Monthly Archives: May 2015

My time in the Latvian capital

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Last year in November I had a week off work and was feeling a bit bored so I thought I’d start look around for cheap airplane tickets (this is a big hobby of mine) and ended up finding tickets to Riga, hotel included and all. They were so cheap it was almost free.
Now before this trip I had practically no knowledge of the city other than it was the capital of Latvia, but the hotel had an indoor pool and was just an hour and a half away by plane from Copenhagen. And knowing me, I just can’t back away from a good bargain, so I booked the trip and convinced my boyfriend to come with me.

That autumn was a season full of spontaneity for me, the fact that I died my hair turquoise blue a few weeks earlier can maybe give you the idea.

Now there weren’t a lot of tourists in Riga and the older generation of Latvians spoke little to no English. But we got by with nodding, pointing and smiling a lot.
The weather was cold, it was in the middle of November after all, but not freezing.

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Here you see my crazy blue hair.

The Art Nouveau District

One of the most interesting things about Riga is the art nouveau district. The buildings are beautiful with its overdecorated facades with statues of naked ladies, leaves and scary gargoyles. We visited the museum dedicated to art nouveau where you get to explore the apartment where the Latvian art nouveau architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns lived. The apartments insides still had the original kitchen, bathroom and furniture and it was quite interesting. Unfortunately taking pictures inside the museum cost extra and I was too frugal to pay.

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The hotel we stayed at was called Wellton Centrum Hotel & Spa and it was quite cosy. It did cost extra to use the pool but it was worth it. Ending a cold day with a swim and some sauna time sure was a treat.

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The coolest bar/café in Riga is called Black Magic and the interior is just amazing. It feels like walking into a shop in Diagon Alley or some other magical place. We didn’t try the chocolate but we bought three bottles of their balzam, Rigas national liquor, with us home. But don’t go there for the balzam if you’re not a fan of  strong spirits. The taste gets some time getting used to.

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The black magic bar and café.

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Warm alcoholic drinks were all the rage in Riga in wintertime and we caught on the trend and ordered in warm apple cider, warm cranberry drinks, Irish coffees and mulled wine everywhere we went.

We stayed in Riga for four days but we could have easily make due with just three, on the last day we mostly wondered around and didn’t really know what to do after check out. So I’d say if you’re interested visiting, plan a weekend trip. The city is great for a romantic getaway and to do some shopping since the prices are lower than in most other European cities but don’t expect it to be as cheap as visiting Poland for example.

A mini guide to New York on a budget

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Where to stay
The Pod 39 Hotel // 145 East 39th Street
We chose the pod, not only because of it’s low price (under $200/night), but because of its location. It’s right on Manhattan by the Grand Central Station. The rooms are small, I have to admit, but it’s clean, the staff were nice and the bed were comfy. That’s all you really need, who stays in the hotel when they’re in the city that never sleeps anyway?

Where to eat
Chipotle
Oh how I long for when the Mexican fast food chain come to Sweden. The food is cheap, spicy and served at a high pace. Perfect when you’re in a hurry and you can basically throw a stone and hit a Chipotle anywhere in New York. They also have vegetarian options. But remember, guac is extra.

Chop’t Salad
A unique salad chain that serves salad and sandwiches in a fun and creative way with a lot of organic and locally grown things on the menu. A salad is around $7.

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Rice to Riches in Nolita.

Rice to Riches // 37 Spring Street, Nolita
Maybe not for everybody but I find this place amazing. It’s rice pudding heaven! And with its tongue in cheek humor you don’t just come here for the food, you stay for the funny quotes and puns.

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Veggie pizza from Dominos Pizza at 943 1st Avenue. Right by the United Nations headquarters if you’re in the neighborhood.

Dominos Pizza
Another fast food joint, but hey isn’t that the American way? Dominos pizza is tasty and you get a lot of pizza for your money starting from $5 and up.

What to do
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
No need for a presentation here, Statue of Liberty is the cover girl for the city and Ellis Island is a must see. We decided to buy tickets that would get us up to the crown which is both more expensive and harder to get a hold on since 9/11. The stairs that led up to the crown was scary and seemed never ending but paid off since the view was amazing. I recommend you to buy the tickets online at least a month prior to your trip. We bought ours at http://www.statuecruises.com/ which included the boat trip and entrance to Ellis Island.

See a Broadway play
Going to a Broadway show is a must for a lot of tourist coming to New York and can be quite expensive. But if you chose a matinee show, book your tickets in advance and are okay with not sitting in the front row it doesn’t have to be.
We decided on seeing Chicago and we were not sorry. We had seen the movie version before and knew all the songs. The show had a lot of humor and sass and we couldn’t have asked for more.

Things to do that are free
The New York Public Library // 455 5th Avenue
Visiting the library might sound like a snooze fest if you’re not a bibliophile but the building itself is really beautiful, both the inside and the exterior. Plus if you’re a Sex and the city fan (like yours truly) you can experience where Carrie and Mr Big should have had their wedding as the first S.A.T.C movie was recorded right outside.

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The Brooklyn Bridge
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is free of charge and a great way to get a good look at Manhattan from afar and it’s really something to see the incredible structures up close. Also it’s a free way to get to Brooklyn.

