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

Daughters of Penelope Exhibition at the Dovecoat Studios Edinburgh

The Daughters of Penelope exhibition at the Dovecoat Studios in Edinburgh runs until 20 January 2018. The exhibition features work by various female weavers and artists.

Below are some of my personal favourite pieces.

‘True Love (Her)’ and ‘True Love (Him)’ were very striking.

‘Shadow series 1-18’ is a piece by Finnish textile artist Aino Karjaniemi. She describes her work as “impressionism in tapestry”.

‘Moss circle/square by Caroline Dear had an ethereal feel.

TI’d have liked to walk through Caroline Dear’s ‘Soundings iv – hearing the reed’s voice’.

Joanne Soroka was the most prolific artist on display at the Daughters of Penelope exhibition at the Dovecoat Studios.

I loved the textures in Soroka’s ‘For Irene Sendler’ tapestry.

‘Water of Life’ is a early piece by Soroka dating from the 1980s.

Another exhibit by Soroka was ‘quick, slow’.

When I first saw Maureen Hodge’s ‘Field of Endeavour, Territory II‘ it made me think of WW1 graves. I watched a video by the creator and learnt that the tapestry was a commission for the new Scottish Parliament building in 2004, in which Hodge examined the concept of home.

Where to Experience Authentic Spain Along the Costa Brava

With around 522,000 visits to the Costa Brava in August 2014 alone, this region is clearly a tourist hotspot for holiday-goers. With one of the most unspoilt stretches of coastline in Europe, delicious food and a beautifully warm climate, it’s understandable why travellers flock to the resorts there.

This isn’t a spot that just caters for tourists though, there are areas along the Costa Brava that have been largely undiscovered, remaining authentic and unspoiled by tourism. Here are some of the most beautiful towns you should visit:


A small coastal town in the province of Girona, this is an appealing spot for any traveller who values peace and quiet. Tamariu is set around a secluded bay of pink rocks and white sand, with cascading rugged cliffs meeting the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The fact that this idyllic little town has not been overdeveloped to attract more tourism means that it’s been able to retain its charm and authenticity and it’s certainly a jewel in Spain’s crown.


This luxurious coastal town has attracted many artists and film stars who enjoy the relaxed vibes of this town.

Boasting inviting warm waters, authentic fishing boats and plenty of superb sights, we recommend learning a bit more about the history of the area by visiting these authentic spots and landmarks in Llafranc:

  • Magical Ruins of Empuries
  • Cap Roig Botanical Gardens
  • The Aiguamolls de l’Emporda Natural Park
  • Salvador Dalí Triangle


Once the hometown of Dali’s family, this area famously attracted many other artists like Magritte, Matisse and Picasso, so you can trust that it is home to some outstanding beauty and charm.

The only way to get into the town is through a coastal road that winds and dips dramatically throughout its stretch. It’s definitely worth the journey once you catch sight of the picturesque waterfront and the breath-taking cliff-edge walks in one of the most unspoilt villages in the Mediterranean.


About an hour north of Barcelona, Begur is a colourful and lively town with miles of coastline to admire. With narrow streets of quaint houses, neoclassical mansions and a crumbling medieval castle, there’s plenty to see and do. What’s more, it’s surrounded by other little medieval towns like Púbol, where you can visit the beautiful castle that Dalí bought for his Russian wife Gala.

Discover the authentic Costa Brava when planning your holidays to Spain. With our favourite picks of beautiful, idyllic spots that have remained unspoiled by tourism, you won’t regret getting off the beaten track for your next summer holiday.

Review of the Royal Hotel Oban

I stayed at the Royal Hotel Oban on a Thursday night in late September 2017. I’d always wanted to do the railway journey from Glasgow to Oban, so when the Scotrail £17 return flat fare for Club 50 members came up, I decided to stay in Oban for one night. The stay was for two reasons, It would be a long day to do the return trip in one day. I reckoned that with the very variable Scottish weather, that doing the journey on two different days doubled my chances of having decent weather on at least one leg of the journey.

