Only a few minutes from Rialto Bridge it must be hard to find better value in this area. A garden that must be lovely in sunny weather and a very lively trattoria. On a damp Sunday the very friendly staff were almost overwhelmed with diners but kept it all going well. Quite a wide choice of pizzas (all around 8 Euros) and an extremely good value for money set lunch for either 14 or 16 Euros. It's all the traditional courses that you would expect (spaghetti al ragu, brescaiola, spaghetti with mussels and clams, squid) but each course cooked well and very tasty. Half a litre of good wine for 8 Euros. Unhesitatingly recommended - and as almost always in Venice restaurants, perfect for children too.
Sottoportico di Siora Bettina, Santa Croce 2338. Phone 041 5241169
An ace restaurant serving traditional Czech grub, U Seturu has a lovely cosy cellar feel about it with some brilliant black and white photographs of the city on the walls. The Goulash in particular is some of the est you'll find anywhere, and the best thing about it is the price: around 200 K per person for a slap up nosh and a glass of beer. They also have an even cheaper (and no less delicious) lunch menu.
Address: Palackeho 2, a little road running between the main streets of Jungmannova and Vodickova in the New Town (Nove Mesto). It is next door to a hotel. There is a tram stop where these two roads meet. Nearest station is Mustek.
Plovdiv, 120km out of Sofia - on the airport side, is the place to go to experience the "true" Bulgaria. Or should that be Macedonia? The people here will talk to you for hours about their ancestry, so you may end up slightly confused!
However, confusion is all part of the fun – for example when your table begins to fill up with a lot of the world’s most tantalizing white wines, you are, of course, at first confused at why the Bulgarians export such cheap rubbish while keeping these liquid treasures for themselves, and when lots more start to arrive, you reach the section in your guidebook which reminds you that nodding horizontally is affirmative, so each time you thought you were saying “no”, it was “yes” - you’ll work it out eventually!
So why else Plovdiv?
In the first instance it’s not Sofia – which most locals will lecture you about; “Sofiacentrismus” is a political disease which has caught on since the fall of communism, giving rise to a huge hate and jealousy of the capital which seems is the magnet for FDI, tourism, etc as the government seems to ignore all other areas of the country (apart from the Black Sea resorts).
Secondly, you will get to Plovdiv in a luxury hire car for about $35 per day, faster and more comfortable than to anywhere in the traffic-snarled smog of Sofia, via a rolling carpet of comfortable uncrowded motorway. That should take about 1 hour – no more no less, as speed cops are everywhere pulling the faster cars, but also the slower ones!
Thirdly – it’s cheap! Amazingly cheap! One “Lev” is 50 euro cents, so it’s easy to calculate exchange rates on the go, but when you eat and drink like Donald Trump, do lots of tipping, and count in the accidentally-ordered extras from the nodding errors, and find yourself paying a bill of say 15 LEV (EUR 7.50), your mind is going to reevaluate exactly why you do that commute every day back home!
Fourthly, the people are wonderful, happy and very proficient in English! There is no misery here, so you don’t have to feel like Kofi Annan listening to woes of hard lives, gypsy issues, “fall of the wall”, etc; they are happy – as have been the people here for 3000 years, as would you if you lived in this little part of heaven with beautiful weather all year around, fresh produce abundant in fields and gardens, etc.
Fifthly, the standards here will shock you! As in they are so high! Your ROI brain will wonder how every restaurant and bar can be more stylish than any in Manhattan, and the service more friendly (genuinely as tipping doesn’t feature) and professional at these prices. It’s like Terence Conran was let loose here with one of the Roux brothers as part of a community service operation.
Sixth! There are lots more reasons to visit Plovdiv, lots more reasons to rush there before the Eurocrats get there to impose lots of regulations, and we hope to continue - especially when we start to talk about skiing opportunities here! Meanwhile check the links!
Great pub, popular with students, young crowd. Beer garden out back. Stock Czech menu, so smazeny syr, hranolky a tatarka (fried cheese, chips, tartare sauce) is good stuff. Some other good bars in the area, too, including Akropolis club and not far to walk to see the radio/TV tower with statues of babies crawling up it.
