Tag Archives: Budget Traveling

How to: The Rio Urederra, Navarra, Spain

In the north of Spain, in a valley between two mountain ranges, lies one of the biggest wine regions in Europe — La Rioja. One could easily spend days, maybe even weeks, here, doing winery tours and wine tastings all day in the vineyards, and eating pintxos all night in the region’s capital, Logroño (if that sounds like your idea of a dream itinerary, I have some pro tips you can read here). We spent two of our three days in Logroño doing just this, and boy oh boy, it was totally amazing! On the third day, we drove out of town to Baquedano and did the stunning walk along the Rio Urederra.

We arrived in the tiny village of Baquedano. The parking lot seemed busy, but we quickly found a spot, paid our €4 and parked the van. We followed the signs towards the river. This region of Spain is just stunning. It is very desert-like, but full of both coniferous and deciduous trees, and the surrounding terrain is craggy and rugged. We found the path entrance and began.

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The Spanish word ‘urederra’ means ‘beautiful water’ in English, and there isn’t a doubt that this river was aptly named. After walking for maybe 15 minutes, the path connects with the river and we were able to see the water for the first time. The riverbed seemed to be illuminated with blue light, the water shone crystal clear. It was almost iridescent. We stopped to take pictures, of course, along with the few other people on the path.

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We continued the walk, stopping along the water at every viewpoint. We continued to be blown away by the colour of the water. You aren’t allowed to swim here, which felt like kind of a shame at first, but the water is so clean, and the surrounding area so tranquil, I think it would be ruined with a bunch of sunscreen-covered bodies splashing around in the water. We came to the end of the path, where a tall waterfall cascaded down the rocks. The trees were unbelievably tall, and formed a canopy that darkened the forest floor. We turned back and followed the other path back to the parking lot.

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The information I read on the sign at the beginning of the walk led me to believe the entire hike would take us about 3 hours. In fact, the whole hike took us just over three hours and that included the multiple stops we made to take photos, and the long lunch stop we took to eat our sandwiches.

How to:

  • When following Google Maps or GPS, do not search “Rio Urederra” but instead, follow the directions to Baquedano. This is where the parking lot and the beginning of the trail are located.
  • We paid €4 for parking our van. I have seen some people say €3, some people say it’s free. I believe is has to do with high and low season, or maybe the size of car? Either way, I am happy to pay €4 to help with the upkeep of such a beautiful area.
  • From the parking lot, you have to walk through the village of Baquedano to find the path entrance. Follow the purple-ish signs that say “Urederra” and you will find it in no time.
  • Don’t swim, don’t feed the fish, don’t litter…just don’t be an idiot.
  • Bring snacks and/or lunch. There isn’t much in the village.
  • That being said, there is a bar once you leave the path that serves tinto de verano (my fave) for a very reasonable price!
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Driving through France with “France Passion”

There we were, in Germany, with our newly purchased campervan, Vinnie the Van, trying to figure out the quickest, and most beautiful way to get to the north of Spain. We knew we would have to drive through France, but we couldn’t decide which way to take — do we just speed through the country on the highways, or do we take the scenic route past Switzerland and down the south of France? Well, all the super fast highways in France are tolled, the degree to which is astronomical (we paid €27 for driving 200km!*), and driving past Switzerland and through the Alps along those winding mountain roads in a 1997 Ford Transit didn’t sound like my idea of a good time.

That’s when we discovered a third option — France Passion! France Passion is a program that’s been running for 25 years. Members are able to stay for free with farmers across the country. There are thousands of farmers taking part in the program. We purchased our year-long membership for €25, and it gave us access to an online guidebook that allowed us to plan our route according to length of the drive in between, and the kind of produce they made. It was the best way we could have imagined to get across France (I proudly say this without any sort of compensation from the company).

