Archive by Author
April 14, 2014

Cheap eats guide to Venice

 

P1020967

It’s been almost 12 years since I first visited Venice. Everytime I’ve visited this city, I’ve grown to love it a little bit more.

There are still some things that I guess the passage of time will never make easier for me when it comes to Venice. Like the problem of finding cheap accommodation in Venice. Encountering hordes of tourists almost everywhere. Plus everything is …just really expensive. The food especially. Expensive and often not of the best quality.

My recent visit to Venice represented something of a quantum leap in terms of my appreciation and understanding of the city.

The stay was made enjoyable thanks to the recent launch of the stylish Generator Hostel in Giudecca, Venice. The triple room set us back by around €90 but the location of Giudecca (peaceful, quiet ) with fantastic views of St Mark’s Square and Doge’s Palace from across the water, made this the perfect location to base ourselves.

The other major discovery from the trip was discovering this hidden network of ‘cicchetti’ bars (pronounced chi-KET-tee) across Venice.

Cicchetti” is a form of Venetian tapas, inexpensive snacks served all day in bars around the city.

Locals usually start nibbling ‘cicchetti’ over glasses of local fine Prosecco, often late in the morning, or as an afternoon snack or in the evenings when locals will go on their version of the ‘pub crawl’- the ‘giro d’ombra.’ (Giro means stroll, and ombra, slang for a glass of wine, refers also to the shade cast by the domes of San Marco) The cicchetti is served at at bàcari (“Bah-car-eeh”), small, local bars tucked all over backstreets of Venice. You can order at the Bacari, a spritz, Aperol or Campari at a fraction of the price of what you would pay in the piazza,  The cost of each chichetti can vary ranging from as little as €1 ( if you are eating ‘verdure’ vegetarian options ) to €3 for those which are meat or seafood based.

To help me navigate this hidden world of ‘cicchetti’ bars across Venice, I enlisted the help of the fantastic Walks of Italy who introduced to me to their local foodie expert Christina.

These are the cicchetti bars we visited

P1020869

1.) Al Merca

Campo Cesare Battisti, San Polo 213, Venice  +39 (0) 347 100 2583

Al Merca . As one of the smallest and most popular wine bars in Venice, this hole-in-the-wall bacaro serves a simple but delicious selection of Venetian cicchetti and great regional Italian wines and proseccos by the glass. Situated on a picturesque square within the bustling Rialto Markets area, feast on their bite-sized selection of fresh seafood antipasti, homemade panini and delicious cured meats while drinking a “spritzer”, i.e. a local aperitif with aperol mixed with either prosecco, white wine or soda. We had tasty polpetta melanzana, panino crudo, robiola & tartufo- price for chichetti starts here from just €1.50. Don’t be surprised to see the city’s workers lining up here throughout the day for a casual snack and a drink, where you can either pull up a seat on one of Al Merca’s wooden barrels out the front of the bar, or sit on the nearby waterfront steps overlooking the Grand Canal.

IMG_6552

2) Cantina Do Spade

Calle Do Spade 19, San Polo 30125 Venezia, Italy

P1020727

Located in the San Polo neighborhood, this Cantina lies incognito on a narrow alleyway on the way to the Rialto Market.

P1020718

You can enjoy delicious variety of cichetti like Polpetto in Umido ( Meatballs in a tomato sauce, €1.50) or Calamari Fritti ( €2) or Zucchini flowers fried in a light batter (€1.80) Accompanied with a glass of Aperol Spritz ( €1.50) this is a great place for a bite, morning, lunch or night.

P1020740

3) All’Arco

P1020919

Calle Arco, San Polo 436, lunchtime only

Across the Rialto bridge, tucked down one of its alleyways, Father-son duo of Francesco and Matteo conjure up some of Venice’s best cicchetti daily with Rialto Market finds in the magical All’ Arco.

IMG_6556

This cheap and cheerful bacaro offers some amazing plates of cicchetti served at the bar. Sardines with onions, anchovies with blue cheese, finely sliced salumi or stuffed octopus, raw ham, salted pureed cod all served on slices of bread. Prices can vary from €1.50 going upto €3.

4) Caffe del Doge

P1020934

609 S. Polo, Venice, Italy 30125 caffedeldoge.com

“Coffee is a platonic academy…..where no lessons are taught, but where one learns to socialize and to be enchanted. One can chat and gossip but it is forbidden to preach, lecture or instruct.”

Claudio Magris’ Micronismi

Finding decent coffee is a real drag, especially in Venice. Coffee lovers should pay a visit to Caffè del Doge (The Duke’s Cafe) that serves up a brew that really is fit for any human or Duke, a few steps from the famous Rialto Bridge.

You can choose from upto 8 single origin espressos as well as their 100% arabica and 50% arabica/50% robusta espressos and a decaffeinated one. Portion of all profits form the tasting is donated to help children who work on coffee plantations. All the ingredients are specially produced just for the Caffè, so you are sure to get the best cup every time. Plus if you dare, the grappa here is out of this world…and bound to blow you away.

Other places not covered on the Walks of Italy tour worth checking out…

 

Banco Giro.

Campo San Giacometto, San Polo 122. 

