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Food Tours – The Key to Every New City

September 4, 2017

Having recently eaten our way through Catalonia’s capital with Devour Barcelona we talked with some friends who had never considered joining a food tour.  It was at that stage that we realised just how accustomed we’ve become to scoping out a new city (and it’s local culinary delights) by exploring its food!  If you’ve never been on a food tour, join us as we share the reasons we now seek them out in major cities around the world.

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then food may just be the way to win a traveller over too.

In the last few years Nathan and I have started hunting down the best food tours in each of the major cities we visit and every time, we leave full – both with food and new-found knowledge.  We relish the opportunity to meet

We relish the opportunity to meet travellers from all walks of life, to learn more about the history of the region we’re visiting and to enjoy delicious food.  What’s not to love?

If you’ve never been on a food tour before, you’ll start by meeting your guide and the others in your group at a predesignated point – always in public and at an easily recognisable spot.  With introductions behind you, you’ll head off on your way towards gastronomic delight (via the first food stop of course).

From there, you’ll visit a range of restaurants, stalls, stands and markets, all on the hunt to find the best local produce.

If there’s one thing that food tours tend to do really well, it’s to connect tourists with authentic, local vendors.  Time and time again, we’ve been introduced to men and women manning stands that have been in families for generations, serving the same high-quality food to their own neighbourhood.  These are the kind of places that would be close to impossible to track down as a newly-arrived tourist into a city but with the help of a food tour, they suddenly become a lot more accessible.

As you trip around each mini-destination, you’ll be offered a selection of bite-sized portions (and sometimes full ones too!), allowing you to try the best food the city has to offer.  It’s amazing how little tasters can add up over the course of an afternoon as the treats and conversation starts to flow.

Every time we come off a food tour, we’re surprised by just how full we are and the number of new dishes we’ve managed to try that we’d never have thought to hunt out.

I’m also a fairly fussy eater whilst Nathan loves good cuisine – food tours work well for us in this sense as he’s served up a variety of exciting dishes (that I’d normally hold us back from ordering) whilst small portions mean that if one option doesn’t float my boat, there’s always another on the horizon.

Not headed to Barcelona just yet?  We can also recommend food tours in Reykjavik, Rome and Athens.

If you’re keen to give a food tour a go, we whole heartedly recommend joining your tour when you first arrive in a new city if possible.  Doing so will alert you to the best restaurants and foodie stops (because who doesn’t want to return to a new favourite?) and give you a taste of local flavours whilst helping you find your way around.

Happy munching!

What’s your favourite way to get to know a new city?  Share your tips and tricks in the comments below…

Europe Northern Ireland United Kingdom

Access the Giant’s Causeway for up to 90% Off! Northern Ireland on a Shoestring

August 30, 2017

The Giant’s Causeway is a massive collection of interlocking basalt columns and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland for good reason.  Located on the North Atlantic Ocean, these intriguing formations are a result of an ancient volcanic eruption and though access to them is free, parking is anything but!  Before you go and pay £10.50 each to enter the facility, check out our suggestions and save yourself some serious money in the process.

What is the Giant’s Causeway?

Countless volcanic basalt columns, most of which stand tall with hexagonal edges, can be found slowly being eroded by the harsh North Irish ocean waves.  Disappearing into the ocean, they also rise up to 12 metres high and their undulating formation calls for visitors to explore.

The Causeway was formed 50 to 60 million years ago and as legend would have it, the columns we see today are the remnants of a causeway built by a giant – hence the literal name of the site.

Where to Park to Access the Giant’s Causeway for Less

Ouch – You want how much?

If you’re keen to part with your money, parking is available at the visitor centre for £10.50 per adult (or £9 each if you get organised and book online).  This entrance fee includes access to the visitor centre, a guided tour of the site (or audio guide) and of course, parking.

Should you wish to take the shuttle but from the vistior centre down to the Causeway (or back up), you’ll be looking at an additional few pounds each in each direction.

Getting Better

The visitor centre themselves now promote a cheaper alternative…

For visitors who do not wish to avail of the facilities on-site, alternative parking is available during peak season at the Railway car park adjacent to the Causeway (£6 per day), from which visitors can walk to the stones for free.

But we can do one better again!

The Price is Right!

We ducked into Finn McCool’s Hostel where they offer parking for £5/car.  It’s easy to see how a car full of adults would be much better off parking here than at the visitor centre (assuming they’re simply wanting access to the cliffs of course)!

Not only is it a little cheaper than the railway but most importantly, it’s open all year round.

We approached the Giant’s Causeway a little unsure as to what to expect.  Having visited the basalt columns in Vik, Iceland (and loving them), we couldn’t help but wonder if we’d be greeted with a sense of ‘been there, done’ that but we couldn’t have been more wrong.  We had a fantastic morning wandering the beach, admiring Northern Ireland’s stunning natural beauty.

If you find yourself in the area (or even in Dublin as we were), we’d definitely suggest hiring a car and getting yourself out to the cliffs.

Europe Ireland

How to Save Serious Money at the Cliffs of Moher

August 22, 2017

The Cliffs of Moher, on Ireland’s west coast consistently rank amongst the most visited spots sites in the country, seeing approximately one million visitors each year.  Though you can pay the €6 entrance fee for each adult in your party and join the masses spending more than they need to, we know a way to save you some money!

At their start, the cliffs reach 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean and, eight kilometres to the north, they reach their maximum height – a massive 214 metres.  The tallest section falls near O’Brien’s Tower, a round stone tower built in 1835, which just so happens to make for fantastic photos against the background of cliffs and sea below.

