A Travellerspoint blog

Weekend in Paris

sunny 18 °C

Paris is one of those city's that you either love or (I cant even say it)...hate. Ask someone about encountering rude people when travelling and Paris will almost always come up. We stopped into Paris 2 years ago, and only stayed for 3 nights and still managed to cram in most of the main sights. Truthfully, I didn't really have an opinion we just tried to fit to much in. I have wanted to return since, and after much nagging, Rishi booked some flights!

First off, well publicised, Paris is one of the most expensive city's in the world, especially as a tourist. Knowing that we resigned ourselves to paying a bit more than usual for a hotel. I was a little shocked on arrival to find a room which barely fit a double bed, but that's Paris, never mind that you would get a room at the Stamford Plaza for the same price in Melbourne! We stuck to our previous plans of flying late Friday and arriving in time for a late dinner. Except the Dublin Airport has been having major problems with there Radar and our flight was over an hour late! (I had only just got back from a work trip to Zurich on Wednesday so that's two delayed flights in less than 3 days!) But we arrived and checked in by about 11pm just in time for quite a late dinner!

Next day we were ready to go, we decided to check out Bastille first to see a few places that wouldn't be open on Sunday. It was a nice leisurely morning.

We found a very typical French Brassiere for lunch, just of place Bastille called Brassiere Bofinger
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I went for the house special, the mixed sausage plate (with Sauerkraut!)
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It was a very filling but fabulous lunch

After a lot more exploring around the Bastille area we wandered up to the Pompidou Centre
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We missed this place last time and it was great to be there on a sunny Saturday with a full plaza with live busking etc.

I was happy to be wearing a t-shirt in the sun, we had already been out all day. We grabbed a small dinner after our huge lunch at a Creperie restaurant on the square, then headed into the Pompidou
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The building has a long escalator up the front of the building which you can ride up to the top
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This is the view from the top towards Sacre Cour
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Self taken from the top of the Pompidou Centre
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We check out way to much modern art, but it certainly was a great collection. They also had a Architecture exhibition on Jean Nouvell, quite a famous French Architect which was very interesting

We stayed at the Pompidou until closing time at 9pm, and then started walking back towards our Hotel via the Louvre
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We had planned to do more that night, but after leaving the hotel at 10am we got back at 11pm after a long day of walking around. We crashed!

We ventured back over the Bastille another day, and checked out the daily market.
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It was actually one of the better markets we have been to, and we stocked up on food for a picnic lunch

As usual we stopped for a few coffees along the way
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We ventured to one of the best picnic spots in Paris on the other side of town, the Sacre Cour
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Once you weave past the quite aggressive Africans selling friendship bracelets its a top spot to take in Paris and get some sunshine

After quite a leisurely morning we decided to head back towards the main sights and caught the metro to Arc De Triomphe
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We checked out a few places on Champs De Elysee and had a beer in one of the very expensive street side cafes

Paris is huge so you really need to use the Metro, we didn't last time and almost killed ourselves walking around. We got pretty good at it this time.
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We had thought about going out to a Good restaurant, but after looking at a few places you need to book pretty far in advance and the prices are a little scary. But once you are there you forget about the cost, so last minute we decide to try our luck at one of the better restaurants, thinking that if we can get in we go! And we got in! It is a place called Senderens, formerly the Three Starred Lucas Carton, the owner handed back his stars to Michelin in 2005 and opened a more accessible relaxed restaurant.

Our view from the table at Sendersens
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It was a great dinner, but we had planned to see the Eiffel Tower at night, but after finishing dinner after midnight it was to late to trek out to the other side of town
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Rishi had to pose in her new coat out the front of Ralph Lauren, (its not Ralph Lauren though, its another French brand)
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Back on the Metro again
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On our final day we walked out to the Eiffel Tower, we got there early and it wasn't too busy. And the view is still amazing
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The time went so quickly again, but at least this time we took it easy and saw what we managed to get to. There is always next time to see everything we missed!

Posted by Rish_n_Ben 06.08.2008 05:33 Archived in France Comments (0)

A week in Mallorca

sunny 28 °C

Summer in the middle of the year is still a confusing thing coming from Australia, adding to that we had never been in Europe during summer. But you wouldnt even know summer had arrived living in Dublin. Sure we have had a few warmer days, my office building is naturally ventilated and unless it goes over 22 degrees outside then the air conditioning kicks in, and that has only happened twice so far this Summer!

