A Travellerspoint blog

August 2013

Zagreb, Croatia (12th - 15th August)

We travelled most of the day to get to Zagreb from Vienna - changing trains twice. We arrived in Zagreb about 9pm and made our way to Cherry Hostel. We stayed in a 6 bed dorm, though it was fairly spacious from what I remember. The hostel itself was really nice, though mostly because the staff were so friendly and it had a nice outdoor seating area. There was also an enormous dog who we nicknamed The Bear. He was a big softie though and more interested in stealing bags of cat food than he was in us. The only downside of the hostel was the limited bathroom facilities (one shower room and one toilet for women and then the same for men). It's a fairly small hostel though, so it wasn't too problematic. After check in we enjoyed a nice cheap beer, sitting outside, before retiring to bed.

We woke up the next morning in time to get the free breakfast. The free breakfast consists of 2 bread rolls with ham and cheese (or just cheese if you're vegetarian). That description makes it sound quite dull, but I think the rolls are homemade, with a texture kinda like a croissant. They're served warm, with the cheese all melted inside. Mmmmmm. You have to pay if you want coffee, but it's not a lot and it was decent coffee, so definitely worth it.

We spent most of the day walking around and taking in the sights. We'd heard that Zagreb wasn't that great a city and that there are far nicer places to see in Croatia. I don't doubt there are nicer places in Croatia, but as somewhere to just spend a couple of days, I did quite like Zagreb.

We timed our afternoon museum visit well as it was just as a storm hit. The museum in question was the Museum of Broken Relationships. Yes, it's just what it sounds like - a museum of personal belongings related to relationships that have ended, along with an explanation as to the significance of the item. It sounds pretty depressing, I know, but the reviews on tripadvisor assured us it was actually quite amusing and a fun place to visit. It's fairly small but it's also cheap, so that was fine. There are definitely some amusing (and bizarre) tales in there, but overall I still found it quite a melancholic experience. I suppose the ominous tone set by the weather didn't help. I'd definitely recommend it though - it's a unique experience.

On our second day in Zagreb we set out to visit the number 1 rated attraction on tripadvisor. Was it a museum? A church? Some other historical building? Some pleasant outdoor area? No, it was a rally car racing track. It was also quite difficult to find. We had to get directions from tourist information, then after we'd caught a tram to the general area it took a bit of walking around in order to find the entrance. It was fairly quiet when we got there and we weren't sure how it all worked. The receptionist soon got us sorted out though (albeit in a slightly disinterested way). As we were first time visitors we had to pay for a 'licence'. This just involved registering on a computer, which optionally included a link to our Facebook profiles. We then paid for 1 race, which lasts 10 minutes. Now, if you know me at all, I know what you might be thinking - "Chantal racing a rally car?! Surely not". Trust me, I was just as surprised. Jamie really fancied it though and I thought 'hey, why not?'. Thankfully it was just a race between the 2 of us, so I didn't have to compete against anyone experienced and worry about getting in their way. We were given helmets and chest plates, put into cars and told which pedal was accelerate and which was break. That was it - no time to practice - it was straight into our 10 minutes of racing. Not being used to driving anything, plus being a total wuss, my first lap was... interesting. I stalled quite early on and had to wave the guy over to restart my engine. I then managed to crash a couple of times and had to be rescued again. I was starting to think that my whole ten minutes would just be a series of crashes and rescues, but my 2nd lap was totally fine, I started to get the hang of it. I went pretty slowly, granted, but it still felt like I was going at a decent speed. Jamie would overtake me on the straights though - he got the hang of it pretty quickly and only crashed once during the entire race. After my crash-prone first lap, I did crash once more on a later lap, but that was all.

The ten minutes goes pretty quickly, especially when it's your first time and you need to spend a while getting used to it. I only managed 6 full laps in total; Jamie managed 11. Their computers automatically posted on my Facebook wall, saying how I'd been racing with them, how I'd come second and what my best lap time was. I was expecting comments on this from my Facebook friends - I thought they'd be shocked I'd done such a thing, plus possibly impressed I'd come second (they wouldn't know it was a race of only 2 people!). But weirdly I got no comments at all. Jamie and I theorised afterwards that people would likely have assumed I was playing some kind of racing game and not actually racing. It would be an understandable assumption.

I was totally knackered afterwards, probably due to the adrenaline. If a second race had been cheaper I know Jamie would have been tempted, though I'm not sure my body could have handled it. Instead we had a beer in the gallery area and watched some other people racing. I think they were mostly regulars as their times were amazing. The computers showed the ranking of best laps of everyone who'd raced so far that day. I wasn't remotely surprised to see mine in last place - even behind the 2 young kids in the family who'd raced before us.

All in all it was good fun. Afterwards we tried to go to a Mexican restaurant, but of course it was closed, as it was somewhere we wanted to go. Instead we ended up getting some pizza and chips, then heading back to our hostel for another beer.

