Author Archives: Karen Bryan

About Karen Bryan

Hello, I'm Karen Bryan, I created Europe a la Carte in 2002 to highlight the best places to visit in Europe with travel tips, photos and no fluff reviews. I’m also an artist; my artworks are often inspired by my travels

Geysir Iceland

One of the highlights of our Golden Circle Tour in Iceland was Geysir.

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The mixture of sunshine and dark clouds made this steamy geothermal landscape all the more dramatic.

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The gift shop had a good selection of garments and souvenirs, plus free toilet facilities.

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I liked the painting in the restaurant.

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Tips on When to Book the Cheapest Flights

Research by Opodo has identified the best days and months to book cheap flights. Analysis of the average price paid during 2016 for return flights from the UK, booked on the Opodo website, uncovered the optimum times to find the lowest prices for flights.

Evidently, flights are cheapest if booked on a Saturday or Sunday. While I was aware that it was cheaper to fly on certain days of the week, which is why I had booked so many flights for travel on Tuesdays, I didn’t realise that day on which I booked the flight would have any bearing on the price of the flight.

There are some price variations between different categories of flight, depending on whether you book on a Saturday or Sunday. As an example, you can save 2.63% by booking a long haul flight on a Saturday. Whereas, booking a long haul flight on a Sunday will only net a saving of 0.84%.

The more expensive the flight, the more money you can save by finding the cheapest flight. Therefore, I’d put more effort into searching for the cheapest flights to Australia from the UK versus a domestic flight.

I’m not sure why it’s cheaper to book flights at the weekend. Maybe there are no searches being made for business trips, so lower prices are required to attract leisure travellers?

The month in which you book a flight also has an impact on the cost of the flight, with September and October being the cheapest months in which to book. Again, there are variations depending on the length of the flight. The largest saving of 13.89% is for domestic flights booked during October. You could save an average of 13.67% by booking a long haul flight in September. It’s a lower saving of 7.81% if you book a short haul flight in September.

As ever, being flexible with your dates and not traveling in peak season, e.g. school holidays, leads to much lower prices for flights.

I reckon that choosing a popular destination where there is plenty of competition between several airlines flying the same route is likely to save you money, compared to a less popular destination which only has one flight a week.

For domestic travel, the three most popular destinations are London, Edinburgh and Birmingham. In Europe, it’s Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam. If you are venturing further afield, the three top choices are New York, Dubai and Hong Kong.

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It’s also worth looking out for promotions. Some airlines offer a discount on flight prices, e.g. flash sales and voucher codes.

Boarding Maritiman in Gothenburg Sweden

Maritiman is a maritime experience centre located on Packhuskajen quay close to the Opera House. It consists of nineteen moored ships joined by walkways.

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I hadn’t planned to visit the Maritman, it was en route on my walk from the Gothenburg City Museum to Gotheborgsutkiken (aka the Lipstick). I’m not that interested in ships, but once I checked that the SEK 120 admission fee was waived by having a Gothenburg City Card, I decided to take a look.

The lightship Fladen, reminded me of the North Carr lightship, which is moored in Dundee in eastern Scotland. The Fladen was built in Stockholm in 1915.

lightship fladen at maritiman gothenburg

HMS Smaland, which left active naval service in 1979, is the largest preserved destroyer in Scandinavia.

The destroyer Smaland at Maritiman Gothenburg

I found it eerie to be up close and personal with the Smaland’s massive firing power.

Artillery on the destroyer Smaland in Maritiman Gothenburg

There are some good views towards the Opera House and the Lipstick from the front of Smaland.

View from the destroyer Smaland at Maritiman Gothenburg

The Paddam sightseeing boat tours pass the Maritiman.

paddan boat from martiman gothenburg

There are another two naval vessels, HMS Hugin and HMS Kalmarsund moored at behind Smaland, which are not accessible.

Looking toward HMS Hugin and HMS Kalmarsund from Maritiman Gothenburg

The cargo ship Fryken was built in Denmark in 1938. It sailed between harbours in Lake Vanern (the largest lake in Sweden), Gothenburg (via the Gota Canal) and the east coast of Britain.