So we had to go somewhere guaranteed to get some sunshine and warmth, we had a great choice but you have to get in early as flights everywhere sell out fast and independent travel is difficult because the tour companies book everything up early. After much consideration we decided on Mallorca, and we are sure glad we did. Right in the middle of the Mediterranean

We went the complete independent route, we booked a rural house (casita) and a nifty car to get around

This is me with our wheels for the week in the village car park
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It was a great car for getting around the island, especially the narrow village streets
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We actually arrived on a late flight due to land at about 9:30pm but it was then delayed by about 1 hour so by the time we drove across the island through the 3k tunnel under the mountain we got to the house at about 12pm luckily it was easy to find. This is the view up to our village Fornalutx
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This was the front door to our place
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We where right on a little square with about 3 bars\cafes to choose from and a little local store, we spent at least a few hours per day drinking and eating on the square
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The town is still mostly locals with a few expats moving in and renovating the old buildings. It was amazing to explore the old lanes
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Our town Fornalutx was a great base for the less touristed part of the island on the western coast, we spent most of our time exploring the old towns, beaches and doing quite a few walks into the mountains.

This was a town we ventured to on the northern end of the island Pollenca, it is famous for its 365 steps up to a historic cathedral on the hill. Pilgrims are known to climb all 365 steps on there hands and knees, walking was enough
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The view on the north road out of our village was amazing back down to our village and beyond
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On another trip across the island we went to a cove named Cala Pi, it was certainly popular with locals and tourists alike, we found a great spot on the boat ramps with a little bit of shade for the acclimatised white skinned Ireland inhabitants
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Above the cove there where plenty of trails to explore to more remote coves, we walk for about 30 minutes and found this secluded spot for a dip

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With quite a bit of time in the sun we were happy to find this top seafood restaurant serving one of the best seafood stews I have ever had. They served it up on the table with dried breadcrumbs soaked in butter as the base and they went all out with the seafood, including some great monkfish
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Another day out we went for a hike up to Castel Alaro
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The view from half way up was spectacular
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And to make an even better day, there is a walkers hostel at the top with a Bar, cold drinks!
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While we were out in the middle of Mallorca, we had to stop in at ReCamper, were we picked up some bargain Camper shoes nearly 75% the original price
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The selection was great
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After a rewarding walk its great to come back to your own place
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Another walk right from our village was up through a neighbouring village Biniaraix and into the mountains, it was a spectacular walk through the still working orange fields at the base and into the olive groves built on handmade terraces in the mountains. They still work these olive terraces with mules and donkeys as its the only way up and down the old walking trails

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We initially planned to walk to a huge resivoir right up in the plains of the mountain range, but after walking for over 2 and half hours we had only made it about half way, we worked out in the end that we walked around 20k return. It was a great day though!

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Getting back to the beaches, we had heard bad things about Formentor as the roads are winding and narrow with just about every tour bus on the island heading there

It was a beautiful but slow drive up, but the first lookout alone was worth the effort
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We then made it to one of the more remote coves after a 25 minute scramble down the steep hill. There where still quite a few people there but it was a beautiful spot to take a dip
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Our flight out of Mallorca wasn't until 10pm so we had a full last day and even had a chance to have one last meal in our casita, and a quick drink at the bar downstairs.

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It was a fabulous trip, and we are now already dreaming of when we can return next summer!

Posted by Rish_n_Ben 29.07.2008 05:11 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Frites & Beer in Brussels

sunny 22 °C

We had been to Brussels on our first European travels 2 years ago now, and had always had a feeling of missing out on a few things (basically we didn't get enough of the beer and food)

So we booked flights for a long weekend, much to the disgust of most people I work with, Brussels is the place of European Parliment and they basically see it as we see Canberra

With previous success in Madrid at arriving late, we booked Friday night flights and arrived in Brussels at about 9pm, we got to the hotel around 10pm. We hadn't eaten yet and tried our luck and went for a walk to find some dinner, we had read about a old fashioned bistro up the road, and it was exactly what we needed
Good old fashioned meatballs with a Leffe Brune
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The next day we got up reasonably early, we had booked a reasonable hotel that would fall into a 3-4 star business style hotel, but after booking we read horror stories of people arriving with a booking and getting turned away due to the hotel being full, when we arrived we were given the ground floor room behind the lift. The room was actually great and was massive by European standards and I would class it as a suite, but in the night I could hear reception arguing on multiple occasions with people who there turned away (who had bookings!) so we counted ourselves lucky to get what appeared to be the last room

The first day we tried the hotel's free buffet breakfast, we didn't go back the next day. It was German & American families getting there monies worth and there was a bit to much shoving at the counter when new food came out.

