We left Copenhagen early in the morning to arrive into Stuttgart to catch our Flixbus (one of the cheaper options to get around Europe – Similar to Greyhound or Megabus) to Munich. Back to the euro and we felt like we were rich after being in Denmark for the past few days.
Arrived into Munich and we found ourselves a storage locker at the train station and walked around a bit. This was a task in itself as everyone was in town for Oktoberfest and also storing their things at the train station. We walked over to Marienplatz and it was a little drizzly. We ended up buying some chunks of Dutch cheese and also some grapes as well as fresh bread.
Oktoberfest is incredibly busy and many places are booked up or not renting out during this timeframe. The Airbnb we managed to book was located in Wolfratshausen (45 minutes roughly outside of town) and because of that, we called it an early night after our day of travelling. Our Airbnb host was baking mushrooms and her whole place smelt like pizza the entire time.
Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
Woke up super early and met up with Winnie’s friends Kirtana and Mark. We made it to the festival entrance at the Fairgrounds of Theresienwiese to line up at 8AM. 9AM hit and the mad dash began to get into the specific beer halls. We made it to the doors of HB (one of the most popular ones for tourists) and low and behold beside me stood Scott who I met in Lisbon a week and a bit prior with his Remote Year crew.
It was also a mad push to get in but we got seated. Beer steins were 11.70€ each however beer wasn’t served until 10AM. We also ordered half chickens – which were amazing – also not served until 11AM. I also bought a bottle of water and they give you a chip so you can get a euro back once you return it. A good tip is to refill those water bottles at the washrooms for free! It is also cheaper to purchase food outside of the beerhall not as convenient especially if you have been drinking. Some of the people around us were buying these little viles of white powder and it turns out, it’s a thing to snort peppermint to keep you alert and wake you up as well as clear your nasal passages.
We met many wonderful new friends including Kelcey & Sam (she lives NYC now) from Texas, Caroline & Biscuit from New York, Scott and his friends from Remote Year and Texas, John & Stephen with their friends and Colin (who currently live in Prague) from Orange County and a few older Italian Gentlemen who might be part of the mafia. We went on a weekday so pretty much the crowd was foreigners.
We definitely had a fun experience with Oktoberfest and my first experience drinking and being a little drunk all before noon. Everyone in my group had 2L beersteins and finished them before noon. We stayed in that tent from 9AM-530PM. We came out and walked the grounds a little bit before leaving and finding some food and heading home.
The rest of the day was a write off but well worth it. We went to bed around 8PM.
Things to know before you attend Oktoberfest
-Oktoberfest does not take place traditionally in October but from September 21st through October 6th – it falls over 3 weekends and thousands/millions flood the city of Munich.
-If you are looking for accommodations within Munich, BOOK MONTHS IN ADVANCED or be prepared to stay on the outskirts of town and take the train in. If you are daring, there are Oktoberfest camp spots – literal camping in tents with a partying atmosphere all around.
–BRING CASH – card is not accepted.
-There is no entry fee to get into the Fairgrounds of Therheresienwiese, but of course the money you spend will go towards beer and food.
Opening day: 12:00 – 10:30pm
Weekdays: 10:00am – 10:30pm
Weekends and Holidays: 9:00am – 10:30pm
Tents Open late: Käfers and Weinzelt open until 1:00am
-Temporary beer tents are set up in advanced for each beer hall with long benches and picnic tables. Be ready to share seating with strangers.
-Oktoberfest is not just about drinking in beer tents but it is actually an amusement park with games and rides.
-Bags are not permitted. Fanny packs and little purses are acceptable.
-If you choose to dress up, you can actually purchase a dress (dirndls) or lederhosen at the train station
-Many people end up standing on the bench and try to chug their beers, this results in that person being kicked out of the beer hall. It’s a precaution in case they vomit from chugging so much beer.
-You will not be served if you are not sitting at a table.
-There are no small beers – 1L beer stein is what you will get
-You will not get a hangover if you ONLY drink beer – Germans have a beer purity law so the beer is made with very few fresh ingredients.
-You can line up at 8AM and do the mad dash to the beer tents when gates open at 9AM
-Beer does not get served until 10AM and food 1030AM
-If you have the chance, check out Oktoberfest at night – live music (different experience than during the day – or stay all day long)
-As a tourist, weekdays are your best bet as weekends, millions of people including locals will be attending and it gets incredibly busy.
-The last day of the festival (October 6th) is apparently the most magical
Spent the day just walking around Munich after our Oktoberfest shenanigans the previous day and making sure we had ample time to recover if needed. The sun was out and turned out to be a good day to explore. So many cute little streets and neighbourhoods we ended up wandering through.
Made our way to the English Garden and watched some people catching some waves on the Eisbach river.
