Normandy, France – Day Four

An early checkout at the B&B meant that we had a good head start on getting back to the Netherlands with plenty of time before needing to check the rented car back in. We decided to drive towards Calais as we had discovered some hidden underground places to visit. They are classed as ‘dark tourism’ so we were interested! It was 3 hours into our 6 hour drive so a great time to stop and stretch our legs too!

Luckily with no traffic on the motorway and a little detour through the Caps et Marais d’Opale Natural Regional Park we arrived at our first destination of the day, the Fortress of Mimoyecques, once an underground world of workers that was the launch base of V-2 Rockets, which would of been sent to bomb London, UK. From the sunny 28°c outside we explored the 10°c tunnels inside. It was cold, dark and a little creepy, since we were the only ones in it for a while! Though very interesting to see what was planned here during the war, and how they managed to keep it a secret for so long from spying enemy planes. Well worth a read on the link and a visit if you are in the area!

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The second destination was something a little similar, with underground tunnels and the perfect hideout for the R&D and manufacturing process of rockets, which again of would been used against London, UK if they weren’t stopped in time. Hidden under a concrete dome is the La Coupole. You follow the cold tunnels through to the lift, which takes you to the main part of the museum under the dome. Here you have two really interesting videos about the V2 rockets and how people were treated who worked and lived in the tunnels. You are provided with so much information via the audio headset, so it’s understandable to hear about the history as you look at the recovered artefacts . It’s a place you can spend the whole afternoon at. Definitely recommended to visit!

DSC_2253Our visit to Normandy was short but packed with knowledge! We recommend the Le Clos Saint Jean to stay if you have a car as it is perfect location to travel to and from for visiting the northern coast between Carentan and Cabourg. The rooms are a good size (we had one with private bathroom) and the served breakfasts are delicious. They included fresh bread and cheeses, different fruit salads, jams and fresh juices made straight from their garden. My favourite was their homemade brioche bread with freshly crushed raspberries to pour the juice over the top, delicious! Good luck to the owners Caroline and her husband who only started running it in late 2016.

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Click here to go back to the start of our Normandy trip!

Prague, Czech Republic 2013

Our vacation to Prague started at the train station. We had booked ourselves on an overnight train from Amsterdam. Something completely new for us, but it was much cheaper than flying and we wanted a new experience!

We were lucky, since we didn’t book a private sleeping cabin but just chose two chairs due to our budget and we were placed in a cabin with 6 chairs in total. The lucky part was that only one other person joined us in this 6 chair cabin, meaning we could all lay down during the journey. Not that it was very comfy but we survived it fine.

Our first day in the city consisted of checking in at the Travellers Hostel which had a lovely breakfast included. Their breakfast room was situated perfect for the sunrise in the mornings. Good working wifi and perfect location to the city.

We picked up the free map provided and had a plan to visit the KGB Museum first.

This museum, which is more like a private collection, is situated in a small 3/4 room building run by a very enthusiastic Russian old man who has collected many unique World War II and Soviet Era artifacts on display, all related to covert operations and espionage. Maybe even ex-KBG himself? But highly recommended if you are interested and understand English well as his Russian accent was strong!

2013-08-12 14.08.32Of course no trip to Prague would be complete without walking over Charles Bridge. A very buzzing touristic spot filled with painters, jewellery sellers and live music. We stayed listening to the music for a while, some street performers really are good!

2013-08-14 14.31.52From here we walked up the St. Vitus Cathedral at the top of the hill. Below is the one photo I have that doesn’t show construction or scaffolding that was there for restoration.

2013-08-12 11.07.23We never went in, as it really was busy the weekend we had visited, but we enjoyed the atmosphere of the tourists and listened in on some of the walking tour guides close by to hear some of the history. In most cities we try and do a free walking tour but due to the short time planned we decided to explore on our own to the highlights we wanted to see.

Once you are at St. Vitus Cathedral you should take the paths all the way to the Petrin Hill & Observation Tower. There are some beautiful viewpoints along the way and all we could hear were birds singing to each other. The tower you can also go to the top with some pretty views towards the city. We decided for more exercise by walking up the 299 steps in the tower! 2013-08-12 11.43.07

2013-08-12 12.05.09We decided against using the funicular railway to the city below as the weather was beautiful, and walked down the path ending the night with some dinner and a beautiful walk across the Charles Bridge again and local area.

Day Two

Our second day included visiting the Army Museum Zizkov Museum and the Museum of Communism – both worth visiting with lots of information! From here we ended up walking to the John Lennon Wall

2013-08-14 15.22.14 2013-08-14 15.21.18We ended our second day with a delicious meal out in the city center for only €22.00 with drinks! We also visit to the top of the Old Town Hall for the views of Prague during sunset. A VERY popular thing to do, so some waiting was needed. This building also has Prague’s famous Astronomical Clock that can be special to watch (we missed it a few times before finally getting to see it between the many flocks of groups on walking tours). 2013-08-14 17.04.25

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It was the perfect evening to end our few days here. Prague, you were beautiful! One day we will be back to enjoy you again.

Unlike the overnight train from Amsterdam to Prague, we booked a proper sleeping cabin for our night train to Budapest as we wanted a decent nights sleep to explore the next day. You can check out our time in Budapest in my separate blog post here!