Posted by chantalpatton 09:28 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Vienna, Austria (10th - 12th August)

I've gotten quite behind on my blogging again. I'm trying to recall our journey from Budapest to Vienna but it's a bit hazy. I'm going to assume it was uneventful. On arrival in Vienna we checked in to Hostel Guesthouse Kaiser 23. It was more guesthouse / cheap hotel than hostel really - it was a nice place to stay - the showers needed a little maintenance, but that was my only minor quibble. After check in we went for a bit of a walk around and also for some food. Vienna's such a beautiful city - it seemed like there was a photo-worthy view wherever you looked.

In the evening we met up with our friend Steven for a drink. We lived with Steven in Wellington and he's now back living in his native Vienna. It was a brief meet-up as he was off to the cinema, but it was cool to see him (and to meet his girlfriend Alice as well).

We just had the one full day in Vienna, which we mostly spent in the Museums Quarter. We went to the Leopold Museum to start with, which was really good. It's mostly known for its Klimt and Schiele collections, which are great, but there's plenty of other stuff too. After that we went to Mumok, which is the modern art museum. The featured artist was Albert Oehlen, who I wasn't hugely fussed on. Some of the other exhibits were really good, but there wasn't as much to see as I was expecting. Quite a few areas seemed closed off. It was still enjoyable though.

In the evening we went for dinner at a really nice tavern that Steven had recommended. I was tempted to get the wienerschnitzel but instead went for a chicken dish with a white wine sauce, which was delicious.

It was a pretty fleeting visit to Vienna, but very enjoyable. Definitely one to add to the list of 'places to go back to'.

Posted by chantalpatton 03:13 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Budapest, Hungary (8th - 10th August)

Our train was late in to Budapest, but that wasn't a problem - we headed straight to our hostel and checked in. We stayed at Origo Hostel and had a private room. It was a nice little place, I'd recommend it. It was also handy being back in a hostel as it meant we could get some laundry done and also cook our own food. Infact that was mostly what we spent that first day doing, though we also had a brief walk about. It was very very hot though, plus no air conditioning yet again - argh!

We just had the one full day in Budapest and that was reserved for going to Sziget Festival to see Blur. We did contemplate doing a walking tour in the morning as well, but that ended up being less desirable than having a bit more sleep. Sziget was great though - we'd not been to a festival since September 2010, so I'd almost forgotten how much fun it is just walking around them and spotting all the strange and quirky things (at least if it's a good festival). There was giant furniture, big eggs made out of straw that you could get inside, some love nests, Alice in Wonderland themed areas, a part where you could play fairground games and try and hook some plastic fish... lots of fun to be had. We saw some of Mystery Jets and !!!, but mostly just explored the festival until Blur were on. Blur were great, of course, though the set seemed so short, which is the way with festival slots I guess. Afterwards we had some more drinks, plus met some people from Cardiff Uni - the first Welsh people we've met on our travels.

So yeah, we didn't see much of Budapest itself, but we were there for the festival and the festival was great. Plus Jamie's been before. I did get to take some photos of myself with a statue though, which is something I seem to be building up a collection of now. I didn't actually take the photo myself of course, but here you go:


Posted by chantalpatton 08:22 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

France and Switzerland (5th - 7th August)

Our few days after leaving Barcelona were filled with travel - mostly so we could get to Budapest in time for Sziget festival. On our first day we headed to Perpignon, which involved 3 train journeys. The second train journey was pretty cool though as that was on a small yellow train that ran through the mountains. People seemed to have a really warm regard for it as well as you'd get cars honking their horns and people waving at the train, it was really sweet.

Le Petit Train Jaune:

In Perpignon we stayed at Hotel Kennedy, which we'd booked through Expedia. There were no hostels in Perpignon and we didn't want to stray far from the train station as we were literally just there for the night. The hotel was ok, though the air conditioning was broken, so it was really hot. There was a fan in the room, but it barely seemed to do anything. As we arrived fairly late, we only ventured out briefly to find food. This wasn't very easy though so we ended up just grabbing some stuff from the supermarket near the hotel. We did have a nice little walk around the ramparts though, so that was our brief bit of sightseeing. Granted we didn't make it into central Perpignon, but from what we did see it didn't seem that nice a place. Although that was kinda good as it meant I wasn't disappointed to leave again so quickly.

The next day we travelled to Lyon. We arrived there late afternoon / early evening, so we had a bit of time to actually explore, which was nice. We stayed at Timhotel Lyon Part Dieu, which was in a good location and pretty nice from what I remember, though again had no air conditioning so was very hot. Still, Lyon seemed a really lovely place - it was actually quite disappointing to be leaving so quickly, but it's somewhere we can easily go back to. We spent most of our sightseeing time in Parc de la Tete d'Or, which was pretty cool. It's got a zoo in it, plus other areas with deer and turtles (so many turtles!), plus a little fairground type area with Hook a Duck, plus plenty of greenery and flowers and other park type things. We then also went for a walk by the river before getting food and heading back to the hotel.

