Archive for January, 2011

in bruges – part two.

So this morning, I got up quite early to take advantage of the free breakfast thanks to Snuffel. Crazily enough, breakfast finishes at 9.30! It was simple breakfast, toast and cereal, but after having gourging on pastries in Berlin, and forgetting all about breakfast in Brussels, it was a nice change.

Hung around taking advantage of the internet, and by the time I actually got out of the hostel it was a shameful 11am. Oh well. :)

I went on a little walk that I had kind of planned for myself using the highlights from the Use It map.

First I visited Hof Bladelin. Behind closed doors, you would never see this from the street. So I rang the doorbell and one of the nuns buzzed me in.

a hidden courtyard.

Then it was up to see the Rijksnormaalschool, now a teaching school. It’s all about the architecture in this building, something about how in the late 19th century, there was a bit of a revamp of some medieval buildings, but sometimes mixed with… neo-Gothic? Yeah, that’s what the map said; I’m not too crash hot with my architecture terminology. :)


Oh by the way, some of Bruges by day.

a little bit of everything. (side note, i would love to live in a mustard yellow house!)

there are lots of churches around here.

I love these tiny details also. :)

who wouldn't love a treble clef window detail??

Anyway, also passed by the priest school, Grootseminarie. Map says that only three priests will graduate this year.


I also got excited when I saw one of the many bridges go up… :)

bridge go up.

There was also this whole stretch of windmills… well, just four of them.


i see rooftops... with recurring crane theme!

Map says that little remains of the medieval fortifications of Bruges, other than the four gates that lead into the city. This was the eastern one.

ost poorten (east gate).

And then I got distracted by the suggestion from Use It to visit De Kringwinkel. It’s pretty much just a Vinnies, so I spent way too long looking at random stuff in there, and spending a little… Yay for catching Eurostar back to London! :D

entrance to the treasure cave!

Then I went off to find lunch. I had intended to try this Flemish place recommended by, of course, Use It, but by the time I got there, it had just closed. Silly me and spending so much time looking for treasure. :)

Oh well, no matter. Instead I went to the oldest bar in Bruges, Café Vlissinghe, and tried the Flemish onion soup with cheesy toast, as well as a hot chocolate.

café, old style heater is warm, food.

Made my way back to the hostel to dump my shopping, fully intending to climb the famous belfry. I had to look up a few things though, and so by the time I got out and headed over to the belfry, it was past 16.00 and so it had closed already. I panicked for a bit, thinking that I wouldn’t have time in the morning to make the climb, but on checking, I had booked my Eurostar from Brussels at 17.30 or so, so I wouldn’t really need to leave Bruges until after lunch, which worked out fine.

So instead, I wandered around some more, as I do. :)

the town hall, some clogs, and yet another canal.

I made it to the Church of Our Lady, to see ‘Madonna with Child’, one of the few Michelangelos outside Italy, on view for free! (Yes, again, thanks to Use It. I should get paid…!)

madonna with child, and the church of our lady.

More wandering followed. I had fun taking a brief look at all the things in The Old Curiosity Shop (8 Walstraat, 8000 Brugge).

the old curiosity shop.

Then I came upon the Beguinage, one of 12 that makes a part of UNESCO World Heritage. Walking past the gate, you really feel the sense of peace that the women there adhere to. It doesn’t hurt that it is exceptionally pretty either!

bruges beguinage.

I decided to finish up walking there and start finding something for dinner. They seem to eat super early here in Bruges…

on the way...

Of course, being Friday night, and Bruges being a small city, the place that I had intended to go was fully booked out. So after trawling the streets for affordable food, I ended up at… a pretty canal, distracted by night shots!

night time in bruges again.

Then I got to Quick, aka fake-Maccas. But not to worry, then I got some nice dessert from Stridjershuis.

cheese delice menu (a cheeseburger with just the meat, cheese and cheesy sauce), apple pie with hot chocolate.

