Monday, November 28, 2011

Essential phrases to learn in another language

With traveling comes the responsibility of making a good impression on the countries you visit. And one way of doing this is learning other languages. Here is a list of words and phrases that I have found helpful to know while traveling. A little goes a long way. Plus, knowing some basic words and phrases might help you feel comfortable in a new place.

I would like…
Can you help me
Can you write down the price
Please/Thank you
I’m sorry/Excuse me
That is okay/good
Where is the toilet/WC (this is totally different than a bathroom in most countries)
Do you speak English?
You should also know the number for how many people in your party so you can ask for a table for four, a room for two, etc.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Machu Picchu

If you are going during the off season, do not book a hotel ahead of time in Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of machu Picchu. When you get into town, there will be lots of people offering you rooms. Ignore them. Walk into town and then start going from hotel to hotel asking how much a room is, what is included (bathroom, hot water, breakfast), and always ask to see the room. Within seeing two or three rooms, you will have an idea of what your money will buy you and what you are willing to afford. For example, when we were there in September 2008, we walked around and asked about a few different hotels. The one we chose was a clean, yet sparsely decorated room with a private bath for $15 a night. We would not have found this if we would have taken the first place we found nor if we had booked in advance via the internet (some hotels and guesthouses don’t have websites but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them). This same idea works with restaurants. Look at menus at a few different restaurants before choosing one. You’ll be able to get a feel for how much dishes cost and won’t get trapped in an expensive restaurant.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Madrid is the place for eating, drinking, and wandering. There are great tapas bars, wine bars, and restaurants all over the city. My favorite was El Tempranillo in La Latina, C/ Cava Baja, 38, west of the La Latina metro stop. Their wine selection was amazing and their tapas were delicious (especially the roasted veggies with melted goat cheese). On this same street, there are a handful of other great tapas bars. Check out this other blog for lists of great tapas bars in La Latina and around Madrid
There's a great restaurant called Bazaar, C/ San Marcos, 35, just south of the Chuenca metro stop ( The food has an international flavor to it; some Spanish, some Asian flavors but all around good. The prices aren’t too bad either, about 6-10€ per plate, and they have great wines (including house wines).
Last recommendation. San Antón ( and San Miguel ( markets are great places to eat some delicious food, but it's an even better deal to take some to go. If you are staying in an apartment or going on a picnic in Retiro Park (which I highly recommend), pop into either market. Buy a little of this and a little of that and you will be amazed at the quality of food you get for just a few euros. American readers, please remember that one pound equals 453 grams, so 100 grams of cheese is enough for a good snack for a few people or to last a few days. Add a bottle or two of wine from a grocery store (for as low as 1€) and you're good to go.
To get in and out of the city, there is an express bus from the airport to Cibeles (Banco de Espana metro stop) and Atocha (Atocha metro stop) for 2€ each way. It’s easy and quick, the driver can provide change, and, best of all, you don’t have to transfer in any of the many metro stations. Check out this site for more information:
Also, one other tip about Madrid’s metro system: when you look at the system map, the city seems quite spread out and possibly unmanageable. In actuality, the metro stations are closer to each other than one would think (some as little as 3-5 minutes on foot). I recommend that in the first day or two you are in Madrid, don’t buy the 10 ticket metro pass. Figure out where you think you want to go in the city, how much walking you are willing to do, and go from there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Slovak pub in bratislava

We just finished eating dinner at the Slovak Pub, Obchodná 613/62
81106, Staré Mesto-Old Town, in Bratislava. I'm in a food coma and spent about €5 per dish. Amazing home cookin' for a small price. Try the national dish of dumplings, sheep's cheese and bacon!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Feldkirch, the hidden gem

My husband, who is an avid runner, decided that on this trip to Austria, he wanted to make a stopover in Lichtenstein so that he could run across this tiny country. So we made the trip by bus from Bregenz to the Austrian border town of Schaanwald Zollamt. This is where Kyle hopped off to start his 6-mile run (I stayed on the bus then tranferred to another bus in Schaan and headed to Vaduz where we would meet later). Kyle made the run from Schaanwald to Buschs, the Switzerland border town. Along the way, he found goats, and a river path, and churches.

On our way back to Bregenz, we stopped in the town of Feldkirch for lunch. What we found was a quaint little town with great restaurants and shops and amazing views of the river and mountains. We had not heard or read much about this town but now that we have seen it, we will tell the world. Feldkirch was a wonderful find. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

First Blog, Ever

Greetings from Austria. This is where my blogging life begins. I have been travelling for years now, just here and there when I have vacation time and and an idea of where to go, so I thought I would share my insights with the interwebs. I hope I can be helpful to others who want to see the world (and maybe some parts of the world lots of others have not seen), learn about other cultures, and do so on a budget. In future blogs, I will revisit places I have been in the past and write about recent trips. But for now, let's start in the present.

I am currently in Hall in Tirol, Austria; A cute, little down just down the train line from Innsbruck. We, my husband Kyle and I, had planned on staying a few nights in Innsbruck and maybe take a day trip to Hall but we threw caution to the wind this afternoon and took a chance. It paid off. While the hotel we are staying in is a bit over our regular budget (Gasthof Badl for €74), its a nice place just outside of town and breakfast is included. We got here in the afternoon with no reservations and made a beeline for the information center. There we found a nice man who gave us a few options of hotels and called to see if rooms where available. We made it to our hotel, then headed back to town to wonder the narrow streets of Hall. We found a small restaurant called Geisterburg that had great pizza and a salad bar and drinks. Dinner, dessert, and multiple drinks for €30 doesn't seem too bad for Austria, so far. We then stopped in Bar Centrale near the main square for another round of drinks. Tomorrow, we plan on biking around the area for a few hours and then heading to the next stop. 

A note about the beginning of this trip: We started this trip a few days ago flying out of the States heading to Zurich but connecting in Madrid. For the first time ever, we missed a connecting flight and spent a few hours in Madrid. Now, I have been there before (and will be there again in a few weeks) but my husband had never been. So we spend our few precious hours walking around the Royal Palace grounds, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, and having lunch at a wonderfully located cafe near the "suicide bridge." While there are many other places, I would love to take him, I wanted him to see the highlights of the city and what is is known for (and we did not have time for a tapas crawl). There will be time to return there, I'm sure. After we made it to Zurich (a city which is lovely, yet too expensive for this trip), we took a train to the town of Bregenz. Now, we had read some not so nice things about Bregenz but we found it to be a wonderful city and much more affordable than Lindau, Germany across the lake. We stayed at the Ibis hotel which, while it is a chain hotel, it was one of the most affordable and well located hotels we found. If you just need a bed and a shower and don't plan on spending a lot of time in the room, it's a great deal (at about €107). We wondered around Bregenz and enjoyed it. There are a lot of outdoor activities to do and a lot of bike paths. While there, we took the train over to Lindau which is a picturesque German town. With hindsight, we probably could have walked or biked the bikepath from Bregenz to Lindau (the train took about 10 minutes and the bike path seemed to go all the way from one town to the other).

Random things I have learn about Austria/Austrians so far: While our guidebooks told us to hand our tip to the waiter and not to leave it on the table, the waiters don't seem to wait for the tip and then are not always easy to find in the restaurant. So, we have been leaving the 10% tip on the table. Also, no one seems to bless you when you sneeze.