I set about searching for the best deal on a hotel in Oban. I decided to stick to hotels. Quite often check-in times at bed and breakfasts are later than at hotels and check-out is earlier than at hotels. Plus, bed and breakfasts don’t always offers a left luggage service.

The lowest price which I could for a single room in a centrally located hotel in Obanwas £50, including breakfast, at the Royal Hotel, on the Agoda website.

It’s always worth checking out if you can get a reduction on the price paid by using Agoda voucher codes. I prefer voucher codes to cashback, as with a voucher code you get the money off at the point of purchase. Whereas, you have to wait for cashback and it’s never guaranteed.

My Agoda booking confirmation advised that check-in time at the Royal Hotel in Oban was 2.30pm. I arrived around 2pm in hope of being able to check-on a bit early, or, at least, leave my backpack at reception. I was informed that check-in was in fact 3pm. Fortunately, it was a dry, sunny afternoon, so I left my backpack and went for a walk.

Upon my return after 3pm, I was allocated a single room on the second floor. My first impression when entering the room was that it was very dingy. This was due to the dark wooden furniture and the fact that the room faced a shady courtyard. I was happy enough that my room was at the back of the hotel, as it meant there would be no traffic noise.

There was plenty of space on the desk for me to work on my Chromebook and a couple of electrical sockets at desk level. The bed was acceptable, not the greatest, but I’ve had a lot worse in hotels. The bathroom was spacious.

Free WiFi was only available on the ground floor. If you wanted WiFi in your room, you had to pay an additional fee. I was able to tether (set up by own mobile hotspot) using mobile broadband included in my Three monthly plan.

I was awakened before 7am by noise from the plumbing in the neighbouring bathroom.

Breakfast at the Royal Hotel in Oban is served between 7.30 – 9.30am daily. Tea or coffee and toast is ordered at your table, everything else in buffet service.

I enjoyed my porridge with honey. The orange juice and bacon were good.

Overall, I thought that Royal Hotel in Oban could do with a total refurb. Both my bedroom and the public areas looked rather tired and dated and the plumbing was noisy. My room was clean and fairly comfortable. But at £50 for the night I wouldn’t rate it as great value from money.

Anytime that you are booking a hotel, remember to take a look at tbe website to see if you can save money by using a voucher code.

Serralves Park Porto

Serravles Park is located to the west of the city centre. The Serravles Museum of Contemporary Art is located on the site.  Adult admission to the museum and park is 10 Euro. If you only want to visit the park, it costs 5 Euro for an adult entry.

The first sculpture which I encountered in Serralves Park was the giant Plantoir by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen.

I loved Dan Graham’s Double Exposure which reflected the surrounding trees.

I was disappointed that Serralves Villa was closed on the day of my visit. It would’ve been great to see the interior of the 1930s Art Deco building.

The villa’s front door was impressive.

The garden is beautiful, with a series of water pools bordered by circular hedges, which lead to a larger pool and fountain at the bottom of the garden

Further down the park is the lake.

For a New City by Maria Nordman is a utilitarian table with four individual seats, with shade offered by the surrounding trees.

I liked Fernado Gomes’ untitled rope installation, reminiscent of a huge spider’s web.

The Draped Bather (The Seine) by Aristide Maillol sits in the Rose Garden.

Close the museum is An Opaque Wind Park in Six Folds by Haegue Yang. It’s like a cross between a sculpture and a garden.

I really enjoyed walking around Serralves Park,

Top 5 destinations For a Freelancer

Taking advantage of the freedom provided by technology to find job opportunities anywhere in the world is a fact. Nowadays, the most common professions such as bloggers, journalists, sales people, photographers, or web developers are part of this new job trend, the so-called:freelancers.

There are thousands of companies hiring nomads, but the one that caught my attention is Trendhim, a Danish fashion company who offers a huge variety of men accessories, such as: ties, lapel pins or bracelets.

