THERMAL BATHS AND MIDNIGHT SUN: Summer in Reyjavik

I loved Reykjavik the first time I visited, and coming back in the summer was another great opportunity to explore. I’m already thinking of going back!

City Centre

Reykjavik has a small but vibrant city centre, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops to explore. Spend some time walking around Laugavegur (I ended up buying a coat at Icewear) or stopping at the local sights.

  • Hallgrimskirkja: This church that can be spotted across Reykjavik is a great viewpoint. Take the lift to the bell tower on a sunny day for the best views of the city centre and its colourful architecture.
  • Harpa: The famous Opera house is an attraction in itself, an impressive feature of the Reykjavik coast. Nearby is the Sun Voyager, a sculpture of a Viking ship overlooking the sea.

Nautholsvik Geothermal Beach

A bit off the city centre, this beach is popular with locals, with three heated areas for swimming, including a hot pool where you can keep warm even in the winter. Entry is free in the summer, and there are lockers to rent for a small fee. Nearby is Perlan, a museum set in within a beautiful local park.

Food and drink

  • Mama Reykjavik: A vegan restaurant in a central location with a varied selection. The famous cheesecake is delicious.
  • Gardurinn: A friendly place with a homely feel serving generous portions of a small and tasty daily menu.
  • Vegan World Peace: An Asian restaurant with a big selection of tasty dishes.
  • Chickpea: A veggie cafe serving generous portions of falafels and other sandwiches.
  • Skuli: A cool bar with an impressive selection of local and imported beers.

How to do it

We booked flights, accommodation and excursions through Icelandair, as it is simple to organise a trip through their website. It is very easy to travel around Iceland, as different travel agencies all coordinate tours with local hotels.

There are different options to choose from, but all offer similar options. Reykjavik Excursions is one of the main local providers.

We stayed at Icelandair Hotel Reykjavik Natura (slightly off the city centre, but still within walking distance). The breakfast was generous and delicious, and the spa was worth a visit (great price for about £18).

SUNNY DAYS AND DELICIOUS FOOD: Spring in Rome

This was my first European break since the start of the pandemic! As I do when I’m in Rome, I spent a lot of time trying new food and visiting some old favourites.

Garbatella, Ostiense and Testaccio

My favourite area of Rome is around Testaccio and Ostiense. This time I also spent some time exploring Garbatella, another local neighbourhood. There you will find the Mercatino Usato, a second-hand shop where you can spend hours among all sorts of antiques.

I visited some of my favourite places in the area: Andreotti for coffee and pastries, Mercato Testaccio for the amazing pizza of Casa Manco, and Fraschetta di Mastro Giorgio for a delicious dinner.

And I added a couple of new places to my list of favourites:

  • Marigold is the best place for an upscale brunch, with countless options of delicious treats (the tebirke is highly recommended)
  • Pizzeria Ostiense not only serves amazing pizza (and the best potato croquette), but it’s also an ideal place for people-watching.

Not far from Testaccio is the beautiful Giardino degli Aranci, a garden with amazing views over the city. It is next to the Buco di Roma, where you get an impressive view of St Peter’s Basilica through a keyhole.

Trastevere

Trastevere is a popular area for dining, and although I try to stay away from the places with the long queues of tourists, there are many good stops around.

  • Seu Pizza Illuminati is one of my favourites, with a long menu of unusual and consistently delicious flavours. You will need to book in advance.
  • Ivo a Trastevere was a lucky find, perfect for a break after a long walk.
  • Otaleg is a small and popular gelato shop that has a great selection of ice cream flavours.

On Sundays, the Porta Portese market takes over the streets, with countless stalls selling all sorts of mostly Chinese goods. It’s worth a visit, but you might not want to stay very long.

I also spend a lot of time walking around new and old places, as Rome is a great city to explore on foot. Around Campo di Fiori we had gelato at Marave, which has a great selection of flavours, including a signature one which is worth trying.

Terrazza des Etoiles is a hotel bar and restaurant that is also open to the public. Grab a drink with an amazing view over St Peter’s basilica, and enjoy a moment of calm away from the crowds.

BEAUTIFUL VIEWS AND VEGAN FOOD: 3 days in Bristol

We decided to go to Bristol for a city break. The city is hilly but easy to explore on foot. There is plenty to see and do just by walking around and exploring.

