48 hrs in Gothenburg Sweden……  

As Sweden’s second city, Gothenburg is sometimes overshadowed by its more famous cousin Stockholm. But on my trip, I found Gothenburg has gems all of its own to uncover.

Coming into land  at Landvetter airport on a snowy morning, it felt like i was having a second Christmas.

My base for the weekend was Hotel Flora, a centrally located 4 star boutique hotel perfectly located for exploring Gothenburg.

With my Gothenburg one city pass in hand,  giving me free travel  on all public transport in Gothenburg, on top of entry to Gothenburgs main attractions , I headed out to explore .

With a good couple of feet of snow to contend with, it  definitely felt like I was getting a workout ,whilst having a wander round the city, no wonder those swedes keep so trim.

Gothenburg definitely wins the award for the most stylish public transport system, with their retro style trams, they blast through piles of snow effortlessly , and it’s easy to hop on and off .

Gothenburg is stuffed to the brim with culture , the museums are world class.  The Gothenburg museum of Art houses  all the greats from a Monet to a Deagas ballerina.


And the Natural History museum is small but perfectly formed .

The Gothenburg city museum is also worth a peek, with plenty of Viking artefacts from around the city.

Fish is big in Gothenburg , they even have their own ‘fish church’ known as  FESKEKÔRKA. There’s even a couple of excellent restaurants inside, if you get the sudden urge to eat fish.


There’s  also an indoor food hall, where you can hang out and grab a typical Swedish  lunch at Kages Horna

Or grab some chocolate,  from local producer Kanold.

The place for the perfect afternoon stroll is in Haga , the once dodgy part of town, since  rescued by the hipsters. With plenty of quirky independant shops, it’s a great place to pick up something Swedish to take home.

And when you fancy a quick fika stop , check out Cafe Husaren for a traditional gigantic cinnamon buns.

In the summer when the ice breaks ,  you can see Gothenburg from the water on a boat trip along Gothenburg’s picturesque canals.

Gothenburg was so much more than I expected , it’s a compact, easy to navigate city , with great public transport , I especially liked the trams, there’s more plenty to see and do on a weekend break.

Check out http://www.goteburg.com to plan your Swedish getaway. 

Please note my stay in Gothenburg was generously provided  by Gothenburg Tourist Board, but my opinions as usual all my own.

Virgin Trains 1st Class London to Liverpool ….

I was in Euston station, for my first trip on Virgin Trains, up to Liverpool. I was excited to bag a seat up front in first class, but what’s it really like ?, is it worth it? , it was time for me to get on board & check it out.

The Lounges

  
  Euston’s first class lounge


Liverpool Lime Street first  class lounge 

On a first class ticket your entitled to lounge access , but before you get all excited, it’s nothing like the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse , much to my bitter disappointment.

To be honest it’s somewhere to grab a snack , and escape from the crowds. There’s pay bar , with free soft & hot drinks and a few snacks which were pretty thin on the ground. Limited to crisps, biscuits and some sorry looking fruit. I wouldn’t bother getting to the station early just to spend time in the lounge, but if you find yourself with time to kill before your train its worth popping in for a cuppa.

On Board

This is where the magic happens, the first class carriages  are usually grouped together at the front of the train , shut off from the rest of the train with frosted glass to keep out prying eyes.

 Plenty of room to swing a cat or two 

The first class carriage was nice and spacious , with plenty of room to stretch out. Seats are configured on a table of 4 or 2, and every seat has a power point , so perfect for keeping everything in your electronic arsenal  fully charged. Though I’m disappointed to report, the promised free wifi failed to work at all on both legs of the journey, which was a bit of a bummer.
 Table for two 

About half an hour into leaving Euston , the food & drink service started passing through the carriage. Wine & spirits are free on board , and the food choice served is dependant on the time of day . As I was travelling mid afternoon it was mainly sandwiches & salads on offer.  I had dinner plans in Liverpool , so my deli plate successfully plugged the gap til I made it to dinner .


Yay it’s the Wine Trolley

  Mid afternoon food offering
 Ain’t no party like a in seat vodka party 

Even going to the loo gave me a bit of a giggle, in typical witty Virgin style.

But Is it worth it ? 

Virgin Trains regularly run special fares, and the on board experience in first class  is definitely worth the splurge , especially during busy periods as you can pick your seat when booking, so you know exactly where you’ll be sitting.

