Tag Archives: #lonelyplanet

Wieliczka Salt Mine Tour

If you were to tell me before we started this trip that I’d be going to visit a salt mine, I may have laughed. That would be because in Australia when I think about salt mines, I picture a stark salt pan. Therefore, when we were looking for another tour to do in Krakow we wanted something less emotionally draining than the Auschwitz and Birkenau tour we did the day before. The Krakville tour operator suggested for us to go to the Wieliczka Salt Mine. So, after a bit of umming and ahhing we decided why not?

Urban Adventure Tours

The Wieliczka Salt Mine was listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1978 and consists of 300kms of tunnels. The mine has been in operation since the 13th Century (that’s an old mine) and is open for visitors daily from 07:30 a.m to 07:30 p.m. The mine can be visited without a tour group, but you may have a long wait depending on the number of visitors and tour groups.

The tour starts mid-morning and our meeting point for the start of the tour is the Krakville office building in the Old Town Krakow. Once again, we are given identification stickers to ensure we aren’t separated from our group. This straight away tells us that the mine is busy. We all climb into mini vans and are driven approximately half an hour to the town of Wieliczka.

Auschwitz and Birkenau
The small office of the Krakville Tour Company in the Old Town

It’s not long before we are at the mine and climb the steps to the mines entrance. On arrival it is raining, but that hasn’t stopped the crowds from showing up. There is a large number of tour group already here and a fair contingent of lone travellers negotiating the throng of people. The mine has some additional souvenir shops and a cafe outside if you must wait for a while.

The waiting crowds have some shops to buy food before entering the Wieliczka Salt Mine
An outdoor shop at the Wieliczka Salt Mine

After a short wait, we are guided past the crowds and into the mine. We are given radio receivers so that we can hear the guide as she explains the enormity of the mine. First, we descend down 350 steps to the entry-level of the mine. Like a column staircase you’d find in a hundred-floor building we descend down and down. It is quite a work out and if you make the mistake and go to fast down, you can get quite dizzy.

Staircase in Wieliczka Salt Mine
Some of the flights of stairs going down, but these aren’t the first 350 steps.

At the bottom of the stairs the guide checks to make sure we are all alive after the workout and explains the ground rules of the tour. Like don’t wander off, as there are so many tunnels, therefore getting lost is quite easy.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
One of the many places of worship in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

As we walk through the tunnels we encounter open chambers within the mine providing a visual aid about the construction and operation of the mine. In total there are 20 chambers available to be visited. The guide explains that the workers would construct churches, halls, theatres and specific carvings as they were down in the mine for large amounts of time.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
The story of the Hungarian Princess and the lost ring.
Wieliczka Salt Mine
The main hall is hired out for special occasions.

We walk through various places of worship and are shown some of the incredible wall fresco’s etched by the workers. Photos are allowed to be taken at a small additional cost and there are photo permit places along the route. The mine also has an underground souvenir store and a large restaurant and cafeteria area.

Wieliczka Salt Mine
A formal dining area in the Wieliczka Salt Mine
Wieliczka Salt Mine
Food is available at the cafeteria in the Wieliczka Salt Mine

Overall, the Wieliczka Salt Mine is a worthwhile attraction with the website stating that tourists should allow three hours to visit the site. The temperature of the mine averages 14 degrees Celsius so warm jackets are handy. You will be amazed at the chambers and carvings done by the workers. Photos are a must so my advice is pay for the permit. So, book your tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Wieliczka Salt Mine
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Additional Information for Krakville Wieliczka Salt Mine

ul. Mikolajska 8, Krakow
Ph: +48 607 750 901
Website: www.krakville.com

Cost 109PLN (AUD$38)

Trading Hours
  • Daily from 9 A.M. to 9 P.M.
  • Price includes:
  • transport by bus to and from Salt Mine
  • tour attendant
  • guide in Salt Mine
  • admission fees
  • duration 4 h

Available accommodation in Krakow

Other tours available through Urban Adventures

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Bran Castle the home of Dracula

What are the first things that come to your mind when someone mentions Transylvania? If you are like me you think of Dracula, vampires, dark nights and scary castles. Through the popularity of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, Transylvania has always had an intrigue for travellers. With many fans doing the trek to visit Bran Castle, commonly known as “the home of Dracula”.

Urban Adventure Tours

During our travels, we always had Romania pencilled in as a possible country to visit and after some investigations we decided to base ourselves in Sighișoara and do a day trip to Bran Castle. Although Bran Castle is the home of Stoker’s Dracula, Sighișoara is the actual birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration behind the character.

Vlad Dracul
A portrait of Vlad the Impaler in Bran Castle.

Arguably, one of the prettiest villages in Romania, this picturesque village is home to one of the oldest medieval citadels in Romania. With its many Church’s, restaurant’s and residences located on top of a hill the colourful town oozes character.

Sighisoara, Romania
Beautiful Sighișoara, with one of the many church’s in the medieval citadel.

For our day tour to Bran Castle we opted to go with someone who knew Transylvania well. After a quick internet search about tours from Sighișoara, we came across, Emanuel Enache. Emanuel is the owner and primary tour guide for tour business, YourGuidein Transylvania. Emanuel offers his customers personalised tours throughout Transylvania, so we booked him to take us to Bran Castle. Booking was easy through his website, and he responded back quickly to organise morning pick up’s and inclusive tour information.

