Tag Archives: guide

A Peek Inside my Suitcase Essentials….

Eurobreakdown.com recently asked travel bloggers what they packed inside their suitcase, which made me ponder what essential items I bring on each trip. Below is a mixture of the practical and the fanciful, the technical and the traditional, but all well-used and well-loved.

Copies of travel and medical information: Admittedly the least exciting but most important, I always keep copies of my passport, travel insurance, address of residence and medical information with me in a watertight folder. In the event your passport is stolen, having a copy makes it much easier when notifying the embassy, and

Many countries will ask you for the address of your hotel or residence when entering the country – having this on hand makes going through airport security much easier than trying to find it on your phone at the desk!

Bringing a copy of medical information is particularly important for those with medical-related allergies, such as penicillin or plasters. Should you become unconscious at any point on your trip, having a copy of this and travel insurance on your person will prove helpful for medics and any travel companions trying to seek medical assistance for you.

traveldocs

Merino wool buff and/or pashmina: Whether the climate is unseasonably cold or you plan on exploring religious heritage sites, a plain extra layer is always handy, particularly for women. Buffs are extremely versatile and can be transformed into hats, scarves, even balaclavas. They take up little space, and with the merino wool fabric models, do not retain odours.

A pashmina scarf is travel’s biggest multitasker. Whether it is covering your head and shoulders when visiting temples, acting as a cover-up on the beach, a blanket or towel in desperate situations, or even as a shawl for fancy events, the pashmina is a lady traveller’s best friend on the road.

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Canon 400D SLR camera with 18-200mm lens: It might be heavy, take up a lot of space and create a nagging neck pain by the end of the day, but a camera phone or digital camera simply won’t do when it comes to capturing memories of a trip. The lens in particular is a travel photographer’s dream, with the 18-200mm scope doing the work of up to three lens in one.

Kindle: Almost nothing can beat the reading experience of a hard copy of a novel….except the weight of carrying a dozen books on your back as you attempt to traverse hot, stuffy airports. Kindles are lightweight, have a long battery life and you are not limited to purchasing whatever selection is available in the small English-speaking section of the local bookstore.

Notebook and pen with inner folder: The essential tools of any travel writer, the humble notebook and pen can record all your memories, notes of your favourite places, even drawings of your favourite architecture. Try to look for a notebook that includes a mini folder inside it, to store all those pamphlets and business cards you want to keep from your trip. Moleskine do a good, rugged, and compact version, but for those wanting something that won’t break the bank, Paperchase do their own version. I always end up arriving home with a bag bulging with business cards, pamphlets and souvenirs from my favourite places to remember for future posts – my notebook definitely helps me organise all this!

travelnotebook

Hand sanitizer: Sure, it might not smell great and you will potentially be tarred with the ‘tourist’ stereotype, but if you want to save yourself stomach illness or any other sickness hand sanitizer is an essential. Try to choose one that doesn’t require water, in case you plan on travelling to an area where it is scarce.

Packet of tissues: No matter where you are, chances are you will either catch a bug, be trapped in an unfurnished toilet cubicle, or even require kindling for a fire. Tissues solve all these issues, and more – just remember to pack them in a waterproof pouch! Which brings me to the last item….

Waterproof bags: Not only will these protect your items from getting soaked, but waterproof bags are also a handy way of organising your bag. Store toiletries in one colour, electronics in another, etc., and it will save you time when searching for items in your rucksack.

What is in your suitcase? Any handy tips? Leave them below! 

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Guest Post: Athens – Shop ’til You Drop

Did you know that Athens is an original shopper’s paradise? If not, then you’d better start exploring its many famous shopping areas, such as central Syntagma, Monastiraki, Plaka or in the northern suburbs of Kifisia, filled with numerous fancy, trendy and alternative shops where you can shop ‘til you drop.

Ermou Street

It’s a little hard to miss when arriving at Syntagma Square; Ermou is one of the most famous pedestrian shopping streets in Athens, lined with a wide selection of clothes and gift shops. The best time to go is at Christmas when it is completely transformed with seasonal decorations, while many street performers are gathered in the area to entertain the crowds.

Ermou

Monastiraki & Plaka

You cannot possibly leave Athens without first wandering around the cobbled streets of Monastiraki area, home to the bustling Athens Flea Market. Here, you can buy local spices and herbs, as well as traditional street food and souvenir shops. Bring a camera on Sunday mornings, when street sellers gather to bargain over anything everything. There are old teapots, video game consoles, lamps and clothes. Above Monastiraki and right underneath the iconic Acropolis hill you’ll find Plaka. Definitely visit for a step back in time. Filled with neo-classical buildings and traditional tavernas, there are plenty of options to fuel a coffee break. 