On weekends you can pay £15 on the train to upgrade your standard ticket to an available first class seat , but there’s no free alcohol and the food is limited to a small snack box. But it’s worth it for the comfort and power socket especially on longer journeys. The seat & space are the main factors your paying for here.

Weekend food offering in first class 

With journey time to Liverpool an extremely swift 2 hours, and fares bookable up to 24 weeks in advance , starting from just £16.50 each way travelling to Liverpool, was speedy efficient, and extremely comfortable, they just need to work on getting that Wifi up and running .

Check out all their UK destinations at http://www.virgintrains.co.uk

Please note my ticket to Liverpool was generously provided by virgin trains in order to write this review. 

10 things to do with your teen  in Berlin, Germany.     

I really thought I was going to struggle, to find enough things to keep my 12 year old entertained whilst in Berlin. The plan was, that in the evening we would visit the Christmas markets, then in the day we would do family stuff. To be honest I could have easily filled another week, Berlin certainly gets the  family friendly seal of approval!!

Here our top 10 things to do in Berlin …… 

1. Learn about the Story of Berlin 
The story of Berlin, is a unique interactive museum where visitors can explore 800 years of Berlin history. In 23 themed rooms where visitors  can experience everyday life of the people of Berlin during different eras.

The highlight of the exhibition is a guided tour of an original nuclear bomb shelter from the Cold War below the museum,  which still can be used in case of an nuclear attack today.

http://www.story-of-berlin.de

Ideal for children aged 7+


2. Pop into the Natural History Museum and say hi to Tristan the T Rex 

The Museum für Naturkunde, now exhibits one of the best-preserved T Rex skeletons worldwide. The museum also holds more than 30 million items relating to zoology, palaeontology, geology and mineralogy, which are highly significant for science as well as for the history of science.

http://www.naturkundemuseum.berlin

Ideal for children aged 5+


 

 

   

3. Check out what life was like in the DDR 

The DDR Museum is located in the former governmental district of East Germany, right on the river Spree, opposite the Berlin Cathedral.

Its exhibition shows the daily life in Deutsche Demokratische Republik aka DDR. The museum prides itself in being totally “hands on” , kids will love the new interactive Berlin Wall with a chance to try virtual graffiti or belt up and drive a virtual trabant round Berlin.

http://www.ddr-museum.de

Ideal for children 7 +

 

 

 

 



4. Go all retro at the Computerspielemuseum

Computerspiele Museum is the first European museum for video and computer games, and a must see for any gamer . Containing over 300 exhibits, including rare originals, playable classics, from classic arcade games to a giant pac man. Be prepared to drag them out kicking and screaming.

http://www.computerspielemuseum.de

Ideal for gamers young & old




5. Step into the future at Game Science centre. 

The Game Science Center is an interactive Future Museum, run by a team of game developers. the exhibition presents a lineup of innovative technologies and playful projects. Where you can try out futuristic ways to interact with computers , where you can even try out controlling games with your eyes!!.

http://www.gamesciencecenter.de

Ideal for children 10 +


  

6. Strike a pose at Madame Tussaud’s 

Be whisked off into a star-studded world with interactive exhibition of fascinating waxwork figures getting up close to Hollywood stars, sporting heroes, famous figures from the past and present as well as new Star Wars figures.

http://www.madametussauds.com/berlin/de/

Ideal for children 7+


  

7. Find some animal magic at Berlin Zoo 

The Berlin Zoological Garden  is the oldest and best known zoo in Germany. Opened in 1844 it covers 35 hectares  and is located in the heart of Berlin’s Tiergarten. With about 1,500 different species and almost 20,500 animals the zoo presents the most comprehensive collection of species in the world.

http://www.zoo-berlin.de

Ideal for all children


  

    

8. Walk the Berlin Wall 

You can’t visit Berlin without a visit to the Eastside Gallery,  and check out a vital part of Berlin’s history. The wall was constructed overnight on 12 August 1961 and divided the city of Berlin until 9th November 1989.




9. Get your photo in a vintage  photomatic booth 

For €2, squeeze into the booth, close the curtain, and strike a pose and wait for your strip of black and white shots to emerge.

