Tips and treasures

Many of the best places I have found while travelling – be they out of the way towns, bustling markets, beautiful parks, or cosy bars – have been stumbled across by chance, or recommended by fellow travellers.

There is nothing better than getting a tip from a local, or a friend who has travelled before you. So, I’d like to share some of my own my tips (to be continually updated, mostly with food and coffee finds it seems so far) – places that I think are well worth a visit if you happen to find yourself in these parts of the world. Some of these will be mentioned in my posts, others not, but here they are:

Italy

  • Le Volpi e l’uva (Piazza de’ Rossi 1, Florence). Beautiful little wine bar in a small piazza just south of the ponte vecchio, this place has a great wine list and serves AMAZING cheese platters and other side dishes. Our bill (between 3 of us) came to a little under 50 euro in total for 2 glasses of wine each, a giant cheese platter (including a truffle infused cheese, a salty hard pecorino, and others I’d never even heard of) and two sides (marinated vegetables, and mini bruschetta with vegetable paté) – easily enough to fill us all.
  • Monti Sibillini National Park (Umbria/Le Marche, Italy). See my post and http://www.sibillini.net/en/. The piano grande in late spring/early summer is a site not to be missed
  • Le Murate/Caffe Letterario (Piazza delle Murate, Florence). Once an old prison, this site has been converted into a complex of housing, arts and cultural centres, and a great caffe/bar. Most nights there’s events such as film screenings, book readings or just a band/DJ, but it’s also a great place to grab a drink (they have a great – and quite cheap -cocktail menu!) and sit amongst the mostly local crowd in the huge stone courtyard.
  • Pissignano market (between the Fonti del Clittuno and Pissignano, Umbria, Italy). Running on the first Sunday of each month, this market has hundreds of stalls selling antiques, old leather goods and jewellery, local produce and general junk (of the good kind). We found the best stalls to be located immediately surrounding, and to the east of, the Fonti.

The UK

  • Crate Brewery (Hackney Wick, London). This small brewery is housed in a converted industrial space by the canal in Queens Yard, and is a perfect place to grab a pint (the IPA was great!) and (if you’re lucky enough to get a sunny day) sit outside by the canal – there are even a few row boats you can sit in!
  • The Isle of Skye. Ok, so the Scottish highlands and isles aren’t exactly a secret – and I’m sure there are other places in Scotland just as wonderful as Skye. But if you’re ever in this part of the world, make the trip. It is just spectacular.
  • The Faltering Fullback (19 Perth Rd London N4 3HB). Ok, so there are thousands of pubs in London, and I’m not saying this is the best. But if you’re in the north and looking for a pub with a FANTASTIC beer garden (multiple levels, it’s like an adventure playground) then look no further.

Paris

  • Anything and everything from A Parisien Feast ! The vegetarian gallette from Alain at Le Marche des Enfants Rouges, and fresh produce shopping at Marche d’Aligre, should definitely be on the foodie list.
  • Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Not only does it have a fantastic range of English books, but it has a cosy reading room upstairs where you can sit and read anything from their library, or listen to the sounds of someone playing piano in the adjacent music room.

Spain

  • Toma Cafe (Calle Palma 49, Madrid). What can I say, I’m a Melbourne coffee snob. Which is why, after almost two months of (mostly) average coffee, this tiny (but expanding) cafe in a back alley in Madrid was a lifesaver. Amazing coffee (and coffee list, from ristrettos to cold drips), great atmosphere, and apparently I’m not the only Melbournian to think so – the barista told me that lots of coffee-hunting Melbournians seem to track them down.
  • Granada. I headed south to Granada for a week on the advice of a friend, and ended up wishing I could have stayed a month. Stay in the Albayzin (arabic quarter) – the best part of town by far. This city has everything on offer – laid back, slightly hippy vibe, Arabic culture, free tapas, and within a half to one hour bus ride from the Sierra Nevada or the coast.
  • Makuta Guesthouse (Calle Tina 18, Granada). A little piece of heaven in a quiet cobblestone street in Albayzin. If you’re looking for a place to chill out, meet great people, lie around in hammocks or atop a shady tree house, and drink sangria, this is the place to be.
  • Bodegas Castenada (Calle de Almireceros 1, Granada). You’re spoilt for choice for tapas bars in Granada, but this one’s a stand out. Rustic, bustling interior (get there when it opens if you want a seat, otherwise it’s standing room only!), great wine and manzanilla list, and traditional, simple tapas. Ask for their remojon (a salad of codfish, orange, onions and eggs in olive oil) – amazing enough to convert even this longstanding vegetarian 😉
  • Babel (Calle Elvira 40, Granada). Another great tapas restaurant. What it lacks in atmosphere/interior and ‘traditional’ tapas fare (it’s ‘world food’), it makes up for by the fact that 1) you can choose your tapas, and 2) their vegetarian tapas menu.