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There was some light rain during my visit to Maritiman. I was really glad that I decided to play it safe by putting my camera phone back into my handbag and using both hands to hold on the side of ladders and walkway ropes, as it did get a bit slippery.

There are several Sea Laboratory stations featuring experiments and puzzles located around the Maritiman. Some kids were having great fun learning about hydrodynamics and surface tension.

You should check the opening times at the Maritiman before visiting. Hours vary, and t’s closed from October to Easter, except for the local Autumn holiday, which is usually the first week in November.

Pingvellir National Park Iceland

Our first stop on the Golden Circle tour in Iceland was the Pingvellir National Park. Pingvellir, translated as Parliament Plains, was the site of the Icelandic legislative assembly between 930 to 1798.

Pingvellir is located 45 km northeast of the capital city of Reykjavík. If you come by car it costs 500ISK (approx £3.60) to park for the day. There’s a charge of 100ISK for the toilets at the Visitor Centre, but entry to the Visitor Centre is free of charge.

We were dropped off at the Visitor Centre and then walked down to be picked up at a parking place at the side of the road.

Close to the Visitor Centre is the Hakid viewpoint.

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As you walk down from the Visitor Centre you can see the Almannayja, the fault line between the European and American tectonic plates.

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You could easily spend all day walking around Pingvellir National Park.

China Red Buffet Restaurant in New Market Road Edinburgh

We had lunch at the China Red buffet restaurant in New Market Road,next to the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh, on a Sunday. We’d eaten at the other China Red in Grindlay Street, next to the Usher Hall, on several occasions.

I was keen to try the New Market Road branch as it advertised a double decker rotational food belt. The opportunity to eat at this restaurant to came when I attended the Edinburgh Art Fair in the adjacent Corn Exchange.

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The portion sizes were small, which was good if you wanted to try something. The resultant large pile of empty serving dished on the table made me feel greedy. It was a bit frustrating waiting for some dish to do the round if you happened to be chatting when it first passed by.

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Most of the dishes which I tried were good. Some of the dishes were lukewarm, as opposed to hot. I mainly stuck to fish dishes, predominantly prawns and salmon. We regularly eat chicken at home, so I try to eat different things when I am eating out. I tried some lamb which wasn’t great.

The only dish that you had to get up from the table to fetch was ice cream.

It costs £15 per adult to eat at the China Red buffet restaurant in New Market Street on Sunday from noon to 10pm. I had a 10% discount voucher, so paid £27 for two diners.

I prefer the more traditional buffet lay out of China Red in Grindlay Sreet, where you go over to the counter to select food. Also the Grindlay Street restaurant is in the city centre; I’m much more likely to be around there than out at the Corn Exchange.

Gothenburg Botanical Garden

I first visited Gothenburg Botanical Garden when I was in the city in December 2004. When I returned to the city in August 2016, I thought I’d like to see the garden in the Summer.

I decided to walk the two miles to the botanical garden from my city center hotel, the Royal Gothenburg.

There is a voluntary admission fee of SEK 20 (around £1.80)  to the garden. My Gothenburg City Card gave me free admission to the garden and to the greenhouses, which charge an additional SEK 20 to enter.

Upon arrival I had a seat by the pond.

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Will Becker’s ‘Origin of the Species’ sculpture sits in the pond.

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There’s also a fountain in the pond.

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A bat sculpture adorns the roof above the entrance to the greenhouses.

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The greenhouses are home to more than 1,500 orchids.

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I almost didn’t bother going into the Succulent House, as cacti aren’t my cup of tea,

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But the collection in the Gothenburg Botanical Garden was interesting.

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I liked the hanging pink flower below which was in the Tropical House.

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Close to the greenhouses is a large marble tulip shaped drinking fountain.

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I had an all too brief seat in the Mansion Garden, before it was time to head back to the city center.

 

gothenburg botanical gardens mansion garden

I could have happily spent another couple of hours at the botanical garden. But I got a bit lost on my walk there, and the museums which I wanted to visit shut at 5pm.

The Gothenburg Botanical Garden is open every day from 9am until sunset. The greenhouses are open 10am to 5pm from May to August and 10am to 4pm from September to April.

My stay in Gothenburg was organised by the West Sweden Tourist Board.