Two Berliners, came up with the idea of buying and restoring an old analogue photo booths in 2003. The first Photoautomat was stationed at the city’s central Rosenthaler Platz intersection , now there are machines dotted all over Berlin, a great unique souvenir.


10. Climb up to the dome of the Berlin Catherdral  

The Cathedral of Berlin is the largest church in the city, and it serves as a center for the Protestant church of Germany. The Dome walkway is reached by 270 steps (no lift ), and once you’ve made it to the top  your rewarded with a view of Museum Island, the synagogue, Gendarmenmarkt, the Reichstag. Please note unusually there is an entrance fee of 7 euros, but 3 kids go free per adult.

http://www.berlinerdom.de

Ideal for children 7+


  

10 Must have photos of Greece 

This summer I was lucky enough to Discover Greece, check out my top ten must have shots that every photographer should have for the album. 

1. The classic whitewashed street avalible on every island 

  

2. Boats it’s got to be small and greek 

  

3. Classic churches a bell tower and a blue roof are essential  

  

4. The perfect Greek Sunset  is happening everywhere not just in Oia !! 

5.   The Foodie shot a perfect summer salad, as long as it’s Greek.

 

6. The Locals fishermen,  grandmas in black ,  but it’s gotta be candid 

  

7. The Shirley Valentine under 40?  ask your mum  

    
   

8. Sweeping Skylines  head for the hills for the perfect view 

 9. Iconic History  wall  to wall history,  just there for the taking 

  
   

10 Animals  cats, dogs,  donkeys you names they just look cuter in Greece … 

   

   
 

 

Etihad Airways #A380 London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi Economy Cabin Flight Review …. 

Etihad airways A380 flight review

So after months of trying to get on an A380, I finally managed to nail one down for my flight over to Abu Dhabi .

Here’s my In flight review….


A friendly welcome from the etihad crew 

Prior to my flight I’d pored over the seat map, with all the premium seats upstairs and the whole lower deck all economy, there was definitely a touch of  them and us. The  stairway to heaven was firmly  roped off during the flight,  lest one of us commoners should manage to stumble our way upstairs for a peek.


etihad a380

This way to plane heaven ….. 

I hit the jackpot when I managed to bag seat 76k , it’s a window seat in the rear section of the plane, where the seat in front has been removed on both sides so A or K is a winner. The rear section only has 9 rows so it felt far less crowded than the front cabins,  plus you got served food & drink faster so I would definately pick the back section again.

etihad a380 economy cabin

The rear cabin 

seat 76k etihad airways a380 

Magic seat 76k , legroom for days …. 

So once I got settled in my seat , it was time to check out the in seat entertainment ….

inflight tv screen
A massive 11 inch screen with in seat power 

The inflight entertainment has piles of channels than I could hope to get thru in a 7 hour flight , there was plenty of choice from the usual latest blockbusters to a good choice of classic favourites. Plus due to the USB seat power you can keep your own devices fully charged throughout the flight. The noise cancelling headphone are pretty nifty too, complete with a nick proof adapter , I mean where is the trust these days ?. 

etihad airways in flight headphone 

Kleptomaniac proof headphones 

I also found the onboard camera fascinating, and got a bird eye view of one of the best takeoff’s, I’ve had like ever , I found the A380 unbelievably quiet and smooth on both take off and landing . 

Take off A380 style 

Food wise I was kept well fed & watered, I ordered a low calorie meal and it was delivered promptly to my seat at the start of the meal service , consisting of steamed cod and bizarrely mushy peas,  but it was tasty and hit the spot and drinks and snacks were availible on demand unlike some other cost cutting airlines who think you can sit on a flight for 10 hours with only 2 drinks services, no such problems here.

 etihad airways low calorie in flight meal
So in review, my first A380 experience was pretty amazing , it was great to watch the plane in flight on the cameras and service was prompt and efficient what more can you ask ?. As a regular visitor to the Middle East,  would definitely reccommend giving Etihad a try.

 for more info on getting on board check out http://www.etihad.com

Five Top Budapest Foodie HotSpots…. 

Budapest is one place you certainly won’t go hungry in Hungary, there’s plenty of foodie hot spots to discover both sides of Danube. Here’s my top 5 must try’s.

