A travel addicted IT-geek and foodie. Born in northern Europe, with family in every corner of the world.
I have travelled a lot, and I have eaten amazing meals all over the world, I have met so many amazing people. The more I learn, the more I realise I don't know - so I keep on exploring!
Passionate about sustainability.
I was 15 years old when it all started, 15 years old the first
time I travelled abroad without the parents and without any other
grown-ups, and without going on an organised trip. Many would have
said it was crazy, and many probably did, too, but never to my face.
One can wonder how my parents could be OK, letting a 15 year old off
on her own – I certainly doubt that I would have done it if it was
my 15-year old – but times were different, and most of all, I was
used to taking care of myself and I was used to taking on
responsibilities – I was (and am) a big sister after all. And even
if I went somewhere completely new to me, it was still to a place
where I knew the language – that helped.
I went to London.
And while it wasn't an organised trip I had a friend with me and
we booked the hotel as well as the transfer to and from the hotel
before we went. We also promised to call once we had gotten there,
and our parents had the number to the hotel.
Kew Gardens, London
Surely many 15-year olds would have taken the opportunity to act
less responsible. Not us. I for myself knew very well that this was a
very special opportunity; If I handled it well I would be able to go
again as well as get to do other things, if I had misused the trust
my parents gave me I would not be able to do anything on my own until
after I had turned 18 or left the house, so I knew what I had to do.
And besides London itself was so exciting and there was so much to
see and do that I doubt we would have had the energy to misbehave; We
didn't have the correct age so even finding a pub that would have
served us would probably have been difficult – so we didn't bother
trying. Instead we spent the week – because we were away for a
whole week – taking the underground (or, as the Americans like to
call it, Subway – and yes, we did make the mistake once, of
thinking that subway was the same as underground, we had clearly
watched too many American films. Both of us KNEW that subway wasn't
what we were looking for and still we made the mistake...), going
around various places in zone 1 (basically within the area that the
yellow line, "Circle Line" covers), doing all the things we
had read about.
We went to Hyde Park and strolled around, we went to Speakers
Corner, the public speaker's area in Hyde Park, where everybody has a
right to an opinion – I guess that's what some debate forums on
Internet are used for nowadays. We went to British Museum (see link), one of the
most impressive museums with (one of the) biggest collections in the
world and made the mistake of thinking we should spend a whole day
there, ending up in us being dead tired at the end of the day –
take my advice, don't. Nowadays – at least last time I checked –
entrance to the museum is free so go there, see a part, leave, and
come back another day.
We took a tour around London, an organised tour that the travel
agency had created. I still recommend that to all first-time
visitors; London is so massive that you can't cover it on your own
and it IS very interesting to hear a bit about the history and see
some of the landmarks. I still remember 1665 as the year the plague
hit London and 1666 as the year of the Great Fire, when a huge part
of the city burnt down – a tragic event in itself but with the fire
the plague died out (see the link to the History of London learning site). "The Monument" – the monument of the
great fire of London – stands close to London Bridge as a reminder
of the event.
We saw the beautiful Tower Bridge, the most famous bridge that
many tourists still refer to as "London Bridge", but it is
not correct – London Bridge is a plain bridge while Tower Bridge is
the gorgeous old bridge that is the symbol of London that many of us
recognises from one of the TV channels.
We walked around Bayswater – because of course, as many other
first time London visitors we ended up in a shabby little tourist
hotel in Bayswater – not to saw that there aren't perfectly decent
hotels in Bayswater but as young traveller hotel standard is not what
matters – and to be honest, it still isn't, at least not for me and
at least not in a big city; Just like then I don't spend any of my
time in the hotel room, except for when I sleep, so why would the
hotel room be priority? Especially in a big city like London, a city
that never really sleeps.
I also have vivid memories of taking the double deckers, the
famous red buses, and sitting up, overlooking the city, I also
remember the odd feeling of going downstairs, while the bus was
driving through the city, getting ready to get off – and knowing
that down those stairs there was nothing stopping you from falling
off, no door. It wasn't the case on all buses, but the older ones
really had no doors, and you could still get off where there was no
stop, if you wanted. I remember doing just that, jumping off, and
while I was safe on the ground and my friend jumped out the bus
started to move and she almost fell. It made us giggle, probably
partly with fear – what IF something would actually happen... Would
we be able to sort it out? Luckily we never had to find out.