Then it was time to head back to the hostel.

Oh yeah, so I don’t know if you knew, but Bruges is a UNESCO listed site all on its own?


And ok, now that I’m getting around to posting this, that was actually yesterday, just like how yesterday’s post was actually Thursday. In any case, it’s time for tower climbing and then heading back to Brussels, to get my Eurostar back to London.

BBB trip over.



in bruges – part one.

This morning, I had a number of things to do: check out by 11, find my Brussels souvenir, buy that bag that I saw last night, and possibly try to hit up the flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein, towards the south.

Last minute packing up, had to clear the sheets, stowed luggage, got my deposit back (yay for increased liquidity!), and then headed off to the shops. I got rather distracted on the way to Springfield (link), and so I lost a bit of time. Got my bag, and then it was off to Lemonnier station via metro.

The metro system is kind of weird to be honest. They felt more like trams… or something? I don’t know. it was a bit strange.

Anyway, got to Lemonnier and then made my way to the flea market.

Saw this cool installation on my way there…

democracy now.

I really love streets in Europe. They are generally always very picturesque.

oh look, it's a street.

I only had a little bit of time to spend there, since I had to be back at the hostel to pick up my luggage before 13.00, since the reception closes from 13-16.00. But I had fun wandering around, looking at all the things that people had up for offer. There were a lot of cups and plates and that kind of thing, as well as electronics, the odd stall that sold piles of clothes. I picked up a few old postcards, more for the stamps than anything, as well as some odd keyrings. :)

to market, to market.

I would have loved to have more time but it was time for me to rush back to get my suitcase before reception closed, so that I would make it to Bruges in time to get a little bit of a walk around while it was still bright.

So rushed back, got my luggage, then went on my search for my souvenir.

waffle break. :)

After a few dud shops, I ended up back at the store that I had looked at yesterday. Caught a few pictures of the Grand Place since the sun had come out to play again, then went in search of the central station.

It happened that it was nearby to the pretty garden bit down from the museum area, so I detoured that way to take some more shots on the Nikon, luggage and all, before heading down to the station.

gare centrale.

And then I was off to Bruges!

a view from the train.

When I arrived in Bruges, I followed the instructions given by the hostel, so hopped on a bus… and kind of missed the stop… by a lot. So caught a bus back and got it right the second time. At least I got to go on a bit of a bus adventure…? :)

Made it to Markt, the main square in Bruges, and juggled luggage while trying to take advantage of the sun and blue skies.


And the famous belfry…

the belfy.

After the distraction of the sun and blue skies on pretty, old buildings, then went to find the hostel. I’m staying at the Snuffle Hostel. It’s near this pretty canal… :)

hello canal!

Checked in at the hostel, and had a rough time getting my suitcase up the tiny spiral staircase, but in the end I made it, and then had a look at the map. I love these maps from Use It. They cover lots of things from locals, and are aimed at the ‘younger traveller’. I found it quite useful in Brussels, and there’s one here for Bruges as well.Finally got out to exploring, and then stopped by at a small café just near the hostel. De Bretoen (Ezelstraat 4, 8000 Brugge) is a cute little place, recommended by my map. I got a hot chocolate and the apple/caramel pancake. The pancake was lovely, maybe a little too sweet. The hot chocolate, however, wasn’t as good after I found a fly in my first cup…

food and pancake making man!

Then I just wandered around the town a little bit, getting some lights.

a little of bruges...

... by night. :)

And I love this. Saw this printed on someone’s door.

at home in bruges.

Until I next get internet access at the hostel….!


{BRU} hi, i’m alive!

Yes, I know I am terrible at updating. I think for the entire year, I will still be posting, just recapping all the days that I have failed to post about…!

So yeah, I am now in Brussels! I got here Monday evening, and spent a lovely day walking the city. I won’t write fully about it, since this is just a quick one, but I will say something about…

manneken pis!