This lovely Bacaro is situated at the bottom of the Rialto Bridge, very close to the market and offers a dreamy view over the Grand canal. It offers a variety of chichetti- mainly meat and a variety of cheeses. There is also an amazing piece of history behind this little known bar- it’s formerly the site of the first giro bank where credit was born back in the 12th century when the Venetian empire was one of the world’s most wealthiest traders and it’s wealth was concentrated around the Rialto market.

enoteca-cantinone-gia-schiavi

Cantinone Gia’ Schiavi 

Fondamenta Nani, 992, 30123 Venezia 041 523 0034

Another little bacaro in Accademia , you can discover a variety of delicious chichetti on bread like pureed baccalà (salted cod), cold meats and creamy cheeses or the polpettine (little meatballs)

If you want to dine, drink and eat like a local in Venice,  I throughly recommend taking the Walks of Italy Venice Food tour which covers the cicchetti bars mentioned and includes a tour of the Rialto market.

Have any other cool cicchetti bars or cool cheap eats in venice to recommend? 

Please note : While the tour with Walks of Italy was complimentary, the views represented here are entirely my own.

April 6, 2014

I love travelling everyday of the week except Sunday

IMG_3056

I love travelling everyday of the week except Sunday.

I am not following that rule today.  I am back on the ‘road.’ I’ve escaped through a hidden portal in time and find myself back in the city I lived in for almost 9 years.  Yet, having been away from Edinburgh for so long, I feel like I am in the uncomfortable embrace of a stranger. It’s a cloudy and misty- what you would call a dreich morning.  I am missing the warmth of home. Madeira. I don’t feel like getting out of bed.

My mind wanders back into another gap in time. A similar lazy, Sunday morning almost a year back. I had been travelling through Germany for 3 weeks. I had just arrived in Dusseldorf. It had been an eventful trip, blighted by bitterly cold weather. It was the end of March. Germany was firmly still in the jaws of winter. Despite the sub-zero temperatures, I tried to make the most of my trip indoors.  From the sweet buttery cinnamon flavoured goodness of Franzbrotchen in Hamburg to the deliciously fruity ‘Klaben’ of Bremen, my mornings had fallen into a waist busting routine of discovering some of Germany’s finest regional pastries.

Afternoons were spent in some of Germany’s finest museums.  The Kunsthalle in Hamburg and Bremen followed by the Sprengel in Hannover: Germany is blessed with some of the finest contemporary art museums. By the time I arrived in Dusseldorf, the weather patterns had started to shift. A band of high pressure had brought clear skies. Cold, frosty nights gave way to crystal clear, cold blue sunny mornings.  The snow had melted, leaving behind a mixture of dead yellow and lush green grass. Craning my neck from my bedroom window of my stylish double room of my Jugendherberge hostel in Dusseldorf, I could see the iconic Rheinknie bridge towering in the distance , while the Rhine flowed serenely beneath, sparkling in the spring sunshine.  It was almost 10am. I was in danger of missing the hostel breakfast. Still, I lie dazed and lethargic. I usually can’t stay in bed longer than 9am. I spent a few minutes reading a ton of literature I had amassed the evening before from the local tourist office.

Dusselfdorf, Altstadt, on a Sunday afternoon.

Dusselfdorf, Altstadt, on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

 

I had a choice of activities to choose from. Maybe a stroll down the Rhinuferpromenade. I can watch the Rhine cruise boats sail by . I can check out some of the city’s iconic architecture in the Mediahafen district. Later in the afternoon I could continue my binge of contemporary art in the world famous K-20 + K-21 museums. Still, I found myself blighted by some sort of malaise. I spent another good hour under the covers, checking Facebook updates. Then I spot a picture from a friend in Edinburgh enjoying a traditional full Scottish at one of my old favourite haunts, the Holyrood 9A. I felt an instant pang of jealousy. There are a few better places in the world to start your Sunday morning than the Holyrood 9A. The staff are cheerful. There is a faint dash of morning light in this pub. It’s dark and cavernous. You’ll find a cosy log fire crackling away in the corner. When I lived in Edinburgh, my sunday mornings would be spent here reading their full selection of morning papers. I had a pang of nostalgia. I wanted to be far away from Dusseldorf. I wanted to be home. But where was home? Edinburgh was my home for 9 years but now no longer home. I had been living out of a backpack for almost a year now. Home was everywhere and nowhere.

It’s 12pm by the time I dragged my sorry ass out of the hostel.Sun was now high on the sky. After a 30 minute vigorous long walk to the city that included a very windy interlude on the bridge, I could feel a tickle of sweat forming on my back. The city’s main thoroughfare had a steady trickle of locals. I walk past wide gaping empty shop entrances adorned with confetti and balloons announcing mega spring savings. The eeriness and desolation reminds me of Sunday afternoons before in another world and space. Everywhere I looked, people looked disconsolate and slow in their step.

It’s only when I reach the banks of the Rhine river, there are suddenly signs of life. Tourists, mainly stag groups had congregated at the riverside bars gulping generous amounts of the quite dark and bitter local Altbier. I sit at the steps of the embankment and join the steady growing crowd of sun worshippers. It’s quite peaceful and orderly with the exception of a gaggle of homeless people with Lidl shopping bags, listening to music on a radio with a cracked speaker. They were a vision of happiness, drowsing themselves in cheap beer.

