Zagreb, Croatia

Four Days in Zagreb

Before going to Croatia, I was most looking forward to spending time on the coast, in places like Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik. However, my friend Lee had spent three weeks in Zagreb in 2015, and insisted it was one of the best places around. Our original itinerary didn’t plan for any time there, so instead of cramming in Belgrade or Sarajevo after Slovenia, I decided to spend four leisurely days in Zagreb, and I am so happy I did!

Zagreb, Croatia

I spent my time in Zagreb before Gareth arrived, and it was the perfect city to do solo. It was small, safe, walkable, and oh my god so cute. I LOVE Zagreb. In an alternative life I never left and am hanging about, still as enthusiastic and in awe as I was when I first arrived.  It was my favourite part of Croatia. Perhaps if we’d gone in warmer weather, when swimming was an option, I’d feel differently, but we went in April and Zagreb was the hands down winner.

Where to stay

I stayed at Hostel Chic which was exactly what I needed after being in crazy (bed bug ridden!) hostels for the last week. I’d only recommend Hostel Chic in the right circumstances. Unlike any other hostel I’ve ever stayed in, I was the youngest person there. It seemed to have about a 50/50 mix of people there for a short time, and people there longer term. Each night I planned to leave to find somewhere a bit livelier, but I ended up staying there the whole time. Zagreb is known for its amazing hostel scene, which is definitely worth looking into. But Hostel Chic was quiet, and each bed had its own lamp, plugs, and a half wall, so no one could see anyone else from their beds, and the bit of privacy was so refreshing!

If you’re looking for something a bit more social, I’ve heard great things about Swanky Mint Hostel.

Things to do

Zagreb is so beautiful and so walkable. The city isn’t very large and it’s easy to explore. It’s also home to my absolute favourite museum in the world, the Museum of Broken Relationships. I spent hours in there—I wish they would open a place in London so I could go back all the time. It was so interesting and healing in a way, to see all the different experiences people have had. It wasn’t just romantic relationships, but familial, friends, everything that once meant something. A lot were decades in the past and it was like getting to skim the book of someone’s life. I really loved it and could not recommend it more.

Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia

I also went to the  which was smaller, quieter, and fairly inexpensive to visit. The art inside was gorgeous, and I loved getting another tiny taste of Croatian culture.

Museum of Naïve Art, Zagreb, Croatia

St Mark's Church, Zagreb, Croatia

Be sure to visit St Mark’s Church which is maybe the most vibrant and fun church I’ve ever seen. On the way up I stopped into some really cool art shops, and picked up a hand painted canvas depicting Marija Jurić , the first female journalist.

Marija Jurić , Zagreb's first female journalist

After leaving, keep heading away from the church and you’ll end up at an incredible outlook, with great views of the city. You can order drinks and sit, which I did, spending a few hours reading and writing. It was one of the best days, and I basically repeated it again and again —just changing up where I ate, and adding in a few new hang out spots—the Botanical Garden, the little café next to the Museum of Broken Relationships, and the other parks around the city. There’s also Dolac, a big market open daily from 7-2, a great place to pick up fresh produce and souvenirs. And while Zagreb was very relaxed, the city still felt really vibrant and alive.

Zagreb, Croatia

I feel awful Gareth missed it, but it just means we have to go back to Croatia—what a not terrible problem to have!

Food Recs

Definitely do breakfast at Otto & Frank. I went there two of my four days, and nowhere else compared.

Eat at one of the places above the market. I went to PLAC and had their mixed grill plate, which was pretty good, though some of the other food looked better.

Make sure to try a fritule, a yummu donut-like Croatian pastry made for Christmas (but available year round).

Dolac market has fresh fruit and veg, which is a nice snack for a day spent wandering.

Croatia

Zagreb was just the start of a fantastic week and a half in Croatia, but I maintain it was the best part. Don’t skip it just because it isn’t on the coast!

