Category Archives: Art

Dallas Museum of Art

Free art museum in Dallas Texas

While perusing my Texas guide book, I came across the Dallas Museum of Art. It’s located close to St Paul station on the DART train and the added bonus is it’s free to enter.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art

I didn’t really know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. There are quite a lot of rooms, some are very small exhibitions and others are significantly larger. I was impressed by the array of art – from paintings to jewellery and bowls to books. I was also impressed by how global the art was. I saw the works of some very well known artists including Monet, Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art-Monet Dallas-Museum-of-Art-frida-kahlo

This was a really nice couple of hours of looking around at various and eclectic art. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something chilled out to do in Dallas centre.

Dallas-Museum-of-Art-japan

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Filed under Americas, Art, Other, Texas, Travel

Heart of Hollywood tour – London O2

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A friend took me to see the Heart of Hollywood that is currently on tour in London until 17th July.  It’s part of a world tour that will cover 60 cities.  I didn’t know what to expect, but it was pretty awesome!  It is a collection of memorabilia from Hollywood, including the original letter ‘H’ from the Hollywood sign, iconic art and some original costumes from movies including Superman.

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The highlight was definitely the one-hour dancing and singing outdoor performance at dusk as the sun set over London.  The performers were really amazing and it was such a lively and eclectic selection of songs.

This was a really awesome and ‘different’ thing to do in London.  It’s located in North Greenwich by the O2 arena so there is easy access and plenty of restaurants nearby.  You can find out more and buy tickets here:

https://www.theo2.co.uk/events/detail/the-heart-of-hollywood-tour

http://www.heartofhollywoodtour.com

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Visiting Amsterdam

I went to Amsterdam a number of years ago and I always intended to go back.  I was glad when the opportunity came up to go again with a few friends.

Airport to city

It was quite simple to get into the city from Amsterdam airport.  We took a €6 train into Centraal, then took a taxi to our accommodation, which cost about €35 in total.  The other option would be to take the tram from Centraal that costs about €3 per person.

Stayed in Airbnb

For this trip, we decided to stay in an Airbnb property.  There were four of us travelling for four nights, so we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment close to the centre.  It was great to have a kitchen, dining table and shared living room for us to hang out in.

Things to do

So much to do in Amsterdam!

Canal ride

High on the to-do list was a canal tour.  Amsterdam has loads of pretty and picturesque canals, so we joined the Blue Boat Canal Cruise for €18.  We were able to buy tickets on the day.  It lasts about 75 minutes and everyone got headphones to listen to the pre-recorded tour information in their chosen language.  It was also fully covered and heated, so no need to worry about the weather.

Rijks Museum

As we purchased our tickets for the Rijks Museum from the canal cruise company, we got to pay €15 rather than the usual €17.50 per ticket.  I was really impressed with this museum, there was such a huge range of things to see – from Rembrandt paintings to pocket snuff boxes!

 

Walking tour

I’m a big fan of the Sandemans free walking tours.  I booked us spots for a morning tour that started near the Royal Palace.  It was a good way to check out the city on foot and learn about Amsterdam’s history.  We covered the National Monument, the red light district, Anne Frank’s house and more.  As with all of these free tours, you leave a tip at the end for your guide – however much you feel is reasonable.

Anne Frank’s House

I’d already visited Anne Frank’s house on my last trip.  My friends hadn’t been before, but unfortunately they weren’t able to get tickets!  Tickets were temporarily available online only at that time, and it was already fully booked.  If you’re interested in going, definitely look into booking tickets online as soon as you can.

Places to eat

Food in Amsterdam was really amazing.  There’s a lot of Asian influences and international food is available everywhere.  Here are some of my favourite places that we went to.

Food Hall – Vietnamese

Luckily this Food Hall was just around the corner from where we were staying.  There was a lot of variety in the food available.  I went for the Vietnamese noodles, which was really tasty.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Asian Kitchen

This is a very low key cafe style restaurant with great food and even greater food portions!  It was on the cheap and cheerful side, and we were all satisfied with our meal. There was a flower market just across the road too, which we investigated after lunch.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Blauwe Hollander

This restaurant was recommended to us by our Airbnb contact for actual Dutch food, since we were enjoying so much Asian food!  It’s a nice restaurant near the central area.  Turns out Dutch food is quite hearty!  My pea and bacon soup was really nice and we all had some version of ‘stamppot’ that includes mashed potato and meat.  It was really good.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

De Vier bakery

I’m really sad I didn’t make it to this restaurant because it looks amazing.  Fortunately, my friend did bring me some Dutch pancakes (poffertjes) with Nutella and strawberries for me to eat.  They were so yummy.  Dutch pancakes are like little mini pancakes, that are delicious with Nutella!  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Pancake Bakery

This was a recommendation from the tour guide, and I have to say it was a disappointment after the De Vier pancakes.  The restaurant itself is small and cosy, the disappointment was that the ‘chocolate sauce’ was not Nutella.  It was some generic dark chocolate sauce, which just didn’t taste as good!  I’d recommend the De Vier bakery if you get a choice, unless you don’t care for Nutella.  Here is the Trip advisor page.