Pleasure boats drift by, crammed with over excited tourists waving their arms madly at the sun worshippers. The gaggle of beggars are the only people to respond. They start waving enthusiastically and like a terrible afterthought, the stag party group from the riverside bars stagger to their feet and join the impromptu rave. I sip on my lukewarm bottled water and wish it could turn into beer.

I get up and start walking. There is a wave of happiness along the Rhine river. Picture postcard scenes -couples walking by arms interlocked, the young family with cute baby and obligatory cute puppy in tow. I see all these scenes with a strange mixture of fascination and disengagement.

This could be my life. This cafeteria with great wifi, so nice and cosy. I could have my Sunday morning cup of coffee here. This could be the park I go running in the mornings.

I soon find myself walking by beautiful houses with broad bay windows that invite the outsider to gaze in. I see people gathered around the TV.  The biggest plasma widescreen TV you can imagine. It’s a scene that looks very inviting. Cosy leather sofa. I see a dude lying slothenly with the remote about to drop from his hands. He looks bored as hell. I imagine he could be watching something utterly tripe. I remember Sunday tv schedules from the past . Probably the sunday matinee movie. Or he could be numbed watching a very one sided football game from the Bundesliga involving Bayern Munich.

I walked back to the hostel with a nagging feeling. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be like to that dude. Watching the dullest TV programmes you can imagine. However the idea of waking up at home, in your own bed and not feeling the need not to go anywhere…. is a nice feeling. Maybe I am showing my age here. Maybe it’s good to watch utter tripe on TV and be numbed into a deep slumber on the sofa.

Maybe there is no place like home on a Sunday.

Since I am not home, I am going to make the most of now. The sun seems to be making a comeback in Scotland…peeking through those dark grey clouds. I might just drag my ass out now and have that full Scottish at Holyrood 9A….

Have a great Sunday, wherever you are in the world.

Do you love travelling everyday of the week, especially Sundays? Love to hear your thoughts on my post.

More stories from the road? Have a peek at the archives.

Stories-3

March 31, 2014

Cheap eats guide to Bari

 

It is my pleasure to welcome Ezio Totorizzo, proud native of Puglia and editor of the travel blog Spezio as the latest guest editor of the Cheap Eats Guide column. Today he’s taking us on a virtual tour of the best street food of his home town, Bari.

 

bari

Bari is one of the most important cities in Puglia which lies at the southern tip of Italy  (the tip of the boot) With its busy thriving port and also the newly opened Aeroporto di Bari ‘Karol Wojtyla’ , the city is the gateway for discovering this beautiful region.

One reason to enjoy a day in Bari, is of course the food and in particular, the street food.

Yes, it sounds unusual but in Bari it is possible to get the most amazing and tasty speciality of the Apulian Food.

Behind the food there is a world of stories, culture and lives that you can better to know just by eating.

I want to share with you the tips and secrets of what you can’t miss in a street food tour of my town.

Orecchiette

ORECCHIETTE

This is the type of pasta made in Puglia. In front of Castello Svevo, in the “Old town”, you’ll find a street where a lot of old ladies sell hand made orecchiette. It’s really nice because they show you how to do and they can prepare it in the moment. I suggest you not to buy at the first stop, but walk and talk with all of them (body language is well known). The price depends on the types of grains or the size but with more and less 5-8 euros you’ll have some to try.

SGAGLIOZZE

SGAGLIOZZE

These are slices of fried cornmeal mush with a little bit of salt.

They are really good and I’m going to share with you the best secret in town. There is an old lady who makes the best Sgagliozze- she is known as ‘Maria of Sgagliozze’

Maria delle SGAGLIOZZE

She is about 85 and she cooks them in front of her house at the price of around 1-3 euros. She is a living legend and knowing that people are more interested in local food she allows you to take a picture with her frying a SGAGLIOZZA.

She is really famous and Newsweek put her in the list of 101 best places to eat street food in the world.

POPIZZE

POPIZZE (brittle)

These are types of frittelle made with the same dough of pizza. They are not so big and you’ll buy in bags cooked at the moment. The price is almost the same of Sgagliozze and usually you can find it together, made by the same lady.

FOCACCIA is one of the most famous kind of food in town.

FOCACCIA is a flat oven-baked Italian bread product, made by flour, water, salt, oil and yeast, with tomatoes, olives or herbs (sometimes with potatoes), and other delicacies.

Panzerotti

PANZEROTTI, that are similar to POPIZZE, but filled with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese or minced meat or what you like most.

If you are in Bari, maybe you’d like to know some places where buying some food for a quick meal. I suggest you the best places in town

Panificio Milanese di Visaggio

Via Quintino Sella,43 (Almost at the end of the famous  street Corso Vittorio Emanuele)

Ask for Focaccia, panzerotti and rustici. Everything is so good and genuine. This is a family bakery.

Panificio Fiore

Strada Palazzo di Città 38, Bari (just beside the “Saint Nicola ” Cathedral) One of the oldest bakery in town.

Pizzeria Di Cosimo

via Giovanni Modugno 31, Bari For a really big and local Panzerotto.

I just wanted to share with you some stories about my city and I really suggest you to come and visit Puglia, because it is a really charming place for people, architecture and above all food.