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One of the “Golden Rules” of France Passion is that campers are not obligated to buy anything from the farm, but really, how could we not? What’s a few euros for a fresh snack from those who made it, especially when you aren’t paying for accommodation? France Passion is the ultimate cheapskate solution. As I mentioned, we mapped out our trip based on the food and goods we wanted to buy, so it wasn’t even a question if we would buy anything. We began our stops with Beaujolais wine (€12 for two bottles), enjoyed some charcuterie in Montregard (€4 for jar), and then followed the Route des Fromages (yes that’s a real thing!) to a farm that made the most delicious cheeses (€7 for two blocks!). We decided to try something new and drove to a fois gras farm (€10/ tin), and then finished our trip with a private vineyard tour of a winery in Bordeaux (€13 for two bottles).

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If you are driving across France, in an RV or campervan, the average cost of a campground is €20-€25. Do yourself a flavour (haha!) and sign up for France Passion. For the same cost, you can stay for free at thousands of farms around France, and taste the sweet, sweet goods from the farmers themselves.

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*Not only did we pay €27 for about two and a half hours of highway driving, but also, the highways are not picturesque, and the gas prices are crazy high! When we switched to toll-free driving using Google Maps, we saw way more of the countryside, drove past beautiful little villages and towns, and paid a solid €0.25/Litre LESS for fuel. Take it from a cheapskate, unless you are desperate to make it through France in a day or two, avoid those toll roads, they just aren’t worth it!

Hiking through the Black Forest, Germany

In the south westernmost part of Germany, cornered by France and Switzerland, is the Schwartzwäld — the Black Forest — land of fairies, gnomes, and cake! As a kid, the only Black Forest I knew was Black Forest ham, so I knew we were going into good territory. The Black Forest hassome of the longest hiking and cycling trails in Europe. We knew no matter which one we chose, we’d be in for a pleasant wander through a magical forest. We chose the Feldberg Steig, a hike around the Feldberg, the tallest point in the Black Forest. We woke up at a decent time, ate some delicious cured Black Forest ham for breakfast, and were off!

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We arrived at Feldberger Hof, at the base of the gondola whisking people to the top but instead of forking out the cash for the easy way up, we walked. The Black Forest really is magical, especially in autumn. All the changing leaves adds a level of beauty you might not see in the summer. From the hikes we have done in Europe (You can read about them here, here, and here), we’ve learned that you don’t really need to pack trail snacks because there are hüttes all along the way, serving hot meals and beer. We, total cheapskates, brought sandwiches and oranges from home.

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We continued the walk along more beautiful forest trails, beside babbling brooks, and mossy greens. I saw so many mushrooms, and wished I knew how to tell the poisonous ones from the edible ones (note to self, there’s gotta be an app for that!). We walked along the Feldsee, a beautiful, clear lake in the shadow of the Feldberg, surrounded by green, orange, and red trees.

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Our 14km hike finally came to an end with a steady climb uphill for the last 2km. When we arrived back at Feldberger Hof, we were a bit sweaty, walking on legs made of jelly. Walking back to the van, we passed a cafe advertizing Black Forest cake! How could we not? Black Forest ham for breakfast, a walk around the Black Forest all day, and a slice of Black Forest cake for dessert. Like I said, it’s pretty magical here.

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Drinking Beer at Oktoberfest!

This morning we woke up, ready for Oktoberfest! We made ourselves a hearty breakfast, knowing full well the main activity of Oktoberfest is drinking beer, and got ourselves ready for the day. I donned my bright red dirndl, a traditional Bavarian dress, Michael donned his lederhosen, basically a pair of leather shorts, and we walked to the train station. After about half an hour on a train filled with people wearing everyday clothes and not lederhosen or a dirndl, we finally arrived at the square. Oktoberfest is just a huge fair. There are rides, fair games, and big food stands. What makes this fair different than others though, are the HUGE tents, lined end to end with table and benches, in which the only size beer you can order is one litre. We chose the Augustiner Brau tent first for we heard from a Bavarian local that it’s the best beer.