The Doubletree by Hilton Sighisoara
The Doubletree by Hilton Sighișoara, our base for our stay in Transylvania

The tour commences at 10:00 a.m with Emanuel picking us up from our hotel during our stay the Doubletree by Hilton Sighișoara. After introductions Emanuel places emphasis on us becoming friends from the start. His point of us meeting possibly only once in a lifetime is a good excuse for us to be friends from the outset. It’s not hard to like him, with his bubbly character and charm.

Transylvania and Bran Castle
The Transylvanian countryside.

The drive from Sighișoara to Bran Castle takes two hours, which fly by as Emanuel provides us with the history of the Transylvanian region, economy and life. This insight gives us an appreciation of the Romanian people and its culture. Emanuel has no set schedule to his tours, he allows his guests to dictate when they would like to stop for lunch or rest breaks along the way.

Once in Bran, Emanuel allows us to walk around the souvenir tents and food stalls whilst he organises skip the line entry into the castle. The various stalls show off their Dracula inspired souvenirs, from magnets, coffee cups and T-shirts. There is something for everyone!

Some of the souvenirs available at Bran Castle
If you are looking for a Dracula souvenir, then the Bran Castle stall’s will have something for you!

Bran Castle is one of the seven castles of Wallachia, and although Vlad the Impaler ruled the region during his reign from 1448. It is unknown if he used Bran Castle. This doesn’t take away from the breathtaking visual of this castle on the hill. Today it is mainly a museum to Queen Marie of Romania, who lived in the castle during her lifetime.

A bedroom in Bran Castle
One of the bedrooms inside Bran Castle, the furniture was all donated back to the Castle.

The three level castle is impressive, like many castles throughout Europe, so if you like castles then have a visit, the picture of Bran castle on the hill is a good photo to show your friends. Emanuel is excellent explaining the rooms, and the history of Queen Marie and the royal family, there is some rooms dedicated to the vampire myth, but they aren’t that interesting.

Inside Bran Castle
The interior of the three-levelled Bran Castle

Overall, Bran Castle by itself is something I wouldn’t do by myself. It is a nice drive but the castle is just another castle, if you don’t have the story about it. What made this tour especially worthwhile was Emanuel’s information and conversation about Transylvania, the castle, Dracula and the vampire myth. Emanuel’s engaging personality makes is tour worthwhile. Emanuel offers plenty other tours throughout Transylvania and will pick you up from your accommodation.

Inside Bran Castle
The view from the third floor of Bran Castle

Transylvania itself is a beautiful part of Romania and a definite place to go with its history and pretty towns like Sighisoara and Sibiu. So, contact Emanuel and YourGuideinTransylvania and book your Transylvanian tour today. And tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Do a day trip from Sighisoara with Emanuel, YourguideinTransylvania to visit Bran Castle the home of Bram Stoker's Dracula
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Additional Information for YourGuideinTransylvania’s Bran Castle Day Tour

Strada Ilarie Chendi 35, Sighișoara 545400, Romania
Ph: +40 745 501 861
Website: www.yourguideintransylvania.com

Tour Information
  • Duration/Distance:

    7 – 8 hours / 282 km

    Price: 79 euro/person*

    * minimum 2 pax

    Included:

    – Pick up / drop off at your hotel

    – Transportation

    – English licensed guide

    – Permanent assistance

Available accommodation in Transylvania, Romania

*Post contains affiliate links

Heavenly stay at the Holiday Inn Brno

So you have some holiday’s coming up and are looking for options that are historically interesting, have a night life and hopefully won’t break the bank. Then have you considered the Czech Republic? It has an impressive history. I’m sure you have heard about King Wenceslas. He is the King mentioned in a popular Christmas Carol. The capital, Prague is a usual stop for many tourists, but I also encourage you stay in the beautiful city of Brno.

Holiday Inn Brno
The beautiful city of Brno with the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul

Brno, is a vibrant university city about three hours from Prague with some quirky stories and hidden intrigues. After a few hours exploring the sights, you will soon become invested in this lovely city. Brno is mainly known for its conferences, festivals and being the current home of the Czech MotoGP race. Each week there is usually something going on in this happening city. For our four days stay here we are at the impressive Holiday Inn Brno.

Holiday Inn Brno
The front entry into the Holiday Inn Brno

Located outside of the old town the Holiday Inn Brno is situated alongside the largest convention centre in the Czech Republic. Although approximately 2.5 km’s from the city centre the city has a good public transport system. Hourly tickets are available from reception for Kč25czk each. Therefore, this proximity to transport easily alleviates the distance from the city centre.

Urban Adventure Tours

A courtesy bus to and from the old town is provided on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between the times of 7 p.m -11 p.m. This is handy as you can have dinner in the city and then have the bus transport you back to the hotel. As we don’t mind a walk, it was only 20 minutes to and from the centre. This allowed us time to casually enjoy the walk and discover the surrounding areas. Don’t worry if you’d prefer a car. Europcar have an office onsite so you can book a vehicle prior to your arrival at the hotel and have it waiting for you in the car park.

Holiday Inn Brno
Trams are available from Mendel Square and the bus stops just outside of the Holiday Inn Brno

The Holiday Inn Brno is a part of the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), and offers quality four-star service and accommodation to its guests. When arriving at the Holiday Inn Brno you are immediately impressed by the outdoor eating area attached to the superb Prominent Restaurant and a lawn area used for general relaxation and yoga. Entry through the automated turnstile brings you into the hotels immaculate lobby.