Walked past this alien spaceship structure which turned out to be an installation for the Pinakothek der Moderne. The whole building was just beautiful to look at.
Stopped to grab a bite at Dean & David – chicken curry bowl. Since we had time and the weather was much nicer than the first time we made it through Marienplatz, we went up to the tower at St Peter’s Church. It costs 3€ to go up but it is a narrow stairwell for majority of the way up and it is used to go up and down.
We purchased some sustenance and caught our train from Munchen hbf. We took the DB all the way to Berlin (lent my shoulder to a new Italian friend along the way) where we came in quite late. For our stint in Berlin, Winnie’s friend Lea graciously hosted us.
Our first full day in Berlin was a rainy one but at least we were accompanied by Lea.
First stop was to the East Side gallery of the Berlin Wall to check out the art pieces and of course the famous kiss art mural. Every so often, the murals get redone as a new commission.
We learned majority of things are closed on Sundays but one positive are the flea markets. We went to 3 of them – RAW Flohmarkt, Boxhagener platz and Mauerpark (On Sundays in the summer or when its still warm out, there are usually karaoke in the park).
We spent some time exploring Friedrichshain and made our way to Monsieur Vuong for lunch. I got the Pho Bo and it was much needed and satisfying to have a soupy meal on a wet and cold day.
We did stop over to Zeit fur brot where we got the apple cinnamon roll, walnut and maple syrup roll as well as fresh walnut and date bread.
With it being so wet outside, we wanted to go to the spa – Vabali but of course there was a huge line of people who also had the same thinking as we did. We did not wait in line and continued on. Did I mention in this weather, the Berlin Marathon was also happening. There were so many people running the city.
We walked about 20 minutes but made it to Futurium to be greeted by another line. We waited and the line moved quickly. It was also free admission. The museum discusses many possible future outcomes and sustainability. Very thought provoking but also a lot of information to take in. You also get a bracelet to keep and at each station, if you wanted to learn more about that topic or wanted to remember what you were interested in, you could use that code online and gather the information for later to continue the topic after your visit.
After being out all day in the rain, we decided to buy some groceries and make a home-cooked meal. Remember how I mentioned many things were closed on Sundays. Grocery stores are also closed BUT you can only find the open ones in the metro terminals.
We roasted beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli. While we waited for all that to cook, we started off eating the fresh bread from earlier with cheese and grapes.
Oh what a windy and wet start to the day. We took the bus and hiked up to Teufelsberg to only find out it is open wed-sun. It was still a lovely little hike.
Made our way to Alexanderplatz where they had a little Oktoberfest market set up. The sun came out and we walked to Hackescher Markt and walked through the alley to see some graffiti artwork. There were also so many cute little shops in the die Hackeschen höfe.
Walked by Berlinerdome (cathedral) and walked to museum Island and finally to the Brandenburger tor. There were so many tourists around and especially runners who ran the Berlin marathon the day prior as the gate was the finish line.
We continued down to Potsdamer platz – a little plaza that also has pieces of the Berlin Wall on display. This square is important because the road connecting the two cities crossed through this square.
We had booked a reservation prior to coming to go to the parliament government building – Bundestag. They have this beautiful rooftop with a glass Dome with 360 view of Berlin. We happened to have booked a time (530PM) when we could see the beginning of the sun setting above the city and it was absolutely stunning and a great way to end our day.
We made it back to Lea’s flat where we had dinner with her flat mates Gaelle, Goel and their friend Heinrich. It was a fun dinner with homemade bruschetta and a lovely pasta dinner with great company.
Check out my Amazon page for gear that I personally use and products similar to those I pack on my travels (many of which are listed below).
As a photographer, my priorities for travelling always have been photography first. This time around, unlike my Peru – Machu Picchu trek, my walzflex 120mm film camera made an appearance once again.
For 14 days of travel through Japan, I decided against a rolling hard case luggage. I have since replaced my Kata Camera bag with a new bag from PRVKE as my personal camera bag and my trusty Yellow North Face Basecamp Duffel as my main luggage, My philosophy when travelling is purchase only as much as you can carry back.
Japan Packing List
Wearing onto Plane
1 pair of tights (Underarmour are my choice of preference)
Woke up early to goto Arashio-beya Sumo Stable 荒汐部屋(Japan, 〒103-0007 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Nihonbashihamachō, 2 Chome−４７−２) to watch sumo wrestling practice as the big sumo wrestling tournament takes place next month. This particular beya has windows that you can watch from and you aren’t allowed to enter the building. There are other beya’s where you can enter and sit down to watch them practice however for those ones you cannot leave until the practice is over or it is considered disrespectful. You also cannot sit with the bottom of your feet facing the ring as that is also disrespectful. You also should bring a gift of some sort (snacks or something) to offer to the sumo wrestlers as a sign of appreciation for their hard work. We walked back to the hotel and just relaxed a bit and repacked.
