Finding Paradosiako, or How To Use Lonely Planet and Not Look Like a Tourist

We were lucky – in Athens, we spent the majority of our meals with our couchsurfing host.

We had vegan dishes both nights – the first being lovely stuffed tomatoes, the second being vegetables and a delightfully lemony pasta.

yum. I still want to know how to recreate that pasta…

But otherwise, we were left with one big meal on our own, in the city. One meal where we’d find a place outside of the “typical tourist path.” One meal where we’d be eating beside locals, not just tourists.

And so where do go looking for such a place in a massive city you know nothing about?

Why, Lonely Planet, of course.

2014-05-18 16.25.28

Now let’s look at and put aside some of the prejudice you, the off-the-beaten path travel warrior, might hold to something like finding a restaurant with a guide.

Guides are popular for a reason: because they’re useful.*

Seriously.

Of course I don’t recommend following a guide for an entire trip, step-by-step, nose in the book.

No. Here’s what you do.

2014-04-18 19.04.28-1

1) Go to your local library a month before the trip and check out/order the current guides for your destination.

2) Spend an afternoon in a coffee shop (or your kitchen table) flipping through the guides, tabbing things that seem interesting/useful. This might mean free city walks, attractions you want to check out, restaurant ideas, backup hostels/hotels in case plans fall through, bus schedules, maps, or phone numbers and addresses for emergencies.

3) If you’re like me, go back through a second time and edit it down to a non-overwhelming amount of tabs.

4) Using your phone, take photos of the pages.

5) Refer back to them whenever you need throughout the trip, and feel awesome because you saved money, don’t have to lug around a book, and don’t look like a tourist when looking at the metro map.

BAM.

2014-05-18 16.22.47

If you do this, then, one month later, when you suddenly realize you are in Athens and starving, you might just find yourself quickly looking up your photo of restaurants listed in the area, walking 10 minutes to a nearby address, then sitting yourself down to an absolutely delicious meal at Paradosiako. And you can tuck into your greek salad, mousaka, Alpha beer, and watermelon next to Greeks and tourists alike while feeling like you win at this tourist stuff.

And that’s how to use Lonely Planet and not look like a tourist.

2014-05-18 16.45.51

*Of course, only certain guides are good, and everyone has their own opinion. Me? I loved the Let’s Go! series as a young backpacker. Now, I gravitate more and more exclusively towards Lonely Planet. Their paper (ie, not online) guides are just that useful.

The Summer of the Foreign Exchange Student

The summer of the foreign exchange student was the summer of…I can’t remember the year. 2003? 2004?

hrm.

Regardless, that summer we had a parisienne stay with us for a couple months, and all I remember of the time was that 1) I was so shy, even though we were speaking my native language, 2) I learned how to speak slowly with care for others for the first time,* 3) I got my wisdom teeth out, and 4) it was hot.

So hot that that summer we escaped up to the mountains whenever we could – to make our lives easier of course, but mostly for poor Sophie, who had to endure a (record-breaking?) desert summer for months.

And while back home, I found the photos I took those many years ago. They have lots of greenery, lakes, and a few young versions of my family.

A boy doesn’t film just look different than digital?

CO0037 CO0038 CO0039 CO0040

*Yes, yes, I still speak quickly. But not as quickly as before! Really!

**They were in the same batch of found photos as these.

7 Awesome Links to Make Your Friday Better

Saint Malo, uncredited

The first is just a link back to one of my favorite posts on one of my favorite blogs – and the favorite of many other people, as well. I look back on it whenever I’m having a particularly bad day and just need a laugh. Enjoy :)

Have you ever heard of Temple garments? It’s an LDS (Mormon) thing – learn the truth about it here.

Drunk J. Crew. Hah.

Two wonderful articles on Portland. One via Buzzfeed, one via Thrillist.

A friend from the way-back machine (ie, highschool), has her own blog and wrote a post on what not to ask an unemployed person. As a currently unemployed person, I find myself thinking “yes. EXACTLY RIGHT.” to every point she makes. It’s a fantastic read.

And as always, buy experiences, not things.

 

Prague Review: Cafe Neustadt

When I visited this summer, my friend Natascha and I went to go grab a coffee. She took me to a place right near the center that I had only heard about before, but never tried (it was opened after I left, I think).

And for being right in the center of Prague, Cafe Neustadt was quite the nice surprise*.

I grabbed a cappuccino and salad (the food and drink is all written up on a blackboard – you have to go check it out before ordering) which were both great (sorry, I would give more description than that, but I just remember thinking oh, yeah, this is pretty good. Satisfying, even.).