Getting to the Cliffs of Moher

The drive from Dublin to County Clare is a treat in itself.  Along the way visitors enjoy the greenest pastures you could imagine, fields of farm animals and, chances are, a spot of rain.  Yes, it would seem the weather in Ireland is deserving of its reputation but the landscape clearly benefits from the extra water!

We hired a car from Dublin airport and used Waze (an app that will give you point to point directions whilst connected to WiFi – no need for data) to find our way there.  It’s an easy drive along well-maintained roads and rental cars are cheap as chips, so it was an easy choice for us.

Where to Stay

With a number of small towns within a 30 minute drive of the cliffs, we decided upon an Airbnb in Milton Malbay.

Lorna’s sleepout was comfortable, warm, close to the most gorgeous little town and best of all, she was an absolute hoot!  We had a great time chatting away to our host – she’s exactly what an Airbnb host should be.

Though we only spent the one night there, we could have very happily stayed on.

How to Save Money on Your Entrance to the Cliffs of Moher

Save your hard-earned cash and avoid the main entrance to the cliffs. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for the blue and yellow signs to Guerin’s Path.  This homegrown business offers a low-cost parking and access to some of the most famous cliffs in the world.

If you’re approaching from the top of the coast, you’ll drive past the official visitor centre and find signs to the cliff walk on your right soon thereafter.  If you’re coming from the bottom of the coast, it will be on your left before the visitor centre.

Follow the signs up towards the top of the cliff and you’ll be rewarded with access to this famous sight for only €5 for the entire car.  If you just so happen to have 5 adults in that car, that’s a massive saving of €25 for the group!

Make sure you plan your visit well as the site doesn’t have any bathrooms or facilities but if all you’re looking for are spectacular views out to the Cliffs of Moher, you’ll be in for a treat.  If you do find yourself in a bind and need the bathroom, the visitor centre is about 15 minutes away, walking along the top of the cliffs and they’re able to be accessed there at no charge.

We really enjoyed our visit to the Cliffs of Moher and would highly recommend planning for your Irish road-trip to pass through the region.

Enjoy!


If you’re looking to save money at the Cliffs of Moher or think someone else might want to, pin this post!

Save money on your entrance to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Avoid the crowds on this famous European tourist attraction whilst enjoying spectacular views!  Plan your own Irish itinerary with this discounted entry guide. Save money on your entrance to the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. Avoid the crowds on this famous European tourist attraction whilst enjoying spectacular views!  Plan your own Irish itinerary with this discounted entry guide.

Europe France Itineraries Paris Western Europe

La Ville Lumière: An Essential Travel Guide to Paris

August 19, 2017

One of the first cities in the world to get electricity, Paris was quickly dubbed the City of Lights (La Ville Lumière) and has since become synonymous with romance, with people travelling the world over to spend time in the City of Love.

Paris can be somewhat polarising too though.  Before our visit, I must admit, neither Nathan nor I placed Paris at the top of our must-see list before moving on from Europe – quite the opposite in fact.  Nathan had very little interest in seeing the French capital and though I wanted to, it was largely to set eyes on some of the iconic monuments and to make up my own mind once and for all about the city.

So, with our visit to Paris behind us, did it live up to the hype or fall flat?

It certainly did – and then some!

We fell in love with Paris’ architecture and iconic monuments, found Parisians to be incredibly warm and inviting and had a ball just walking around soaking everything up.  It’s not every day most people get to just meander around Paris!


What to See and Do in Paris

Whether you’ve been to Paris or not, there’s no doubt that you’ll have a mental list of many of the top spots you’ll want to visit.

That being said, there are literally hundreds of fantastic city guides already out there (like this amazing Parisian walking guide from our very own Nadine) so we don’t intend to go into a massive amount of detail.

We really enjoyed everything we saw and did in Paris though and recommend you check out all of the following spots…

Disneyland Paris

The city’s very own happiest place on earth also happens to be chock-full of crowds if you hit it at the same time of year as us.  Unfortunately, on the day we visited we experienced a number of ride shut-downs and temporary malfunctions but even with those challenges it was worth a visit.  There’s nowhere like Disney to experience a touch of magic.


Wander through Montmartre

A beautiful part of town (and close to our first accommodation, Le Village – a great budget option), Montemartre is home to a range of shops, restaurants and cafes and just at the end of the district, the infamous Moulin Rouge.  Here, at the birthplace of the can-can, talented performers sing and dance every day.  The show isn’t cheap but we’ve been assured it’s well worth the money if your budget will stretch… and if not, the iconic exterior of the building still makes for an awesome photo!


Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris)

Perched high atop the summit of the butte Montmartre, this Roman Catholic church provides unparalleled views out over Paris from the highest natural vantage point in the city.  Should you choose, you’re able to tour the church, or do as we did and enjoy its gorgeous architecture from the outside and the sound of talented buskers serenading the crowd.


Enjoy Some Macarons

There’s not much better than a macaron in Paris – trust us!  Though Ladurée are known for their sweet treats we have it on good authority that they’re not actually the best in town.  Skip the crazy lines and instead head to one of the Pierre Hermé stores where you’ll find the most incredibly chewy, flavourful macarons you could ever wish for.

Alternatively, if you’re wanting to learn how to make an ever-lasting supply of macarons for yourself, you can learn from the master himself, Jean Yves.  The winner of Masterchef France (both for the macaron challenge and the overall competition), he’ll talk you through all of the intricacies of making these delicious but challenging biscuits.