Their marketing department is full of student freelancers. Having a freelance job while studying is one of the best opportunities in life I would say. Your twenties are made for travelling and getting lost in random destinations, so it is always good to have a job that allows you to travel around without feeling tied.

Are you a freelancer looking for a change? Here are the best 5 places in the world to make the most of freelance. Who knows, maybe you’d be the next freelancer on board. The only necessary condition is to have an adventurous spirit and a job that does not depend on a particular geographical location.

Sofia, Bulgaria

At the moment, it is elusive to find a better city for the digital nomads than Sofia. Sofia provides freelancers with a cheap lifestyle, not to mention that they have one of the best internet connections in Europe. Also, Sofia is a beautiful and a safe city with friendly and respectful citizens. A city with a strong history and a night life you could not even dream of.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

For those cold winter months your city is Chiang Mai. It has a fantastic climate that attracts freelancers like honey attracts bees. In addition, the living standards are low and there is a good internet connection. What else can you ask for as a freelancer? Chiang Mai is such a popular destination among digital nomads, that it is known as “the Asian freelancehub”. Many of its cafes rather than being cafes are shared work spaces, so pick one, bring your computer and start working.

Porto, Portugal

With a very picturesque architecture, Porto is one of the secret destinations for digital nomads. The city is famous both for its architecture and its wine. The inhabitants of Porto are very friendly, always willing to help. Although it is a much smaller city than Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, there arecafés and coworkings to work all over the city. Overall, the internet connection is very good; and the food is not expensive.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest the captil city of Budapest is full of energy and contradictions. It is a city for all tastes: beautiful architecture, delicious food, nightlife, and interesting people. Budapest always has something new to offer. It is considered to be one of the cheapest cities in Europe,and its internet connection is anything but slow and expensive. The cafes offer not onlyfree wi-fi and co-working sites like Mosaik and Vagabond Nation but also very affordable prices. Budapest is less touristy than Porto, but it is one of the best connected cities in Europe

Bali, Indonesia

Bali, the island of gods or better known as the island of freelancers. Bali is another of the favourite corners of those who know how to live and work: good gastronomy, unique beaches, the spirituality linked to the village with its thousands of temples and green pools.

Adventures in Space: The Architecture of Science Fiction exhibition in Edinburgh

The Adventures in Space: The Architecture of Science Fiction outdoor exhibition in Edinburgh’s Festival Square runs until 30 September 2017. It’s part of the Festival of Architecture 2017, organised by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.

I took photos of the Adventures in Space exhibition as it was being set up. I didn’t have time to hang around until it was ready, as I needed to drive out of Edinburgh before the start of the evening rush hour.

Below is a selection of photos of the display boards that had been erected when I was there.

If you are a science fiction fan, you should head to Edinburgh to see the Adventures in Space exhibition, preferably on a dry day.

A Trip to the Seaside at Espinho near Porto

When I was in Porto in mid June it was far hotter than I’d anticipated, well over 30 degrees Celsius almost every day. I thought that it’d be a good idea to head for the Atlantic coast and hopefully a  cooling breeze. As my Porto Card included rail travel as far south as Espinho, I chose it as my destination.

It looked like a good destination for surfers, due to the large waves.

I certainly wasn’t tempted to swim in the sea. However there is a beautiful 1940s outdoor swimming pool on the prom.

There were lots of colourful small tents on the beach. I wasn’t sure of their use. Maybe as wind and sun shelter?

I had a walk along the prom to admire the long golden beach. But even with the breeze, it was soon too hot for me to be in the sun.

I recommend Esphino for a day trip from Porto. The train journey from the city centre took around 30 minutes. I believe it costs around 2 Euro each way if you don’t have a Porto Card. There’s a good selection of cafes and fish restaurants.

A Quick Guide to Planning a Road Trip

After several months of wet and icy roads, surreal blue skies and comforting weather are compelling reasons to load up your vehicle and hit the road.

