Posts Tagged With: airbnb

Slovakia, snow, shoes and more

Yin and Yang are back with their travels. With Young, in tow. They celebrated Young’s second birthday in Jan 2018 (ah, time flies) and and a month later flew to Eastern Europe, thriftlessly paying for a third-seat ticket. On the plus side, toddler was kicking the seat in front rather than his parents’ faces and legs. Oh oops.

But more on toddler tantrums later. Lets focus on how a toddler wrote the narrative on where to travel.

We looked up Google maps and contemplated every place from Muscat to Mexico. True story.  Muscat was too near, Mexico was too far (23 hours flight with child = disaster). And in between were places that were too cold, too hot, too expensive, too unsafe.…you get the drift.

After a few weeks that resulted in extra grey hairs (all mine, of course) and in almost zeroing in a on a weekend ‘staycation’ at the nearby Ras-al-khaimah hotel, we applied for a Slovakian visa. The Austrian embassy (in the absence of a Slovakian one in the UAE) stuck its nose up and kept us on the edge before stamping us a green signal to travel.

The average day temperature in Slovakia was predicted at 1 deg C. Grey-haired Yang was excited for herself yet fearful for her child and drove Yin crazy about the need to stock up baggage solely with baby woollens. Better sense finally prevailed and vacation day arrived.

And so Slovakia, we went. In fact, Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic.

We flew into Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital and spent 3 nights exploring the old town, sampling local brews and importantly, enjoying our cheap and cheerful Slovakian-decored apartment.

We then took a train into Vienna and spent another 3 nights there. The capital city snowed us over, quite literally, and with a night to spare before heading back to Bratislava (for our return flight), on a whim, we took a 90-min bus ride to the student town of Brno in the Czech Republic.

The highlights of our 8-day vacation was:

  • Snow

Lots and lots of it, being that time of the year. And coming from the desert, we absolutely loved it! More importantly, the boy was fascinated by the whiteness and much to our relief returned unscathed, despite an evening out in heavy snowfall.

  • Walking

As a lot of travellers will vouch, most European cities are best experienced through walking. Both of us love walking and that just made everything easier. It also helped in losing considerable calories being gained steadily through beer consumption.

  • Picking up shoes

Whilst we walked, our boy was latched on to a stroller. The shoes being a wee too big for his feet, he used every opportunity to fling them both on to the cobbled streets. More calories were lost before we decided to release his feet and double-sock him. Don’t you call me paranoid; we were in sub zero centigrades, mind you.

  • Using two online disrupters

That is, Airbnb and Uber.

We used Airbnb for booking our stay in all three cities and stayed in apartments owned by locals. Great decision and while I’m conscious that it may not work for all cities across the world, give mainstream hotels a miss and try this when holidaying in Europe.

Uber was really cheap in Bratislava and we used it to our advantage for longer distances and where we didn’t have to worry about taking strollers up and down an underground tube.

  • Beer

The obvious highlight. Cheaper than water in supermarkets!

Categories: Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Travelogue | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Keep calm and visit London

One of the iconic booths!

One of the iconic booths!

The UK trip commenced in parallel with my new job. We had booked the tickets and a couple of weeks after, I was selected by my new employer (some publicity there!). However we spent less than 3 days in London. What were we thinking?

The idea of a London Scotland holiday came up when one of our MBA friends from a decade ago was in Dubai over a weekend, and suggested that we do a sort-of-reunion. While we nodded vigorously to the idea, we ditched it the next instant thinking that not only would the pound reduce our savings considerably but also that it’d be impossible to get a bunch of people together.

We proved ourselves wrong! On the latter, of course.

Tubing our way around

Tubing our way around

With Couple 1 (C1) based in London to help us ‘navigate’ through the country, we had C2 flying in from India, C3 from a corner of Africa and of course, C4 from Dubai.  Along with 2 babies as recent additions! The interesting bit was that all 4 couples had made it together from good ol’ b-school days. The unanimous choice was to be in Scotland for most part, all duly influenced by J.K.Rowling, Game of thrones or Scotch.

After landing into Heathrow on an early morning, the 2 of us spent most of Day 1 of London in Brixton – a quiet yet colourful district about 30 minutes from Central London. (This distance also helped us experience the London ‘Tube’ – well connected and an amusing space to watch people of all races and sorts come together). So Brixton was where we checked into a place found through Airbnb – our first experience through the website that turned out to be awesome! It was a quaint English house tucked inside a quiet street off the main road and owned by a Anglo-Russian couple. We stayed in

Our animated dutch guide!

Our animated guide!

what should have been the attic had it not been converted into a cozy little room awash with sunlight and just right for us and as a bonus, came down to a lovely breakfast spread on both mornings!

Our journey through English beverages commenced on Night 1 after loitering around the famed Leicester Square and pit-stopping somewhere near the Royal Opera House. This was at a crowded li’l pub spilling with locals waiting to beer-start their Friday night. Attempts to reunite with C3 proved futile so after downing some ales followed by a delicious Mexican dinner we retired for the night.

Big Ben in all its glory

Big Ben in all its glory

Day 2 commenced with a free tour walk courtesy Sandeman with a spunky dutch guide who took us through touristy parts of London giving snapshots of its history. We passed by Buckingham Palace (surprisingly unglamorous, in my opinion) and as luck would have it, were party to Changing the Guards. We briefly paused to see the backside (yeah, how exciting) of 10 Downing Street and trudged along saying hello to Big Ben, posing at the cathedral where Wills-Kat were married and terminating in front of the grand Westmister Abbey where our guide ended the walk on a dramatic note. We had the much sought-after sunny weather backing us and made most of the rest of the day in and around Trafalgar square and later in the evening at a bistro that gave a nice view of the Tower bridge.

The sentries march past

The sentries march past

The next morning the group chugged across to Scotland and after driving around the scenic country for the next few days, returned on the eve of our journey back home with just enough time to hop across to another part of the town and try a couple of exotic liquids as wisely suggested by C1, our locals.

My 2 cents:

I have nothing wise to say here. This was a glimpse of London in as little time with a lot more waiting to be explored in future. However considering the recent bond and visa restrictions imposed on Indians,  I’ll need to live on the hope that I will revisit London on a work assignment. Dear employer, are you listening? 😉

Keep calm and visit London

Categories: Travelogue, United Kingdom | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

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