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The woman who brought our beer to us was all kinds of Oktoberfest — frills and lace, tumbling cleavage, and forearms like hamhocks, carrying four, sometimes five litres of beer in each hand! Michael and I cheers’ed each other, and the other folks at our table, and drank up. People around us sang songs and danced dances that looked so silly to us, still sober folk. We just laughed and watched everyone have a good time.

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We head to another tent after we finished our first beers. On the way, we passed a stand that sold cookies. This is a weird Oktoberfest tradition, actually. It’s a gingerbread looking cookie that is in the shape of a heart, has some icing sentence written across it, and is worn around the neck. Some are small, the size of my palm, some are medium, the size of my face, and some are HUGE, bigger than my face! I had to buy one! It said something along the lines of “a sweet for a sweet,” which I thought was damn cute.

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Our second beer was enjoyed in the Löwenbrau tent at a table with a drunk American, a drunk British couple, and a few drunk Aussies. That second beer went down way easier than the first. Dang. We ordered our third beer. Things got a bit blurry now. All of a sudden, the silly songs and drunk people became our favourite drinking sing-a-longs, and our best friends. We sang Ain Prosit, a Bavarian drinking song that translates to something about good fortune (I think), and for some reason that song that goes, “Heyyyyyy, hey baby! HOO! HA! I wanna kno-o-o-o-o-o-ow if you’ll be my girl!” Apparently it’s a favourite sing-a-long song at Oktoberfest?

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I finally ate the cookie around my neck. It was horrible. It wasn’t even a cookie. I would say it was kind of like a dense bread. Or like a gingerbread cookie with no ginger flavour or sugar. Or like a really thick piece of cardboard with an icing sentence written across it. It really was horrible. I shared it with everyone at the table. They were thankful until they took a bite and realized why I was sharing. We were drunk. I guess three litres of beer is my limit. We said farewell to our new friends and hit the road. We were on the train and arrived home before ten. I do love an early night. Off with the dirndl, off with the lederhosen. You know, I’ll never forget my first time at Oktoberfest, except for the parts I just can’t remember…

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Ten things to do in Madrid, Spain for under €10

Madrid is a huge city. There are about 6 million people living here! There are, of course, some super luxurious things to do: dinner at the oldest restaurant in the world, Restaurante Botin, the opera at Teatro Real, drink a cocktail at the DRY Cosmopolitan Bar. If you are like me, successfully surviving on €80-€100 a day, these activities are out of your budget. But don’t fret! There are lots of cheap and free things to do in Madrid! Here are ten things to do in Madrid for under €10:

1) Have a meal at 100 Montaditos

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This is a great chain restaurant. Ok, I won’t lie, I think it’s kind of a like a fast food-type place, but it is full of locals, it is SUPER cheap, and the food is actually good! The menu is made up of montaditos (little sandwiches), and everything is under €2, including the pints of tinto de verano and beer! My personal faves, are the Spanish omelette and brava sauce, and the cajun chicken, smoked bacon and barbecue sauce. Delish!

Cost: If you spend €10 here, you could have 7 sandwiches and two pints of tinto de verano…

2) Check out the rooftop of Circulo Belles des artes

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If you’re looking for a beautiful view of Madrid, look no further than the rooftop of the Circulo Belles des Artes. This is a cool, old theatre in which you can catch a show! If you just want the view, you pay a whopping €2 and take the elevator to the roof. If you go around sunset, the line is a bit intimidating, but moves very quickly. Once at the top, there are multiple bars serving drinks, tables to sit at, and misters if the afternoon sun is too much to bare. (You can read a story about the day I went up to this rooftop here!)

Cost: €2 to go to the top, €5 for a glass of wine (but you don’t have to drink at the top!)

