A Travellerspoint blog

Malmo (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

2 for 1

Despite being 7 and a half months pregnant I jumped at the chance to go for a long weekend away in Sweden to visit Adam's Uncle and Auntie, who live in Malmo. I have never been to Sweden before so I was really keen on the idea. We flew into Copenhagen and got the train across a long bridge straight into Malmo, which was so easy to do. If you do ever take this train make sure you have your passport on you, as this does get checked on the journey. Once off the train, a short bus and walk meant we were at their apartment, a fantastic building overlooking the sea and, in the distance, you can even see Denmark!

Malmo itself is not at all what I would expect of Sweden, but I believe I was thinking more of Stockholm. Malmo is a really quiet city with few people, which actually was really nice. It was calm and comfortable and I really enjoyed the vibe there. The people definitely are keen on their fitness - just walking around the apartment you could see lots of people jogging, swimming and there was even an assault course set up! There is a square in the city centre full of bars and restaurants, all with outdoor areas. We went here on a couple of occasions and (even though it was cold) with a blanket and heater on it was lovely sitting outside. We also went for a meal in one of the restaurants and the portion sizes were massive! Generally, Malmo is a lovely city and the sort of place I feel you could live in long-term. I would love to visit Stockholm to compare!

On one of our days in Malmo we decided to get the train back across the water and go for a day to Copenhagen. You could tell straight away that you were in a different place - the amount of people alone is phenomenal, so busy! Despite it being busy, I personally loved Copenhagen and much preferred it. The main thing I loved being the coloured houses down by the harbour - such a pretty city! Whilst here we got a boat trip around the city and got to see lots of things, one being the famous Little Mermaid statue. I had wanted to go and see this however I must say it is rather disappointing - it is actually rather small! The boat trip was a great way to see a lot of things when we had a limited amount of time there. We also got to see the famous author, Hans Christian Andersen's, house, which was cool. The downside for me whilst there was the cost of things, what an expensive place! Not realising what I had done, I accidentally ordered a side of fries which cost around £10! The city was really cool and it is somewhere I would visit again (when not pregnant!) to explore further.

Posted by LaurenF3 05:21 Archived in Sweden Tagged travel sweden denmark Comments (0)

Paris, France

My friend and I decided that we wanted to go on a mini break for a long weekend before I gave birth and these things become much rarer. Once we had a date we just needed to find a location. We initially wanted to go to Budapest but getting decent flight times over the weekend just was not happening, so after going back and forth with a few different options we eventually settled on Paris! I had been to Paris once before but that was when I was in high school, so I was looking forward to seeing it properly this time around. Below is a list of the main things we did on our weekend in Paris...

The Catacombs of Paris
The Paris catacombs consists of a network of underground tunnels holding the remains of more than 6 million people, so a pretty freaky place. My friend and I do love macabre things in a weird way so this was something we really wanted to go and see. The queue to get in was rather long but it did move quickly and before we knew it we were inside and heading down. At first, there is a few tunnels with information to learn about the reasonings behind these skeletons being there and some information on what happened at the time. We made our way through this part thinking that could be in but as we progressed further underground we soon realised that we were actually going to see the skeletons themselves! It is hard to describe how it looks (best to Google images of this!), but all of the bones of the people buried there are carefully arranged into walls that just go on and on and on. It is really quite fascinating to see, if not a little freaky! There is also a film based in the Paris catacombs on Netflix called As Above, So Below that we watched that night - not the best film but after being down there earlier that day it was rather scary!

Moulin Rouge
As Moulin Rouge is my all-time favourite film, a trip to see the live show when in Paris was an absolute must for me. We hesitated slightly due to the price of it (over £100!) as we wanted the weekend to be kept relatively cheap, but being on my bucket list I just had to go. Unfortunately, I wish I had not bothered! In my mind I was expected performances similar to that showed in the film, which I appreciate may have been a little farfetched, but what was shown was so far from this it was very disappointing. The dances and stories were all so poor and random it just was not worth it for me. This is not something I would recommend or would do again.

