My Cup of Tea

Hello!

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my last blog post. We’ve been getting some abnormally warm and sunny days in Ireland; so I’ve spent a lot of time exploring instead of writing, oops. Though I’m back with many new adventures.

I went to London in the fall and once again a few weeks ago. London is one of my favourite cities. If I could afford to live there I would. I love London because of the food, the atmosphere, and the architecture. Below is a list of places that I had a chance to visit, so far…

British Museum

A great museum and it’s FREE! The main highlight for me is seeing the Rosetta Stone.

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National Art Gallery 

Also free to visit. Europe seems to have quite a lot of free museums and galleries. I think that it’s just Canada that likes to charge an arm and a leg to visit educational places.

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Shakespeare’s Globe 

It’s hard to believe that I visited THE Shakespeare Globe. Every year in high school I read a Shakespeare play and now I not only visited the Globe but also watched a show. Tip: Tickets are only 5 pounds if you choose the traditional stand style. I’m not going to lie you will be standing for quite a bit.

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Tate Museum

The moment we were in the Tate Museum and I was immediately reminded of Agent Cody Banks 2.

Doesn’t the picture below remind you of the villain’s headquarters?

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Chinatown 

It’s definitely not as big as the one in Toronto but it is a fairly nice grid area of Asian restaurants and grocery stores.

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Japan Centre

Talk about a lovely and expensive place. There are so many authentic Japanese ready to eat food items and groceries in this store.

Primark on Oxford St. 

This is the location that I have seen on my Facebook feed multiple times because it’s the only location that dedicates a part of their store to a Harry Potter section.

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Harrod’s 

What a store and a place to take some cool photos. This place has an endless amount of beautiful displays.

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Borough Market 

FOOD!!! Lot’s and lots of good food.

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Your typical must-sees

Big Ben 

Sadly it is still in repair.

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London Eye

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Buckingham Palace 

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Westminster Abbey 

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Piccadilly Circus

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Out of the two times that I visited London, I have flown into two different airports: Luton Airport and Stanstead Airport. They are both equally as far from Central London and it is very easy to get into the city from the airport. The bus is the cheapest option and it is less than 2 hours away. Tickets can be bought at the airport.

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Until next week!

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My Cup of Tea

Home of H&M, Swedish Meatballs, and 400 Year Old Warship

IMG_2891Another week another Scandinavian country. April was hella pricey because Scandinavian countries aren’t exactly student friendly.

Overall, I found that Stockholm wasn’t as great as Copenhagen. I’m not saying that it wasn’t good but it wasn’t as much like Copenhagen as I thought that it would be. It was colder in Stockholm than expected and it rained 2/3 days we were there.

The first thing that we did when we arrived was head to our hostel. The hostel was a very interesting place. The hostel was on the 4th floor with a college and dorms on the first few floors. The hostel wasn’t the cleanest but it wasn’t as bad as the one in Faro and Porto.

It started raining when we settled into our hostel so we contemplated for a while on what we wanted to do. We ended up going for ice cream at Stikki Nikki. I had linderberry and cardamon. It was nice and refreshing. We then walked into H&M (we had to visit one as it’s a Swedish company and we wanted to see if it was different from the other H&M’s). Let’s just say we spent a little too long in there.

After this, we walked to Old Town and stopped at a very cute cafe. The window was filled with oranges. Since it was raining we stayed inside the cafe and ate again. As if the cafe wasn’t enough we decided to grab dinner right after. I got my Swedish meatballs and I was very happy.

The next morning we went on a walking tour and grabbed lunch at a food market. I got a seaweed salad and a salmon-mayo salad from a stall called Lisa Elmquist. It was so fresh. The food hall didn’t have a lot of places to sit at so we ate our food at Espresso House.

