HERE ARE THIS MONTH’S TOP 12 JOURNEYWOMAN TRAVEL TIPS — As usual, your many female-friendly bits of advice from all over the world continue to inform, inspire and amuse. This time, from wonderful travelling women across the U.S. and Canada to those in Reykjavik (Iceland), Dublin (Ireland), São Paulo (Brazil) and Venice (Italy), what follows are this issue’s top twelve travelling tips. Enjoy, everybody!
1. DRIVING IN FRANCE? — writes Lyz in Vancouver, Canada — I want to advise other JourneyWomen with rental cars in France to prepare your money ahead of time for France’s toll roads. There is no one system for paying tolls on France’s autoroutes. Sometimes you throw change into a net. Sometimes you insert coins, cash or credit card and sometimes you pay a real person. It is important to know that the automatic tolls don’t take Canadian credit cards, despite what my French friends told me. Once I learned this I kept on hand coins (1 or 2 euros, plus smaller change) and bills in the 5 or 10 Euro size. Unfortunately, this didn’t work at one toll where only credit cards were accepted so I had to ring for attendant while cars backed up behind me. But … c’est la vie.
2. ENJOY BREAKFAST IN A POPULAR COFFEE HOUSE IN PRAGUE — writes Richard in Toronto, Canada. I recommend Café Savoy. This glorious coffee house dates from 1893 and has all the art nouveau flourishes you would expect. It’s in perfect condition because its stained glass windows were plastered over from 1939 through 1989. Now it’s a place to sit and enjoy one of their prodigious breakfasts, each named after a different country. The French Breakfast contains homemade bread, fried toast with maple syrup, grilled pork sausage with French fries, Prague ham, hard-boiled egg, blue French cheese, farm butter, croissant, seasonal fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice, café. Rest afterwards is required.
3. EXCELLENT STEAK FRITES IN PARIS — writes Veronique in Toronto, Canada — Since I was a little girl, we have been going to this amazingly delicious place. The owner has always been there with the same dress, same hairdo (no kidding!). My mom said she went to that restaurant as a young girl and that woman has not changed at all. There is always a big line up. There is (Hallelujah) a non-smoking room all by itself upstairs. Its real name is Le Relais de Venise. However, most Parisians gave it the name of L’Entrecote and refer to it as such. When you come in, no need to choose. After sitting down, the waitress will ask you: Saignant (rare)? Bien cuit (well done)?, as here the menu is always and has always been the same. Steak thinly sliced in an amazing sauce and served with delicate fries. Desserts are a dream — all of them, and you get the chance to choose. Le Relais de Venise doesn’t take reservations so arrive before prime meal times. It’s located at 271, boulevard Pereire, right at the Porte Maillot.
4. IN THE MOOD FOR A MOVIE IN DUBLIN? — writes Fiona in Dublin, Ireland — On the northside of the Liffey, just off O’Connell Street, The cute Lighthouse Cinema is the best place to catch a blockbuster or an arthouse film. Meanwhile, the Irish Film Institute (IFI) on 6 Eustace Street in Temple Bar showcases the best movies from around the globe. If you’re visiting during the summer months you may be lucky enough to catch a free outdoor screening of a movie during the Sunday Times Outdoor Film Festival on Meeting House Square in Temple Bar. For a classy cocktails-and-movie experience check out the Sugar Club on 8 Lower Leeson Street. They regularly host decadent movie-themed parties where guests dress as their favourite screen idols before sitting down to watch the classic movie in question. Past movie nights have included Breakfast at Tiffany’s – don’t forget your bling!
5. A RESTAURANT FAVORITE IN BUDAPEST, HUNGARY — writes Linda in Chicago, USA — One of my favourite restaurants in Budapest is Borkonyha WineKitchen where an appetizer, main dish and dessert runs about 10,000 HUF ($36 USD). I know that is not particularly cheap but it is a real bargain for a Michelin-star restaurant. If you enjoy wine, their list has 200 Hungarian wines to choose from. Like fois gras dishes? They offer those, too. Not only is the food delicious, but it is also so beautifully plated, it’s almost too pretty to eat.
6. WONDERFUL BED AND BREAKFAST IN PRAGUE — writes Sandra in Vancouver, Canada — I’d like to recommend a wonderful B & B we stayed at in Prague last June. The Lida Guest House is run by two brothers and their wives. Their full breakfast kept us going for the day. Still, there were snacks and drinks available anytime. Our room itself was lovely including a french door onto a big grassy area at the rear of the building. Two of us shared the room and it never felt too small. Lida Guest House is a short walk to the subway and two stops to the centre of town. We were there for a few days before our scheduled tour started and it allowed us to get over jet lag and see some parts of town we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Our hosts arranged for a pick up from the airport and later drove us to the hotel when our tour started. Website: Lida Guest House
7. ULTRA-MODERN TEA SHOP IN LONDON — Tea is an ultra-modern tea shop near St Paul’s Cathedral, where you can choose from a huge variety of specially sourced and blended teas. Try one of the black teas, oolong teas, green teas, white teas or herbal teas, or opt for one of the super teas, which promise to perk you up or chill you out, depending on your mood. The afternoon tea menu includes sandwiches, freshly-baked fruit scones with jam and cream, and a selection of cakes. Address: 1 Paternoster Square, St. Paul’s Churchyard in London
8. EAT WELL WITH LOCALS IN ROME — writes Gerry in Madison, USA — Recently I was in Rome and read about a restaurant named, Ristorante Maccheroni. We found our way to it and had both lunch and dinner, there. It’s located close to Campo Fiori (in the historical center of the city). It’s not a very big place but there are also some tables along the perimeter, outside. The staff is really great, the food wonderful and the prices, fair (not too expensive, at all). We loved it both times and enjoyed the mix of locals and British diners seated around us. The funny thing is I was just re-reading my copy of ‘Living in a Foreign Language’ by Michael Tucker (published in 2007) and read about Maccheroni there, too. My advice is that this small eatery is truly worth seeking out. Address: Piazza delle Coppelle, 44, 00186 Roma.