Harbourside is a good area to visit. There are plenty of bars and restaurants around, or you can spend some time wandering around M Shed, a museum about Bristol (and the current location of the Colston statue that was taken down by protesters).

Clifton is another good place to explore. The area where the famous bridge is located is full of nice cafes and restaurants. The bridge itself is set in a picturesque location, and it’s definitely worth a visit.

Banksy is from Bristol and you can see some of his artwork around the city. This site has maps and locations. There is also great street art by other artists all over the city.

FOOD:

Bristol has lots of veggie and vegan places, and pretty much every restaurant clearly advertises vegan options.

  • Koocha Mezze Bar: a persian-inpired vegan place with an amazing selection of unique mezze. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for £44.
  • Cafe Kino: a vegan cooperative with a good selection of food. Breakfast for two for £23.
  • Left Handed Giant: A microbrewery and bar in a picturesque setting by the river.
  • Om Burger: A vegan buger place with large portions and delicious food. Burgers for £10-12, fries for £4.
  • Eden Cafe: A cozy vegan cafe serving a great selection of healthy dishes. A generous brunch for two for £33.
  • Canteen: a bar with a fully veggie menu (the tempeh wings were amazing).
  • Oowee: a vegan burger place with big portions and plenty of yummy options. The lunchtime deal costs £8.50, or a large burger with a side and drink for £13-15.
  • Emmeline: A beautiful cafe in Stokes Croft with plenty of veggie and vegan options. Breakfast for two for £13.

GO:

There are many different areas in Bristol. We stayed in this Airbnb in Stokes Croft, an area full of street art with plenty of cool bars and restaurants.

Bristol is 1h30 by train from London Paddington Station.

ROOFTOP SWIMMING AND VEGAN CAFES: three days in relaxing Bath

We decided to go to Bath for a few days to enjoy the end of the British summer. I hadn’t been to Bath in many years, so it was a good time for a visit.

The picturesque city centre is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and it’s nice to just walk around and explore, stopping at Bath Abbey and the Crescent, going for a walk by the river for views of Pulteney Bridge or having coffee at one of the many cafés.

Bath is famous for its thermal water. Thermae Bath Spa is a popular spa with two large thermal pools, including a rooftop one with views over the historical centre. Entry, on a first come first served basis, costs £37 on weekdays for two hours.

FOOD:

  • Oak: a great place for a special meal, serving mostly vegan dishes. Dinner for two including drinks, dessert and tip for £65
  • Green Rocket: a vegan café just a few minutes away from the station, with a great selection of delicious food. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for £30
  • Cascara: a small vegan café with a nice selection of sandwiches. Lunch for two for £22
  • Indian Temptation: a vegetarian Indian restaurant overlooking Bath Abbey. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for £40
  • Thaikhun: a Thai place with plenty of vegan options. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for £36
  • Fudge Kitchen: a small shop with a good selection of fudge flavours, always including a vegan option. We had the chocolate one which was delicious. A generous slab for £5.50

HOW TO DO IT:

Bath is only 1h30 from London, and trains leave Paddington station every hour or so. Advance return tickets for £40. The city centre is easily covered on foot.

VEGAN BURGERS AND DUTCH MASTERPIECES: A rainy weekend in Amsterdam

We decided to go to Amsterdam for an easy weekend away by taking the Eurostar. We know the city well, so we mostly spent our time trying some of the many vegan places around.

  • De Hallen: This is a nice place to visit on a cold day. There are local shops, a food court, cinema and a street market. It’s a popular place to visit for local and tourists.
  • Rijksmuseum: to escape the rain we visited the Rijksmuseum, which has a great collection. The Gallery of Honour hosts many major Dutch masterpieces. Tickets for €20.
  • Tony’s Chocolonely: this popular chocolate brand has a superstore in the city centre where you can try all the different flavours, including limited editions.
  • Vegan Junk Food Bar: this popular place had been on my list for a while, and it did not disappoint. They have a great selection of burgers, loaded fries and more, and everything we had was great. We even came back the next day. A small feast for two for €46.
  • Juice Brothers: a good place for breakfast with a delicious selection of smoothies and bowls. An açai bowl for €9.50.
  • Go: To go from London to Amsterdam by Eurostar it takes 4h40 and it’s an easy and comfortable option. The way back requires a change in Brussels, but direct trains will be available from late April.

