I love traveling! And – I haven’t been traveling abroad for recreational purposes since last year. And thus, I’m seriously craving a nice, little city escape right about now… Last spring, Chris and I went to Edinburgh with a group of friends and we had a blast. But ever since taking in Kira and Petrus, our rescue bunnies, a couple of years ago, it has been less traveling. Not due to lack of “bunny sitters”, really. It’s rather that nagging feeling that it’s hard to leave our furbabies to someone else’s care, period. This reminds me that we should probably make a habit of taking small trips more often just to get used to the idea of being away from them from time to time.
But yes, my last trip was to Tanzania in June. And while this trip was all kinds of awesomeness, it was mostly work (a friend and I volunteered for a youth conference). And besides, I managed to get sick. Not sick in the manner where you just lay in bed, thankfully, but I lost my voice completely and spent the majority of the week wheezing with a broken, cracked up voice. I blame the airplane AC’s and my complete straying from my usual diet. Sugar was a hard one to avoid while traveling, it turned out. So, I indulged a bit. Too much, it seems. Oh well…
Bottom line is, I dream about a weekend getaway in the near future. And I have three European cities as my current city escape favorites, first one being…
Ah, Berlin! How I miss thee! I loved you before I even met you. And now it’s been forever since we’ve met.
I’ve always had a thing for Berlin. Maybe it was because of my teenage goth phase and my favorite Finnish band The 69 Eyes and their bedazzling song, “Feel Berlin”. Or perhaps it was Berlin’s general reputation as something of a cultural and artistic capital that did it. Either way, I was smitten with Berlin before I ever went there. And when I finally visited in 2015, I was not any less fascinated.
A diverse city vibe
The atmosphere in Berlin is a peculiar one. I felt that there was a kind of merge between the old 70s Berlin and a Berlin in the 21stcentury. It felt both old and new, and particularly vibrant and lively. With the possibilities of taking mile long walk in Tiergarten park to breathe in the scenery and nature in Central Berlin, take a trip up the TV tower in Alexander Platz and admire the urban views, or doing some shopping in Friedrich Straße, Berlin has a lot to offer.
I was kind of hellbent on treating myself to some bratwurst and sour kraut when dining out in Berlin. It did however turn out that the Berliners were more prone to having their wursts Curry style, and so lunch at our visit to Berlin Zoo was a curry wurst with French fries on the side (I searched high and low for that bratwurst, I tell you, but could not for the life of me find it?!).
An unexpected caffeinated incident
And also, Berlin is the reason I now drink coffee. Yes, it’s true! I never drank coffee before, and never intended to start. But, just a small walk from our hotel in Invalidenstraße, we found a small café named Galilei Café. It became our main breakfast hang out for our three-day stay in Berlin, and we ordered the big breakfast plate on our first morning there. It turned out that included in this breakfast deal was a cup of coffee, and so our waitress brought over a couple of cups. A tad embarrassed for her unnecessary troubles, Chris and I apologetically said we didn’t drink coffee. Chris mentioned under his breath that he only drinks his coffee with milk, so the black coffee was a no-go for us. Our waitress was very understanding and took the coffee back.
To our surprise, though, she ended up returning with the coffee, now in glasses and with milk – Café Latte style. Not drinking café latte either, I didn’t have the heart to decline the coffee a second time, so I said to Chris that I would drink it and just put heap loads of sugar in it. And so, I did. It was alright, if not a little strange. I didn’t think much of the coffee flavor, after all.
We went back the next day, because the food and atmosphere were amazing. And, obviously a little intrigued, Chris and I ordered a large café latte each. With large amounts of sugar in mine, I found it drinkable once more. I continued this trend when returning home, and now I drink two cups of café lattes every day. So, Berlin definitely left its mark, I’d say!
I would have recommended that you visit said café if you’re ever in Berlin, without question, but I recently learned that Café Galilei closed up shop for good. I’m a little gutted about that, to be honest. This café was one of the places I hoped to revisit on my next Berlin trip. But now it’s too late for that, I am afraid.
Which reminds me that I need to travel to the next city on my list soon, in order to eat at my favorite juice bar there. This city is the one and only…
“Edinburgh, Edinburgh, with your fields of green, your medieval architecture,
narrow streets and bagpipe music. You took my heart – and kept it!”
As I was telling you about initially, my last trip for leisurely purposes was a trip to Edinburgh last spring. We were a group of eight friends that traveled together, and we stayed at a hotel in Grassmarket, at the foot of the hill that holds the Edinburgh Castle.
I had done much better research beforehand on this trip than on our Berlin trip, having planned for a few cafés and restaurants that could be worth a visit. And, to my surprise, it turned out that the hotel one of our friends had picked out for us were localized close to a few of the breakfast and dinner places I had wanted to visit.
Our favorite breakfast hangout
One of the places I has picked out, was this charming little juice bar named Hula, and our hotel and Hula Juice were only about 50 meters apart.
Obviously, Hula became the main breakfast hangout for Chris and me, and we made a point to get up early and go have breakfast 8 o’clock sharp each morning. All of our friends slept in, so this early breakfast routine was the perfect setup for some one-on-one time for us before meeting up with the group later. And, for real, I wanted to savor this trip as much as possible and saved the sleeping in until getting back home.
If you fancy a tasty, healthy breakfast, Hula’s got you covered. On the menu, they have salads, sandwiches, smoothie bowls, pastries and porridge, and of course coffee, tea and heaps of different juices. I mean, they’re not called Hula Juice Café for fun, after all. I didn’t try any of their juices, I’m afraid. But the smoothie bowls and the porridge? To. Die. For. Seriously, I am not joking. To put it like this; Hula Juice and their brilliant food is one of my main reasons for wanting to go back to Edinburgh. Did I mention the smoothie bowls, and the porridge?? That, and well, the general atmosphere in the city. And oh, the raw cakes were good too. And the coffee (Thanks, Berlin!).