The Eiffel Tower

If there’s one place that really doesn’t need an introduction, it’s this beauty!  With tickets available both on the day and online (just buy a few days ahead of time and skip the lines – something we can highly recommended having wasted hours in lines!)

You’ll have the choice of two different access levels and the ability to climb the stairs or hop in a lift to save your legs.  We decided to climb to the main viewing platform as the line was much shorter for this than it was for the lifts – it’s a fair climb but absolutely manageable with a little time and a bottle of water.


Soak Up the Seine

The Seine River flows gently through Paris, offering beautiful views from its many bridges.  Sadly the Pont des Arts (once known for its ‘love locks’) has had its locks removed but if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find other bridges in the area still proudly displaying their symbols of everlasting love in the city.

Not far from the Seine, you’ll also find Notre-Dame de Paris.  Lined with the most incredibly detailed sculptures, it’s a testament, both to art and religion.


Le Louvre

Home to some of the most coveted fine art in the world (and one of the most famous pyramids anywhere, with exception of the originals), the Louve isthe Louve is the cultural centre of this amazing city.  Violinists played in the square as the sun shone down on the day we visited – French perfection without

Violinists played in the square as the sun shone down on the day we visited – French perfection without doubt – even without stepping foot inside the galleries.


Arc de Triomphe – The best views in Paris!

As with the Eiffel Tower, tickets can be purchased in advance for the Arc de Triomphe and it’s well worth doing.  We felt a little like royalty whizzing past everyone in line, heading straight to the top of the tower!

The stairs are narrow and winding but the views from the top are spectacular and I’d go as far as to say, they offer the best vantage point of the Eiffel Tower anywhere.  If you’re able to plan your visit to coincide with sunset, I can imagine you’d be rewarded with the most incredible photos!


What to Watch For – Don’t get scammed

Though Paris is gorgeous, there are a fair few scams around.  Keep your eyes peeled and hang onto your money so you can really enjoy this city!

  • You’ll notice people (generally middle-aged women) walking around with clipboards asking you to sign your name.  Sometimes these people will pretend to be deaf, other times they’ll approach you with perfect English – whatever the case, they’ll ask you to sign your name (assuring you that’s all they want) before then pushing you into making a ‘donation’ – by which point you’ve signed your name to the fact that you will donate to their cause (and may have quietly been pick-pocketed).  Inevitably, the money doesn’t ever go past their own pockets.
  • Around key points, you’ll notice men offering to tie threads of cotton around the wrists of tourists.  Again, they’ll start by hooking you in with a ‘bracelet’ and will then separate you from your group and pressure you into paying for this ‘service’.  Should the payment be too low, they’ve been known to cut the cotton off and march off, money in hand regardless.
  • The final scam we spotted around the city involves a fair bit of organisation.  Always on cardboard boxes or the ground (which we later witnessed, allows for a quick getaway from the police), a person will pop a few cups down.  Soon someone steps up, offering money to guess which cup the ball is sitting under.  The game goes on with more and more people joining – money starts to change hands very quickly (€50+ at a time, we’re not playing here) and of course the majority are seen to win.  Next, you’ll find yourself invited to play what looks like a sure-thing – only nothing could be further from the truth.  We stood back and watched one of these ‘games’ from the start where it became very clear that all of the initial players who stepped into the game over a period of ten minutes were in on it.  By all means, watch if you’d like (or quietly warn people off if you’d like) but don’t hand over a cent of your money.

How to Get Around

Within the City

Paris is incredibly well serviced by the metro.  It is in fact, one of the densest metro-systems anywhere in the world, with a whopping 245 stations all within 87 square kilometres.  Thanks to this, it covers a large part of the city, is affordable and easy to travel on.

The metro is normally open from about 5.30am until 12.40am from Sunday until Thursday (perfect for your CDG Airport transfers as you’ll see below) and from 5.30am and 1.40am on Fridays, Saturdays and on days before a public holiday.

Should you need to, you can supplement your metro tickets with buses, taxis or do as we did and walk from place to place – sure, it’ll take longer but you’re there to see Paris after all!

To and From the Airports

Charles de Gaulle

If you’re arriving in Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Paris’ main airport, simply follow the signs towards the train and catch the RER B, getting off at Paris Nord.  Trains leave every 7-15 minutes and will take approximately half an hour.  They run from 5am until midnight, the journey itself is very comfortable and when you get off the train, you’ll find yourself at the metro for easy onward travel.

For journeys back to the airport, follow these instructions in reverse but remember to allow yourself plenty of time to check in as it can be a busy airport.

Beauvais

If you’re flying on a budget carrier, you may find yourself flying in or out of BVA Airport.  Planning is especially important here for your outbound flight as the airport is not serviced by trains and is a fair way out of the city (the last thing you want to be is at the mercy of a taxi fare!)

We found the best mode of transport to be via shuttle bus.  Tickets for the BVA shuttle can be purchased online (the cheaper option) or in person just before you board the bus.  Journeys last approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to cover the 75 kilometres out of the city.

From the airport, you’ll find the Paris-Beauvais Shuttles located between terminal 1 and 2.

Leaving from Paris, the shuttles are an easy walk from the Porte Maillot stop on the yellow metro line (likely in the direction of La Défense).


Where to Stay

After a busy day out exploring, there’s nothing better than coming back to a comfortable home-away-from-home and that’s exactly what Adèle & Jules offers.

Trendy, quite and unashamedly boutique, this hotel (or should I say, hotels – one building named Adèle and the other Jules), is well located and super stylish.

