A Travellerspoint blog

Košice, Slovakia

Oct 8th - 10th

overcast 14 °C
View 2019 travels on whereskate's travel map.

On my last full day in Zakopane, I woke up to glorious sunshine for the first time and stunning views of the mountains, which had previously been shrouded in mist. I got up early and did an hour's work over breakfast and then decided to go for a walk. I'd read about an easy trail called Dolina Kościeliska and decided to give myself a few hours to do as much of that as possible before settling into work for the day. After all, there's not much point in doing this if I don't see anything.

To get to the start of the trail I had to catch a bus to a place called Kiry. The info I'd read online on where the bus went from wasn't quite right, but eventually I found my way to the train station where all the busses go from. For a small place they have an amazing bus system, with little mini-busses going all over the place really regularly. So I hopped on a bus that said my destination on the front and eventually someone came to drive it. It was pretty clear where to get off, and when I did I had to pay 2zl, which is about 40p.

The trail was absolutely stunning. It was quite busy because it's mostly flat so there were quite a few families with buggies, but the 5zl entry charge goes to making sure the place is kept immaculately. The route is along a river gorge through the mountains and with the Autumn colours in the foreground and snow-capped mountains overhead, it was truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. I walked an hour either way and managed to get back into town and find a cafe to work from by 2pm (1pm back home) and powered through lots of work in the afternoon.

On Tuesday, after working all morning I checked out of my hotel. I'd booked a bus to Kośice, but the place it went from was about half an hour away, on the main road. From looking online, it seemed like it should be easy enough to get a bus from Zakopane so I soon found myself hopping on another non-descript mini-bus, not quite sure if it was going in the right direction. This one was full of school children looking at me suspiciously. It went all around the villages, but thankfully dropped me off at the bus stop on the main road in time to catch my connection. I'd imagined the bus I was catching to be a coach, but it was another mini-bus crammed full of locals who weren't very forthcoming with any chat!

The drive to Kośice saw the mountains give way to open plains - the whole country feels quite barren but in a beautiful way. We stopped in a few towns to pick people up, and eventually ended up in Košice. I really like it here - I wish I had longer. It's really small - tiny in fact. Within an hour of being here I'd walked around all the main tourist sights on the main street (the opera house, a few different sculptures, the most Eastern gothic cathedral in Europe) which is just as well, because today I had absolutely mountains of work. I got up early and wandered around again, went to the market, and then had breakfast in a cafe (porridge, fruit, coffee and orange juice for 5 Euros!) and went to find a co-working space I'd read was good. It was basically just an office full of freelancers, but for 5 Euros they let me sit there all day and use their fast internet, which was ideal. I was too busy to attempt to chat to them much, but they seemed like a nice bunch.

After work, feeling quite stressed out, I decided to go to a yoga class. I'd emailed them a few days ago to ask if they did any classes in English, and they said no but that they speak English so would help me if I came to a class. So I just got back from my first ever yoga class in Slovak at a place called BB Health (also 5 Euros - apparently that's what everything costs in this city, which is great) and it went surprisingly well. I was quite impressed with how much I managed to understand and pre-empt, and the teacher was really helpful and repeated lots of the instructions for me in English.

So now I'm back at my Airbnb and need to pack. I don't really feel like I've seen much of it but am definitely a fan - although it's small, it's very friendly and I feel like there are probably lots of quite similar-minded people. Tomorrow I get the bus to Budapest and have the day there before flying to Malaga in the evening ready for the yoga retreat I have booked.

Posted by whereskate 11:32 Archived in Slovakia Comments (0)

Bordeaux, Berlin, Warsaw & Zakopane

Sept 26 - Oct 6th

snow 1 °C
View 2019 travels on whereskate's travel map.

Well I've done a LOT since my last blog! On my last day in France I had a good wander around Bordeaux and found the gothic Cathedral Sant-Andre, which is absolutely beautiful.

On Friday morning I flew from Bordeaux to Berlin and went to my friend Krista's place in Kreuzberg, where I stayed for the next four nights. It was a busy and fun few days. The first night Krista and I went out for dinner, the next day I met up with my friend Espen with his new baby, and Ellen who's new record we are doing PR for. That evening Krista's partner Marco came back from Italy, so we all went for dinner with one of their friends (also Italian and called Marco). On the Sunday my cousin's Ice Hockey team were playing so we went to the game which was lots of fun - I've never seen an Ice Hockey game before. They won, though it didn't seem too hard for them, but still the atmosphere for Berlin Eisbaren (the home team) was amazing. Afterwards we went to The Ritz where my cousin was staying and had a few drinks with him and caught up on the last 20 years or so.