 

After this, we headed to the Vasa Museum. Vasa is a 400 year old warship. It sank in the Baltic Sea on its first voyage in 1628 and it laid at the bottom of the sea for 333 years before it was brought back up to the surface. The King, Gustav II Adolf, in charge of building the ship, tried to erase any of the ship from history because it had failed.  Some more quick facts:

  • The ship set sailed on August 10th 1628
  • 98% of the ship lies in the museum
  • It sank after 20 minutes of sailing
  • The ship has many sculptures e.g at the stern of the ship

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We then walked to the ABBA museum. We didn’t go inside because admission is quite expensive. After taking some pictures outside we went on a boat tour. The boat tour takes you around the islands. I never knew that Stockholm is made up of islands. The tour was a ripoff as it was only 45 minutes instead of an hour.

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By this time we were getting hungry and headed to La Neta for tacos. The place is quite small and had a very simple and affordable menu. The sad part was that many items were sold out.

We headed back to our hostel around 10ish so that we could get an early start the next day.

We did an Old Town walking tour and saw the iconic buildings, Gamla Stan. One of the houses is a cafe and we stopped inside to have a little treat.

By the time the walking tour started, it started to rain. After the tour, it was time for us to head back to the airport. The airport express was so fast. We were traveling up to 160 kms/hour. On the way, we also grabbed some juice (I love the juice variety in Scandinavia) and burgers at the airport.

Overall Stockholm was a lot of fun but it was quite different in comparison to Copenhagen. In my mind, I figured that they would be pretty similar, but they’re actually not. I liked Copenhagen a lot more; it seemed cleaner and is a more walkable city.

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Home of H&M, Swedish Meatballs, and 400 Year Old Warship

First Scandinavian Country

IMG_2771It’s been a few weeks but I’m back. I’ve been quite busy and I haven’t had a chance to post. But here I am sharing an adventure that I had back in April. In April I traveled to two Scandinavian countries: Denmark and Sweden. This week I will share my Danish experience and next week I will share my Swedish experience.

My friends and I flew with RyanAir and to no surprise it was delayed. We landed in Copenhagen a little past 12:30 PM. Copenhagen is an hour faster than Dublin.

My friends and I bought the Copenhagen Card. Personally, it is only worth it if you believe that you are able to visit many of the places. It is great because the pass allows you to visit many attractions and includes the bus and metro.

From the airport, we took the bus to Da Blu Planet, one of Europe’s largest aquariums before heading into the city. The aquarium was filled with stingrays, otters, and lots of fish.

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When we got into the city we were starving but nonetheless, we decided to go on a boat tour instead. Gotta make use of that Pass!

The boat tour was an hour long and it sailed around Copenhagen. By the end of the tour we were freezing. The bridges were so thin and narrow that the boat fits exactly thru it. If it was any bigger or if the driver was a little off in steering the boat we would’ve hit the bridges. Before heading to a food hall in København, West Market, we dropped our stuff off at Steel House Hostel. The hostel is relatively new and is very clean.

I love food markets I think that they’re my new favourite thing. I had a bowl of ramen and a bao because it looked good and I haven’t found a really good place in Dublin yet.

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With a full stomach, we headed to Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest operating theme park in the world and the place that inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland. Even though it was freezing I got a slushy. The slush wasn’t slushed ice, it was little pellets of ice. The park was full of lights.

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The next morning we went to have breakfast at a low-key cafe called Paludan Bog Cafe.

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We then went to the royal palace, Amalienborg, where the Queen and part of Royal family still live. We watched the changing of the guards and then toured inside the Queen’s house. The Queen’s house was truly something else.

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To add to our theme of royalty we walked to the Little Mermaid statue. When people said that the statue is small they really meant it.

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We then climbed 400 steps of a church. The stairs whirled around outside of a tower. It was absolutely terrifying. I don’t know what was more scary, climbing up or climbing down. The fact that it was going to rain also didn’t help my fear.