Plaka

Kolonaki

Walking towards the opposite end of Athens center, you will meet the high class Kolonaki area, a temple dedicated to the art of shopping. Most international designer brands are found here next to smaller boutiques hiding unique and, certainly no less expensive, outfits. Kolonaki is also the place to meet (or become) Athens next it girl!

Varvakeios Agora

If high end isn’t really your thing, go for the bust Varvakios Meat & Fish Market on Athinas street. It’s a gastronomic delight. Visitors can also find a broad range of spices, meat, cheese, olives and deli treats. Explore the tavernas surrounding the market and your tongue will thank you.

Varvakeios

Explore Athens’ malls!

The Mall Athens Quite possibly the ultimate shopping in Athens! Right next to the tongue-twister Neratziotissa Train Station and beside the main Attiki Odos Highway, the Mall Athens is a vast shopping experience with well-known brands, cinemas, restaurants and cafés.

Golden Hall

Opt for luxury at the Golden Hall on Kifisias Avenue. It’s a stone’s throw from some of Athens best hotels like the Civitel Attik. Visitors can combine business and pleasure, as the mall is found close to many conference hotels in Athens.

Athens Metro Mall

Athens Metro Mall is set in the southern suburbs of Athens, just a short metro ride away from Syntagma Square. Get off at Agios Dimitrios station and pop into this friendly five-storey complex, which houses shops, cafes, restaurants and Village cinemas. On the top floor visitors can enjoy their meal or drink at TGI Fridays overlooking the sea! Enjoy shopping in Athens!

MetroMall

 

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A Short Christmas Gift Guide for Eco-Friendly Camping and Outdoors Gear

For campers that want to leave the wilderness as they first saw it, or adventurers who want to leave as minimal a carbon imprint as possible, eco-friendly camping gear combines innovative design with excellent functionality to produce products that any outdoors person would want to receive as a gift.

BUDGET: Runners have made these socks popular, and now hikers are also finding the benefits to wearing them as liners. The Injinji EcoSeries NuBamboo Crew Socks are made from sustainable bamboo material that is also soft enough to prevent blisters forming. http://www.injinji.com/ price: $15.00

 

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SOMETHING NICE: Merino wool is renowned for its natural ability not only to regulate body temperature and wick sweat from the body, but its anti-bacterial properties means it doesn’t retain odours either. Howies’ Classic Merino Base Layers come in a variety of weights and colours to suit your outdoor activity, and their basic design makes them easily versatile for everyday use as well. http://www.howies.co.uk/womens/womens-clothing/base-layers/nbl-classic-coral.html price: £55.

 

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FLASHING THE CASH: A stove that uses natural fuel, provides free heat and charges electrical gadgets, all while cooking your food? Sounds too good to be true, but the BioLite Campstove is one device that defines multitasking. Simply collect any naturallly-occuring fuels like pinecones or twigs to burn, and while it is cooking your food the excess heat the flame emits is generated into electricity through a thermoelectric generator that powers a fan to decrease any extraneous smoke. Excess electricity is sent to a usb connector that can charge phones, mp3 players, LED lights and more. http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/biolite-campstove-97310014?id_colour= price: £150.

 

biolite

 

Photo credit: jjay69 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

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Barefoot, Minimalist, Traditional- a Quick Guide to Different Running Styles

 

Back in the days of yore, running was simply running. You bought your standard trainers from the local shoe store in town, and then ran your daily route. However decades of scientific research and studies have produced a myriad of running shoes ranging from super-chunky high-tops to little more than strappy leather sandals. To help those new to running understand the mires of terminology out there, here is a quick guide to the three most popular types  and shoe styles of running out there today.

Barefoot Running

Made popular by Chris McDougall’s Born to Run, this running style rests its basis on the fact that people were originally intended to run barefoot, landing on the ball of their foot or forefoot instead of their heel. According to the barefoot hypothesis, the heel is not ergonomically constructed to absorb the shock of concrete that modern running shoes cause today, and as a result is now the main cause of injuries amongst runners.

