Eating the city: Prague, Czech Republic

Let’s take a quick break from all of the doom & gloom, and take a quick trip instead to Prague. I loved Prague, so much more than I expected to, and the food had a lot to do with that. It is by no means health-conscious or particularly good for the body, eaten in large quantities, but it is good for the soul. And when you’re travelling, soul food is never a bad idea.

 

Fried cheese sandwich

Why get it: A brick of cheese, crumbed and deep fried to the perfect shade of golden brown, topped with mayonnaise and thrown into a bread roll. If you know, you know.

We got ours from: 
Wenceslas Square, at a street vendor – there were plenty to choose from.

 

Ham filled potato dumplings

Why get it: I chose this because I didn’t want a slab of meat – it was so good, I went back the next day and ordered it again! It may look very beige-and-brown, but the chunks of smoked ham in the potato dumplings are phenomenal.

We got ours from: U-Medvidku – Na Perštýně 345/5, 100 01 Staré Město (Old Town). Because when Anthony Bourdain recommends a place, we hunt it down like rabbid dogs, and are always richly rewarded!

 

Fancy cakes

Why get it: To break up the meat and potatoes… But also because Prague does surprisingly well in the cake department, if you can find the right place to get them from!

We got ours from: Café Savoy – Vítězná 124/5, Vítězná 5, 150 00 Praha. Yes, this place has become very popular with tourists, but from what we saw, it is also still very popular with locals, and for a good reason.

 

Spaetzle

Why get it: Like gnocchi, but smaller and smothered in butter, cheese and bacon (at least the version we had was).

We got ours from: Christmas markets, accompanied with a neighbouring stall’s mulled wine.

 

Chimney cake

Why get it: A delicious dough cooked to golden brown on a rotisserie, with a whole lot of Nutella smothered on the inside of it and topped with a heavy dusting of sugar. What’s not to love?

We got ours from:
More Christmas markets – they have all the good stuff!

8 Perfect Paris Streets

The only way you’re going to really see Paris is on foot. Because there are dozens of beautiful little walking streets in the city that you’re going to miss completely if you’re in a taxi or on the trains. If you Google “Paris walking streets,” you’ll get hundreds of lists; here are the ones I really liked. They’re all in quite central areas, easy enough to get to if you don’t know the city well, and will give you a really great overview of what you can find if you take the time to wander… once we’re out of this pandemic, of course!

 

1. Rue Montorgueil
Why walk it? Cafés, bakeries and restaurants for the most part, like Au Rocher de Cancale. There are also some beautiful little places where you can get a crepe and some wine while you do some people watching.

 

2. Galerie Vivienne
Why walk it? This little undercover walking street has been made Instagram-famous for is beautifully tiled passageway which is strung with fairy lights overhead. Galerie Vivienne is home to a few old bookstores mixed in with some more modern boutiques.

 

3. Rue Saint-Séverin
Why walk it? It’s one of those story-book cobbled streets up near the Latin Quarter. Start at Boulevard Saint-Michel where you’ll find lots of pretty cafes and restaurants. Turn left on Rue de Petit Pont and you’ll end at Shakespeare & Company for a book fix.

 

4. Rue Cler
Why walk it? With wide walking paths and lots of shops, it’s an easy place to soend a few hours. You’ll find everything from Mariage Frères tea to lots of colourful florists to some delicious smelling bakeries. At the end of street, just past Rue Saint-Dominique, you’ll find the Church of Saint-Pierre du Gros Caillou.

 

5. Rue Mouffetard
Why walk it? This cobbled street on a hill hosts a farmers market of sorts every day except Monday. It’s lined with food stores and stalls – butchers, fromageries, bakeries, patisseries, the works. The croissants from Maison Morange are exceptional.

 

6. Passage Verdeau
Why walk it? For the beautiful old bookstores like Librairie J.N. Santon and other antique shops. It’s a real step back in time.

leading into…

7. Passage Jouffroy
Why walk it? This is another classic walking street, really harking back to the past. It houses a wax museum, a former 19th century brasserie, and Le Valentin, a tea house with the most incredible cakes.

leading into…

8. Passage des Panoramas
This one’s considered to be the first covered walking street in the city. With it’s old tiled floors, a few cafes and some antique collector stores (stamps, coins, postcards), it’s a great way to end your walking day.

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.

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…