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Valletta, Malta 2010 – Cruise Day 5

Arriving in the harbour we took a place at the front of the cruise ship to watch the boat manoeuvre into the port of Valletta. Looking over at the people watching us dock, we couldn’t wait to get off board and explore the old city of Malta. It was our fifth day of our cruise. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We were very interested in how the city has been rebuilt after World War II, and to see some ruins like the Royal Opera House. Below you can see the ruins and then a photo from the museum of how it used to look like.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe decided to walk around the walls edge of Valletta to explore what the city had on offer. Walking towards the city from the cruise ship we checked out the beautiful Lower Barrakka Gardens and the Siege Bell War Memorial. The gardens were beautifully designed and with music playing from a local artist it gave off a very romantic place to sit and relax. The memorial was also impressive to see, with a bronze figure representing the 7000 who died at the bottom of the memorial tower. Additionally a great place for a photo opportunity.

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Reaching the National War Museum as our next destination, we paid the entrance fee and went straight in. It definitely wasn’t where all the tourists were so we enjoyed our peaceful visit, being able to read all the information signs and closely look at the object. Everything was beautifully displayed and well explained, strongly recommended to visit!

The city was beautiful, long straight streets and flourishing flowers hanging over people’s balconies. Luckily the cruise ship wasn’t departing until the late afternoon so we had plenty of time, as we felt that Malta had so much to offer us we could of easily spent a few days there.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother pit stop was as St. John’s Co-Cathedral. Walking slowly on the marble floors and trying to take in all the beautiful baroque architecture which was completed in 1577. We listened to the free audio guides, while avoiding other tourists standing in the middle of the pathway and not looking where they were going. We didn’t listen to it all entirely as we were on our time schedule not to miss the boarding time again, but we enjoyed the visit and now had a great understanding about the history and the artwork.

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Steadily wandering towards the cruise ship we came across the National Museum Of Archaeology which we had just enough time to visit.  More busier than the National War Museum, but expected as it was situated on one of the busier streets of Valletta. They had some unique pieces that had been found.

It was definitely one of our top destinations of our cruise and likely a location to visit again!

 

Vienna, Austria 2014

We had two words for Vienna on our first day, beautiful and busy! Travelling here by train from Innsbruck was a beautiful experience as we never saw so much lush green grass before! The train from Innsbruck took around 2 hours but that time was well spent researching museums and activities to do on trip advisor.

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I normally take lots of photos but in this city the camera battery was running low sooner than expected. We immersed ourselves in the culture, like eating bratwurst with mustard in a roll on the main shopping street – delicious! We couldn’t sit down anywhere as the whole city buzzing with shoppers and all the locals were drinking coffee on café terraces. We squeezed some time in to do some shopping, but mostly focused on exploring more of the busy streets and open squares of the city.

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We booked ourselves into the AllYouNeed Hotel-Vienna2 which was fine for a decent night’s sleep and a fresh well-assorted breakfast the following morning. It wasn’t luxury, but it was good for what we needed with regards to location and price, plus the free WIFI was good, so we could plan what to see in the following days.

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As we only had 2 full days we were limited to what we wanted to do. We were rewarded with warm sunny weather and were able to spend both days out late exploring. One evening did bring some heavy rain and thunderstorms but luckily we had just made it back to the hotel.

Some highlights of visiting Vienna firstly was the Schönbrunn Palace, with beautiful fountains and gardens that you could spend hours walking around in. The whole grounds were free to enter. There could of been more places to buy cold refreshments as the weather was reaching 40°C and most things were selling out to other tourists, but we were prepared and had some snacks and water with us. The flower arrangements were done beautifully and most statues and water fountains were being restored so once its done it will be strikingly picturesque. I took hundreds of photos here so it was hard to choose the best one. A beautiful recommendation!

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The Technical Museum in Vienna was very enjoyable to visit, as they had a wide range of scientific, communications and industrial artifacts which we found interesting. It was not very busy when we visited during lunch time hours so we managed to appreciate all the artifacts on show without having to rush or miss out on some parts of the museum. Not expensive to enter so check it out if you are there!

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The Prater Amusement Park is also a highlight. Like most amusement parks, they are expensive and full of flashing attractions trying to make you spend all your money to win a teddy bear. But I am positive to say that we had a really good night here. We spent a perfect clear night high above the park by first going in the famous ‘Riesenrad’ Ferris wheel, with views of seeing the whole city. We managed to keep to our budget, but one ride (that was priced at €5 each!) which we just had to try was the ‘Prater Turm’. Leaving your shoes and bags below you are taken up slowly and half way up to the highest point of 117 meters you start swinging in circles until you reach the top, lasting for up to 3 minutes. It was a great experience so high up but I definitely admit it was a little scary swaying in little flimsy metal chairs, while you’re holding on as tight as possible to your partner.

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Vienna was a beautiful city, and we would definitely love to return in the future, maybe in the winter season when the city is covered in snow and they have their famous christmas markets.

It was good to have good warm weather and a variety of attractions and museums to keep us active. However we were definitely looking forward to getting back to the mountains in Innsbruck with the train and to check in at our new hotel with a swimming pool and sauna.