Visiting Montenegro’s Cetinje & St. Petar’s Mausoleum: as an independent day trip

Montenegro’s Old Royal Capital Cetinje is a beautiful, peaceful town well worth a visit on it’s own, but also the entry point to St. Petar’s Mausoleum. Perched atop Jezerski Vrh peak of Lovcen Mountain, the Mausoleum itself is not overly impressive, but the views from the top are spectacular. A quick 10 minute (steep) hike to the the rocky peak affords views of rugged mountains and the Bay of Kotor in the distance. Be sure to walk through the Mausoleum and along the narrow path to the guvno, a circular stone structure traditionally serving as a gathering point where important decisions were made.

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Getting there

From the capital Podgorica or the popular town of Kotor you can take a local bus to the Cetinje bus station. The trip from Podgorica is shorter, at around 30-45 minutes and a little cheaper (3.5€) than the 5€, 1.5 hour trip from Kotor.

From the bus station in Cetinje it’s best to take a taxi to the Mausoleum. It should cost around 25€ for the return trip, including an hour of exploring at the top. I split the trip with two fellow travelers, so it was very affordable at around 8€ each.

Entrance Fees

Entrance to the Lovcen National Park is 2€ per person and 5€ to the Mausoleum. You can still appreciate the view without paying for the Mausoleum entrance but the best view is at the end and well worth the fee.

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10 Of The Best Cafes In Budapest

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to find a great local cafe, relax with a coffee and absorb the new world around me. I love interesting, beautiful and quirky interiors, good people watching vantages, great service, and of course an excellent brew of coffee. Here are ten cafes that deliver all this in the heart of Budapest.

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1. Cafe Frei


You’ll find this coffee house on the touristy Vaci Ut, near the central market. With an inviting retro atmosphere, split over two levels, you’ll want to keep returning to try all of the different styles of coffee from around the world. There’s everything from Peruvian Orange Blossom to Cornflower Coffee, Coconut Hot Chocolate from the Philippines and a myriad of Italian coffee styles. They also specialise in alcoholic coffees from around the world. Expect to pay around 1€ for coffee, 2€ for hot chocolate and 2-3€ for alcoholic coffee.

2. Bluebird Cafe


This cute little cafe has excellent coffee, outdoor seating with swings and to top it off, the barista draws your portrait on a coffee cup. Unmissable. You’ll find it in the popular 7th district.

3. Double Shot


Just north of Magrit Bridge along Pozsonyi Ut are a cluster of inviting cafes. Away from the tourist heart of the city it’s here that you’ll find locals’ favourites. One of the best is tiny Double Shot. They have a couple of outdoor seats and an inviting area upstairs overlooking the leafy street. But it’s their coffee that is the real winner, their macchiato was one of the best we’ve had. Ever.

4. My Green Cup


Just across the road from Double Shot in Pozsonyi Ut this cafe has delicious baked goods, and excellent coffee. There are several outdoor seats and plenty of indoor seating.

5. Astoria Cafe


Just above the Astoria metro stop (which takes it’s name from the Grand Astoria Hotel), this place screams old world charm. Reminiscent of traditional Viennese coffee houses, Astoria is grand, quiet and refreshingly cool during hot summer days.

Open from 7am to 10pm, it’s the perfect spot to sit and read, write or just escape the buzz of the city. The coffee is a little more expensive than other places in Budapest (around 2€) but is high quality and the service is impeccable.

6. Fekete


Hidden down an alley off the busy Múzeum Krt you’ll find this trendy cafe. There’s seating in an interior courtyard and a few tables inside a small but beautifully decorated space. The coffee is delicious, as is the food- if a little expensive.

7. Szerpentin Szalon

I loved the quirkiness of this part antique store, part cafe. Sit inside amidst forgotten treasures or watch the world go by in one of their side walk seats. Their smoothies and ice coffee are particularly delicious in summer.

8. Central Cafe

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Founded in 1887, Central Cafe is another cafe with an old world cafe feel. Located at an intersection full of inviting cafes and bars, the place has a beautiful, huge interior and elegant classic music.

