Slovakia Day 3

Hello!

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How was everyone’s week end? The rain has come back for us unfortunately but I’m sure some of you can still enjoy the warmth of sunshine.

There is one more place in Slovakia that I want to share here, Banska Stiavnica, a mining town in the mountains, a good two hours drive from Pezinok. It was a very sunny day, very warm, perfect for a day hike, but we were too lazy to do so… There are quite a few hiking paths that you can take though. We only went to the little chapel on top of the hill, had a stroll in the village, enjoyed a lovely meal in the sun, went all the way up to the castle and later drove to one of the lakes a little further.

We rented one of this little ‘cycling boat’, very… handmade if there is such a thing! We had fun, until we noticed that little thing on the water, decided to chase it till we realized it was a snake. Snake that went out of sight thill it reapared right under us… One last ice cream before we go and that’s one successful day!

I am starting my new job tomorrow, finally embracing the normal life of a full time office worker. I am trying to be strong, but wish me luck will you?

Cheers!

M.

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Nothing can bring you peace but yourself

Hello Friday!

I’ve enjoyed my first day of freedom today, as I’m done working at the shop. I will be moving on to a new job on Tuesday, job that is just about everything I’ve never wanted for myself… But it is a job and that is all that matters, a new beggining sort of, and that will give me some time to think about how I really want to play my life from now on…

So I left you last week with Tangariro National Park, and I hope you enjoyed the post because really, I can’t say it enough, it is one of those places you want to see at least once before you die.

From National Park, we took a bus to Turangi, then another one to reach Wellington. It is quite a long way, it goes up and down the moutains, most times it is winding, some others it’s plain boring. Tipical New Zealand landscapes, I remember I was looking through the windows at the green hills covered with whites dots (aka sheeps) and I told myself ‘here it is, New Zealand, I want to remember that very bus ride, because it is everything I love about that country’.

I went twice to Wellington, both times only for the sake of taking the InterIslander to the other side… In December with Mom, we chose the very night of the World Premiere of the Hobbit to stay for the night, and I mention that because we had the biggest troubles finding a room… We finally found one at Nomad’s, the first and only time I stayed in a Nomad’s hostel, and they very nicely agreed to give us the very last double room for $115 (FYI, a double room at Nomad’s will never exceed $70). In the end, it was a very nice room, we had a lovely sleep but I would advise you never to approach the kitchen! I also tried Rosemere Backpackers, which was among Lonely Planet’s best hostels, but I wasn’t too impressed with it. First, it’s on top of a hill, try to get there carrying your backpack. Second, it is right outside of the free wifi zone (Wellington is a free wifi zone – don’t laugh, those who have traveled NZ will know how to cherish that info). Third, it was very noisy. What I liked was that it used to be a brothel, and that they painted everything purple and green inside. Oh, and free breakfast.

I found Wellington so amazing I regretted not to have had enough time to settle therefor a few months, take one more waitressing job and just enjoy myself for some time… The city is full of surprises, lots of shops and amazing cafes, restaurants and ice cream shops. My favorite part was the wharf, where we had the most amazing ice cream in NZ, at Kaffe Eis.

I really haven’t spent enough time in Wellington to say anymore about it, but here are some photos that will I hope make you want to take the trouble to stay a little longer than I did.

Cheers!

M.

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Slovakia Day 2

Hello!

Bratislava

Bratislava

From Pezinok, we took a train to Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital city FYI, which is about 20 minutes of travelling. It was a lovely hot summer day and thank god I had my very own travelling guide with me, or I wouldn’t have a clue how to get there… Slovak is a very odd language, at least that’s how it seems to me, and I can’t even understand a single word.

_IGP9916Anyway, Bratislava! What is there to see? First, the old city. Paved streets, old buildings, restaurants and pubs, the average city life! I found it very lively, lots of people out and about, tourists etc. On the architecture side, that’s when you know you are in the eastern block… I’m so sure Bratislava could be among the most beautiful capital cities of Europe if they were putting a minimum of efforts into it. Lots and lots of old buildings that just need a bit of restoration instead being completly abandonned. It is such a waste if you want to know, but I do understand that given the state of their finances it isn’t their priorities..Then, the castle. Remember when you were kids, and you had that phase where you’d be drawing castle all day long? Well, Bratislava’s castle to me, is the perfect incarnation of a kid drawing! There is a superb view from there, all the way to the Austrian wind farms.