The following morning we travelled to Switzerland - we changed trains in Geneva and then arrived in Zurich about 13:30. We had 9 hours before our night train to Budapest. Happily we also had tour guides in the shape of Alex and Vera who we'd met on the Moose Bus in Canada. They did an awesome job showing us the sights of Zurich - it's not a huge place so we walked all over, went up a tower, went for a drink, walked some more and went for some food (I had the Bratwurst). It was really nice to see them and Zurich seemed like a really great place. Oh and we were able to leave our rucksacks in a locker at the train station, so didn't have to be burdened with those all day. After picking them back up and buying some snacks for the train journey, we were back on our familiar mode of transport, though this time with couchettes, so no trying to sleep in a chair - hoorah.

Posted by chantalpatton 05:50 Comments (0)

Barcelona, Spain (2nd - 5th August)

We arrived in Barcelona early afternoon and checked in to Hotel Medium Prisma. It was another Hotwire booking, though just a 2 star this time. Still, decent enough - no complaints as far as I can recall. We got settled in and then went and met up with my friend Rachel who'd arrived in Barcelona the previous day. We went for a drink to catch up, then a bit of a wander, then another drink (in a place called Cat Cafe that had some nice ales), then for some tapas and sangria (had to be done). There was then one more drink after that as well, if I remember correctly.

On our one full day together in Barcelona, we managed to fit in a lot of sightseeing. First off, after some breakfast, we went to La Sagrada Familia, which sadly was undergoing renovation and therefore was covered in scaffolding etc. Pretty disappointing, though it's been a recurring theme during our trip so far. Paper frog was pretty sad about it:

We then got the subway up to Park Guell where there's a lot of Gaudi architecture. We were quite fortunate with the subway station we chose - there are a few that are a similar distance from the park, but we happily chose one where you exit at the top of the hill (pretty much), so you can then walk back down through the gardens, rather than having to walk up them. The park was great, though there were tourists everywhere (damn tourists!). That was generally the case in Barcelona though - it's a popular place.

After some lunch we walked some more, taking in the Arc De Triomphe (no we weren't lost) and the funky harbour bridge, amongst other things. It then took us a while to find somewhere to eat (not unusual for us), but we settled on a place with curries and falafel where one of the waiters seemed to take a liking to us (or possibly just wanted a big tip!) and was joking with Jamie about having 2 wives and offering to take Rachel for himself. I'm assuming we left him a tip (though didn't leave him Rachel).

The last main sightseeing destination for the day was the musical fountain. I'd really been looking forward to it and it didn't disappoint. It's a pretty big fountain with a music and lights show. I was pleased we arrived while the classical music and movie soundtrack songs were still being played, as they worked much better at giving a grandiose effect than the pop songs did that they started playing slightly later. Call me crazy but I think there's something much more captivating about a large colourful fountain being backed by the music from Star Wars and ET than there is by one accompanied by Call Me Maybe.

The fountain:

Annoyingly, some of my photos from the fountain weirdly disappeared from my camera, including one of me with Rachel, one of me with Jamie and one of Paper Frog looking happy. Grr. Not sure why it happened - my camera's never done it before. I think it's jealous that Jamie's camera's better now, ha ha.

We spent quite a while at the fountain, which did mean we missed out on seeing the phallic gherkin-esque building all lit up, but I'd imagine it would have been an anti-climax anyway. Instead we went in search of a bar and discovered that you could take a lift up to the top of the Arenas De Barcelona for just 1 Euro and get a good view out over the city. That was a great discovery. Plus there were restaurants/bars up there so we went for a drink as well.

The next morning we met up with Rachel for a farewell brunch before she had to catch her bus to the airport. It was really good to see her and it made a nice change to have a slightly different dynamic for a couple of days. After saying goodbye we headed back to the hotel for a bit (grabbing an ice-cream on the way - I'd not mentioned the weather, but it was hot) and caught up on some practical things before going out for dinner - Wok To Walk, but of course.

It was also in Barcelona that my tablet computer randomly died on me too. Literally out of nowhere it just stopped working. Some googling led us to discover it's a common fault with the Acer Iconia A100 - they'll just stop working, generally after 12 - 15 months of ownership (I'd had mine 15 months), so just outside of the warranty. Very very annoying. So at the moment I'm reliant on Jamie's netbook for blogging and general internet usage. I'm hoping I'll be able to pick up some cheap replacement somewhere - just a basic internet device that only has to last until the end of the year. Fingers crossed.

Posted by chantalpatton 13:51 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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