A week in Avoriaz

With so many places to discover, it’s always tempting to go somewhere new and spend a vacation exploring unknown locations. This winter, though, we both felt the need to relax and take a break, so we returned to Avoriaz, the same place we went to last winter.

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Last year we were here during the first week of January and had no snow. This year, we went during the last week of March and it couldn’t be more different. There was about a meter and a half of snow on the ground when we got here, which meant that what used to be the ground floor was now below street level and stairs needed to be carved out of snow and ice to get to hotel and restaurant entrances. That alone created a completely different town from the one we were in last year.

Getting there/getting around

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Avoriaz is a town that’s high up in the French Alps. The best way to get there is to fly to Geneva and take an airport transfer to Avoriaz. Or, you can rent a car, but we really wouldn’t recommend that. Once you get to Avoriaz, a car is pretty much useless. Cars aren’t allowed into town, so your transfer will drop you off at a central parking location and it’s up to you to make your way from there. You can either rent a small sled for your luggage or hire a horse-drawn sleigh (which is also the primary mode of transfer in town).

During your stay, you can easily ski through the whole town, hire a sleigh or just walk. There’s plenty of places to go and explore on foot, so you definitely won’t be missing your car.

What to eat

While there, we recommend taking advantage of the variety of cheese dishes available. Most food is fairly simple, but delicious. You can’t leave without trying tartiflette –  potatoes with bacon and Reblochon cheese. Also, give galettes a try – thin buckwheat crepes with all sorts of toppings from Nutella to various cheeses and hams.

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Of course, you can’t miss out on the variety of baguettes, pastries and wines. There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and stores to choose from.

What to do

During the winter, most people come here to ski or snowboard. Avoriaz is high in the mountains, so it’s pretty much guaranteed to have snow all season long. But even if you don’t ski, there are plenty of things to do.

There are plenty of hiking trails to take even in winter. Our biggest hike was walking down the mountain (and then back up). There are trails specifically dedicated to hikers, so you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a skier. We ended up making it halfway to Morzine, when the threat of an impending storm made us turn around and go back up (the second half of the hike was a lot less fun than the first).

Speaking of Morzine, the picturesque town at the foot of the mountain deserves a day trip. You can take the Prodains Express cable car down the mountain and a free ski bus will take you into town. You can spend a few hours exploring, shopping and discovering more local restaurants and bars.

In addition to that, Avoriaz offers a lot of bars, restaurants, a bowling alley, a movie theater and activities. You can go sledding, snowshoeing, night sledding,  mountain biking (yes, even in winter) or visit Aquariaz, the local park.

Overall, we had a great and relaxing week and we hope to get to come back again and do more. Avoriaz is always full of things to do, but you can also have some quiet time to relax, if that’s what you’re after.


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Tokyo adventures: Disneyland

Tokyo adventures: Disneyland

While we were in Tokyo, we couldn’t resist spending a day at Tokyo Disneyland. We just can’t resist a good theme park. Our bodies had given up on any sense of time, so waking up early to make our way through Tokyo rush hour traffic (wouldn’t recommend it to my worst enemy) and make it to Disney for opening time.

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Getting there:
The trip there is easy – we took the Keiyo line from Tokyo station to the Maihama stop. You can see the part from the train and it’s a quick 10 minute walk from the station. We didn’t have our tickets ahead of time, so we first had to go through security and then to buy our tickets. Since we were there early, all of these procedures were pretty quick. When we left, we took the same route back. We already had the Tokyo subway system semi figured out, so it was pretty straightforward and we managed even without wifi.

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The Park:
We were there in early October, so the park was beautifully decorated in Halloween style. I definitely recommend paying it a visit this time of year. Also, considering the time of year, it was hot all day, so by the end of the day I sported a not so cute sunburn. So even if you think you won’t need it, bring sunscreen.
First things first, Pav downloaded an unofficial app, estimating the wait times at different attractions. Since they don’t have wifi in the park, we brought the pocket wifi from our Airbnb. In combination with the park map, we were set.

            1st tip: If you have pocket wifi, bring it with you.

 

The Attractions:IMG_7757
There are quite a few attractions in Tokyo Disneyland that are everywhere – Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight and Alice’s Tea Party. Most of these are similar to other Disney parks that we’ve visited.

The Haunted Mansion was transformed into a Nightmare Before Christmas theme and it was completely different from the usual way the ride looks. Again, totally worth visiting at this time of year.

Pirates of the Caribbean was themed around Dead Men Tell No Tales and was one of the less popular rides at the park. That just meant that we went on it whenever we needed a relief from the heat outside and to take a break.

Unfortunately (lucky for Pav, who doesn’t like the ride too much), It’s a Small World was closed for repairs, so we weren’t able to go on it. We also visited a lot of other Disney staples: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Star Tours.

 

Pooh’s Hunny Hunt:
This ride is unique to Tokyo Disney. We were a little on the fence as to whether we should go on it or not (let’s face it, it doesn’t sound too great), but the fact that it had a 2+ hour wait almost the entire day convinced us that it might be worth it. Eventually, during the main parade of the evening, the wait was under an hour, so we slipped away from the crowd to go check it out.
The ride itself is definitely worth the wait. Its premise is that Pooh ate too much honey and suffers a psychedelic dream. It functions completely differently from all other rides at the park, so it’s an absolutely different experience.

            2nd tip: Even if it might be against your better judgment, go on Pooh’s Honey Hunt.

Final Thoughts:
We were happy that we spent a day at the Tokyo Disney and it was a great experience. The one problem we ran into was the language barrier – the story based rides were all in Japanese, so it was a problem. But again, if you know Disney, you’ll be fine. Other than that, the usual Disney tips apply: comfortable shoes, plan your day and take advantage of Fast Passes.