However, all your planning will quickly go awry if you cannot rely on your car. An operative failure on your daily travel back and forth is one thing, but what if your beloved automobile refuses to move along and leaves you trapped miles away from home? Of course, we all know that frequent upkeep of your car is necessary year-round, but it is of critical importance before a road trip.

Here are some checks you need to complete:

1. Coolant

When the vehicle is running and the engine is hot take a sniff. If a sickly sweet odour hits your nose you probably have a coolant leakage. Moreover, if you spot yellow or green streaks on the engine-oil dipstick, the probability is close to surety. Therefore, get it checked out.

2. Oil

Oil is critical for an engine. It lubricates moving components such as the crankshaft, pistons and camshaft to prevent friction. Remember, oil must be changed every 3k to 5k miles. If you have already gotten an oil change within that mileage, use a dipstick to assess the condition of the oil. If it is black or below the minimum, get it checked immediately.

3. Belt, hoses and timing belt

Look under the hood of your automobile to spot signs of trouble. For instance, squeeze the belts to ensure they are tight. Also search for any noticeable fraying, cracking or missing teeth in the belts. Lastly, check the hoses to see if there is any fluid leakage, especially close to the joining points. Having a hose break in the middle of a drive can cause havoc for an engine.

4. Battery

Get your battery examined and be cautious by also buying a backup. It is economical to pay for a durable battery, as opposed to paying for someone to come and help you when you’ve broken down (and then having to buy a new battery anyway). Whether you’re travelling in your car, a van or a motor home, Yuasa batteries are the battery of choice as they’re extremely reliable. You can explore the range Hardwarexpress have ( if you’re planning a long road trip and want to get prepared.

5. Air filter

A road is a dirty venture with debris, dust and bugs all around. Therefore, manufacturers install air filters to prevent gunk from entering the interior or the engine. However, gradually an air filter reaches its capacity and becomes clogged, conceivably affecting the engine performance and economy of fuel, and unquestionably polluting interior air quality. Air filters should be changed nearly every 12k miles.

6. Tires’ Tread and Air pressure

Tires require two things to function properly – tread and air. To check the tread’s depth, insert the head side of a penny into it. If you can see the inner part you need new tires.

Underinflated tires waste gas while over inflated ones deteriorate the ride quality as they are less compliant. Also, an inaccurate air pressure can cause tires to wear raggedly, which will call for replacement sooner. Remember to check tire pressure about every 1k miles.

7. Windshield

Do not forget to clean your windshield inside out and substitute frayed wiper blades (one-piece blades provide an optimised performance).

8. Brakes

It is affordable to get your brakes inspected as the auto-mechanic will also examine the complete braking system, including the master cylinder, wheel cylinders callipers and brake lines. It is critical to ensure the health of your car’s brake fuel. If your automobile’s pedal feels squishy or has extra mileage, the fluid may well be contaminated.

9. Fuel

Keep your fuel tank well above half-capacity to avoid forming condensation as it may lead to a frozen fuel line. You also don’t want to run out of fuel whilst out on the roads!

10. Exterior lights

Get into your car and take an evening ride to carefully observe the brightness of the brake lights, reverse lights and turn signals. If your headlight covers seem slightly grubby head to a body shop for a wax job to considerably improve your lighting.

It is an open secret that vehicle care can be a pain. However, it is not anywhere near as bad as having a thrill-ride ruined by problems that could have been averted.

Move Over Rio – The Barcelona Carnival is Where You Want to Be!

Barcelona is a fantastic destination for a weekend break or a longer holiday. With the blend of  culture, coast and countryside the cosmopolitan Catalan city is vibrant, colourful, exciting and diverse. Barcelona is a destination suitable for all the family. This diversity and cacophony of sound and colour is a reason why this is such a fantastic party city.