Each day, guests are invited to enjoy a delicious breakfast spread (served in the lounge or directly to your room, should you prefer to treat yourself to breakfast-in-bed!) and a complimentary (and tasty) afternoon tea is offered each afternoon.

If you’d prefer to hit the gym, Adèle & Jules have their own fitness room but between the delicious food, comfortable bed and beautiful balcony, we knew exactly where we’d be spending our precious hotel time (and it wasn’t at the gym!)


Visa Requirements

If you’re planning a visit to France and are travelling on a passport from outside of the European Union, you will need to investigate the appropriate visa requirements.

Frances falls within the Schengen Area and generally provides visa-free access to citizens of Europe, the Americas and counties in the Commonwealth.

Before booking your visit to the country, we suggest you check the French visa requirements first – nobody wants to get turned around at the border!


Paris is a dream city for many and for good reason.  It’s exciting, vibrant, romantic and downright iconic.  If you’re spending time in Europe, we can unequivocally recommend a visit to this magical city.

As they say, Paris is always a good idea, and we couldn’t agree more.


Thank you to Hotel Adèle & Jules and Le Village for hosting us whilst we were in Paris.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Barcelona Europe Reviews Spain Tours Western Europe

Bouncing Around Barcelona – The bike tour with a difference

August 4, 2017

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and the second most populous municipality in Spain, has many claims to fame – a world-renowned football team, impressive tourism figures and weather to make most jealous – but there’s something special about this incredible city that most people aren’t aware of.

It plays host to one of the best tour guides around!

Kris, the owner-operator of Bounce Around Barcelona is one of the most energetic, vivacious guides you could ever hope to meet.  He’s hard-case and finds the perfect balance between professionally and approachability.

With the option of private and group tours around the city, guests can get around either by foot or on Kris’ funky old-school bikes.  We figured the bikes would allow us to cover more ground so it was an easy choice for us.  Fortunately the city is incredibly well laid out for cyclists, being largely flat and home to countless cycle lanes.

Before departing, Kris sat with us to determine the key spots we wanted to visit, orientated us on the map and promised to take us to some of the local hideaways.  Our tour was custom designed for us, based on what we hadn’t managed to see yet.  In the end, it covered off all of Barcelona’s must-see spots and, as promised, delivered lots of gems that we’d never had discovered by ourselves.

Our tour really did have it all…

Food?  Check

Architecture?  Double check!

Natural beauty?  You bet.

Throughout our tour, Kris shared a wealth of information about Barcelona, the Catalan region as a whole and Spain itself.  I have no idea how he manages to retain the depth of knowledge that he has but there’s no doubt in my mind that Kris was absolutely born to do this job.

As much as we’d love to share our map and all of the top-spots Bounce Around Barcelona showed us, there’s no better way to see Barcelona than on one of their tours.  We were given the opportunity to skip over a couple of the locations that we’d already passed through but once we realised how much better it was seeing everything through Kris’ eyes we quickly asked for those spots to be added back in.  We didn’t have the back-story when we visited independently nor an understanding of the history but Kris of course changed that.

They have one motto and it’s something Bounce Around clearly live to their core – “Come as a guest, leave as a friend”.

Don’t take our word for it though – I dare you to visit Kris and his team and walk away with anything but the more positive things to say.

We’d bounce around practically anywhere with Kris!


Love Barcelona as much as us?  Pin this post!

Discover the best tour in Barcelona, Spain. Bounce Around Barcelona will plan an amazing itinerary and show you the best tourist sites in the city. From Gaudi to the best secret bar, this tour covers off all the highlights and then some!Discover the best tour in Barcelona, Spain. Bounce Around Barcelona will plan an amazing itinerary and show you the best tourist sites in the city. From Gaudi to the best secret bar, this tour covers off all the highlights and then some!

I know this post sounds unbelievably gushy but we really were blown away by Kris’ zest for life and obvious passion for what he does.  To date we’ve only met one other guide that left us feeling like we walked away more as friends than guests (Bessi, we’re talking to you!) and we figure, you’ve really got to celebrate the good guys.

We were invited to put Bounce Around Barcelona through their paces and as always, all thoughts are our own.

Destinations Europe Scotland Tours United Kingdom

Checking Out Scotland’s Highlights with Highland Explorer Tours

July 31, 2017

With its rolling green hills, towering Highlands, fantastic people and intriguing history, Scotland is both as gorgeous as it is accessible.

Before visiting, we’d heard great things about Edinburg so we knew it was where we wanted to base ourselves.  With that said, nobody comes to Scotland with dreams of its cities – lochs, crags and munros – the countryside’s where it’s at!

With a few potential highlights in mind, we locked in two action packed day trips around this beautiful country – one longer day headed up to the infamous Loch Ness and another to Stirling Castle.

Loch Ness Explorer

Nessie – real or imaginary?  Regardless of your stance, you’ve gotta take a look for yourself!

After years of hearing about Loch Ness and Nessie, the monster living in its depths, a visit to the loch was top of my Scottish wish-list and though it was a big day on the coach, it was absolutely worthwhile.

Though it was Loch Ness that originally drew us to this itinerary it ended up being only a small part of the day’s highlights!  We admired the beauty of Glencoe, loved exploring the small town of Fort Augustus (and getting down on the best fish and chips), laughed ourselves silly on the loch cruise and fell in love with Pitlochry – one of the most photogenic towns we’ve ever visited.

Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle & the Kelpies

After a busy day on the bus we were excited to hit the road in a more relaxed nature and this day trip ticked exactly that boxl  Lots of real Scottish highlights without endless hours on a coach?  Sign us up!

