If you would like to travel cheaper, save money and have fewer travel issues, these tips for Europe will help: 1. Forget super-expensive Western Europe (England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy). It’s hard to enjoy travel when you are aghast at the costs of everything. 2. Focus on cheaper Central Eastern Europe: Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia with a quick 2 day side trip to Venice, a must-see in Europe. 3. Croatia and Slovenia are both as beautiful as France at a quarter of the costs for food and accommodation, and has an amazing coastline with hundreds of islands, as … More… →
I was so excited to return to my favourite small town in Hungary: Gyor. Near the border of Slovakia and only an hour and a half to continue to Vienna, it’s a pleasant two hour drive from Budapest to Gyor… Gyor (pronounced “Dyur”) is packed with charm, and has a quiet community atmosphere with the storybook river Raba running through it… E and I had spent a lot of time here several years ago when she lived in Gyor. She had a pretty little apartment just off downtown. Since I was there in winter, I … More… →
Get a load of this! Cars parked inches apart! This is the way parking is all over Europe’s cities. Space is at a premium so no parking spot is too small… In Budapest the view from my friend, E’s, balcony up and down the street in provided ample example of the tight parking… This type of parking is prevalent everywhere we went in Europe and cars whiz down narrow alley streets and between cars on narrow streets with inches to spare. We came to the conclusion that they are much better drivers than we are in … More… →
In Budapest, we took a Danube Riverboat Cruise down the river to a little town called Szentendre. We enjoyed great views of the bridges and Parliament Buildings as we cruised slowly down the Danube… Jaws dropped though when we saw a bus floating in the river… Oh My God. A few minutes later we realized that it was a bus boat! Hilarious. After a nice cruise down the river, Szentendre came into view… Szentendre was a charming little town… But what really was unique was the Marzipan Museum. Yes, marzipan, the almond paste that can be … More… →
How many times have we said we don’t like something, only to find that an authentic first-hand experience of that very thing astonishes you, and you come away with a complete change of mind… and so it happened with us in Budapest. First of all, Budapest is an extravagant and exciting city, ranging from magnificent to modest. Architecturally, it is beautiful. Many original historic buildings have been maintained, and these elegant structures seem to be valued much more in Europe in general, than they are in North America. Much of the charm of Europe is in the magnificent … More… →
Hungarian food is simple and hearty, offering wholesome soups, stews and goulash but there is one traditional item that is not to be missed: Langos. It’s available in many markets, malls and family events. Think of a luscious king-size fresh fry bread topped with garlic butter, sour cream and loads of cheese! One Langos is a meal in itself… The absolute best hot chocolate ever is at the Napos Oldal Cafe, in a quiet area of central Budapest, on Jokai Utca 7 at the end of Zichy Jeno Utca. Napos Oldal is an owner-run specialty cafe with many vegan items, healthy desserts, coffees, a … More… →
One day I was out shopping at the mall in downtown Budapest at West End City Centre Mall… It’s a huge five-level mall! Not without its charms… A bit disgruntled that I could not find a single thing I particularly wanted to buy, I was equally tired of walking and walking back and forth on five endless levels with no palpable results. Perhaps I should have been happy to save my money, but I was looking for things I thought I needed (you know how that is). Finally, peeved, I stepped outside a back entrance … More… →
It seems that Hungary sits over a steaming inferno of water… Hungary has a reputation for having the best Roman Turkish bath houses in Europe. People from all over Europe, as well as from other parts of the world, visit their famous medicinal hot springs. Thermal baths are literally spread all over the country. There are over 140 registered thermal baths in Hungary and over 1300 thermal springs. The city of Budapest holds the title of having the most thermal and medicinal springs than any other city in the world. The Roman Turkish bath houses are … More… →
With the River Danube running through the centre of the city, Budapest is a spectacular city! Did you know that there are two separate cities that make up Budapest? Buda is on the West side of the Danube and Pest (pronounced Pesht) is on the East side of the Danube. One of the most impressive things about Budapest is its diverse architectural buildings, ranging from Gothic to Soviet-era, to Baroque to Roman Ruins to Art Nouveau. This is a result of Hungary being invaded an unbelievable number of times! Hungary’s history goes back to over 350,000 years. Considering … More… →
It wasn’t the yodeling through the Austrian Alps that was impressive, no, – though I’m sure yodeling would be equally amazing – but it was the music! We can understand much better now, how incredible it is to experience sound resonating across the giant alps and how dramatically it floats through the air… The Kufstein Fortress of the 12th Century is remarkable in itself… Even more notable, however, is that the Kufstein Fortress houses the Heroes Organ of 1931, the largest freestanding organ in the world with 4307 working pipes… The organ is played only once a day, but it is … More… →