Notre Dame, The Louvre & The Eiffel Tower
What trip to Paris is complete without visiting the iconic Eiffel Tower! We went for a walk to the tower and around it but decided against going up it with us both having done this before. The tower is a great sight to see and we had a lot of fun spotting it on our trips around the city. Of course, we also took some great selfies with it!

We went to visit The Louvre whilst in Paris - what a busy place that is! It is also huge and there is so much to see. We didn't want to do everything (partly due to it not being our thing and partly because I was 7 and a half months pregnant and it would have just been too much!) so we selected the places of interest to us and went there. A trip to The Louvre would not be complete without going to see the famous Mona Lisa, which we did. It was hard to truly see and appreciate the painting as it was heaving around it. You had to actually wait in a hoard of people to get to the front to be able to see it - but at least it is something I can now say I have seen.

Unbelievable timing happened with regards to our visit to Notre Dame, due to it unfortunately setting on fire the next day with severe damage happening. We were lucky not to be there when it happened and extremely lucky that we were able to see the building before it became damaged. It was a beautiful building that is just huge! A very impressive site and something I hope they are able to restore in the not-too-distant future.

Montmartre
Whilst in Paris we stayed at a small hotel in Montmarte. There is a lot to do in this area and it has a great atmosphere. There are also some beautiful churches to see! The most obvious one is The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur - a huge white building which is just truly beautiful and definitely one worth a visit. However, we went for a walk on our last day and came across The Church of Saint Pierre de Montmorte. This was on top of a hill and over looks most of Paris. There was a Sunday service of some sort going on and the atmosphere surrounding the place was great, with buskers and singers performing and people selling hand-made gifts. The walk up was a little steep but definitely worth it for the views! I really recommend visiting here if you get the chance.

Overall we had a great weekend in Paris, enjoyed some great food and got to see all of the things that make Paris great :)

Posted by LaurenF3 04:19 Archived in France Tagged paris france travel travelling Comments (0)

California Dreaming...

I have been lucky enough to travel to the company's head office recently which just so happens to be based in California! Not only that, I have been able to go twice in the past couple of months. Whereas it was of course a work trip including actual work, I was sure to make the most of my evenings and weekends to do and see all things L.A! I have listed these out below:

Hollywood
I feel that you cannot go to California and not visit Hollywood. I have been before but still felt it was a must. Also, I tried to do some things differently this time. Of course, I did the standard Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theatre but this time we also went on a Hollywood Homes tour. As is standard for my luck, we did not get to see any celebrities going about their normal life, but what we did see were some amazing houses. Regardless of who lived there or lives there, the houses are just unreal. Driving through the Hollywood Hills, Beverly Hills and surrounding areas did feel like one big movie set - it was great!

Another thing we did was the walk up to the Hollywood sign. We had planned to do the route along the back, past the famous Wisdom Tree which leads to the back of the sign so that you are overlooking it, however, we got a little lost! Eventually we found our way to the entrance of the walk that everyone does and made our way up. It was not far at all and we were so close to the sign. It is great seeing the sign when driving around L.A. and nearby but to be right next to it was so cool. The views overlooking the city are also just beautiful. We were there for dusk and as we started to leave the city we came across Runyon Canyon so took a quick hike to the top of this to watch the sunset, another must!

Malibu, Laguna Beach & San Clemente
We tried to make the most of being in California and did several small trips in the evenings/weekends to ensure this happened. This included a trip to Malibu - which was beautiful! The pier is lovely and a nice walk down with spectacular views. There are lovely restaurants and shops here too, but not much else is around. Another trip we did was to Laguna Beach. For me this was a must, I just wanted to see it! It is a very cool place with a real beachy vibe. We also went to San Clemente, which was not too far from where we were staying the second time. This included a trip to Nick's restaurant which is absolutely fantastic and a must for anyone who goes here! (There is another Nick's in Laguna but this one is a lot busier so better to visit San Clemente and ensure you get a table, although you may still have a wait). San Clemente is a lovely little town with really cute boutique shops around, really worth a visit.

