The Laundromats of Europe

When one is travelling for four months, one must do laundry. Because it’s impossible to pack four months worth of clothing if you don’t wash any of it. We stayed in a lot of Airbnbs that had laundries, which was super helpful, but in some cities, we needed a laundromat. And luckily for us, because so many people can only afford to live in small apartments, Europe has plenty of them. Here’s the highlight reel – hopefully it help you when you need clean clothes on your travels… or at least give you a Monday morning laugh.

 

Barcelona: Bugamatic
http://www.bugamatic.com/en/

Pros: Easy to operate with instructions in English as well as Spanish. You can buy laundry detergent there if you don’t have your own. And there’s a small coin-operated coffee machine in there.
Cons: The coffee machine didn’t work.

 

Bern: Wash-Bar
http://www.wash-bar.ch/de/

Pros: The washers and dryers all have names (Bruce, Marie, Frank, Cindy). The staff are quick to help foreigners who can’t read the instructions. You don’t need to add detergent – it’s already in the machine and included in the price. You can buy food and drinks there – alcoholic drinks. At 10am. Because it’s an actual bar.
Cons: The instructions aren’t in English so you can’t pretend to know what you’re doing.

 

Berlin: Waschsalon 115
http://www.waschsalon-berlin-mitte.de/

Pros: Lots of machines available. A few decent restaurants nearby to eat at while you wait. A small store selling alcohol and snacks a few doors down if you visit at night. A café on site if you visit during the day. Apparently run by some eccentric German twins who we didn’t have the pleasure (terror?) of encountering.
Cons: Instructions were a little vague (but by that point in the trip, we’d worked out they’re all the same).

 

Venice: Effe Erre Laundry
https://www.yelp.com/biz/effe-erre-venezia

Pros: Had a few extra large machines for giant loads of laundry. A few cafés nearby to supply caffeine and snacks while you wait.
Cons: Not many machines, and not super cheap, but nothing in Venice is.

 

Prague: Prague Andy’s Laundromat
http://praguelaundromat.cz/en/

Pros: It was like an apartment – there was even a couch and beanbag lounge with books and toys. Free hot drink for every customer. Free wifi. Computers available for use if you attend sans smart phone. Great café a few doors down for sandwiches while you wait.
Cons: It was like a sauna in there – in minus 2 degrees Celsius, I sat in there in a singlet, sweating bullets.

 

Vienna: Schnell & Sauber Waschsalon
http://waschtraum.de/schnell-sauber-waschsalon-hoegn-in-wien/

Pros: Heaps of machines. Easy to operate. Supermarket and free public toilets across the road. Café close by for caffeinating while waiting.
Cons: We got yelled out for eating a bag of chips while we waited for our laundry to dry by a grumpy little Austrian lady.

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A Weekend in Ronda, Spain: Why to go & how to get there

A few years ago, I saw a photo of this bridge and the surrounding area in a travel brochure. Before I knew where it was, I decided I had to go there. I had to see for myself this incredible little town that seemed to be built on rock cliffs.

It turned out this place was Ronda, in Spain. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to, and it’s constantly overlooked because of bigger tourist towns like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and San Sebastian. We found there was so much more information on all of those other places than there was on Ronda online, so I wanted to put together a bit of a guide for others who are travelling to Spain. Because Ronda is very much worth visiting while you’re over there!

 

HOW TO GET THERE:
By train – cheap and easy.  The best airport to fly into is Malaga, and you’ll be able to catch a direct train from there, which takes 2 hours each and cost us around AUD$35.00 per person.

You’ll be able to book online a month or two before travel, and the best website we found to book with was on Loco2, which has a really user-friendly booking system. Their website will advise you if your tickets can be downloaded to your phone, if they need to be printed, or if they are paper tickets that must be posted to you, and you can create an account so that you can access your trips easily.

 

WHERE TO STAY:
We stayed at the Hotel Colón, which I couldn’t recommend more highly. Its a basic hotel (we’re not fancy-hotel people), but in a great location that’s within walking distance of everything you’ll be wanting to see, lovely staff, 24 hour reception, free Wi-Fi, and a huge complimentary breakfast served in their restaurant.

 

WHAT TO DO IN A WEEKEND VISIT:

Day 1:
– Go for a morning walk through Alameda del Tajo Park
This gorgeous 19th-century park is full of enormous trees, wide walking avenues and park benches. It also has an absolutely insane view out over the gorge, if you’re not too bothered by heights.

– Keep walking on to the Ronda Bullring
Built in the 18th century completely out of stone, this was the heart of the city for a very long time. You can head in and check it out from the inside for around €7.00 per person, or just have a wander around the outside. Be sure to check out some of the gift stores around the bullring selling hand-painted ceramics.