 

3) Indulge in some Churros and Chocolate at San Ginés Chocolateria

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Ok, so you’ve been going through your whole life thinking, “I know dessert, I know how good hot chocolate is, I know how delicious a churro is…” Sorry friend, you have no idea how good it can be. At San Ginés Chocolateria, the hot chocolate they serve is a cup of out of this world melted chocolate. Their churros are not dipped in sugar, because they are absolutely delicious without it. You can also enjoy some perros, which are bigger, doughier churros (I preferred the churros).

Cost: €10 got us a plate of churros, a plate of perros, and two cups of hot chocolate.

4) Take a FREE walking tour

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I have said it once, I will say it again, Sandeman’s New Europe free walking tours are the absolute best way to see and learn about a city (I proudly say this without any sort of compensation from the company). They offer free walking tours in 18 cities in Europe, and every time I have taken one (8 times!) I have been SO impressed by the guide, the route, and the information. It is called a free walking tour, but the guide works on a tip basis, so you pay what you think the tour was worth.

Cost: €10 (or if your guide was AMAZING and deserves more, go for it!)

 

5) Stroll through Retiro Park

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Ok, there is so much to do in Retiro Park, it’s insane. To stay free, just go for a walk! There is a rose garden, beautiful fountains and water features, tons of green space, and a very instagrammable glass building (see below picture). You can also rent a row boat on the main water feature in the park (I did not do this because it was damn hot, and there was no shade, but the rental was under €10). I had a phenomenal nap in this park, so I have very fond memories of it.

Cost: FREE!

 

6) Head to El Buo for a Spanish omelette!

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On the menu at El Buo is a Spanish omelette for €10. We ordered the candied onion and goat cheese omelette. Now, this is the biggest omelette you have ever seen (if it isn’t, PLEASE comment and tell me where you got a bigger one). This is absolutely one of those things you have to share. We shared between four people, and I couldn’t even finish my quarter piece. Between four of us, the omelette and some drinks each, we were up to €8 each.

Cost: €10 for an omelette (shared between four or more).

 

7) Check out a flea market on a Sunday

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On El Rastro, every Sunday, there is a flea market! This is the kind of activity in which you decide how much you spend. It could be a free day! It could be an expensive day. How much stuff do you want to buy?! Here, you will find cheap AF clothes, accessories, souvenirs, art, and homewares. I bought a fanny pack (for a very specific reason), and a pair of vintage Levi’s jeans I ended up cutting off into super cool shorts. I spent €18.

Cost: FREE (if you don’t buy anything).

 

8) Go to La Titi for wine

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Right across the street from San Fernando market (which is another place to go in Madrid for under €10…bonus!) is a little wine bar called La Titi. We went at about 8pm on a Saturday night and the place was bustling! All locals, enjoying wine, chatting with friends and making new ones. We ended up having a hilarious conversation with two Madridians about Spain’s ludicrous history. The wine was cheap, the tapas were delicious (and of course, free with the drink). Highly recommend this cute, off the beaten path, wine bar!

Cost: €2-3 depending on the glass of wine you order. Tapas are free!

 

9) Have a beer in Dos de Mayo Plaza

 

During the day, this is a lovely plaza for people watching, there are lots of shops nearby to peruse, and cafes surrounding, to wet your whistle! At night, people flock to this plaza to sit, drink, play guitar, and hang out with their friends. This is the cheapest night out you can possible have. It’s BYOB, and if you forgot to, you can buy a beer for €1 off the guys walking around selling. Don’t forget though, you aren’t technically allowed to drink in public, so if the police come, the square might clear right out…

Cost: FREE! If you buy a beer from the guys selling them, €1

 

10) Enjoy sunset at the Temple of Debod

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After an easy walk up a hill either via stairs or the road, you will reach the beautiful temple of Debod. The temple was originally erected in Egypt, but was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid. It’s a beautiful spot to go during the day, but with little shade at the site itself, can get really uncomfortable. If you go at night for sunset, it’s a total stunner. Bring a bottle of wine with you from a nearby grocery store and have a glass of wine as the sun goes down. Cheap AND romantic!