We were running out of yen but luckily good timing as it was our last day. We were trying to figure out what was our best option to not spend the remainder of our money until needed but also get through the next few hours with out luggage. We decided to just head to Tokyo station and figure it out then. We arrived at Tokyo Station using our JR pass from JR Akihabara. The line to reserve tickets for the trains was long and I needed to charge up my pasmo card however didn’t have enough time to and I didn’t have access to one inside the station. We walked around, found food and sat in the food emporium and ate before our NEX express train to Narita Airport. The express train takes an hour. I then picked up the final requests I had from my cousin to pick up certain items and last meal of Japan trip – 15 McNuggets. Our flight offered 2 free checked in bags and I gave in and checked in my bag (hoping the kit kats survive). Good thing I did check it in as I needed my hands to grab the last purchases in Japan. 11-11.5hr to ORD. Smooth ride and fixed my jet leg I think. Unfortunately, our flight home from ORD got delayed 3.5 hours due to bad weather in Toronto.
All in all, a wonderful trip and I was very ambitious with my itinerary and wasn’t able to accomplish some of the items on there but its a lesson learned and all about going with the flow. I was able to reunite with 2 friends in Tokyo & Osaka and also meet up with my volleyball friend as she was travelling visiting family and spent 2 days with my crew and I. Only 1 bag of kit kats got squashed – still tastes just as good.
Overall, all the places I’ve visited, Osaka is still my favourite. The vibe is just perfect – not too busy like Tokyo but also has its little boroughes with stylish people and of course the copious amounts of delicious food anywhere you look. The weather is perfect as well with city and nature somewhat meeting. Japan is somewhere I could visit again and again and never feel like I have fully explored what the country has to offer. I do love the culture and especially the architecture however I can go without the slow walkers, the slow escalators, the not covering their mouth while coughing or sneezing and the not moving out of the way when walking and bashing into the next person.
Who knows, maybe the next time round will be Taiwan & Okinawa.
Woke up and took the train back to Kanazawa station to reserve our bullet train tickets for the next 2 days.
Morning reservations for the express trains were completely full so we had to take the local train which was an hour longer ride with 1 more transfer point than the express. We ended up roaming the mall beside the station for a bit before our train was departing. The ride was pretty smooth but broken up into 1 hour, 1 hour 1.5 hours. We purchased ekibens – I got this square one with 9 little samplers for 1000y but decided not to eat it right off the spot but regretted it because only our first train was a bullet train and had a tray to eat on but the other 2 local trains were just seats like a normal train but we were rebels and ate on it. The train went through the mountain side.
The Takayama station is absolutely stunning. Takayama is known for their furniture (high quality of timber), hida beef and sake as well as their well known mascot Sarubobo – Monkey Baby. The mothers and grandmothers would make these dolls for their child out of scrap materials and made them faceless. They are amulets bringing protection and happiness and in the future luck in marriage, fertility and childbirth.
The weather was significantly warmer than our pervious day in Kanazawa so we decided a 30 minute walk to our Hotel would be no problem. We didn’t realize our hotel – Takayama Kankou aka Hagi (Japan, 〒506-0852 Gifu Prefecture, Takayama, 八幡町２８０) is actually on the side of a mountain/hillside. The windy angular roads led to the perfect lookout point over the city. We took the route google maps had provided which was actually the longer way up that hugged the corner of the mountain. We got checked in and we had booked a 5 person room. Our entrance has a sliding wooden gate then you open the door and find yourself stepping on these tiles with pebbles between then leading you into the room. Its a tatami covered floor room with a little seating area and sliding doors everywhere to configure the room to what is necessary for the time.
The best part of this room – the view. Mind you, there are trees in the way for a clean view, the city behind it with its sun setting is absolutely stunning. The hotel provides a turn down service around 6PM where they come in and transform one of the rooms into a sleeping area with the futons and also provide you with yukatas to wear indoors, to the onsen, to dinner or wherever else you would like to go. BUT remember, the slippers and your shoes are not to touch the tatami mats.
We were waiting for Glenn & John to arrived but in the meantime we had to figure out dinner plans. There is an option for room service however they were sold out by the time we called and because we had reserved the room so long ago and thought nothing of it that we didn’t know we needed to make reservations for the dining hall and had to fend for ourselves. The man at front desk recommended this one cafe just down the street from us but it was closed so we had to venture down the hill to the main part of town to find food. Apparently stores and restaurants for the main part close incredibly early leaving those hungry needing to look for the flashing lights outside the stores to beckon them in their direction. It got extremely cold as temperatures dropped once the sun went down. Cold enough to see our breathes.