I remember being down by Trafalgar Square and staring up on the
statue of Nelson, seeing the big lions surrounding the square. And
Piccadilly Circus with the Eros statue made an ever lasting
impression on me, not so much for the lights and the billboards and
the familiarity of it all, having seen it in newspapers and on TV,
but for the people, this was the first meeting with the rest of the
world, it felt like. Nowadays I hurry past Piccadilly Circus and
hardly remember to look up, but when I do I still remember that young
girl that was me and how it felt, being there, listening to the
sounds of the city, smelling it, experiencing it will all my senses.
I remember walking around, street up and street down in the
evening, trying to find the right place to have dinner – it is not
easy when you are 15 and you are in the tourist areas and you aren't
familiar with all those exotic dishes that London, being a
multicultural city, actually have to offer. I remember ending up more
often than we liked in places that served pastas and salads, dishes
we were familiar with and had confidence enough to order.
Now I know better. Since that first time I have returned to London
again and again and again. Now I know to avoid the more touristy
areas for my meals, I know to go to the backstreets, I know to look
for the places where the locals go, and I know to try the local food,
and the ethnic food. I enjoy having dim sum or maybe duck in
Chinatown, I enjoy going to the little local Indian restaurants. Some
of the best Indian food you can find in Europe you can find in UK –
there is a big Indian population and if you go where the Indians go
themselves you are certain to find excellent Indian food – but you
can also find good cross-over food, Indian food that is adjusted for
the European taste buds.
He or she who says that you can't eat well in London doesn't know
what he is talking about – or have been unfortunate enough to find
the wrong places. There IS a lot of excellent food to be had, but it
does sometimes take a bit of knowledge or at least a bit of effort to find it. It is true that the food you would find in England and especially the English food once was terrible and uninteresting - overcooked potatoes and peas and meat that was hardly worth being called meat but before that there was another food culture, a culture very much based on what nature provided, and that knowledge isn't completely lost, just somewhat forgotten. With the interest in good food increasing, so does the quality.
DO stop if you see a farmer's market. Do try the local products.
London has it all. It's got tourist traps, it got local joints. It's got fancy, it's got simple. It's got tasty, it's got tasteless, it's got good, it's got bad.
London. A city that will always have s special place in my heart. A city I will never be finished with. Every time I come I feel I come home, I feel at ease and I feel that I recognise myself. And yet every time I come I discover something new, meet new interesting people and learn something new.
Or We need to make an effort to keep the knowledge alive!
It bothers me to no end.
I am currently in Taiwan, a magical country with
amazing history, and a country that takes great pride in their food –
for a good reason. Taiwan is a tropical island, with warm and humid
climate the bigger part of the year, it only really dries up and
cools down in the winter, and mainly winter nights. On the other hand
Taiwan have many high mountains, and up on the hills the climate is
quite different from down on the plains. Furthermore Taiwan is in an
earthquake area, and is volcanic, which means the soil is full of
minerals. All things together makes Taiwan a very green island, an
island where basically anything can grow – and does.
A crab I raced on the beach up north
Also, Taiwan is an island, surrounded by very deep
sea – some say that Taiwan is a mountain in the sea, and it is.
Unlike Thailand, a country that Taiwan often gets mixed up with,
merely for the name, Taiwan doesn't have the long shallow waters
ideal for families with children, around Taiwan the sea is deep –
you don't have to very far out to find the deeper waters. There are
beautiful beaches for families with children too, but not quite the
same way as in some other countries known to the west as beach
resorts. The deep sea surrounding the island means there is plenty of
seafood and exceptionally good fish.
Going to the morning market in Taiwan is food experience in itself, also if you are just a tourist and don't want to cook, and for a
foodie like myself pure pleasure; Exceptionally good quality,
remarkably fresh – often coming in from the farmer the same morning
- and, as long as you stick to what's in season, very inexpensive,
you certainly get amazing quality for what you pay, there is no
supermarket that could ever even get close to this, considering a
supermarket will always, without exception, have longer transports, they store more food and hence have to think about shelf life. In the small local markets they sell what they have and when they run out: Well, then they ran out.