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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11 Amazing, Free ways to Experience Prague

6 Reasons Why you should Road Trip

11 Amazing, Free ways to Experience Prague

Prague is a city filled with history. Just walking through the city you can see and feel the past all around you. There are many things you can do and see for free and still get some of the best experiences in the city.

1. Walk the Royal Route

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The Royal Route is a must! It will take you by the most important historical sights in Prague. Start at the end of the route (the Prague Castle) and work your way to its beginning at Prašná Brána (Powder Tower). This way you start at the top of the hill and walk down, rather than constantly up.

Come back to read more about the Royal Route!

2. Astronomical clock

If you have walked the Royal Route, you have definitely seen the Astronomical Clock. However, it is definitely worth visiting again. The clock was installed in 1410, making it the third oldest astronomical clock in the world. Make sure you are there on the hour to see the animated figures that appear as the bell rings, the four figures on the sides represent vanity, greed, death and lust. Each hour, you can also see the Apostles in the small windows. Prepare for hundreds of people showing up each hour to see this!

*Unfortunately, the astronomical clock is currently under construction, so you won’t be able to see it right now.

3. John Lennon Wall

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The Lennon Wall is in the Lesser Quarter and it is filled with graffiti. This wall has been used as a way to bring up social grievances since the 1980s, when students used it against the communist regime. The wall still represents love and peace, and every time you visit it, it is different!

4. Petřín

Petřín is a great place to walk up to. The lookout tower is paid (150kc), but the area is beautiful even if you don’t want to climb up the tower. There are many views of the castle from different parts of the park and the gardens are gorgeous in the spring and summer, usually filled with various roses. At the Petřín hill you can also see the Hunger Wall, which is a long defensive wall built in the 14th century by Charles IV. At the time there was a large famine and the emperor wanted to give poor people jobs and food. The workers received enough food for their families as well.

A good way to get up to Petřín is either by walking up through the gardens or you can take a funicular up or down the hill, with any public transportation ticket.

5. Náplavka 

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Náplavka is a great place to go for a walk along the Vltava river. The best way to get there is to take the tram to Jiráskovo náměstí, where you can also see the Dancing House. Then you can take the stairs down to the riverbank.You can walk along the water and enjoy a gorgeous view of the Castle. You can sit on the edge and dangle your feet above the water (beware of the swans, they can get a little territorial). Along the way you can stop on a boat for a beer or some wine, there are many choices for refreshments. On Saturdays you can also enjoy a farmer’s market on the riverbank.

6. Riegrovy Sady

Riegrovy Sady is a city park close to Wenceslas Square and the main train station. It is a great place to sit and enjoy the view of Prague and the Prague Castle. It used to be a vineyard, but that no longer exists. There are different restaurants and pubs around the park that you can stop at for some refreshments.

7. Metronome

You can either walk to the Metronome from the bottom or from the park side. If you are coming from Old Town, you can cross Čechův most and walk up the stairs to it. At the top, you will be rewarded with a view of Prague and of the Castle. Then you can continue to walk around Letná park. You can also do the opposite if you don’t want to walk up the stairs. The metronome was built in 1991 after a giant Stalin Monument was taken down.

8. Get lost in Malá Strana

Malá Strana or the Lesser Quarter, is absolutely gorgeous. There are many tiny streets and alleys that take to some of the most beautiful locations. For this activity, leave the map at the hotel and just walk around! Take a few turns down cobbled streets, enjoy the 18th century architecture and get lost in the time period. It will be easy to see why Prague is used to represent so many historical cities in movies. This part of the city hasn’t changed much in centuries. There are many small cafes and restaurants that you can pop into for either some food, coffee or beer.

9. Sunrise over the Charles BridgeIMG_0058

Whether you are out all night, enjoying the Prague nightlife, or you are willing to get up early, go to the Charles Bridge for the sunrise. It is never as empty as it is at 5 in the morning, so you can enjoy the view with the minimum amount of tourists. The sun rises from behind the castle, illuminating the city in the most stunning light. This is the perfect time to take pictures!

10. Stromovka

Stromovka is a large park that was originally used as a Royal Game Reserve. It is a beautiful place to sit down for a picnic or just enjoy a little bit of nature in the center of a city. You can walk to the planetarium or even walk to the Prague Zoo from Stromovka (both have entrance fees). As you walk through the park you can come across some of the older buildings, including a small summer palace that was built when the park served as a game reserve.

11. Divoká Šárka

If you are looking for a larger escape from the city, Divoká Šárka is a protected park that has a large gorge named after a female warrior, Šárka. It is a great place to leave the city behind and go for a hike through the nature reserve. There are multiple trails that can take you to either amazing views from the top or to the lake below. You can swim in the lake to cool down after your hike and if you fall in love with the area, you can even set up camp (for a small fee).

There are many other sights in Prague that you can see for free and more experiences! So just take a walk through the city and get to know the city up close.