We made it back to Takayama station as there were a few stores open there. We have also been told that we need to try pasta at least once while we are here so that settled things. We arrived at Salute (サルーテ) for Italian and it was a nice change of pace from ramen. We ordered a hida cow pizza, a margarita and tomato crab pasta. Manwai kept eyeing the giant half wheel of cheese that was sitting under its own heat lamp ready to be scraped off onto the next order or broccoli, fries or pasta.
Back up the hillside we went to await Glenn and John. We tried to wait it out but they missed one of their connecting trains and we had to wait longer. We went to front desk to see if we could leave our key with them but the 2 men there didn’t speak english but with the help of our phones and translator, we were able to communicate. The onsen was nice but after visiting Oedo Onsen in Tokyo, this was just ok. The rooftop onsen is only available for the women in the afternoon to night while the morning is reserved for the males. We went to the rooftop one but it is just 1 giant tub. I think if we had gone earlier when we could’ve seen the scenery outside, it would’ve made it more worthwhile. We ended up transferring down to the main onsen but because it was so late at night, Manwai and myself had it all to ourselves. One giant tub inside with a nice rocky open air one outside.
The original plans as to visit Chidori-fa-guchi Park during the day but it was raining so we opted out of it. We met up with Kanako again at Tokyo station by the popular gin no suzu bell (which was actually confusing to find). We had to go reserve tickets for the afternoon but then Mike wanted to drop off their other bag to the lockers which was even more confusing to get to and ate up some time. Got the bag near our main luggage locker and finally off we went to Shimokitazawa.
We aimed to start our day early but we got there really early that nothing was opened and it was pouring rain. Everything in Shimokitazawa seems to open around 11AM. The only good thing about thing being closed is that the gates to some of the stores are nicely decorated or graffitied. We walked out of the station and wandered all the way to the bottom of Shimokitazawa area and then turned back around and stopped by the arcade which was one of the only things somewhat opened.
We did purikura photos to kill time. We then wandered again searching for food – mainly Italian but we couldn’t find a place or it wasn’t opened but Kanako pointed out a conveyor belt sushi place that was opened and also rather cheap 108-110y a plate. We went to Kaisen Misaki ko – 海鮮三崎港.
There was a mini bullet train delivering orders from the iPad but also the normal conveyor belt that goes around where you can pull plates off. Kanako and me ate like beasts. The price of plates is designated by the colour of plate and once you finish eating one, you stack them. When you are done, the person comes around and counts the amount of dishes and their colours. Individually, both of us (Kanako & I) ate more than Mike and ManWai combined but it was good quality and cheap that in the end, it only totalled roughly $15CAD especially since we added them on Line App and you get 1 plate automatically off.
Back into the rain but this time we decided to walk the other side of the station and I was so sad that it was raining so hard and I didn’t bring my umbrella so I couldn’t shoot all the characters in this neighbourhood as its known for its hipsters. We stumbled upon a couple of stores – vintage – second hand etc. Finally stopping at a corner, we spotted a store on the second floor selling only raw Japanese cotton denim goods called Beauty of Life or something like that. Very cute little shop and I picked up 3 denim woven bracelets.
Right beside the store we saw some these neon lights and something about avocados. Since we needed a break from the rain we went in to a drink break. Madosh Cafe where everything on the menu has avocado. Just finishing a large conveyor belt sushi meal, all we could stomach was a drink. Kanako and I ordered the avocado and coconut smoothie 1000y while Mike and Manwai the Avocadoacino (unlimited refills) and a tiramisu. They had a sign in their window reading that if you tag them on social media using their hashtags, they will give you a free avocado. I did it but completely forgot to ask or show the post to receive it.
Our plan of attack was to continue back towards Tokyo station with a stopover at Meguro River which is a well known spot for cherry blossoms that hang over the river and when blossomed, it is truly a sight to be seen. We looked outside and the rain didn’t seem to be letting up so we had to forego those plans and decided check out Recipe Mall nearby that had 2 floors of Uniqlo, Daiso, a fabric store and a grocery store. Once we got warm and a little drier, we took he train back to Tokyo Station where we parted ways with Kanako and grabbed ekibens (meals made especially to be eaten on long train rides at the station) before departing for Kanazawa.
Our arrival into Kanazawa was later in the evening and once we go to the station, we had to go find the local bus that would bring us to our Airbnb. Our Airbnb was located in the basement of an apartment building however it was raised up so we were actually overlooking the riverside and you can see the bridge. We called it an early night and tried to do laundry with their 2-in-1 machine however the drying portion wasn’t quite working that well. The apartment is actually quite large to Japanese standards. It was a 1 bedroom apartment with 1 bed but could easily fit the 3-4 futons they had in the closets. We watched a few episodes of Terrace House before I falling asleep. Going into this trip, a bunch of us got hooked on Terrace House and because we were in Japan, We were able to watch Japan Netflix which has the most recent releases of the show which aren’t offered in North America for a few months.
