Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Germany Black Forest


Town: Todtmoos is a beautiful small German town situated very close to the Swiss border. We rented a car through hertz (cheapest) in Interlaken and drove to Todtmoos from there. We reserved our car online before we got to Europe. Having a car in the Black Forest makes a huge difference!

Accommodation: Haus Monika- A large house converted into small apartments. For 35,00 per night, we got a one bedroom apartment with kitchen and deck. Also included was a free bus card. Note prices are for the whole apartment, not per person!

Activities: Miniature Golf: For 3,00 per person we got to play on this 18 hole mini golf course with a diverse set of holes.

Food: There is a small grocery store/ liquor shop near the middle of the main street of Todtmoos. A big selection of black forest liquors and small gifts. They also have staples such as bread, cheese, milk, etc.

Bakery: There is an amazing home cooked bakery at the end of the main road of Todtmoos across the street from the park. We got a huge piece of black forest cake, mandarin cheesecake, and a chocolate croissant for 5,00. Good deal for delicious food!

Day Trip: Freiburg

Freiburg is the largest city around Todtmoos; about an hour drive away. An old town with old architecture and a large university are the highlights of this city, as well as it’s shopping.

Food: We ate at Brennessel, a local café/bar with large portions of delicious area food. We had the Au Gratin Potatoes and flat bread with cheese and olives. Reasonable prices and good house wine. They had two versions of the menu; one with four languages, including English.

Day Trip 2: Todtnau & Shulschsee (Lake)

Todtnau is about 30 minutes from Todtmoos and has a beautiful waterfall hike about 2.5 kilometers.

They also have the Hassenhorn which is a ski lift that takes you to the top of a steep mountain. Once to the top you can hike around on the trails and see stunning views of the black forest. When finished, take the coaster down. A one or two person car you drive down a track. 8,50 for the ski lift and coaster combination. For some reason the bells on the church rang for 10 minutes at 2:45….

Schulschee lake: About 30 minutes from Todtmoos is Lake Schulschee. A large warm lake where you can go swimming for free, or rent paddle boats, row boats, and electric boats for a nominal fee. Parking is less than 2,00 per hour in lots around the lake.




Transport: Good connections by train to Interlaken West and Interlaken Ost train stations. Most places in Interlaken can be reached on foot. Check the train website for prices and times here:

Accomodation: Balmer’s Herberge: Cheapest accommodation in town includes breakfast and free bus pass. Big downside is how LOUD it is at night and how many young Americans are there to party.

Food: Going out to eat is very expensive in Switzerland. Figure about 15-20 CHF per person. Best idea is to go to COOP stores or Eurospar supermarkets to buy your food and cook if you have access to a kitchen.

Local specialties:

Rosti- Potatoes in shredded hash brown form. You can buy them in a can or prepackaged in bags.

Chocolate- Amazing array of delicious chocolate at the grocery store!


Alps hike: We took the Alpine train from Wilderswil up to Schynige Platte for 35.00 CHF per person. Beautiful views of Interlaken and the Alps. We hiked back town to Wilderswil and it was quite the hike, our calves were killer! I would suggest hiking down to Breitlaunen and getting the train back down from there. That way you can still get a good hike but not an exhaustive one.

Cornetto on top of Schynige Platte

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Dublin and Surrounding Areas

Ariel House, a Dublin bed and breakfast near the Lansdowne Dart station, is very central to the city center via walking or the train. Cute rooms with amazing breakfasts!

Ariel House Bed and Breakfast

Dublin sights and activities

City Walks: Grafton Street is a large pedestrian walkway & shopping district with lots of pubs.

Temple Bar: The old quarter but unfortunately also very touristy. Some great old pubs here.

North of the Liffey River: Good shopping that’s kinder to your wallet, but it gets kind of sketchy at night. Also note the difference in accent on this side of the river with more “t’s” added to the end of sentences. For example “Meet me tonight at the bar…t”

Phoenix Park: Large and beautiful with plenty of places to enjoy nature and possibly see some deer strolling through the park or a rousing game of Cricket. There’s also a large zoo, one of the biggest in Europe.

Food & Drink: Soda bread, Dubliner cheese, Bulmer’s cider (in Pear and original on tap), lots of different whiskeys including different types of Jameson. If you order a whiskey and coke you will get Jameson, just as if you order a beer you will get a Guinness.

Sticking out as a tourist: Use your map only when you think you are conspicuous, sometimes this is hard. A drunk old man came up to us while we were in an alley and asked where we wanted to go and could tell we were American by our accents. “Oh American eh? Don’t ask me about the war!” But “Enjoy Dublin!”

Day trip to Bray

Town of Bray: About 30 minutes south of Dublin on the train. Small beach side town with a boardwalk and partly sandy and rocky beach. Bray head is a small mountain you can climb to get a panorama view of Dublin’s suburbs. Good day trip!

View of Bray head from Beach

Day trip to Glendalough

Glendalough is a Monastic village worth going to more for the nature and mountainous trails than the actual ruins themselves. Best to drive up there to enjoy the country side (public transit might be difficult) Beautiful and serene lakes and trees and an old mining town. Waterfall trail, high peak trail with views, and flat lake walks.