The place had a gorgeous courtyard, full of seating, which doubles as an event space when needed. Pretty much all the clientele were young and cool – young Czechs and expats with scarfs and skinny jeans, and it definitely had that hipster-vibe to it (you mean there isn’t a food menu? I have to look at the blackboard of ever-changing fresh and tasty options?)

If you’re looking for a hip place to grab a drink and food in the center of Prague, this is a good place to start. Full of cool people, food, and drink.

Yep :)

2014-07-01 13.40.14-1

Logistics:

Here’s the facebook page for it – and a review by Lisette on expats. Always a solid source :)

It’s address is: Karlovo náměstí 1/23, Prague 2,

and it’s open from 8am-midnight mon-fri, 10-midnight sat, and 12-midnight sun.

Go in the summer if you can to enjoy the outdoors!

Lastly, if you see any pianos lying around, it’s because the owner is the thinker behind the random pianos placed all around Prague (which, by the way, is an awesome thing to stumble upon as a tourist and resident)

*I know I shouldn’t be so judgmental about places in the center (ie, the tourist center) of Prague, but so often everything is just more expensive! Not to mention you have a greater likelihood of being ripped off by wandering into a tourist restaurant/bar/spot.

 

12 Words Everyone Gets Wrong (via Cup of Jo)

When I came across this list on Cup of Jo the other day, I couldn’t help but think about my Prague ESL days. One of the unexpected parts about teaching English was how you (or at least I) started to love and know by heart the little quirks of spelling and meaning that most/many native English speakers could care less about.

Disburse vs Disperse?

I mean really, who knows?

We English teachers do :)

Check out this list to see if you match up!

Oh, and also, by the way, on a related note, I think the word usage/grammar police should by now accept that “literally” has a new meaning. Language has evolved with this one. Get over it.

…(“alot” though is still wrong)

8 Other Places to Visit in Athens (Besides the Acropolis)

So you know you’re going to be seeing the Acropolis.

That’s a given.

But what other places should you explore? I mean, Athens is big, chaotic, and steeped in history, everywhere (and the Acropolis is only one thing). Luckily for you, we spent one day walking tirelessly from one to the other, and covered a good amount of the tops sites in our one short day (If I did it again, I’d block out two days in Athens).

Here is the (kinda?) comprehensive list of the other ruins and places to visit in Athens (besides the Acropolis)!

1) Philopappou Hill and Phynx Hill:

Needing no ticket nor entry fee, we accidentally wandered up these hills after leaving the Acropolis. Only after being on the hill (and extensive map-guide comparison) did we discover that Phynx Hill is actually where the original Assembly of Athens met. It’s the actual birthplace of Democracy! (and it gives a pretty stunning view of Athens, as well)

IMG_34081

2) Plaka:

The neighborhood right below the Acropolis is inevitably touristy, but still filled with nice (and convenient) restaurants and cafes. Perfect for a cool Frappe after your early morning (hot) hike around the Acropolis!

IMG_34111

3) Temple of Hephaestus (part of the Ancient Agora):

The Temple of Hephaestus (patron god of metalworking and craftsmanship) is definitely not the biggest or oldest temple in Athens, but it is the best preserved and therefore deserving of a visit. Largely standing today as it was constructed, it gives you a taste of what the other temples would have been like, had they not been destroyed at one point or another. And it’s right above the Ancient Agora, which makes it an easy stop! (Part of the Combo Ticket)

IMG_34121 IMG_34141

4) The Ancient Agora:

Like my previous post on Athens and the Acropolis, you would probably also benefit from a guide here. The Ancient Agora (meaning marketplace) is fairly large and nicely full of plaques and information at each point of interest within, but someone to bring this whole area to life would make a more worthwhile experience. But regardless, definitely don’t miss it! I mean, for centuries it was the center of economic and political life for one of the most celebrated western civilizations, after all, and there are a lot of amazing facts and stories to go with that! – just be prepared for not much shade throughout, though…  (part of the Combo Ticket).

IMG_34191 IMG_34201

5) The Roman Agora and Neighborhood of Monastiraki:

The Roman Agora was the center of Roman Athens and is also home to the ruins of Hadrian’s Library. Both are worthwhile to visit with rich histories to tell. And getting an image of this ancient library with it’s great hall, walls filled with papyrus scrolls and collections of little reading rooms to the side is quite fun. Plus, it borders the Monastiraki neighborhood – the neighborhood for flea market stalls. You’ll find every type of Greek-themed souvenir imaginable, and if you’re looking for a little tchotchke gift to bring back, just walk half-way down a street here! (the Roman Agora is part of the Combo Ticket)

IMG_34231 IMG_34241

6) The Temple of Zeus (and Hadrian’s Arch):