If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
Flew out of Toronto with Mike, Manwai & Cassie while Glenn was on another flight (Cassie was with ANA and the rest of us with United). This trip had started off badly for Glenn as his flight leaving for Chicago never left Toronto as there was an unmarked luggage that got aboard the plane from San Paulo.
We arrived in Chicago and Cassie caught her flight about 30-45 minutes before us. The main flight was about 12 hours and we got upgraded to economy plus. We originally booked with ANA but they are partnered with United so not as great as I wish it would be. No outlets but at least a screen to watch limited shows and movies.
We finally arrived at Narita Airport (half hour early) to 20C degree weather. Humid. We went up to the 4th floor towards the restaurants to meet Cassie who arrived earlier. We proceeded to the lower level to the JR pass lineup to activate our pass. It was an hour wait but still very hot. We ended up making new friends from New Jersey – Jennifer & Francis.
Once we activated our pass, we reserved our seats for the train to head to our Airbnb nearby Kawadacho Station in Shinjuku. 110 minutes into town from Narita. We arrived to find John, drop off our things and head to Shinjuku-Nishikichi to make our reservation time for Robot Restaurant. We opted for the show no meal but each ticket comes with 1 free drink ticket. We stopped by BIC Camera and got Cassie a Sim card – 21 days 5GB – $32CAD-ish. Walked over to Robot Restaurant with our reservation and then got another voucher and grabbed food at a nearby little restaurant before finally getting our actual ticket and heading inside. There is a holding area – lounge with a few performances and where we can redeem our drink tickets – oolong tea and alcohol mix – who would’ve known. I saw photos of the washrooms before we went which are ridiculously decorated but single stalls and the line was way too long to use/view them. The show takes place in the basement and I mean basement (it must be massive behind those curtains though to house all those robots). We went down 3 more levels and then got seated in our reserved seats. Sensory overload and I’m still not even sure if it was amazing or not. I mean, It was definitely bright, loud and shiny with high energy for sure with tons of dancing and “fighting”.
We left and grabbed some good old KFC then walked Golden Gai and Piss Alley. Golden Gai is a series of 3-5 streets that are riddled with small establishments that serve drinks and some bar food. The bars can hold 4-8 people at most. We didn’t participate but got to see the nightlife on a Friday night. We walked over to Piss Alley which was more open but we got there a little late in the night that the izakayas were closing. We started to head back to realize that the trains stop around 1230-1AM and had to find an alternate route back to our Airbnb. We ended up taking 2 taxis as they wouldn’t take 5 in one. I didn’t sleep until 230AM but I did get my SIM card to finally work.
If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
We woke up at 445AM and had breakfast in the hotel (included) before catching a bus up to Machu Picchu. It takes about 30 minutes to get up there. We booked ourselves to do the Machu Picchu mountain hike that opens at 7AM. You need to show the permit as well as your passport to climb. You enter and sign in with your time. This is important because just a month or 2 prior to our climb, a German man had climbed Huayana Mountain (where you need to climb on your bum and hands at certain points) and he decided to do a jump photo and fell to his death. Back to Machu Picchu Mountain hike – so many steps and so steep at points. I would think at this point, after 4 days of climbing, this would be rather easy but I digress.
The beginning was very similar to our normal Inca trail hike but then it got really steep at points on the side of a cliff. The first flat stop showed us only clouds where Machu Picchu was located. As time went by and the higher we trekked, the clouds started to dissipate and we could see more below us getting glimpse of Machu Picchu and the mountains.
The Ranger had told us this hike would take about an hour to do each way – so much heavy breathing coming from me.
Just like previous days, you climb and think that that next pass is the end but then you turn the corner to find more steps spiralling upwards. Even without walking sticks Sofia is still a powerhouse leading the pack. Patrick joined shortly after with Ronan right behind.
After the landing with the giant rock and the small passageway, there are about 3 more spiral sets of steps which are steep before you make it to your final destination. I made it up to have my heads in the clouds but within minutes, the clouds shifted to expose the beauty that lies below surrounding Machu Picchu.
We stayed up there for a while and I would say about 20 minutes after we arrived, our group of 7 (Gayaanan stayed below) were all together at the top. Sofia, Ronan and myself were about to leave as Karen and Chi made it up but Andrew insisted I stay but not really saying much. Then Andrew also insisted Sofia and Ronan stay as well and that’s when it clicked in that something special was going to happen.
Karen was too busy taking photos and Chi was extremely nervous. He wanted to do it right at the corner where you have the best view of Machu Picchu but if was too crowded. He then typed in his phone that he wanted everyone minus myself to leave as it made him even more anxious so down they went. I lingered around taking photos and whatnot trying to entice Karen into walking over to certain areas but none were to her liking.