– Check out the Puente Nuevo bridge over El Tajo gorge
Yup, the bridge in the first photo. Built in the mid to late 1700s (it took over 3 decades to complete), this is one seriously impressive feat of engineering.

– Take a break for lunch
Visit Casa Quino on Calle Nueva for a platter of Iberian cured meats, cheeses and a jug of sangria. There isn’t a better lunch in Ronda.

– Visit the Jardines de Cuenca
The gardens are gorgeous, even when we visited in winter, but it’s also one of the best places in the city to visit for a killer view of the Puente Nuevo.

 

Day 2:
– Get an early start with a hot air balloon ride
Hands down one of the best experiences of my life was driving down to the bottom of the gorge and rising up over the town of Ronda in a hot air balloon at sunrise. We went with Glovento Sur, and they were fantastic, even bringing us to a local eatery for breakfast after the ride.

– Make your way back into town and visit the Arab Baths
Similar to the design of Roman bath houses, the Arab Baths in Ronda are believed to have been the main public baths for the Moorish population back in the 11th century. It’ll cost you around €8.00 per person to walk through the remains, and there’s a great little film playing in there to show you how the baths would have operated.

– Stop for lunch, again
Keep heading south and order from the hand-written tapas menu at De Locos Tapas – the patatas bravas are especially delicious. And more sangria, obviously.

– Climb up to look down
After lunch, look over your table and across the plaza, and you’ll find some steps up to a wall – climb on up to burn some of those lunch calories and you’ll also get a great view.

– Visit Mondragon Palace
Once the palace of a Moorish ruler, it’s now a little natural history museum. It’ll cost you around €4.00 per person for entry, and is well worth it – a lot of the ceiling and tile details are well-kept originals, and the garden is completely magnificent.

Eating the city: Berlin, Germany

It’s not all meat and potatoes… well, I mean, there is a lot of that, but it’s really, really good!

Potato dishes

Why get it:
Germans do potato particularly well – there’s a lot more to it than mashed potato with meat. Dishes like this one from Zur Rose make it a kind of replacement for pasta, without making it just like gnocchi.
We got ours from: Zur Rose, Weinbergsweg 26, Berlin 

 

Goulash and potato dumplings

Why get it:
When you’re travelling through Germany in winter, you want warm, hearty comfort food. That’s goulash with the aforementioned mashed potato. It may look like dog food, but the meat is fall-apart-in-your-mouth soft, the sauce is rich, the sauerkraut is the perfect food to cut through the richness of the goulash, and mashed potato is always a welcome addition.
We got ours from: Georgbräu, Spreeufer 4, Berlin

 

A cured meat and cheese breakfast spread

Why get it:
It’s not all rich, hearty food – places like Alpenstück are breaking the stereotype with some really basic but delicious options for the modern traveller. Everything is so fresh and simple, it’s the perfect change from the typically heavy meals you’ll eat later in the day.
We got ours from: Alpenstück Bäckerei, Schröderstraße 1, Berlin

 

Pork knuckle

Why get it:
For that heavy meal later in the day, you can’t beat a crispy-skinned pork knuckle. This is the quintessential German plate of meat: juicy, soft pork under a crispy, salty layer, sitting on yet more sauerkraut with a side of yet more mashed potato. Sounds like it’d be getting repetitive, right? Wrong.
We got ours from: Weihenstephaner, Neue Promenade 5, Berlin

 

Traditional German sweets

Why get it:
After all that meat and potato, you’ll be wanting some sugar to balance things out. And Germany does sweets just as well as they do meat and potato. Some delicious options to look for are strudel biscuits – basically a jam covered butter biscuit with ‘crumble’ on top, and nussecken, an absolutely delicious nut/apricot jam/chocolate concoction (click on over to get my recipe for them!) that you really have to try.
We got ours from: A tiny little café that I can’t remember the name of…

Asolo, Italy

I know I’m incredibly fortunate to have two parents hailing from opposite ends of the same country. The north and south of Italy couldn’t be more different, and I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to see both. Mum’s side of the family are from the north, up near Venice, so I really wanted to show some of the little towns and villages in the area that most people who visit Venice never get to. While the island is obviously incredible, I wonder how many people would kick themselves if they knew what they were missing on the mainland…

Asolo is one of those little towns up in the foothills of the Dolomites that you picture when you think to yourself “how gorgeous it must be to hire a car and just drive and explore little medieval cobblestoned villages.” Dating back to pre-Roman times, Asolo has been around for a very long time, and hopefully won’t be going anywhere soon. And getting there is as easy as leaving the Venice islands for the mainland and hiring a car.

