Best & Worst Airports

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Sometimes, when you plan an amazing trip abroad, the quality of the airport can be the icing on the cake to a perfect holiday…or can be the thing that drags the whole trip down.

Airports can be small, remote, busy, whatever. But there’s one thing that makes an airport terrible for me and that’s bumping up the prices of everything inside it. I recently took this photo of water bottles inside Frankfurt Airport -

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3 euros for a small bottle of water??!! We can’t take water in from the outside, so if we want water we HAVE to pay these prices!

Another airport that I remember being particularly bad for this was Helsinki airport, which I used when I went back to Japan a few years ago. I was so hungry after the flight having only RyanAir style expensive food available to buy, so I went to get a sandwich at the airport. It was something like 7 or 8 euros for just a sandwich! That’s just crazy!

I was also disappointed in New York’s JFK airport. The prices weren’t as jacked up as they are in other places but in terminal 1, where I was, it was shaped like an L and the whole area was just repetitions of the same 3 or 4 shops. What’s more, all the food places sold exactly the same things at the same prices. There was no variation and I didn’t want to eat sandwiches or Pringles.

So what makes a good airport? Let me tell you about my favourite in the world – Singapore airport.

Imagine an airport that has -

Lots of shops with lots of variety.

The ability to just pop out the airport and go to the amazing food court in the basement.

A butterfly farm.

A cinema showing all the latest movies – just walk in and chill out for a bit!

A massive slide.

Did I mention the butterfly farm?

It’s amazing. I’ve been through there 4 times now and I would happily pay extra to go there when I fly to Asia. I’ve even slept there overnight, and that was even great, since they have shower units you can use for a small fee. I’ve never used the cinema, but I love the butterfly garden. They have pineapple everywhere because apparently it’s the catnip of the butterfly world. The city is just a short taxi ride away from the airport and so if you have a connecting flight your suitcases are sorted and you can just drive into town and go eat some delicious local food. Omg.

Frankfurt airport gets a mention in the list of good airports, though. It just tries so hard to be good. Outside the check-in area there are loads of shops and restaurants (all of which are open on Sundays), and the security staff are pretty friendly as far as security staff go. Their motto is “security with a smile” which, admittedly, isn’t always the case, but they have always been super nice to me when I’ve been through there. The downside to Frankfurt airport for me is that although it’s only a short train ride to get there, getting from the train station to the departures is a mighty faff. It’s just so far. And it’s even further walking from your plane to the baggage collection area, then to try and find the train station and then the right platform to get back to town. That last part is very poorly signposted.

What’s your favourite and least favourite airports? Have you spotted outrageously overpriced food and drink in airports?

What I Ate in New York (Part 1)

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The first thing I learnt in New York was to not buy things from street vendors. This was a “chilli dog” I bought for $5. It was disgusting, but I have heard lots of other worse stories so I think I may have gotten off lightly.

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The second thing I learnt was that if I forgot to eat the whole day and then at around 4pm went to the first place nearby, I’d end up eating crappy food. Here is a cob salad I had at TGI Fridays. I seem to remember eating at TGI’s in Miami and really loving their salads, but this wasn’t so good. But yay for avocado!

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NOW we’re talking! I wanted to compare 5 Guys and Shake Shack, and ended up finding a 5 Guys first. I loved it. I loved the burger, I loved the peanuts and I loved the malt vinegar to go on the fries. Love love love.

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I had to go to Magnolia Bakery. I have to say, being a person who is not too fond of cupcakes normally, this was one of the best desserts I have ever had.

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A little over exposed, I apologise. I walked around for SO LONG trying to find K-Town, the Korean part of New York. It sucks relying on screenshots of maps I took in the morning. But when I found it, I was HUNGRY. There were so many places to choose from so I ended up going for Kunjip. Luckily for me, Kunip appears to be one of the best places in town and was super busy with people wanting to try his top restaurant.

I was seated with a young lady (whose name I have forgotten – sorry, if you’re reading this!!) and we had a blast talking while we ate our bibimbaps. The food was excellent value for money (less than $10) with loads of sides. My only thing about it would be that there wasn’t any sesame oil to put in the bibimbap, which would have made it taste even better.