We did a few beaches too, including the world famous Muscle Beach. It was cool to see it but not necessarily somewhere that I would rave home about. It is essentially just a beach with a lot of muscley men working out! This is in Santa Monica and I really did enjoy my visit there. We went a couple of times and the second one was when there was a festival on, meaning the streets were packed and full of people, there was live music all over the place and just a great atmosphere. We managed to get an outside table to Urth cafe (from Entourage for those who have seen it!) and were able to watch it all going on which was very cool.

San Francisco
On our second trip to L.A. we decided to really make the most of being in America and going somewhere a little further afield for the weekend. This resulted in a very quick but very fun trip to San Francisco! We were able to leave work early which was ideal as the traffic on a Friday to pass the L.A/Hollywood area starts around 2/3pm and just gets busier and busier! We left the office and made it to our Air B&B in around 8 hours time, which was a big drive but fun seeing all the surrounding areas. With arriving late and taking a while to find somewhere to park, we decided to stay in and have food then start early on the Saturday.

The Saturday morning consisted of an early start to ensure we did everything we wanted to. Our first stop was Mr Holmes Bakehouse - a famous bakery with a queue not only out of the door but up the street too! It was worth the wait though and a box of pastries later we were sitting by the pier overlooking Alcatraz enjoying them! Unfortunately for me I was unable to get tickets in time to go and see Alcatraz (be sure to book early if you want to go!) but it was great just to see it from afar after hearing so many good things about it - such a cool place with so much history!

We went for a walk along Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf and had lunch on the waterfront. I tried the famous Clam Chowder which literally gets served in a sour dough bread bowl - crazy! We then hired bikes and went all the way across the Golden Gate bridge to Sausalito. The bridge is amazing and very cool but if on bikes you do not get too much time to take it in as everyone is moving around you and you need to try and keep up! Sausalito was a pleasant surprise - we had not planned on visiting but I was so glad that we did. It is beautiful with gorgeous big expensive houses. From here you can go back across the bridge (this does involve a lot of up-hill cycling) or do what we did and get the boat back. Getting the boat back allows you to have a great view of Sausalito from the water as well as the bridge and Alcatraz - and saves your legs extra work!

We visited Delores Park, which had a really cool vibe to it, before heading back and getting ready for a night out in Castro (San Francisco's famous gay area). Honestly, I had such an amazing night here - the bars were all really cool with brilliant people, I would 100% go back here just for the nightlife!!

The next day we did not have too long before needing to hit the road, so we went to visit Mrs Doubtfire's house from the film, visited the Painted Ladies and also went to Lombard Street. I had planned to drive down the street but the queue to do so was just so long we gave up in the end and just went to the bottom for a photo. Then it was time for the long drive back to Dana Point.

My two visits to California in the summer, despite being with work, were great and I feel I managed to do so much in my free time. It reminded my why I love the US (in particular California) so much and I know I will be back to visit again in the future! :)

Posted by LaurenF3 11:15 Comments (0)

Japan

I was lucky enough to go back to Japan in April. Again, this was a work trip but this time I went with a Japanese person (always a bonus!) and after I had finished working I stayed in Japan by myself for a couple of extra days. I felt I could not go all the way to Japan for a second time and not actually see any of it – so I crammed in as much as I could over the two days to make it worthwhile.