The people of Barcelona love to celebrate their culture. There are a variety of festivals, carnivals and fairs. There are around thirteen major festivals and carnivals in Barcelona throughout the year as well as smaller neighbourhood parties. There is no better time than fiesta time, to really embrace and gain an understanding of the lifestyle in Barcelona.

Barcelona Carnival

Originally banned by Franco until the year 1980, this carnival is the last chance to let your hair down before Lent, taking place during February and March. The La Gran Rua de Carneval is where the carnival comes together and a sea and spectacle of floats, fireworks and fancy dress are in abundance.

Sant Joan

Some of these festivals are around religious holidays, the biggest beingSant Joan. This celebration is marked with thousands of fireworks, pyrotechnics, all washed down with sangria.  The eve of Sant Joan is the biggest party night of Barcelona’s calendar. The day that follows is a public holiday and therefore this is a fantastic chance  for the people of Barcelona to really let their hair down. If you are still celebrating at sunrise then head to the beach to watch the sun come up.

Festa de la Merce

In autumn, in the 24th September, this festival is celebrated by one of the biggest street parties in Europe. This festival sees the re-enactment of many Catalan traditions. There is a programme of concerts across thecity and these events take place either side of the 24th. There is also free entry to museums on the day.

Festa Major de Sants

One of the lesser known celebrations during the last two weeks of August, during the week and weekends, the residents of Sants host a street party for one another. As you wander through the highly decorated streets, you can marvel at the efforts made by Sants residents. Take the chance to sample some  ‘botifarra’ sausage or ‘fideuà’ noodle-based dish, or any of the delicious offerings.

Dancing and drinking a large parts of this festival, particularly the spicy rum ‘cremat’ which is set alight, with music filing the streets of this corner of Barcelona you can enjoy classical music as well as a variety of other live music shows.

Montjuic de Nit

Barcelona is home to city, coast, mountains and beach, it really can offer a fantastic all round experience. During July, there is a free festival on the Montjuic mountain, with its’ idyllic views across Barcelona. During the evening there is a melee of film festivals, one minute film festivals, open air concerts in the Grecian amphitheaters. This is one of the most infrequent festivals, but it really is worth keeping a watch for details of when and if this festival is on.

Sala Montjuic

In warm summer nights, the residents of Barcelona still get to enjoy the views over the city and are invited to picnic on the mountain and listen jazz concerts and enjoy a night of openair cinema. This takes placethroughout the evenings of July and August. There are refreshments
available but packing a picnic yourself can be a wondrous treat.

Formula One Spanish Grand Prix

This race fills the race calendar in May and has been regarded as a festival for its popularity and draw to the region.  The race comes into town and is a hive of activity, a draw of celebrity and a melody of engine noise,happy crowds and celebration.

The Circuit de Catalunya is based twenty kilometers outside Barcelona inMontmelo.It is a popular event and can be one of the more affordable raceson the racing calendar.The three day event, entices  crowds to buy into the story of the season, supporting the teams colours their favourite driver. You don’t necessarily need to know a lot about F1 to enjoy the spectacle of pit crew, paddock, fast cars. There is a natural competition and part atmosphere surrounding these events and therefore this race weekend is a wonderful excuse in itself, or a way to start a week or end a week in Barcelona.

So next time you are taking a trip, consider booking it around the festivals, perfect for a group trip. Festivals can attract more people to a destination and therefore accommodation can book up quickly.  Think about booking early but if there is a large group or you are looking for some alternative accommodation consider booking an apartment, splitting the costs and there can scope for more of you to stay, make more of a holiday and take a look at beach apartments in Barcelona.

Taste Exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow

The Taste exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow opened on 14 July 2017.

Here are photos of some of exhibits.

Overcast cold / upturned leaves / laid on a line in bracken by Andrew Goldsworthy

Hazel stick throws Banks, Cumbria by Andrew Goldsworthy

Campbell’s Soup II: Oyster Stew

Paintings by Beryl Cook

The Glen, Port Glasgow by Stanley Spence

Photography is dead long live painting by David Hockney