Guest post by Sophie McGovern from the travel blog Heading There.
If Slovenia were a story, it would most definitely be a fairytale. One of the old ones I mean, by the Brothers Grimm or Anderson, where there is tragedy, beauty and magic in equal measure. Deep dark woods, turreted castles, caves, lakes and mountains, Slovenia’s landscape is what bedtime stories are made of.
One of the most forested countries in Europe and the only one to have a native population of bears, Slovenia has a wildness that outshines the rest of the continent.
And, beyond the mountains and the deep dark woods, there is magical city…
Compared to Madrid or Paris, Ljubljana is a walk in the park; you can quite literally walk from one side to another in 45 minutes. Banish all notions of what you would expect from a European capital. Instead think meandering lanes, art nouveau architecture, a gentle pace and extensive park land that’s perfect for picnics. Plus, there’s a small town feel and friendly local attitude to go with it.
Buy an ice-cream and walk along the river admiring the elegant bridges, listen to the traditional accordion tunes echo through narrow streets, and climb to the top of the Castle Belvedere Tower for views over the gingerbread rooftops.
Whilst exploring, you’re sure to catch glimpses of the city’s quirky, off-centre scene. Independent communities are abundant, there is a free licence for street performers, and the city hosts outdoor concerts and theatre performances throughout the summer.
Hostel Celica, a converted prison, was one of the most memorable stays on our European inter-rail tour. At neighbouring Metelkova squat we found lives bands, a kaleidoscope of decorations and graffiti, and a community cafe serving great quality, low priced food.
Central to this fairytale is the emerald Lake Bled, where a baroque church stands on a small island. Only an hour’s journey from Ljubljana by bus, this is the perfect place to explore when you’re done in the city.
Arriving there, we couldn’t help but feel that we had walked onto the pages of a story with the scene conjuring up the Arthurian legend of the Lady of Shalott and her enchanted island.
Hiring a rowing boat is loads of fun. We took a couple of beers and a pack of playing cards and drifted around the lake all afternoon. Alpine forest scenery and a hilltop castle ensure that you’ve always got an amazing view. Rowing over to the island, we rang the church bell and made a wish!
Bled’s hillside castle manages to nobly compete with the island for the prize of ‘most outstanding fairytale features’. Moat, towers, shadowy cellars and ivy-covered ramparts, why, there is even a monk selling local wine is the cellars. Ooh, and did I mention the spiral staircase?
Be sure to sample the local cream cakes in Bled when snack time comes around, and head out for some traditional Slovenia fare in the evening: beef and noodle soup in an edible bread bowl, that sort of thing. If you’re vegetarian, be prepared to eat a lot of pizza!
For a city break with an element of wilderness, the Ljubljana-Bled combination is perfect. But this is a tale of the traditional kind, and those seeking nightlife and shopping won’t find the area that exciting. For those who are looking for charm, natural beauty and magic, though, Slovenia could easily become their favourite European destination.
Paris on a Budget: Best Cheap Eats in Paris
While Paris used to be regarded as an expensive city, you can now enjoy Paris on a Budget. Use our guide to find the Best Cheap Eats in Paris.
Although Paris has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities globally, the rumors are now unfounded. In 2012, Paris dropped ten places in the Mercer cost of living survey. And with the Euro looking weak, now is probably a good time to find cheap flights and discover the city of love on a budget.
Eating in Paris can catch a lot of tourists out. Avoid the expensive restaurants serving fancy dishes like salmon wellington and snooty maître d’s on the Champs Elysees and follow our guide for the best cheap eats in Paris. Spend less on food and possibly splurge on friendly hotels in Paris instead!
Best Cheap Eats in Paris
Head to the Marais
Famous for its selection of ethnic eateries, the trendy Marais area of Paris is perfect for picking up a quick snack.
Check out L’As du Falafel, where you can grab a flatbread bursting with golden fried balls of falafel, smothered in hummus and accompanied with red cabbage. For €4 to take away, you can’t argue with that. Simply head to Chez Hanna down the street for equally tasty food at similarly low prices if it’s too busy.
Enjoy an Oriental baguette.
Vietnamese food is popular in France, and nowhere can you see the fusion of two cultures more clearly than at Saigon Sandwich in the Belleville district of Paris. Their specialty, banh mi, is light and crusty French baguette filled with flavors of South East Asia.
There are only a few options (poulet, boeuf, Maison, and unique), but for €3 ago, you could happily sample them all.