Modern shoes are filled with lots of cushioning and thick, heavy soles which, instead of absorbing the shock on your heels and knees and supporting your arch, instead weakens the muscles in your feet. In the end, this causes an unhealthy running stride where runners put greater force and shock on their joints and muscles than they can take, and consequentially causes injuries. Instead, barefoot running shoes feature a thin sole that encourages the user to ‘feel’ the ground beneath their feet more, and contain no support or cushioning for the foot.

Does it Work?

Born to Run lists endless studies and statistics that prove barefoot running is better for runners, however the benefits of barefoot running are still being researched and verified by scientists. What makes it more difficult to ascertain the benefits is that barefoot running strides are different to each person- some people prefer the ball of their foot, others the forefoot, and even some continue to land lightly on their heel, but put greater shock and force on their forefoot. However a myriad of runners like ultramarathoner Scott Jurek have claimed to see improvement from barefoot running, and others who claim it alleviates joint pain.

If You’re Interested:

Make sure you speak to a specialist in-store about barefoot shoes beforehand, and mention any injuries you might have or have had in the past. This, along with the type of terrain you usually run on, will affect your shoe selection. After purchasing a pair, the key to successfully becoming a barefoot runner relies on patience and the gradual build-up of mileage. Run your usual six-mile route in your brand-new barefoot trainers and your feet will be sore for days; instead, start the mileage low, i.e. one kilometre, and gradually build it up. Also, remember you will need to change your running stride- land with your feet beneath, not in front, of you, knee slightly bent, to allow greater absorption of the shock impact on your legs. Most importantly however, remember that barefoot running isn’t simply changing the shoes you wear; it involves changing your entire stride, and can sometimes take years to transition fully. For more information, REI have produced several handy sheets on barefoot running.

Where to Buy:

Before you throw away your trainers and head outdoors au natural, if you live in an urban environment or typically run on rocky terrain, you might want to consider purchasing some light sole protection. Five Fingers are the most popular brand for barefoot trainers, but if you can’t fit your toes through the individual holes (or can’t face wearing them in public) most running brands offer some form of a barefoot trainer nowadays, just head to any specialist running store to see the selection.

Minimalist Running

This type of running can be the most confusing to define, mostly because runners cannot agree on what defines as ‘minimalist’. Purist barefoot runners argue anything that covers your foot is not true ‘barefoot running’ while the sports brands interchange the terms ‘barefoot’ and ‘minimalist’ to tout anything that is smaller than their own definition of a shod running trainer. Generally though, for the ease of definition, a minimalist shoe is anything that measures between four to eight millimetres of width in the heel of the shoe. Minimalist shoes are intended to help people gradually transition from traditional running trainers to barefoot running by lessening the dramatic difference in running style and feel between the two.

Does it Work?

Again, this is another source of contention between runners and manufacturers. Some people like barefoot running coach Lee Saxby argue minimalist shoes do not encourage people to change their running form, while others argue it gives people the support their feet need when they are gradually strengthening the muscles needed for barefoot running. Much like barefoot running, it differs from runner to runner- if you are looking for a slimmed-down shoe, or think you need the support for transition to the barefoot style, then minimalist shoes might be for you.

 If You’re Interested:

Minimalist shoes were designed to help runners transition from shod running to traditional running. While these shoes are designed to encourage runners to run on the forefoot or the ball of your foot in these shoes, it also offers minimal arch and heel support when the muscles tire. If you are serious about transitioning to barefoot however, make sure you do gradually choose shoes with a lower gradient in the heel each time you replace them- otherwise you could be risking injury by running in your traditional stride in shoes with less cushioning and support.

Where to Buy:

Merrell’s Trail Glove offers a good balance between shod running trainer and barefoot shoe, while Innov-8‘s running shoe range have a handy arrow system that allows runners to know what heel gradient measurement they are buying. One arrow equals three millimetres, and a mixture of road and trail running options are on offer.

Traditional Running (Shod Running)

Little explanation is needed for shod running; you land on your heel first, often with your knee stretched in front of you, with a shoe that is higher in the heel than the rest of the shoe to absorb the impact shock when your foot hits the ground. Most shod trainers provide arch support and cushioning around the ankle to support it in place too.

Does it Work?

Although there has been a lot of media attention recently about the benefits and detriments of barefoot running versus shod running, it is important to remember that not only is there a difference in the shoes, but more importantly the running form. Barefoot runners typically take shorter, yet more frequent strides with them feet landing beneath their bodies, while shod runners take longer, but less frequent strides, with their feet landing just in front of them. Many researchers argue humans have worn shoes as much as 10,000 years ago, and that shod running isn’t as damaging as current theories make out.

