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

Visiting the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis in Porto

I visited the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis in Porto on a Sunday when I thought that it was free to enter. It was rather embarassing as when I sauntered in, a member of staff came after me saying that I had to pay an admission fee. I turned out that free admission is only on the first Sunday of the month.

As I had a Porto Card, I received a 50% discount on the standard adult charge of 5 Euro.

I went out to the museum’s garden upon arrival. There was beautiful blue tiling on the walls and some outdoor seating for cafe customers.

I would’ve liked to sit in the garden for a few minutes, but In the upper part of the garden there was only one bench which was in the sun.

Below is a selection of my favourites at the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis.

The Yellow Skirt by Joaquin Lopes

Boats to Dischare into the River Douro by Joaquin Lopes

D Maria Bridge View of the City of Porto by Eduardo Viana

Old Porto by Dordio Gomes

Mother and Daughter by Sarah Alfonso

Lisbon by Joao Hogan

View of Portalegre by Miguel de Cantaloupe Barrias

Meditation by Manuel D’Assmupcao

Girls by Antonio Quadros

Self Portrait by Jose Tagarro

Baiser by Ernesto Canto Da Maya

Decorative Arts section

View to garden from landing

There were a lot of paintings that were too traditional and dark for my personal taste at Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis. I most enjoyed some of the more contemporary pieces.

Booking a Hotel on the Expedia Website

I’ve been thinking about spending the night in Broughty Ferry, near Dundee in Scotland, for months. When I spotted the Fisherman’s Tavern, one of the most highly rated places to stay in Broughty Ferry, for only £34 for a Monday night for a twin room, including breakfast, in a sale on the Expedia travel website, I quickly booked the room.

I very rarely stay in hotels on a Friday or Saturday night, as it’s hard to find cheap rooms. Strangely, it was £38 to stay on the Sunday night, £4 more than on the Monday night. That’s unusual, as Sunday in generally the cheapest night to stay at hotels.

I like booking hotels on the Expedia website for several reasons, which I’ll discuss below.

Expedia don’t charge a credit card fee, some other travel websites do make you pay an additional fee to pay by credit card. I pay for as many goods and services as possible by credit card, in order to receive the 0.5% cashback on my Nationwide Select credit card. I know 0.5% it’s not much, but is money for nothing, as I’d be paying for these things anyway.

Expedia also give normally you 200 Nectar points when you book a hotel on their website. This equates to £1, but during events such as Sainsbury’s Double Up, the value of your Nectar points is doubled for certain purchases.  During promotions Expedia give you 400 Nectar points when booking a hotel through their website.

Expedia has recently started the Expedia+ programme. I was already an Expedia member, which unlocked special member’s prices for some hotels. Expedia+ enables you to collect points, on top of Nectar points, which you can redeem against the price of future stays, or access benefits such as room upgrades or flexible check-in. I’m not sure how many Expedia+ points you’d need to be able to get a free stay.

When you first join Expedia+, you are a +blue member. Once you either spend £5,000 or stay for seven qualifying hotel nights, you move up to +sliver membership. If you either spend £10,000, or stay for fifteen qualifying hotel nights, you are elevated to +gold membership. I found the Expedia+ programme far too complicated.

As with all purchases, I checked to see if I could find any Expedia hotel discount codes before making the booking.

I always look for the lowest price when booking a hotel. I wouldn’t be swayed into paying more than an additional couple of pounds to book on the Expedia site in order to get Nectar or Expedia + points.

To me, getting a voucher code from a website such as VoucherButler, which gives me an immediate reduction on the price paid, is better than loyalty programme points. Companies such as Expedia can change the terms and conditions of their loyalty schemes. They are probably hoping that you won’t check the price of the hotel on other travel websites, because you will be focused on building up your points.


Review of Elia Greek Resaurant Glasgow

The Elia Greek restaurant is located in Glasgow’s George Square. I had lunch there with our son Simon. The two course set menu cost £7 per person.

Bread and olives were brought to our table.

For starter, I had Taramasalata (cod roe dip).

Simon had Dolmades (vine leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat). which were very good.

My main course was Moussaka. I was a bit surprised that I was offered either chips or rice with the Moussaka, as the dish already contains a potato layer. I assume that this is to keep costs down on the set lunch. My Moussaka was tasty, but rather heavy on the cheese sauce topping and light on meat and aubergine.