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The good thing about getting down from the tour was that we were going to get hotdogs and baked goods. At the bakery, I had a cinnamon bun log and a hot dog bun. The hot dog was pretty similar to the Hong Kong bakery style ones that I love. We also had a Danish hot dog from a hot dog truck. It was very good and full of mustard, relish, and caramelized onions.

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After this, we went to Christiania, the free town. After that we went to one of the only places that were still open, the Planetarium. The Planetarium was really cool and we even got to watch a little movie. I was pretty tired and fell asleep for a few minutes. It was getting late and we were trying to decide what to have for dinner.

We ended up going to a buffet called Dalle Valle but I didn’t do the all you can eat. Instead, I ordered a la carte and got some fish dish. It was pretty good.

The next day we went to the Torvehallerne food hall for breakfast. I wanted to try Grod, but instead got Skyr with fruits in it. I realised during this trip that I love Danish food and need to adapt their diet. It’s simple and delicious!

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We then went on a walking tour and there were special things happening around Amalienborg because it was the Queen’s birthday.

We had an hour after the tour to grab smørrebrød. The restaurant we went to was very accommodating and made us separate ones from the menu because we were in a rush to get to the airport. The people at the restaurant said that there were making us smaller ones but they were still huge. The bread was filled with a pile of prawns/fish. Once we got to our terminal we sat down on the floor and devoured it like cavemen eating around the fire.

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I learned on the walking tour that it rains a lot in Copenhagen. I really don’t like rain but just for Copenhagen I wouldn’t mind it. I think that we did not have enough time there and it’s another place that I would definitely want to visit again.

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First Scandinavian Country

30 Hours in Galway

According to WordPress its been a year since I started this blog! I can’t believe how fast time flies by. I’ve been a little MIA recently because of weekend adventures but I’m back to share an adventure I had a few months ago…

IMG_9915A few months ago I did a little two-day trip to Galway. Lucky me I wrote down what I did in Galway. The downside is that I wrote the places down and no details. So let’s see how good my memory is at recalling what I did.

The ride from Dublin to Galway is around 2h30. The bus stop, by walking, is a few minutes from Eyre Square, which according to Wikipedia is an inner-city public park. Part of Eyre Square leads to Shop Street. Just as the name states, this street is full of stores.IMG_9906If you walk all the way to the end of this street you will reach a Salmon Tower. This fishery watchtower is a one-of-a-kind in Ireland. It was built in 1852/53 by the Ashworth family. The purpose of the tower was to monitor fish stocks coming up the river. Admission into the tower is free. It also overlooks the River Corrib.IMG_9911Then we walked past the Spanish Arch and to the Galway Museum. The Galway Museum is quite good and has a lot of Ireland’s history. Admission is also free here. We explored some more and had dinner then headed to our Airbnb. Our place wasn’t within a walking distance, at least it did not seem like it at that time, so we took a bus. The downside to Galway buses is that there is not automatic sign on the bus that tells you what stop you are at. Thank goddess for the locals and bus driver that helped us.

The Airbnb that we stayed at was very nice and clean; it also included breakfast!

The next day we walked to Salthill from our Airbnb. Salthill is very nice beach boardwalk area. This area also includes Blackrock. The trail along the water is quite long and is a quiet and peaceful walk. There is an observation deck at Blackrock which people use to climb up and jump into the water.IMG_9975IMG_9959After the Salthill walk, we went looking for Katie’s Claddagh cottage. Since being in this country it was my first time seeing a thatched roof. I’ve heard people having them but I’ve never actually seen one until this point. I’m still wondering how water does not leak through the roof if it rains a lot and hard.IMG_9984I also learned about the history of the Claddagh ring while in Galway. I remember seeing friends where the Claddagh ring growing up. I am mind-blown that I visited the origins of this ring.IMG_9903Before heading back to Dublin we had lunch at Zappi’s. Zappi’s does very nice sandwichs and soup. Their sandwiches are also named after Galway landmarks.