We had a lazy morning checking out some markets and sampling some of the best chocolate stores
By 11am it was defiantly time for the first beers!
I started of low-key with a Leffe, It was great drinking a beer out in the sun after being in Ireland's winter for the last 2 months
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Rishi was ready for one as well
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With the sun in full force we headed down the road to a nice street side bistro
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The food was great, and very French, I had one of the first of many indulgent meals for the weekend, Duck salad with foie gras!

This is Place Sablon were we had lunch, i would have to say its one of the nicest little squares in Brussels, all the shops around the square were really nice, with quite a few amazing chocolate stores, we found our way back to the store on the corner a few times
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We continued our sightseeing and saw the impressive Galleries Saint Hubert
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And moved on to tourist CENTRAL, Grand Place
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Everyone has seen Maneken Pis (if you haven't Google it!) Last time we missed Jennake Pis, its basically someone trying to be funny with the peeing theme, and its a girl peeing! Its actually quite disturbing!
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We didn't get a photo of Zenneke Pis, that's another one which is.... a dog peeing on a footpath bollard (the Belgians really are crazy)

After all the sight-seeing it was defiantly time for a beer, so we got a seat at a great bar right in front of Maneken Pis, the beer list was about 30 pages long and it took some serious perusing
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I got a traditional Labic Gueze beer, its almost like a cross of a beer, cider & champagne, and it came in a hilarious basket, which is suposeably traditional
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Rishi got the Lamic Framboise (Raspberry beer)
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Both very tasty, the framboise was delicious but very sweet

The next day we decided to travel up to Antwerp which is only 40 minutes by train. We had plans of doing some shopping, as Antwerp was reputed as one of the best design cities outside of Paris, there were some great stores but nothing really got us spending our money, Antwerp was a nice change from Brusells though with a more laid back student atmosphere to Brussels

We did get to visit the reputed best fritterie in the world
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The Belgians have a particular technique with frites, where the double deep fry the chips making them extra crispy

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These were defiantly the best I have ever eaten, the mayo was great as well, even not being a huge fan of mayo it tasted great

After wasting quite a bit of time looking in shops, we did find some time to see some traditional sites, beer in front of the cathedral was a highlight of the day, and I got to try a local boutique beer
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We decided to head back to Brussels for dinner, and found a great brassiere style place where I got a great steak in Béarnaise sauce, that was a fitting end to a great weekend away
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We basically spent the rest of our time relaxing and taking it slow, that is the great thing about re-visiting a place you have already seen the main sights. You don't feel like you have to do anything in particular to get your value of the trip. Brussels is certainly not the best tourist city, but you wouldn't know that from the amount of people that go there, and there is a very French feel to it

But once you get out of the main tourist areas, there is a great atmosphere with a real local presence that's what we liked about Brussels, and the beer!

Posted by Rish_n_Ben 27.05.2008 05:32 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

Easter in Copenhagen

snow -2 °C

Following a Christmas holiday the first few days back at work are always the hardest.

The best part about living in Ireland is that just about anywhere in Europe is only a two hour flight away. And with two major international airlines based out of Dublin Airport sales are competitive, especially after xmas when everyone is broke. So a few days after getting back to work we had booked our next holiday. The logic in choosing where to go:
1. How much are the flights?
2. How cold is it?
3. How much does a coffee or beer cost there?

Well I don't know how we chose Copenhagen but at least the flights were cheap.

We arrived to a rainy day early on Good Friday, Rishi had done some research and found that every year there is a huge flea market for good Friday. So with the rain drizzling down we trekked out to the market.
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It was a great atmosphere and we browsed through junk and treasure for a good hour or so. We also bought some dutch salted liquorice which we love at home. But the Danish don't mess about, this stuff was about 2/3 salt and you needed 1 litre of water for each piece of liquorice

Next best thing to do on a rainy day is check out the local cafe scene, and Copenhagen has a lot to offer.

Riccos Coffee Bar was one of our favourites
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We love Coffee, and Rishi had done quite a bit of research on cafes in town, but unfortunately quite a few locals close down over Easter and take a holiday (presumably skiing at this time of year)

One thing I will mention is that Copenhagen would have to be one of the most expensive cities in the world, and certainly the most expensive city we have been to. To put it in perspective, an espresso is around 4 Euros and you can pay up to 8 euro for a cafe latte. Not to mention the beers at about €7-9 a pint (that's about AUD$11)

So forgetting the astronomical prices, we were hoping to goto a quality restaurant in Copenhagen and we had found a great place called Noma which was reputed by the Michelin guide as the 15th best restaurant in the world with a respectable two Michelin stars.