Holiday conclusion

I had a really great time in Amsterdam.  There’s something very chilled out about it, people are very friendly, it’s easy to get around by tram and the food is great.  In fact, I think I’ll go back again one day.

 

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A trip to the Tate Modern #London


It’s always a pleasure to visit the Tate Modern, especially on a sunny London day with a viewing level!


I must admit that I didn’t really pay attention to the artists’ names, I just like to wander around and see what catches my eye, like this money tree:


There was a great range of different art works, plenty to keep me occupied for a few hours!

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SPAIN: Al Hambra, Granada and Malaga

January 2015

It was on my mind to take my mum to see the Alhambra one day – having seen an offer on flights to Malaga on Ryanair I decided to book it in.  Fortunately I had been to Granada before, which gave me the confidence to co-ordinate the trip.

THURSDAY

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon at Malaga airport.  I had booked coach tickets to Granada with Alsa coaches:

http://www.alsa.es/en/

There was a bit of a wait between the flight landing and the coach arriving, we sat down and had something to eat and drink in the airport.  The coach took about 2.5 hours to arrive at Granada bus station, and from there it was about 10 euros by taxi to the hotel.  We stayed for two nights at the NH Collection Victoria hotel:

http://www.nh-collection.com/es/hotel/nh-collection-granada-victoria

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g187441-d584434-Reviews-NH_Collection_Granada_Victoria-Granada_Province_of_Granada_Andalucia.html

This is a really nice hotel and very reasonably priced for its good location.  We had a look around at some shops that evening (open til late!) and found a street that had a number of restaurants.  We decided to try the set menu at Nuevo Restaurant:

http://www.nuevorestaurante.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187441-d1221572-Reviews-Nuevo_Restaurante-Granada_Province_of_Granada_Andalucia.html

I wasn’t too impressed with this place.  It looks nice, but it didn’t feel very authentic, the service wasn’t great, and the food wasn’t really great.  My mum was happy though!  She enjoyed her fish and the restaurant, I think I expected something that in my mind is more ‘Spanish’.  At least it wasn’t an expensive disappointing meal!

FRIDAY

We pottered around locally in the morning, past the shops and around the cathedral.  There were a lot of market style shops and we had lunch at a Spanish restaurant with Moroccan staff.

The Alhambra

I had booked tickets in advance for the Alhambra on Friday, as I heard it is often fully booked:

http://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/buyalhambratickets.asp 

http://www.ticketmaster.es/nav/landings/en/mucho_mas/entradas_alhambra/index.html 

There is a morning (8h30 – 14h) and afternoon option (14h – 18h), I booked the afternoon option and selected a time to visit the Nasrid Palace.  It came to 15.40 euros per person.  The hotel had directed us to take a bus to the Alhambra which cost less than two euros.  This is definitely advisable – it’s quite a long and steep journey upwards, I would have no idea which way to go on foot.  Also, the local bus is much cheaper than the ‘tourist’ bus.

We were able to pick up the tickets from the main ticket office, and they wouldn’t let us enter until 2pm as we arrived a bit early.  Once we did get in, it was beautiful.  Very grand, spacious and well kept.  There was so much to see!  And there is a lot of walking – through gardens, buildings and on stairs!

We stayed for about 2.5 hours.  We easily could have stayed longer, but being January it was surprisingly cold and my mum had a bit of a cold, so we decided not to cover every inch before heading back.  The Nasrid palace was really lovely, I’m glad we took the option to view all areas – since you’re in the hood you might as well!

We took the bus back down to the bottom and visited some of the shops on the way back to the hotel.  I was absolutely thrilled to find a big Sephora store for makeup – these are plentiful in the US but sadly they don’t exist in the UK.  And I also love shopping in Zara while in Spain.

For dinner that evening, we tried to track down a restaurant that a taxi driver had recommended to us, and failed.  We ended up back on the same street as the evening before but in a different restaurant.  This one had a bit more of a pubby feel and there were lots of Spaniards dining there too – always a good sign.  We ordered a fried fish platter, mainly for my mum’s benefit, which was huge and very good.  They also gave us a tapa of fish with our drinks – I was pretty fished out by the end.  That’s already my annual fish quota fulfilled!