Holiday Inn Brno
The outdoor eating area of the Prominent Restaurant. It’s also a great place to rest and have a coffee.

The hotel lobby is quite large area. Comfortable chairs and tables and a business area are available to meet people and catch up on work. The reception desk is manned 24 hours with the friendly staff always there to assist. Other areas accessible from the lobby are the Restaurant Brasserie, the incredible Prominent Restaurant with its remarkable food and the Lobby Bar for enjoying a drink and a game of billiards.

Holiday Inn Brno
The Lobby Bar of the Holiday Inn Brno

The Holiday Inn Brno offers three core types of accommodation, a standard room, an executive room and an executive suite. All option are available from their website or through Booking.com.

Holiday Inn Brno
A standard room with twin beds.
Holiday Inn Brno
An executive room with a king bed. One of the most comfortable beds I’ve had the pleasure of sleeping in.
Holiday Inn Brno
An executive suite comprises of two rooms a large bathroom and walk in wardrobe.

The Holiday Inn Brno, prides itself in taking care of its guests and the rooms are no exception. Each room is elegantly decorated with one of the most comfortable beds I’ve been in. They either have a single, queen or king bed depending on your booking with a well stocked mini bar.  Each room also has a safe, coffee facilities, ironing board and SMART television. The SMART television controls the rooms Wi-Fi, multiple television stations in various languages and the hotels guest directory.

What's in the mini bar at a hotel
A well stocked mini bar…. Hmm. I wonder what I’ll have?

Each room has a good-sized bathroom which is stocked with various toiletries and accessories. The rooms are serviced daily, so as expected the bathrooms are clean with excellent water pressure.

Holiday Inn Brno
The bathroom in the executive room. A lovely clean and well maintained room.

Being so close to the exhibition centre the hotel offers visiting business groups excellent accommodation option. Meeting rooms are also available daily, for workshops, functions and business meetings. Additionally, if you are considering organising an event, then the 400-person Congress Hall with reception area and bar would be the ideal place.

Holiday Inn Brno
The meeting rooms are located on the ground and first floors.
Holiday Inn Brno
The lobby and bar area of the Congress Hall
Holiday Inn Brno
Seating available for 400 people, makes the Congress Hall an excellent place for a work or personal function.

For the health and fitness conscientious the hotel has a small but modern gym on the sixth floor open from 06:30hrs. The health spa called the Relax Zone is open from 17:30hrs with free access to the sauna. Massages, and the whirlpool spa are available via bookings at reception. Access to the gym is via the stairs from the fifth floor.

Holiday Inn Brno
The modern mini gym with a view over Brno. Access to the gym and the Relax Zone is from the fifth floor.

The Brasserie Restaurant caters for breakfast daily. If you desire, fruit, cereal, toast, cold meats, salads or a hot breakfast the Holiday Inn Brno will not let you go hungry.

Holiday Inn Brno
The breakfast buffet available in the Restaurant Brasserie
Holiday Inn Brno
The colourful table setting in the Restaurant Brasserie

For your evening meal, I encourage you to eat in at the Prominent Restaurant. Everything about this restaurant is impressive, from dining areas, service and especially the food. It is so good, I cannot do it justice with a brief description here. So, to give it the exposure it deserves, we have opted to give the Prominent Restaurant its own separate review. So, stay tuned!

Holiday Inn Brno
A fine dining experience at the Prominent Restaurant in the Holiday Inn Brno

Overall the Holiday Inn Brno is an excellent option to stay at when visiting Brno. The hotel staff are professional and if you need any help they will go out of their way to ensure you enjoy your stay. The rooms are extremely comfortable, the breakfast is abundant, and the health and fitness areas are welcome encouragement to keep fit. The lobby bar is a good place to chill out and have a drink and if you appreciate decent food then the Prominent Restaurant is a must.

Brno is a fantastic university city, full of culture and history. In my opinion, you’d be doing yourself an injustice if you didn’t visit whilst in the Czech Republic. So, book your holiday today and stay at the Holiday Inn Brno and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Holiday Inn Brno
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Additional Information for the Holiday Inn Brno

Křížkovského 20, 603 00 Brno-střed, Czechia
Ph: +420 543 122 111
Website: www.hibrno.cz

Book your stay at the Holiday Inn Brno now with Booking.com

Prices of accommodation per night at the Holiday Inn Brno:

Ranging from  3744 czk (AUD$211)  5472 czk (AUD$309) 

The Brasserie Restaurant caters for breakfast daily

  • from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on weekdays
  • from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at weekends and on holidays

Prominent Restaurant opening times:

Opening hours 12:00 – 23:00
Reservations by phone at: +420 543 122 002/4

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Animals and Aquariums – The Berlin Zoo and Aquarium

If you have had the pleasure of travelling with children, you would know that sometimes it’s hard to keep them happy. In their minds, Museums and Art Galleries can be boring. That’s because most young children don’t appreciate looking at the ancient pottery from Pompeii or the subject and detail of Rembrandt’s The Nights Watch. Basically, unless there are dinosaurs or places with amazing interactive fun, children become disinterested quickly. They want to go to places like Disneyland,  Sea World or the other major amusement parks. But, at times we all become those little kids and desire that entertainment. Feeling in a fun and happy mood we head off for a day at the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.