Guys, the Temple of Olympian Zeus is MASSIVE. Partially because of the set-up (the Temple rising out of a square-mile of nothing helps) but also partially because…it just was the biggest temple in Greece – period. – , walking up to the Temple is quite an awe-inspiring experience. It would have been amazing to be dwarfed by the temple when it was fully standing and built. Pictures just don’t do it justice :) And leading right into it is Hadrian’s arch. That Hadrian. He got around. (both are part of the Combo Ticket)

IMG_34311 IMG_34351 IMG_34391

7) The Panatheniac Olympic Stadium:

In the late 1800s this stadium was rebuilt from the ruins of the ancient stadium to host the first modern olympic games. It costs 3 Euros to get in and comes with an audio guide, which is pretty cool! I missed it on my trip since we only had one day in Athens, and I will definitely someday be coming back to see it!

8) The National Gardens:

The large national gardens are really quite magical and restful. Plus, they are right by the Panathenaic Stadium (and Temple of Olympian Zeus), which make them a great place to sit in the shade and recharge for a bit. Or stroll around in the shade and recharge – whatever you feel like doing!

 

Whew! I don’t know what you guys think, but those are more than enough ruins and places to last 2 days! I know we tried to fit in as many in one day as we could, and by the end we were exhausted and even had to skip a couple. Again, if you have the chance, 2 days in Athens is probably ideal!

Also, don’t forget water and sunscreen! You’ll really be wanting both…

IMG_34211

New York City in the Early 2000s

In honor of my upcoming trip to NYC, here are some photos I recently uploaded onto my computer while home in CO. (btw, I have a strong feeling I’ve shared some of these before, but I can’t find it on the blog. So I apologize if some of these are repeats!)

I took these with a…regular? camera, and black and white film back in 2002 or 2003, I believe. (the third one is of Ground Zero)

And I think I did a pretty good job with the photography, even back then.

But then again, New York just kind of lends itself to B&W. I think I’ll exclusively shoot without color when I visit this time.

It’s just too temptingly romantic not to :)

CO0018 CO0019 CO0034 CO0029 CO0032 CO0027 CO0024 CO0023 CO0021 CO0020 CO0035

5 Awesome Links to Make Your Friday Better

New York City ✰✰✰

Eep! I’m off for this beautiful city…next week! Hooray for a little weekend away (being on the East Coast makes this so easy! Things are so close together!).

Want a game to play on your phone that is just gorgeous? (so what if I look for that in a game??)  Check out these.

Bike like a pro athlete, eat like a pig.

Norway’s new currency is pretty great :)

Ok, so maybe I just clicked on this link because it had a “Czech” pun on it, but still, Ikea in the 80s is great….

Smart ways to spend your storage space.

Prague Review: Monolok Cafe

The first time I went to Monolok was because Erika invited me to bring my laptop to work and grab coffee one drizzly Sunday at a new coffee shop that had just opened up right next door to her flat*.

And immediately, as soon as we stepped in, I felt a sense of yes. This is a place where I can spend my Sundays “working”

2014-06-30 11.01.43-1

Monolok was one of the first Prague spaces I saw that so easily embodied the modern, hip, NW-inspired coffee space – all warm woods, white walls, and stainless accents.

And then when I sat down to order, it proved itself to be even more of a blast from home. French press and drip cone coffee? WHA?? No place had that in Prague.

We immediately sat down near the wide windows, ordered omelettes, and split a large American-style pressed coffee pot.

It was heaven.

Since then, I’ve been back many times, trying their excellent-without-fail espresso and coffee drinks, sampling their breakfast menu (nice Livance [pancakes] and sandwiches), and enjoying the quiet back patio in the sun, or the basement full of extra tables and couches. I even planned both my trip to Croatia and my trip to Greece at those tables!

Really, if you need a little break from too many dark pubs, this light-filled space should be on your next lazy afternoon list.

2014-06-30 10.30.47-1

Logistics:

Here’s the website with menus for food, drinks, coffee, desserts, drinks, etc. Beautiful website, don’t you think? Only thing is it doesn’t seem to have an English option. Use chrome and that oh-so-useful automatic translate feature :)

Their address is Moravská 18, Praha 2, and they’re open 7 days a week, but open a bit later on Saturday and Sunday.

The drip coffee is a little more expensive than your average coffee drink, but not that bad (and it is really good drip coffee – which if you’ve been traveling in Europe for a while, you might not have seen in a while…)

They have couches and tables inside, with more downstairs (if you crave the European cave feel), and tables out back if it’s warm enough.

Enjoy!

2014-06-30 10.30.34-1

*so for those in the know, yeah, she had a pretty swanky address – and a gorgeous apartment to go with it!