Simon’s main course was Chicken Souvalaki. The chicken was tender,

The staff all seemed to be Greek and service was good.

For £7 a head for a two course lunch in central Glasgow, the Elia Greek restaurant offers value for money. Personally, I’d rather pay a bit more to have a more meaty main course without chips.

The Scottish Colourists at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Glasgow

There’s a permanent exhibition of the works of the Scottish Colourists at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Here are photos of some of my favourite paintings.

Still Life – White Roses by Peploe

Interior – The Orange Blind by Cadell

Roses by Peploe

Barra by Peploe

A Lady in Black by Cadell

The Pink Parasol by Fergusson

Lady in White by Peploe

Torso of a Woman by Fergusson

Hawaii: A Travel Guide Island-by-Island

If you’ve never been to Hawaii you might be asking yourself which island you should visit. Each island has a little something different to offer depending on your interests. No matter where you end up, booking your stay in one of the many vacation rentals in Hawaii is always a good idea. These luxury rentals allow you to get the most out of your trip without bothering with overpriced tourist towns where most hotels and resorts are located. By staying in a luxury Hawaiian home, you get all the comforts and amenities of a hotel plus insider knowledge and tips from locals. Hawaii is filled with interesting places to explore, and a little local how-to never hurt.

If you still need help deciding which island to spend your vacation read on for our simple travel guide by location. Choose what you like to do, and find the island that best suits your interests.

A Bit Of Everything

If you’re looking for a Hawaiian getaway that has a bit of everything, look no further than Oahu. Oahu is jam-packed with tons of landmarks and activities to keep even the most active visitor busy. Oahu has a rich history filled with stories of former royalty, and even the castle to prove it. Visitors can buff up on history from the times of the Polynesian royal family all the way up to World War II by visiting both the Iolani Palace and the Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorials. Diamond Head makes for another incredible day trip as this fascinating and scenic volcanic cone can be a great site for hikes or helicopter tours. For more laid back sightseeing, Waikiki is an amazing luxury beach (also part of the royal history) offering beach service and just a generally awesome resort-style experience. If you’re at all a fan of surfing, a trip to North Shore is definitely in order. One of the most famous surf spots in all of Hawaii, this beach is packed with surfers catching waves or others watching the pros get at it. It’s also an awesome little town to find a drink, do some shopping, and walk around. For an all-around activity based trip, Oahu is an easy and safe choice.

Romantic Getaway

Celebrating a special event or anniversary? Maui is the perfect destination for all things romantic. All you have to do is look at pictures to know that Maui was made for honeymoons and anniversary getaways. With over 30 miles of sandy coastlines and enough waterfalls to make you never want to see one again, Maui is indeed the epitome of a romantic getaway. In addition to its many gorgeous beaches, visitors can explore Haleakala National Park where the dormant crater known as Haleakala crater makes for the perfect day hike or helicopter tour. To bask in amazing tidal pools and splash around under waterfalls worthy of a screensaver, head to Ohe’o Gulch. This little spot is a haven for all things involving the jungle and swimming. It’s easy to feel like you’ve escaped when visiting Ohe’o Gulch, and even easier to not want to leave this idyllic island after a few days spent under its charm.

Nature & Beaches

Kauai is probably Maui’s biggest rival as far as scenic beauty and things to do and see in the outdoors. A bit busier and less remote than Maui, Kauai offers a more rugged look into local culture, allowing guests to hang with locals in surf towns and get involved in the scene. Kauai also has an incredible line up of national and state parks, all ripe for the exploring. Nā Pali Coast State Park is one such example of a park that shouldn’t be missed, and many visitors attempt to complete at least part of its famed Kalalau Trail— well-loved for its views of sea cliffs and rare geologic formations. Waimea Canyon State Park is another experience that should not be missed, as this ten-mile wide canyon is often compared to the Grand Canyon for its impressive scenery and vast open appearance. To get in on the local surf scene, many visitors flock to Anahola Beach Park. This huge park offers several surf and swim spots, some less intense than others. It also has a great nightlife scene and is known as being one of the best watering hole spots on the whole island. For a more tame outdoor experience, Na ‘Aina Kai Botanical Gardens is another incredible opportunity. This well-manicured park isn’t just your typical garden. It takes grandiose to a whole new level with waterfalls and life-size bronze statues throughout. Kauai is one of the best places to explore the outdoors and admire all of the beauty of Hawaii, making it the obvious choice for nature lovers and beach bums.

