Europe city hopping: Prague attractions

Truth be told, Prague has never been on my travel list. It always seems that there are other more interesting and exciting places to visit but of course I cannot go to all of them for budget and time reasons. We had 2 weeks off work last Christmas but we decided to spend one week traveling and the other week in Germany because most of the attractions would be closed over the Christmas/New Year period. With only one week, and not willing to spend too much on our holiday (since we’re planning a big one for 2017), we decided on Prague. We heard it was lovely from some of our friends who have visited the city before.

When we knew we were moving to Germany 2 years ago, we heard many comments like “oh lucky you, you can travel to *this place* and *that place*”. That is true, but not without spending a lot of money. The distance is relatively near, but it doesn’t mean that transport is cheap as peas, neither is the travel time. Case in point: Prague is nearer to Bremen, than Singapore, obviously. However if we were to take the bus, it would take us close to 13 hours, 8 hours by train, or pay triple the cost of a bus ticket and take the plane for 45 mins.

But after visiting Prague, I’m glad I did because I enjoyed the city SOOOO much! First of all, they all speak very good English (a very much appreciated fact after living in Germany for more than a year now), and very welcoming to tourists. The city is safe and the shops open till late!

Here’s are some of the places we visited

  1. Charles Bridge
  2. Old Town & New Town
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  3. Jewish Museum
  4. Lennon Wall
  5. St Vitus Cathedral
  6. Prague Castle
  7. Petrin Tower
  8. Clementinum
  9. Mirror Maze
  10. Wenceslas Square
  11. Prague Underground Tour
  12. Old Town Hall Tower
  13. Old Royal Palace

What I enjoyed the most were the Jewish Museum (a lot of history, and it can be quite emotional to read the history), the Clementinum (gorgeous library that is out of bounds to public and no pictures allowed to preserve the centuries-old books) and our absolute favorite was the Prague Underground Tour (interesting to see how modern Prague was built city upon city)

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Moodboard for West Ridge kitchen

Colours wise, it will be light gray cupboards and white walls. I haven’t decided if I want a wooden counter top.

Since our unit does not have a kitchen wall, we have the option of having a kitchen island at where the wall is suppposed to be at, with the cookhob and dining corner incorporated into it. IKEA Bremen has got one nice show kitchen which is exactly what we like!2017-09-30 20.06.19

To try to demarcate the kitchen area, we will go for folding doors. They will be kept open most of the time though as we like open spaces. However, we need the doors for practical reasons such as when we switch on the aircon in the living room as well as keeping the smells in the kitchen when I’m frying fish or something.

Europe city hopping: Zakynthos, Greece (Day 3)

Read about Day 1 & 2 here

The next morning, we took a boat tour to the main highlight of the trip, which was to visit the shipwreck beach amongst other places *cue Descendants of the Sun music*. There were 2 types of tourists on the boat with us: the westerners who wanted to go the beach for the waters, and the Asians who were there for a romantic trip like us. Haha.

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As we were on a boat tour, we couldn’t spend too much time at the beach. It would have been nice to just sit on the pebbles and enjoy the cool breeze, while having DOTS OST playing in the background. Instead, we quickly took pictures, found ourselves 2 nice smooth pebbles and wrote ourselves a love message on the pebbles. We left one behind within the shipwreck and took the other one home. It’s now sitting on my display shelf and I still catch myself smiling fondly at the memory when I see the pebble.

It was almost lunchtime when we were done with the boat tour and we were starving so we didn’t drive far to find food. There was Taverna Faros nearby and we just decided to grab lunch there. The food there was amazing as the taverna was situated on top of a small hill and it offered a clear view of the sea. Gorgeous.

We drove down the road after lunch to Windmills Snack Bar as it was even closer to the water and we were once again faced with the vast sea and all its gorgeous turquoise waters. It’s a view that you just won’t get sick of.

Our time in Zakynthos was relaxed and idyllic because we were there mainly for Navagio. The remaining of day 2 was spent exploring Zakynthos town, as well as visiting the Turtle Rescue Center and Gerakas Beach (within walking distance to the Turtle Rescue Center).

