Category Archives: Europe

Renting a car and driving at Crete

IMG_0021Skjermbilde 2016-01-16 kl. 14.39.32When abroad I’m usually not the one who drives. I’m not sure why, it’s just how it is. However when we were at Crete, me and my photographer, I was the only one with a driving-licence, so I had to be the driver this time.

When we arrived at the airport in Iraklio we followed the signs “car rental” and found our agent whoithout any problems. Having a smart-phone with a map-application made it easy to navigate. You have to roam in the beginning, but after the application has found the route, you can turn off roaming and the application will still help you navigate. The only time you have to roam is when you have to re-route.

Last time we were at Crete, 15 years ago, we had a rental car and I can remember being up in the mountains on very narrow, curvy roads, kind of scary. We never went to the mountains this time and driving on the highway was like driving at home. The only thing I found difficult was to drive in the afternoon/night as ther roads were very dark many places. However it didn’t scare me from renting a car at Crete. Actually I can recommened it as it’s so much easier to get around when you have a rental car!

A week at Crete in the end of October

IMG_0049Skjermbilde 2016-01-16 kl. 14.39.32In the end of October most of the tourists are gone and the island, that is very busy during the summer, is more relaxed and everybody is prepareing to closing down for the season. I was aware of this when we planned a week at Crete in the end of October and was prepared to meet an island that was tired of tourists, empty hotels and so-so weather.

What surprised me was that I was wrong in everything. I have been to Crete many times before, but it’s 10-15 years since my last visits, so comparing is not fair. However it seams like the Cretans were more relaxed and even more friendly. Most people were smiling and were very helpful and of course, very curisous when my photographer and I stopped to take pictures (and me posing…) everywhere.

Some shops, especially those close to the chartered hotels, were closed and most were quite empty, of course. There is no need to have a shop fully stocked when the hotels are closing! In the city-center of Iraklion the market and everything was still going strong with locals and the people, again, was relaxed and very friendly.

What about the weather? Although we were quite unlucky with the weather: overcast, rainy and windy, it was still 20 degrees. When the sun showed up it was actullay very warm!  (The week before we arrived the were 25 degrees and sunny.) I was prepared for cold days and was, again, surprised by how nice the weather was when it was not raining. Actually I fell in love with the island and if I was thinking of buying an appartment in a warmer climate, I would absolutly consider Crete.

Leipzig Christmas market

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Skjermbilde 2016-01-16 kl. 14.39.32 If you haven’t gotten into Christmas-mood yet, I’m sure going to the Christmas market in Leipzig will help you! It’s freezing cold, but you get gluwhein on every-other stall, so if you can tolerate it, I would suggest to drink a lot to keep you warm.

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The smell from all the different stalls is delicious, a blend of gluwhein and christmascakes and… sausages, or whursts, like the Germain call them.

Although you can eat yourself through the Christmas market I would sugguest to take a look at all the handcrafted goods. I must say I was quite impressed with the market in Leipzig as I have been to some other Christmas markets in Europe and mostly of what you get there have, unfortunately, been “made in China”. Nothing to write home about…

At the Leipzig Christmas market, you can get everything handcrafted. It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a special Christmas-present I would absolutly advise you to go to this market. Just be aware of where your wallet is as it can easily be stolen… More of that in another post.

julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap 1 julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap 11 julemarked leipzig lavFODMAO lavfodmappåreise travellowfodmap 5The Leipzig Christmas market is open from the last week in November to the day before Chrsitmas Eve. The main-area for the market is at the Marketplatz, but for me, it looked like there were stalls all over the city. You can’t miss it if going to Leipzig during December!

  • This post was written in cooperation with Leipzig Touristboard when doing research for my Norwegian travel book: “lavFODMAP på reise” or in English “travel lowFODMAP”.

What to buy in London/UK if you are on a low FODMAP, glutenfree or lactosefree diet!