Bořivojova 110, Prague 3 Trams 5, 9, 26, 55 and 58 (stop Husinecká).
This is a restaurant precinct near the University of Sydney, and home to lots of goths, gays, upwardly mobile africans, professors and students, and people who like to people-watch. There are some 60 restaurants in the 2 kilometres or so, all of which are reasonably cheap and usually good. You can get a good feed for about $20 a head. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Bring your tastebuds! Several pubs and a couple of backpackers' joints.
Take a bus from the city (438, 426, 423 ,422), go past the university and get off when you smell cooking and see weird folk walking around. Or take a train to Newtown.
Classic beer place in a cellar. Get away from the hordes of tourists. The place is actually two pubs, one upstairs, one downstairs. The downstairs one is the gem. Lovely beer, classic Czech food (full of cholesterol and stodge, but tasty) and the obligatory surly waiters. In the evenings you probably have to reserve. If there's just a couple of you, it's generally no problem to just ask people at a not totally occupied table if they can budge up. Drink: beer, maybe a Fernet to finish off. Food: Vepro knedlo zelo (roast pork, duplings, sauerkraut) or smazeny syr, hranolky a tatarka (fried cheese, chips and tartare sauce)
Pivnice U Rudolfina: Krizovnicka 10, a couple of blocks south of the Rudolfinum concert hall/exhibition space
If you are in Montpellier for more than a couple of days, you need a cheap, friendly, local restaurant that won’t drain the budget. La Tomate, situated on a tiny picturesque square in the old town, offers a fantastic three-course meal for just €11.
La Tomate, 6, Rue Four des Flammes, 34000 Montpellier;
Tel : 04.67.60.49.38
Mary's is a friendly Czech-run accomodation agency with an office in the streets behind the museum in Wenceslas Square. Their service is quick and efficient (I have always found that they reply within the hour if you email during office hours) and, although they offer the usual hotel booking service, I particularly recommend the apartments which they own and manage. Check out the location of their apartments on Husova - excellent value, right in the middle of the old town, and a place where you can come and go as you please.
The Bombardier is a typical British pub stuck between the stunning Panthéon and the Saint Etienne du Mont Church. That might explain why the setting is so different. Everything inside is made of wood and old stones just like the monuments outside. You won't meet as many "Grands Hommes" as in the Panthéon but big screens will help you to support your favourite football or rugby team.
Before the match, go for the delicious "Fish in beer batter" meal. Food is very original, just like beers. Try the old fashioned "Bombardier Cask" beer during the Happy Hours (16h00 to 21h00. Opens at 8 am and closes at 2. am, 7 days a week.
Bombardier, place du Panthéon - 75005 Paris.Tel.:01 43 54 79 22. How to go: metro Maubert-Mutualité, line 10 or RER B Luxembourg.
Walking through the underground cistern in the half-light listening to the sounds of dripping water mingle with the strains of classical music is an eerie but magical experience.
Reputedly the orginal cistern was built by Constantine the Great with the curent one enlarged and rebuilt by Justinian in 532. It is an amazing feat of engineering seeing the columns (approx. 336) stretch away in front of you and above towards the arched roof.
Don't miss the Weeping Column and the Medussa Head column bases (thought to mark a shrine to water nymphs).
There is also a small coffee shop in the cistern.
13 Yerebatan Caddesi, Sultanahmet
Tram stop Sultanahmet
0212 522 12 59
This is for all the backpackers amongst you. Emre's is a tiny kebab shop next to Scruffy Murphys Irish Bar which is located just off George St. It does the greatest post-pub kebabs I have ever had. Chicken or meat with mountains of salad and loads of sauces to try. It just has to be done!
Goulburn St, Sydney
Dispenses with the usual k-tel classics you get in curry houses, and opts instead for an altogether cooler soundtrack, as well as fabulous live jazz nights on Wednesdays.