Walking around Corfu Old Town

My walk around Corfu Town got off to a rather shaky start. I took the coach from our hotel the Mayor Capo Di Corfu, which was located in south east of the island.

As I’d been told by one of hotel receptionists that the coach left from a different location (the Green Line coach station) to the town centre drop off point, I thought that I’d better stay on until the coach reached the the coach station to ensure that I knew where the coach station was located.

I was impressed by the modern coach station, which had clean, free toilets, plenty of seating and electrical sockets to charge you mobile phone or laptop.

I was incredulous that there wasn’t a proper pavement for the 15 minute walk back into the town centre. Where a pavement did exist, it was narrow and uneven. Im some stretches, there was no pavement and you had to walk along the side of rather busy road.

As the battery of my mobile phone seemed to be on the way out, I decided not to use Google Maps, but to navigate from my paper map. That was an error as I got lost.

The first place of interest which I stumbled upon was the Holy Monastery of Platitera.

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At that stage, I thought that I’d better turn on my mobile phone to get directions to the Old Port.

From the monastery, it took me around 15 minutes to reach the Old Port. One end of the New Fortress stretches to near the Old Port

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In the garden below. there’s a sculpture.

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By the time I reached the Old Port, I was feeling rather hot and bothered. I reckoned that I’d walked a couple of miles, and it was a warm day. I found a seat in the shade, which I quickly vacated as some old Greek guy started to chat me up.

I could see Ptichia Island from the Old Port.

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From the Old Port, I could see up to the New Port, where a large cruise ship was docked.

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Next, I climbed up some steps to keep walking around the waterfront.

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The Museum of Asian Art was very grand.

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The Municipal Gallery was located behind the Museum of Asian Art.

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The Old Fort looked impressive from a distance.

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You have to cross a bridge to reach the Old Fort.

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In the gardens close to the entrance to the Old Fort, there were several sculptures.

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I then started to head back to the town centre. There were lots of pretty cobbled streets full of flowers and foliage.

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The Town Hall was sparkling in the sun.

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Town Hall Square is home to several restaurants

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I managed to get lost again on my way back to the coach station.

I thought that Corfu Town was very beautiful. If you’re on holiday on the island. I recommend a day trip to Corfu Town. But you might be better to get there by public transport, as it looked difficult to find a parking space.

Review of the Hotel Royal Gothenburg

I stayed at the Hotel Royal Gothenburg for two nights in August 2016. I was hosted by the West Sweden Tourist Board.

The hotel is a five minute walk from Central Station.

Upon entering the hotel, my attention was drawn to the beautiful painted ceiling above the reception desk.

hotel royal gothenburg painted ceiling in lobby

After check-in, I decided to have a cup of tea and some homemade cake in the lounge before going up to my room. You can make yourself a complimentary hot drink at any time, but the cake appears in the afternoon.

The staircase was very grand.

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I stayed in an economy single room. I thought that the room was tastefully decorated and was spotlessly clean.

hotel royal gothenburg economy single room

The room was small, but the large window meant it was light and airy. The bed was comfortable.

The desk area was large enough to fit my Chromebook, my phablet, camera phone and my paperwork. The free WiFi signal always provided me with a fast connection, both in my bedroom and in the lobby.

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I had requested a quiet room. My request was fulfilled, as my room faced the inner courtyard.

hotel royal gothenburg view from my room

The bathroom was a good size, with a large window, which was the same size as the window in the bedroom. As bathrooms in most hotel bedrooms don’t have natural light, this was a bonus. The botanic toiletries were lovely.

The breakfast buffet was very good.

breakfast buffet at the Hotel Royal Gothenburg

There was a wide selection of cold meats and cheeses.

hotel royal gothenburg the breakfast buffet

There was a waffle machine. I decided against using it, as I thought that there was high chance of me making a bodge of it, e.g. overfilling the machine so the batter leaked out. It wasn’t such a sacrifice as there were ready prepared pancakes in the hot food selection.

Waffle maker at breakfast buffet at the Hotel Royal Gothenburg

I’d recommend the Hotel Royal Gothenburg. It oozes charm and character, combined with high standards of quality and service, and it’s in a central location.

Click here to check availability and prices for the Hotel Royal Gothenburg.

