Top travel moments in 2016

2016 was a really busy year for me with several exciting trips to Europe and the US. In this blog I have tried to document some travel experiences because it is always fun to share some travel tips.

Here are my top travel moments and travel destinations of the year, in no particular order.

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Causeway north of Belfast is a true natural wonder. It is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The area is located by the sea about an 1-1,5 hour drive from Belfast and I promise you will be amazed by these peculiar octagon shaped stones and the surrounding magnificent cliffs.

Giants Causeway

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitvice Lakes in Croatia is a unique natural park with 16 terraced crystal clear lakes and some 90 waterfalls. We visited the park during the summer and despite spending several hours walking the area, we probably didn’t even cover half of it. The park is a beautiful travel destination near the Adriatic Coast and if you plan to visit, don’t miss the climb up to the vantage point next to the largest water fall “Veliki slap”.

plitvicelakes0868

 

City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia

If you like modern architecture, I can really recommend a trip to Valencia, which is a new favourite of mine. Tourism in the city is on the rise and I think it is an excellent alternative to the more crowded Barcelona nearby.

In the dried river bed that runs through Valencia, a number of astonishing buildings have been built in recent years. The City of Arts and Sciences, or Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, is a complex of spectacular buildings, many of them designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava who was born in Valencia.

Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe
Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe

 

Naples, Florida

Like most people, I’m a big fan of white sandy beaches and sunsets, and few places are better positioned for this than the west coast of Florida. During our latest trip to Florida, we combined a few days on Miami Beach with a week in Naples. It was a cosy town with beautiful beaches and dolphins swam round the Pier all day, which was a fun sight.

Naples Pier, Florida

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Barcelona and London are probably the foreign cities I’ve visited most times. The Catalan capital is a favourite destination and the pinnacle of a visit is of course a tour of Gaudí ‘s La Sagrada Familia. The church is moving closer to being finished and don’t miss the walk up one of the towers. The view is quite spectacular.

lasagradafamilia2016

Thanks for following the blog during 2016. Looking forward to new travel experiences in 2017.

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A day in Barcelona with Gaudí

Barcelona is one of my favourite European cities and it has something for everyone. If you’re just a little interested in architecture, there are several places in the Catalan capital that you must not miss. Many of them bear the mark of the famous architect Antoni Gaudí and during one of our recent visits, we dedicated an entire day to the works of Gaudí.

La Pedrera

La Pedrera

We stayed at Hotel Nextto on Carrer del Rosselló, which had a great central location. In fact, our room even had a patio facing Gaudí’s Casa Milà, also know as ‘La Pedrera’. So we started the day early with a visit to this fantastic building. Since it was early in the day, lines weren’t too bad and it’s always nice to get into these must-see places before they get too crowded.

la_pedrera

Inside there are two amazing courtyards, one when you enter the tour and one at the end of the tour. You continue up to the roof with the odd shaped chimneys and a great view of the city. You continue down to the beautiful attic (pictured above) and further down where some apartments have been saved as a museum.

Park Guell

Park Güell

From La Pedrera we headed up to Park Güell, but a word of warning here. Upon arrival we found out that the central part of the park was sold out, not only on that day but also the day after. This part is called the Monumental Zone (main entrance, terrace, and the parts containing mosaics) and has only had an entrance fee since late 2013.

Now we didn’t worry too much about that because you can see a lot from the public spaces that don’t require a ticket. Also, we had an appointment later on in the afternoon, so we were in a bit of a hurry anyway. But if you are visiting Barcelona for the first time and really want to see the Monumental Zone up close, my advice is to book tickets well in advance.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Família

Sagrada Família, or as its full name is, The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família, is the most astonishing piece of architecture you will probably be able to see anywhere in the world. This masterpiece has been under construction for 134 years and it is still not completed. However, a steady flow of tourists have contributed to the financing of the project and it is estimated that the church will be completed in the next 10 years.

Since most tourists in Barcelona visit the church, it is strongly recommended to buy tickets online in advance. We bought tickets before our trip and we also added the tour up in one of the towers. When you do this you have to select a time for entry to the church and a time to enter the tower.

Anyway, you simply cannot visit Barcelona without seeing Sagrada Familia. And don’t just see it from the outside, you really must see the beautiful interior.

Casa Batllo

Casa Batlló

Another of Gaudi’s masterpieces is Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gràcia, the same street as La Pedrera. The building was actually not built from scratch by Gaudi. Instead he renovated an existing building. During our “Gaudi day”, we stopped by Casa Batlló but we didn’t go inside. That’ll have to wait until next time 😉

If you want to read more about the works of Gaudi, there are several pointers in the Wikipedia article.

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Free Airbnb coupon for your next trip

South Beach, Miami
South Beach, Miami

When we plan a trip we always check Airbnb for nice places to rent. You can often find rooms or apartments to stay at that are both less expensive, have better location and offer more space than a traditional hotel room. That’s especially true when all five of us in the family travel together. So we have used Airbnb in locations such as Pula in Croatia, London and Miami to name a few.