One of the few memories that I could have told you about 6 months ago of the trip that I took to Europe when I was 6 was of walking to see this little statue. I didn’t remember the statue itself, although I knew would it looked like from pictures. It was one of the reasons I was intrigued to come (back) to Brussels, and see if what I remembered was actually how it is in real life.

My memory: I can remember walking through a square, through a little alleyway, crossing a road… and then seeing the statue on a corner of a rose garden.

Reality: Today, I walked through the Grand Place (a square), down one of the side streets (narrow enough to maybe be considered an alley?). I did have to cross one road, but it wasn’t as close to the statue as I thought. The statue was indeed on a corner, but there was no garden in sight, let alone any roses.

Memory is a funny thing…



{SFX} orientation day.

So I did not get out as early as I had envisioned, but joined roomie S for breakfast at the  café downstairs. French breakfast. :)

french breakfast, complete with nougat creme (which tastes like nutella!) and jam.

Then wandering around, trying to make my way to Brandenburg Gate for the New Berlin free walking tour. However, as usual, I got a little lost, but this time I blame it on maps that don’t show all the streets properly… but was amused nonetheless… then ran into Marienkirche, Rotes Rathus, the TV Tower and Neptune’s Fountain.

hackescher markt.

marienkirche and the tv tower.

rotes rathus, netptune's fountain and marienkirche again.

Walked down towards Brandenburg, and passed by the Berliner Dom and the Altes Museum.

berliner dom and, yep, you guessed it, the altes (old) museum.

Then had to run down, to make it in time for the 1pm tour.

Met Jonny and the rest of the group, and then we were taken around Berlin for a good 4  hours or so of walking and sightseeing.

pariser platz, featuring the brandenburg gate and hotel adlon (aka the-hotel-where-mj-dangled-his-baby-off-the-balcony).

markers of the berlin wall.

memorial to the murdered jews of europe.

where hitler's bunker used to be... under this block of flats and the adjoining carpark.

17 june 1953 memorial, outside what used to house the ministry of aviation (in nazi times), then later the house of ministries, with the socialist mural still displayed in contrast.

remains of the berlin wall, marker near checkpoint charlie, me with my left foot in east germany, and my right in west.

checkpoint charlie.

We took a break to warm up, as it had begun to snow a little. Stopped off at Aroma (Friedrichstrasse 200, 10117 Berlin), which seems to be the New Berlin stop of choice (better than the Starbucks in Munich!).

hot chocolate break.

And then we were on our way again!

gendarmenmarkt: deutscher dom, konzerthaus, französische dom.

bebelplatz: memorial to the book burning ceremony held 10 may 1933.

berlin fashion week makes its presence known at bebelplatz...

neue wache (new guardhouse): the central memorial of the federal republic of germany for the victims of war and tyranny

We ended just behind the Berliner Dom and went to the DDR restaurant, at a discount thanks to New Berlin. :)

jägerschnitzel with pasta and spicy tomato sauce.

Then I set off on my own to explore the Pergamon Museum, which was open late since it was a Thursday night.

pergamon museum, pergamon altar, market gate of miletus, the processional way of babylon.

the ishtar gate.

Made my way slowly back to the hostel…

night in berlin: berliner dom, tv tower and rotes rathus.

Before stopping at Rosen Burger (Brunnenstraße 196, 10119 Berlin) to grab a bit of a late night feast. Burgers there are awesome.

late dinner at rosen burger.

Today, I went back to a few of the places to read things, so photos will be a little similar… but that will have to wait for tomorrow I think.


{SFX} arriving in berlin.

So yep, today I arrived in Berlin, but in the evening, around 17.30 by the time I made it to the hostel.

Had to get to Stratford this morning to catch the National Express bus to Stansted Airport, and had a good nap while I was on the bus. Arrived at Stansted (and of course the day I leave is a nice sunny day…!), did my visa check, through security and then wandered around the airport, looked at shops, which were surprisingly good, but no space in luggage… :( Had a bit to eat, and I totally love the 99p sparkling apple and grape juice from Pret A Manger!