We had lunch at the Slovak Pub, a very tipical restaurant where each room represent a particular era of their history, or something part of their history. We sat in the Janosik room, their most famous character… He is sort of Robinhood if you want, taking from the rich to give to the poor… Wikipedia calls it a ‘highway man’. Really?? Does anyone know what a highway man is?? My point, we took their special ‘halusky’ plate, which feature the three traditional dish of Slovakia. My favorite was the one in the middle, the halsuky filled with their very special sheep cheese (see photo below).

Anyway, my favorite part of the city was of course the fake beach they created on the Danube river banks. There is an area where you can confortably sit in the shade to read or sleep, there is an open air library, a pub with a pool, some sand and music, and a view on the castle. We spent all afternoon there, taking the sun and chatting.

There is a spot on top of the hill where you’ll have a great view on the city, I cannot remember the name but it is where they have their memorial of the soldiers killed during the war. It takes energy to climb up there, but it is a very quiet place to watch the sunset.

Of course the city holds some museums and other that sites of the sort, but being such a warm day we chose to keep outdoors. I have a very good memory of Bratislava, one of the most peaceful capital city I’ve had the chance to visit.

Cheers!

M.

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One of the president’s houses

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The old city

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Bratislava’s castle

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Halusky at the Slovak Pub

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The UFO

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Soldier’s memorial

I have been homesick for you since we met

Happy Sunday!

Tangariro's eruption

Tangariro’s eruption

Today feels like the first day of spring: finally we see the sky and the sun after weeks of cold and grey. It is supposed to last all week, with a peak of 26°C no less on wednesday, so fingers’ crossed!

I’ve been quite busy Friday and Saturday which is why I have missed my weekly date with NZ, but here it is. Today, we have reached, Tangariro National Park. It was most definitly our absolute must see of NZ. I have told before the story (here) of our ‘issues’ to actually get to the park so I will not get back to it.

So what’s to know about Tangariro? Well, it is THE place for all Lords of the Rings nerds, yes, I am of course talking about Mt Doom! You wouldn’t believe how many people told me they took the hike all the way up just to have the immense satisfaction of throwing their own ring into Mt Doom… The Tangariro crossing is among the most amazing tracks that NZ beholds, through three volcanoes.I had heard so many travellers as I crossed NZ raving about it, for being a place outside of this earth, I had come to the point where I was convinced I would somehow be disappointed.

Want to know what I really felt about it? It probably was the best day of my life! It was a beautiful sunny day, not too hot not too cold, and it was just plain BEAUTY. If you have the chance, you must take the trouble to go even for just a day walk. We took the walk starting from Whakapapa village (pronounced FAkapapa), I would say it is around 16-17km, and it took us nearly 7 hours (we are not at all hikers, it is an easy one, don’t be scared). You go all the way to the lower Tamar lake, then the serious climbing begins. It is very steep, and if you think the way up is hard, wait till you have to take that same way down… The view on Mt Doom (I’m sorry but I really cannot spell its real name) with the Upper Tamar lake is just way worth the trouble! On our way back we took the track that goes to the Taranaki falls, where we enjoyed a lovely picnic.

Absolut success of a day!

In terms of accomodation, both times I stayed in National Park Village. We first went to Le Plateau Lodge and until we got to Picton, it was our favorite hostel. It looks like a moutain chalet, has a hot tub, a giant flat screen TV in the lounge, a fully equiped kitchen and clean, individual bathrooms. That’s where we shared a room with sort of a weird English girl, who told us how she used to own a pet care shop, sold it to flee her ‘abusive’ uncle (that sort of things you really don’t want to know especially when it is from a stranger you have not a care in the world for) and how she was ‘thinking’ of Jason Statham every night before she fell asleep because ‘he is the hottest man on the planet’.

The second time, don’t ask me why I did not book Le Plateau again, we went to Howard’s Lodge. That place will always behold the memory of G. dropping on me his C. bomb, but I clearly remember the place how I seen it the first time: cute, neat and cosy. We watched all three Lord of the Rings movies with Mom, of course we did, and FYI, the owner of the lodge has played one of the Orcs in the Two Towers 😉

I hope you enjoy these photos, they aren’t giving any justice to the place really, even though I find them ‘picture perfect’.

Cheers,

M.

The long white cloud from the car

The long white cloud from the car

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Mt Doom

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Yes, we are climbing that

Yes, we are climbing that

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Lower Tamar Lake

Lower Tamar Lake

Climbed that too

Climbed that too

That's Mt Taranaki in the distance

That’s Mt Taranaki in the distance

And climbed all the way there too

And climbed all the way there too

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Upper Tamar Lake

Upper Tamar Lake

The Taranaki falls

The Taranaki falls

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Slovakia Day 1

Hello!