Promenade du Peyrou, Montpellier, France

Where to Eat in Montpellier, France

I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Montpellier earlier this year, studying French. Montpellier is exactly my kind of city – fairly small, walkable, artsy, has fantastic weather and tons of delicious food. If you’re heading to France soon and wondering where to eat in Montpellier, I recommend:

Breakfast

For breakfast there is no beating the patisseries. There are two I strongly recommend:
Des Rêves et du Pain was named the best patisserie in France a few years ago, and this everything from this place is insanely delicious. However the staff are not the nicest and it’s more expensive than other patisseries.
Lo Monaco is just as good (better?), with more/cheaper things on offer and the smell wafting out of this place in the morning is the actual best way to start your day.

Lunch

Auden, Montpellier, France

I loved my lunches at Auden. The food was so good, fresh, and healthy. Exactly what I was craving after eating almost entirely noodles and zebu whilst living in Madagascar. Most days I ate here, went to the market and had some sort of cheese, fruit, and bread combination, or got something from Lo Monaco.

Dinner

Cocotte, Montpellier, France

Rosemarie has great vibes, good wine, and yummy food.
Rocco et Sa Mere was delicious and has a really cool painted facade.
La Cocotte was also wonderful.

Dessert

Montpellier, France

Absolutely go for wine and a crepe at Le Melody and enjoy the views of the Cathedrale Saint Pierre.

Pubs

Montpellier, France

Montpellier has amazing wine and too many good places to drink it, but I had a great time at Le Beehive and Le Foch.

There’s a ton to do in Montpellier as well, a small mountain to climb and a bike ride to the beach, but as I was locked in the library my only time appreciating the city was during meal times. I’ll go back at some point and write a better guide to Montpellier, but until then I’ve got the most important bit – the food!

Mt Entoto, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: 24 hour layover

On my way back from Madagascar, I was able to build in layovers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Nairobi, Kenya. I have to be honest, I had really low expectations for Addis Ababa – everyone I had talked to said Ethiopia was beautiful but Addis was disappointing. My perspective was definitely a bit different, coming from the least developed country in the world, but I found Addis wonderful and I really, really encourage everyone to spend some time there!

Everyone I met was extremely kind and helpful, the city was full of art and green spaces, and obviously the food is some of the best in the world.

I was a bit nervous visiting Ethiopia as a solo female traveller, so I booked a tour through Addis Ethiopian Tours with Adisu Mekonen (adisu@addisethiopiatours.com). Adisu works as a tour guide but also has a degree in public health and is saving to open a SRHR clinic in his home village. We had so much to talk about and he is such a nice and well travelled person – I really enjoyed spending the day with him!

The tour takes you to the main places any tourist would want to visit, the National Museum, Ethnographic Museum, Merkato, Ba’ata Mariam Church, St. George Cathedral and the view of Addis Ababa from Mount Entoto. We also had lunch at Taitu Hotel and THE BEST COFFEE I have ever, ever had at Tomoca Coffee. Tomoca is the first place I’d go on return to Addis, and I am not a coffee drinking. IT IS JUST THAT GOOD.

Itinerary

We went straight to the museums – first the National Museum, where we saw Lucy, a female skeleton over 3.2 MILLION years old. Lucy was discovered back in 1974, and got her name from the Beatle’s song, which was played over and over at a party to celebrate the discovery the night they found her.

Lucy, The National Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Next was the Ethnological Museum, which is in an old palace which is now Addis Ababa University. I love seeing the university offices and some of the students – it was a great look past the tourist bubble. This was one of my favourite parts of the tour, which is funny because I’m not usually a museum person. However there was amazing art, so much information about the culture and practices of different groups in the country – and you can see the old palace living quarters. The most impactful display was one called “What She Wore,” where the actual clothing women were wearing when raped was displayed, along with their stories, to try to dispel the notion that what women wear has any impact on whether they face sexual violence.

