Saturday, November 28, 2015

Venice | Returning to the floating city



For a long time, I’ve been so against going back to the same place twice. I have family friends who every year visit the same country, stay in the same city and sleep in the same hotel. There was something about it that alarmed me terribly. There is so much of the world I haven’t seen, so many things I hadn’t done and Panda’s I hadn’t cuddled, that the thought of being trapped in a never ending cycle of holidaying in the same place every year became my biggest fear.

But then there was Venice. The magical city that became my real life Narnia, the place that captured my heart in its entirety. The second I left I carried on dreaming of the giant maze I pretended was my second home – and that’s exactly what going back felt like, home. We knew our way round (very tiny parts) and recognised so much, it felt familiar, in a warm comfortable way. Despite the familiarity, it didn’t lose an ounce of its magic, and proved to be the perfect place for a romantic weekend.

The streets were still there old charming selves, the water bus was still the best mode of transport I’ve ever taken, and the food tasted like unicorn spread on panda bread (not that I condone eating panda). This time we stayed in the centre of Venice, it was off season which meant accommodation was much cheaper, and we were round the corner from Piazza San Marco. It was still busy, full of tourists in all the main areas, but it’s something I can ignore when the city looks as beautiful as Venice.

I keep asking myself what it is about Venice that makes it so magical, maybe it’s because there are no cars, maybe it’s because for a city attracting so many tourists everything is so old, or maybe it’s because the entire city is sinking. There is something pretty alluring (although devastating) about the fact that it won’t be there forever, no matter how much is being done to preserve it.

If you haven’t been, you should do. Eat pancakes for breakfast, jump on a water bus, visit Murano during sunset when there’s nobody but the locals around, put on a stone in pizza and pasta, get lost in the maze and then attempt to find your way out, spend all your pennies on postcards and glass ornaments and have lunch by the grand canal (though beware of the seagulls that are bigger than a small child).

I worried about going back to the place I held so dear, in case it didn’t live up to my expectations. But somehow, the floating city, was even more magical than before.






If you're planning a trip, here's our favourite spot in the city ♥




Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Zurich



I’d love to say Zurich was everything I imagined and more, but clearly my dreams of visiting Switzerland for the first time held some high expectations. That’s not to say it wasn’t beautiful, because it was, but the Austrian charm that had just blessed my soul set the bar pretty high.

We stayed in Ibis budget, which was most likely mistake number one. After a panic that we had no plug sockets and the surprise of having a shower right next to the bed, it became apparent that the 45 minute walk into the city centre was just that little bit too long.

Day one was rainy and miserable and my heart longed for Austria once more, with it being Sunday everything was closed and we resorted to paying the equivalent of £4 for a small bottle of water. Feeling depleted and robbed, we called it a day and headed in from the cold.

But oh what a difference a day makes, the sun came out and the rain gave up and went home. The supermarkets were open, meaning a bottle of water was no longer a luxury and I could taste my first mouthful of Swiss chocolate – no words can describe the bliss. We headed into town, or rather hiked into town, and explored everything Zurich had to offer. The city is full of cute, quaint shops and I treated myself to various items, mostly chocolate that was demolished before the day was through.

We enjoyed dinner in the Spaghetti House, paying 50 Swiss francs for two bowls of pasta made it the most affordable place in the city. Damn the locals must earn a lot, because Zurich sure is expensive. We spent a large amount of our time by the river, watching the boats pass and enjoying the tiny moments of sunshine that broke through the clouds. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to travel up to the √úetliberg (the iconic mountain offering a panoramic view of the city, which has been high on my bucket list for a while now) as my travel buddy came down poorly on our final day.

Despite the lack of time, poor choice of hotels and miserable weather – Zurich is darn pretty. The brief moments of sunshine gleaming on the tram lines made me think of San Francisco, and nothing beat the chocolate! I left thinking three days was nowhere near enough time to really see the city and knowing there to be much more of Switzerland I need to explore. A road trip would be ideal as I bet driving through the mountains is dreamy – until then a long weekend in Geneva next month will have to satisfy my appetite for more.








Thursday, November 05, 2015

Innsbruck



I never thought I would be so excited to board a train, I’m on one every day for 40 minutes to get to work and it’s really not very interesting. A train through the mountains to a new city however, that’s definitely something to be excited about.

I have to begin by stating that the Austrian transport system is as efficient as me on a Monday morning after two coffees and a cookie... so extremely efficient. We booked our tickets online a week before we left, here, and managed to find our train and platform number, with no problems. Maybe it’s because we’re Londoners, but every time I go abroad, transport systems are always so much easier! Trains are on time, despite atrocious weather and there never seems to be an issue.

We stayed in the Austria Classic Innsbruck Hotel Binders Garni, despite the terrible marketing decision to award it such a long name, the hotel was beautiful. The staff were incredibly friendly; the location was perfect if you don’t mind a walk to the city centre, and the sunshine blazing through the window in the morning was a welcome change to the previous hotel (though they did give us free food!).

We spent day one wandering through the old town, seeing the Gothic Hofkirche and the Hofburg, a former Habsburg palace, before walking up the river and crossing over all the quaint little bridges you meet along the way. The fog meant little could be seen of the landscape and as much as it was clearly pretty, I have to admit I longed for Salzburg again.

Day two however, gave me a real taste of Innsbruck. As the fog cleared, and the snowy mountains came out to play, we jumped on a cable cart halfway up the mountain to a little ski resort. The view was breathtaking, though sadly one that my camera couldn’t do justice of. Due to it being off-season, the ski resort was lovely and quiet, meaning you had the opportunity to take in the view without a huge crowd. A small tip: buy your ticket from Congress, as it works out cheaper to buy one from the start and go straight to the top – unfortunately this was something we only found out when we were halfway up. 

When we came down to ground level, we walked across the entire city, an expedition undertaken with two missions in sight – Ambras Castle, and the Olympic Ski Jump. The ski jump we found with relative ease, only to be slightly disappointed by how small it looked when we got up close. We didn’t venture up, coming to the decision that it wouldn’t be worth the climb – I did however find a postcard of the jump at Innsbruck train station and immediately regretted the decision, it looked incredible and I feel we missed out on something special.

Ambras castle was extremely difficult to locate, but worth every ounce of the effort. The castle stands on the edge of the city and overlooks everything from behind the trees. A viewing shelter, which we had to ourselves for the most part, meant we could sit and enjoy the view for a while – and of course, take tons of photos.

Overall Innsbruck turned out to be a decent destination, I think if I was to visit again I’d come during peak season and bring my skis. Next stop... Zurich.