We started with a visit to The Kelpies – 30 meters of towering steel, crafted to create gorgeous horses – designed by Andy Scott.  These statues stand in recognition of the key role that horses have played throughout Scotland and as a nod to the mythical kepie.  Known for their gorgeous looks and malevolent spirit, these creatures are as beautiful as they are deadly.

The statues are fantastic and even more gorgeous at night when they’re lit up – regardless of how you get out there, it’s worth the short trip out of Edinburgh.

From there we continued onto Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park where we wandered along a quiet forrest path.  The walk didn’t end up being the highlight of the trip as it wasn’t quite as long as I was expecting but was beautiful all the same.

After a great wee lunch stop we continued onto Stirling Castle which really did end up being a surprising highlight of the trip.  Though we appreciate a good castle we were really taken by the beauty and history of this one in particular – I think we may have a new favourite!

Why Highland Explorer Tours?

When we first reached out we were taken by the professional manner in which the booking team replied.  We were pretty unsure as to which tour(s) we wanted to attend and they were happy to give us plenty of information without once putting the pressure on – that’s exactly what we look for in a tour company.

Would we recommend touring Scotland?

We sure would! 

Edinburgh is gorgeous (just look at it) but the real Scotland lies outside of the city.

Both of our tour guides were chocka-block full of knowledge and delivered their tours with a great sense of fun.  The included stops were interesting and allowed us enough time to enjoy each one of them without having to race to the next destination.  We also loved that there were options available to ‘upgrade’ the tours but there was no pressure to do so – a real bonus for people travelling on a budget.

Though we only had a short time in the country, we left with a newfound appreciation for not only Scotland’s natural beauty but of it’s history and the hard-case people that call this beautiful place home.


Why not help us spread the word about this fabulous two day-trips?  Pin your favourite image to Pinterest!

Looking for tours in Scotland?  Leaving from Edinburgh, join us as we share our two day itinerary to Glencoe, Stirling Castle, Loch Ness, The Kelpies, Trossachs National Park and much more!Looking for tours in Scotland?  Leaving from Edinburgh, join us as we share our two day itinerary to Glencoe, Stirling Castle, Loch Ness, The Kelpies, Trossachs National Park and much more!

Thank you to Highland Explorer Tours for showing us the beautiful Scottish countryside – we had a great time!  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Annecy Destinations Europe France Western Europe

Annecy – The Reason We’ve Fallen in Love with South-Eastern France!

July 21, 2017

Located in South-Eastern France, Annecy seeks to be a marvellous secret that people-in-the-know carefully guard for themselves.

Less than an hour from Geneva, Switzerland, Annecy makes a fantastic day trip or weekend away. 

Built around an ice-blue coloured lake, lined by the towering French Alps, there are few places we’ve visited as breathtakingly beautiful as this little town.  Add into the mix a stunning old-town and a range of exciting activities just waiting for you and you’re onto a winner by any account.

Things to See and Do in Annecy

Soak Up Lake Annecy

The focal point of the own, Lake Annecy is certainly one of its highlights.  Whether you take a dip, hire a paddle boat, join a lake cruise or just wander around enjoying the scenery, the lake is a beautiful place to be.

If you have more time, bikes are also available for hire and doing so makes for a fantastic day, so we were told.

Explore the Old-Town

With its beautiful canals (there’s a reason it’s known as the Venice of France), overflowing flower planters and stunning classic French buildings, the old town will welcome you to while away the hours.  Keep your eyes peeled for Anncey’s old church that sits abridging two canals – it’s gorgeous and a perfect photo op.

Whilst you’re wandering, be sure to grab an icecream to cool down.  I’m not sure why old town Annecy has so many gelato shops but I wouldn’t for a second complain!  Do as we did and enjoy a tasty treat in the mid-afternoon sun.

Take to the Sky

Whether you’re looking for a massive adrenaline rush or something a bit more sedate, Annecy provides the perfect backdrop for your adventure.  Both skydiving and paragliding is on offer in the area and though we didn’t have time to head out, we saw parachuters coming down and couldn’t help but look on longingly!

Check Out Gorges Du Fier

Just 10 kilometres out of town, Gorge du Fier welcomes visitors looking to immerse themselves in nature.  With a beautiful walking track that snakes throughout the gorge, it’s a great place to unwind and see a different side of the French Alps.

Getting From Geneva to Annecy

With the town sitting approximately 45 minutes from Geneva, visitors are spoilt for choice in regards to transport options.  Some of course are better than others though so consider all your options before deciding upon one.

We elected to take the FlixBus there and used the ride-sharing site, BlaBla Car on the way back.

BlaBla Car

Jumping onboard with the new sharing culture, we decided to try BlaBla car and came away with nothing but positive things to say.  The premise is simple – people make journeys everyday with empty seats in their cars.  BlaBla cars connects those with space to spare with people seeking a ride.  It’s kind of like a safe, pre-planned hitchhiking website. 

Online you’re able to check the reviews left from previous BlaBla’s to determine if you’re happy to ride with that driver and when you do decide on one, the funds are held until you’ve been picked up at the agreed time and place and delivered safely to your final destination. 

Not only was our BlaBla Car ride cheaper than any of the other options, it got us home faster (in about 40 minutes) and offered more time options.

Drive Yourselves

We looked into this option briefly as we do love the flexibility that having a rental car offers.  It didn’t take long to rule this out though thanks to the sky-high prices of rental cars in Switzerland.  If you’re bringing a rental in from elsewhere or have your own car then driving to Annecy would be a convenient option but not one worth pursuing just for the sake of this trip.