9. Budai Ketto


This cafe is another favorite of locals, in a residential area of Buda. The range of croissants is amazing and crazily cheap at 1€ each. They also serve sandwiches and their coffee is good.

10. Pekmuhely

Another local haunt in Buda, the line was out the door when we arrived. Freshly baked local pastries, bread and decent coffee, all at very cheap prices make it easy to see why.

The Best Hidden Cafe in Helsinki

Ihana Kahvila literally means wonderful coffee in Finnish, and a visit to the tucked-away seaside cafe definitely lives up to the name.

I’ve lived in Helsinki for a few years, yet somehow only recently ventured to Ihana Kahvila. The literal translation from Finnish is wonderful coffee, and a visit to the tucked-away seaside cafe definitely lives up to the name. Set off a winding path through construction sites, it’s a decent walk- but worth every step. You’ll find outdoor tables, deck chairs and hammocks, with a view over the water to the Helsinki Cathedral.

The easiest way to reach Ihana Kahvila from the city center is to take the metro to Kalasatama. From the metro walk along Arielinkatu until you reach the junction with Parrulaituri. Then you should see a sign pointing to the cafe. From here it’s around 1km, with further signposting along the way.

 

 

Traditional Finnish Lakeside Camping: how to reach Nuuksio National Park by public transport

Finland is know as the land of a thousand lakes. In reality, there are over 187,000 lakes– one for every 29 Finns! Finnish lakes are not only numerous but incredibly beautiful, surrounded by pine forests and rocky outcrops, the water is often fresh, clear, and ideal for swimming. Blueberry bushes are never far away, providing a delicious foraged snack- not only legal throughout Finland, but highly encouraged!

With these allures it’s not surprising that escaping city life to recharge at a lakeside cottage or campsite is a favourite summer pastime in Finland. One of the most popular places to experience the Finnish nature close to Helsinki is Nuuksio National Park. In this post I describe how to use public transport to get from Helsinki to two stunning camp sites in Nuuksio.
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Getting from Helsinki to Nuuksio bus stop

  1. Download the HSL transport app. I’d also suggest getting the Maastokartta trail map app. After adding your credit card details to the HSL you can buy an ABC zone ticket which you’ll need to show to bus driver and any ticket inspectors on the train. The ticket is 4.80€ and valid for 90 minutes– so if you plan the connections correctly this is all you will need. You can also use the ticket to get to the Central Railway Station by tram, bus or metro.
  2. From the Central Railway Station catch the U, I or E train to Espoo. These run frequently and the journey is around 25 minutes.
  3. Almost immediately after exiting the train you should see a bus stop listing numerous services including the 245A bus. Google Maps gives a slightly incorrect location for the bus stop, if in doubt as a local. This bus runs every half hour and also takes around 25 minutes.
  4. Take the bus to either ‘Haukkalammentie’ (third last stop) or ‘Katilla’ (last stop) depending on the route chosen below.
  5. If getting off at Haukkalammentie you should take the first left hand turn down a dirt road. It’s roughly 2km (30 minutes) walk down the road to Haukkalampi. Here you’ll find a shop, free drinking water to refill bottles, rubbish bins and a lake with a little island that can be reached by a bridge. In summer you can rent row boats or paddle boards here. In itself it’s a beautiful spot for a day trip.

Getting from the bus stop to the camp site

Here I’ve listed two beautiful campsites with some photos to help you decide which to visit and directions to get there.

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1. Holma-Saarijärvi

Saarijärvi translates to ‘island-lake‘ which is exactly what you find at this beautiful campsite. There are two campsites in the area, one on the island itself and another on the opposite bank of the lake. As with many Finnish campsites you will find long-drop toilets, a cooking fire with a grill and a store of firewood with an axe.

To reach Holma-Saarijärvi take the 245A bus to the ‘Haukkalammentie’ stop, walk to Haukkalampi and then follow the trail to the lake. Some parts of the trail are marked by signs, but others not, so make sure you have the app or a paper map to guide you. It should take around 40 minutes from Haukkalampi to reach the lake.