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I was trying all the glitter polish in Sephora…

On the way out of K-Town I decided to try some frozen yoghurt! It was soooo good. So good, in fact, that I had more every time I went by a red mango place again!

The Art of the Brick – Lego Exhibition

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I don’t plan to write up individual posts on everything I did in New York, but I feel that this was something that was particularly good, so it does deserve its own spotlight!

While in New York I visited The Art of the Brick, which is a Lego art exhibition by Nathan Sawaya. It blew my mind. I’ve taken some photos for you to enjoy – a fraction of what’s there in reality – and sometimes I’ve taken one from a different angle to just show that he’s made all this amazing art from regular Lego blocks. What I love about him is that he’s not just an amazing artist but he wants to make people believe in themselves, and a lot of the pieces had the theme of people holding him back. He said repeatedly that he wants to inspire kids to get arty themselves and to never give up whatever dream they have.

Enjoy!

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BookOff New York

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Did you know there’s a BookOff in New York?! YES, everyone’s favourite Japanese discount bookstore has a shop in New York and it is awesome!

On my first day in New York I made sure it was the first thing I did. After walking around for ages trying to find it (it’s really tucked away!), I finally made it there. First stop – Japanese video games. Look at those DS games!!

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I really wanted to buy something but sadly none of them caught my eye and the ones I really wanted wasn’t there.

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On to DVDs! Hana Yori Dango is my favourite Japanese drama. It’s a story of a poor girl who goes to a private school and angers the school’s douchiest guy.

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Who knew 90′s teeny bopper girl group Mini Moni had a manga?!

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Finally, my purchases. This is my FAVOURITE manga of all time – Tenshi nanka jyanai (I’m not an Angel). It was in the bargain bin!!!! I got this bumper edition for just one dollar. I also got a couple of other manga that really shouldn’t have been in there with Tenshi.

Find BookOff New York at 49 W 45th St, New York.

New York – Thoughts

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I’ve left the Big Camera back at home and have been taking photos of New York on my phone – don’t worry though! The Samsung Note 2 has a very good camera.

I love the above photo. It just describes my feels towards New York so well. There’s SO MUCH to look at. First “oooh Madison Avenue!!” but then “omg those buildings!” I keep tripping up from looking up and not where I’m walking.

Here is a list of things I have thought and felt since coming to New York. In no particular order -

 

American people are really friendly and nice. Young American boys give up their seats – Japanese people do not.

Everywhere in New York either smells like donuts or vomit.

American people are beautiful because they don’t care what others think about the way they dress. They just go for it and that is awesome.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a guy is from New York or Berlin. They are basically the same thing.

Bathroom walls tell us that employees must wash their hands before going back to work. Do they all need to be told??

 

Visiting other countries also helps you appreciate how things are wherever you live. There has only been one thing that has made me appreciate The German Way so far and it’s to do with getting around. In fact, pretty much everything to do with getting around.

Firstly, New York is great because all the roads are numbered, right? Sure that’s great but you know what would be better? If they said which direction goes UP the numbers and which way goes DOWN. In Germany, there are little numbers underneath road signs saying which numbered houses are in each direction so it’s super handy.

Also, in Britain and Germany in the subway there are always maps around, or at least lists of which stations can be accessed with trains from each platform. There is hardly any info on platforms in New York. I’m relying on my TripAdvisor app metro map, as well as my method of getting on any train and then changing to the E line (which is dead simple and has station lists in the carriages).

I may seem to be negative about New York but really, the above two problems are two things I can think of that are negative here. I simply love it. I love how friendly people are. I love how everyone in the comedy/improv world is so accepting and helpful and welcoming. I love how everyone is striving for something more. How everyone has a dream they are chasing and a passion that is keeping them going. The city is electric – not with people never sleeping from all the partying, but with people buzzing about taking improv classes, playing music, seeing shows, eating at the newest places. These are my people.

I have 4 more days here. I’ve been doing ALL THE THINGS so much that I want to take the last few days pretty lazily. I’m going to lots of comedy, performing at an open mic on Wednesday, meeting up with an old friend of mine and hopefully, if the weather gets better, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge.