1. The Book Cafe ( Lotz Hall ) 

Tucked away at the back of  of the Alexandra bookshop, the book cafe, not visable from the street, you have to step inside & take the escalator to 2nd floor to find this gem. The café is decorated with beautiful chandeliers and a fresco-style ceiling, painted by German-Hungarian artist Károly Lotz. Hence the official name for the cafe is Lotz Hall. The interior makes you feel like your just about to have tea with the Queen in the renaissance style ballroom.  Serving a cup of tea to light snacks this is a foodie & interior fans must visit destination. With a piece of cake & a pot of tea a reasonable £8-10 a head and free wifi it’s a great place to take a break and gawp at your palatial surroundings. 


2. Nagy Vasarcsarnok- Central Market Hall

If your feeling peckish head straight for the first floor to the food court. Packed with vendors selling everything from an Hungarian hot dog’s  to goulash soup , if you don’t mind roughing it with the locals for some authentic Hungarian cuisine,  then this is the place for you. With cheap eats its a great place to pick up lunch on the go and they even serve beer, it’s a popular lunch spot for locals so be prepared to queue or go early.

3. Budavari Retesvar – Strudel central 

Located up in Buda’s castle district, this hole in wall strudel shop is another great cheap lunch option, in a pricy tourist hot spot. With both savoury ( spinach & cheese ) and traditional sweet fillings (cherry & apple ) it’s nothing fancy but grab one of each and your set til dinner.

   

4.  Rozsavolgyi Csoklade 

Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé is an artisan bean to bar chocolate company based in Budapest. Founded by Zsolt Szabad and Katalin Csiszar a husband and wife team in 2004, they source their cocoa beans directly from the growers in Venezuela. The chocolate slabs are moulded to look like a intricate tile and everything is excellently hand wrapped. There’s something for everyone to like from  77% dark chocolate with sesame seeds to white chocolate with matcha tea, which is coloured green but I’m told tastes divine just the same. Well worth stopping by and picking up some for posh gifts check out their shop at  Királyi Pál u. 6.

 
5. Go Traditional at Elso Pesto 

Elso Pesto is the one of the first strudel houses of Pest, five minutes from St Stephens Basilica , if its traditional Hungarian food you want in typical Hungarian surrounding this is for you.  With Goulash for starters , Ducks leg for main and Apple strudel for dessert it’s an Hungarian food fest all in one place. 
 


Visiting Sheik Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi – The etiquette  guide  

Rihanna got asked to leave mid a sultry photo shoot, whilst Selma Gomez got blasted for flashing an ankle. The Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi  is the biggest mosque in the UAE, and 3rd in the world , it’s a must see for any visitor to Abu Dhabi. Everyone  is welcome to visit, but here’s some essential information to know before your visit.

   

There is a dress code and it is riguarously enforced so it’s good to check it out what’s acceptable before your visit.   

As a woman visiting the mosque you are required to wear an abaya, no abaya no entry, it’s as simple as that, so if you not happy to comply there is really no point turning up. 
  

As soon as you arrive at the mosque,  you’ll  be directed downstairs to the dressing room. You need photo ID ( driving licence is ideal they don’t take passports ) which they will keep, until the abaya is returned. Everything  is drycleaned between lending so there’s no hygiene issues, though I would advise you to bring your own scarf to cover your head. 

 

I highly recommend arriving in time for one of the ‘behind the scenes ‘guided tours , it’s free of charge and you don’t need to pre book, you get to see a lot more of the mosque plus someone is on hand to answer questions and provide explanations. 

  

The tours are held at 10am, 11am and 5pm sunday to Thursday, on Saturdays there is an extra tour at 2pm though due to Friday prayers the mosque is not open to tourists until 4.30pm on Fridays. The meeting point is in the main lobby entrance. 

You enter the mosque via the main courtyard, be careful if your wearing sandals or flip flops, the marble floor is extremely hot and can burn your feet,  I speak after a very painful experience !!. 

 

Once you’ve made your way across the courtyard you will need to remove your shoes before entering , luckily there’s mats down to save the aforementioned burning feet. 

  

Once you get inside, unless your on the tour you just follow the ropped off path round, it takes approx 15-30 mins to check out the inside, heres a sneak peek Enjoy !!! 

   
       
For further  information check the Mosque website http://www.szgmc.gov.ae or Visit Abu Dhabi http://www.visitabudhabi.ae