The next day I did some work meetings and worked from the office of one of the record companies I regularly work with, and went for a couple of drinks with them after work. Later on, I met up with my friends from Southampton days, Dan and Adam. Dan's working for a brewery out in Berlin, so knew everyone in the bars and we got plied with shots everywhere we went. Eek.

On the Tuesday I woke up with a somewhat heavy head but managed to get myself on the train to Warsaw. I splashed out an extra 10 Euros for first class, which I soon regretted when an intensely annoying Australian family piled into my compartment and didn't shut up for the next six hours. Thank god for noise-cancelling headphones.

When I got to our hotel in Warsaw, Frankie was already there (we were there for a Music Export conference). We went for sushi that evening and found a really cute cocktail bar near our hotel. The next day we had to work all morning and then go to the conference which was pretty boring but worthwhile. In the evening we went for pizza at a bar in the old communist headquarters, which is a pretty insane building. By this point, although we'd had a nice time, we were both feeling the cultural differences and not speaking the language - it definitely felt like the locals didn't want to talk to us and certainly did not want to help us with anything. It's interesting how fairly small interactions can have such a big impact on you when you're somewhere you don't know.

On Thursday we had to work all day, then that night I'd booked us a reservation at Atelier Amaro, which is a really fancy fine dining restaurant, as a belated birthday celebration for Frankie. It was an amazing tasting menu and all absolutely delicious, though I was on the fence about the snail's egg they made me eat!

Finally on the Friday we got to do some sightseeing and went to the old town, which isn't actually old at all as it all got bombed during the war. The replica buildings have been done very carefully, though, and it's very quaint and feels old. Frankie flew back to London in the afternoon so left me in the old town square and I went to the Museum of Warsaw and then had some peirogi dumplings in a little traditional restaurant just off the square. After that, I decided to get the metro out to a flea market on the outskirts of town, but by the time I got there it was pretty much over, so I hopped back on a tram to my hotel. Towards the end of my journey a ticket inspector came on and, although I'd bought a ticket for the tram, it apparently wasn't the right one and he went crazy and started shouting and screaming as though I was some kind of criminal. He made me pay a fine which was about £30, and wouldn't explain what it was for, so I still have no idea what ticket I should have got instead. After a few days of these sorts of interactions (although not as extreme as this one) and feeling very tired, it really upset me and decided to call it quits with Warsaw. I spent the rest of my time at the hotel until check out the next morning.

Yesterday I got up and got a taxi to the bus station, then got a coach from Warsaw to Zakopane, up in the mountains near the border with Slovakia. It was a 7 hour journey with a fairly lengthy stop in Krakow. I got to Zakopane around 5pm and checked into my hotel, where I have a small studio apartment overlooking the mountains. It's absolutely beautiful! Once I'd settled in, I went for a walk into town and bought some cheap hiking boots as it's very rainy and cold here (Converse are definitely not going to cut it). Then I did a supermarket shop and came back to my apartment to make dinner.

I had a look online to see who's in the area, and got chatting to an American guy who lives in Warsaw but is spending some time here to work on a film script he's writing. We ended up going into town to meet for a couple of drinks. The town here is very quaint and alpine, with lots of wooden buildings, fur pelts on the seats and hearty stews for sale. We hopped around a few bars, which got rowdier and more euro-disco as the evening went on. Joseph was nice, although he was mainly interested in talking about himself and the film he's writing, which got a bit tedious after a while, so eventually I made my excuses and came home. We were going to meet up today to go hiking, but I decided to go on my own instead.

At lunchtime, after booking my onwards travel to Slovakia and Spain, I went into town and got the funicular up to the top of the mountain. I managed to get a good walk and some fantastic views of the mountains before the clouds of snow descended and the visibility disappeared. I found shelter in a log cabin with a roaring fire and ate a traditional smoked sausage and baked potatoes, with a mug of ginger tea, before eventually getting the funicular back down the mountain.

This evening I'm intending to make use of the spa at my hotel and get an early night as I have lots of work to do tomorrow. At least I'll be doing it with a view of misty forests and snow-capped mountains! It could be worse.

Posted by whereskate 08:10 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Hossegor, Saint Jean de Luz & San Sebastien

Sept 22 - 26th

sunny 22 °C

Oh heck, I’ve got a bit behind with this. So the guy from Darlington, Sean, met me in Vieux-Boucau-Les-Bains. I’d been caught out by the ridiculous French two-hour lunch-breaks yet again and couldn’t take my bike back to the shop until 2:30pm, so we went for lunch by the lake. After dropping it off, he took me to a few favourite local places on the way into Hossegor and Capbreton – a really nice bar on the beach (Couleur Locale) and an amazing oyster place by Lake Hossegor (La Poupe). Then he dropped me at my hostel. I went for a wander around the area, which reminded me a bit of Long Beach in LA – really spaced out, with lots of big houses, the beach nearby and the marina with lots of yachts.