2014-12-30 10.43.02 HDRPeople often ask me what I usually buy, and where, when I am abroad. The selection of low FODMAP ready-made food is not very good in Norway so usually I tend to find a better variety outside of Norway. The best thing with UK is that everything, obviously, is written in English and it’s easy to read the list of ingredients.

One thing I always buy when going to UK is Gingins. Gingins is hard ginger-candy with 16% ginger and I they do help if I have a stomach-ache or feel sick. I have seen them at Whole Foods Market, very close to Piccadilly (20 Glasshouse Street), but I usually buy them at Holland & Barrat (the Gingins link will take you to their online-shop). I have been in contact with Holland & Barrat asking if they sell and send to Norway, unfortunately they don’t so I will continue to stock up when I’m in the UK.

At the Whole Foods Marked they also have a selection of glutenfree products. Not as big as the one I found in Toulouse, but more than good enough.

2014-12-30 10.47.23The also have a big selection of alternatives to milk, like rice-milk, soy-milk, outs-milk etc… However getting that kind of milk and also lactose-free milk, was not difficult to find even at smaller Tesco and Sainsbury.

At the smalller Sainsbury and Tesco they have some glutenfree food, fresh “garden salad” and packed, cooked meat. I take it the seletion is bigger in larger shops, but those are not located in cetral London.

Although it’s not at all forbidden to buy medicines over the counter in the UK and bring back home, I am not comfortable with telling what kind of medicines I usually buy in the UK (Norway has strict regulations on what you can buy over the counter). If you want to know my list, feel free to e-mail me: cecilie@nobackpacker.no

At the legendary Fortnum & Mason I found lots of jams and marmelades suitable for the low FODMAP-diet: Rasberries in whiskey, orange and champagne marmelade, bluberry jam… and mustard.

2014-12-31 10.49.44Remember to bring a close to empty suitcase to London, not only for the shoes and clothes, but also to bring back home some fantastic, yummi food!

 

London on a restricted diet

2014-12-27 19.54.58London, and I think UK in general, is easy to navigate if you are on a restricted diet. With that said, I don’t know how it works if you have celiac desease, but I take it it wouldn’t be that difficult. At least most food in the grocery-stores are marked.

Obviously, as long as you speak English, there will be no language-barriers when explaining your needs. However, this time, I took the chance not to explain and just ordered what I thought would be low FODMAP (no wheat, no garlic, no onion, no lactose).

For breakfast I bought eggs and ham at the grocery-store. I cooked the eggs in my egg-boiler (sounds strange to bring an egg-boiler, but I can assure you, it has been a life saver more than once) and an extra one for lunch, just in case.

For lunch you can either go to a pub, eat sushi or find wheat-free pre-packed food at the grocery-store. There are several options for sushi in London, Wasabi being one of my favorite. Not because they have exeptional nice sushi, but because it is convenient that you can pick what you want and that each sushi-bite has been pre-packed. I wouldn’t opt for Wasabi if I was going out for dinner though, but for take-away it’s great. Many of the coffe-shops like Pret A Manger and Eat also sell pre-packed sushi-meals.

Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Saintbury’s have pre-packed meat and chicken in smaller bites, refridgerated and pre-packed. A plain salad with low FODMAP-vegetables (lettuce, tomatoe, carrot…) is also for sale at most grocery-stores and together with some meat or chicken it will make a nice meal.

For dinner your safest option is to order meat or fish with fries or rice. In London you can get a steak on every corner/pub, and I found it extremely easy to not walk around hungry. In fact, I didn’t eat much of the food I brought from home!

This was my first time going to UK after I started the low FODMAP-diet and even I have been there 2-3 times a year the last 10 years, and haveing lived in Liverpool for a year, I was surprised how easy I found it to get a full meal all day long.

Hotel review: Hotel Indigo Paddington, London – UK 4*

2014-12-26 22.58.57Hotel Indigo is a brand I have stayed at only a few times and I think I like it. It’s usually small’ish, “cool”, colorful, boutique-hotels.