The benefit of being in Japan with someone who is Japanese is great – there is a huge language barrier there with a lot less people speaking English than you would expect. Getting around was a lot easier when I was with my colleague Hiroko and become a lot more difficult once I was alone. The other big benefit is when ordering food! I wanted to try some real, traditional Japanese food and being with Hiroko helped me find the best of the best. There are some amazing, small restaurants in Tokyo which could easily be mistaken for someone’s house or garage from the outside. Inside consists of a small kitchen and bar with stools, or sometimes a few small tables. I was really glad that I was with Hiroko as I would not have noticed these places and they were really great!

One place that we went to was a Ramen place. I am a big fan of Ramen and having it in Japan did not disappoint. Another traditional meal I had was sushi – this was not such a fun experience. I know it sounds so naive but the sushi in Japan is just so raw!! I enjoy sushi back home and in other Asian countries I have been to, but this was nothing like that. Sat at one of the bars I watched as the chef pulled out fish and other sea animals and just chopped bits off it, to then put it straight onto the rice with some wasabi. There was not just your typical fish included either, I but also the likes of fish eggs and eel. On top of that, the chefs and waiters watched eagerly as it was put in front of me so I had to try and eat as much as I could. It was by no means a bad meal, just not what I was expecting.

Due to only having a short amount of time I tried by best to do as much as I could in the limited time I had. This included making the most of the Friday evening. As soon as I had finished working I went back to the hotel to get changed, said goodbye to Hiroko and went off on my first solo Japanese adventure. I went to and up the Tokyo Sky Tree – the tallest building in Japan at 2,080ft. Surprisingly, it only cost around £15 to get up (pretty cheap for this kind of thing) and queues were not an option. The views from the top were great and it was a clear, sunny day, making it even better. On your way down there is a place called Sky Town – lots of different shops near the bottom of the Sky Tree. Within this was a deli with lots of little stalls selling different food. I picked out a selection from several different stalls and headed back to the hotel.

The next morning was all systems go. I packed up everything and left my case with the hotel and went to get the metro. The general idea of the metro is great - you see where you want to go from where you are now and the price is included then just buy a ticket for that price and off you go. In theory. However, it is not always clear which direction you want to head or which exit you need, so it can be tough! I had scoped out the route I needed the night before so had no issues this time and headed for Asakusa.

Once in Asakusa I headed to Asakusa Samurai Kart. I had signed up for a tour around Tokyo with a twist – you went on a Go Kart dressed as a typical Japanese character. I, of course, went as Pikachu! The trip was great and lasted around two hours in which you went around a lot of the local areas. It was a really good way to see the city and gave me such a better feel for the place. We stopped off a couple of times and saw some nice things. I must admit, I did not expect to be fully on the roads, but fully on the roads I was which was generally fine but when you are going close to 60mph in an open kart around a corner with a huge lorry going past, you get a little scared! Such a different way to see a city and a great company that I really recommend looking into if in Tokyo.

After this I made my way to Kaminarimon Gate, which is a very famous and traditional Japanese gate. The place was packed so I did not spend long here, moving on after my obligatory tourist selfie. I headed back to the hotel to pick up my case and headed to my new place of stay. As I was in Japan I decided to try something different: a pod hotel (also known as a capsule hotel) called The Millennials. This was essentially a hostel with several floors, all including around 20 “pods”. This is literally 3 walls and a shutter in front containers a bed, shelf and mirror. That is it. I was given an iPhone when I checked in which I could use to operate the bed (flat or tilted), the fan and the lights. This was also my key for the lift which only allowed me to go to the communal areas and my floor – this was great as you could not lock your case away, so it made me feel like my stuff was a little safer! I was a bit apprehensive about staying here especially as I was on my own, but I really enjoyed it and was so glad I stayed somewhere so different to just another hotel.

After dropping off my stuff I made my way to the famous Shibuya Crossing. I had been across this once earlier in the week in early morning and did not find it that busy, but what a difference it made going there in the evening! I am not sure I have ever seen so many people in one place, never mind trying to cross the road at the same time. It was great fun making my way through the crowds and went across a few times. As it got later it got busier and busier. I also watched it once from above in the station, which is great to see!