Finally gate 41 for my flight was displayed, so I headed to what seemed like the Ryanair wing of the airport. Began queuing up, and I met S. Flight wasn’t too full, and we ended up boarding and taking off ahead of schedule.

some english sky and countryside, courtesy of ryanair.

Flight was uneventful. I had no one sitting in the two seats next to me, so that was kind of cool, not that I spread myself out or anything. Still napped in my little awkward curled up neck position… :)

Arrived in Berlin EARLY (:OOO!!) and the pilot played a little ditty to mark the occasion.

a little bit of northern freeze. a little bit of northern sun.

Airport was fairly standard, though far less busy than I had anticipated. Customs guy was fabulously friendly, giving me a great impression of Berlin from the start.

After stopping by the tourist information to pick up a map and stuff, caught the Airport Express in to Alexanderplatz, said goodbye to S, and then waited for the U8 to get to the hostel.

it's the airport express!

I’m staying at Circus Hostel, which is a fantastic little place. Not many criticisms as yet, but I don’t like having to pay for my towel, but that’s just being picky now. Wi-Fi is good, which makes lugging the lappy worth it. They have an entire wiki full of information about places to go in Berlin and staff are really great. They have a whole selection of books available for loan as well, including my favourite Lonely Planet Encounter series, for a mere deposit of 5 euros, to be returned to me when I give the book back. This saves me the however many euros I would have had to spend to buy it, which I had planned to do.

circus hostel.

Location-wise, it seems good too. Tram and U-bahn stops right in front (although the tram can get a little noisy at night… like now!), and not a far walk either to Alexanderplatz… apparently anyway. I arrived when it was dark, so I thought I would leave Orientation Day for tomorrow…

Except then I met a bunch of Australians who I’m rooming with, and they’re going to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, so I think I shall go with. Orientation Afternoon maybe…? We’ll see.

Anyway, after chilling out at the hostel for a bit, I went across the road to Back Factory (not that the link is useful at all since it is all in German!) to have a dinner of pastry. :D

back-factory; with spinach danish, ham and cheese croissant and a berlin pretzel/donut.

So yeah, like I said, tomorrow = concentration camp then… we’ll see. :) I will try to keep up with posting and photos this time!!


{RAK} traipsing around the medina (old town).

Monday in Marrakech, and we slept in quite a bit, trying to recover from the little sleep that we had on our overnight desert trip.

le casa del sol

When we finally did get out of the hostel, we were at first struck by how strange the square seemed to be without all the food stalls set up, replaced instead with the snake charmers, and monkey people… and yes, I did get monkey-ed, but we got out of that pretty quickly. They’re quite persistent though…

jemaa el fna by day.

First stop was the bank, then post office to try so that I could try to change some money. Note: do not try to use old USD notes, because the woman in the post office will not accept them…!

We tried our luck at one of the cafés around the square. There were a lot around, so we kind of just went with the one that seemed to have a lot of people and ended up at Restaurant Toubkal (under the Coca-Cola awnings to the south-east of the square). The food wasn’t as great as eating at the night markets… but I think it might be something to do with the atmosphere… It’s like eating in Singapore hawker centres vs. eating at Food Republic. Same kind of food, but just… not quite the same.

We got the soup, a chicken and almond pastilla (which was quite strange), lamb ribs and kafta tajine, because honestly, what is a meal in Morocco without a tajine. :D


After that, we tried to wander in various directions to get to the palace, but seemed to keep getting lost no matter which way we went… so after meandering through random streets of the souks, we just took what we thought would be the safest route, by the main street, using the minaret of Koutoubia Mosque as a landmark.

one of the many photos i took of it... :)

When we were about to give up, having wandered through various small streets, we spotted a sign that had a picture that looked like a palace, and so we followed it hesitantly and…

Partial success! We arrived at Bahia Palace, with a minimal entrance fee.

there were bananas!

some rather uninspiring photos of the palace...

silly shadow...

