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

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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Japan

Kyoto

6 Reasons Why you should Road Trip

6 Reasons Why you should Road Trip

Everything right now is about doing things faster, sometimes this includes travel. Everybody tries to find the fastest ways to get to a place and that can mean that you miss out on great experiences! Here is why you should talk the extra hours and drive to your destinations if it is at all possible:

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  1. Things to see and things to do! When you fly, you only see your destination. If you drive to your destination, you can stop in different places and see so many other sights. If you drive through the US, you can see multiple landmarks, instead of just the one you are heading towards. If you drive through different countries you can experiences many different cultures!IMG_5147 2
  2. Food! You have so many more opportunities to try different foods. If you drive through multiple countries on your road trip, you can try food that is native to this country. I found some of the best places when I just did a quick google search of what’s near me. Not to mention all the junk food you can enjoy, because everyone needs fun snacks! 
  3. Spending time with your friends. When you spend hours in the car you get much closer with your friends. You tend to look at your phone less and actually talk to each other. Not to mention all the adorable photos you can take together! Hopefully you won’t get into any fights, otherwise the journey will be really long.
  4. Music. When is the last time you truly listened to music without scrolling through your phone or reading the newest headlines? There is nothing like blasting music with your windows down while driving down an endless road. You can belt out the lyrics and no one will care what you sound like! So make sure to create a fire playlist before setting out on the journey!
  5. Bring more things with you! Whether this is a short trip or a long one, everyone hates weight limits when flying, when you drive there is no weight limit, just a space limit. If you are a good packer this means you can bring LOTS of stuff!
  6. Learn about more cultures. This is even true if you are road tripping through the same country. Each state in the USA has its own culture, you will definitely meet completely different people in California than in a cafe in Boston. If you are driving through different countries, then there is absolutely no doubt that you will come across many diverse cultures.IMG_3637.JPG

Hope this helps you slow down a little and enjoy your trip! There are many benefits to taking your time and driving around while you head to your destination.

 


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