(The weather is becoming too hot to do anything that requires brain right now, so I decide to put aside my dissertation and write this instead.)
Paris. Rome. London. They are all in every Asian’s travelling wish list. And going to the most touristic cities means that you can’t even take a proper picture of that famous landmark because tourists are swarming over it with their pink jackets, selfie sticks, and ugly hats. Ugh.
Although visiting those cities is also a must, I found myself happiest when I’m in these three cities. So without further ado, here they are, in no particular order:
I have to admit that I’m not being objective here – one of my two favourite children books writers is Astrid Lindgren, and she’s from Sweden. I grew up with kids from Bullerbyn, Madicken, Lisabet, Ronya, and Lotta. So the first thing I did when I arrived in Stockholm is visiting Junibacken, where her masterpieces are immortalised. I simply love that place.
Putting Junibacken aside – Stockholm is fantastic! It consists of little islands, connected by bridges as you can see in this map.
(This is a screenshot of my own Google maps, with places I favourited.)
Each islands has its own places of interest. Go explore those tiny roads in the old town Gamla Stan, or cross further to Sofo to try the famous Meatball For The People (which in my opinion is overrated). Grab a kardamombulle in Urban Deli Nytorget (thank me later). Visit ABBA Museum but don’t bother to enter – just sit outside, enjoy the songs and free wifi. Try the princess cake (prinsesstårta) at Vete-Katten where you can also enjoy free coffee.
I went there in the summer and I spent hours just sitting in a dock, eating ice cream, looking at sea, ships and seagulls.
After visiting more than 10 cities/towns in England, I found that all of them look very similar: Old buildings, old church, big clock, Marks & Spencer, Boots, and The Body Shop. If you closed my eyes and teletransported me somehow to the middle of one of the cities, I wouldn’t be able to guess where I am.
But Liverpool is different. First, it has docks and sea, which brings a nice addition to the regular English cities. And it has The Beatles. I will repeat it again: it has The Beatles.
To be fair, I wasn’t a huge The Beatles fan. I only knew Hey Jude and Yesterday. But then I went to The Cavern and fell in love.
The Cavern is an underground pub that serves live music almost all day long (from 12 noon to 2 midnight). It is famous because The Beatles has performed there for more than 200 times. And because it is underground, you can go there in the afternoon and feel like it’s midnight already. The live music is awesome. Solo or band, young or old, they are all amazing. And yes, you will hear Hey Jude over and over again.
I never like clubs/pubs with loud, crappy music that you can’t hear yourself talking. But in The Cavern, you are not supposed to talk. Leave your seat, stand in front of the stage, and feel yourself being carried away by the music.
I almost cancelled my trip to Budapest, because I was in Prague and there was nothing much. I thought Budapest would be similar, or even worse. I’m really, really glad I didn’t!
Budapest consists of two areas: Buda and Pest, and they are divided by Danube river. Buda is hilly and residential while Pest is flat and centre of government & commerce. It means that you have fantastic views from both sides: you can sit on the river bank in Pest and look at beautiful hill with old buildings in Buda. Or you can climb Buda and see Pest from the top.
Budapest history is also interesting. Being occupied by many empires give this city rich background and diverse architecture. You can see a pretty building from Hofburg era side by side with a dull one from communist time. And the thing I love the most is, there are hidden histories lie behind what look like ordinary statues! I strongly recommend you to join the free walking tour (especially the communism one) to discover the untold stories. (Confession: the tour was great and I didn’t have money to tip them properly – so I promised myself that I would promote them as my gratitude.)
Bonus point from Budapest: they have the most amazing ice cream ever. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been obsessed to find best ice creams in Europe, and I think Levendula wins so far! Try their chocolate lavender and mint raspberry – heaven.
First of all: your impression of a city or a new place will much depend on your experience. If it rains a lot when you are there, or your wallet is stolen, of course it will ruin your mood. I might be just lucky that my experience in these three cities are perfect. It doesn’t mean yours will!
Secondly: I didn’t expect anything when I came to these cities. I didn’t read much about them, I didn’t have places to visit listed. I found most of the places I mentioned above by accident – and that way, I got delightful surprises when they were that good. I’m not sure you will have the same wonderful experiences if you already have certain sets of expectation on them.