everyone there is dressed to the nines.

In my opinion, I think the standing tickets are one of the best in the house, especially if you arrive early, and get to stand in front. You will actually be really close to the stage, and it’s probably better and cheaper than the view you get from the 10 euros, or 22 euros tickets. Of course, the downside is that you’ll have to stand for a prolonged period of time. For Das Rheingold, it was 2.5 hours of standing, with no intermission! And it was already his shortest opera, as compared to the other 3 parts of the opera – imagine standing for 4 hours!

So that sums up my nights of culture in Wien – orchestra, ballet and opera, so glad I managed to get to see all of them!

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United Kingdom, York

Day Trip to York

2 May 2015

I think York has to be one of the most interesting cities I’ve visited so far! I really liked how there were so many museums to visit, and how the city was so compact, everything could be easily covered via foot.

I only had about 6 hours to explore the city, but I think you could easily spend 2 days in York if you wish! The actual bus journey from Manchester to York was only 2 hours! However, I had to change buses at Leeds, and wait in between for an hour that’s why buses take longer than trains – but I didn’t have a choice because the buses were so much cheaper than the trains!

I felt very accomplished, considering I only had half a day because I visited the National Railway Museum (free!), walked along the city walls, visited the Museum Gardens, York Minster, had lunch at Betty’s Tea Rooms, walked through the Shambles district and visited the York Castle Museum! Not too bad for half a day innit.

Of course I would have loved to spend longer at each museum, and spend more time at the exhibits. Unfortunately, I had to rush through them due to limited time. I would have also liked to visit the Yorkshire Museum (they have a Richard III man or myth exhibition!!) and the Jorvik museum about vikings.

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I liked the National Railway Museum for it’s vintage feel, it’s as though you stepped back in time. And even though I’m not a train fanatic, it was interesting to read about all the different trains! Not only do they have royal carriages, and old British trains, but they have the Japanese bullet train as well as other locomotives and steam engines. And it’s super accessible as it’s near the Railway Station itself!

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I thought that the York Minster was really unique and special because it’s just not any ordinary church. It felt more like a museum than a church. Of course, this came with a high entry fee of 10 pounds (9 pounds for students). If you wanted to go up to the tower, it would have been 14 quid. However, not only do you get to see the cathedral, you get to visit the undercroft (which is this huge big underground interactive museum essentially, that explains the history of the York Minster!), as well as learn about stained glass and sculpturing. There’s also an orb showcasing medieval art. So I thought that you got to see a lot of things just by visiting the York Minster! They have really informative write-ups about each section, so I really liked that. It was different from the other churches that I visited.

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This was Sarah’s recommendation! Afternoon tea is such a quintessential English thing, I had to do it. What’s more, I love scones, clotted cream and jam, so it was pretty good, albeit pricey. My set was like 11 quid, which is like 22 sgd for 2 scones and a cup of tea ha ha ha. The whole ambience of the place was really quaint and fancy though!!

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These were taken at the York Castle Museum! I really liked this museum, because it isn’t as much of history as it is of day-to-day Victorian living. I think the York Museums are really wonderfully done and I would recommend it (5 quid for students, 6 quids for both York Castle and Yorkshire Museum). They talk of the common social history, and they decorated the museum to be just like how it was like in the olden days, so it was more of an immersive experience rather than picture-writeup picture-writeup. Sometimes, I could imagine how Tess of the D’urbervilles was living like in those days, so it was really cool! Alas, I couldn’t spend much time here because I had to rush back to catch my bus but I think i could have easily spent 2-3 hours here if I wanted!

They have different sections, like the Victorian living room, how births and death are regarded, dressing of the Victorian age, what jobs were common in that period, so I thought it was really interesting.

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Also, as I was scrolling through Instagram, I realized that Amos was in Manchester as well, and we decided to meet up for an impromptu dinner at this Indian place called Mylahore, where they served really good Indian food. I think i’m having too much asian food deprivation. The portions were way too big for us though, and we couldn’t finish, so I would suggest sharing. But I always love serendipitous moments like this, and we had really good conversations and dinner so yay for social media.

You can tell that I really love York from my pictures, and I think that everyone should seriously consider a day trip there! Such a lovely place 🙂

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Copenhagen, Exchange

Like a true Dane

Felt like a true blue dane today because after all this time of being in the city, I finally cycled from Nørrebro to Amager Strandpark Beach! #achievementunlocked It was my first time cycling about 10km, and I think I did pretty good for my first try 🙂

I think exploring the city by bike is one of the best ways to see the city, especially when the Sun was out, the weather was just way too beautiful and you could feel that everyone was in a joyous mood just soaking in the sun. I really enjoyed sightseeing, passing by the canals and parks and just admiring Copenhagen.