9. HOTEL IN AMSTERDAM — writes Evelyn in Toronto, Canada — A first-time visit to Amsterdam deserves full-on sensory stimulation so I chose a 3-star hotel smack dab in the middle of the action. Rho Hotel is small, modest, and beautifully located on a tiny, quiet street right off Dam Square. It’s close to trams, a big supermarket, and within walking distance to the main Central train station, the Anne Frank House, and the Wax Museum. It was perfect for our planned itinerary. Big breakfasts were included in the hotel rate, we had a fridge in our room, free WIFI, and the staff was always kind and thoughtful (one evening even offering dishes from the kitchen so we could eat our store-bought supper on real plates). The room furnishings were simple, the bathroom modern enough, and during that week we had only two small complaints (1) Though our flight from Canada arrived in the very early morning, the hotel’s check-in time was not until 2:00 PM. (2) There was no air-conditioning; we had only a fan in the room along with the ability to open windows. I imagine that during a heatwave that could have been a real problem. Address: Nes 05-23, 1012 KC Amsterdam, Website: www.rhohotel.com
10. WHERE THE LOCALS EAT IN REYKJAVIK, ICELAND — writes Lea in Reykjavik, Iceland — I know that if you are just passing through my city it’s hard to get a handle on where the locals hang out. My suggestion for a good basic meal is Kryddlegin Hjörtu (English translation is Seasoned Hearts). I personally love this vegetarian restaurant! It has a buffet with soups, salads, and incredible homemade bread with homemade hummus. Although meant to be veggie-focused, they still have some meat on the menu like their incredible lasagna or chicken soup. The address is Hverfisgata 33. For more information, visit their website at www.kryddleginhjortu.is/english
11. A RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATION IN MADRID — writes Sylvana in São Paulo, Brazil — While I don’t live in Madrid I have family living there so I visit almost every year. Each visit I go back to a restaurant called, ‘Cornucopia’ which is located at Calle Navas de Tolosa, 9, within walking distance from Puerta del Sol (in the city centre). Best way for me to describe it? I would call it, ‘affordable creative contemporary Spanish cuisine.’ Their website lists their menu and hours. Give it a try!
12. EXCELLENT FISH RESTAURANT IN VENICE, ITALY — writes Monica in Venice, Italy — This is a very small but particular restaurant: the owner and the setting just make it stand out from many other restaurants in Venice. The name of the restaurant is Ae Cravate which means The Ties and to live up to its name the place is literally covered with ties, hanging on the walls. To make it even more particular the place does not have either a fixed menu or a paper menu. The recipes on offer vary every day and they are displayed on a blackboard outside the place. Then, if you manage to get a table, ’cause the place is always pretty full, the owner comes and tells you what is on offer that day. This assures you will definitely have fresh ingredients in your food since the recipes are prepared according to what’s on offer in the market that day. They mainly cook fish, so don’t go there if you don’t eat fish. Ae Cravate is very small, around 20-30 seats, so make sure to book or be prepared to wait. I recommend a mixed fish platter and their homemade cakes. Delicious! Please remember it is closed on Sundays. Address: 35/37 Santa Croce, at the end of Fondamenta Minotto, literally 200 metres from Trattoria Alla Rosa Dei Venti. Tel: 041 528 79 12
BONUS TIP – LISTEN TO FADO MUSIC IN COIMBRA, PORTUGAL — writes Julie in Coimbra, Portugal — Coimbra has its very own version of the traditional fado music that Portugal is renowned for. Accompanied by the unique Portuguese guitar, odes to student life, the city and, of course, love are sung by men cloaked in black student capes. Fado ao Centro is a cultural center in the historical heart of Coimbra. It’s no tourist trap; everyone involved is deeply passionate about promoting and preserving their beloved Coimbra fado. Daily performances include a short presentation and a series of instrumental and vocal numbers in an intimate setting. The walls are lined with photos of the founders as well as other local fado singers and guitarists and visitors have the opportunity to chat with the musicians after the show over a glass of port wine. A moving and memorable experience.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks so much for your tip, Andrea. It’s because JW members like you share their travel knowledge with us that we can still afford to offer everything free of charge to our Network. Journeywoman is like a co-op of sorts — everybody offers to share their individual bit of experience and then all the thousands of us continue to stay informed.
A charming note and tip from a U.K. reader
Evelyn, I wonder if sometimes I take Journeywoman for granted — writes Andrea in South Oxfordshire, England — I read your newsletter each month and receive so many wonderful ideas, tips and travel ideas yet I forget to give some back. Usually the information is not right at hand, but aha … it is now … so here you go and thank you for being there and congratulations on your wonderful success.
ANDREA’S TIP — My recommendation is about a bookstore called Daunt Books in London (Marylebone High Street). I used to live in Leamington Spa so I came into Marylebone train station (also worth a visit, as the station is stunning and the flower shop is overwhelming) and would walk Marylebone High Street over to my dentist on Harley Street or down to Oxford Street. Daunt Books has introduced me to some amazing new authors that the likes of ‘mainstream’ bookstores would not even consider, or would bury them amongst the thousands of easier sellers. I can spend hours in this shop. The staff are all very helpful and really know their stuff especially when you are looking for something specific. P.S. Their lovely display of books forces you to touch and pick them up so leave a lot of time for your visit. Address: 83/84 Marylebone High Street London W1U 4QX