Urban Adventure Tours

After a lovely breakfast at Cafe Clave, we decide to walk the 1.1 km from our Scandic hotel to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
The entrance to the Berlin Zoo

Now, if this is your first trip to Berlin, you may want to think about purchasing the Berlin Welcome Card. This transport tourist card lasts up to 6 days and covers all your public transport options. It also comes with a booklet containing discounts to many of the major attractions, including the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium. Additionally, it comes with that all important city map, so you can see the various tourist sites and construct your touring itinerary accordingly.

The Berlin Welcome Card covers transport and discounts to many major attractions, including the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium.
The Berlin Welcome Card Booklet

If you are short on time, you can do the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium separately. We opted to combine the two at a discounted price (See below).  Since the zoo is the larger of the two complexes we do the zoo first.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
Some gardens inside the Berlin Zoo

As mentioned the zoo is large, exhibiting a wide range of animals from around the world. Our recommendation is to examine the zoo’s map provided and work out a plan of attack. That way you won’t be backtracking and possibly missing some of the animals. Of course, the information is in German so have your translating app available if you can’t read German.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
One of the zoo keepers feeding the wolves

The zoo has set times for feeding and information on the animals (again in German), but it was still interesting seeing them being fed. From wolves, elephants, gorillas, rhinos, lions, zebras and giraffes it was amazing to see the children’s young faces light up in awe of these magnificent creatures.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
The majestic elephant walking around his enclosure
Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
A Rhinoceros in his muddy enclosure

Finding food is not an issue at the zoo as they have a large cafe, a restaurant and many food carts scattered around the park.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
A cafe in the zoo, they also have a restaurant and food carts.

Exciting times are ahead for the Berlin Zoo as they are finishing their new Panda enclosure as they are expecting them to arrive in June 2017.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
The street entrance to Aquarium Berlin. There’s another entrance from inside the zoo.

Once you’ve finished in the Berlin Zoo make your way to the Aquarium. Here you will find an arrangement of diverse types of fish, amphibians, reptiles and creepy crawly insects.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
An iguana at Aquarium Berlin

This three-story building holds a vast quantity of fish species of assorted sizes and incredible colours.

Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
No need to search any further, I found Dory!

There is a warm, humid, central forest area that has some crocodiles, which was inviting on a cooler Berlin day. Like the zoo the aquarium has a cafe, in case you want a snack or coffee.

Overall, both the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium are wonderful places to visit in Berlin. By using the Berlin Welcome Card, we had a 25% discount on the combined price, so great value for money. There is enough fun and intrigue for children to enjoy the day. The zoo also has a large playground area, so your children can burn off some extra energy if required. Visit the zoo and aquarium today and tell them, Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Want a place to take the family in Berlin! Head to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium for a day of fun.
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Additional Information for the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium
Berlin Zoo

Hardenbergplatz 8, 10787 Berlin
Ph. +49 30 254010
Website: www.zoo-berlin.de

Opening Times
ZOO CASH POINT
1. January – 26. February 9:00 am – 4:30 pm 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
27. February – 26. March 9:00 am – 6:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
27. March – 24. September 9:00 am – 6:30 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
25. September – 29. October 9:00 am – 6:00 pm 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
30. October – 31. December 9:00 am – 4:30 pm 9:00 am – 3:30 pm

*Note:

The Zoo closes at 2 p.m. on 24 December.

Please note that the ticket offices close approx. one hour before the zoo closes. The animal houses close 30 minutes before the zoo itself closes.

Aquarium Berlin

Budapester Straße 32, 10787 Berlin
Ph. +49 30 254010
Website: www.aquarium-berlin.de

Opening Times
AQUARIUM
1 January–31 December 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

TICKETS – Berlin Zoo and Aquarium

Aquarium & Zoo – Separate ZOO & AQUARIUM Combination
Adults 14,50 € 20,00 €
Children
4 up to 15 years
7,50 € 10,00 €
Small Families
(1 adult and his or her children up to 15 years)
25,00 € 33,00 €
Large Families
(2 adults and his or their children up to 15 years)
39,00 € 50,00 €
Concession*
students, apprentices, ALG I+II recipients, the severely disabled and their accompaniment, accompaniment if explicitly required on the disabled visitor’s ID
10,00 € 15,00 €

 

Welcome to Berlin Card

For more information on the Welcome to Berlin Card , click here

Book accommodation in Berlin via Booking.com 

Book UrbanAdventures guided tours in Berlin 

*Post contains affiliate links

Lovely Lucca and the Terrace of Perfumes

Urban Adventure Tours

Since the girls left we have been travelling around Italy with no real plan. I know it sounds a bit unusual, living and organising accommodation on the fly. We always knew we were going to wing it and see where the tide takes us. This way we are not tied down. If we meet someone on the road who says “You have to go to this…. place”, then we could book it the next day and we’re on our way. The beautiful town of Lucca was just one of these places. A good friend said since you’re in Italy, you must visit Lucca. So, we did. In doing so we had to organise a place to stay and luckily for us we stayed at the Terrace of Perfumes.

Terrace of Perfumes
Lucca was the home of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini

The Terrace of Perfumes is an agent run apartment available through Booking.com and AirBNB. Located just outside the old city the Terrace of Perfumes is close to supermarkets and local restaurants.  Being an apartment they do prefer stays 3 days or longer.

Terrace of Perfumes
The tree-lined walking path on top of the old town walls.

We were met at the apartment on check in by the apartments owners Mauricio and Valeria and their apartments agent Alessandro. The apartment is situated on the first floor and upon entry you notice how clean and beautiful the apartment is.