It finally got to a point where I was taking photos of them like I normally do then taking solo ones of Karen. Chi told her to turn around so I could get a shot of her from behind looking out at Machu Picchu and then that’s when it happened. Chi got down on one knee and Karen turned around then did a double take and Chi swung his arm out with a ring in his hand and stuttered asking her to marry him. A delayed reaction said it all and now Machu Picchu and this Peru trip hold a special meaning to Chi and Karen. Check out their story.
Once that happened, I packed up my camera and descended. I went backwards down the first 2 sets of stairs then it got a little bit better going down as the steps weren’t as steep and short. I bombed it down and made it out the gate just minutes after the rest had gotten down. We wandered a bit of Machu Picchu before heading back down in the bus. When we returned to Aguas Caliente, it started to rain. Grabbed food from Orquidea Grill but rushed them as we needed to catch our train. I got the ceviche 40 sol – it was tasty but a little too vingery for my liking.
After lunch, went back to the hotel to grab our things and to the train station we went. The train station is located within the market place up the stairs. Karen booked the Vistadome train for us which includes a little entertainment and snack as we ride for an hour back to Ollantaytambo.
From Ollantaytambo, we got picked up by the shuttle to take us all back to Cuzco. We arrived at the main square and we’re delivered our luggage to the van. We packed our luggage in the van then Sofia and Ronan got dropped off at their hotel then Karen, Chi and myself got dropped off at the airport before the boys got dropped off. The Cuzco airport is very simple and security check was the easiest with no line and right through we went. Our flight was with Latam to Lima for 2 hours. We booked a car with the same driver as our first day – George but this time we stayed in the nicer part of town Miraflores.
Girasoles Hotel (Ernesto Diez Canseco 696, Miraflores, Peru) with a triple bed room for $80USD. By the time we checked in, it was already 1030PM so we decided to order in for dinner. Chifa aka Chinese closed at 1030PM so we ordered Pardo’s Chicken instead. We got fries and Peruvian roasted whole chicken and ate with our hands on the bed. Chi and Karen’s engagement dinner.
Peru & Panama last half
We took our time to get up then downstairs for breakfast. We walked over to the nearest grocery store – metro to purchase some snacks to bring home. The Miraflores area is higher end city as oppose to the main area of Lima and has beautiful architecture. I absolutely love the doors and colours that exist here.
Next stop was Manolo (Av. Larco 608, Miraflores – Lima – Perú ) for a Dulce de Leche churro 5 sol. Our plan for this morning was to take the free walking tour but when we arrived at the square, we met with the tour guide but he wanted to wait until 11AM for more people. We needed to make our way to the airport for 2PM so we decided to explore on our own
We ended up walking down to the waterfront area (Circuito de Playas) that was above the beach line. With palm trees and the look of the area, it reminded me of California and Hawaii with a tropical feel. This is where all the fitness buffs come out especially runners and bikers. You can look down where the highway is and also the beach where surfers were ripping the waves.
We walked to the El Parque del Amor also known as the Love Park then to the lighthouse before taking an uber 45 minutes to the main square of Plaza Armas and walked around to see the beautiful area which was pedestrian only. We made it to the main square and watched a bit of the changing of guards. This is one of the countries I’ve seen with an abundance of female officers whether it be policia or traffic control.
We rushed back to our hotel as we asked for late check out for 1PM. Grabbed an uber and headed for the airport. Before going past the gate we stopped and had McDonald’s. We got the fried chicken but it wasn’t impressive. It tasted like KFC chicken. 20.50sol. Through security and had about 50 sol left so I bought small bottles of pisco and alfajores cookies.
We threw our stuff down and walked down the street to the right to Rey – 24 hour grocery store. There are so many products that are produced from the states that it wasn’t that fun to explore what different snacks from what we have back home. The currency in Panama is USD as legal tender. The lines to checkout were quite long even at 1030PM but I bought a bunch of items and it only cost me $12USD.
Since we arrived late, we went next door to Niko’s 24 hour restaurant that had sandwich deals and I think further down the line, some hot Panamanian dishes. I got the BLT with fries for $5.25USD. It took 20-25 minutes to get our food making it after 11PM when we ate. They asked me my name for the bill but not for Karen so when we looked at the receipts, they put her name as China and mine said my name. I guess I’m too dark they don’t now what I am unlike Karen who is pale lol.
We went back to the hotel and showered and it was such an amazing shower. Chi and myself bought Panama beer so we drank that and watched American TV game shows. Panama beer isn’t quite my taste of beer.