If you have any last “YOU MUST DO THIS” advice then I’m still all ears!

 

Recent Photos

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Top left – The fish in the work canteen looked horrible so I took the other lunchtime option – rice pudding. Winning. Top right – My friend went to Japan and brought back a Sherlock manga. I never even knew this was a thing. Bottom left – GERMAN FOOD OM NOM NOM. Bottom Right – The carnival in Frankfurt a few weeks ago.

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Left – I stumbled across the Chinese garden in Frankfurt. Top – Someone left a Bible and a Christian message for people to read on the U-Bahn train. Bottom – Gluten free ham?! …Did it contain gluten to begin with??

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And lastly, one of me in New York! 2 days in and my legs are DYING from all the walking! But, I just love love love it here. The whole place smells like donuts and every single person I’ve come across has been so friendly and passionate about what they do. I’ve been taking quite a few selfies and this is me at the top of the Rockefeller building. I just kept staring at the skyline for ages not believing that I’m actually here and what I’m looking at isn’t the opening for a rom-com or a movie. Pinch me now!

Tips for Solo Travel

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I travel alone most of the time, mainly because I like to go to far-flung places and spend a bit of money on it, which isn’t the kind of travel a lot of people want to do. But I’m cool with that – ever since I studied in Japan I’ve been able to cope in new places alone and have picked up the skills that means I don’t feel sad or lonely when I’m traveling…not most of the time, anyway!

Here are some of my tips for people wanting or needing to travel alone.

1. No one is pitying you when you eat alone.

Here’s a hard truth. 99% of the time, no one is even noticing you. No one cares. Unless, of course, there is something obvious making you stand out. Something like being the only white person in a restaurant full of, say, Indian people. Or you wearing something very revealing in a country known for conservative dress codes.

Not once – not even once – in my history of eating alone, has anyone bothered me or said anything that made me feel like a loner for wanting to eat alone.

The only trouble with eating by oneself is that you need to entertain yourself. Always come armed with reading material or perhaps a games console or your laptop, so that you are kept occupied and even IF someone looks your way and wonders what’s up, you look like the fabulously busy reader/writer/blogger/business person/gamer.

2. Plan things that are easy to do alone.

I much prefer city trips when I’m alone because there are so many more things to do there. Like when I went to the spice plantation in India last year, it was nice and I did enjoy myself but it’s the kind of place that really is better enjoyed as a group.

You also have to think of safety. If you’re at the beach and want to take a dip, it’s much harder to find someone/some place to guard your stuff while you’re in the water.

On city trips it’s much easier to go to museums, do sightseeing etc while you’re by yourself.

3. It’s possible to meet people there.

But even though you go on your trip alone there are still ways you can find people out there. In India (which has been my most challenging solo trip to date) I found it easy to make friends when I went out diving, and in Dublin it was easy to pick up new friends from the walking tour.

If you’re in a place where there aren’t many group activities around then you could always try Be Welcome, which is similar to Couchsurfing but is more of a community and less money grabbing, so the people are much nicer. I used Couchsurfing a lot when I was in Paris and met up with some great people also visiting at the same time as me.

4. Plan some quiet time.

When you’re traveling with other people, there are times when you’re out sightseeing and then there are times when you’re just relaxing and chatting, right? When you’re by yourself it’s easy to just DO ALL THE THINGS 100% of the time. Unless this is how you like it, I recommend planning some downtime each day. Whether it’s planning to visit a cool shop you heard about, or finding a cafe to chill out in or even going to the cinema, I think it’s good to have a little “me” time, even when you’re alone.

5. Keep your mind busy.

When I was in Paris I bought something amazing – this travel journal. Inside there are loads of things to do while you’re traveling, from asking random people what they eat for breakfast, to space to draw and describe people you meet. In mine I have a drawing of an old woman who smelled of wee who sat next to me and told me about her grandchildren, a map of the Anjuna area drawn for me by a great guy I met through Couchsurfing and a drawing of an aircon machine with “onida” written on the side. Onida in Japanese would mean “it’s a demon!”