Icelandic Horse World

When were were in Iceland we spent a morning at Icelandic Horse World. It was around a 20 minute drive from the Hotel Ranga at which we were hosted.

I was really looking forward to this, I did some horse riding as a teenager and I’d heard that Icelandic horses are very good natured. As I’m allergic to most animals. I took an antihistamine tablet before leaving the hotel.

Upon arrival we had a wander around the stables to admire the Icelandic horses.

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Then we were taken to choose suitable attire. I was really glad that  Icelandic Horse World provided the gear, as I I thought that we would have to wash all our outer wear which had touched the horses when we returned home to avoid me getting an allergic reaction. We both wore warm all in one padded suits and gloves. It’s mandatory to wear a protective helmet.

I decided that I would need to leave my phone in the locked room at the stables, as I couldn’t risk taking both hands off the reins in order to take photos.

Next, it was through to an indoor riding hall to get some tuition. After seeing my husband (who is much fitter than me) not having the smoothest of mounts, I decided to ask for steps to get up onto the horse.

After a few minutes, we began a horseback trek through the surrounding beautiful countryside, which lasted for around one hour. It was a wonderful experience. My horse was so placid and responsive. I felt quite comfortable back in the saddle, even after a forty year gap.

Prices start at 9500 ISK (approx £68) for a one hour meadow and mountain ride

If you don’t wish to go riding you can book a stable tour. This costs 1500 ISK (approx £11) per adult. Children under 12, accompanied by an adult, are free of charge. The tour lasts around 40 minutes, after which you can stay as long as you like.

The Art Museum in Gothenburg

Visiting the Gothenburg Museum of Art was one of the highlights of my stay in the city.

I started on the top floor in the Nordic at the Turn of the Century and Swedish Modernism galleries.

Helmer Osslund’s ‘Autumn Evening Nordingra’ was one my my favourite pieces in this museum. The combination of the large size and the vivid colours used in the painting gave it real presence.

Autumn Evening Nordingra by Helmer Osslund at Museum of Art Gothenburg Sweden

‘River Landscape Hjartum’ by Ivan Ivarson was another very colourful landscape.

River Landscape Hjartum by Ivan Ivarson at Museum of Art Gothenburg Sweden

I liked another of Ivan Ivarson’s paintings ‘Flowers in a Window’.

Flowers in a Window by Ivan Ivarson at Museum of Art Gothenburg Sweden

I’ve heard quite a bit about the Norwegian artist Edward Munch, with ‘The Scream’ being his best known work. ‘Vampire’ was the first Much painting I’d seen in real life.

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The ‘Woman in Blue’ featured in Ake Goransson’s painting looked rather downcast.

Woman in Blue by Ake Goransson at Museum of Art Gothenburg Sweden

Next, I went down to the Sculpture Hall on the third floor of the Gothenburg Museum of Art.

The first piece I encountered was ‘Double Blind’ by Charlotte Gyllenhammar. It made me think of a hostage situation.

Double Blind by Charlotte Gyllenhammar at Museum of Art Gothenburg Sweden

The rotating ‘Seconds in Ecstasy’ by Cajsa Von Zeipel was bathed in pink light.

‘Ingeborg’ by Gerhard Henning, was a more traditional sculpture of the female form.

Ingeborg (female figure) by Gerhard Henning at Museum of Art Gothenburg Sweden

I wondered if the name of Jonathan Josefsson’s ‘Rug No 83’ related to the number of small circular tufted wool rugs making up the installation.

Rug No 83 by Jonathan Josefsson at Museum of Art Gothenburg Sweden

Just off the Sculpture Hall, there was an exhibition of paintings by the Gothenburg based artist Kent Lindfors.

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All too soon, it was almost the 5pm closing time. As I made my way to the exit, Isaacs Grunewalds’ ‘Self Portrait (created with buttons) caught my eye.

Self Portrait by Isaacs Grunewald at Museum of Art Gothenburg Sweden

Entry to the Gothenburg Museum of Art is free to holders of the Gothenburg City Card.

If I return to Gothenburg, I’ll be back at the Museum of Art.

My visit to Gothenburg was organised by the West Sweden Tourist Board.