Once we finished exploring the palace, we set out back towards the hostel, spying a few things as we went along…

carpets, spices and dyes?

We stopped by a little patisserie on the way back, Patisserie fine Marrakech (13 av. Houmane El Fetouaki, website apparently doesn’t exist anymore…!).

pretty, fruity (?) drink that we didn't get, pastries galore, our cakes :D

We finally made it back to the square, in time to see all the food stalls getting ready for the evening.

setting up for the evening.

Ben decided to rest a little bit back at the hostel, while I thought I would head out and wander a little bit and look at the shops, to get a feel for the kind of things that I wanted to buy… yeah, but after a while, as it was getting dark, I decided to come back… good thing too, because when I was back, I checked Facebook (as you do) and found a message from T&Z about dinner that night.

So we headed out to meet them at 20.30, at our favourite #40 Juice Man (I am totally doing promo for him!) and stopped to try one of the cookies that all the girls and ladies seem to be selling… SOO GOOD!! 1 DH for a fantabulous cookie. :)

We then headed to stall #75, since they seemed to be quite friendly (ok, so they’re ALL friendly…!) as Ben and I were walking to meet up with T&Z.

stall #75, chicken skewers, sausages and calamari.

Now, when I tell you to LOOK AT THE MENU, whatever you do, MAKE SURE THAT YOU LOOK AT THE MENU!! Otherwise you may run into problems like we did, of strange addition at the end of the day… We had problems also because they ended up bringing out two of most of the things that we ordered, but we had initially only really wanted one…

In the end though, after returning to stall #12 for some delicious kafta, as we walked back past #75, with a slight sense of trepidation might I add, the guy came over and shook Z’s hand. So all in all, a happy-ish kind of ending. But still, lesson definitely learnt.

T&Z came over to our hostel and we just hung out for a better part of the night, chatting and such.

I’m really glad that we met the two of them on the desert trip! And I’ll be visiting T in Barcelona soon!!

Tomorrow I am going to market with… L! YAAAY! So excited to see her again, and then will head up to Bath with her, and stay the night… and then hopefully see a bunch of rocks! :)

And then I have two more days of Marrakech to enlighten you all with. Hey, at least this one had pictures!


late night marrakech.

{RAK} mountains and desert and camels.

(This post totally needs pictures…!)

On Saturday, bright and early at 7am, we were picked up by the van which was going to take us to the desert! We made our way from Marrakech through the higher Atlas Mountains, which was an interestingly twisty and turny ride. Luckily the many road trips that I have taken with my parents have taught me how to sleep under any condition in a moving vehicle. So I got to catch up on a little bit of sleep.

We stopped at a rest stop on the way, rehydrating a little with some mint tea and taking in some views, before continuing on our windy journey through the mountains. We then stopped at a little restaurant a little way from Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah to place our orders first, before continuing on to see the old town.

The fortified town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is home to five families, who have lived there for many, many years. It is also the site where a number of movies have been filmed e.g. Gladiator, Alexander, The Mummy, and the first of them all, Lawrence of Arabia.

We got the chance to see inside one of the family’s houses, which was pretty cool. The owner was actually involved in the production of Gladiator and there is even a scene in the movie that was filmed in one of the rooms of his house. In fact, he received us there and served us tea and almonds. :)

We wandered around a little bit more before heading back to the restaurant to have our lunch: kafta tagine and kafta pizza. Omnomnom. :)

Then we were on our way again, towards Zagora. As we made our way through the High Atlas, the highest point that we reached was Tizin’tichka Pass, at 2260m (although the highest in the entire range is 4167m!!) We also stopped by a supermarket in Ouarzazate to stock up on things for the night if we so chose. And then it was on through the Draa Valley, which was palm trees galore :)

Arrived at Zagora to find our camels waiting patiently for us! :)

Ok, so riding a camel is kind of bumpy and so I was a little bit sore after an hour or so of riding, although, I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for the guys…! Got to watch a bit of the sunset while we were riding though, so that was nice :)

And our final destination? The edge of the Sahara, to stay the night at a nomad camp.