If you’re a fan of Disney Parks, you shouldn’t miss this one.

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Travel Tips: Japan

This October, we were lucky enough to go to Japan again. And this time, we went together. So, we’ve compiled a list of tips for you, if you’re planning a trip to Japan.IMG_1256

  1. Always have cash on you. Foreign currency ATMs are hard to come by and you’re never sure a vendor will accept your debit card.
  2. Download Google Translate (and Japanese) before you go. It’ll be a lifesaver.
  3. If your hotel or Airbnb offer pocket wifi, go for it! And bring an external battery to recharge. Wifi hotspots are almost as hard to find as foreign currency ATMs.
  4. Get a JR pass. They’re flexible and will let you take as many trips as you want. Plus, trains are a lot more convenient than cars.
  5. Plan, plan, plan. Know where you are and where you want to go. It can sometimes get overwhelming in Tokyo and places don’t always have convenient connections to where you need to go.
  6. Don’t be afraid of street vendors and tiny restaurants. Some of the best places we’ve been to seat less than 10 people.
  7. Bring comfortable shoes and don’t forget nice socks. Chances are, you’ll be taking your shoes off multiple times a day, be it in restaurants, temples or other places.
  8. Shinkansen trains leave on the dot. If you’re late, you have to get on the next one. Luckily, they go fairly often.IMG_1259

Exploring Japan is amazing and we definitely recommend visiting. As everywhere, being polite takes you a long way and you’ll always get great treatment. Enjoy your trip!


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Our ski-less winter holiday in Avoriaz

Our ski-less winter holiday in Avoriaz

This winter, Pav and I hit a few travel milestones and some travel firsts (somewhat unexpected). We had originally planned a family ski holiday in Avoriaz, France, which didn’t quite pan out as we imagined it. First, it was just the two of us without the rest of the family and, second, we had no snow to actually ski on. Which made for quite an interesting holiday.

We arrived in Avoriaz on Dec 31st, 2017 definitely ready to greet 2017 with a big hug. We got there around 4 PM after quite a few delays due to freezing fog, which was present across all airports we visited (we flew Prague-Brussels-Geneva). As we were driving towards Avoriaz our transfer driver suddenly pointed to a cliff and said “Up there is where you’re staying.” My first thought was that I’m glad I’m not afraid of heights.

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Immediately after got dropped off and checked in (which took all of 10 minutes), we put our suitcases into our room and decided to go explore. We put on our fleeces (yes, it was too warm for our ski jackets in the mountains) and went outside.

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We immediately got a stunning view of the valley below us, the sunset and the town. Our mission was simple – find a place to ring in 2017. After a couple attempts at finding a restaurant, I finally spoke to the owner of a small pizzeria and he told us to come at 7PM. Not a minute later or he wouldn’t seat us. With that, we turned to go back to the hotel to get ready for our big night out.

That night, we had tartiflette and some sort of potatoes with cheese and assorted hams, saw the fireworks (by complete accident we ended up being right across from them when they happened) and made friends with a couple of the local bartenders. Everyone we met that night made sure to warn us not to ski due to the terrible conditions of ice and artificial snow, so we decided to heed their warnings and reconsider the skiing in the morning.

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We welcomed 2017 with all the glory it deserves, so we ended up spending January 1st in our hotel. In the evening, we took a short walk up to the top of our nearest slope to see what the snow conditions were for ourselves. There was plenty of artificial snow, but we still decided to wait.

Instead we spent the following days hiking, going to the water park, visiting Morzine and doing other mountain activities. Keep your eyes open for more articles, which will come soon!


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Flying with Finnair

When I decided to go to Japan, the biggest concern was getting tickets for the correct dates, price and availability. Seeing as I was buying these tickets less than two days before my intended departure, availability was key and we chose Finnair. It’s also the shortest route from Prague to Osaka, with 2 hours or so from Prague to Helsinki and then 9 hours from Helsinki to Osaka with a brief 3 hour layover.

IMG_6949Pre-Flight

Pre-flight procedures here are pretty standard. You get a reminder e-mail 24 hours ahead of time and you can check in, nothing to remark on. Everything worked as it should have and I was on my way!

Flight

To be honest, it wasn’t one of my favorite flights, the seats are rather small and the place has a cramped feel to it. My return flight was significantly better, as I had two seats to myself and was able to be a little more comfortable. The best part was that the cabin temperature was pretty near perfect and I wasn’t freezing, as is sometimes the case.

Food

Food was decent, although on the way to Japan I didn’t eat much. On the way back, it was significantly better and we even got ice cream half way through the flight! You get a small bottle of water when you walk on the plane, so bonus points for that, even though it’s not enough for the long haul flight. On the short flight, you have a selection of food and drinks that you can purchase. On the other hand, service was great and always helpful.IMG_1193

TIP! Once you’re past security, bring a bottle of water for your long haul flight. I was pretty dehydrated on the way there so I did this when coming back and felt a lot better.

In-flight Entertainment

I was lucky because I travelled there and back in different months, so the movies and tv shows were slightly different. Overall, there’s a decent selection of movies and shows and I wasn’t bored, even though I hardly slept. One tip for you – you get free earphones, but I recommend that you bring your own, along with a converter to the two prong outlet for sound that airplanes have.

Overall, this was a very convenient way to get from A to B with the shortest possible travel time and best departure and arrival times. And for that alone, I would fly with them again. On the way there I was a little surprised, but on the way back I figured out what I need to do to make my flight more comfortable and it definitely was!