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We knew it would be expensive but we really wanted to try some quality Scandinavian food, So we sent off a request about 3 months in advance for a reservation. To our surprise (& relief) they where booked out solid. But they suggested we go on the waiting list in case of a cancelation. We put our names down and forgot about it, expecting to never hear back. Less than a week before our trip we got at call from someone at Noma, there was a cancelation and we could take the booking. This was a huge surprise, what could we say but yes. Then in the next 5 days before we left they called 3 more times to confirm and reconfirm the booking. These guys are serious about you turning up.

It was without doubt the most memorable meal of our lives, the service was unbelievable without being pretentious, and their English was exceptional.

Now to the food, we had the 7 course tasting menu, which started with a number of appetizers as well. The first appetizer was a herb smoke infused quail egg (served in a large porcelain egg shell) the taste of this was unbelievable and the egg was perfectly cooked.
Then we had some sort of cheese bread with a strange combination of fresh herbs made into a sauce with various steamed vegetables (very hard to describe) Whilst eating this we were asked if we would like a glass of champagne. When paying a lot of a meal you might as well drink something nice, so I casually asked what types of 'sparkling wine' they have as after travelling in Spain & Italy is always pays to ask this question as a lot of Cava's & Proseccos (Spain & Italys sparkling wines) are usually cheaper and nicer (sorry France) But the quick response from the waiter was Champagne. So we ordered two glasses without even daring to ask how much they were. And it was one of the better Champagnes I have had, but as I finished the glass still on our second appetizer Rishi looked over and whispered 'your not getting another one' and at that moment the waiter was topping up the glass! Still with no idea how much it was costing.

Then we got down to the real menu, I will list them below and highlight the standouts

Razor clams and horseraddish ”snow”
Parsley and dill
/This was absolutely an amazing combination, the clams were basically raw in a parsley and dill cannellini type tube and the horseradish snow was one of the most bizarre and amazing things I have tasted it was a great balance of crispness of the snow and softness of the clams

Salsify and milkskin
Rape seed oil and truffle from Gotland
This one is very difficult to explain

Monk fish and seaweed
Stems and roots of vegetables
Monkfish done very well

Ramson onion and onions from Læsø
Onion-cress and onion bouillon
This was one of the real highlights a great combination of flavours
So good I had to stop and take a photo
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Reindeer and celery
Gel of wild herbs and apple
The real standout, served perfectly cooked (quite rare) and the meat was extremely tender. Not one of vegetarians though, it is served with a traditional hand carved knife from reindeer bone!

Toasted jerusalem artichokes and seabuck-thorn
Malt and vinegar
This is the first dessert, icecream made from artichoke. But the flavour just worked

Dried berries and dried cream
Walnuts and dust of walnuts
The last dessert, freeze dried berries with freeze dried cream. It tastes like icecream but it has almost no liquid.

I was certainly contempt after that meal, prior to the bill at least, you can even see my reindeer knife
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I wont reveal the final price, but we only got charged for 1 glass of Champagne each, but at a genours price of €20 a glass (ok it was vintage) Defiantly the best meal of our lives, and in comparison with prices of other restaurants in Copenhagen it was not expensive at all. If I was visting from Australia on the $AUD I couldn't imagine eating there but earning euro makes a big difference

After a huge dinner the night before, what else to do then try a huge local weekend breakfast
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This is the place we had breakfast, it was actually a top spot that we went back to a few times again. But as we ate I notice there were quite a few strollers (buggys in Ireland) outside, not realising at the time that there wernt that many kids inside. On the way out we notice that there was a baby in one of the strollers (now keep in mind it was minus 2 in the middle of the day. But the babys were all rugged up outside the cafe in their strollers. We saw this all over town.
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After mainly drinking coffee and eating for the first day, we thought we better go and see some sites. Thats when the weather turned bad
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One thing you always hear about Copenhagen is how much they love bikes, and even in winter there are more bikes than cars around
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So its snowing and blowing a gale, I think that means we can go for more coffee! Back at (uncle?) Rico's again
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The next two days the weather cleared up quite nicely for us to do see a lot more of the city, one of the highlights for me was the opera house
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I am working on a theatre at work at the moment which we looked at the Copenhagen opera house as a case study so it was interesting to see it from the ground

Copenhagen was a great city to spend a few days, and it is somewhere you may not visit as a tourist many times but its one of the places you would live if given the chance

Posted by Rish_n_Ben 27.03.2008 05:48 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

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