Terrace of Perfumes
The bedroom

This one bedroom apartment consists of a large bedroom which overlooks the street, a lounge area, a fully functional kitchen, bathroom and a balcony area which has that all important washing machine and clothes line. They have thought about everything to make your stay as carefree, relaxing and enjoyable as possible.

Terrace of Perfumes
The fully functional kitchen, is stocked with everything you need for your stay.
Terrace of Perfumes
The long thin bathroom with shower cubicle in the middle of the room. Surprisingly water is well contained between the shower curtains.
Terrace of Perfumes
The private balcony with washing machine and clothes line. It’s a good place to have breakfast.

Mauricio and Valeria are exceptional hosts and ensure we are settled and welcomed with a basket filled with some produce and a bottle of delicious Chianti. They have a compendium about the apartment and helpful information about Lucca and its must see places and things to do.

Terrace of Perfumes
Mauricio and Valeria’s welcome basket.

We really enjoyed our time in Lucca, walking the thin cobbled streets surrounded by hundreds of year old buildings. Visiting the home of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini and indulging in some of that Italian cuisine. International tour hosts, Urban Adventures offers four incredible tours around Lucca for you to try. So, take a trip to Lucca, experience a tour and book the Terrace of Perfumes. Don’t forget to tell them Simon from Ourworldineview sent you!

Looking for accommodation in Lucca? The Terrace of Perfumes is the ideal place to stay.
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Additional Information for the Terrace of Perfumes

Via Borgo Giannotti 389, 55100 Lucca, Italy
Website: Nil Available

Check in: 15:00 hrs
Check out: 10:00 hrs

Book your stay at the Terrace of Perfumes now with Booking.com

Prices of accommodation:

Ranging from AUD$90 – AUD$110 per night

Terrace of Perfumes Rating: 1-10 (1=very poor, 10 = excellent)

Location = 8
Comfort=10
Cleanliness = 10
Price = 10
Facilities =10

Overall = 9.5

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Do you want to go to Disneyland Paris?

As a family, we have had some wonderful adventures. We have been lucky enough to take our girls to many overseas destinations. So, why not let them choose some of the things we do! In 2015, we did a trip to Hong Kong and the girls selected to go to Disneyland. We spent two full days there and they were hooked. Therefore, when they first heard we’d be visiting France on this journey they were definite that they wanted to visit Disneyland Paris and do it all again.

Disneyland Paris
The front entrance into Disneyland Paris

After looking at our schedule we decided that this time we would only spend a day at Disneyland. With the theme park only opening at 10 am we could take our time getting there. From our accommodation at the B&B Hotel Paris Porte de la Villette we jump onto the Metro to Chaussee d’Antin La Fayette. From there we take the 5-minute walk to the Auber RER station and purchase our train tickets for Disneyland Paris. Disneyland is about 45 minutes out of the city in Gare de Marne la Vallee Chessy. The cost of the train ticket from Auber to Disneyland is €15.20 one way per person.

Once arriving at Disneyland Paris, if you haven’t purchased your tickets, then head over to the ticket office. Just so you are prepared the Parks offer various entry options.  Now, you would have just heard me mention “parks”, because Disneyland Paris contains two parks; Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios. You have the option of visiting one or both parks. We of course decided to visit both.

Disneyland Paris
A bronze statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse after entering Walt Disney Studios

Excitedly we entered Walt Disney Studios and had a look around. Our first stop in the park was to visit the animation theatre. Here we discovered how the Walt Disney studio created their animation and creature effects.  Only lasting about 10 minutes is gives us some valuable information about animated production and set design.

Disneyland Paris
Watch how Disney Studio’s creates their animations in the Art of Disney Animation theatre.

Much of the Walt Disney Studio’s areas are based on a certain theme. Be it Ratatouille, Toy Story, Lilo and Stitch or Armageddon, the sections have rides and theatre shows based around these popular Disney Studio titles.

Disneyland Paris
People moving into the Toy Story themed area. Look there’s Buzz Lightyear.

We found that it was quite easy to fly through Walt Disney Studios and quickly moved to the Disneyland Park.

Disneyland Paris
The girls out the front of the impressive Disneyland Park entrance.

Like the Studio, the Park is separated into defined areas. There’s Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland. These lands are separated by a central plaza and main street containing the various Disney retail and food outlets. Also scattered throughout the park are food stalls and restaurants.

Disneyland Paris
One of the many Disneyland souvenir shops.

A family could easily spend a day or two exploring these two sites. We spent most of our stay in Disneyland Park and whilst there probably tried out every ride and feature available. Unfortunately, some of the park is still under construction, with a Pirates of the Caribbean area still being developed. Saying this though doesn’t take away from the intrigue of the park.

Disneyland Paris
The Pirates of the Caribbean ship. It wasn’t accessible the day we were there.

Now for the important detail, which will determine if you elect to stay or go to Disneyland Paris. The cost… It can be expensive, we were there for a twelve-hour day and spent close to €600 for a family of four. So, I would consider that an expensive day out.

Disneyland Paris also has accommodation available in their hotel, with room packages including access to the Disneyland Parks. So, it may be a better option to book your accommodation at the hotel and access the parks that way. This way you don’t have to worry about transport to the parks and accommodation in Paris. Likewise, you could find some cheap accommodation in Marne-la-Vallée and just worry about tickets into the park.