If you need some tips about Puglia just tweet me  @eziomrlifestyle or search news on my travelblog  www.spezio.it

Hope you enjoyed Ezio’s fantastic guide. If you are visiting Italy don’t forget to check out the cheap eats guide to Florence  , Cheap eats guide to Rome , Cheap Eats Guide to Catania plus my guide to Parma and the 48 Hour Guide to Bologna

March 28, 2014

Venice, in 40 pictures & 20 songs.

 

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it, or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”

― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

 

photo-12

Please press play. Enjoy the pictures and the memories…

 

P1020783P1020786P1020787IMG_6546P1020754IMG_6549IMG_6536P1020806P1020746P1020814P1020984IMG_5586IMG_5624P1020978P1020943P1020840P1020946P1020967P1020830IMG_6556P1020911P1020946IMG_6570P1020792P1020817IMG_6431IMG_6434

bfc40924e1cf11e19f0922000a1e9a7d_7

P1020679P1020514P1020461P1020651P1020712P1020740P1020718P1020734IMG_6578

40 pictures. 20 songs and 1 little video to finish.

 

Hope you enjoyed the pictures and selection of songs. If you have any feedback to share or suggestions for the Venice playlist, please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.

Also if you enjoyed this post, please share on Facebook or Twitter. You may also want to check out my earlier instalment of Paris, in 40 pictures & 20 songs 

March 24, 2014

15 budget bus companies to check out on your next trip to Europe

 

 

The cheapest way to travel across Europe is definitely the bus. In terms of comfort and ease of travel, nothing beats interrailing across Europe but if you’re on a tight budget, then taking the bus in Europe can offer some amazing cost savings.

photo-11

 

Whilst offering excellent fares some of these bus companies featured offering a very high quality service- you can expect reclining seats, extra hold luggage, free wifi, sometimes they offer you free tea or coffee and you also have charging points at each seat.  If you have any bus companies to add to this list, please leave a comment below as I will be constantly updating this page and will credit you. Cheers!

 

Megabus_Neoplan_Skyliner

1.Megabus

The starting fares can be ridiculously cheap: If you’re looking to go from London to Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam then look no further than the Megabus where you can book yourself a seat for as little as £1 ( 50p booking fee) Other destinations being served by Megabus from London include now Ghent, Rotterdam and Cologne so it’s definitely worth checking them out.

Plus if you are travelling across the UK and especially if you’re looking for the best deal to getup to Scotland from London, do checkout Megabus.

 

2.National Express

Talking about travelling across UK on the cheap, National Express also has a very impressive network across UK with ‘funfares’ as cheap as £1 if booked in advance. Plus if you are visiting London, Manchester, Bristol or Birmingham, your ticket gets you 2 for 1 tickets in some leading visitor attractions like Legoland in Manchester or Madame Tussaud’s / Tower of London in London.

3.Eurolines

London-Paris bus route is fiercely competitive so it’s definitely worth shopping around. Eurolines offer advance fares of £38 return at the moment plus allow for 1 piece of carry on luggage and 1 hold luggage.  If you’re looking for an all inclusive bus pass , then Eurolines is a great network covering 41 destinations in 21 countries. Price varies according to the season you travel. In low season: €320 to €465 in high season. ( 30 days, Adult)

 

4. IDBUS 

Another recent rival on this route worth checking it is IDBUS, subsidiary of SNCF. IDBUS are offering currently deals from London to Lille for as little as £8, London to Paris for just £16, London to Brussels is £29 while London to Amsterdam costs £33. The IDBUS comes with free-wifi, plug point at each seat plus reclining seats. (I hope to be posting a in-depth full review of IDBUS soon on the site)

 

5. Berlinlinienbus 

If you are heading to Berlin, definitely worth checking out the excellent Berlinlinienbus where you can secure fares for as little as €9. Destinations served include Munich, Dresden, Hamburg, Paris and London etc. On board services include stewardesses on long national lines, free daily newspapers, luggage service, check-in with mobile devices and the latest state of the art coaches that offer great comfort. 

 

6. Mein Fernbus

Another German bus company that has take advantage of Deutsche Bahn losing their monopoly over the German transport network is Mein Fernbus where you can sample fares like  single from Zurich to Munich for €15 or Dresden or Leipzig to Stuttgart for €22 one way

Features of the service include free Wifi, reclinable chairs with at least 70cm legspace, air conditioning, toilet, snacks and drinks (sodas or beer are around  €1.50 mark)

 

7. ADAC Postbus

ADAC Postbus is the marriage of two German giants – ADAC & Deutsche Post who have created a nationwide bus service that offers an alternative low cost travel between 24 of Germany’s largest cities.

You book online via ADAC-Postbus , via a Deutsche Post office or direct from the driver.

Buses are equipped with three point safety belts, free WLAN and electric plugs for charging devices.

Fares?

Booking in advance you can  book a one-way ticket from Munich to Stuttgart from €11, or a trip from Cologne to Berlin from €28 or Cologne to Hamburg from €19

Bikes can be taken along for just 10€ – stowed away in the luggage hold.