Probably you all have heard at least once in your life about Slovakia… But little do we usually know about the country itself. I must confess here that all I knew about it was that it was in Europe. That’s in Salamanca that I met my friend N., in an Erasmus exchange just like I was, the loveliest girl I had met in a great many years.

It’s only when she invited to come and visit her that I did a bit of research, and knowing that it was part of the Union and even using the Euro, I jumped on a bus and met her in Bratislava. I couldn’t believe it when I realized the bus ride was going to be 24 hours, so I finally took a map and Slovakia is definitly a long way! I chose Eurolines as there was a bus from my city to Bratislava. I do appreciate the low cost that is Eurolines but I’ve always hated it as a transportation mean. I don’t know, there is always something very confusing about it. Probably the drivers being unable to speak English or any kind of language that most travellers can understand makes it always such a struggle and a worry not to hop on the wrong bus.

On my way to Slovakia, we had hungarian bus drivers speaking only hungarian, with a very old bus. That is one other thing I hate about Eurolines, you never know what sort of bus you are going to get. Some of them are brand new, free wifi and individual TVs, others are so old, very uncorfortable and way too small for the crowd they take in. We only stopped 3 times in 24hours – my bladder still remembers – and got stuck at the border with Germany for more than half an hour. Whatever happens to the ‘there are no borders in Europe?’

Anyway, it was well worth the trip, for Slovakia is a little hidden gem of Europe. I found life there very much simpler, very natural. My friend lives in Pezinok, around 20 minutes from Bratislava, a small city near the mountains, full of orchards, barking dogs and vineyards. My friend’s life is a lot of time with friends, the whole family in the neighborhood, walking the dog around the block and enjoying the sun in her backyard pool. I was welcomed in a very warm manner by everyone I met, everyone seemed so proud that a French girl would come and visit their small country when I felt like the lucky one having the chance to discover them! Everyone tried a bit of their English, which I really appreciated because boy! what a language! Everyone was interested to see what words I learnt and what I thought of their country! I have missed it for sure, it hit me straight in my face as soon as I found myself in France again, the grumpy mood of everyone around.

Here is a few photos of Pezinok to start with, there will be two more posts about Slovakia and one about Vienna to come in the next few days.

Cheers!

M.

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Cafe latte!

Cafe latte!

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Winery

Winery

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Someday it’s gonna make sense

Hello!

I must make a confession before I start raving about NZ again… My WHV in NZ ended yesterday and I don’t know how to pull myself together anymore when the thought comes to my mind. Taking the decision to come home, to let go of my dream to please my family, wasting 8 months of a precious NZ visa to be here, in dirty old Europe, I must have been mad. There I said it. Nothing else will be said on the matter.

Today, we are talking about Taupo. I went to Taupo for the first time in autumn, then again at the beginning of summer. So, what’s to see in Taupo? Well, the ‘craters of the moon‘, a site of naturel hot sources and the Huka Falls. Steam is rising from the ground in a very wild and green environment. You are not on the moon, but you are definitly not on earth either! We took a shuttle to go to the crater, took the walk which takes approximately 45 minutes, then walk all the way down to the city… Which is a looooong way!! When we did it with Mom, we dreamt of a cold cider for about 2 hours as we were walking trying to reach the city center. Oh that cold bottle of cider we would enjoy on the balcony… I ran to the store first thing when I reach the hostel room, no matter the pain in my feet and the need for a cold shower. And then, the big drama:

‘Sorry Miss, no ID no alcohol’

‘But, this is my driving license… It says it, right here, I am TWENTY FOUR’

‘Sorry, these are the rules… No ID no alcohol’

‘This is not alcohol, this is cider’

‘Miss, get the fuck out’

And yes, we cried. BUT, we gathered all the strength left in us, we took our purses and headed to the center, found a lovely pub on the esplanade and had a yummy cold cider with the sunset on Tangariro. REWARDED.

The first time I stayed in Taupo, we chose the Urban Retreat hostel. I have a good memory of it, even though the dorms were crowded and very small with no plugs at all. There is sort of a pub inside where we watched the rugby, enjoying the Chili con Carne prepared by the hostel cook…

With my mother, we stayed at Blackcurrant Backpackers, in a two people private room. Please, PLEASE if you go to Taupo, you must stay there. It is a wonderful hostel, with a lovely little backyard. The room was simply huge, the kitchen is so clean and they also have a DVD room that looks more like a cinema. It is the best value for money I’ve had in the North Island. Do I need to add the owner is super nice and it is completly quiet?? Supermarket is 2 minutes away? Just go!

  • Autumn:

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  • Early summer:

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Have a good week end everyone!

Cheers,

M.