One Day in Colombo – Sri Lanka

Most people visiting Sri Lanka will arrive at Bandaranaike Airport and jump on the first bus to Kandy, without even seeing what the capital is all about. But Colombo is certainly worth a day of your itinerary (and 1 day really is enough).

It's hot, it's busy and it's loud, and if it's your first time here, it's a massive culture shock. But underneath all its faults, Colombo certainly has its own charm. 

Pettah market is directly opposite the Colombo Fort Railway Station and caters to tourists as well as locals, from there (keep heading away from the train station) you can get to the Red Masjid. The most interesting building in Colombo. Photo below, need I say more.


Head towards Galle Face for your first glimpse of the Indian Ocean. It's a really nice place to take a break from the hustle and bustle, and escape the city centre heat and is a great place for a spot of people watching too. There were lots of stalls along the sea front selling ice cream, snacks etc., and there were lots of families. 


The Seema Malaka temple is beautiful, located on its own island in the middle of a lake, we only got to see the outside because I was wearing shorts, but I really wish we could have seen the inside too. 

At the time of writing, Colombo was one massive building site, there is so much development work happening, especially along the sea front, most of which will be fancy hotels. I would love to come back in 5 years and see the difference. 

I'm sure there is already much more than this to see in Colombo, but we were majorly jet lagged and just wandered the streets most of the day and had a really early night. 

Where To Eat:

Lunch – the Old Dutch Hospital has been converted into some modern restaurants which have good lunchtime deals, or if you fancy a walk, the Barefoot Cafe is really popular with tourists, but it's only open till 7pm. 

Dinner – you will probably need to take a tuk-tuk depending where you are staying, but the all you can eat buffet at Raja Bojun is amazing. Its traditional Sri Lankan food and perfect if you want to try a little bit of everything. Couldn't recommend this place enough. 

Where To Stay: 

Our hotel was pretty grim, so won't be recommending a hotel in Colombo :) 

Getting there:

Getting there from the Airport is so easy. Come out of the main building and cross over the zebra crossing. The No. 187 bus will be waiting for you. There's almost always one there and it tends to wait until the next one arrives before it leaves. 

It costs Rs125/pp and you may need to buy a seat for your bag depending on its size. (Although we never had too.) Get straight on the bus and take a seat. The conductor will come around collecting money once the bus has left. Get off at the last stop which is Colombo main bus station. The conductor will tell you when. Also, the bus has A/C unlike most Sri Lankan buses. 

There will be plenty of tuk-tuk drivers waiting to take you from the bus station to your hotel. Knowing roughly where it is and how far from the station it is will let you negotiate a fair price. See my "how to haggle" post for more tips. 

Any questions about the bus let me know.

xx

Modern Day Berlin 

Berlin is remembered for its dark history during Hitler’s dictatorship and then during the cold war, but Berlin is now a vibrant city, full of life and welcoming to all walks of life. I still recommend visiting the historical sites, but once you have ticked them off your list, head over to the modern side of the city and experience the culture and atmosphere like no other.

Berlin Fernsehturm (TV tower), located right next to Alexanderplatz station symbolising the modern Berlin. Its €13 to ride the elevator to the top for views over the whole city.

 

There is a free walking tour that meets outside the Starbucks under the TV tower called the ‘Alternative Berlin’ tour. It departs every day at 11am and we booked on http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com the night before, but I think you could just show up and ask to join.

A quick note on the free tours, every tour is different and the tour guides don’t get paid so they rely heavily on tips, please be generous.

Street art is all over Berlin, you either love it or hate it, I absolutely loved it. There will be a lot of stops on your walking tour to point out the work of various famous street artists.

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During the 90’s East Berlin was mostly empty buildings, because when the wall came down everybody moved to the ‘nicer’ West Berlin. The empty buildings attracted artists, musicians, writers etc. who lived in the buildings without paying any rent, (illegally squatting). There are still a handful of buildings where the artists still live rent free, usually by agreement of the local government. One example is Haus Schwarzenberg, visitors are allowed into the courtyard and there is a small museum that you can enter free of charge. There is also Kunstraum Kreuzberg where there is a section open to visitors.

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The colourful east side gallery is the longest stretch of the wall still standing (just under a mile), the government have commissioned street artists to decorate the wall in cheerful colours, it’s really busy all year round but its free and one of the ‘must see’ attractions in Berlin. 