Top Germany bus tips

In some cases the bus can be cheaper than the train in Germany plus faster- for example the BerlinLinienBus coaches that take you from either of the two Berlin airports or from the central bus station straight to Dresden Hauptbahnhof (main station) or Dresden-Neustadt station takes as little as 2 hours and, if you book early, you get the € 9 fare.€18 regular price, €20 if purchased on the bus.

If you’re visiting Bavaria, do check out the Bayern Ticket which gives you unlimited travel any day, till 3am and covers between one and five people. It costs €23 for one person plus a further €4 each for up to four more people. The price for five people is just €39-really is one of the best deals in Europe.

8. Simple Express

If you’re looking to heading out to the Baltics and Russia from Germany, looking no further than the excellent Simple Express which covers Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia. Prices start from €3. Book early because the 3 euro special price applies to the first 5 tickets bought from the internet per departure.

To give you an idea, their Berlin to Warsaw service takes 8 hours with standard fares of just €18 while an overnight coach journey from Riga to St Petersburg takes 12 hours and costs just €23.

9. PolskiBus

If you’re hitting Poland then definitely check out the legendary PolskiBus.com : Travellers can take advantage of 16 lines linking 20 Polish cities and five European locations. You can expect luxury, double-deck Van Hool Astromega coaches which are equipped with reclining, leather seats, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning and toilet. In addition, on the way from Wrocław to Kraków each passenger receives free refreshments: hot and cold drinks, sweet buns/croissants, cookies and water. Amazing. Ticket prices start from 1 zł + 1 zł per booking.

10. Onnibus

Further north if you’re visiting Finland then do check out Onnibus. Booking in advance you can get fares from Helsinki to Tampere and Turku for as cheap as €3.

11. Swebus

Other companies to check out include Swebus where you can go from Oslo to Copenhagen for as little £35 and journey takes around 9-10 hours.

12. Student Agency Bus

Do check out the excellent Student Agency bus service. 7 years ago, I checked out their Prague- Cesky Krumlov route ( as little as €4 one way) and back then, it had reclining seats, free Czech newspapers plus free refreshments like hot chocolate, coffee or tea.  Don’t let the name fool you-anyone can travel on their network. You hop from Prague to Vienna or Budapest for as little as €16 one way.

13. Westbus

Another company to check out for the same route and also for getting around Austria is Westbus. Vienna- Prague to Budapest is €22 one way, Salzburg-Munich €9 or Vienna to Zagreb for €29 while Salzburg to Prague is just €29.

14. Alsa

Spain’s bus services are provided by a host of bus companies whose routes comprise an extensive network. The biggest of the Spanish bus companies is ALSA which operates an extensive network of bus routes throughout the country including international routes to Andorra, France and Portugal. Definitely for many routes in Spain alone, Alsa offers major cost savings when you compare the prices with trains. Plus they have a bunch of excellent money-saving offers like when visiting France from Spain, you can get 50% off your ticket if you book more than 30 days in advance. For bus travel in Spain, the same offer of 50% stands if you can book a mammoth 120 days in advance. Both these type of advance tickets are non-refundable and cannot be changed, once booked.  They also have an app which avoids the problem of trying to print your ticket.

 

photo-1-1

15. Busabout

Last but not least, if you’re looking for an alternative network to getting around Europe, do checkout Busabout.

Am a big fan of their service- great destinations, friendly guides and they drop you off at the hostel ( work with a great network of hostels )

They offer a range of options including their popular ‘Hop on and Hop off’ network which serves 9 countries and 34 destinations. Prices start from  €485. For more about Busabout, do checkout my earlier in-depth review of the Busabout experience.

March 14, 2014

‘Visit Africa, in Rotterdam?’ Hotel Bazar reviewed

IMG_7727

I found myself in Africa. In Rotterdam?

Say hello to the Hotel Bazar.

IMG_7596

Location

The Hotel Bazar has a cracking location right in the middle of the city’s energetic Witte de Wittestraat which is the beating heart of the city packed with art galleries, cool bars and boutiques. It’s a five minute walk to the nearest tram stop and from there 4 stops to Central station. The hotel is also within walking distance of the Museumkwartier.

Quirky, unusual and eccentric-Hotel Bazar's decor is not like your usual run of the mill chain hotel.

Quirky, unusual and eccentric-Hotel Bazar’s decor is not like your usual run of the mill chain hotel.

 

Rooms and facilities

As the name suggests, Hotel Bazar offers guests a rich exoticism that draws on the city’s unique multicultural ethnic heritage. The hotel has 27 quirkily decorated rooms aimed at the global traveller.

Middle East, Africa or South America-where would you like to go?

 

IMG_7705

 

Take your pick of your favourite continent. I picked Africa. True to the theme, the moment I walked in I found myself transported to Africa…maybe a hunting lodge in Africa. I find zebra-skin wallpaper, mounted framed African butterflies, zulu shields and ceremonial spears. All combine to create a rather chaotic but vibrant ambience. It’s also worth checking out their Middle East rooms. I have a quick peek and v.impressed with their quaint moorish charm. All the rooms have a bathroom with shower and/or bath, TV and mini bar.

My African lodge room also came with an ensuite bathroom whose centrepiece is a huge wooden bathtub and African rainshower. Very romantic. My only quibble is the the lack of a bathroom door . Instead I have a beaded curtain. A bit awkward but it’s cool with me. Probably, not ideal for taking someone on your first date. The bed itself is comfortable for me though some may not find the soft mattress to their liking.