2. Iso-Holma

The camp sites here are slightly less picturesque than Holma-Saarijärvi but are more secluded, peaceful and calm. I preferred swimming in this lake as the water had less sediment and was deeper. There are many lily pads in the lake but on the northern side of the campsite you’ll find a perfect spot for swimming- a clearing of lily pads and a large waterside rock to dive in from. When I pointed out the rock to a Fin he said it must have been placed there by God.

To get to the campsite you have two options.

Firstly, to get off the 245A bus at Haukkalammentie, walk to Haukkalampi as above and then take a different trail to Iso-Holma. This walk is around 35 minutes, so combined with the walk from the bus stop, this option is roughly an hour in total. This is a good option if you need to stop for water or other supplies at Haukkalampi.

Option two is to take the bus to the end of the line and get off at Katilla. There is no water, toilets, rubbish bins or shop at the bus stop and the closest lake is a little walk off. However this route is much faster (30 minutes total) and more scenic as it’s predominantly a walk through the forest with no road walking. To find the trail head across the fields to the forest area and then follow your map.

Things to keep in mind

  • Be sure not to leave any rubbish behind and respect the natural flora and fauna
  • Blueberries are edible and delicious and completely legal to forage
  • In summer there can be a fire ban which means the only camp fires allowed are those covered by a roof and chimney. You can check the status of any bans here
  • Most camp sites have long drop toilets with sawdust (empty a scoop in the toilet after you use it) and camp fires with plenty of fire wood and an axe
  • For more information visit the National Park website

 

 

5 things to do in enchanting Tallinn

If you only have a day to explore Estonia’s capital then be sure not to miss these five sites.

With a unique fairy-tale old town, Tallinn is one of my favourite cities to explore in Europe. If you are staying for a few days, I’d also recommend venturing out to the lesser known parts of Estonia on alternative day trip or visiting the eastern city of Tartu. If you only have a day or two, then be sure not to miss these five sites in the capital.

1. Explore abandoned Linnahall

This huge Soviet style building was completed in 1980 as a venue for the sailing events of the Moscow Olympics. The hall then became an entertainment complex and was finally closed in 2010. Despite recent plans for renovations, the area remains derelict, with grass growing through the concrete steps, graffiti on the walls and an a somewhat eerie feel- although these days it’s quite a popular tourist attraction.

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2. View the old city from above

The old town of Tallinn (Vana Tallinn) has a magical fairy-tale feel to it, in part due to the well preserved town wall and castle on Toompea hill. To get the best view of the old town (and to get your bearings for further exploring) head up the tower of St. Olav’s Church or the town hall in Raekoja Plats. Both are 3€ entry and require climbing of over 100 narrow stone steps!

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3. Visit the markets in Raekoja Plats

At the center of the old town you’ll find Raekoja Plats– the Town Square. As with many towns, the main square is the heart of the city. Here you’ll find regular weekend markets, plenty of restaurants, cafes and interesting museums.

Since 1441 the old Raekoja Plats has been home to a magical Christmas Market. It’s even been said that the Brotherhood of the Blackheads erected the world’s first Christmas Tree here, although others claim that neighboring Riga holds this title.

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Horse in old town

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Raekoja Plats Markets

4. Wander through Toompea Hill

Positioned above the rest of the old town, Toompea (Cathedral) Hill boasts impressive views of the city, the old castle- which is now the Estonian Parliament building and the stunning Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

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5. Head to Telliskivi

If you want to see a different side of Tallinn then head out of the Old Town time-warp to Telliskivi, an inspiring “creative city for everything new”. Here you’ll find second-hand shops, homeware and arts stores, food and thrift markets and plenty of trendy cafes and bars. My favourite is F-Hoone.

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Exploring Cornwall: 5 things to in England’s southwest

Cornwall has been on my must visit list for many years. As well as my general love for all things associated with the sea and coastlines, I was an avid reader of Rosamunde Pilcher’s novels- most of which are set in Cornwall.

When I finally visited the south western corner of England I was blown away by the natural beauty and character of the region. Here are the five things I loved exploring the most in Cornwall.

1. Explore Penzance

Penzance is the most westerly major town in Cornwall and is full of winding, hilly streets, Cornish pasty bakeries and picturesque views. The town also has a beautiful ocean swimming pool- The Jubilee Sea Pool.