We met up again later and went for dinner at an amazing mussel restaurant (Chez Minus) where they brought out a huge vat of mussels and a huge vat of fries for 15 Euros – probably the best meal of my trip so far. Sean’s story is that he moved to the area to be with a French woman, who he had a kid with. They’ve broken up but he stayed in the area for his son. After the mussels he started giving me a bit too much of the glad eye and I decided it was time to say my goodbyes and make an exit.

That was my first night staying in a shared room in a hostel. Since I was just staying one night and the dorm room was only 19 Euros I decided to give it a go. Jo&Joe is a really nice, modern hostel and I got lucky that were only 3 other girls in my room and we all wanted to go to bed at the same time. It was clean and comfortable, but I didn’t really sleep for paranoia of bed bugs.

In the morning I woke up early and went for a wander around town to get breakfast, then down to the beach to watch the early morning surfers. I spent most of the rest of the day working in the café at the hostel and trying to figure out how to get to the train station, which is a 20 minute drive away in another town. You wouldn’t think it’d be that hard, but taxis don’t really exist in this part of the world, so I ended up having to get a bus at 3:30pm for a train at 5:50pm. The bus driver went whizzing past the stop I needed to get off at because she was chatting to someone, so then dropped me off in the middle of nowhere and picked me up again 20 minutes later on her way back through, eventually finally dropping me where I needed to be (it’s lucky my French is getting pretty good on this trip!) I got to the train station about an hour & a half early for my train, so sat on the platform reading my book and being eaten to death by midges.

Eventually the train came and it was a 45 min ride through Bayonne and Biarritz to Saint Jean de Luz where I had booked an Airbnb for the next few nights. Saint Jean de Luz was definitely very different to everywhere I’d been so far. It’s a bigger town and much more touristy. It’s where Louis XIV got married to Maria Therese and there’s a beautiful big cathedral, a really lovely beach and a marina full of boats. Although it’s very pretty, I felt less comfortable here. Most of the people were older couples and there didn’t seem to be any solo travellers, so eating out alone felt a bit weird, with lots of nosey old ladies staring at me. My Airbnb this time was particularly nice, so I took it as an opportunity to save some money and cook for myself.

One night I got chatting to a guy on Tinder. It seems there’s a wealth of women-starved single men in their mid-thirties here who are only too happy to drive me around, which is convenient. So I met up with a guy called Christopher, who I didn’t fancy at all but got on with well, and we ended up driving to San Sebastien for dinner. It’s only a 25 minute drive away but had been too difficult for me to get there by public transport, so it was a bonus to get to see it. It’s a really beautiful city and felt very dramatic with stormy seas crashing against the rocks in the bay. We hopped around a few bars trying different pintxos. He had certain places he wanted to go, which I don’t think would have been the ones I’d have chosen, but it was great to get a little taste of the city. Definitely one to go back to with a friend and do properly!

So now it’s Thursday morning and I’m on a coach back to Bordeaux. I have one night there and fly to Berlin tomorrow morning, so the South-Western France leg of this trip is nearly over. Might have to go back to Le Michel for one of those chocolate ganache pots to book-end the visit.

Posted by whereskate 03:56 Archived in France Comments (0)

Vieux-Boucau-les-Bains

Sept 20 - 22

overcast 17 °C
View 2019 travels on whereskate's travel map.

Today is my last morning in Vieux-Boucau-Les-Bains and it's grey and rainy outside. I'm glad I came here and have two nights in a cosy airbnb where I could make my own food and feel a bit more at home - it's become apparent to me that if I'm going to do this for an extended amount of time, I need to be able to do that, rather than feeling that I need to go out every night.

Yesterday I went to the market in the morning, which was surprisingly big for the size of the town. Lots of fruit and veg, lots of cheese stalls, lots of charcuterie, and Foie Gras is from around here, so lots of stalls selling that and pate. I bought some local pate and a baguette, then went to tourist information. They informed me that there's no way of getting out of this town on a Sunday without a car, but that there's a bus on Monday morning.

After lunch I hired a bike (the one here at the Airbnb was definitely too big - there's no way I was getting on it) and went for a cycle in the woods. There's a cycle path that connects the towns along this coast, starting at Léon, going through Moliets, Messanges, Vieux-Boucau all the way down to Capbreton. I went North because apparently it's the flatter route, and ended up cycling all the way to Léon and back, which is about 15km each way. It was a little overcast, so perfect weather for it, and the scenery was beautiful. Autumn is just beginning, so purple heather is beginning to poke through the forest floor amongst the fern.