Find French food on the cheap.
Believe it or not, there are some restaurants specializing in French cuisine that won’t see you stumbling into your overdraft. Les Temps des Cerises is one of them.
Described by Yelp as a “Dive Bar,” nothing could be further from the truth. Run by a cooperative, it attracts a distinctly bohemian crowd. The menu is small, but the food is prepared from ingredients that sing with freshness and high quality.
Eat like a local celebrity …
Rumour has it that Pierre Herme, one of Paris’s most celebrated pastry chefs, visits the Belleville restaurant Le Baratin. The prices are surprisingly low for the delicious Argentinian fare.
Time Out Magazine recommends the tuna carpaccio with cherries or the spicy basque lamb. Pop in at lunchtime for the prixe fix menu. At €18 for three courses it’s hard to complain.
… or eat like a local office worker
Bistro Victoires is a favorite amongst Paris’s locals. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and the wine list leaves a lot to be desired, but when you sit down to enjoy some of the best steak frites in Paris, all else will be forgiven.
Portion sizes are enormous, and the waiters often remind patrons that if they order a starter, they won’t be able to tackle the main course. Despite being a famous location steps away from the Palais Royal, it still manages to be a hidden gem.
What are your tips for finding the best cheap eats in Paris?
Travel Tip: Train to Pisa from Florence
Whether you spend a half-day or full day in Pisa, we recommend that you Train to Pisa from Florence. It’s the fastest and cheapest way to get there.
Traveling by train is one of the best ways to see the beautiful countryside of Italy. The train from Florence to Pisa takes about an hour, and the journey is stunning. The route takes you past vineyards and medieval villages, through tunnels and over bridges, with breathtaking views of the Tuscan hillsides. You can even see the Leaning Tower of Pisa as the train approaches the station.
Upon arrival in Pisa, you can explore the historic center and visit the famous cathedral, before enjoying a leisurely lunch overlooking the River Arno. With its stunning scenery and convenient location, a train trip from Florence to Pisa is a great way to spend a day in Italy.
How to get to Pisa from Florence
You have a couple of different options for your own half-day trip to Pisa from Florence depending on how you like to travel. But if you are like us and enjoy travelling around Italy by public transport, then you will definitely want to train to Pisa from Florence.
Train to Pisa from Florence
Florence and Pisa are less than 100 km apart and the easiest way is to train to Pisa from Florence. The entire trip one-way takes approximately an hour depending on your route with no transfers.
Trains leave from Florence S.M.Novella for Pisa Centrale a few times every hour. The closest train station to the leaning tower of Pisa is Pisa San Rossore, but it’s not worth the extra time or transfer required. Pisa itself is small and it takes less than 30 minutes to walk to the leaning tower from Pisa Centrale.
Plus you get to explore more of the city such as the River Arno lined with beautiful stately homes.
If you want to book online then a one-way ticket by train to Pisa from Florence will cost from €7.80 (US$10.40) in 2nd class. It is important to make sure that when you are searching online via the Italian train booking site, Trenitalia, you search for “Firenze” rather than Florence.
The train schedules are very easy to understand so we recommend booking your ticket from the self-service machines on the train platform. The return journey is just as easy in reverse. Just watch that you don’t miss the last train around 10pm most days and carry cash with you for the ticket.
Finally, validate your ticket before boarding the train. We forgot a couple of times but used the typical “I’m a stupid tourist” line to get out of any fines.
Bus to Pisa from Florence
There are two main bus companies, Terravision and Autostradale, run regular buses to and from Pisa Airport and Florence Airport into the Florence city centre, they don’t actually go into Pisa itself. The train to Pisa from Florence is so reliable, fast, and cheap, that you may not want to consider this option.
However, there are some advantages to taking the bus. You will see a lot more scenery from the window of the bus, and it’s definitely cheaper; sometimes you can find fares as low as 4 Euros, especially on Fridays.
Driving to Pisa from Florence
If you have hired a car or scooter in Tuscany then you might look at driving to Pisa from Florence. However, even though the distance is less than 100km, the trip will still take approximately 1 hour.
Aside from the fact that the train to Pisa from Florence typically takes less time than driving, you also have to avoid the crazy Italian drivers. Not to mention trying to find a carpark in two of the most popular cities in Italy. Impossible.