Cost: FREE (or with a €3 bottle of wine)

 

Heading to Valencia? Check out five things to do in Valencia for under €5 here!

Traveling to the north of Spain? Here are ten things you can do in the north!

How to get into Berghain in Berlin, Germany

There are a few things I would say Berlin is known for: the currywurst, a pork sausage served with curry ketchup; the wegbier, like a beer ‘to go’, directly translated to “away beer”; and of course, the extreme techno scene. I love sausages and I love beer, but I have never really given techno a chance. So, when I heard about Berghain, a techno club in Berlin, I desperately wanted to go and “do” techno right.

Berghain is an institution in the Berlin techno scene that opens its doors on Friday evening and doesn’t close until Monday morning. People say stepping into Berghain is like stepping into another world, and if you believe all the rumours, at Berghain, anything goes. There is no guest list, no bottle service, no VIP area. The other thing you should know about Berghain is that it’s said to be near impossible to get in! People recount evenings they stood in the line outside for 2 hours, just to be politely told that no, in fact, they would not get in. With one flick of the wrist, the doorman decides your fate, right means yes, left means no. There seem to be no rules, no dress code, no reasoning! So how do you get in?!

This is how we did it:

We woke up on Sunday morning and started our day with a lovely breakfast. I had a tomato, mozzarella, and pesto panini and a chai latte. The chai latte was so frothy and creamy, it was actually really good. We sat outside and watched as the clouds prepared to drop some rain. We took the S-bahn through the city, past the TV tower, and arrived at Ostbahnhof station.

We ended up walking behind some kids that looked like they might be going to Berghain too. They were all dressed in black, and one of them had his phone in his hand, playing techno music. “To get in the mood,” I thought to myself. They looked pretty cool, like they knew and understood the techno scene.

We turned a corner on the path and could hear the booming bass from the club. I began shaking in my boots. Oh man, I just knew we weren’t going to get in. I just don’t think I am cool enough for this place! Everyone talks about how exclusive this place is, and here I am, little Where the F is Beth going to try to get in? Ha!

The cool looking kids were in front of us in line. The doorman knew as soon as he looked at people whether or not they were Berghain material, so the line moved quite quickly. Out of the four or so groups of people I saw at the door, two people got in, and their friends were told to leave. Phew! I was really shaking now. The cool looking kids got to the front of the line. The doorman looked at all four of them and shook his head no, wrist flick to the left. Then, one of the kids opened his wallet and offered the man a bribe. It, of course, didn’t work. We stepped up. The doorman looked straight into my soul through his blacked out sunglasses.

And then we got in.

 

For more things to do in Germany, read stories of other adventures here!

How to get a Youth Mobility Visa while in Germany

I began traveling around Europe with big dreams and plans of where to go and how long I wanted to stay. Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal… I had plans to stay for at least a year and just travel around to my hearts content! I would be hopping countries every 30 days or so, so I didn’t even think it was a possibility I would need a visa. Then someone mentioned the Schengen area.

The what?!

The Schengen Area is made up of the following 26 countries:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

The Schengen countries have a border-free agreement that allows the residents to move and work freely throughout the entire area. Great, right? Except for citizens who are not from the Schengen. We are allowed entry into the Area for 90 days within any 180-day period. The days don’t need to be consecutive, the clock begins the day you arrive and doesn’t reset until day 181.

For example, if I enter the Schengen for 30 days in May, then come back for 30 days in July, it is 60 days in 180 days.

If you’re like me and have big dreams of plans of where to go and how long you want to stay, how do you stay in Europe longer???

1) You can sort your trip out to move in and out of the Schengen while you are traveling.
You could begin your trip in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, for 90 days, and then move over to the Balkans and take another 90 days to see Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, and up through Serbia. Then back into the Schengen for 90 days, then out (maybe to Morocco?), etc. It is totally possible, it just requires a bit of planning and counting days on a calendar.