VEGAN FOOD AND BEAUTIFUL SCENERY: A winter break in Paris

We visited Paris for a relaxing weekend. We’ve been to Paris many times before, so we mostly spent time walking around and checking out vegan restaurants.

  • Hank Burger: this is an old favourite so we wanted to visit it again. They have a nice selection of vegan burgers and they are all delicious. Two burgers, sides and drinks for €27.
  • Hank Pizza: from the same people of Hank Burger, this vegan pizza place offers a selection of delicious pizza by the slice. A meal of two slices, salad and a drink for €13.
  • La Palanche d’Aulac: a vegan place with a good selection of Vietnamese starters and mains. Friendly service and generous portions. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for €38.
  • Cloud Cakes: this vegan café has a popular brunch on the weekends. A plentiful selection for two to share for €26. The lattes are delicious.

Musee d’Orsay: I hadn’t been to Musee d’Orsay in many years. It’s a good option for a cold day, and when we visited it wasn’t too busy. Buy tickets online to skip the queue for €15.40.

Stay: we stayed at Exe Panorama which is conveniently located very close to Gare du Nord. A good option if you’re taking the Eurostar.

2019 TRAVELLING: The year in review

I started this blog back in 2013 to document my European trips. In 2019 my husband and I finished our long-term plan of visiting every European country!

And of course there were also plenty of other adventures, as my work took me to many unexpected places.

  • In March we drank the good wine in Moldova.
  • Then I headed to Lebanon, where I got the chance to explore a little bit of Beirut.
  • In April we ate all the vegan food in Copenhagen and had a day trip to Malmo.
  • In May I discovered the beautiful Wroclaw and all its gnomes.
  • Later in May I ate all the good food in my favourite area of Rome.
  • In June we has fun exploring Plovdiv and Sofia in Bulgaria.
  • In August I had the unique opportunity to visit Afghanistan for work.
  • In September we finally did it! We completed our European adventure by visiting an amazing country, Georgia.
  • In October I went back to Kosovo, this time for work.

Another great year of many adventures!

In 2020 I’m planning to explore some of Asia and go back to my favourite country (Japan). Where will 2020 take you?

SUNNY DAYS AND OLD FAVOURITES: Christmas in Rome

This was my second Christmas in Rome. It’s a good place to visit this time of the year as there is plenty to do (including on Christmas Day itself) and the weather is very mild.

The main attractions are closed on Christmas day, but in the city centre there is plenty to do. It was a sunny day so we went for a picnic at Villa Borghese where plenty of families and tourists were enjoying a nice day out.

Attractions off the beaten track:

I know Rome well, so I prefer to avoid the crowds and check out some new sights.

  • Galleria Sciarra: a beautifully decorated building that not many tourists know about. A nice place to escape the crowds in central Rome.
  • Centrale Montemartini: This museum in an old powerhouse has an impressive collection of sculptures in a modern space. Tickets for €11.
  • I visited Palazzo Quirinale, which was hosting an exhibition about the volcanic eruptions of Pompeii and Santorini. It is a beautiful space and a nice place to check out for something different. Tickets €15 (or €8 at lunchtime during the week).

Food:

I always have a long list of food places to visit when I’m in Rome.

  • I went to explore some of my favourite places in Testaccio and Ostiense. We went to Pasticceria Andreotti for coffee, stopped for pizza at Casa Manco in Testaccio Market and finished with desert at Pasticceria Barberini.
  • Seu Pizza Illuminati: this place has been on my list for a couple of years, but it was definitely worth the wait. They serve a mix of traditional and unusual pizzas, as well as a good selection of starters and deserts. Highly recommended. Dinner for two including drinks, dessert and tip for €50. Booking essential.
  • Necci: Pigneto is an up-and-coming neighbourhood, famous for its cool cafés and shops. When we visited most things were closed for the holidays, but the popular Necci was open, so we stopped there for coffee. Two coffees and a cake for €8.80.
  • La Forchetta: a local restaurant in Prati serving a good selection of traditional Italian food. Dinner for two including drinks, dessert and tip for €52.
  • Guttilla: a gelato place serving a delicious selection of flavours (a cup for €2.20).
  • Cresci: a nice local bar with a good selection of tapas and plenty of other options. Dinner for two including drinks and tip for €30.