I think that keeping this on me all the time not only gives me a reason to speak to people around me and to make new friends, but also is a great way to remember those bits of my trips that I would have forgotten otherwise.

Do you enjoy traveling alone? What are your solo travel tips?

Frankfurt Itinerary – What to do in Frankfurt

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So you have a layover in Frankfurt? Or you live here and have people visiting? Perhaps you are here on a day trip? This post is for all of you, and for anyone else who needs to fill a day or two in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt is seen to be a boring place to visit. The truth is, it does kind of suck for tourism but it is great for living. However, there are things to do here and I’ve successfully entertained visiting friends, parents, grandparents as well as Couch Surfing visitors as well. Here’s my itinerary maker for Frankfurt which will hopefully help you have a great time!

Big Day-Fillers

These are things that will take up most of a day. It’s probably best to have one of these and then place smaller things around it.

Frankfurt walking tour – 3+ hours walking for just 10 euros.

Frankfurt zoo – 10 euros and can easily amuse you for a whole day. I’ve been there twice, for about 5 hours each time and I’ve not covered the whole place yet.

The Senckenberg Museum – Known as the “dead zoo”. 8 euros and keeps you busy for most of the day. Try not to go on school holidays.

The Flea Market – A massive flea market that takes place on the Sachsenhausen side of the river every other week. Check the link and where it says “Schaumainkai” is a day when it’s in Sachsenhausen. Be warned – this isn’t a place where you’ll get many bargains!

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Smaller Things

Padding for around your big day filler!

The Dialog Museum – The blind museum. You’re taken round an “experience” where it’s so dark it’s like you are blind. Probably not good for children. 16 euros for the 60 minute tour, 19 for the 90 minute tour.

The Cathedral – I’d advise going here with the walking tour as they give really excellent explanations about the history and so on of the building.

Mini Golf – Good for a few hours!

Markets – Aside from the flea market, there are many other great markets in Frankfurt. My favourite is the farmers’ market on Konstablewache on Saturdays (and Thursdays). See this link for a full list of markets in Frankfurt!

Places to Go See

These are places where there’s not much to do, but it’s good to walk there and just go see it and take photos.

The Main River – The perfect place to watch people and a haven for runners, dog walkers and, in the summer, sun bathers.

Meditation corner – Tucked away behind a busy street, this is one of my favourite secret spots. From Zeil shopping street, find the street called Liebfrauenstraße. Cross over the small road and on your left there will be a little square, usually with a few homeless people hanging around. In the left hand corner of this square is the entrance to the meditation corner. Listen as all the noise from the street vanishes!

Places to Take a Break

Galeria – At the top of Galeria is a cafeteria with an amazing view. Grab a nice hot chocolate or maybe a German beer and sit outside on the balcony to watch the world go by as you relax. It’s one of my favourite places to take people.

Fleming’s Hotel – Another great view…with a very interesting lift!

Drinks at pop-up bars along the river [summer time] – As far as I know, there are temporary summer drinks shacks along the river. One I posted about over a year ago, and the other is Main Cafe which is at lamp post number 23 on the Sachsenhausen side of the river (I’m sad. Yes. And also please marvel at the fact that the lamp posts are numbered along the river. This is a GENIUS idea.)

Maingold Cafe – I posted about the brunch here but actually the drinks in the evening here are really nice too. In winter, it’s nice to snuggle down on one of their sofas, and in the summer it’s great to sit under the lanterns in their garden. Easily my favourite place to eat and drink in Frankfurt.

Day Trips out of Frankfurt

Hoechst – Just a short tram or S Bahn journey away, and lovely for a long walk! A great place to walk dogs!

Wiesbaden – Lovely for a full day. Be sure to take the English walking tour!

Heidelberg – Not been yet, but a very popular trip location!

Cologne – A little bit more expensive to travel to, but still very much worth a visit!

Have I missed anything off the list? What’s your best thing to do in Frankfurt?

More Tea, Vicar?

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In Dublin I had SO MUCH TEA. I was there only just a short time but I felt like I was constantly drinking the stuff! If (more like when) I find myself back there I’d love to do a kind of tea-crawl and try as many tea shops as possible. But until then, here are my favourite tea shops that I visited in December.