We went to La Bottega di Finestra (Platnéřská 89/11 110 00 Praha-Staré Město) for lunch. It also serves as a small grocery shop as well a cafe. We got there after breakfast time but we’re still able to get the eggs Benedict. I also got the hot chocolate with chili flakes and the chocolate before you add the flakes was intense and dark. We also grabbed dessert. I went for the millieu flaky and creamy. In total 395kc. Mimi and myself split from the boys and went for a walk ourselves and did a round of the Jewish quarters (Josefov) which technically we walked our first night. We saw through a little peek hole in the door the Jewish cemetery.
Returning to the apartment, we packed and off we went to Mustek station right down the street from us and took the bus to Dejankiv station to board a bus to take us to the airport. 32kc. I came into Prague changing $200USD but got screwed by the exchange booth so technically i had $140USD worth of cash for this leg the trip and left with $5. So strange to think I’ve spent so much but realistically i didn’t.
I regret not going to la degustation du boheme in Prague where it would have been maybe $80 for a 6 course meal which on the Michelin list ranked of the best.
Air France flight was quick. We grabbed the RER B to Gare du Nord station where our hostel for the night was. We booked Smart Place but when we got there, they said we had been upgraded to another hotel just down the street called Vintage Hostel – seemed like a downgrade to be honest. Since we technically didn’t book directly to Vintage, they wouldn’t give us free towels and also the carpet in our room was coming up that we couldn’t open or close the door properly without a little bit of elbow grease.
111414 – Paris – Amsterdam
I woke up early and watched a partial sunrise from the balcony before heading down to the lobby for free breakfast with Mimi. We packed our things and stored our bags at the luggage storage at Gare du Nord. You have to get it scanned first before you can put it into the lockers. 9,50 euro. A rainy day in Paris but we walked the streets. Headed over to Sacre Coeur to see the view from above and tried to find Montmartre cemetery but failed so we walked down to the shopping district to Galleries du Lafayette and onto the main street with high end stores such as E Guyard, Chanel, and Colette. We ate in the Water Bar in the basement of Colette which was Batman comic themed. I had the cheeseburger and a small juice. On the main floor, I purchased a surprise bag for 20 euro. It’s filled with fun things but geared towards kids. We wandered the streets some more before we walked back to the train station and boarded a train enroute to Amsterdam.
We walked over to Charles bridge area and walked along the river as its a better view the bridge. We continued on to the John Lennon wall and part of Kampa Park with strange sculptures – we should’ve went back to finish. We had lunch at Bistro De France where we all had the set menu. Squash soup, salad, Quiche Lorraine (they had the Croquemonsier) and a fresh vanilla creme brulee for 249KC. We continued walking and decided to walk through this park with a steep incline to Petrin Tower to go above and peer over the city. Such a tiring walk up after a heavy meal. 120KC to climb. There are two levels to the tower and the view is beautiful. From outside, it’s similar but a smaller version of the Eiffel tower. After we descended, we continued onward to Prague castle. The area was beautiful but while we were there we were unsure if we actually made it to the castle. We actually made it to Schwarzenberg Palace / Lobkowicz Palace instead of the castle. We then walked down on the west side of Charles bridge down to Vitezna to Cafe Savoy (Vítězná 124/5 150 00 Praha 5) which was only suppose to be a light snack which ended up being a full meal. The interior features original finishing and is gorgeous. I got the baked ham brioche with gruyere cheese and poached egg 168 czk as well as the Dessert hot chocolate savoy 85 czk.
We all took a nap when we returned home. We got up around 7-8PM and ate at Pho Vietnam (Anglická, 120 00 Praha 2, Czech Republic) for a late dinner which is this cafeteria style restaurant where you order and pay at the front. Fresh spring roll 30kc and chicken soup 99kc. We wanted dessert and walked to Cafe Lovre (Národní 22 110 00 Praha 1). Cafe Lovre has been opened since 1902 and Albert Einstein was once a patron. I had the homemade lime and pistachio ice cream that was delicious and only 16kc each. The walk home was very quiet minus seeing old Japanese business men going to the sexy sauna.
Since we ended early yesterday, they wanted to sleep in today. Walked over to Cafe Lovre for lunch. I had the pork tenderloin with potato dumplings and fresh orange juice with strawberries 199 & 62kc. We sat in the smoking section, which still boggles my mind as I’ve been spoiled by Toronto and no smoking indoors regulations. We walked over to Havelska Trznice an outdoor market and then walked to Prazska Trznice the biggest outdoor market run by Vietnamese stalls of well useless tourist stuff such as pepper spray, ninja stars, tasers, bags, and clothes. Havelska Trznice was much better and well worth the visit over Prazska Trznice.
For a late dinner, we went to Kolkovna Savarin where I had the goose leg, a small mixed light dark lager and ice cream which was homemade with real chunks of everything in each the strawberry, chocolate and vanilla butterscotch? For 321kc.
We walked to Zara station to head back to Central to catch our train to Zurich.