2. Climb St. Michael’s Mount

Perched on the top of an island, the Castle of St. Michael’s Mount and offers superb views of the bay. Owned by the St Aubyn family since 1650, entrance fees (£16) go towards the upkeep of the castle and grounds.

At low tide you can walk across a stone causeway to the island, while at high tide there are frequent boats to ferry you across, for a small fee.

Marazion- the town at the base of St. Michael’s Mount is also worth spending time exploring.

3. Wander around tiny village of Gulval

This quaint little town is set back from the coast and only a short walk from Penzance. You’ll find charming streets, a beautiful old church with a garden full of towering trees and fields of wheat and chamomile.

 

4. Explore Newlyn and Mousehole

In the other direction to Gulval, are the coastal towns of Newlyn and further along the bay Mousehole. These are both really picturesque and full of little cafes and art galleries.

5. Relax at stunning Porthcurno

Porthcurno is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to. A short walk from the bus stop, the sandy cove provides the perfect spot to relax and take a dip in the sea.

The stretch of coastline on either side of the beach is equally stunning and there’s a coastal walking track along the cliff top to nearby bays and towns. Local buses travel frequently between Porthcuno, Penzance and Land’s End.

Travel Budget: Cornwall

I absolutely loved my trip to Cornwall and can’t wait to go back and spend more time along England’s stunning southwest coast. The thing that surprised me most about the trip was just how beautiful beaches (especially Porthcurno) actually were. I can’t recommend this place of the world highly enough!

If you are planning a trip, here’s a guide on what I spent on a fairly tight budget and what you can can expect to pay for a similar standard. I visited in June, so prices may be slightly higher later in summer and cheaper at other times of the year.

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City: Penzance, Cornwall England

Travel Style: Budget

Currency: Pound (£)

Duration: 5 nights

Season: Summer (June)

Total Spend: 178£ (320 AUD, 198 EUR)

Daily Spend: 36£ (65 AUD, 40 EUR)

 

 

Cost Breakdown

Accommodation: 5 nights for 69£

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5 nights: 3 at a hostel, 2 on a bus (included in transport costs below)

  • To save money and (mostly) time I opted to take the night bus to and from London to Penzance. I’ve included the cost of this under transport below. I loved that this gave me an extra two full days to explore Cornwall at no extra cost.
  • EasyPZ Backpackers in Penzance was one of the best hostels I ever stayed at. The staff were amazing, the atmosphere friendly and relaxed and the facilities everything you’d ever want from a beachside stay. It was walking distance from the train/bus station and I had a view of St. Michael’s Mount from my dorm window. The hostel staff were also fantastic when it came to arriving early in the morning and leaving late in evening- I could leave my bags, shower in the downstairs bathroom and fill my water bottle from the kitchen.

Transport: 5 days = 43£

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  • The train from London to Penzance can be quite expensive (for my dates it was around 120£ each direction for a5 hours trip), while the overnight bus (9 hours) was only £14 in each direction. I booked the bus.
  • I did have a problem when I left Penzance- my bus didn’t turn up. I made the split decision to get the last train to London which cost me a lot at the time but I was able to later claim back. Just a reminder to always have a back up plan, especially when travelling alone at night.
  • In Penzance I bought an unlimited local bus ticket for 15£. For two days this is 20£ and three days even better value. So if you plan to explore over a few days definitely opt for a longer ticket.
  • In my usual style I mostly got around by walking.

Food & Drink: 5 days = 50£

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With a fully equipped kitchen at a hostel, it’s easy to save money on food. Most hostels also have a cupboard of left over food that you can combine with new ingredients for an even cheaper meal.

  • Breakfast: included in my hostel rate. Alternatively, many cafes offer a full hot breakfast for around 5£
  • Lunch: between 2-4£ for Cornish Pastie or salad sandwich
  • Ice Cream: 2.5£
  • Beer: around for half a pint
  • Dinner: I mainly ate at the hostel. Pub meals or similar would set you back between 10-15£ a meal

Activities: 16£

  • Entry to St. Michael’s Mount castle and gardens

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Total spent:  178£  / 5 nights = 36£ per day

What happens when you take undeveloped film in checked luggage?