Although expensive, we had an awesome time at Disneyland Paris. Disneyland holds some fascination and wonder to people of all ages. It is an extremely fun day, although sometimes you may need to line up to access the more popular rides. They offer a “Fast Track” ride option which costs a little extra, where you are given a time to go on a particular ride. This way you can have fun elsewhere in the park and when your time gets closer you just go to the fast track lane and hop onto the ride.

Disneyland Paris
As the night sets in, it’s finally time to call it a day.

Overall, Disneyland Paris is an amazing place. My recommendation is that if you are planning on going, make sure you have saved your pennies. But sometimes, spending quality time and enjoying a fun-filled day is more valuable than the cost. Because I know, these memories will last forever. Therefore, when you are in France, pencil in Disneyland Paris for a day or two, enjoy an incredible experience and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Disneyland Paris
Tiggr and Eeyore having a photo with the girls
Additional Information for Disneyland Paris

77777 Marne-la-Vallée, France
Ph. +33 1 60 30 60 53
Website: www.disneylandparis.com

Price
  • Prices range from € 42.00 – € 223.00 for Passport ticket entry
  • Full ticketing information available here
Opening hours
Disneyland® Park

10:00 to 23:00

Extra Magic Hours

8:00 to 10:00

Walt Disney Studios® Park

10:00 to 18:00

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Staying at the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm

Urban Adventure Tours

After a busy schedule in France the girls were so excited to be heading to Berlin. A city that has had to rebuild most of their buildings due to the devastation of World War II. So, although a city rich in history, good and bad, it is still a new. It is intriguing how Berlin has rebuilt many buildings to match the elegance of their past. For our time, here we are staying at the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm hotel.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm Hotel
Someone was very happy to be in Berlin.

The Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm is a lovely 4-star hotel near the shopping district of Kurfürstendamm, and quite close to many popular attractions.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The reception desk at the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm

Upon arrival to the hotel we enter through the automatic turnstile and are met by a friendly reception desk. To the right of us is a lounge with a business area. And to the left is the stairway down to the Scandic restaurant and an alcove with a Foosball table. Additionally, past the reception desk is a small self-serve shop, stocked with essentials and hotel souvenirs.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The Foosball table to the left of the entrance.

The desk clerk allocates us two rooms and we ride the elevator up to our floor. Bright clean white corridors decorated with well placed commissioned street art, this hotel exudes a modern elegance.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm has commissioned artist to produce street art at certain locations within the hotel.

The rooms are a nicely decorated spacious area with a king sized bed, a comfortable lounge seat, a desk, fridge, cupboard, safe and television. Each room also has a separate bathroom.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
Our double room at the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The desk, fridge and television in the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm

Our bathroom is also a well maintained clean. It is a large room with a large shower cubicle for that well deserved relaxing hot shower.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The bathroom at the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm

Now, if you talk to my family, I have no patience when travelling, I like to keep moving. So, a relaxing evening lounging around a hotel doesn’t really suit me. Luckily, the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm has a gym on the sixth floor. Therefore, I didn’t pace around twiddling my thumbs, because I could always go to the gym for a couple of hours and burn off some excess energy.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
Some of the cardio equipment in the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm gym.

With treadmills, bikes, ellipticals and rowing machines, I could burn up that extra energy. Additionally, the gym also has some free weights and a multi-faceted nautilus machine. After the workout, you can take a shower and use the sauna to sweat out those toxins.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The weight area in the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm gym

The hotel is mainly focused on the conference market and has meeting rooms available on the seventh floor. Please ask the reception for more information. Breakfast is also available in the restaurant for €12 per person, per day.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The Breakfast buffet area the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm

The restaurant is open for dinner and has a descent sized Scandinavian inspired menu. It has a satisfactory range of quality wines from around Europe. So why not be bold and try something you’ve never experienced before. We had the pleasure of dining in the main dining area for a night. They also have a winter garden and courtyard area for those nice days.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The comfortable dining area at the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm

We ordered their Weiner Schnitzel, a vegetarian Caesar Salad with roasted pumpkin and their aptly named Scandic burger. All the meals were well cooked and quite large servings.

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The classic aptly named Scandic burger with a side of fries.
Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The Weiner Schnitzel with some fries. Not the most eye catching of meals.
Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm
The vegetarian Caesar Salad with roasted pumpkin.

Overall the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm Hotel is an excellent choice for your stay in Berlin. Perfectly located with easy access to Berlin’s sensational public transport system, and major shopping outlets. The hotel can look after all your needs, with luggage storage available before your check-in and after check-out. If you decide not to eat breakfast at the hotel we found the Clave Cafe on Augsburger Straße towards Kurfürstendamm an excellent option. So, book your next stay below, and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Additional Information for the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm

Augsburger Straße 5 Berlin, Germany
Ph: +49 30 212 42 0
Website: www.scandichotel.de

To get there catch the Metro to Augsburger Straße

Book your stay at the Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm now with Booking.com

Prices of accommodation:

Ranging from €98 – €164 per night

Breakfast is served daily for €12.00 per person

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm Restaurant opening times

Breakfast: Mon-Sun 06: 30-12: 00
Dinner: Mon-Sun 17: 00-01: 00

Scandic Berlin Kurfürstendamm Rating: 1-10 (1=very poor, 10 = excellent)

Service = 9
Comfort=10
Cleanliness = 10
Price = 9
Facilities =10

Overall = 9

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French Royalty and the Palace of Versailles

No matter what your first thoughts of France are, it is undoubtedly full of history. The opulence of France is on full show and there is probably no better place to see this wealth than the Palace of Versailles.

Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles taken from the golden gates

Like many tourists to France we decided to make our way to the Palace to spend a day visiting the royal residences and relaxing in the gardens.

After leaving the B&B Hotel Paris Porte de la Villette a little later than we had hoped for, we hop on the 9 am train to Versailles. Train tickets can be purchased from the train stations. Just tell the ticket office we’re you are going and they will give you the right ticket. Likewise, you can use the automated ticket machines to select your required tickets. Please note; conductors do check your tickets so if you select the wrong one you may find yourself being fined or paying for another ticket. This depends on how the conductors are feeling on the day.

When arriving at Versailles station it is a short walk around to the Palace. Just follow the signs and masses of other tourists. Online purchasing is a good idea as you won’t need to line up for tickets at the ticket office. Unfortunately, you will see need to wait in the entry line unless you’ve purchased a “skip the line” ticket, through a third-party operator, for an extra cost.

Palace of Versailles
The ticket office for the Palace of Versailles

We were lucky on the day we were there as everyone wanted to buy tickets from the ticket office. Therefore, no one was using the hidden ticket machines in a different room. We quickly purchased our tickets for the palaces and gardens and headed to the huge line up.

Palace of Versailles
The crazy long line up at the Palace of Versailles. It took 2.5-hours to get through.

Now, we were prepared for the wait, we had some water, some snacks and our entertainment devices to keep us occupied. If fact Josie and I used to time to write a few posts whilst we waited. The girls listened to some music and sang, harmonising the day away.

It was a 2.5 hour wait but the lines constantly moved, so there was a sense that you were going somewhere. Group tours through travel agencies are always available. These tours get you into the grounds quicker, but you have a limited time for your visit to the Palace and gardens. And the Palace of Versailles is a take your time attraction.

When you make it to the front of the line, you will need to pass through a security checkpoint. So, make sure you are sensible and leave any sharp implements in your room. We have seen people try to enter with their favourite Swiss Army knife, only for it to be confiscated.

Once you’re past the security check the Palace of Versailles shows you its wealth around every corner. This Palace has seen Kings and Queens grace these beautiful halls and their need for luxury is incredible.

Palace of Versailles
The stunning architecture of the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles
The Hall of Mirrors

Once through the Palace buildings you cannot help but be overwhelmed by the enormity of the Palace grounds. Water fountains, sculptures, manicured lawns and flower exhibits are everywhere. Make sure you grab a map so you don’t get lost.

Palace of Versailles
A small garden courtyard inside the Palace of Versailles

As mentioned earlier, you should make a day of it. The gardens contain a cafe and restaurant if you are feeling hungry. We ate a nice lunch in the La Girandole Versailles garden cafe at a slightly elevated price. However, it was great to relax for a little while before exploring the gardens more.

Palace of Versailles
Unfortunately, we were unable to get a good photo of the cafe.

Our Passport Ticket also gave us access to the Petit and Grand Trianons, which once housed the Queen’s, Princess’ and Princes of France.

Palace of Versailles
The entrance courtyard of the Petit Trianon

These Trianons are located outside of the main palace grounds with separate security checks being performed at each site.

Palace of Versailles
The Grand Trianon and its gardens

A fantastic day, the Palace of Versailles is an ideal day getaway from Paris. So, spend a day or book some accommodation in Versailles and tell them Simon of Ourworldinreview sent you!

Additional Information for the Palace of Versailles

Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
Ph. + 33 1 30 83 78 00
Website: www.chauteauversailles.fr

Price
  • Prices range from € 20.00 – € 30.00 for Passport ticket entry
  • Full ticketing information available here
Opening hours

Palace
from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
closed on Mondays

Estate of Trianon
from 12:00 pm to 6:30 pm
closed on Mondays

Gardens
from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm

Coach Gallery
from 12:30 pm to 6:30 pm
closed on Mondays

Book accommodation in Versailles here.

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German History, a Storyline of Berlin

Urban Adventure Tours

Before this big adventure started, we knew we’d have to plan some activities before we arrived in Europe. After doing some research we booked some tours with Urban Adventures. One of those tours was a Storyline of Berlin.

Urban Adventure’s Storyline of Berlin is a 4-5 hour walking tour, around the streets of Berlin. Germany has had an infamous history and Berlin has been at the heart of those historic tragedies. This tour gives, visitors an honest historical insight into the heartbreaking treatment of the people of Europe by Hitler’s Germany. It then details the subsequent division of a city after World War II ended. The tour does need a little fitness to complete the 5 hour walk. But your tour guide will control the pace of the walk depending on speed and health of their guests.

Urban Adventure's Storyline of Berlin
The Reichstag is the meeting point for the start of the tour.

Our meeting point for the tour is at the large flag pole in front of the Reichstag building. Here we are greeted by our guide for the day, Sara. Sara is an Italian archaeologist with an extensive knowledge and love for Berlin. Her passion for this city is evident in how she delivers her knowledge to her guests.

Urban Adventure's Storyline of Berlin
The impressive looking Brandenburg Gate

From the Reichstag, you walk the streets and visit some of Berlin’s main attractions. The Holocaust Memorial is a large eerie art display, that makes you feel trapped the deeper you walk in, with imposing walls on either side. The stunning Brandenburg gate with its horse and chariot to the Topography of Terror, which has a timeline of the horrific treatment of the innocent.