With cobbled streets, creeping greenery, delicious food in windows, remainders of medieval buildings, and seriously stunning views, it’s easy to see why so many artists and writers find their way there. Dame Freya Stark, explorer, traveller and writer, was one of those – she visited Asolo for the first time in 1923, eventually retired there, and passed away a few months after her 100th birthday there. That’s her villa in the photo below…

Asolo is one of those towns that managed to retain all of its old-world charm while Venice was being slowly commercialised and destroyed by tourism. They don’t get a heap of visitors, comparatively, and it’s so much more beautiful for that (so if you visit it, please do so respectfully!) – it’s the sort of place you want to find a little table balanced on cobblestones to sit at while you drink wine, a place you’d want to visit with a sketch book and pencil, even if you can’t draw. The fact that there isn’t a heap of big tourist attractions to see and do there is what makes it such a great place to visit as a break from the chaos that can be Venice.

Around The World In 18 Museums

I’m a bit (a lot) of a history geek, and its International Museum Day tomorrow, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the best museums husband and I have seen on our travels. They’re an easily overlooked activity when you’re travelling because they have a reputation for being boring (probably because a lot of kids were dragged to them against their will at school), but there are soooo many different types of museums out there that are a hell of a lot more fun than what you did back in year 5!

Top left: Banff Park Museum -Top right: Chicago History Museum – Bottom left: Museum at Mondragon Palace in Ronda – Bottom right: Saga Museum in Reykjavík

1. Banff Park Museum, Banff, Canada
91 Banff Ave, Banff
https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/ab/banff/index
Cost: free
This museum looks at animals of all sorts native to the area (like elk, mountain goats, bears, wolves). It also has some gorgeous geological displays of stones and crystals and random curiosities donated by locals. And on the way out, for bonus points, there’s a beautiful library!

2. Chicago History Museum, Chicago, USA
1601 N Clark Street, Chicago
http://www.chicagohs.org/
Cost: USD$16.00 per person
This was like walking through a history book in the best possible way. I learned more than expected to about Chicago’s history, random things like how the city flag came to be, and about the incredible work of Vivian Maier, which I’m not obsessed with.

3. Museum at Mondragon Palace, Ronda, Spain
Plaza Mondragon, Ronda
http://www.museoderonda.es/
Cost: €3.00 per person
This old Moorish palace has been renovated and restored, and given new life as a natural history museum. A lot of the ceiling and tile details are original, and the garden (while small compared to some of the other palaces) is stunning.

4. Saga Museum, Reykjavík, Iceland
Grandagarður 2, Reykjavík
https://www.sagamuseum.is/
Cost: 2.200kr per person
This is like a history picture book come to life – with an audio guide to talk you through, you walk through the museum’s displays of figures (all crafted based on descriptions found in the Viking sagas and chronicles), demonstrating events from Iceland’s history.

Top left: Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – Top right: Mardi Gras World in New Orleans – Bottom left: DDR Museum in Berlin – Bottom right: Czech Beer Museum in Prague

5. Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin
https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en
Cost: €17.50 per person
I’m not a beer drinker, and I still had a blast here! Yes, you get to go through a proper tasting session, and learn how to pour the perfect pint, and enjoy said pint in the rooftop bar with a killer view over Dublin, but it’s also a multi-level museum looking at everything from the beer creation process to it’s many marketing campaigns.

6. Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, USA
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
http://www.mardigrasworld.com/
Cost: USD$20.00 per person
You can read more about our visit to Mardi Gras World here, but basically it’s a tour through one of the warehouses the Kern family use to create the incredible parades floats. You’ll get to see the props and some floats, as well as getting a peek at some of the artists at work.

7. DDR Museum, Berlin, Germany
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, Berlin
https://www.ddr-museum.de/en
Cost: €5.50 per person
This is an incredibly interactive museum, encouraging visitors to open cupboards, sit in cars, and listen to the sounds coming through the headphones. You’ll get a disconcerting taste of life in war-time East Germany, including being able to walk through a full “apartment” and rifling through the kitchen, bedrooms and lounge room.

8. Czech Beer Museum, Prague, Czech Republic
Husova 241/7, Prague
http://beermuseum.cz/
Cost: 280CZK per person
Again, not a beer drinker, so this was mostly for husband’s benefit, but turned out it was a really cool little museum! It covered the history of beer, had some crazy beer collections (bottles, labels, model trucks), and at the end of the tour, you received 4 beers to sample. Not little 30ml sips, but full glasses of beer. Enjoy!