We ambled back to our hotel after dinner.

SATURDAY

The plan for this day was to head back to Malaga for the night, as we had an early flight on Sunday morning.  I’d booked the coach for around 1 pm, so we checked out at midday from the hotel and bought some snacks from the local bakery.  It was easy to get a taxi to the bus station, and there is a lot of indoor seating at the bus station.  The coach ride back was smooth with lovely views.  We got off at the airport stop, and took a taxi to our next hotel, which came to about 25 euros.

http://www.tryphotels.com/en/tryp-guadalmar-hotel-malaga-spain.html

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g187438-d228654-Reviews-Tryp_Guadalmar-Malaga_Costa_del_Sol_Province_of_Malaga_Andalucia.html 

I’d stayed at the Tryp at Berlin previously, so was looking forward to staying at the Tryp Guadalmar hotel in Malaga.  It is a pleasant hotel with nice staff, our room had such a beautiful view of the sea from our balcony.  We were right next to the beach.

After a little walk along the relatively short patch of beach, we headed in to town.  The good news was the bus stop was just outside the hotel (line 5).  The bad news was that it only came once every 30 minutes, and it also took about 30 minutes to get into town!  This is not so bad when you’re on holiday and the agenda is to relax and take your time about things.

My highlight, sadly, was the TACO BELL when we got to the bus stop!  This isn’t saying anything bad about Malaga town – I just happen to really like Taco Bell and it doesn’t seem to exist in England.

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187438-d6229818-Reviews-Taco_Bell-Malaga_Costa_del_Sol_Province_of_Malaga_Andalucia.html

So after a taco stop, we went for a walk along the pier.  It’s very pretty and lively.

It was getting dark so we decided to head towards the return bus and had something to eat around there.  I don’t remember the name of the place, but it was across the road from the bus stop where we arrived, which happened to be the same stop for taking the return bus too.  Nice and easy…

This was not an especially memorable meal.  We sat outside on the street next to the busy road, there were a lot of smokers on the tables nearby, and the food was just not that great.  It was bland and probably heated up in the microwave.  I’m so pleased that my mum was not being a fussy eater, she was happy with her slightly soggy fried fish.  Thanks for being cool mum!!

Towards the end of our meal, we spotted a line 5 bus but weren’t in a position to leave, so decided to wait a little before heading back, since they were every 30 minutes.  Or as we found out the hard way… they were even more sporadic as it got later.  **TIP – check the return bus times when you arrive at the bus stop ** I do wish I’d checked this earlier, but it wasn’t the end of the world, we had a walk around as the next bus was about 50 minutes after the last one.  We walked along and found a street full of shops and lovely decorations.

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We did get back for the next bus, which was then another 30 minutes back to the hotel.  The return bus stop is a couple of minutes away from the hotel – easy if you know the way.  Luckily a lovely Spanish woman pointed out how to get back.

SUNDAY

We had a very early flight back on the Sunday.  We had checked with the hotel who told us that there were usually taxis outside the hotel at all times, and sure enough there was a taxi waiting at the ungodly hour we were up.  It cost about 20 euros to get to the airport – all smooth sailing from there back to London Stansted.

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Lots of culture in Rome – Italy

October 2014

Italy had been on my to-do list for a very long time.

A school friend and I decided to make the trip this year, which was awesome, until we started to think about WHERE in Italy we would go to. Rome was top of my list, I forgot that she hates cities, and hence lives in the countryside in France.

We compromised on that holiday and went to La Rochelle together (August), which was a lovely trip, and also another story!

After the La Rochelle trip, I still felt the need to go to Italy, and for my travel plans not to be foiled because it didn’t work out with someone else – so I booked a trip on my own!

I admit, I was secretly hoping that one of my friends would decide to join me at the time of booking.  At the same time, I was mentally preparing myself for travelling alone.  My biggest question of course – how does one eat dinner alone!?  However, after meeting a couple of cool travelers in Berlin (September) I was really looking forward to having some me-time and doing as I please on holiday!

SATURDAY

I arrived on a Saturday afternoon at Ciampino airport and took the Terravision coach to Termini station (affordable and easy).  From there, I took the Metro towards my hotel.

Hotel – Best Western Hotel President

This was a very nice hotel about a minute from Manzoni Metro stop.

http://www.hotelpresident.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g187791-d203094-Reviews-BEST_WESTERN_Hotel_President-Rome_Lazio.html

Dinner at the local pizza place – MISTAKE!