If You’re Interested:

If you tend to pronate or need extra support due to injuries, or run on hazardous terrain, shod trainers offer the support and protection needed. Preferences for barefoot or shod depends on the individual runner, and it is important for any runner to remember that most of the time, injuries result from a bad running stride, and no shoe will magically cure that.

Where to Buy:

Pay a visit to any specialist running store that can measure your running gait and accurately prescribe the correct style of shod trainer.  Sweatshop is the UK’s largest running retailer, but many smaller independent running retailers will offer a similar service and selection if there is not a Sweatshop close to you.

 

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A Foodie’s Guide to Krakow, Poland

Krakow is renowned for its medieval square as well as its Communist and WWII historical sites, but it’s growing number of gourmet restaurants and reputation for good value for money is fast making it an ideal destination for foodies.

For cheap and cheerful favourites: If you want pierogi like your babcia used to make, head to Polskie Smaki just off the main square of Old Krakow. A popular place for students and locals, Polskie Smaki’s simple and cheerful decor matches its previous history as a milk bar during the Communist regime. Here hungry visitors will find several classic Polish dishes like the sausage-based Kielbasa or the barley Zurek soup, along with the all-important pierogi dessert in fruity flavours like blueberry. The menu might vary each day, but the restaurant’s good value for money does not, with a pint of Tyniec beer, a  hearty main and a plate of pierogi setting your wallet back about £10.  Polskie Smaki, ul. St. Thomas 5, 31-014 Krakow; open from 10:00am to 22:00pm daily; http://www.polskie-smaki.pl/en/index.php.

 

Polskie Smaki

 

For chocolate lovers: Belgium might hold the title as the centre of chocolate production in Europe, but one rich morsel from Krakow’s Karmello chocolatier might be enough to convince you otherwise. Stocking a range of dark and milk chocolates in a wide variety of flavours and designs, their liqueur chocolates are particularly worth trying. For a truly indulgent treat however, nothing beats having a tall glass of their hot chocolate on a chilly evening. Karmello, 40 Florian Street, Krakow; open Tuesday-Sunday 7:00am to 23:00pm daily, Fridays 7:00am to 22:00; http://www.karmello.pl/.

 

Karamelo

For gourmet dinners: Krakow might not have a Michelin-starred just yet, but it has several restaurants that are Michelin recommended for a fraction of the price of its contemporaries. Head to Miod Malina, or Honey Raspberry, where diners can try traditional dishes from the Leonardo region. Particular favourites include the roe-deer in a dark cherry sauce, and the lamb chops marinated in a rosemary and garlic marinade. Expect to pay approximately £30 for a main and drinks. Travellers that book far in advance should try to get a table at Wesele, whose rustic interior reflects its traditional Polish menu. Miod Malina, ul. Grodzka 40 PL – 31 044 Kraków; open from 12:00 pm to 23:00 pm daily; http://www.miodmalina.pl/en/. Wesele, Rynek Glówny 10 PL – 31 042 Kraków; open from 12:00 pm to 23:00 pm daily; http://www.weselerestauracja.pl/pl/.

For traditional Jewish food: Head to the old Jewish quarter known as Kazimierz, where you can get a taste of Jewish life in Krakow prior to WWII at Dawno Temu Na Kazimierzu (Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz). The entire restaurant is filled antiques to resemble a Jewish home, with even candle the only source of light. Make sure you head there on a Tuesday evening, when you can enjoy a big savoury plate of kasha to the sound of a live band playing Jewish tunes from yesteryear. Dawno Temu Na Kazimierzu, ul Szeroka 17, Krakow; open from 10:00am to midnight daily.

 

Once Upon a Time in Kazimierz

 

For vodka-philes: Deviate from Krakow’s main square to the smaller one on ul.Mikołajska street, and there you will find the Wodka Cafe Bar. This cosy drinking hole boasts an entire wall of vodka, ranging from your standard Polish Zubrowka bison grass vodka to more adventurous flavour options like grapefruit or pear. Ask for a chilled glass and then sit back and peruse the unusual artwork for sale on the wall. Wodka Cafe Bar, ul.Mikołajska 5, 31-027, Kraków; open Monday to Thursday from 15:00 pm to close, Friday to Sunday from 13:00 to close; http://www.wodkabar.pl/; https://www.facebook.com/pages/W%C3%B3dka-Cafe-bar/206241002621

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