Outdoor Adventure

If you’re looking for something a little more intense than just laying around and soaking up the sun, Hawaii Island offers up an extreme outdoor experience in several national park-size packages. Akaka Falls State Park is a great place to get the adventure started with miles of hiking trails past remote areas of the island. To see some of the most absurd landscapes on the island, head to Papakolea Beach or Punalu’u Beach where you’ll find green and black sand. But the most wild thing by far on the island are the two enormous active volcanoes. Book a tour to get as close to one as you (safely) can. For something a bit less intense, nothing beats the snorkeling on Hapuna Beach and Kahalu’u Beach.

Review of Kaleido Restaurant Malaga

When I was in the Spanish city of Malaga, I decided to treat myself to lunch at the Kaleido Restaurant, which is situated on the prom at the port.

I’m usually on the lookout for a menu of the day for around 10 Euro. At Kaleido, the lunch set menu was more expensive at 17 Euro. But I reckoned that I was paying for the location. Plus, Kaleido did look a bit more upmarket.

I sat at an outside table.

I started with the Russian Salad, which topped with some large prawns, Bologna (a cold meat, which I think was made of pork and some type of fish roe), served with bread. The ensemble was tasty and very filling.

My main course consisted of perfectly cooked courgettes and slices of grilled pork. The accompanying sauce was delicious.

Normally on set menus, the dessert is not great, but at Kaleido it was a very chocolatey cheesecake.

The 17 Euro price for the set lunch at Kaleido included a drink. As I’m a teetoller, I had water, but you could have wine or beer.

I really enjoyed my lunch at the Kaleido restaurant at Malaga Port. The food was really good quality and the location attractive.


Review of the County Hotel in North Berwick

I stayed at the County Hotel North Berwick on a Sunday night in mid September 2017.

I’ve visited the Scottish east coast town of North Berwick many times on day trips, but I was tempted to stay for the night when I found a single room for £19 for the night, on a room only basis, on the ebookers hotel website. As I had £3 in my ebookers Bonus+ account, the price of the room was reduced to £16.

The County Hotel is located on the High Street in North Berwick. I checked in a the bar, and was shown to my room by a friendly young man.

I was allocated a twin room, although I had paid for a single room. I was grateful for the extra space, as single rooms are often very pokey.

My room was a the back of the hotel. I was happy with this, as it meant that I didn’t hear any road noise.

I didn’t find the bed to be that comfortable, I could feel some springs sticking into me. The shower room was really small. You couldn’t fully open the door into the shower room, due to the proximity of one of the beds.

If I’d paid the standard price of around £60 for a room at the County Hotel North Berwick. I wouldn’t have judged the room to offer good value for money.

But at £16, I enjoyed my stay. I saw a different side of North Berwick in the late evening and following morning, when there were hardly any other visitors around.

Click here to check availability and price at the County Hotel North Berwick.


Casa Oficina Antonio Carneiro in Porto

On my recent trip to Porto, I focused on visiting museums related to art and which offered free or reduced entry with my Porto Card.

Casa Oficina Antonio Carneiro fitted the bill. It’s located in the house/workshop built in 1920 for the painter Antonio Carneiro. The building was also used by Antonio’s sons, the painter Carlos Cameiro, and the composer Claudio Cameiro.

The house/workshop was purchased by the City of Porto, opening to the public in 1973.

I was a bit annoyed upon arrival as the museum is free to enter. I thought that it was a bit naughty of Porto Tourism to imply that it was only holders of a Porto Card that got in free of charge.

The museum attendant was a really friendly lady who kept apologising about her poor English. As I can’t speak any Portugese, I was grateful that she could speak a little English. There were information cards in English.

Below is a selection of my favourite pieces in Casa Oficina Antonio Carneiro.

The closest Metro station to Casa Oficina Antonio Carniero is Heroismo. It took me around ten minutes to walk to the museum from the Metro station.

You’ll need to plan your visit carefully, as the museum is shut on Saturday and Sunday. On weekdays it is open 10.00 to 12.30 and 14.00 to 17.30.

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.