Bus

FlixBus is a bus company found throughout much of Europe.  They offer reasonably priced tickets and a reliable service and for this reason, they’re one of our favourite modes of transport on the continent.  The journey through FlixBus takes approximately 50 minutes.

Shuttle

Shuttle buses run frequently between Geneva airport and Annecy but due to the number of stops they make, they can take substantially more time than the FlixBus – depending on the number of stops your timetabled service will make, it could take upwards of two hours to complete the journey.

Train

Though Geneva is well connected by rail, there is not a direct service between the two locations.  This means that although it is possible to train, you’ll end up detouring via a different centre to do so.  The high cost of this service and additional travel time clearly made it a no-go for us.

How Long Do I Need in Annecy?

This, of course, depends on just how much you want to do there. 

We had planned on spending a night or two in Annecy but due to accommodation prices skyrocketing, we made the decision to base ourselves in Geneva and make a day trip across the border.  We arrived into town at midday and left again at 5.30pm – though we could have happily stayed on in the city, we’d enjoyed our afternoon and felt OK about leaving.

I wouldn’t say we were excited to move on though – Annecy’s the kind of place it would be all too easy to visit and just stay put!

If you have more time than us, we’d definitely suggest booking a few nights in.  The town’s relatively small but there’s a great deal to do in the area.  Alternatively, just relax, eat your fill and enjoy the local shops – whatever you choose, it won’t be a challenge to fill your time there.

We had an amazing visit to this lovely little French town.  It took us entirely by surprise and certainly left us wanting more of France.

Without doubt, we’ll be back to this part of the world!


What to see and do in Annecy, the most beautiful town in France! With a stunning lake and the French Alps in the background, it's a must-see of your vacation. This guide includes things to do, transport and itinerary information.

Activities Adventure Chernobyl Destinations Eastern Europe Ukraine

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone – 10 incredible photos to inspire your visit

July 17, 2017

On April 26th, 1986, the world came to know about a small town in Ukraine.

Chernobyl.

Chernobyl is no longer known as a town but as the location of the largest nuclear power plant accident in history.  Late night testing-gone-wrong decimated the area, causing significant long-term health effects for residents and costing billions to ‘remedy’.

Visiting the site that released 400 times the radiation of Hiroshima bomb may seem like an odd vacation choice but for the past five or so years, adventurous tourists have been able to do exactly that.

A visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone is to literally take a step back in time to 1986.  Toys are left strewn on the floor, as are handwritten notes and Soviet newspaper articles.  This is a glimpse into not only a bygone era but one behind a once-iron curtain.

We will be following up with information regarding our visit but before we do, we wanted to share a few photographs to give you an idea as to what awaits those who visit this incredible site.

Without doubt, a visit to this site is not for everyone.  The history there and the opportunity to explore an abandoned area whilst gaining such an insight into the past was too hard for us to resist though.

Does a visit to Chernobyl interest you?


If you are considering a trip to Ukraine be sure to pin this post!

The site of the world's worst nuclear power plant accident may seem like a strange choice for tourists but it provides an unprecedented glimpse into Soviet life in 1986.  These photos will inspire you to plan your own visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the Ukraine.The site of the world's worst nuclear power plant accident may seem like a strange choice for tourists but it provides an unprecedented glimpse into Soviet life in 1986.  These photos will inspire you to plan your own visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the Ukraine.The site of the world's worst nuclear power plant accident may seem like a strange choice for tourists but it provides an unprecedented glimpse into Soviet life in 1986. These photos will inspire you to plan your own visit to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in the Ukraine.

We were taken into the Chernobyl exclusion zone by Go2Chernobyl – tours leave from Kiev daily.

Activities France Paris Reviews theme park Western Europe

Disneyland Paris & Walt Disney Studios Park – A Must See in France?

July 3, 2017

The one brand in the world that really needs no introduction.

Disney.

The happiest place on earth.  Where dreams come true.  Where fantasies come to life and where big kids become small again.

As a child it was always a family dream to one day visit Disneyland and when it did eventually happen, I remember it being an absolute bucket-list moment for us all.

I’ve since gone on to visit Disneyland in California a number of times, finding each visit as magical as the last.

It’s unsurprising then, that when we booked our dates in for Paris, a visit to Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park was top of my to-do list!

With high expectations, we set off on the train (an incredibly easy way to get to the parks) to see if our Parisian Disney dreams could live up to our past experiences.

Disney – A Step Above

Disney set the benchmark for theme parks the world over – they consider things other parks wouldn’t dream of.

Worried your children might see another Mickey floating around the park?  Don’t be – there’s only ever one of each character out on duty at a time (and they’ll never talk for fear of voices sounding different or ruining the magic).

Have you ever wondered just how they make Main Street look so long (and the iconic castle centre-pieces so far away)?  Forced perspective!  As you move further down Main Street, the shops become wider making everything appear further away than it really is.

As you walk from area to area, keep your ear to the ground.  In doing so, you’ll notice subtle sound-effects that change to reflect the theming of that part of the park.

They really do think of everything!

Two Parks – One Pass

Between Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park guests are able to enjoy the majority of classic Disney favourites and a number of new rides and though you can pick just the one park and stick to it, we always recommend the Park Hopper tickets.  They give you maximum flexibility to come and go as you choose.  Bounce around to avoid the lines and make the most of your favourite rides!

The Rides You Can’t Miss

A perennial Disney favourite, Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris (known as Starwars Hyper Space Mountain) is the fastest of all five incarnations (46mph in just two seconds!) and it’s also the only one to go upside-down.  Unfortunately it was closed for our visit but we love the original and can only imagine how awesome this version would be!