Urban Adventure's Storyline of Berlin
A hauntingly eerie Holocaust Memorial
Urban Adventure's Storyline of Berlin
A timeline of Germany’s infamous history at the Topography of Terror

Not only does the tour take in all this history, Sara also ensures that you have a couple of rest stops. A stop at a local café for some refreshments and a toilet break. Then another pause later when you visit Rausch’s, an incredible chocolate store with samples and magnificent chocolate displays.

Urban Adventure's Storyline of Berlin
Here is the Brandenburg Gate made from chocolate at Rausch’s Chocolate House.

A Storyline of Berlin tour completes at Lustgarten, next to the Berlin Cathedral. Here Sara will give you advice on where to eat and what else to do with your time in Berlin.

Urban Adventure's Storyline of Berlin
Looking at the Berlin Cathedral Church through the Lustgarten.

Our small group of four found the tour very interesting and well worth the cost. Sara was an excellent guide, easy to understand with a well measured delivery of her knowledge. We have no issue in recommending this excellent tour through Urban Adventures. So, book your next tour today and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Berlin is a place of History, let Urban Adventures take you through the Storyline of Berlin!
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Additional Information for Urban Adventure’s Storyline of Berlin

To see available tours in Berlin, click here
To book a Storyline of Berlin here: www.urbanadventures.com

Price
  • Adults: € 61.00
  • Child: € 31.00

Departure time: 10:00 am

 

Book accommodation in Berlin via Booking.com

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Rembrandt, the Renaissance and the Rijksmuseum

King’s Day in Amsterdam is a huge celebration. Residents set up little stores in front of their houses selling whatever they can. The city of Amsterdam closes its streets and road to cars, and people flock to the canals to party. Music blares from every corner and every pub. The canal boats are full of people drinking and dancing with plenty of patriotic Dutch chanting. It is truly an amazing experience to be around the celebrations because you can’t help but get caught up in it.

Rijksmusuem
King’s Day celebrations in Amsterdam. Orange people everywhere.

After the celebrations, we needed a day to relax and be a tourist at a leisurely pace. Therefore, the next day we decided to head to the Rijksmuseum. Catching the number 5 tram from Kronenburg we are at the Rijksmuseum in approximately 30 minutes. Once you alight from the tram it’s a nice walk towards the museum and the I Amsterdam sign. This sign is very popular for tourist’s taking photos and we are no different. Stopping and posing for that perfect shot.

Rijksmusuem
The I Amsterdam sign near the Rijksmuseum. It’s very popular with tourists

On this day entry into the museum was quite quick. We did have a short line up outside the turnstile door and then another short wait to purchase tickets. Bags that are backpack size and larger must be checked in, into the cloak room. Then it’s another small line up as security view our tickets as we pass by.

The Rijksmuseum houses some of history’s greatest masterpieces, from artists such as Rembrandt, van Gogh and Vermeer. As you walk through each room and examine the artworks from the different centuries displayed, you will be amazed by the intricate and sometimes massive canvasses. Each depicting scenes from historical events or portraits of important and everyday people.

The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Jan van Scorel’s Maria Magdalena

I must admit it was a thrill to walk into a large room and turn to see Rembrandt’s The Night’s Watch covering an entire wall. This wonderful painting is truly beautiful and intricate in detail. From the subjects having their own personalities and expressions, to the frills and embroidery on their uniforms.  Rembrandt has depicted this scene with the class and elegance of a master. And the crowding of spectators around this painting proves it still has its appeal.

The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
Rembrandt’s The Night’s Watch is such an amazing painting, the crowds surely appreciated it.

Continue through the room and you will come across some of the works by Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer’s most famous work “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” is situated in The Hague, but you can still see works like The Love Letter showing his unique subject style.

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
Johannes Vermeer’s The Love Letter

Even if you don’t know much about art, there are a few artists throughout history that you may have heard of such as Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Pollock or even Warhol. Van Gogh is one of those artists that had an intriguing story. Unsuccessfully as an artist during his life, he lived a tortured life stuck in his own mind. That torment lead to him cutting off his ear and eventually shooting himself. His ‘self-portrait in a felt hat’ is a reminder to us that genius is sometimes hidden behind different faces. A small piece of art in size, a lot like Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it still holds its fascination. The distant stare in that drawn face radiates his self-anguish.

Rijksmuseum
Van Gogh’s Self Portrait in a felt hat.

The Rijksmuseum has been a special place to see some of the classics. The museum of course has a café, a restaurant and a souvenir store in case you want to take a memento home. The museum has a lot of things to see so it will take a good day to complete. For a more comprehensive experience take the Rijksmusuem’s audio tour for a few extra Euro (€). An excellent museum, add it to your list of things to do in Amsterdam and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!

Additional Information for the Rijksmuseum

Museumstraat 1, 1071 XX Amsterdam, Netherlands
Ph. +31 (0) 6747 20 000
Website: www.rijksmuseum.nl

Price
  • Adults: € 17.50
  • Youth t / m 18 years Museumkaart, Friends of the National Museum , ICOM, Rembrandt Association, KOG, VVAK, BankGiro Lottery VIP CARD: free
  • CJP, Stadspas, EYCA: 50% of the regular ticket price
Opening hours

Every day of the year from 9 am to 5 pm. The museum is also open during the Christmas and New Year’s.

Rijksmuseum Garden, Empire Shop and Café without entrance ticket to visit from 9 am to 6 pm

Book accommodation in Amsterdam via Booking.com

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