Edinburgh isn’t a particularly large city, with its 480 000 inhabitants (in comparison, Oslo has over 600 000), and so it’s easy to get an overview of the city center and maneuver from place to place. I wasn’t long enough in Edinburgh to test any of the public transportation, but it’s fairly uncomplicated to move around by foot. When you’re not stupid like me and bring a pair of boots that end up killing one of your pinky toes and leaving you grumpy for an entire morning because of the pain, though, of course.
So, yes, a friendly reminder coming up here: Bring comfortable shoes when traveling! At least bring a couple of sneakers with you in your bag if you know you’re going to be walking quite a bit. Packing “like a minimalist” isn’t always favorable, especially if you’re focusing on the wrong things.
We rescued the “beaten up pinky toe”-situation by heading to Princes’ street and buy a couple of Sketchers, by the way. Phew…! It was the last day of the trip, also. But the plane ride home would have been a nightmare without new footwear, so new shoes was a must.
Dining out – Edinburgh by night
Along with Hula Juice, we (well, I) had a couple of other food places that we wanted to check out; Maison Bleue and Treacle (Both of which I’d read about on Amber McNaught’s blog. Thanks, Amber!).
Maison Bleue, a restaurant offering French, North African and Scottish dishes, is also located in The Grassmarket, only further up the road from Hula Juice. Thus, so close to our hotel that dining here was a no-brainer. And, so we did, our second evening in Edinburgh. I don’t remember exactly what I ate, unfortunately. But I do remember that it was a three-course menu and quite tasty too, so I guess that’s the most important take-way, no? The location was great, the food was good, the interior dashing and the staff friendly. Add a pretty picturesque front entrance, and you’ve got yourself quite the place, I should say.
Treacle was not in The Grassmarket area, but a 30-minute walk from our hotel. We didn’t mind the walking, though. I mean, what better way to get the proper feel of the city, right? We booked a table one night, and after a nice long walk in the streets of an evening Edinburgh in dusk we sat down for a meal at Treacle. Treacle, with its modern and hip city vibe, was quite different from Maison Bleue’s traditional French demeanor. Judging from the pictures from this trip, I had a burger, though not sure what kind. I do remember it being delicious. The dessert didn’t make its way onto film, I am afraid, and thus what it was have escaped my memory, but it too was equally tasty.
Well, the clue was not really to make this a “guide to Edinburg” kind of post. So, I’ll stop here. But Edinburgh definitely stole my heart and I am very much yearning to get back there. Preferably yesterday. But I’ll take any day, frankly. Just make it soon!
The last (but not least) city on my list is…
I will always hold London close to my heart. With all of its many qualities, one of the reasons for this is that it’s the first out-of-country trip Chris and I took together. 11 years ago. Whoa. That’s quite some years!
Down memory lane
In London, we have the memory of walking in Hyde Park only to get surprised by rain with no coats. And by rain, I mean that all the water ledges up in the skies opened simultaneously in a split second. It was like someone turned on the faucet. It had us running like sillies back to the hotel, seeking shelter in an entry way with a stranger before taking the plunge and running into the reception. We laughed and giggled almost frantically, and I think the people in the reception area thought we were a couple of crazy people.
And the memory of walking through Hyde Park on our way to Pizza Hut for a night out and hearing music from the Calling Festival. We passed the festival in such a manner that we heard the music for quite a walking distance. And soon, we realized that the music we heard was Chris Cornell singing Be Yourself. Both of us being fans of Audioslave, it was kind of special and romantic to hear Chris Cornell sing this as we walked through the green landscapes of Hyde park on our way to a romantic dinner for two. We kind of felt like he was singing just for us, knowing that we would walk past exactly at that time (hey, people are allowed to dream, right??).
If that wasn’t all, on our way back, we heard Aerosmith on stage playing Cryin’. Hearing these songs now, it takes me straight back to that evening in London city, as the sun set in the distance and we stopped to listen to these distant tunes from the festival a couple of yards away.
Rock n’ roll and paninis in Camden
Speaking of music… No London without a visit to Camden, at least not for the one with a heart for rock n’ roll. We didn’t have breakfast at the hotel when in London, so we went out for breakfast in Camden. One of the days, we ended up at this cosy, little panini place with the friendliest owner. We sat down at a table after coming in from the street on a rather grey day. The owner saw that I was shivering slightly and waved at us to come and sit down at another table further in to avoid draft. And soon after, he arrived with what I believe to be the best panini I have had to date.
Staying low carb these days due to a sensitive gut, I probably wouldn’t have had paninis now (…so gutted…no pun intended!). And who knows if they’re still there? Camden, though, is a given. Camden Market and the Tea House. Well, I have not been there since the fire some years back. I guess it’s not like I remember it?
So, there you have it: My three current city escape favorites – Berlin, Edinburgh and London. All of them are great cities in their own respects, and it’s difficult to decide which one I’d want to visit first. If time past between my last trip there and now should matter, I guess London is the surefire winner. But then there’s Berlin… I really miss Berlin! And Edinburgh… Ah, the dilemma! Haha..
What’s your favorite city escapes? Do they match any of mine?
(Disclaimer: All the photos in this blog post is my own, except the London ones. Turns out I wasn’t such an avid picture taker 11 years ago… I better go there soon, then, I guess, in order to update my photo archives?)