We grabbed a little snack at the station from Bistrot Centrale before boarding our train since we got there a bit early. Crema croissant and a fruit shake (frullati – frullato misto)- 6.50 Euro. We took the Trenitalia train to Zurich but they have tickets where the seating is 3 & 3 but luckily train wasn’t full so Mimi and myself shifted to the empty seats. When we finally arrived, we exchanged some of our Euros for Franc coins and stored our luggage. We then walked the town with a walking tour map. Walked all over and in total, walked 12KM before heading back the station for dinner. Pretty much everything is closed on Sundays. We ended up at Brasserie Federal for dinner and I got the Muotatatler delicious which is Air dried beef, raw ham and bacon which really meant a huge slab smoked ham with potato salad and came with tubes of different mustard. 19,80 francs. NOTE – You can pay in euro /francs but will receive francs for change.
NOTE – Zurich, Switzerland is one of the cleanest cities that you could drink the water straight from the hundreds of beautiful water fountains all over.
We finished eating and walked over to the train board to see no status of our train so we lined up at the check-in desk to see if we needed to get printed tickets but were told that our train wasn’t running as Germany went strike. We went next door to customer service where we waited for a bit and luckily Sandra Buchanan saved us. Apparently this is the third strike Germany had done and it’s usually without warning. Sandra was able to find us an alternate route that left the same night but our route leaves to Salzburg on a sleeper train in which we transfer from Salzburg to Munich then to a bus from Munich to Prague that get to Prague only hours later. Such a complicated journey than expected. Should’ve just booked a plane ticket for 25-50 Euro from the beginning. We ended up wasting time at MacDonalds.
I’ve noticed over here, it is so common for couples to display PDA whether it be hugging, holding one another, sitting on each other’s laps to making out. It’s different. More carefree.
We got into the sleeper train from Zurich Hauptbahnhof to head over to Salzburg. From Salzburg, we will connect to another train in Munich then a bus from Munich to Prague.
The sleeper train are segregated into small rooms with 6 chairs that can recline all the way down. At the beginning, we had the 4 of us plus one lady then the remainder of the ride had a full 6 with one girl beside me who tiny enough to curl up a ball and sleep perfectly. The train filled with soldiers from the Military who were going home so it was loud as they were celebrating. Definitely not a restful sleep at all. We had to change trains at 430AM but luckily we made it on time and the next train was on the platform next to us. We also took a 6 person sleeper train and had a somewhat restful sleeping moment with only two hours on this train and no one joining us. If we kept sleeping, we could’ve missed our stop and ended up in Budapest but Ricky was awake the whole time.
We arrived at Munchen station in Munich and found glorious food. We ate from Rischart bakery where I paid 3,70 Euro for a pretzel with cream cheese and chives in it (breze). Delicious. We then had to walk out of the train station about 10 minutes over to ZOB which is their Train station with a waiting area upstairs with shops and stores. We got into the DB Bahn Icb double decker bus similar to Megabus. I think this ride was probably the most restful of sleep for all. Plus there was free WiFi! Everywhere else you need to send your mobile number and receive an sms code to use it and for people not using data, it’s impossible to receive it unless you get online. First world problems I know but how did we survive before this? When I did get internet access I received an email about the delay of the original train…
NOTE – just take money out of the bank (Debit) as the exchange places rip you off. I learnt the hard way. The rate I exchanged at, I already lost $50.
We stayed in an Airbnb in Prague 1 district. We were greeted by Akan who is this lovely Turkish French man who works the medical industry. The apartment itself is astounding. It smells amazing and the look and feel one ups the Milano apartment. It’s a safe street that has a police station beside the sexy sauna. It’s a one way and cars aren’t allowed in after a certain time. It features the original wooden doors and locks but modernized. The kitchen is beautiful however we most likely won’t use it. There are two huge bedrooms plus a living room which Ricky claimed. The toilet and shower are in separate rooms. I could live here.
If you haven’t joined and booked with Airbnb yet, follow the link and get credits for your first booking. www.airbnb.ca/c/ruu
We finally had a chance to shower and freshen up then we finally left the apartment at 4PM. The sun was actually already setting. We walked down to the main street which led us the old city buildings. We walked around and went to dinner at V Kolkovne (8 – 110 00 Praha 1-Staré Město, Czech Republic) in the Jewish quarter that is on the Michelin star list and it was amazing for traditional Czech German dishes. I got the goulash soup, pork hock and the mixed light and dark lager which in the end cost 400cCZ which is approximately $20CAD or under. We walked in the square/old town city hall area. We pretty much walked everywhere the Prague 1 area. Average temperature this time of year was 9 degrees throughout the day. They also are allowed to smoke indoors at bars still. Everyone speaks English here so there is much better communication than Milan.