Overall Galway is a nice weekend getaway. Connemara and Aran Islands are also close to Galway. I have yet to visit these two places, but it will be soon.

This is Potato Guide signing off and wishing you a nice week!

30 Hours in Galway

Ireland’s Ancient East

Neolithic tombs are older than the pyramids you say?

I still can’t believe that I’ve never heard of this until now.

As a child growing up I have been fascinated with ancient sites. When I was researching things to do near Dublin I stumbled upon Newgrange and Neolithic tombs. The tour that my friends and I took (a few weeks ago) did not include Newgrange. Fear not, I will find a way to get to Newgrange even if I have to take a bus and hike!

We went with the company Irish Day Tours. The tour is called Ancient East and it brought us to the Boyne Valley, which includes the Hill of Uisneach, Loghcrew, Trim Castle, Hill of Tara. To switch the post up this week I will break each place into its own little section.

  1. Hill of Uisneach: Our first stop. The tour guide and storyteller at the Hill said that we were at the centre of Ireland. It is the spiritual centre of Ireland and one of the country’s most ancient sites. This is the place where the five provinces of Ireland met and where their kings would celebrate the “festival of the fires.” We were able to see 17 of the 32 counties on this Hill.img_4291img_4290
  2. Loughcrew: We had to climb snowy hills to get to the top to see the Neolithic tomb. It was a slippy journey but worth the view when we made it to the top. Overlooking the city reminded me of the time I when I visited the Moorish Castle. In comparison to the pictures that I have seen of Newgrange, this tomb was quite small.IMG_2407IMG_2423
  3. Trim Castle: An impressive and well-preserved Anglo-Norman castle. It is one of the castles featured in Braveheart. I haven’t seen the movie yet but this is the second time I’ve visited a Braveheart site. The other time was on a Wicklow tour.IMG_2429
  4. Hill of Tara: This is the most sacred site of Ancient Ireland. The Hill is an infinity shape. It was hard to see the infinity shape when we were on it but is visible from the sky. This Hill is an important and historic site in Boyne Valley region, it was the centre of the country and a place where the High Kings ruled Ireland. It was so muddy that I sank into the ground.img_4329img_4326.jpg^This tree is known as the Wishing Tree or Fairy Tree. People tie colourful ribbon or cloth to the tree as a symbol of their prayers or wishes.

Overall this short little day trip from Dublin was quite different from anything that I have ever done. This is part one of Ireland’s Ancient East and I hope to visit Newgrange soon.

As the Irish say Slán!

Random fact: Did you know Ireland produces 20% of the world’s baby powder? Neither did I until our tour guide asked what Ireland exports.

 

Ireland’s Ancient East

Chocolate, Waffles, Fries…

H A P P Y  E A S T E R!

Another weekend, another trip highlight.

While we are eating Easter bunnies or mini eggs, I figured that this weekend would be the best to highlight my recent trip to Brussels and Bruges.

The flight from Dublin was at 6:40 AM and we (my friend and I) arrived in Brussels at 9:25 AM. The metro and train station is attached to the airport which made it really convenient for us to catch a train to Bruges. We were tired but our hunger surpassed our tiredness; we justed wanted some chocolate, waffles, and fries (Belgium specialties).img_4119-e1522621702759.jpgThe train ride from Brussels Airport to Bruges is around an hour and a half.

We arrived in Bruges around 12. Not knowing where to go my friend and I followed the crowd of people out of the train station towards residential streets. The streets that we were walking down were very quiet, but we continued to follow the group of people hoping that they would lead us into the city.IMG_216015 minutes later, down many cobbled streets, we arrived at the core of the city. It took us a while to find a restaurant because many of the ones in the main square were quite expensive, around 18 euros. So we decided to walk away from the square. A few hundred meters away from the square we discovered a place called The Potato Bar. I ordered the Original Belgian Farmer Sausage and the Ham, Cheese, and Chicory potato croquette.img_4081img_4082Luckily lunch wasn’t that filling and we were ready for dessert. Heading back to the main square we stopped in a chocolate shop to grab a hot chocolate. I got a hazelnut hot chocolate. It was by far one of the best hot chocolates that I have ever had. Not only because it had hazelnut bits in it, but also because it was creamy and chocolatey.