Once we got to the camp, it was super dark. We dismounted and then waited around for a while… To be honest, it felt a little bit disorganised. Finally we were ushered to a tent and we girls were told to wait inside… In the dark…?! Yeah, we never figured that out. Anyway, a gas tank was brought out and a makeshift lamp was made. We sat around for a while, before we were served some tea :) Oh, and there was that episode with the bird…!

A little bit of waiting later and our meal began to arrive. First soup and bread, then chicken tagine… And then a kafta tagine because we were still hungry after one! Mandarins were good to finish up the meal. Hung out for a little while longer before we were summoned for a night of entertainment around the fire.

After that, we ended up heading to sleep because when you’re out in the desert, there isn’t much that can really keep you up…

It was a bit difficult to sleep that night, and I woke up many times due to the crazy cold from the open flap of the tent that we couldn’t figure out how to close… In the morning, we were awoken by our kind hosts to watch the sunrise. It was super pretty, with the horizon seemingly stretching out until forever in some places…

Then it was back to town, again on camels. There were a few incidents where camels would become untied from the line… or they would bolt at the sound of a motorbike! Kind of scary, but all part of the experience. :)

Once back at Zagora, we continued again on the bus, making a brief bonus stop in the Draa Valley to explore the palm tree oasis and steal some dates :) It was kind of amazing to see so much greenery so close to the desert.

Onward to Ouarzazate, which is home to two studios where a number of films have been made. It was a fairly long drive away, but luckily I was able to catch up on some sleep. :)

We made a brief stop to look out over a canyon which was kind of cool. :)

When we finally got to Ouarzazate, we stopped for lunch and shuffled around, trying to find a table that was sufficiently in the sun. We couldn’t go past the chicken couscous and chicken and chips tagine. Luckily, ours was well cooked…!

There was one more rest stop back to Marrakech, where we were told we could buy souvenirs, but I was not in the mood for bargaining…

Another 2 hours or so of more of driving and then we were about 30 minutes away… But then we were told that we had to make a stop to ‘watch the sunset’, aka leave some time to get the mini bus washed. They must have realised that we were a bit miffed, and so we left behind the car wash and headed on our way.

A quick stop at our driver’s house so that he could pick up a hug and kiss from his family after being on the road for two days… And whatever else was in the bag that his wife gave him. :)

When we finally made it back to Marrakech, we made plans to meet later for dinner in the square.

Back at the hostel, we found that we had been changed to a different room, which at least had working hot water! \o/ So after a nice shower and then a bit of a rest, we headed back out to find stand #40. Problem was, we thought they had meant a food stall. In the end though, we found them on ‘juice alley’ and we partook in some lovely 4dm freshly squeezed orange juice. :)

When the others arrived, we headed off in search of some food to eat. After being embarrassed by the applause down one street, we eventually stopped at stand #55 for some chicken tagine, as usual, and tried some calamari (awesome) and flatfish (could have been fried more to be more crispy). We then headed back to #40 Juice Man, and I tried the more pricey mixed orange/grapefruit option, but to be honest, it tastes almost the same as orange on its own…

Stayed around to chat a bit, but then ended up heading back to the hostel. I was super tired, despite being able to sleep some on the bus, so ended up sleeping quite early, although I was awake at some point to find out that the Packers had won! Yay…? \o/ Lol.

Thanks to our guide Mustafa, and driver Abdul, from Moroccan Views, who were with us for almost all of our wonderful desert experience! :)

Two more days have passed since then, and Marrakech has proven itself to be a lovely place. Hopefully I can write that all up soon!

‘Til then!