107 Alcester Road, Birmingham, B13 8DD; Tel:0121 449 3883
Award-winning curry restaurant in the famous Birmingham Balti Triangle. Widely regarded as the place to go for the best balti in Birmingham. Try the aubergine pakora and any of the house specials. Remember to bring your own beer as its unlicensed.
186 Ladypool Road, Sparkbrook, Birmingham, B12 8JS;
Tel: 0121 753 3120; www.alfrash.com
You can't go to Sydney without sampling (probably several times) the best Thai food outside of Thailand. Thai is to Australia what Indian is to the UK - usually decent, very affordable and everywhere.
For cheap as chips Thai made with the freshest of fresh ingredients, fight through the crowds at Tum Thai in Randwick (up the hill from Coogee Beach).
For more daring Thai with a view, Sailor's Thai, a Sydney institution is a must. The restaurant is not cheap but those in the know head for the more relaxed surrounds and reasonable prices of Sailors Bay Canteen, just upstairs.
Finally, for Thai food mixed with people watching, try Longrain, a bar/restaurant in trendy Surry Hills. The reason why the girl next to you looks like Kylie is proabbly because she is Kylie!
Randwick Tum Thai - 167 Alison Road PH (02) 9326 3261.
Sailors Thai Canteen - 106 George Street, The Rocks. PH (02) 9251 2466. No bookings.
Longrain, 85 Commonwealth Street, Surrey Hills, (02) 9280 2888, www.longrain.com.au
A small little bay with a beautiful sandy beach hugged by gorgeous natural vegetation and an amazing view of Manly. A little cafe provides the perfect lunch or dinner venue.
A great place to beat the crowds.
Get the boat to Manly from Circular Quay. Walk through to the beack and turn right and just follow the bay round to Cabbage Tree Bay.
Cabramatta is the centre of the Asian community in Western Sydney, most notably the Vietnamese. Here you can find the most eclectic array of asian food, from Vietnamese through to Laosian. The cost of eating here is amazingly cheap for the quality of food, too.
Up until recently the area was given a lot of bad press, but people have become to realise that the food and shopping (fabrics, ethnic supermarkets, electrical goods) make Cabramatta a different Sydney experience.
Cityrail to Cabramatta – about 30 minutes.
If you want to know what the Japanese do on a Sunday afternoon, then head off to Yoyogi Park. The whole of Tokyo seems to descend on this wonderful park. Families come for a picnic, unsigned pop bands play inpromptu gigs, theatre groups practise their latest plays and people just hang out letting the world go by! Everything seems to happen in this one place! When I went there a year ago, I felt like I saw the real Tokyo - seeing the Japanese at play.
Don't miss it!
Adjacent to Yoyogi-koen and Meiji-jingumae Stations on the subway Chiyoda Line, and Harajuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line
Often overlooked by western tourists, Manga cafes are a godsend to the poor and weary traveller. At large branches of "Manboo", for example, you can relax in a private booth equipped with a broadband-connected PC, a television, a games console and a comfortable reclining chair, all for a reasonable 200-300 yen per hour (about half that for girls). A vast library of games and comics (the former very often being perfectly accessible to non-Japanese speakers) is provided for patrons to use at their leisure, along with drinks, snacks, and showers for those planning to stick around. Indeed, a good 24-hour manga cafe is a more comfortable, more entertaining and above all cheaper place to spend the night than an overpriced capsule hotel. You can even get a two-person booth if you're travelling with a partner.
All over Tokyo; the best-equipped cafes tend to be found in Shinjuku and Shibuya, but smaller locations are as common as Karaoke boxes.
Probably one of the largest expanses of gadget heaven on planet Earth. Think of anything electronic and you'll find it here. The current sterling/yen exchange rate also means that you'll pay around 15-20% less here (maybe a bit more if you bring your passport with you to get a further 5% off as a tax-free purchase).
On the Yamanote line (and others) two stops north of JR Tokyo station. For a preview of one of the biggest stores go to www.yodobashi.com (Japanese language only unfortunately).
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