If you’re after a rollercoaster style ride that builds up to an amazing ending, be sure to check out Big Thunder Mountain.  It starts off fairly sedately but the last blat is incredible – I won’t ruin the surprise, just make sure you check it out for yourself.

Keen for another coaster?  Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril is a bit rickety but it absolutely makes sense given the theme of the ride.  The queuing area is especially well appointed and the ride itself excerpts some fairly major g-forces on riders (with a surprise towards the end!)

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith was the ride I was most excited to try out at Walt Disney Studios Park.  The take off was incredible but I must admit that I found the rest of the ride a bit uncomfortable – probably a combination of the number of earrings I wear (they don’t go well with roller coasters) and the fact that we’ve been spoilt with more modern coasters.  The music was well-matched though and as a dark ride, it’s a great introduction for those wanting to ride a bigger coaster without seeing what’s in front of them.

Though we ran out of time to jump on, we’ve also been told by friends that Crush’s Coaster is great fun.  This spinning, wild-mouse coaster is suited to the whole family and would make a great addition to your day if you have the time.

… and saving the best to last, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was our absolute favourite ride between the two parks.  Like the original, it’s impeccably themed and run by cast members that never once break character.  The ride itself features a number of significant drops – enough to bring on the butterflies in your tummy but not so much so that it’ll put people off – it’s a balance that can be hard to find but is done perfectly on the Tower of Terror.

It must be said too – let’s all cross our fingers that one day Splash Mountain is added to Disneyland Paris.  What a ride!

Make Your Day Even More Magical – Practical Tips

It’s practically impossible to have a bad day at Disney but there are a few things you can do to improve your experience.

It’s All in the Planning…

Unfortunately even Disney can’t work real magic and this does mean that from time to time you’ll find rides out of commission.  They post the expected ride closures ahead of time, allowing guests to thoughtfully plan any potential visits.

Pro tip:  Check the opening times, expected ride closures and any special events for the day of your visit on the Disneyland Paris calendar.

The Fast Pass – Your ‘Golden Ticket’ to Disney

Though we visited on a Monday just before the school holidays in the hopes of finding the parks relatively quiet, it wasn’t to be.  With rides ranging from a 45 minute wait time up to 1.5 hours or so, the Fast Pass would normally save the day in helping to get guests through lines (without the headache of actually having to wait in line).  The concept is fairly simple – when you first enter the parks, make a beeline for the ride that you’d most like to ride, scan your ticket and pick up your Fast Pass.  This fabulous little ticket will, for-all intents and purposes, hold your space in the line at a certain point in the day whilst you head off and enjoy other attractions.  Simply return within the given 30 minute window and jump yourself to the front of the queue via the Fast Track entrance.  

Unfortunately for us, the day we visited ended up being so busy that all of the Fast Pass tickets were snapped up early and we only managed to get our hands on one each.  There’s a limited number of passes up for grabs each day – after all, if everyone in the park could take one for every ride, nobody would get ahead!  This is great in the sense that everyone has a fair shot at jumping to line (unlike in some other parks, like Six Flags Magic Mountain and Thorpe Park, where guests with deep pockets can buy their way to the front time and time again) but it does mean that you’ll struggle to benefit from this place-saving technology on particularly crowded days.

Let’s face it though, you’re at Disneyland – there are much worse places to be standing in line!

Minimising Your Wait Time

Whilst in the parks, try to pick up as many Fast Passes as you can.   Failing that though, use the following tips to try to avoid the lines as much as possible:

  • Upon entering Disneyland Paris, turn right first towards Discoveryland.  The majority of Disney-goers head to Frontierland (the first zone on the left after Main Street) so by starting at the other end of the park, you’ll avoid many of the larger lines off the bat.
  • Consider the hours of operation.  Disneyland Paris is open a fair bit longer each day than Walt Disney Studios Park and as it’s the experience that most visitors are there for first and foremost, it makes sense to pop across to the Studios first.  Not only will the lines likely be shorter there first thing in the morning but you’ll be guaranteed to tick off your must-see rides, leaving the rest of the day/evening to explore Disney.
  • Be smart about lunchtime.  Most visitors to the parks dine between midday and two – not only will the lines at the food outlets be longer then but the lines for the rides will be shorter.  If you’re able to, plan in either an early or late lunch and make the most of the quieter periods around the parks.  Alternatively, if your tummy is grumbling, you may like to consider heading to Disney Village where you’ll find fewer visitors.  We speak from experience when we say it’s probably worth walking another 5 minutes to save spending 20 in another line – the food cues certainly aren’t as entertaining as the ride ones!
  • Make the most of parade times.  Queues are generally shorter then as most of the guests will be enjoying the paradise as it snakes its way through the park so it’s a great time to hit the rides.
  • Catch the train around the park but do so from Frontierland, Discoveryland or Frontierland.  You’ll find Main Street to be the busiest station in the park.
  • Mums and Dads, don’t wait twice!  If you’re travelling with a little one that’s too small to ride, you can avail the ‘baby switch’ policy – just ask a cast member for information.
  • Splurge and have the parks to yourself.  If you choose to stay onsite at one of the Disney hotels, you’ll be allowed into the parks before and after everyone else, plus you’ll have the added bonus of being able to return to your hotel to relax when things get busy (and then be able to pop back across when the lines die down).

Regardless of the park you step foot into, Disney really do a magical  job of their theming and in creating a truly immersive experience for the whole family and their Paris parks are no exception.