STREET FOOD AND PAINTED FACES: Day of the Dead in Merida

We knew we wanted to experience Day of the Dead in Mexico, and Merida is the best place for it in Yucatán. There are events throughout the week, but the highlight is the Paseo de las Animas, a parade which starts at the cemetery and finishes at the city centre.

The parade itself is not huge, but the whole town becomes a huge festival where you can see decorated altars, eat lots of local street food and get your face painted. It’s an amazing experience and although there are plenty of tourists it’s still mostly locals enjoying themselves and kids running around in traditional costumes.

During the week there are plenty of other activities. We saw a display of Pok-a-Tok, the traditional Mayan ballgame.

Merida is a beautiful city with colourful architecture and a traditional centre full of nice cafés and restaurants. The historic town centre is a lively region with plenty of places to explore. Merida is a big city but there is a relaxed vibe.

Paseo de Montejo is another interesting area: a beautiful boulevard with impressive mansions and upmarket shops.

Food:

  • Organico bar & cocina: a cool café serving a varied selection of veggie dishes made with local ingredients. Highly recommended. Brunch for two including drinks and tip for $270.
  • Sorbeteria Colón: a traditional ice cream parlour serving a range of seasonal flavours. One flavour for $45.
  • Casa Savia Vegana: a vegan restaurant with friendly service offering a limited but delicious selection of local flavours. Lunch for two including drinks and tip for $250.
  • Tacos Ne: this vegan taco truck is very popular. They serve six options of tacos (all delicious) which your top up with different garnishes. A simple and yummy experience. Tacos for $15.

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Stay: we stayed at Hotel Montejo which is well-located in a beautiful building.
  • Go: we took the ADO bus from Valladolid, which took about 2h15. Merida is well-connected with other places in the region.

10 tips on visiting every European country when you work full-time

I have recently completed my long-term goal of visiting every single European country. Many people ask me how I’ve done it while working full-time. Here are my tips:

1. Good planning is important

I do all my travel planning on a spreadsheet – I realise this is not necessarily the most fun way to do it, but it makes life easy when you’re planning multiple trips at the same time. I keep a list of where I want to go, how many days I plan to stay there and how many holiday days I will need to use.

2. Save your holiday allowance as much as possible

In the UK we have pretty good holiday allowance, but if you’re travelling pretty much every month (that is what I did for a while), you will need to keep track of your holidays. This means making good use of bank holidays and planning ahead to get good prices even at busy times.

3. Get an early flight

One way to use as little holiday days as possible in your travels is to book flights late in the evening or early in the morning. You can leave work on a Friday straight to the airport and come back to work on Monday morning from Poland, France, and many other places. The downside is that these trips can be quite tiring, as waking up at 4am in Latvia then going to work in London is not the most relaxing commute!

4. Visit the capital cities

Different places have different things to offer, but in general capital cities are the gateway to a country, particularly where you don’t have a large tourism industry. I’m an urban soul, so that worked well for me.

5. Always book ahead

Most of my European trips were weekends or long weekends, which meant that it was usually best to book flights as soon as I decided on a date for a trip. For hotels you don’t need to book as early, but particularly in big cities it might be worth doing that to ensure that you can choose the perfect location.

6. Follow a system

Besides my travel spreadsheet, I also have a standard packing list and a general routine that I follow when I’m travelling. This means that I don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about logistics every time that I’m travelling.

7. Enjoy the challenge

Travelling is amazing, but not everyone likes planning trips, packing, and other holiday preparation. When you’re going to 50-odd countries though, it’s much better to enjoy the whole process! This also helps when you get towards the end and start planning trips to more inaccessible places.

8. Visit multiple countries in a single trip

We visited Finland and Estonia in one trip and the Balkans in two trips covering multiple countries. Smaller countries are easy to visit as a longer trip, and you get to see many different places at once. Just make sure to research the border crossings in advance (for example, you can’t travel from Kosovo into Serbia).

9. Bring a buddy

I love travelling by myself, but going through this amazing adventure with my husband was even better! On a more practical level, travelling with someone else is always cheaper.

10. It’s all about having fun!

Even though I have visited every European country, I also travelled to many countries I’d visited before in the same period. I wasn’t trying to complete a challenge as quickly as possible. I did it because it was fun: I like going to new places, so every new trip was an opportunity to discover somewhere different!