2) You can get a visa for a country in the Schengen. If you take a language course in a country, for example Spain, you can apply for a student visa in that country, and with that visa, you can travel freely within the Schengen. Many countries have agreements between them to allow citizens to apply for working holiday visas. A working holiday visa allows visitors to live and work in the country, and again, travel freely within the Schengen. Every country has a different agreement, the best place to look is on your country’s government website.

I am Canadian, I am under the age of 35, and I decided to apply for a Youth Mobility Visa in Germany. This would allow me to work in Germany, if I want to, and to travel freely in all the Schengen countries.

This blog post is about how I registered, got my residence permit, and received my Youth Mobility Visa in Germany.

What the Canadian government website tells you is that you have to apply for your Youth Mobility Visa while in Canada, BEFORE you arrive in Germany. This is not the case anymore. You CAN apply for this visa while in Germany. I repeat, you CAN apply for the Youth Mobility Visa while already in Germany. Apparently some of the aliens authorities are not familiar with the process, as it is new, but the one in Berlin knows about it.

This is how you can get your visa in Berlin, Germany:

Step 1)
You must register at a Bürgeramt
You can make an appointment three weeks in advance, at this website (Make an appointment here). You can also walk in, take a number, and wait. (Some of the Bürgeramts are by appointment only, so make sure if you are going to test your luck with a number, you don’t go to these ones. Check out the list here).
To register, you can bring a rental agreement and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord
Some hotels and hostels will allow you to register as a resident there.
This step is mostly so they see you aren’t going to sleep on a park bench.

Once you have the certificate of registration, make a photocopy of it!

If you plan to drive in Germany, you will need to get a German driver’s license at the Bürgeramt also. But you will need a second appointment for that. (Read a bit about driving in Germany, and around Europe in general, here).

 

Step 2)
Go to the Ausländerbehörde a few hours before it opens (the hours are Monday and Tuesday at 7am, and Thursday at 10am). Straight up, we arrived on Monday morning at 6am, and there were already 60 people ahead of us in the queue. We took our number and waited about an hour and a half until we were seen.

What you need to bring with you:

  1. A valid passport
  2. 1 current biometric photo
    35mm x 45mm, frontal shot with neutral facial expression and closed mouth, looking straight into the camera, light background
    You can have this taken at a photography studio OR go to one of the PassPhoto booths in any main train station in Germany and take them there.
  3. Foreign travellers’ health insurance that is valid for one year
  4. Proof of funds in the amount of at least 2000 Euros
    you can print off a bank statement
  5. The Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit (The form in English, German, French, and Italian: download it here)
  6. The photocopy of the certificate of registration from the Bürgeramt

This is how I did it! It took just one day. They granted my visa in the moment. It was a bit of paperwork and running around to different offices, but now, I can stay in the Schengen for the entire year, move freely around, and even work in Germany if I so choose!

 

And once you’re in Germany, here are some things to do!

 

If you have any questions or comments about the process, please send me a message or comment below! Do you have a different experience? Or tips for visas in another country? Let me know!

Ten things to do in Florence for under €10

Before travelling to Italy, people often warned me about how expensive it is. They prepared me to be spending ludicrous amounts of money at every turn, that money would just flow from my bank account. These people are not wrong, but they aren’t entirely right either. No matter where you go in Italy, you can find inexpensive things to do. Take Florence for example, here are ten things to do in Florence for under €10:

1. Free walking tour!

One of the first things I like to do in a new city is a free walking tour. There are many tour companies that all host amazing tours (Sandeman’s is often the company I choose), but in Florence we went with Florence Free Tour (their website). The tour guide is often in love with the city— that’s why they became a tour guide— and know so many little details about the place. Wear good walking shoes and bring water. You’ll spend a few hours on your feet! It is called a free walking tour, but the guide works on a tip basis, so you pay what you think the tour was worth!