Hotel Indigo Paddington is located only 50 meters from the Paddington tube- and trainstation. Heathrow Express goes to this station, so if you arrive at Heathrow the train will take you to the hotel in 15 min. Unfortunately the Heathrow Express didn’t go the day we arrived (the 26th. of December, boxing-day in UK), but we used the train when we left. The price is 36 GbP for a return ticket and 21 for a one way fare. If you take the tube from Heathrow, use Piccadilly-line to Piccadilly and change to Bakerlo-line, Northbound. The journey will take around an hour.

When we arrived at the hotel we were welcomed by a nice, but somehow confusing, receptionist. We were told he wanted to upgrade us, but that the former guest had reasently left, but the room was ready and we could have a look at the room. I didn’t understand the problem, nor did Mr. No-Backpacker. In the end we got the upgraded room.

Entering the room I understood the problem. It was reeking of cheap perfume, with an underlying odor of sigarette. We thought about chaning the room, but becasue we were tired and wanted to go to bed we opened the windows and went to bed. (The smell didn’t disappear until the last day….)

Before I booked this hotel I read that the rooms are tiny. I don’t know what room-category we got an upgrade to, but I didn’t find my room too small. The only complaint must be that there were not much space in the closet. For 3-4 days I would say it was ok though.

Our room had a Nespresso-machine. The only drwaback was that we got only 1 pod with normal coffe and 2 with defacc. I would say mot people drink normal coffee so I don’t understand this… Maybe they wanted to save some money… Well.. The good thing was that there were also a kettle and instant coffee! (Not the same, but still caffein… )

The mini-bar, with soft-drinks, are free for all the guests and it will be refilled every day. (2 Pepsi, 2 Diet-Pepsi, 2 small bottles of still- and sparkling water and 1 orangejuice.) There is still some space left in the fridge, perfect for those of us who need to bring our own food!

2014-12-26 22.57.42The bathroom was smallish, but nice and clean. The water-pressure in the shower was very weak, but there were plenty of warm water!

2014-12-26 22.58.15The toiletries were ok’ish. In Liverpool they use Aveda and I was hoping for that here too…

We didn’t have breakfast included. There are lots of places to either eat at or just grab a sandwitch in the same street as the hotel, so didn’t pay for the breakfast at the hotel. At the railwaystation there is a Marks&Spencer and Saintburys too. I bought eggs and ham and cooked the eggs in my egg-boiler for breakfast!

The last night we had dinner in the restaurant. Mr. No-Backpacker had a hamburger and fries, I had a steak and fries. Not exactly gourmet-food, but perfectly fine! There are lots of cafes, pubs and restaurants nearby the hotel, I’ll come back to that later!

Located so close to the tube, connected to the Bakerlo, Central and Circle-line, I would say this hotel has a very good location in London. Although I do like Intercontinental Park Lane, I think I prefer this location, both because of the tube, but also because there are cafes and restaurants at the door-step.

 

 

 

 

 

What about the weather in Athens in the end of October?

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Before I went to Athens I was debating wether to go or not. I knew my body wasn’t the best as I worked very hard to finish taking the photoes for my coming book. We made it and in my mind I thought some sun and relaxing times in Athens would do me good.

Well… I haven’t seen much of the sun and I’m happy I brought my trench-coat because it’s been cold and some days it’s been raining so much that the streets became flooded! (My friends Annette from Travellingmunk and Mette from Reiselykke  actually hired a taxi to cross a big pond in the street!)  I don’t know if this is the norm at this time of the year, but it’s been like this for a week now. I think the weather was great the week before I arrived, so the first part of October  may be a better time to travel to Athens if you want summer!

What I know is that July and August is very warm, too hot for my liking (do I ever get satisfied?)! I think the perfect time to travel to Athens must be the last part of April, May, first part of June, September and first part of October, at least if you want summer. All in all I think this is the best time to travel within all Southern-Europe. I have been to Rome in 45 degrees and all I can say is that Mr. No-Backpacker should be happy he is still alive (you know the feeling when you feel you are boiling, you just can’t think clearly and a (stupid, at least in the moment) husband asks a silly question….)