The hotel does have wifi but charges guests €4 a day. This is something I would expect any decent modern hotel to offer free of charge so this was a minor drawback for me.

IMG_7592

 

Star feature

The other very cool feature of the hotel is that you get to have a huge brunch at their popular restaurant downstairs. Colourful tables packed with locals, eye-catching lamps and happy music make you feel that you are indeed in a bazar in a far-away destination. The dishes on the menu are from North Africa and the Middle East and very affordable.

IMG_7757

 

The breakfast they serve is probably one of the most filling and tastiest breakfasts you will ever taste in any hotel- marinated feta, honey pancakes, suçuk (spicy sausages) and simit (sesame bread)- this is the perfect Turkish way to start the day. Or the perfect start to your afternoon if you prefer- you can enjoy your breakfast at anytime of the day.

Verdict

If you are bored of the run of the mill chain hotel rooms, then Hotel Bazar is definitely your cup of tea. It’s full of character. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I loved my stay. Especially the brunch! I feel ashamed to admit that the brunch was the most epic thing about this hotel. It does get very loud at night so if you’re looking for a peaceful nights sleep, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Essentials

Book at http://www.bazarrotterdam.nl

Room prices start from €60 mark.

Address: Witte de Withstraat 16, 3012 BP Rotterdam, Netherlands

Phone:+31 10 206 5151

 

Further resources

The Rotterdam nightlife guide 

The Gohemian guide to Rotterdam

Plus download the free Rotterdam App which highlights the very best that Rotterdam has to offer, from attractions and museums to hotels, restaurants and shops. The app includes an offline city map and a events calendar to discover what you can see & do,

Note: My stay at Bazar was courtesy of the hotel, however the views expressed here are entirely my own. My review of Bazar is part of a new series on the BudgetTraveller where I will be travelling the length and breath of Europe to discover Cool budget hotels. Here are some recent reviews of other cool budget hotels like the Student Hotel in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. 

March 2, 2014

Carnival in Madeira- Photoessay

 

So. Last night I attended my first ever ‘Carnaval’ in Funchal, Madeira.

It was one of the most memorable nights of my life.

I will let the photographs below speak for themselves. Enjoy!

PS Big thank you to Madeira Promotion Bureau for organising access to the parade.

p1050766

p1060242

 

p1060014p1060075p1060077

p1050863

p1050867p1050883p1050891p1050906p1050929

p1050771p1050781p1050949p1050984p1050991p1060015p1060093p1060100p1060105p1060125p1060162

p1060171p1060178p1060183p1060196p1060232p1060240p1060261p1060276p1060282p1060291p1060296p1060298

February 20, 2014

You’re invited to Lonely Planet’s first ever global Twitter chat!

Blog asset

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A very exciting announcement to share with you all!

To help celebrate the launch of Lonely Planet’s top 10 best value stays for 2014, I am very excited to announce that the BudgetTraveller is joining forces with the Lonely Planet to help co-host their first ever global Twitter chat on Thursday, 27th February, 4-5pm (GMT) and 8 – 9am PST. 

Everyone is invited and can be involved in this unique event!

We will be discuss money-saving travel tips, exceptional value accommodation and finding out about your favourite budget destinations. The most creative and inspiring tweeter will win a bundle of LP guides!

How can you take part?

1) Follow the hashtag #LPchat on Twitter on 27th Feb ’14 from 4-5pm GMT/8-9am PST
2) Questions will be ordered Q1, Q2, Q3 etc. To answer Q1, begin your tweet with A1. For Q2, A2 and so on.
3) Add #LPChat to all of your tweets during the twitter chat, so others including Lonely Planet and myself can see what you’re saying.
4) Bring your best travel tales and tips!
One week and counting till the 27th February, 2014. 4pm GMT. Keep the date aside for the diary, grab your popcorn, tell your mates to join in the fun!
I look forward to chatting with you soon!
Terms and conditions are as follows:
Terms and Conditions: Entrants must be  13 years old or over. Judges’ decision is final. Promoter: Lonely Planet Publications Ltd of 201 Wood Lane, London, W12 7TQ, UK. The winner will be notified via direct message and public tweet on Twitter. The winner must claim their prize and provide and address for delivery within 7 days of being notified, otherwise the judges may select another winner. Prize: A pack of 4 Lonely Planet Shoestring guides, as chosen by Lonely Planet, valued at £76.96.

 

February 17, 2014

A few hours in Parma

 

Before you I whisk you virtually away to the city of Parma, to get you into the mood, I made a mixtape of songs from local native composer, Giuseppe Verdi.

Press play…and enjoy the piece.

 

I came to Parma on a stifling hot day in July.

No one in their right mind would recommend you visiting Parma at this time of the year. Temperatures were around the 35c mark. However, I don’t mind the heat.

Forget the heat. Parma strangely does not figure prominently in many popular travel guidebooks. Which explains why the city was completely devoid of tourists when I visited, even at the major landmarks. While it lacks the attractions of the “big three” of Venice, Florence, and Rome, Parma is a microcosm of everything beautiful about Italy and definitely worth a day trip.

IMG_6639

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what’s Parma like?