Cost: €5-€10

2. Bardini Giardini

The line to get to the top of the Duomo was enough to deter us, but when we caught wind it was €15 to climb to the top*, we lost interest entirely. So, we went to the Bardini Giardini instead. It lies on the south side of the river, and has only been open to the public for a few years. The gardens are beautiful, and what’s more, you will find a panoramic view of Florence, including the Duomo. Wander through the rose bushes, nap in the shade of a tree, and enjoy some grass— there isn’t much of it in the city centre.

Cost: €7.50.

*€15 gets you a ticket to the top of both the Duomo and the tower, but you can’t buy just one or the other, you have to buy the bundle.

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3. Eat some street food!

If you like people-watching and a cheap dinner, Via dei Neri in the city centre is the place to do it. Locals and tourists alike gather on this street to buy food and  then enjoy it, while sitting on the sidewalk. The people-watching is amazing, and this street is the home of La Fettunta, maker of the best sandwich I have ever eaten (so good, I wrote a whole story about it! You can read it here). So grab your libation of choice and have a seat on the street!

Cost: Free

Cost if you buy a sandwich at La Fettunta: €5

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4. Walk down the river and have a beer at Il Tempio

The river in Florence is lovely. With picturesque bridges and beautiful buildings lining the streets, it makes for a lovely walk. A little ways out of the city centre, 20 pleasant minutes walking east along the river, you will find Il Tempio. This little bar sits on the edge of the river, with tables and chairs set up under the trees. It’s pop-up feel gives this bar a hip vibe. Live music plays on the weekends (and maybe more often? I didn’t go on a weekday), people gather to have a beer and watch the street lights reflect off the river.

Cost: ~€3 for a 750ml beer.

5. Mercato Centrale

Another cheap place to eat is Mercato Centrale. The food prices here range, so keep your eye out for the cheap stuff. We had the most delicious pizza for €8! You can also bring your own €3 bottle of wine from the supermarket, and ask one of the vendors for wine glasses.

Cost: Ranges between €5-€20

6. Drink a beer on the steps of a friggin’ old building, and people watch!

I am from Canada where drinking in public is not as widely accepted as it is in Italy. I think people sometimes forget that— you can drink in public here! Now, you can’t get drunk in public here, be civil about it, but a glass of wine, or a cheeky beer is not a crime. Florence is chalk full of beautiful, old buildings. Find one with some steps, or a bench across the street, and crack open a cold one!

Cost: €3 for a beer from the supermarket!

7. Eat Gelato.

Duh. Gelato is the perfect snack for any time of day (there was a day in Italy in which gelato was the first thing I ate)! There are SO many Gelaterias sprinkled through the city centre, you won’t have a hard time finding a cone. Remember though, gelato is meant to be served ice cold, so if in the display case the gelato is mounded up in great big heaps it’s not going to be as good! (you can read more about why). Best gelato I had? A cone of dulce de leche and Straciatella at Venchi, mostly because of the chocolate melted into the bottom of the cone!

Cost: €2

Cost if you go to Venchi and have them put chocolate in the bottom of the cone: €3.50

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8. Visit the Duomo

While it costs €15 to go to the top of the Duomo, it costs nothing to go inside and check the ceiling. There may be a line, but it is only there to organize the people, and it is fairly fast moving. The inside of the building, while not nearly as ornate as the outside, is stunning. The frescoes on the ceiling are divine (literally) and the stained glass windows are gorgeous. Definitely worth a wander through.

Cost: Free!

9. Have an Aperol spritz somewhere, but don’t pay more than €4…

Before dinner, Italians partake in an apertivo. Apertivo is usually an alcoholic beverage of some sort, typically an Aperol spritz, and a snack. Aperol is a bitter liquor, but when mixed with Prosecco and splashed with orange, it’s a lovely, light fizzy drink, perfect for 5pm. In the city centre, we were shocked to find Aperol spritz for €9. When you see Aperol spritz for €9 keep walking. As you move away from the Duomo, the prices drop. We wandered closer to the Galleria Dell Academia and found a place just across the street from it pouring these orange lovelies for €4 each. That meant we could have four for almost the same price as two at the other place!

