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

Why You Should Walk Around and Risk Getting Lost in Cities

When I was in the Swedish city of Gothenburg. I decided to walk the two miles to the Botanical Gardens. Although I could have used my Gothenburg City Card to take the tram, I wanted some exercise and the route looked interesting.

I found several interesting sculptures in Kungsparken.

The concrete oval sculpture provided a frame for the buildings on the other side of the river,

sculpture in kungsparken gothenburg

I was intrigued by the huge, patchwork head-shaped sculpture.

Sculpture in Per Angers Plats Gothenburg Sweden

There were two large openings in the shell on the other side of the piece, which revealed a yellow suspended blob, which looked like a nerve cell. in the middle.

Sculpture in Per Angers Plats Gothenburg Sweden1

The deer had a lovely expression.

Deer sculpture in Kungsparken Gothenburg Sweden

I missed my turning to head south. ending up in the Haga district. Several of the pieces in the ceramics shop looked like cacti. Very appropriate, as I was heading for Gothenburg Botanical Garden.

Ceramics shop on Vastra Skansgatan Gothenburg Sweden

As I made my way back east, I happened upon some boat sculptures in small garden square.

Boat sculptures in Vintervag-halles ej in Gothenburg Sweden

Although walking to Gothenburg Botanical Garden took more than twice as long as anticipated, due to getting lost and stopping to take photos, it was time well spent. It enabled me to see a lot more of the city than simply taking the tram.

Lunch in the Greenhouse at Fridheimar Tomato Farm Iceland

We stopped for lunch in the greenhouse at the Fridheimar tomato farm on our Golden Circle tour in Iceland.

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The most popular lunch option at Fridheimar is the tomato soup buffet. I opted for this The home-made bread was really good.

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The other lunch options are pasta and tortilla. My husband had the tortilla and thought that the cheese used was very mild and lacking in flavour.

There was a selection of tomato based drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic. We had the non-alcoholic Healthy Mary made with green tomato, lime, honey, ginger and sparkling water.

The  Little Tomato Shop at Fridheimar sells a selection of edible souvenirs.

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Lunch is served at Fridheimar between noon to 4pm all year.

Making the Most of Your Gothenburg City Card

If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, it could be worthwhile buying a Gothenburg City Card.

gothenburg city card

The Gothenburg City Card costs:

Adults: 24 hours – SEK 375, 48 hours –  SEK 525, 72 hours –  SEK 675
Children : 24 hours SEK 245, 48 hours –  SEK 345,  72 hours –  SEK 435

At the time of writing the exchange rate is 11.14SEK to £1 Sterling.

The Gothenburg City Card offers free public transport including trams, buses and some ferries. The standard flat fare is SEK 25. Although you could walk between many attractions around central Gothenburg, it’s a good idea to use trams or buses, if you want to save time.

You can visit the islands in the Gothenburg Archipelago, such as Saltholmen and Vinga, using the City Pass. The adult price for the cruise to Vinga is SEK 220.

vinga on the gothenborg archipelago

The island of Vinga

If you mainly plan to visit museums, then paying the SEK 40 (around £3.60) adult admission fee at any of the museums listed below, gives you to annual pass to all the museums on the list.

  • Natural History Museum
  • Art Museum
  • Gothenburg City Museum
  • Maritime Museum
  • Rohsska (Design) Museum

If you are under 25 years of age, admission is free to the above museums.

Dress by Franco Moschino and Roy Lichtenstein at Rohsska Museum Gothenburg Sweden

Dress by Franco Moschino and Roy Lichtenstein at Rohsska Museum 

If you wish to visit other museums, e.g. the Volvo or Aviation Museums, most cost around SEK 100 for an adult admission, but are included in the City Pass.

I visited Martiman, a floating maritime experience centre. Standard adult entry there is SEK 120, but it’s included with the City Card.

lightship fladden at maritiman gothenburg

The SEK 95 admission fee to the Liseberg amusement park is waived if you have a Gothenburg City Pass, but rides are an additional cost. When I was in Gothenburg in December 2004, I really enjoyed walking around Liseberg. There were three million Christmas lights, reindeer drawn sleigh rides and a mini ski slope for toddlers.

The Gothenburg Botanical Garden is lovely. If you visit in Summer, the long opening hours from 9am to dusk, offer good flexibility of times to visit. There’s a voluntary admission fee of SEK 20, With an additional charge of SEK 20 to enter the greenhouses. Entry to the garden and the greenhouses is included with the Gothenburg City Card.

gothenburg botanical garden mansion garden

The Mansion Garden in Gothenburg Botanical Garden

If you have any questions about the Gothenburg City Card, the online chat facility, found at the bottom right of the Tourist Office website is great. I asked about the opening hours at the Lipstick building, and my query was answered with a few minutes.

My top tip for getting the most from the Gothenburg City Card is to do your research in advance, carefully checking days and hours of opening and ferry timetables. Then add up the admission fees and transport costs to check that these outgoings come to more than the cost of the Gothenburg City Card.

Be prepared to get up early, enabling you to arrive at the first stop on your itinerary just after opening time.

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.

geysir-iceland-painting-in-cafe

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.

Edinburgh Castle

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.

maritiman gothenburg

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.

maritiman gothenburg fryken

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.

china-red-buffet-restaurant-new-market-road-edinburgh

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.

gothenburg botanical garden pond

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

gothenburg botanical gardens origin of the species sculpture

There’s also a fountain in the pond.

gothenburg botanical garden fountain in pond

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

gothenburg botanical gardens entrance to greenhouses

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

gothenburg botanical garden disa house

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

gothenburg botanical garden succulent house

But the collection in the Gothenburg Botanical Garden was interesting.

gothenburg botanical garden cacti

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

gothenburg botanical garden tropical housejpg

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

gothenburg botanical garden marble fouintain

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.

looking-toward-the-old-fortress-corfu-town

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.