Glendalough bridge and flowers

Scotland: Glasgow and Edinburgh

Old architecture but new and young people

Old church in typical Glasgow architecture form


The Ivory Hotel: Easy going hotel a little near the suburbs and right next to a park. Includes traditional Scottish breakfast which was the best I've ever had. The downstairs bar has cheap pints and good eats with vegetarian options. Bus stops right outside the hotel and a train station 1/3 of a mile away that goes directly to downtown Glasgow.


Kelvingrove Park/Kelvingrove museum: Giant park and national museum, both free.

Burell Art Collection (located in Pollock Country Park which has Scottish Highland Cows) Both Free.

Highland cows in Pollock Country Park


Train cost is 2 pounds or less

Subway cost in 2010 is 1,20 pounds for one way

Bus is 3,45 pounds for 2 journeys


Auctioneers Pub: Very very cheap bar with food, best in the city average 2,00 pound per drink or 5-6 pound for food and drink included special

Horshoe Bar- Another good bar with 2 stories, karaoke 7 days a week upstairs and good deals downstairs average 2,00 per drink (whiskey coke for example)


The 78 Café Bar located at 10-14 Kelvinhaugh Street. Amazing vegan haggis and Banger’s and Mash. Open from 12:30-9pm.

Vegetarian Banger’s and Pesto Mash with VLT in back


More spread out and medieval-looking than Glasgow.


We stayed at Euro Hostel, University of Edinburgh dorms which are rented out during the summer to visitors. By far the best deal for your money, plus you get to use a kitchen which will save you money. The wifi was not free however and was 5 pound a day. Walk through the city to find a wifi spot. Most Burger Kings have free wifi.


There are some awesome pubs and restaurants along the Royal Mile and on the side streets. We went to “Hot Totties” a vegetarian baked potato café to get some “Jackets” (baked potatoes filled with a variety of things, we got avocado). You can also get traditional haggis or stew inside. They were giant! They also had delicious vegetarian haggis filled samosas.

Veggie haggis samosa and avocado Jacket

Holyrood park- At the end of the royal mile hill is the parliament building, royal palace and the park. The park is hilly and has Arthur’s Seat, an old volcano you can hike up to get amazing panorama views of Edinburgh. There are some old ruins from the 17th century and old wells.

King Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park

Free golf: near the other end of the royal mile, there is a park with The Golf Tavern, where you can rent clubs, get a drink and dinner special for 12 pounds. The 36-hole golf course claims to be the oldest in Scotland as it used to be the king’s personal course back in the day. It is a pitch and putt, so only about 2- par holes. When we rented the clubs, we got a wedge and putter. The tavern was established in the 1400’s! The oldest place we have eaten in yet…

Ye Olde Golf Tavern


Walking is the easiest around Edinburgh. There are many hills however so be ready for some inclines. Getting to Edinburgh is easy on the train and to get to the airport they have direct busses that leave every 10 minutes from downtown.

Note about currency:

Although Scotland is part of the UK and uses pounds; we found it very difficult to use our Scotland pounds in England. Businesses have to accept them in England, but the busses refused them, and no bank or currency exchange would exchange them for British pounds.



Luxembourg Palace and Gardens


Airbnb rental by Saint Mandé. This area is quite and local. Very nice area and safe and by the biggest park in paris. Also by the cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried.


The Paris metro can take you anywhere you need to go. Get a “Carnet” of tickets from the machine or a person for 12,00 for 10 tickets. It saves money more than buying individual tickets.


Monoprix and Franprix are the major supermarkets where you can get good deals on cheese and bread and wine. You can also buy pre-made crepes here which are actually pretty delicious. One thing that isn’t cheap in Paris I’ve noticed is gum and mints. I’m used to paying under $1 for either one and here they are 3-5 euro! Sheesh.

Store bought crepes with cheese of my choice

Free Stuff:

On nice days especially there are lots of streets where you will find boxes of clothes. I found a nice dress and suede boots for free! Yay. I think you are more likely to find these boxes on the outskirts of Paris.


We walked through the giant Louvre museum and saw the highlights. If I could do it again, I would have done it in 2 parts as the tickets are good all day. It’s so much to take in all at once. The Orsay museum houses famous Impressionist paintings which are a nice break from the Biblical and Realist works of the Louvre. You can take pictures in the Louvre without a flash, but you cannot take them in the Orsay at all.

Hall inside the Louvre

Bastille July 13th:

The night before Bastille Day (French Independence Day) Place de Bastille has a huge outdoor free concert. It is about 3 hours and has tons of artists, this year some of the big ones we knew were 50 cent and Black Eyed Peas.

Bastille July 14th:

Free fireworks around 10pm at the Eiffel Tower accompanied by music. Get there early to claim a seat on the Champ du Mars lawn.


Take the Paris metro to the Anvers stop to see the Sacre Cour and panorama view of Paris. Rue de Abesses has great eateries that are cheaper than places around Sacre Coure and more Parisian-like. We found some delicious Macarons at a boulangerie. Follow this road down to see the Moulin Rouge and then hop on the Metro stop there to get back to the city center.