About ten years ago, we were driving through the rich rolling hills of Austria, licking lush Gelato ice cream cones, and I swear the hills were so beautiful that they were alive with the Sound of Music… But this time we were on the train heading through a different part of Austria – the impressive Austrian Alps… Nestled in the Austrian Alps is a small mountain town called Kufstein… We stayed at the Hotel Kufsteinerhof at 204E (317C) right in the centre of town… With a great view of the Kufstein Fortress of 1205… (upper left corner) … More… →
What a surprise! This country’s lush green countryside was as beautiful as Southern France! It was very clean and tidy, with beautiful highways and modern conveniences everywhere. Very warm helpful people too, with a great sense of humour. This country is relaxing, easy, friendly, and has fewer tourists than France, with the same gorgeous scenery. Where are we? Croatia! Our destination that day, after getting lost and ending up in the wrong country… http://travellittleknownplaces.com/oops-wrong-country/, was Plitvice, Croatia, home of the exquisite layered waterfalls. It was pouring rain… The mist hung over the forested hills… But when the … More… →
Trieste, Italy, was a very elegant city, combining Italian, German, Latin, Austrian, Hungarian and Slavic cultures, but it was time to move on to Slovenia and Croatia. We could not find an automatic car to rent in downtown Trieste and found automatic transmission vehicles were only available at the airport. We paid an astonishing $120 for a taxi from Trieste to Trieste Airport, which is 50 km away from Trieste, in Montflanquin, and then we just barely found a vehicle at a reasonable rate. As if it wasn’t bad enough paying $120 to the airport, we had to pay … More… →
The trip from Venice to Trieste by train follows the curved coast of Italy and has some spectacular views of the towns dotting the hilly green coast and the Adriatic Sea. We met the sweetest couple on the train. A Chinese couple that helped us with our luggage, offered the most delicious Chinese nougat candies, and shared rushing to the windows to get that perfect photography shot. They were very concerned about our comfort and very kind people. How silly that we didn’t get their contact information. (You know who you are, so perhaps if you read this you … More… →
Everyone knows Venice, but who knew that there were over 100 other islands all around Venice? These little-known islands of the Venetian Lagoon are fabulously interesting, and kind of kept a secret by the locals. Some of the islands are uninhabited, some have only a few dozen people. Sant’ Erasmo Island is known for its Orto wine and garden vegetables, Torcello is known for its peaceful greenery, San Michele is the cemetery island, Lido is known for its villas and vacation homes, Pellestrina has beaches, nature reserves and the local fishermen live in colourful cottages, Chioggia is a … More… →
The approach to Venice by train is seductive in itself… Just seeing a city floating on water is astonishing. How did they do that? Why did they do that? Apparently it wasn’t intentional. It happened sometime around the fall of the Roman Empire when the mainland was invaded and the residents escaped to the protected lagoon of Venice. Venice is a maze of tiny cobbled streets and narrow alleys, ribbon-like canals, singing gondoliers, graceful little arched bridges, and thousands of masquarade-like art shops. There is nothing more memorable than the golden sound of the gondolier’s song lilting through the … More… →
God Forbid if you have to go to the bathroom in Italy train stations. First of all, they are scarce and hard to find. There is usually only one bathroom, and these train stations are huge! Train stations are the size of malls, with many shops and restaurants, a ticket office, and 10-20 train tracks and platforms. The only bathroom is usually 3/4 way down the length of the station where the dozen or so train platforms are. You never know which side of tracks the bathroom is on. Finding the bathroom is difficult enough when … More… →
Managing the trains in Europe is not so easy as one might expect. Nice to Venice through Milan was $120C, changing trains three times with only 10-12 minutes each time to change trains. Now when you have to find a new train, on a new platform, usually requiring you to drag all your suitcases up and down steep flights of stairs, look at the boards to find the number and platform of your new train (sometimes only posted minutes before departure), then walk half a kilometer or so to the new platform, confirm the new train number, and find … More… →
The Cote d’Azur is beautiful, but touristy and we were not so interested in these things, so when we discovered a little-known gem along the Cote D’Azur, we were delighted to spend a little time there. While it is still a bit touristy, it was small enough to have just a few families on the beach, enjoying the sunny day on the Mediterranean. This is Bandol, just past Cassis, France. Shhhh… don’t tell anyone. Really a lovely relaxing place, quieter than many of the towns on the Cote d’Azur… Dreamhost Rebate
So what is the difference between the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera and Provence? It was confusing, but eventually we sorted it out. The Cote d’Azur in English is The French Riviera. Provence is the short form of the entire region, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. There are still all kinds of regions, districts, departments and sub-divisions, all of which seem to overlap. At any rate, the Cote d’Azur is that area between Cassis and the Italian border (see map below), literally translated as ‘the blue coast’ of the Mediterranean Sea. The history of the Cote d’Azur goes back forever, and there is extensive … More… →
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