Very colourful. Lots of great history ( founded 2000 years ago) and beautiful architecture , great culture, amazing gastronomy, beautiful gardens , medieval piazzas, interesting shopping plus it’s a compact, very walkable city. What more could you want?

Amazing fact: This is the town that the Italian flag, or il Tricolore, was first adopted.

IMG_6640

It’s an easy walk from Stazione di Parma to the historic city centre. I enter the city through the colossal, fortresslike Palazzo della Pilotta. Despite being heavily bombed by the Allied forces in WW2, the structure has managed to retain a beautiful grandeur.

I spent a good half hour just walking under its complex network of arches.

IMG_6641

The palazzo was supposedly named after the Spanish game ‘pelotta.’ No one was playing the game on the day I visited but there was a fantastic organ player busking under the century old arches. I casually observe the passage of locals while listening to the melancholy strains of the organ, the soft cooing of the pigeons above and the gentle echo of people’s footsteps passing by….

Here’s a sample of his work.

Originally built for the ruling Farnese family, the palazzo today houses two significant treasures- the art museum, the  Galleria Nazionale and the beautiful Teatro Farnese which you encounter enroute to the Galleria.

IMG_6662

 

The theatre was built to commemorate the passing of Cosimo II de Medici through Parma enroute to Milan where he was visiting the tomb of San Carlo Borrome.

Since it was built in 1618 (entirely out of wood and plaster) , the theatre was used only 9 times, mainly to mark ducal marriages or important state visits. Since the last show in 1732, the theatre lied unused and fell into disrepair. It was still visited by many famous dignitaries including the writer, Charles Dickens who noted the poor state of the wonderful theatre in his book, ‘Picture from Italy.’ The decaying theatre was destroyed during the Allied forces bombardment of May 1944. It was rebuilt in 1956 according to it’s original design. It still remains a beautiful space and worthwhile visiting.

Corononation of the Virgin, Correggio

Corononation of the Virgin, Correggio

 

I also recommend visiting the Galleria Nazionale which houses some of Parma’s greatest art treasures- works by local artists like Parmigianino, Corregio plus paintings by Fra Angelico, Canaletto and El Greco.

Top tip: The combined ticket to both attractions is €6. However, if you go in after 3pm, entry is half price and a very reasonable €3.

My next stop is Parma Cathedal. ( € Free ) This 11th century cathedral is easily one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve visited anywhere in Europe.

IMG_6647

 

The walls of the duomo are painted with scenes from the bible . The cupola is decorated by the 16th century fresco ‘ The Assumption’ by Correggio. It depicts Mary ascending to heaven in a rather inelegant way, nightie tucked round her knees.

Next stop? I need lunch.

IMG_6642

While in the search for lunch, I have a nice ramble around the streets of Parma observing the beautiful stucco houses in different , happy shades of yellow.

IMG_6667

It is a very colourful city.

IMG_6652

Even stepping into a humble vegetable shop, just looking at the colour of these beautiful vegetables and the way they are presented…..Life in Italy, imitates art.

I make a brief stop at the friendly tourist office to ask for lunch suggestions and they point me in the direction of Strada Farini, whose lively bars and restaurants make this a great place to come, for lunch or dinner or for just a drink.

IMG_6671

I find a bustling historic enoteca -Enoteca Fontana.

Enoteca for those not in the know, is used to describe a special type of local or regional wine shop in Italy that often serves small snacks with their wines.

IMG_6666

It’s a cosy place, packed with locals. Always a good sign. It has a great selection of local wines and tasty paninos. I enjoyed a panini stuffed with delicious local prosciutto crudo de parma ( €3 ) accompanied by a glass of the local sweet ‘Malvasia Dolce’ ( €1.20 )

IMG_6703

 

Fortified by my lunch I head next to the Baptistry,  a beautiful pink ( made from pink Veronese marble) and white octagonal building  built in the Romanesque style by Benedetto Antelami in 1196.

IMG_6644

 

One of the highlights of the building is the beautiful dome covered with ranks of saints and angels. Inside, the walls are covered with scenes from the life of Christ. The downside of coming here is the entry fee of €6 which is a bit prohibitive.

It’s late in the afternoon by the time I come out of the Baptistry. The sun is still high in the sky.

IMG_6690

 

After another aimless wonder I find myself in the grand Piazza Garibaldi. Lurking behind the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi himself,the Palazzo del Governatore towers in front of me. The facade dates from 1760 and has an impressive astronomical clock.

I cross the Ponte Dattaro.

IMG_6675

I stumble across this beautiful church which has inscribed above it’s doorway

‘Et verbum caro factum est’

…which translates as …“And the word became flesh” . This is part of a Catholic prayer called the Angelus (it is said morning, noon, and night, to commemorate the incarnation of Christ) and also appears in the Gospel of John 1:14.

IMG_6688

I hop back across the Ponte Dattaro that bridges the dry expanse of the Torrente Parma. More a stream than a river, in the summer months the Torrente Parma dries up like the proscuitto of the region.

IMG_6702

 

Back in the historic centre, I pop into the Chiesa di San Giovanni Evangelista. ( € Free)  Behind the 16th century facade, inside you can observe the magnificent frescoed dome by Correggio.

IMG_6698

 

I loved the stylish shopfronts in Parma.  The facade of this shop/restuarant for example could be belong to the streets of Paris.