Though the parks are smaller than their American counterparts, they’re a great introduction to the world of Disney!

If you’re visiting France, be sure to allow yourself time to visit Disney.  After all, it’s the happiest place on earth and who’s not looking for that?


Off to Disney or know someone that is?  Pin this post to return to these park tips!

Disneyland Paris should be top of your bucket list itinerary whilst on vacation in France. This theme park has amazing rides, great restaurants, incredible theming and the general magic you'd expect from Disney.  Find out how to maximise your time at the park whilst having the best holiday fun!Disneyland Paris should be top of your bucket list itinerary whilst on vacation in France. This theme park has amazing rides, great restaurants, incredible theming and the general magic you'd expect from Disney.  Find out how to maximise your time at the park whilst having the best holiday fun!

Thank you to Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park for providing us with a one day park hopper pass for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Europe France Paris Western Europe

Parisians: Is What They Say About Them True?

June 27, 2017

Parisians have quite the reputation around the world and sure enough, when we booked our flight to France, the warnings started coming in…

Don’t let them think you’re from the UK – be sure to tell them you’re Kiwis.

Start with as much French as you can – they won’t like if it you speak in English.

Could the French really be as closed-off as we’d been lead to believe?

With our bags packed and my basic-high-school-level French almost certainly about to let me down, we set out to find out.

Our first interactions with locals came as soon as we left the airport.  Straight off an early morning flight and look anything but fresh, we found our way onto the train and started studying the map above the door to figure out how many stations would pass before we were to get off.

Imagine our surprise when two ladies jumped straight into our conversation to help us.  Not only were they keen to share information with us but they suggested we follow them off the train as we’d be sharing the same stop.

Where was this Parisian attitude we’d heard so much about?

Surely it was on the way – we’d just struck it lucky?

Throughout the day we happily meandered through Paris, making purchases in shops and navigating the metro without any worries but before it was time to head to a specific spot for a booking we’d made.  Needing to be in a certain place, at a certain time, in a city we’re unfamiliar with whilst speaking another language?  Surely a recipe for disaster, right?

Wrong!

Lost and looking for the metro, we asked two burly policemen to point us in the right direction and before we knew it they were complimenting me on my French (which of course couldn’t be further from the truth) and chatting to us about where we were from.

Maybe it was that we led with French but a simple Excusez-moi, bonjour was all it took.

Headed in the right direction, we found our way to the home of Jean Yves to learn how to whip up a batch of world-class macarons.  Jean Yves opens his kitchen to locals and travellers alike, teaching them the tricks of the trade and who better to learn from than the winner of Masterchef France?!

Throughout our visit, Jean Yves was patient, kind and very generous with his knowledge – everything you’d hope for but potentially not what we’d been told to expect of a Parisian.

By now, we were beginning to think we’d got it all wrong about the French and for the remainder of the trip, that’s exactly what we found to be the case.

Our encounters were, for the most part, very welcoming and we experienced no shortage of locals willing to converse with us in English… to the point where I found myself almost a little disappointed not to practice my French more!

The icing on the cake though?

As we approached the Eiffel Tower on a sunny summer’s day we realised we wouldn’t last long outside without our trusty sunscreen – unfortunately though, we’d left it back in Abu Dhabi and had struggled to find any earlier in the day.  We made one last-ditch effort to track some down and approached a vendor to see if he had any available for purchase.

Though he didn’t, you can imagine our surprise when he pulled two tubes out from behind the counter, offering up both face and body cream at absolutely no charge.  No he couldn’t sell us any but he was more than happy to ensure we were taken care of.

I don’t think I’ve been that well looked after anywhere in the world!

Of course we came across people that were less than pleasant but that’s life.  You’ll always encounter people having bad days or those that would rather keep to themselves than help – it’s certainly not something specific to Paris.

I assume this stereotype must be founded on the back of genuine experience but we personally found it to be anything but the case!

Though the French we encountered were incredibly helpful, it’s always nice to try your hand at the local language whilst travelling.  Not only do they appreciate it but it’s all a part of the experience.

The following basic phrases should get you started on your trip to Paris, but remember, if you do your best and approach your interactions with the right attitude, the Parisians really will look after you!

French 101:

Hello/Good day – Bonjour

Good evening – Bonsoir

How are you? (How’s it going?) – Comment ça va?

Things are going well – Ça va bien

My name is SarahJe m’appelle Sarah

And you? – Et Tu?

Please – S’il vous plait

Thank you – Merci

Thank you very much – Merci beaucoup

Excuse me – Excusez-moi

Sorry – Pardon

In English? – En anglais? Or even better, en anglais s’il vous plait?

Do you speak English? – Parlez vous anglais?

Goodbye – Au revoir

With some basic French under your belt and a great big smile, we really do hope you’ll have the same experience that we did in Paris.

Though it was a city that wasn’t top of either of our European wish-lists, we came away having had a ball in the City of Love and have a completely new appreciation for the French.

Isn’t it fabulous when expectations are blown out of the water?


Have you visited Paris?  If so, what was your experience of interacting with the French?  We’d love to hear from you!

Want to let others know how accommodating and patient the French can be?  Pin this post!

We were warned about Parisians before we even flew into France - is what they say about them true though? Find out our experience here...

Are you looking for an amazing place to stay whilst you visit Paris?  

We absolutely fell in love with Adèle & Jules, finding the staff to be the epitome of the welcoming Parisians we met elsewhere.  We couldn’t recommend them enough!

If your budget won’t quite stretch to that, Le Village Hostel is a comfortable option in an energetic, lovely part of town – great value for money!

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