You get foggy film.

The effect is much worse when undeveloped film is packed in checked luggage rather than carry on, as the X-ray intensity is much higher. The more times the film goes through the X-ray the more faded/washed out the images will be. If you do need to travel with undeveloped film then be sure to take it in your carry on luggage and ask the airport staff to exclude it from the X-ray. It’s best if you have it in a separate clear plastic bag and ask as you hand over your belongings for scanning.

I completely forgot to do this with my latest films and while one roll was ruined, another had a distinct vintage feel to it that I actually really liked. Here are some of the shots of Cornwall from that roll.

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Bassano del Grappa: the perfect daytrip from Venice

A quick one hour train ride from Venice is one of the loveliest towns I’ve visited in Italy- Bassano del Grappa. The town has a beautiful green river running through it’s heart and is surrounded by rugged mountains (including Monte Grappa) and countryside. While the incredibly strong grappa is the most traditional drink of the area, my favourite was mezzoemezzo from the Nardini distillery by the Ponte Vecchio. The back room of the distillery overlooking the river is the perfect place to sit and read- maybe something of Hemmingway- his wartime experiences in Bassano form part of A Farewell to Arms.

Here are some photos from my visit.

Exploring Oxford on foot: 5 things to do in the City of Dreaming Spires

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Oxford has been a place I’ve longed to visit for years- a city synonymous with excellence in education and research, in a beautiful and historic setting. Easily reached by train or bus from London, the city provides a perfect day trip or weekend getaway from the capital.

Here are my favourite 5 things to do in the City of Dreaming Spires.

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1. Marvel at the Bodleian Library and Bridge of Sighs

Opened in 1602, the Bodleian Library (or ‘the Bod’ as locals refer to it) houses over 12 million items which are primarily used for reference- meaning they can’t be taken from the library reading rooms. The most famous part of the library is the Radcliffe Camera– the stunning round building. To get the best view of the ‘Rad Cam’ go inside the neighbouring Church of St Mary the Virgin and up the church tower. Be sure to go early in the day as the line can become quite long later on.

The nearby Hartford Bridge, more commonly known as the Bridge of Sighs is a replica of the Ponte dei Sospiri in Venice and also worth a visit.

 

2. Visit the University Colleges

The University of Oxford has 38 Colleges and 6 Permanent Private Halls of Religious Foundation. If you’re a student or staff member at the University, you must belong to one of these colleges, with everything from accommodation, dining, drinking and studying occurring within them. The oldest is University College which was founded in 1249 and boasts alumni such as Stephen Hawking, C.S Lewis and Bill Clinton.

I was lucky enough to get free entry to the colleges as I visited with a friend who is a researcher at the University. Normally entrance is between 3-6£ per college.

If you only visit one, I’d recommend Christ Church as it’s impressively grand and one of the film locations for Harry PotterEspecially look out for the Cloisters, Bodley Tower Staircase and the Dining Hall. Here you’ll also find a stained glass window dedicated to Lewis Carol’s works.

 

3. Enjoy brunch at Handle Bar Cafe

This place is run by a couple of French guys and not only provides a relaxed vibe and interesting decor, but delicious brunch and coffee with sustainably sourced ingredients. Arrive before you’re starving as it can become pretty busy on the weekends and you may need to wait for a table. More info here.

 

4. Have a drink at one of the classic pubs

There are many traditional old pubs in Oxford with my favourite being Turf Tavern which dates back to 1381! You’ll find it down a tiny alley (St. Helen’s Passage) next to the Bridge of Sighs- opposite the Bodleian Library. It was here in 1963 that legendary Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke set the Guinness World Record for drinking a yard glass of ale in 11 seconds.

Other local favourites include Bear Inn (established in 1242) and the King’s Arms. If cocktails are more your thing try FREVD cocktail bar.

5. Step into the largest single room selling books in the world

Blackwell’s Bookshop on Broad Street was founded in 1879 and boasts the largest single room selling books worldwide- the Norrington Room. A must for any book lovers, my favourite thing was the mystery books wrapped in brown paper with elusive blurbs.

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If you have time to spare then check out the Natural History Museum on Parks Road- entry is free!