 

 
There’s a Treehouse just behind Baumhaus an der Mauer, where an old Turkish man lives. (I think he’s 96 at the time of writing). The man built his tree house himself with scraps of wood he found on the street, it’s on a tiny patch of land that once backed right onto the wall. When the wall came down, the local government wanted to knock it down to build a road from East Berlin to West Berlin, but the community came together and managed to save the man’s home. he still sits out on the porch waving to people passing by. A symbol of how strong the community in modern day Berlin can be.

Berlin has a buzzing night life and has something for everyone, from bouncing night clubs to high end restaurants to laid back beach bars.  

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I’m much more into the relaxed scene and stay away from clubs as much as possible, but everyone I’ve spoken to says that Berlin has some of the best clubs in the world. 

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We stayed in Friedrichshain which was perfect for a laid back cocktail. It didn’t seem like much was happening until you wander down the little side streets where some of the best places were hidden. If your in the area you must try the Thai restaurant Sala Thai, best red curry I’ve ever tasted. Also, Keyif cocktail bar was superb. 


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Click HERE to read our Essential Information post about Berlin.
 
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Click HERE to read our Historical Berlin post.

A weekend in Newcastle upon Tyne



Things to Do

Whenever we have visitors we always take them to the Baltic first, it’s free to enter. Take the lift straight to the 5th floor and go to the viewing box for an amazing view of Newcastle and all its bridges.

 
Newcastle has a few gorgeous parks right in the city centre, my favourites are Exhibition Park and Leazes Park, and you can easily waste a few hours here on a nice sunny day.

 

The best pace for shopping in Newcastle is on Northumberland Street and Eldon Square. Every Sunday the Newcastle Quayside is lined with market stalls, mainly offering food and other home-made crafts, if the sun is out it gets really busy with locals.

 

If you have a bit extra time, take the Metro (subway) to Tynemouth, there is a market in the Metro station every weekend and on the third weekend of every month it also houses a farmers market. The metro system is cheap and easy to use, it’s recently been upgraded to accommodate contactless payment. From the station it’s a 5 minute walk to the main street which houses some interesting boutique shops and family run cafes. Keep walking another 2 or 3 minutes and you will be at the beach.

Where to eat:

(Breakfast)

Quay Ingredient, a full breakfast menu ranging from basic toast and coffee to some more colourful creations. Its first come first serve and there will probably be a queue on Sundays but it’s worth the wait.

(Lunch)

Slice, located in the Granger Market, literally the best pizza in Newcastle. From £1.60 for a slice big enough to fill you up until dinner time you can’t go wrong, there are also lots of little dessert places nearby, if you’re still hungry. While you’re in the Granger Market be sure to pop in and see Lesley at Scented Melts, my favourite shop on the planet. I can’t go to Newcastle without calling in and treating myself. (The Market is closed on Sundays.)


Pani’s, this has been here forever but it’s a recent discovery for us, located up a tiny side street (High Bridge Street) just off Grey Street and close to the Theatre Royal. It’s a really cheap and cheerful Italian, perfect for a quick lunch. http://paniscafe.co.uk/

 (Dinner)

Aneesa’s Buffet, an Indian all you can eat, not like any other buffet, the food is always fresh and incredibly tasty. We have both eaten here many times and it’s Grandmas favourite when she visits from Glasgow. A great choice if you have a large group of people to keep happy. Gets really busy so it’s best to book. http://www.aneesas.co.uk/

UNO’s, a small Italian which has been open since the beginning of time, it has a really good atmosphere but really is tiny, pre-booking is always advised. http://unosrestaurant.co.uk

Where to stay:

There are plenty of places to stay in Newcastle which cater to all budgets. I would recommend staying on the quayside to anybody who hasn’t been to Newcastle before. It’s within reach of plenty of bars and restaurants and the walk along the river at night time is the best view in the city.


Best budget option:

Travel lodge quayside, if you’re lucky you could end up with a view of the millennium bridge lit up at night, even if you don’t, the rooms are clean and usually much cheaper than other hotels at the busier end of the quayside.

Best luxury option:

Malmaison Newcastle, this is our favourite hotel and it’s where we got married. It been recently renovated and the food is always amazing, especially the breakfasts. The bar is also a great place to relax and enjoy a cocktail, they have live music on a Friday but its relaxed enough that you can still always have a conversation. If you get a chance to upgrade to a river view it’s certainly worth it. Keep an eye on their website for special offers.