Cost: €4

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10. See David!

I’m just going to say it: Michelangelo was one crazy Italian. He was a genius, a jack of all  trades, and a master of all trades. He was a true Renaissance man. When in Florence, I implore you to see Michelangelo’s David. I am no art buff, but this thing is breathtaking and totally worth seeing. The line up to get inside can be overwhelming, but we went at about 5 and it was much shorter than earlier in the day. We stood in line for about 15 minutes. The last entrance into the museum is at 6, and they close at 6:30, so we had ample time to check the art.

Cost: €12. Ok, this one isn’t under €10, but for a little extra, you can see a little extra… if you know what I mean.

Enjoy Florence! For more travel tips about countries all over the world, head here!

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Cycling through Tulip Fields in the Netherlands

April, 2015

This morning, I met Sally at the bikes and after a quick stop at Albert Heijn for some picnic snacks, we cycled over to Centraal. There we met Rebecka, Line, and Lucinda, and began our epic adventure day! We rolled our bikes into the station and to the ticket machines. Sally informed us we were to train to a place called Voorhout. She did not know how to get there, just that we had to. I googled it, and it showed we had to train to Haarlem and then transfer to a Voorhout train. We bought the tickets and rushed down the platform to the train. There is nothing more awkward than walking a bike through a train station. Scratch that. There is nothing more awkward than taking a bike up an escalator in a train station.

Cut to five foreigners on a train gasping and squealing at the sight of every tulip field we past.

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We arrived in Voorhout and were almost immediately lost. We tried to find the signs that were to guide us along the path, but we couldn’t find any. Finally, we consulted a map. Once we were on our way, we knew we were on the right path, because there were massive tulip fields everywhere. Tulips, tulips, tulips. What a beautiful and totally frivolous crop to grow. I love it. We cycled past fields and fields of them. We cycled past daffodils too, and then hyacinths, hyacinths, hyacinths. The smell of these flowers is intoxicating and almost suffocating. I couldn’t believe there were fields and fields of them.

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We were lost again. And then again. The signs we were looking for were few and far between, and if we saw one, the numbers were so unsystematic, we had to keep referring to our guide to remember which number we were looking for next. The path was kind of a nightmare.

We cycled past the huge fields of Keukenhof and saw a guy surfing in the canals! He was riding a wakeboard and held onto a rope that was being wound in by a huge crank. A guy on a nearby ladder took epic photos of this guy wake boarding through tulips with windmills in the background. Oh Holland…

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It was time for lunch, so we found a nice little green spot next to the tulip fields and spread out our picnic. It was nice to sit in the sun, smell the flowers, eat our snacks, and drink beer. And what lovely company with whom I shared this moment. We soon continued our cycling. I had to make a few executive decisions because at the rate we were going— stopping along the way to take pictures of/in front of/with every single tulip field we went by— we weren’t going to be done until midnight. We ditched the bicycle pathway and cut back towards Voorhout. We bicycled right past many tulip fields on the way, but one hyacinth field in particular had “photoshoot” written all over it! We took photos and videos in the fields, and I could have passed out from the smell. It was phenomenal.

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After six hours of cycling through tulip fields, we had become desensitized to their beauty and on the train home, not one of us made a peep as we trained by the multitude of flowers. We were coming up to Haarlem and Line suggested we have dinner there! We hopped on our bikes and trained to the city centre. We found a patio square in the sun, near a cathedral and a carnival, and declared it the perfect place for dinner. I had a delicious sandwich and a well deserved glass of wine. After dinner, we walked over to the ferris wheel to inquire about prices. It was only €2 for a ride. How could we not. We rode that ferris wheel as the sun went down over the cathedral. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

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“Flowers for sale”