I’m heading back to Norway tomorrow and it’s been around zero degrees there, so all in all, the weather in Athens is better than home!

 

Restaurants and room-service at Athenaeum Intercontinental Athens

IMG_9020The second evening here I ordered room-service, chicken-burger. Because I can’t eat bread and am afraid of getting something I can’t eat, I asked for the chicken-burger without the bread (I don’t care if I got the bread in the basket!), sauce and mushroom: Only chicken and potatoe. This is what I got: two very big chicken-breasts with potatoe. The chicken-breast were tasty and very well prepared, but the fries were too soggy.

Yesterday I had a look at the roof-top restaurant. I didn’t eat there, but if I weren’t alone I would have!

The view from the restaurant

There are also a restaurant and cafe downstairs, at the reception-level, but I would prefer this one only for the fantastic view!

Athenaeum Intercontinental Athens

IMG_9000– Welcome tom Athenaeum Intercontinental Athens! Since you are an Ambassador we have upgraded your room! (Short story: I lost my Royal Ambassador memebership because I didn’t have enough nighst as we have had appartments for some of our stays this year. We got a “soft landing” to Ambassador membership.)

Checking in was done very quick and I was followed to my room with my luggage. I am not 100% sure what room I got, but I think it was an executive room. To my surprise it was big with a full sofa, chair and a desk.

 

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IMG_8997As an Ambassador you are entitled to fruit, water and a “gift” waiting in your room. Although I don’t eat much fruit because of my diet, I like the feeling of being treated to something extra. The gift from Athenaeum Intercontinental Athens was 3 “Olivia” soap-bars.

IMG_8994IMG_8996The toiletries are Korres, which I first sampled at The Capital Hotel in London many years ago. It’s a Greek brand and I love the fact that they use local toiletries instead of the Agraria they usually use at Intercontinental. (I’m allergic to the Agraria shampoo so always have to bring my own…) I’m not sure wether I like or dislike the Korres, but so far I have not gotten any bad reactions and that itself is a good sign!

The bathroom has a bath-tub with an excellent pressure in the shower!

As I didn’t have breakfast or lounge-access included I can’t tell about thoset services but I had a quick look into the lounge during “cocktail-hour”. The lounge was modern and had a good atmosphere. The food-offerings weren’t that great, just small snacks, but it looked delicious! I don’t know what they charge for lounge-access, but usually they charge for two people, so I think it would be a good deal if you are a couple AND if you are not on a strict diet like I am. (No wheat, no lactose, no garlic, no onion etc…) I am sure the hotel would cater for me, but as I am alone I don’t bother.

IMG_9003The cafe in the reception-area is always busy with guests, but not too busy. I might go and have a coffee there later!

Getting to the hotel from the airport with the metro/tram:

Take the blue metro-line to Syntagma. You have to buy a ticket at the airport (8 EUR). At Syntagma you can either take a taxi (around 5 EUR) or if you don’t have much luggage, take the green or red tram-line. You have to go out and up the stairs and then you will see the tram-station. This is the end-stop, no worries if you are in the right direction! Take the tram to Kassomouli (the 4th. stop) and from there it’s only 50 meters walk to the hotel. (This is the same tram that will take you to the city center, Syntagma.)

More about the SPA, area and restaurants in the upcoming posts.

 

 

 

Athens, here I come!

Tomorrow I am going to Athens to partisipate at a travel-blogger conference. I signed up for this earlier this year, before I knew I was going to write a cookbook, and booked 7 nights. Although the conference is only 3 days I knew I would need some extra nights, just to relax!

To be honest, I haven’t been much in “travel-blogger mode” the last months as the cookbook project has taken all my time and energy. However I have decided to go to Athens, partisipate in some of the sessions at the conference, relax, write and relax even more. I do feel a little bit “guilty” of traveling for a week while 1. I don’t have the time to write as much as I want to in my blog and 2. I am in the finishing-stage of the book. Luckily I have other exciting projects in my mind, including traveling, so I shouldn’t feel that guilty!

Well… It might be good for both my health and my mind, so see you from Athens!