On our last evening, we ventured out to Zakynthos town for dinner at a recommended place called Yard of Taste. It was a lovely restaurant, decorated tastefully like a country cottage. We must have been there quite early because there were only another (Asian) couple there besides us. Maybe Asians just eat dinner much earlier than the Greek. Haha.

We had a warm seafood salad (recommended by the owner) and pork chops, both of which were superb! I had especially loved the seafood salad because it was unlike anything I have tasted before. The portion was huge and I almost couldn’t finish it.

Europe city hopping: Zakynthos, Greece (Day 1 & 2)

I’m finally writing about my Greece trip! It is planned to be our second honeymoon and rightfully so because our first honeymoon was a whirlwind trip to Hong Kong and Macau where we just indulged in the glorious food they had to offer.

I had always wanted to go Greece for our honeymoon but with the move to Germany planned soon after the wedding, it didn’t materialize until now. The desire to go Greece was even stronger after we watched the Korean drama and we both wanted to go to Navagio beach. //Digressing from my trip, I’m still in shock that SJK and SHG are married. //

We had planned a 10 day trip, covering the islands of Zakynthos and Santorini and then ending up in Athens. We had to fly out from Hamburg airport for cheaper flights and more flight availability but alas, our outbound flight to Athens was cancelled by EasyJet the night before we were supposed to fly due to a transportation strike in Greece. We were already in Hamburg airport when we received the news and we were scrambling to book ourselves on an alternative flight (we ended up paying more than 4x the price of EasyJet on SAS) and praying really hard that the ‘new’ flight could take off.

Anyhow, we managed to get into Athens at close to 5pm after a 7 hour delay and then had to catch our next flight to Zakynthos via Olympic Air. Unfortunately there was no end to the amount of ‘things that could go wrong’ this day, and our Zakynthos flight was yet delayed by another hour. Not quite sure of the reason of the delay because the strike hours were over and all passengers received a photocopy of a letter apologizing for the delay and a ‘voucher’ for a complementary (future) flight. Again, not exactly sure if the company is going to honour the ‘voucher’ since it’s just a photocopy and there’s no mention of any date or customer name or booking reference. I could jolly well make 50 copies of this ‘voucher’!

We were picked up by the hotel via a complimentary shuttle at Zakynthos airport. I had chosen to book ourselves into Avalon hotel as it has a no-children policy (yay to no screaming children at 7am, or baby elephants running along the hallways).  On the night we arrived, there was a ‘Greek night’ party going on in the restaurant and you could hear the live music loud and clear even in the corner room. I was ready to go crazy by this time since we did not have proper sleep since the night before (Hamburg airport wasn’t the best airport to stay overnight). It ended past 11pm and all I can say is, I’m glad that the shitty day was almost over.

Despite our horrible long Day 1 in Greece, we woke up early on Day 2 because we had to collect our car and head out to the viewing platform of Navagio beach. But first, we had breakfast at the hotel. Avalon hotel includes breakfast in its room rate and you could also order a packed breakfast if you had to leave early.

We rented our car from Anadyon Rentals and I couldn’t recommend it more. Their service was amazing and the price was unbeatable. We rented an automatic car for 2 days for just 85 euro (full damage waiver and GPS included). They also deliver and pick up the car to your hotel, free of charge. I initially rented a manual car as I didn’t know they had automatics, but after 10 minutes of trying to drive the car, we gave up and requested to exchange the manual for an automatic. I’m not willing to practice my rusty manual driving skills (it’s been 10 years!) on windy and steep roads along the cliffs of Zakynthos. This is not the place.

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It was almost a 2.5 hour drive from our hotel to Navagio viewing platform. We had read online that it is best to walk the trail, right of the viewing platform, for a better view of the beach. Though located at the top of the cliff, it is pretty safe if you follow the path walked by many others. You could get a really nice, unobstructed view if you’re daring enough to go to the edge though. I’m happy to stay safe and just see nice photos on Instagram #navagiobeach.