I decided to wander out and find some local grub.  There weren’t too many restaurants, and I wandered into a little deli style pizza place and eyed up some delicious looking aubergine pizza.  The guy working there was Bengali, we had a little chat and I grabbed a couple of slices and a little bottle of prosecco (prosecco to was down my pizza!) and headed back to the hotel room… where I discovered the base of this pizza was pretty burnt!  Probably not authentic Italian pizza… however, it wasn’t all burnt and the topping of aubergine and cheese (mozzarella?) and the herby tomato sauce was really good.  And I still enjoyed my fine pizza with prosecco dinner.

Pub crawl

Inspired by the cool people I met in Berlin who were travelling alone and went out to a pub crawl, I decided to do the same thing.

http://www.pubcrawlrome.com/

This was a cool organised night out which started with an open bar.  I got talking to quite a few people and spent a lot of the evening with a couple of lovely Australian girls.  Ended up partying until the wee hours…

SUNDAY

I missed the tour that started at nine, as I was dead to the world.  I dragged myself out of bed to get to a tour by midday… and there was no one at the meeting point.  I hung around for 15 minutes before having a leisurely walk back to the hotel.  Luckily this was a very nice walk past the Colosseum and some other fab buildings – I can’t tell you what they were!  There was also a little street market taking place.

I emailed the tour company, who said the tour guide thought the complete group was there so left and I must have just missed them.  I was definitely there AT 12 though… grrrr.  At least it got me out of bed and exploring Rome!  And they did refund the booking fee I had paid.

 

Lunch at the local pasta place – MISTAKE!

Close to my hotel, I passed a little cafe style restaurant that looked tempting….  I had a seat and ordered a salmon pasta dish with the Chinese waiter.  The pasta dish looked nothing like the glorious picture, and it tasted like crap.  I’m not an especially fussy eater, but I was really tempted to walk out.  I didn’t though, I picked at my food and left soon after.

Lesson was finally learned – find a restaurant run by Italian people!!!

Tour

http://www.newromefreetour.com/

I joined a free tour in the late afternoon led by an Italian guy.  He was obviously very passionate about architecture.  He kept talking about Bernini and Boromini very emphatically, I found myself switching off on the info but enjoying walking around and looking at the awesome buildings and picturesque scenery.  We went into a church which was AMAZING.  I have dabbled with painting – it is time-consuming and hard to get something realistic.  The beauty and skill was so impressive…  We also visited the Trevi Fountain which was under construction at the time, and a whole bunch of other beautiful places.  A good tour overall.

 

MONDAY

Vatican Tour

I joined a Vatican tour at 10 am:
http://www.romefreewalkingtour.com/
FYI the meeting point ‘the large column, looking at the Spanish steps on your right’ is referring to the circular column outside the Spanish Embassy, not the big pointy thing at the top of the Spanish steps.

I really enjoyed this tour, passed a lot of beautiful places.  We went to the Pantheon – I didn’t realise that’s what it was when I went past it during the tour the day before, which made me realise how much I’d switched off during that!  The tour guide was very engaging and provided good information.  Very handily this ends near the Vatican itself so you’re lined up for the next thing to do.

Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel – buy tickets online in advance!!!

Fortunately a work friend had recommended that I book the tickets online and I’m so glad I did.  I must have walked past at least three hours worth of people queuing around the block – and this was only midday on a Monday!  Seriously, book them:
http://biglietteriamusei.vatican.va/musei/tickets/do?action=booking&codiceTipoVisita=26&step=2

 

Hotel – Palazzo Montemartini

I decided to treat myself to a 5* hotel for my last night and I was so excited about this one.  This hotel is AMAZING.  I loved everything about it.  Especially the beautiful spa with pool, jacuzzi and sauna.  I spent nearly two hours chilling out, which was great after all the walking I’d done.   My room was awesome, very modern.

http://www.ragostahotels.com/eng/palazzo_montemartini/home.htm?_ga=1.25332349.1387856999.1414168793

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g187791-d3932268-Reviews-Palazzo_Montemartini-Rome_Lazio.html

Dinner

I met up with the two Australian girls at the Spanish steps, after popping in to Sephora, which I was thrilled to find as it doesn’t exist in London.  We headed to a restaurant that the first tour guide had recommended to us.  Apparently on the ‘pricey’ end, but actually very affordable.  I had the spaghetti with anchovy in butter sauce, and it was delicious.

After that we headed to Giolitti’s for gelato:

http://www.giolitti.it/

Very yummy and generous servings!!  There was no elegant way of consuming a melting gelato on the street…

After dessert, we went back to the hotel for a drink at the bar, which was very classy and pleasant.  I had a great cocktail, freshly made and very fruity.  It was lovely to hang out at this beautiful hotel.  It’s also just a couple of minutes away from Termini station so it was easy for my friends to get a taxi back to their place.

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