We explored the square a bit more en route to the boat tour. The boat tour cost 8 euros and was a half an hour ride. During this time I learned that Bruge gets 7 million visitors a year and there are roughly only 117,000 inhabitants. That’s crazy!IMG_2180Following this, we went to the Fries Museum (Friet Museum), yes there is a whole museum that talks about potatoes and fries! Potato Guide was able to learn more about potatoes! LOL.IMG_2193img_2200-e1522619413878.jpgTip: Buy the combo ticket with Chocolate Story Museum to save.

A shocking fact that we learned at the museum is that Belgium fries are fried in beef fat and occasionally horse fat. I was intrigued and got a cone of fries at the museum to see how different the fries tasted. There was a beefy aftertaste, but I assure you that they are delicious.

After a little snack we were ready to eat again! This time we headed off to the Chocolate Museum (Choco Story). A friend told us that the museum is all-you-can-eat chocolate. He was right. There were chocolate dispensers everywhere. Some chocolates that we sampled were dark, cocoa, white, and milk. A chocolate demonstration is included in the price and you will receive another chocolate sample after the demo. By the end of the museum, our teeth were coated with sugar and we had enough chocolate for a few hours.

We walked around the city and stopped at Oyya, which is voted one of the best ice cream parlors in Bruges, before catching the train back to Brussels. We didn’t get ice cream because it was so cold and instead bought a waffle with Speeculoos butter. Fun fact: Speeculoos is another Belgium invention. I don’t understand how the Belgians are so fit with all this delicious food.IMG_2236Around 7 we caught the train back to Brussels and to checked into our hotel, Hotel Barry. It was a long day and my friend and I zoned in and out throughout the ride.

I can see why people call Bruges the Venice of the North. It is so pretty and has a river running through the city. I can’t even imagine what the city would look like in the fall with the falling leaves.

Our hotel was 15 minutes away from the train station and Brussels was freezing and awfully quiet for a Saturday night.  After checking-in, we were planning on exploring the city’s nightlife and going to Delirium Cafe, a bar with over 2000 beers! But instead passed out around 11.

DAY 2

We woke up around 8:30 AM. Our plan for the day was to go on the Orange Umbrella walking tour, visit Delirium Cafe, and Mannequin Pis. We didn’t have enough time for the walking tour and instead visited Mannequin Pis, Jeanneke Pis, Tin Tin wall, Grand Palace, Galeries Royales St. Hubert, Delirium Cafe, and the Parliamentarium.IMG_2238img_4129IMG_2245IMG_2241IMG_2267Grand Palace was beautiful and surrounded by chocolate shops. Many of the chocolate shops here offer samples. Chocolate shops will also sell this type of candy called cuberdons. They are cone-shaped sweets with a soft raspberry filling. They remind me of a large fruit gusher.img_4126Mannequin Pis is quite close to The Waffle Factory, so why not stop by and try a waffle from one of the best waffle places in Brussels? The waffle was delicious but near the end of it I bit into some metal piece. This was a bit disappointing.

Our last stop in Belgium was the European Parliament. The only place that we had time to visit was the Parliamentarium. If we had more time we would have liked to visit the Hemicycle and House of European History. Admission into the Parliamentarium is free and there are many interactive items. The best part was the interactive 3D map virtual trip through Europe where a European citizen will tell you about their country. There are 6 areas to the museum and I highly recommend anyone who is visiting Brussels to check it out!IMG_2292It was a short and packed weekend, but luckily Dublin is a short flight to Belgium as I will definitely be returning!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of your long weekend! This is Potato Guide signing off.

 

Chocolate, Waffles, Fries…