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Japan

Tokyo adventures: Disneyland

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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Japan

Kyoto

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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Los Angeles -> San Francisco Road Trip

  Los Angeles: Three month adventure

 

Los Angeles -> San Francisco Road Trip

Los Angeles -> San Francisco Road Trip

One weekend me and my friends decided to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco, spend one night there and drive back the next day. It was absolutely amazing trip, even though not everything went quite as planned. We found out google lied to us, but we were ok with it. We did so much in these two days, to really take advantage of where we were. Here’s a couple of things we did and what we learned.

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First, we decided to take the PCH and the 101 up. So we drove right along the coast from Santa Monica, to Malibu and Oxnard. Unsurprisingly we were the only people driving up the coast after the “monster storm” that came to LA the day before. And even though it was still raining a little, the view was absolutely amazing and worth it. We had fallen in love with Malibu in the few weeks we have been here, so we enjoyed driving through the town again. The coast is gorgeous and I definitely recommend taking the Pacific Coast Highway for at least this part of the trip.

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Right before we hit Oxnard, we hit a very rural part of California, which actually surprised us. Lots of farms that spanned forever. In Oxnard we got a little lost. We turned off the GPS and assumed we would just continue going straight and we would hit the PCH headed north again. Well, we were wrong. Somehow we ended up heading east through more fields and driving through orange groves. It was gorgeous and worth the extra time. But eventually we turned the GPS back on, now to get on the 101 heading towards Santa Barbara.

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As we drove down the 101 we were constantly in awe. The landscape was surprising to us. We drove through mountains, hills, on cliffs along the coast. It took us a little over 3 hours to get from West Hollywood to Santa Barbara, so the perfect time to stop for a break and some food. Quick suggestion: a small cafe called The Shop Cafe. Amazing brunch food and you get the food pretty quickly, making it a great stop on a long trip. Also the food is AMAZING!

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We hopped back onto the 101 heading north. I don’t know what I imagined the Californian countryside to look like, but I was surprised. The rolling, velvety hills just kept going as we drove north. It was beautiful. Eventually vineyards started popping up and the highway straightened and flattened. At this point we hit a bit of a rough patch. The trip was getting long, we had already driven for 6 hours out of the expected 6.5 and according to Google Maps we had another 3 hours to go. So we ate a lot of snacks and stopped at a rest stop in San Miguel, a really cute town. What also woke us up was a small patch of forest with lots of pine trees, something you would find in the North East.

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After 9 hours, around 4:30pm, we finally hit San Francisco. We parked the car ($45 overnight parking), checked into our hotel, Union Square Plaza Hotel. After 9 hours in the car, we decided to walk to Fisherman’s Wharf. So up, over the hill and down Powell street we went. And when we reached our destination, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset. We walked along the Wharf popping into different stores. Most importantly we bought a bunch of saltwater taffy, something I have never tried. So worth it, it was amazing! They had many flavours, anything you could think of, from cherry to sangria to pina colada!

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We walked down the road to Ghirardelli Square and started looking for a place to eat dinner. By chance we walked by The Pub BBQ and decided to share a bunch of appetizers and it was an amazing choice. The food was great paired with their drinks, so I definitely recommend! For dessert we went to Ghirardelli and got their famous hot fudge sundaes and sea salt caramel hot chocolate. And it was the best hot chocolate and sundae I have ever had! I will definitely have dreams about them.

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The best part of the trip came next. I finally took the cable car in San Francisco from Fisherman’s Wharf to Market Street! So worth the $7 ticket! It was too cold to hang on to the side of the car, but I will definitely do it in the future! This time we enjoyed the heated cabin.

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The next day we went to one of my favorite brunch places, Honey Honey Cafe and Creperie. Such delicious food and countless options! Just in the line we all changed our mind about what to get three times. One of the reason I like this place so much, other than the food, is that no matter how busy they get, you never feel like they are pressuring you to leave.

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After brunch we found the Painted Ladies, which is a must in San Francisco. They are gorgeous and I would move in, if I could! Naturally, the Fuller House house was next! Another house and neighborhood I loved. So we drove around a little and looked at more houses.

 

Golden Gate Bridge was next. We drove over it, in pouring rain. You could barely see the bridge as we drove over it, but that didn’t matter. We still had the experience and it was great. We drove to Sausalito, which is the most adorable town! There, we stopped for lunch at The Spinnaker, which was quite fancy, but totally worth it. Though the view from the restaurant was non-existent when we got there, soon it stopped raining and the fog cleared up, so we were rewarded with an amazing view of San Francisco! This, of course, meant that when we drove back over the bridge, the experience was even better! The view was beautiful, so we decided to drive through the Presidio, stop for a little and get a few pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge from there.

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After that, it was time to get back onto the highway and head home. We took the I-5 this time, since google promised a shorter amount of time.  Since we drove in the evening and at night, we couldn’t enjoy the view as much. But before it got dark, we got a quick look at Dublin and Pleasanton, where we stopped for gas before the long journey home. They were both really cute towns surrounded by great country. IMG_3904

We ended up getting back to LA at around 11:30pm and decided to get milkshakes as a reward and as a nice cherry on top of the road trip. Mel’s Drive-In was the perfect way to end the road trip, their milkshakes were so delicious as were their fries.


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Los Angeles: Three month adventure

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