Top left: MOMA in New York – Top right: Bier & Oktoberfest Museum in Munich – Bottom left: Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome – Bottom right: Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan

9. Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
11 W 53rd St, New York, USA
https://www.moma.org/
Cost: USD$25.00 per person
It shouldn’t need much of an introduction – this is THE place to go for art in New York. The modern exhibits change regularly, but honestly, my favourite pieces were the classics like Monet’s Water Lilies and Van Gogh’s Starry Night – you see these in magazines and art textbooks at school, but in real life, they’re something else.

10. Bier & Oktoberfest Museum, Munich, Germany
Sterneckerstraße 2, Munich
http://www.bier-und-oktoberfestmuseum.de/en
Cost: €4.00 per person
This little museum lives in an old (when I say old, I mean from the 1300s) townhouse, accessible by a 500-year old wooden staircases, over a few floors. You’ll find an impressive collection of Oktoberfest paraphernalia (mugs, posters, etc), and can sit down to watch a short film about the history of Oktoberfest. Even as a non-beer lover, this was an awesome piece of history to see.

11. Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, Italy
Lungotevere Castello, 50, Rome
http://castelsantangelo.beniculturali.it/
Cost: €14.00 per person
It took me three visits to Rome, but I finally got to Castel Sant’Angelo! It’s had a few lives, originally built as a mausoleum, and also serving as a fortress and castle before turning into a museum. The most stunning part of the museum are the paintings, Renaissance era frescoes, which have been preserved almost perfectly. Even if you’re not an art lover, they’re worth seeing. Speaking of worth seeing, make it all the way to the top and you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a view.

12. Totem Heritage Centre, Ketchikan, USA
601 Deermount Street, Ketchikan
https://www.ktn-ak.us/totem-heritage-center
Cost: USD$5.00
It’s not a huge museum, but the history it holds is massive. It holds some of the city’s most previous totem poles, as well as other native artifacts (think intricate hand-beaded purses and ornaments).

 

And, because this wasn’t our first (nor will it be our last!) adventure, here are a few more museums worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

– Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C., USA
– The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt

Charles Bridge, Prague

One of the most well known sights in Prague, you’ve the probably seen the Charles Bridge in many an Instagram picture, flooded with tourists. Read plenty of blog posts advising you to get there early to avoid said crowds. Heard that the best view is to be gained after climbing the tower at the end of the bridge. You’ll have read dozens of Facebook captions about just how amazing it is. And those floodlit sunset photos…

I want to give you a bit of a different post about Charles Bridge. One that I came across in my pre-trip reading. See, for the 12 months leading up to our world tour, I read as many books as I could fit in about the places we’d be visiting. Yes, by choice. Yes, I enjoyed history and English at school.

One of the books I found on Prague was ‘The Story of Prague’ written by one Count Francis Lützow in 1902. I imagined in a city as old as Prague, there probably wouldn’t be a huge amount of differences in the city’s basic structure since Count Lützow wrote his book, and thought it’d be interesting to see parts of the city under his 1902 guide. I’ll write more about his walking tour that we followed, but for now I thought I’d share some of his words on Charles Bridge, along with some of my images, taken 115 years after he wrote about it…

… there has been a bridge on or near the spot where the present edifice stands from very early times. Ancient chroniclers write that when, in 932, the body of St. Wenceslas was conveyed from Stará Boleslav, where he was murdered, to St. Vitus’s Church at Prague, those who carried the body, ‘hurrying to the river Vltava, found the bridge partly destroyed by the floods.’

When, in 1157, the floods had entirely destroyed the wooden Bridge of Prague, Queen Judith, consort of King Vladislav I., caused a new stone bridge to be erected at her own expense…

In the winter of 1342 the Bridge of Judith was destroyed by the floods, and for a time a temporary wooden bridge, partly founded on the remaining pillars of the stone bridge, alone connected the two parts of Prague. This bridge naturally proved insufficient, particularly after Charles IV. had founded the new town of Prague. In 1357 that King undertook the building of the present bridge. It was… only completed in 1503.

We first pass under the bridge tower of the old town, which is decorated with statues of the Bohemian patron saints and with the coats of arms of the countries that were formerly connected with Bohemia as well as that of the old town itself.
The statues that now ornament the bridge formed no part of the original structure. As can be seen in ancient engravings, a crucifix only stood on the bridge at first. Rudolph erected statues of the Madonna and of St. John, and the others were gradually added, principally during the period of Catholic re-action in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

From my travel journal: Barcelona, 2017

To kill a little more time, we walked to the Mercat de la Concepció for a light lunch. We found a decent food market with a cute little corner stall with a little counter, again run by a sweet little older couple. We had beer + wine, with some potato tortilla & albondigas (meatballs) – absolutely phenomenal food! I’ll take those cute little lunch counters over a fancy restaurant any day. And it was a local market, no tourists = even better!