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After spending an hour at the viewing platform (I left reluctantly… I could easily spend the whole day there), we headed off to see a 2000 year old olive tree in the village of Exo Hora. By the way, olive trees are really EVERYWHERE on the island. You can easily identify olive trees by their ash-green leaves.

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Our lunch was at a random taverna we came across when we followed some road signs. It felt like we were driving to somewhere very isolated because at some point, we drove close to a cliff and alongside the sea. But we were rewarded by a lagoon with beautiful crystal blue water and a restaurant by the side. We managed to get a table outside and enjoyed the view while we ate authentic Greek food.

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As the drive from the Navagio viewing point back into the city centre was quite a long and windy one, sometimes alongside the cliff, sometimes through the hilly areas, there were quite a number of spots where you can just stop the car and take a short hike for some postcard-worthy photos.

On the way back to the hotel, we followed the directions of a signboard advertisement for an Aristeon Olive Press & Museum – it turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. There was a free guided tour of the factory, introducing the process of cold-pressed olive oil extraction and the products they produce. It was interesting as well as eye-opening. We bought quite a few bottles of olive oil because the prices were affordable. I had wanted to bring the smaller bottles back as souvenirs for our family, but we’ve used them up already in Germany! Oops.

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Europe city hopping: London 2017 (Day 1 itinerary)

While I hope that most of my readers would have the opportunity to spend more than 3 days in London (it’s a lovely place!), I know that most Europeans like to visit London for a long weekend like we did. 3 days is really short and we tried to make the best out of it, covering most of the hot spots and activities.

Day 1

Continue reading

Recipe: mapo tofu

Proper fresh tofu is hard to come across in Germany, so I get really excited whenever I see Unicurd silken tofu available in the Asian shop. I decided to cook mapo tofu for lunch today since I managed to get my hands on a box of silken tofu in my recent Asian order.

I already had the sauces (oyster sauce, chilli oil and chilli bean paste) in my pantry. Continue reading

Europe city hopping: Amsterdam

Easter weekend 2016 in Amsterdam (I know!! I’m super late… might as well don’t post right? But I want to look back on my time in Europe and remember what I did, so I’ll still post, hehe)

Each time we get a long holiday, I would request for a trip out of Germany. It revitalizes me when I get to hear a different language other than German (it’s so stressful to listen to German all the time). We went to Copenhagen for Christmas 2015, and decided to go to Amsterdam for Easter 2016. It was convenient with the different travel options from Bremen, but we decided to go with Flix Bus in the end.

Accommodation: ZH had booked us a campers’ cabin at Lucky Lake hostel, and while I usually shun backpackers-style accommodation, I was instantly taken by the place when I saw the photos online. It was definitely a unique choice, even to my Dutch colleague! My verdict: the place is nice but not suitable for families and princesses, though it might be more comfortable in late spring and summer when temperatures are warmer. We were there early spring and the cabins were a little too cold for us still, even though they had heaters within the cabins.

Transport: Our usual modus operandi is to get the tourist attraction card which includes free/discounted entry to various attractions and/or unlimited transportation. It was the same for Amsterdam: we bought the Amsterdam Card for 72 hour period (75 Euro) and planned our trip around the card.
My verdict: the value of the card is absolutely worth it if you plan your trip around the attractions the card has to offer.
We bought the 72H card for 75 Euro.

  • Van Gogh Museum (17 Euro, free with card)
  • Micropia (14 Euro, free with card)
  • Hermitage (17.50 Euro, free with card)
  • Artis Royal Zoo (20.50 Euro, free with card)
  • One hour canal ride (16 Euro, free with card)
  • Amsterdam museum (12.50 euro, free with card)

Day 1

We spent the day around the central station, taking a canal cruise, visiting the Sex Museum and Red Light Secrets (museum about prostitution, admission fee 10 Euro) and just walking the area. The Sex Museum was interesting but very crowded since it was very close to the central station. I felt that the Red Light Secrets was more educational and raised awareness about sex trafficking. Towards the end of the ‘tour’, there was also a display wall with names of the ladies who were murdered in the course of their business. It is really sad that they are so vulnerable trying to make a living.