Take a walk in Central park
The park is huge and you could easily spend an entire afternoon here, or even a whole day if you bring a pick-nick and the weather allows it. Some of the parks high lights are the Alice in Wonderland statue, Minton Tile Ceiling at Bethesda Terrace and the 3,500-year-old Obelisk. In the winter time there’s a ice skating rink free of charge on Mondays.
If you’re a Beatles fan you must visit the Strawberry fields John Lennon memorial. A tip is to bring a map with you to the park because it’s easy to get lost.

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Central Park, a forest in the middle of a metropolis.

Visiting Grand Central Terminal // 42nd Street and Park Avenue
Even if you’re not on your way to catch a train or in a hurry to the get to the subway the Grand Central is worth a visit. It’s one of the most famous buildings in America where numerous films have been recorded both outside and inside the station. You might recall the Avengers completely trashing it in the first Avengers movie or seeing the insides in two of Hitchcock’s films. When I was there I even saw a couple lying on the floor in the middle of the station watching the painted ceiling of the constellations together.

Some extra tips:
On the first Saturday each month some museums in New York are free like the Brooklyn museum of art and The Guggenheim museum.

Buy entrance tickets to the big tourists sites ahead online, you can often get them much cheaper and sometimes there’s a discount if you buy them in a bundle. But don’t fall for the “for an extra fee you get to skip the lines”, this seldom is as good as it sounds as a lot of people buy them thinking they will get in faster and end up having to queue with all the others that bought the same kind of expensive tickets.

Experiencing sub zero temperature in New York – A survivors story

I went to the big apple in February this year with the boyfriend to celebrate Valentines day and his birthday. It was my first time in New York and also my first time visiting the states. When I arrived I immediately felt like I’ve been there before. The countless movies, video games and TV series set in the city I’ve seen a thousand times growing up made me almost think New York was a make believe city. Like it was something built for Hollywood. And I never thought I’d be able to save up money to go since it’s a long way from Sweden and quite an expensive city so I almost felt like I was walking in a dream or at least in a movie set being there.

I felt like Carrie Bradshaw walking along 5th avenue drooling over the expensive designer shops, or Holly Golightly looking in at the jewelry at Tiffany’s. Hell I could even identify with Godzilla at some points even though the huge skyscrapers and tall buildings makes you feel so small. It’s quite surreal actually.

To choose February as the month to go to New York might not have been our smartest move though. It was not only cold, as you’d expect February to be, it was the coldest month the city had experienced since 1934. They even had warnings going out on the news a week before our departure about snowstorms stopping up traffic. Luckily no blizzards swiped us away during our stay, but we sure were worried the weather would ruin the whole vacation before even arriving.

I pictured the scene from the movie The Day after tomorrow in my head where the Statue of Liberty is covered in snow up to her torch and the Hudson river turned into a ice skating rink on the flight over.

So being from Sweden where the weather is so unpredictable year around some winters you can get snowed in in the morning and go out and get a tan in the afternoon, I packed for the worst and filled up my suitcase with winter wear. I know one of the days I had four layers on and two pairs of gloves. You could easily tell the tourists apart from the locals just looking at what they were wearing. The New Yorkers were fierce, especially the women, they wouldn’t let any record cold ruin their style.
Jay-Z was right in his song Empire State of Mind when he said “Caught up in the in-crowd, now you’re in-style and in the winter gets cold en vogue with your skin out” because even though it was hitting sub zero temperatures (that’s like -17 °C) New York girls were still rocking trench coats, stilettos and mini skirts with no tights.

But walking through Central Park in the white landscape and seeing the squirrels play in the snow was beautiful and all the city lights still warmed you up at night. They even turned the Empire state building red with pulsating lights resembling heartbeats for Valentines day.

I’m so happy we were able to go there, the food was amazing, the people there were so surprisingly friendly and helpful being such a big and busy city and let’s not even begin talking about all the shopping. Visiting New York was a dream come true. But next time I’ll be going to New York I think I want to go when the weather is a bit nicer and you don’t have to be afraid of freezing to death haha.

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This was the middle of February and it was cold as hell. It was the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced, so cold that it hurts your face, but I was happy.

Green smoothie aka ‘get them greens girl!’

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Smoothies are the easiest thing in the world to make (if you count out doing the dishes afterwards) so here’s a quick green one:

Ingredients:
2 bananas
A handful of baby spinach
1 green granny smith apple
1 orange
1 tsp of Spirulina powder (optional)

An extra tip is to add dates to the mixture if you think it tastes a bit too “green” and you want more sweetness!

My first solo trip abroad

Last week I booked my first solo vacation. I just decided on a whim that I wanted to go. I’ve never really traveled alone and I think it’s something you just have to do at least once in your life. That is why I started this blog today, so that I can write about my travels and adventures.

I’m the kind of person who worries about everything and who makes lists, timetables, complete itineraries and even sets up a spending budget beforehand and still manages to mess things up when I’m away so this trip will sure be interesting!

Now a bit more information about my trip; I’m flying over to London for four days and I’m staying at The Generator Hostel near King’s Cross. Even though I’ve been to London twice before this trips has got a lot of “firsts” for me; It is my first time staying at a hostel in a dorm room, it is my first time flying by myself and it is the first time in my life travelling alone somewhere where I don’t have anyone to rely on if things go bad.

But London is an amazing town, full of life and filled with endless things to see and do and since I’ve already explored most of the “must-sees” and touristy sites before, this time around I hope get to really experience the city in a more genuine and local way. I’m really looking forward to it and I hope you’ll be staying around and read about my adventure!

Inside the London Eye October 2012

Inside the London Eye October 2012