Léon is a very quaint little village just inland from Moliets. It honestly looks like a set from Beauty and the Beast - all timber framed houses with shutters, I half expected Gaston to waltz around a corner at any moment. I had a wander round and sat down for a drink in the cafe on the square and ended up chatting to the people at the table next to me. One of them was a bloke from Darlington who moved out here some time ago. They seemed really nice and he lives in Capbreton, which is where I need to get the train from tomorrow to go down to Saint Jean de Luz, so he offered to pick me up this afternoon and drive me to the hostel in Capbreton. Score! You don't get that kind of generosity in London, that's for sure!

So now I'm just packing up my Airbnb, and am going to go for a cycle around the lake here in Vieux Boucau and drop my bike off before he picks me up this afternoon.

Posted by whereskate 01:18 Archived in France Comments (0)

Moliets-et-Maas

sunny 30 °C
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The last two nights were spent in Moliets-et-Maas, which was a funny little seaside resort - and I mean resort in the most low-key kind of way. The surfers campsite I was staying at was within a huge campsite, split into hundreds of different plots. It was a real mixture of older people in static caravans, groups of young people camping and surfer types who were somewhere in between, all with their own little plots. WolfCamp - the campsite I stayed on, was a ring of yurts with a bigger marquee tent with sofas, kitchen, dining tables etc. It was run by a very sweet (when they weren't arguing with each other) Italian couple in their 20s who had spent their whole summer there and were winding down for the season, so it was pretty much me and them and one or two other people. In the height of the season they have up to 40 people - but not this weekend. It was really lovely and peaceful - the stars were amazing because there's no light pollution, and it was quite amazing lying in my yurt hearing the birds overhead and the sound of the waves in the distance. I thought staying there would be quite sociable, which is why I chose it, but it wasn't really since there weren't many other solo travellers around, but I enjoyed it anyway.

There was a main strip between the camp site and the beach which had lots of shops, bars and cafes. Some of them were closed for the winter already - enough were open that it didn't feel desolate, but you could definitely tell things were winding down. I had a lot of work to do, so spent most of my time in either of the two places with wifi - a coffee shop and a hotel. Yesterday I got up early and went for a long walk in the forest before doing my morning's work, then went to the beach for a swim at lunch and again after I'd finished for the day. I found a great little place for dinner, which I ended up going to both nights - most of the places were quite expensive and served big meals, and I'm trying to budget my spending, but the seafood place had a bar area where you could have seafood tapas for 5 Euros each. On the first night I had a huge bowl of mussels and some croquettes, the second night I chose garlic prawns and some Accras de Morue, which is a Basque tapas - little fried balls of salt cod that taste like fishy falafels.

When I got back to the campsite last night, some awful Brits had arrived - the kind who feel the need to make sure everyone hears their conversation. Worried about spending the rest of the weekend in their company, and seeing that rain is forecast, I booked an Airbnb in the next town, Vieux-Boucau-Les-Bains. What I didn't realise is that getting around this part of the world without a car is NOT EASY. I got here fine with my BlaBlaCar, but getting out may prove more of a challenge because there are no rides to catch on the app here! Today my Italian hosts kindly dropped me at the bus stop, which was only 5 minutes in the car but would have been a lot longer walking up hill with my rucksack in today's 30 degree heat.

The bus took 20 minutes and when I got off at Vieux-Boucau-Les-Bains, I'd barely got my phone out to message my Airbnb host when she cycled up and said "Bonjour Kate!". My host this time is an older French lady called Isabelle who seems very nice but absolutely stinks of BO. I'm staying in a really lovely little studio apartment on the ground floor of her big house. It seems like there are a couple of holiday lets on this floor and she and whoever she lives with are upstairs (sounds like possibly just a dog!)

This town is quite a bit bigger and is a proper town, rather than a holiday resort. There's a big lake, which I walked down to earlier and had an ice cream before going to the beach for a swim. On the way back I bought some food for dinner and all the produce tastes so good here, even a cheap, simple salad is delicious. Tonight I'm having a night in, reading my book, writing this blog, and trying to figure out how I'm going to get out of this area when public transport beyond the local bus seems non-existant. Feeling a little bit lonely for the first time, which is funny as I've spoken to lots of people today, but it's not the same as spending time with proper friends I suppose. I feel like I'm going to learn a lot about myself doing this trip!

Tomorrow will be my first weekend day - my first day where I don't have to work and can just feel like I'm on holiday! My plan is to get up early and go to the Saturday morning market, then to Tourist Information to see if they can help me work out a plan to get out of here on Sunday. After that, I'm going to try and get on the bike the Airbnb lady has given me, which looks far too big, and go for a cycle in the forest. There are lots of trails for walking and cycling all clearly mapped out, so if I'm not too wobbly on the bike, it should be lots of fun. There's also a horse-riding place I want to check out and see if I can book for Sunday morning.

Posted by whereskate 14:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

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