First we have a place that I hate myself for liking. The shop in the photo above had by far the best tea (pear and cinnamon) AND great staff, BUT Bono of U2 fame is the landlord and I really hate knowing that my money is going to him! The Joy of Cha can be found in Temple Bar.

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I didn’t go to the main Bewley’s shop (because it was always too crowded) but I managed to find a little branch of it. I went in mainly because they boasted that they’d won some kind of coffee foam art contest, so I ordered a laté thinking that it would come with something special on top. Judging from what came to me compared to what went to the girls next to me, I had ordered the wrong thing haha. Still, it was pretty!

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AND the mince pies there were awesome! OM NOM NOM!

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On a walk near to St Stephen’s Green, I found a great cafe called Goose on the Loose. It’s a really nice, relaxed place.

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The queen of all the tea shops in Dublin, however, is Queen of Tarts. Don’t go for the busy main street cafe of theirs, and instead walk a few minutes down the road to their second, bigger shop. It’s much easier to get a table and you get much better service as the waitresses aren’t as rushed. I loved their tea sets, and the selection of cakes made it very difficult to choose!

Do you have a favourite tea spot in Dublin?

What I Ate in Dublin

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My first morning in Dublin I was HUNGRY. I’d found a blog post (from a hilarious blogger) on the best breakfasts in Dublin and decided to follow his recommendation and go to Odessa. I was not disappointed. I got there just as it was opening (as advised) and I’m glad because everyone else had reservations and it got full pretty quickly. I had the salmon eggs benedict and my goodness, this was good. I think I said in my TripAdvisor review that it was the best breakfast I’d ever had. I’d still say this is true.

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I was using my favourite TripAdvisor offline city guide quite a lot in Dublin, and it lead me to a place called 777. When I told my B&B host that I was going there, she said “oh…that’s a trend place. Yeah, that sure is trendy”. I think that’s the best way to describe 777 – trendy. I was in a dress with an oversized cardigan and I felt bad that I hadn’t gone home to dress up a bit. I stuck out like a sore thumb.

The food was ridiculously expensive. This was my most expensive meal in Dublin. I couldn’t decide on which main to have so I chose two starters. The waiter was pretty good with giving recommendations, and the food really was yummy. But I was still hungry by the end of it…

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So I had their brownie. OMG. This is the best brownie ever.

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One place my host did recommend is Rustic Stone. I happened to find it just as I was super hungry and went to try it out. This place had great food but the best service I’ve seen – ever. I had some nice tempura salmon for starters.

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And this “outrageous orange” salad as a main. This salad was SO GOOD. In fact, I really ought to try and recreate it. The menu read as if the chef was chatting to you, telling you the benefits of each dish and what he loved about it all. Touches like that make the dining experience that much more enjoyable.

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As I was looking for a breakfast spot, I came across vegetarian greasy spoon Cornucopia. They had the BEST gluten free bread I’ve ever tasted. And look at all those beans!! The fried onion stuff on the right was a little lost on me though…

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For my last meal in Dublin I was looking for a boxty. A lot of Irish food is the same as British food (as I found my asking such ignorant questions as “do you have mince pies here?”) but there was one thing that can’t be found in British cuisine – a boxty. These potato pancakes were the last thing to check off my Dublin list so I searched and found Gallagher’s Boxty House (check out their website it’s got such a cool design!) The boxtys there are pretty expensive. I went for the steak one which came in at just under 20 euros. I thought that I’d still be hungry at the end of it, but surprisingly I wasn’t. I hope that the price tag came from good quality beef because it seemed like a very small and simple meal for the price tag.

The food in Dublin was expensive, but people are really excited about food there and that’s what made eating out so much fun. There are so many trendy places, mixed with the down to earth pubs…there really is something for everyone there. There are a lot of different places to eat in Frankfurt but I don’t feel that people are as passionate about eating out as a hobby here like there are there. Perhaps I’m wrong in thinking that. Anyway, there were so many things I didn’t get round to doing in Dublin that I’ll be there again hopefully some time soon!