Guided Tour to Pisa from Florence
If you have been enjoying the sunset in Florence and all the city has to offer then you might want to take in a guided tour to Pisa from Florence. Not only do you get a great guide to learn all about the history of the area, you also don’t have to worry about getting to Pisa from Florence.
You might want to check out this guided tour around Pisa or get a little bit more adventurous and try out a segway tour in Pisa. Perfect for the family and it will keep the kids entertained between stops.
If you have a whole day, and haven’t managed to fit in a hike around Cinque Terre, then we recommend looking into the Pisa and Cinque Terre day tour. Lasting roughly 12 hours, you will travel from Florence to Cinque Terre, with a 2 hour stop in Pisa to see all the main sights.
We also reckon guides help you get the best photos, as they have seen all the poses.
Tell us below if you have taken any funny photos in Pisa!
Devouring seafood at the Fethiye Fish Market
The Fethiye fish market is the place where you will find the best restaurants in Fethiye. As well as the tastiest, freshest and cheapest seafood too.
The Fethiye Fish Market is the perfect place to stock up on fresh seafood. Located in the picturesque harbor, the market offers a wide variety of fish, ranging from common favorites like tuna and salmon to more exotic options like swordfish and lobster. In addition to being a great place to buy seafood, the market is also a popular tourist destination.
Visitors can enjoy watching the fishermen unload their catch, bargaining for the best prices, and sampling some of the fresher-than-fresh seafood on offer. Whether you’re a local looking for a great deal on dinner or a tourist searching for a unique experience, the Fethiye Fish Market is definitely worth a visit.
Seafood and local markets. Two things that we love to devour and explore when we are traveling. Combine the two into one evening at the Fethiye Fish Market, and you have us salivating at the very thought.
Eating at the Fethiye Fish Market
We are always on the lookout for excellent food when we travel. And when a recommendation is handed to you from a local at your accommodation, you should listen. Our Fethiye Guesthouse hostel told us that the freshest, tastiest, and cheapest seafood in Fethiye was to be found at the local Fethiye fish market.
We didn’t need much convincing.
We were ready for a giant meal after a crazy and unique Hamam Turkish bath with semi-naked Turkish men.
But finding the local fish markets in Fethiye is just the beginning.
Walking the streets of Fethiye, you wouldn’t realize that tucked away in one of the squares is a fish market. From the outside, the square looks like a regular block of shops. Jewelers, tour companies, and local supermarkets sit side-by-side, hiding the gem inside.
It isn’t until you walk through one of the four arched entrances into the open-aired courtyard that the Fethiye fish market is revealed in all its glory.
As you step from under the awnings, your mind begins to piece together the scene in front of your eyes.
Surrounding the square are tables covered with white linen and sparkling dinner sets—each lit from above with paper lanterns.
In the middle of the square sits a brightly lit stand with local fishers jostling together, selling their fresh bounty from that day’s expedition on the Aegean Sea. Each fisher takes up a small shelf of shaved ice piled high with squid, fish, mussels, and prawns.
The seafood stand in the middle is where all the action is.
Seeing the confusion spreading across our faces, we were approached by one of the English-speaking waiters. He quickly explained that we were to select and pay for our dinner from any fishermen. They would prepare our seafood to our liking, whether prawns with shells off, chopped calamari, or whole snapper.
We would then bring our bounty in plastic bags back to the restaurant of our choice, where for a measly 6 – 8 Turkish Lira (US$4 – 5), they would cook our seafood. Included in the price was all-you-can-eat salad and bread—a bargain.
Strolling around the stand several times, we were waved in with friendly smiles and broken English.
While the fishers were all competing, they were all friends. The mixed banter between them as they enticed us to their stalls was good-natured, and there was a lot of it.
With so many options, it was hard to decide on what we wanted to eat. We were eyeing the sailor-style mussels But as a sucker for calamari, that was immediately diced and thrown into our bag. As well as king prawns, a side of quickly filleted fish, and a couple of pieces of tender salmon.
Handing our bags of fresh seafood over to our waiter, we began downing the local Turkish beer, Efes, and watching as other locals and tourists joined the crowds in the square.
It wasn’t long before we were tucking into our meals. Each plate was perfectly cooked to our specific liking. Each morsel is as succulent as the next. And with 8 of us in our group, there was a lot of sharing and mixing of meals as we all wanted to try what others had.
The Fethiye fish market was the perfect way to finish another incredible day in Fethiye.
What do you think of the Fethiye fish market? Sound amazing?!
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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