Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Saturday, 25 February 2012
Wherever you go, accommodation is usually one of the most important things that need to be arranged. Usually it pays off to make your reservations ahead of time or at least check out your options.
This is also true when travelling to large cities, especially in top season. London is no different and since this year it is the place of Summer Olympics, you should plan ahead if you wish to get a good accommodation for an acceptable price. The best ones are usually the first to fill up.
Luckily in cities like London there are a number of options to choose from. The best choice usually depends on the available budget and purpose of visit. However there are three things one should always keep in mind regardless the nature of visit: location, location and... location.
First and most usual option are many hotels and hostels you can choose from. In London you can stay in a budget hotel or hostel (a single bed in a large dormitory can be found for as low as £10 per night) or you can choose one of many luxury hotels, where you can easily spend thousands of pounds per night.
Another option worth considering is Couchsurfing. As a member of the Couchsurfing community you can sleep on another member's couch for free. This might be quite a gamble but on the other hand you can also get lucky and have a great time meeting some extra friendly people, that might also let you have a taste of the local scene with them.
If you are looking for a way to meet local people, this might just be the thing for you. It is however more suitable for people travelling alone - it is obviously harder to find someone ready to welcome a group of five friends in his apartment for a week, compared to a lonely traveler.
There are also agencies offering a thing in between the two options above. That's right - you can live in a luxury of a high end hotel and yet live like a local. They offer the chance to stay in private homes for the length of your visit.
onefinestay is a popular example of such an agency specialized in London area.
You can get yourself a really luxurious place for an affordable price. The service is called "the unhotel" - imagine the best hotel service without the marble lobby. They give you the chance to stay in someone's place while they're out of town. A chance to live someone's life for a few days and nights while the agency provides all the things you may need.
From the photos on their website it definitely looks worth checking out. However I have yet to try this thing out myself to see how it really works.
These vacation rentals from onefinestay are certainly worth considering if you are looking for an alternative to a hotel when in Central London.
If none of the options above seems like your cup of tea, you can do what I did during my last trip to London - stay at a friend's place. There are many reasons to go for this last option, but usually there are also some downsides to it.
In my case it meant ignoring the advice I emphasized above - I couldn't choose the location of my accommodation. This meant I had to sit on a train from Uxbridge to central London and back every day of my stay.
I didn't mind it - I got time to make plans on the train every morning... and I got to see Uxbridge. Not many London visitors can say the same!
Tuesday, 21 February 2012
I am back from Italy again! A week in the Italian Dolomites shot by way too fast again (like every time before). This year we had a little bit of sunshine, a bit of snowfall and lots of cold - freezing cold actually.
All week long we were listening to almost apocalyptic news on Italian TV programs. It was all about the Costa Concordia disaster and weather problems throughout the country. Titles like "Italia blocata" were all too common. Actually we got quite lucky with the weather. Dolomites were a part of Italy with surprisingly the nicest weather for all week long.
Also those reports were usually quite exaggerated. By my standards anyway... Italians seem to do this a lot. For instance there was about 2 centimeters (1 inch) of snow in Rome and reports of total chaos were aired on the evening news.
I agree any snowfall is quite unusual in those parts and it can lead to substantial traffic problems, but a couple centimeters of snow during the night is no end of the world in my book. Me being from a place where snow is quite an usual sight every winter also didn't help me understand the "catastrophic proportions" of events.
All of that did not influence our skiing enthusiasm. Despite of a couple of days of snowing and being pretty cold all the time, everything was fine. Mostly it was around -10°C (that is 14°F) or colder.
A few days were really beautiful and sunny but cold nonetheless. Mostly we were skiing in the Civetta ski area. Only for one day we decided to try out some new slopes and drove to Kronplatz, which is supposedly the most modern of the Dolomiti ski areas. That is probably true - almost all of the lifts are new cabins - some even with heated seats. All that is unfortunately a strong magnet for the crowds. Kronplatz gets pretty crowded throughout the whole season.
I did about 50 kilometers (31 miles) of skiing per day - for six days in a row. I must admit there were quite a few warming-up stops every day in many of those charming mountain huts placed just next to the slopes. Mostly they are made of wood - roof tiles and gutters included, and fit into the surroundings perfectly. In some cases you could actually ski directly up to a bar and order something to help you warm up.
All that together with the breathtaking views of the Dolomites can make you quickly forget the cold and simply enjoy every moment of the experience.
Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Once you see some places they are simply impossible to forget. Venice is definitely one of them.
It is strange how a small thing can trigger memories of such places. The last time this happened to me was just a few weeks ago in a skiing resort deep in Italian Dolomites.
In my case it was a "Tronchetto Pizza" listed in a menu at a cute local trattoria/pizzeria. For those of you who don't know Venice all that well - Tronchetto is an artificial island in the Venetian lagoon and often a starting point for visitors to the city.
The pizza was actually shaped like a gondola and as delicious as it should be. Unfortunately I am not sure this is evident from the above photo. I guess you will just have to take my word for it.
The pizza brought back a lot of memories also because now is the most popular time to visit the city of Venice. It is Carnival time!
It actually officially started just a few days ago. This year (2012) it is scheduled to last from 11th to 21st of February so you can still make it if you hurry up.
I have published some useful advice for first time visitors on this blog before. If you are not interested in a good advice there are also some great photos (like the one above) worth checking out.
You can take a look at When to visit Venice, a post about Traditional Venetian masks, tips on how to do a cheap photo trip to Venice or simply click on the Venice label in the right column to check out everything I posted on this topic before.
Comments are more then welcome!
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
The photo was taken at a charming traditional inn in Italian Dolomites (Trattoria Mezzo Canale Da Ninetta). Post-processing was done using an Android mobile application. I hope you like it!