I also picnicked at Kongens Have (Rosenburg’s Castle Garden) so I feel like I accomplished many of what I set out to do in Copenhagen. Cycle around the city, have a picnic at King’s Park, visit the beach, see Kastrup Søbad, soak in the Sun. And head out at night to party yay! Today was such a fruitful and fulfilling day. I really loooove Copenhagen so so much ❤

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Germany, Munich

5 tips for visiting Neuschwastein Castle

Neuschwastein Castle, otherwise known as the inspiration for Walt Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty” is really beautiful indeed. However, it is also the most touristy place I have visited ever. I have not seen any other European city with sooo many Asians, it’s as though all of Asia’s tourists congregated in Munich. Japan, Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, basically every Asian country!

  1. Save money travelling with friends

Buy the Bayern (Bavaria) ticket, which is much cheaper than a point-to-point ticket from Munich HBF to Fussen. One person costs 23 euros, 2 persons 28 euros, 3 persons 33 euros 4 persons 38 euros, 5 persons 43 euros. Basically, an additional 5 euros for each additional person. It just doesn’t make sense, so you should definitely find people to share the ticket with. Train inspectors come to check often too, so it’s safer to buy the ticket!

The Bayern ticket covers all trains and buses for a day, so you can have unlimited rides, and it covers the bus from Fussen bahnhof to Hohenschwangau, which would otherwise cost 2.80 euros.

You can buy it at any ticket machine, and there are more than 120 ticket machines in Munich, so you don’t have to worry about being unable to buy it. I think it’s better to buy the day before, or on the day itself, so that you can keep your plans flexible!

Don’t buy from the ticket counter because they’ll charge you a service fee of an extra 2 euros!

It looks like this!

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  1. Arrive early

Arrive at the train station 15 minutes beforehand so that you’ll guarantee yourself a seat. Fussen is insanely popular, as I’ve mentioned earlier.

  1. Buy Castle tickets in advance

If you want to go inside the castle, you have to make reservations and book tickets at least 2 days in advance. If you purchase it on the spot, you’re looking at a minimum of 2 hours waiting time. Furthermore, they’ll allocate you timeslots and you’ll have to stick to the timeslot, which may be even 1-2 hours later!

We didn’t go in because we heard that it wasn’t worth it. After we met some people in the hostel who have already visited Neuschwastein, they said it was definitely worth going inside because you take 3 hours to reach there, it’s kind of a pity to just take a few (postcard-perfect) pictures. However, you don’t have to purchase the combination ticket of Neuschwastein and Hoswenaggu, as out of the two, Neuschwastein is much more interesting.

It’s impossible to go in by yourself, you can only access the castle through a guided tour so book early!

11 euros with student discount, 1.80 euro reservation fee

  1. Worth the trek – Marienbrücke

Go up to Marienbuckle to get the best views of the castle. See all the postcards of the castle with that perfect vantage point? They probably took it from Marienbrücke. It’s definitely worth the uphill trek, to be honest, I think it only took 10-15 minutes to get there? And the view is amazing. You see the majestic castle surrounded in snow-capped pine trees, with the Alps as the backdrop, and a waterfall flowing in the background, it’s amazing. I can see why the King wanted to build his leisure castle here.

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Plus, you also get a really good view of Hosswenagu with the lake beside it. Score!

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Due to the snow the day before, there was actually a gate barricading the entry to Marienbuckle. Not to worry, just climb over the gate, everyone was doing it and you should too.

Usually, there’s a shuttle bus that brings you to the castle, but due to renovations, the shuttle bus wouldn’t be available till May. We were only left with the options of taking a horse carriage up (6 euros uphill, 3 euros downhill) or walking. We decided to walk, because we’ll be able to take in more sights, get some exercise while saving some money. Plus, the queue for the horse carriage was crazy long. You’ll save time by walking instead, we took only about 20 minutes to get to the castle! And another 15 minutes up to Marienbuckle.

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  1. Create a rough timetable

Plan your time well in advance. You have to take a bus (either 73 or 78) from Fussen Bahnhoff to Hosswenagu bus stop, and that takes about 8 minutes. However, the bus only comes every half an hour or so. You’ll want to plan your schedule in such a way that when you take the bus, it’s just in time for the train back! It’s no fun shivering in the cold. We didn’t know of the bus timings earlier, and had to wait for about an hour in order to catch the next train. I took pictures of the bus timings, so you can view them here 🙂

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As we didn’t go into the castle, it was a half day trip to Fussen for us, where we took the 8.53am train, arrived at 11pm and explored till 2pm! We hiked up to both castles as well as the lake, so plenty of time! We got back to Munich at 5pm and still had time to walk around Munich, so it was pretty rad.

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1 beautiful castle down, and plenty more to go!

More castle inspiration here

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