Berlin

  • Comebackpackers Hostel (Adalbertstrasse 97, Kreuzberg). Right in the bustling heart of Kreuzberg behind Kottbusser Tor, this hostel is one of the best I’ve ever stayed in. HUGE common room with comfy couches, floor to ceiling windows, kitchen, bar, and rooftop garden. What more could you ask for?
  • Bateau Ivre (Oranienstrasse 18, Kreuzberg). Grab a beer or a coffee, a spot at one of the many wooden tables outside, and sit back to watch the colourful Kreuzberg crowds passing by. Apparently they do good food too although we never ate there.
  • Five Elephant Coffee Roastery (Reichenberger Strasse 101). THE best coffee I’ve had on my trip so far, and right up there with my Melbourne favourites. In fact, judging by the Australians and Kiwis working there, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Australian (read, Melbourne ;)) owned. This micro roastery/bakery/cafe has an impressive list of beans – I tried a Wote Yirgacheffe from Ethiopia, filter – and their banana bread is to die for.
  • Markethall IX (Eisenbahnstrasse 42, Kreuzberg). Every Thursday evening this space opens up for ‘Street Food Thursdays’. With food stands serving everything from Taiwanese bao with pork and chilli mayo, or smoked BBQ rolls, to spicy green papaya salad or fried yam balls, this place is foodie heaven (at bargain prices!).
  • Das Meisterstueck (Hausvogteiplatz 3-4). It wouldn’t be a trip to Germany without a meal of sausage and beer, and this place does both exceptionally well. They have a great list of craft beers, and a long menu based around their gourmet sausages – James said his smoked brie wurst was AMAZING, and their tofu sausage (yes, they even cater for us veggies!) was the best veggie sausage I’ve ever eaten. It’s a place to go if you’re looking to splurge a bit (in backpacker terms) – our four beers, two dishes, and a side of rye bread with cream cheese, set us back a little over 40 euro in total, but it was well worth it.
  • The abandoned children’s hospital (Hansastrasse 178-180, Weissensee). Just one of the many abandoned sites around Berlin (check out Abandoned Berlin for a great list), this was the only one we made it to. Super easy to get to (about 30 minutes or so by bike from town) and to get into, it’s a pretty cool place to go exploring for a few hours. Take a camera, a friend, and some beers – and be careful of the man holes and collapsing roofs!

Sri Lanka

    • Haputale. This actual town in the hill country is not much to speak of, but the landscape and views surrounding more than make up for it. Catch the bus to Lipton’s Seat and walk back, wander out to Eagle Rock or up to the Monastery, or take a stroll around the forest.
    • Dias Rest Guesthouse, Haputale. This small guest house was the highlight of my stay. 3km out of town towards Lipton’s Seat, the views from the cottage (ask to stay in it if free!) are the best I’ve ever had in any accommodation, ever. Beautiful family, amazing food, and their website has a wealth of information and tips for the Haputale area.
    • Amarasinghe’s Guesthouse Mirissa. Set back from the noise of the beach road, this lovely, social guesthouse has a big garden, nice clean rooms (we paid 1000 rupees for a double) and is a great place to hang out and meet other travellers.

Jakarta

  • To be frank, there wasn’t much in this chaotic mega-city that warranted inclusion on this list. But if you do find yourself stuck here for a night or two, stay at Six Degrees. This would have to be one of the nicest hostels I’ve stayed in – ‘pod’, curtained off dorm beds, personal lights/electricity sockets, cosy rooftop garden, indoor cinema, and super helpful staff. Made my two days in this capital bearable 😉

Similarly, if you have your own recommendations of places you think I should check out (see my itinerary for an idea of where I’m going), leave a comment 🙂

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