IMG_6691

I also loved the Post Office building.

IMG_6706

 

My aimless wonder brings me into a puppet museum-Il Castelo dei Burani. These are the characters from popular 80′s TV show- Opera Mouse by Gruppo 80. Italian friends recognise these faces?

 

IMG_6710

 

I end my trip at the stunning Teatro Regio (Via Garibaldi 16a ) where many of native composer, Giuseppe Verdi’s works have been performed.

IMG_6716

If like me you are not lucky enough to catch a concert or opera at the Regio, I recommend going on one of their free guided tours of the Teatro (Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-1pm and 3pm-6pm). It’s conducted in Italian so bring your guidebook along. Or just use your imagination and just think what it must have been like in the day of Verdi.

Here’s a little Instavideo, to give you a little idea.

Essentials

You can fly direct to Parma from London Stansted with Ryanair. Or alternatively, you can fly to Bologna. From Bologna , taking the regional train. It costs €6 one-way and the journey takes just 1 hour.

IMG_6720

My thanks to the amazing people at Emilia Romagna tourism board for making Blogville a reality.  Also thanks to my fellow iAmbassador colleagues for their passion, craft and dedication to this project. Plus a big thanks to all my friends and fellow bloggers who I shared this unique experience. You can read about the bloggers amazing experiences of Emilia Romagna here. Plus check out my earlier 48 hour guide to Bologna.

February 12, 2014

Hoax Hostel, Liverpool review

Hoax Liverpool is one of a few brand new, purpose built luxury hostels that are cashing in on the trend of ‘luxury hostels’ ( or ‘poshtels’ ) across Britain.

 

rp_IMG_8098-1024x1024.jpg

 

Location

The hostel is just a 10 minute walk from Liverpool Lime Street , just around the corner from the Cavern and just off Matthew Street, the birthplace of the Beatles and the heart of the city’s party zone. Not ideal if you are a light sleeper.

 

Double  ensuite room, Hoax Liverpool

Double ensuite room, Hoax Liverpool

 

Rooms

I stayed the first night in their private ensuite double room.  The room is stylish and comfortable, on par of what you would expect in a 3 star hotel. Bed has a quirky base made from beer crates. On my second night of my stay, I switched to their 4 bed ensuite dorm. The room was clean. Each guest has access to their own locker. ( Note: Bring your own lock ) The 2 tiered bunk beds were more than comfortable, each equipped with a private light and power socket.

Free computers for guests to use in the lobby of the hostel.

Free computers for guests to use in the lobby of the hostel.

 

Facilities

The building has a rich history- it was formally a tea and grocer’s warehouse back in 1829 and a century and a half later you would have found the Robert Wade Smith department store here. This is the place where the 80’s casual trend began.

 

IMG_8103

 

Nowadays, the building has still retained a bit of that edgy street vibe which is reflected in it’s graffiti art walls daubed with murals of local icons like John Lennon. Staff were helpful with lots of suggestions for places to eat and bars to checkout. There is free excellent wifi available throughout the building.

IMG_8160

 

The star feature of the hostel is their very cool restaurant/bar called the ‘Hopskotch’ which attracts a nice mix of locals and guests. You can enjoy craft beers here on tap or choose one of their excellent cocktails ( Snoozeberry is the best) and soak up the booze with the help of their tapas style international street food menu ( starting from £4.75. They are currently running a promotion where you get 3 items from the street food menu for £10 from 12-7pm ) . You can choose from a wide variety of tasty international bites-from All American Ribs to Shredded Beef Tacos to ‘Palak Chole’- a spinach and chickpea curry served with naan bread. If you’re looking for bigger portions, you can go for their excellent Yeti Burger or try their delicious goat curry served with rice, peas and fried plantain ( £12.95 ).

 

The Hatch. Hoax Liverpool

The Hatch. Hoax Liverpool

 

Downstairs, they have a common room which is a bit quiet and lacking in atmosphere during the day but at night ‘The Hatch’ comes to life as a live music venue. You can expect to see a lot of emerging talent from Liverpool’s vibrant music scene at the ‘Hatch.’ On Wednesday’s if you fancy a go yourself, they have an open mic night. On Tuesdays, they have an excellent quiz night where the grand prize is a crate of beer and £20. The questions are tough, so come well prepared.

The Hopskotch breakfast!

The Hopskotch breakfast!

 

Other key facilities- there is a common kitchen that guests can use. At the moment, it lacks a bit of character but I hear there are plans to improve this. All guests get a free continental breakfast which is your basic affair of tea, coffee, toast, cereals and jam to start your day. If you fancy something more filling, I definitely recommend upgrading to their fry-up breakfast for £3.95 which is served at the Hopskotch.

 

IMG_8115

Verdict

Loved the design, layout and facilities like the Hopskotch bar. It’s a hostel with great promise. Sure it is a bit on the noisy side so if you are a light sleeper then avoid. However if you are here to have fun, then I can’t think of a better place to stay in Liverpool.

 

IMG_8162

Essentials

Book at hoaxliverpool.com

Hoax

54 Stanley Street, Liverpool

L1 6AU

0151 908 0098

Dorm beds from £14.50 B&B, doubles from £54

css.php