Amsterdam being a city of canals and waterways, canal cruise companies are aplenty and we enjoyed a canal boat ride with our Amsterdam card (many operators to choose from). It was always fun to enjoy a relaxing cruise because you get to take in the sights of the beautiful city in a short period of time, plus the guides provide insightful information that you may not have read online or in your travel guidebook.

We saw many locals and tourists snacking at Febo, a popular fast food style kiosk, and we couldn’t pass it up. It was quite fun buying hot food from the vending machines! You don’t have to worry about the food getting cold or past its prime. In the short time that we were eating there, we saw a high turnover of items so the food was kept fresh all the time. The sex museum is located just a short walk from Febo, so you can do both together.

Day 2

We visited the Van Gogh Museum early in the morning, to avoid the long queues. Thankfully it was only a short wait as we could join the express queue with our tourist card. I can safely say that I don’t know how to appreciate art. So we decided to skip all the other art museums in our itinerary after browsing through Van Gogh Museum.

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We had lunch at Foodhallen which reminded me of Pasar Bella in Singapore. It is essentially a big food court with many food stalls. We enjoyed a variety of food here.

Next, we headed to Begijnhof . You will find the oldest wooden house in Begijnhof, dating back to 1528. Please be aware that the Begijnhof is still an active ‘community’, so there are still residents living in the houses there. Please be respectful and do not create a ruckus.

If you’re interested in the history of Amsterdam city, you will be pleased to visit the Amsterdam museum. There are also special exhibitions from time to time.

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The Old Church was one of the places that left us in awe, mainly because of how well preserved it was.

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I have read that there is a large population of Indonesians in the Netherlands as Indonesia used to be a Dutch colony and therefore the migration of Indonesians into the Netherlands. The Indonesian food in the Netherlands was also purportedly quite authentic so we had planned to have a ‘rice table’ meal. We came across one such restaurant near the city centre and decided on it. We ordered a set meal for two and the food was quite good. I was still a little greedy after the meal, and ordered a rojak. Now I had thought that the rojak would be similar to the one we have in Singapore but I was sorely disappointed. The rojak did not have the sweet thick peanut sauce and the variety of vegetables was disappointing for the price we paid.

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Day 3

If you’re visiting the Hermitage Museum, you might want to be there a little earlier just to walk along the river and view the Schaduwkade. It is not a tourist attraction per say, and you won’t be able to find this on the Amsterdam tourist website. Basically, the Schaduwkade is a tribute to 200 residents living along the canal, who were persecuted because they were Jews. There’s also something similar in the area where I live in Bremen. It still shocks me and makes my heart sink whenever I think of it.

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It is not a complete trip if we did not visit the zoo and/or aquarium, so we went to the Artis Royal Zoo and the new Micropia (just next to the Zoo). The Micropia was a new experience for me as it features microorganisms! I didn’t think I’d like it but I did! Maybe I’m a closet nerd.

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In the evening, we had dinner with a local Dutch host at his apartment, organized via WithLocals.com. It was our first time using the services of WithLocals and I wish it was available in more locations! I think it allows us to have a better understanding of the local lifestyle since we like to go off the beaten path when we travel. We try to cover “top ten things to do/eat/visit” as recommended online but we like to mix it up a little as well.

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Thanks to the wonderful pancake experience we had, I started to have a lot more pancake breakfasts when we returned to Bremen.

Day 4

Our bus back to Bremen was around lunch time, so we woke up early to have sufficient time to wash up, have breakfast at the breakfast bus, pack our luggage and take the shuttle bus out to the train station. As the bus journey was quite long, we tried to find some snacks when we arrived at our bus departure point but there was nothing worth the money as with most convenience stores. I wanted some hot snacks from Febo but there was no Febo available. We ended up having an early lunch at Julia’s, a make-your-own pasta café.

We did not visit the Anne Frank house because 1) we are not history buffs, 2) we read online reviews that the site was overrated – small and nothing much to see, plus there’s always a long queue to enter the place.

Contrary to popular belief, “magic brownies cafes” are not everywhere, or at least not that I can see.