The next day I went on a day trip to see Lake Kawaguchi and Mt. Fuji. It was an early start so I again mapped out my trip beforehand and made it there early. It was quite a drive out of the city which I actually really enjoyed as once you start heading out of the city centre, Japan is such a different place. It was really beautiful – full of lush, green areas and hills all over the place. It was really nice to be able to see so much of this. Our first stop on the trip was to a farm where we got to go strawberry picking (as well as eat lots), then headed back on the road to Lake Kawaguchi. I was so impressed with the Lake. It was beyond beautiful and right behind it stood Mt. Fuji looking glorious. It was honestly one of the best sights I have ever seen. We had lunch overlooking this and then had some free time to wonder around. I bought some presents and souvenirs at the small shops nearby and had a bit of an explore.

We went on some cable cars which took us up high and gave us another great view of the mountain and then headed to a flower park which again let us view Mt. Fuji from a different angle. Originally, I had wanted to climb Mt. Fuji but at this time of the year it is not possible, so I was glad I still got to see it – it’s a very impressive mountain!

Heading back, we got stuck in traffic on the way into Tokyo, which made us over an hour and a half late getting back to the drop off point. I then had to get to the metro, get to my station and back to my hotel (stopping for a fantastic Mexican burrito on the way). Despite being late getting back, it was really good walking through Shibuya at night with all the billboards on the buildings lit up and live music and people – it is exactly how I imagine Tokyo to be.

The next morning I got up super early and made my way to the airport. It was a close call and I very nearly missed my flight after opting to take the normal train over the bullet one (a lot cheaper!) and it taking forever, including an unscheduled stop for over 30 minutes! But I made it and got home fine.

I really recommend seeing Tokyo if you get the chance – Japan is so cool and forward-thinking. They have the best toilets ever and have even banned smoking on the streets unless in a designated smoking area! I wish I had longer so that I could go to Kyoto and other parts, but it just means I will have to go back one day!

(PS I have lots of photos on my Instagram @LozForbes – feel free to look!)

Posted by LaurenF3 11:31 Archived in Japan Tagged lakes tokyo japan travel lake sightseeing japanese mt. fuji sushi Comments (0)

Mexico...again!

I recently got the chance to go back to Mexico for a second time. This time it was for a friend’s wedding, so we had quite a different experience! As I have been before I will keep it brief, but a few things I want to talk about that differ from our last experience!

One main thing that was different for us this time that I want to mention is the hotel that we were staying in. We stayed in El Dorado and Sensimar Seaside Suites in Riviera Maya. As mentioned, we were in Mexico for a wedding, so the hotel was not optional, but we were not disappointed with this hotel – it was amazing! My partner and I have stayed in several all-inclusive hotels over the past years, but this was by far hands-down the best one yet. The main thing that made it so much better was the food. Most all-inclusive hotels consist of buffet-style restaurants with the same meals (a few exceptions, granted) churned out each day and a couple of Al-A-Carte restaurants. But in Sensimar, each restaurant was Al-A-Carte bar a few and the food in each one was phenomenal. We did not have one bad meal – it was fantastic! Even the breakfast and lunch was ideal. Really made our holiday even better!

On this holiday we also went to the famous Coco Bongos night club & show. It was quite an experience! I was not too sure what to expect with hearing various things but it really was such good fun. The best way to describe it would be a mix between a full-on, crazy night club and a west-end show. It was all kinds of mental, but in a good way! The trip was organised by our hotel so we had an organised bus there and back so everything was all easy. A great night had by all!

The final difference on this holiday to Mexico was, of course, the fact that one of friends got married! It was a fantastic day, great beach-front setting with a lovely atmosphere. It was really beautiful and I was so happy we were able to make it there to be at the wedding.

Posted by LaurenF3 03:50 Archived in Mexico Tagged wedding mexico holiday sun coco bongos sensimar Comments (0)

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