Macarons! Soo good. About 0,80 each.




Gite d’etape Jaque (spelling? Belgian Hostel) Good price and fairly close to the city. Breakfast included and free internet access and sheets included as well, but no towels. They also have their own bar café with local eats and beers.


Floris Bar- Absinthe bar with a whole book (dictionary size) of absinthes to choose from. All were under 6,00. Cool bar with lots of interesting posters.

French Absinthe (left) Strawberry Absinthe (right)


Frites- There are fritteries scattered all over the city. The fries and mayonnaise here were far superior to the ones in Amsterdam. I have mayonnaise (in the states) but the mayo over there was so good and different! The curry ketchup is also delicious!

Waffles- Make sure to get a waffle, but know what traditional waffles really are. In Belgium, you traditionally grab a waffle to go from one of the many stands. It is just a plain waffle (pronounced vaffle) with nothing on it. They are sweet by themselves. Note that waffles with whip cream and strawberries are for the tourists! If you don’t want to stick out, and want a delicious traditional waffle, stick with the plain grab and go kind ;-)

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Netherlands


Transportation: If you plan on being here for more than 24 hours and will be using public transport, I highly suggest getting the “hour cards” from the VVV or GVB office. You have unlimited transport on Amsterdam trams, busses, metro, and ferry (not trains) for 24, 48, 72, and more hours depending on how long you will be in town. It is much easier to tap your card when entering the bus or tram than having to deal with money.


Foodism- (Near Dam square) Oude Leliestraat 8, this vegetarian café had amazingly fresh Panini and a chill atmosphere for about 5-6 euro. Nummy mozzarella and fresh goat cheese sandwiches.

Vegetarian supermarket: There is a natural food store in Waterlooplein (where the flea market is) that sells lots of vegetarian food and tofu and whole foods. Nice place to check out and not too expensive. There aren’t vegetarian foods readily available in Albert Heijn supermarkets (the major supermarket in Amsterdam)


Overveen: Stop over on the train to Zanvoort aan Zee from Amsterdam Centraal Sation (7,50 round trip) Beautfiful trails and gardens the south side of the tracks. We saw a 3 tipped deer when walking through the trails. The trails had wild strawberries which were small but delicious.

Dunes in Overveen

Edam: Town 30 minutes from Amsterdam Centraal on Arriva busses (7,50 round trip) We went on Wednesday where they have the cheese market (kaasmarkt) from 10:30-12:30 and people dress up like old kaas men and deliver the cheese in the square. We had the smoked goat cheese which was amazing with some honey cranberry mead we bought at Topper Supermarkt (Spui 7). All of the cheese is the same price everywhere in Edam so don’t be afraid to buy it directly at the cheese market. We then rented bikes from Ronald Schot (7,00 for half a day which started at 1 pm and ended at 6:00) Just enough time to ride by the farm fields and ocean side dikes and have a picnic.

Kaasmarkt in Edam


World cup semifinals: in which Netherlands VS Uruguay: Netherlands wins 3-2. We got to view this exciting game in Rembrandtplein, a square filled with sports pubs and a few coffeeshops. Every bar had TV’s outside on their terraces and it was all packed. After Netherlands won, everyone poured into the streets and danced and sang and cheered! It was epic!

World Cup 2010


Abraxas: 2 stories and nice environment with chill music. Downfall is lots of tourists since it is near Dam square which equals higher prices. Their brownies are amazing for 5,00.

Coffeeshop Carmona: In De Pijp area. Very chill with an Indian design and internet access. They have a store cat which is so cute. Prices are good, 5-10,00. Play an eclectic array of music.

Coffeeshop Sevilla: Near Rembrantplein medium in range of prices between the first 2 places I mentioned. Good Strawberry greens and outside seating.


Flevopark: This nature park was by our accommodation. It is big and has lots of trees and private ponds. It is also on a lake that you can go swimming in when it’s hot out. There is also the Flevoparkbad (public swimming pool) where you pay 2,70 per adult to go swimming in their heated outdoor pool. It was huge and very refreshing without too much chlorine. Open till 19:00 in the summer months when it gets above 25 degrees Celsius. Mandatory lockers for 0,50 which you get back when you return the key.



Waterlooplein Flea Market- This is the largest of the three markets I’ve been to in Amsterdam. Prices are a little touristy but not as bad as Albert Cuypstraat Market. You can find really random things here, and souvenirs as well.

Dappermarkt- This is a long market off of Dapperstraat, maybe even longer than Albert Cuypstraat. Prices here are the cheapest in town. You can find 1 euro sunglasses, jewelry, and clothes. There is also an array of stands selling some Dutch specialties.

Albert Cuypstraat: Some good deals on market items here although it is a bit touristy. Food stands and random tents selling random things. Deals here aren’t as good as Dappermarket however.

Amsterdam pets:

We saw a lady walking a dog and cat at the same time. Each had no leash on and it was late at night. This can be done people! The dog was a black lab and the cat was just a regular calico house cat. Pretty awesome!