Free 35 USD coupon

If you haven’t already joined Airbnb, which is free, you really should. Use this link when you join and you will get a coupon or a discount for 35 USD your first stay. That way I will also get the same amount off from my next booking.

Feel free to share the same link to your friends: www.airbnb.se/c/hkullin

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Architecture in Stockholm open to the public for a weekend

KTH School of Architecture
KTH School of Architecture

From 25 stories up, to 25 meters under ground, this weekend Stockholm opens up spaces that normally are off limits to the general public. ‘Open House’ is a concept that started in London in 1992 with the aim of “showcasing outstanding architecture for all to experience, completely for free”. During two days, Oct 7-8, the public is invited to take part of guided tours of some of the most exciting buildings and places in Stockholm, all for free.

I managed to visit four different spots during the weekend. On Friday, I went to see the former lamp factory Luma in Hammarby Sjöstad, south of Södermalm. Architects from Link Arkitektur guided us round the iconic building which was designed by Artur von Schmalensee and Eskil Sundahl in 1929-30.

The former LUMA light bulb factory

Nowadays, the building houses offices and conference spaces. At the very top of the building, there is a room with large windows with views of Stockholm in all directions. This room was previously used to test light bulbs but is now a conference room that can be booked for meetings or parties.

Former light bulb testing room with spectacular views

On Saturday I got the chance to visit another Stockholm landmark building, Wenner Gren Center. This 25 story building was once the tallest building in Europe with a steel framework. The view from the top floor is of course spectacular.

View of Sveavägen from the top floor at Wenner Gren Center

KTH School of Architecture

This new and exciting building by Tham & Videgård Arkitekter (pictured above in this post) in pre-rusted steel was finished in 2015. It has already won several design awards, among them the prestigious Kasper Sahlin Prize. Inside, some 600 students study architecture in a building that has a concrete structure, but inside most walls are covered with wood panels for a warmer feel. The stairs up to the top floor are quite cool too.

The stairs in KTH School of Architecture

My final stop was located nearby on the KTH campus and it is the reactor hall R1, Sweden’s first nuclear reactor. You had to walk stairs down to the hall which is about 25 meters below street level. In the center of the hall is a pit where they used to test nuclear reactions and radiation. The reactor was active between 1954 and 1970 and the grid in the ceiling and on the walls was used when the reactor was shut down and they needed to measure levels of radiation in the room.

R1, Sweden’s first nuclear reactor

There are many interesting places to visit and since they are spread around Stockholm it’s impossible to cover more than a few during two days. So I hope that Open House Stockholm will be a recurring event that I can revisit next year.

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Day trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park

The main reason we booked our trip to Croatia this summer was because we wanted to experience the wonder of Plitvice Lakes ( Plitvička Jezera in Croatian). It’s the largest national park in Croatia and a UNESCO World Heritage site, located near the border to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It’s a four hour drive from Pula where we spent the first few days. That was about an hour longer than what we had expected but on the other hand we got some spectacular views along the winding roads up and down the mountains. We started off early in the morning from Pula and drove up to the national park via a lunch break with stunning views in the coastal town Senj.

Where to enter the park

The park is so vast that it’s probably not possible to see all of it during one day. We chose Entrance 2 since we had read that the lines were shorter there, and they were. We parked the car and bought tickets at the entrance without having to wait at all.

The lakes have absolutely crystal clear water but you are not allowed to swim in it because it would disturb the delicate balance in the sensitive ecosystem.

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Lower Lakes at Plitvice Lakes National Park

From Entrance 2 we took two boat rides and then walked along the lakes and waterfalls of the middle and lower parts of the water system. Our goal was to reach Veliki Slap, the Big Waterfall, which with it’s 78 meters is the largest waterfall in the park.

How to get the best photo of Plitvice Lakes

Once there you want to climb up to the vantage point where you can take some fantastic photos, like the one that is on the entrance ticket. To do that you need to climb up the path that is located to the left of the big waterfall and climb it all the way to the top. Keep right and you will eventually reach a paved road. Keep going to the right passed a small bridge and then immediately take the path to the right and you will soon see the lookout with views of most of the lower lakes. Don’t miss this, it’s quite breathtaking.

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View from the vantage point above the Big Waterfall

We spent several hours at the park and only managed to see half of it. But after a four hour drive and a long day at the park, we had to leave for our rented Airbnb place in the nearby town of Korenica. (Don’t forget, if you sign up to Airbnb via this link we both get a coupon worth 35 USD off our next stay.)

I would have loved to stay another day but we had to get back to Pula and our flight back to Sweden the next day.

Although there are both tram cars and boats (included in the entrance fee) to take you between the different spots, be prepared to walk a great deal. That way you will also get the best views from this magnificent place.

Here are some more photos from our visit.

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