What She Wore Exhibit, Ethnological Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Ethnological Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Ethnological Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Ethnological Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Ethnological Museum, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaEthnological Museum, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

We quickly drove through the Merkato, the largest market in Africa. I was fine skipping this as I’d been shopping at the market in Fort Daupin for months, knew what to expect, and honestly would not have enjoyed the attention of being a tourist walking through one. Adisu said he offers it because so many people ask to visit, but few of them actually enjoy it once there. These aren’t hand crafted goods being sold, but cheap household items in a crush of people. Worth a look if you’ve never experienced one, but otherwise it’s just what you’d expect, only huge.

Next was lunch at Taitu – I LOVED this. Taitu is Addis Ababa’s first hotel, and you can feel the history in the building. It’s a very cool space, well decorated, and the lunch buffet is vegan and SO DELICIOUS. I ate way too much food but it was hard to stop myself. There was a great little gift shop where I picked up some cute artwork, as well. I’d highly suggest a lunch here – all you can eat for about $4. I didn’t see the rooms, but they do not have good reviews on trip advisor so I’d probably give those a miss, however.

Taitu Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

After lunch was coffee at Tomoca and I don’t have anything more to say about that except I truly think this is the best coffee in the world. It’s considered the best coffee in Addis Ababa, everyone knows about it and the place is always full. There’s no seating, but a few tables where you can stand and bask in the gift you’re giving your taste buds. Everyone seemed to be ordering Ethiopian style macchiatos, which is what I had, and it was amazing though it’s sad to think my coffee experience has peaked and nothing will ever be that good again. Tip: I didn’t buy coffee to bring home and I’ve regretted it every day since. Buy coffee to bring home.

From there we went to Mt Entoto, which had incredible views, and St. George’s Cathedral, a famous hexagonal church built in 1898 that has some pretty incredible artwork inside.

Mt Entoto, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaMt Entoto, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaSt George's Cathedral, Addis Ababa, EthiopiaSt George's Cathedral, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis was honestly such a joy to get to know. Ethiopia was not a place near the top of my travel list before, and this felt like an easy way to visit the country without investing too much time or effort. Instead I fell in love with it and now desperately want to go back, have more food and coffee, and visit Lalibela and Harar. But until then, my 24 hour layover tour was a fantastic introduction to an incredible country.

So many updates…

Well it’s been a minute. Things that have happened since my last post –

  • I traveled to Ethiopia and Kenya
  • I took a two week intensive French course in Montpellier
  • Gareth and I had a lovely weekend in Sevilla
  • I FINALLY went back to Los Angeles (first time since leaving in 2016!) and watched two great friends get married and visited so many people I love.
  • I moved back to London(!)
  • I started working back at Marie Stopes International on the South East Asia Team, mainly supporting the Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Vietnam country programmes (LOVE my job).
  • I took the exams for my first year of my masters (it was HARD but I think I passed them all!)
  • Brady got sick and very nearly died (but he didn’t)

So there’s a lot to catch this blog up on. First, I had to make the incredibly difficult decision to leave Madagascar. That’ll be a whole post, but basically I had some health stuff come up (on top of being insanely sick most of my time there anyway!) that needed a bit more treatment than I could get there. Still dealing with some of it – I spent 13 hours at the hospital in the middle of my exams because I have parasites in my lungs and intestines (and maybe heart??). Not ideal!

To learn more about the work I was doing in Madagascar for project Mitao, read the blog post I wrote for the SEED website here.

But now that I’m free of exams and have my life back a bit, I can finally work through the backlog of what life has been these past three months. So watch this space, more to come soon – first up about Ethiopia and Kenya because they were dreamy.

Sainte Luce Trip

Sainte Luce Trip

The morning after International Women’s Day,  we left for our Sainte Luce trip to SEED’s camp.

Sainte Luce Trip Sainte Luce Trip Sainte Luce Trip

It was GORGEOUS. We rode these little boats made from trees (that had to be consistently bailed the entire trip or they’d sink, haha), down the water to a completely wild beach. It was heaven. From there we walked through the forest to the other side of the area and had dinners and played games at an empty bar with ocean views.

Sainte Luce TripSainte Luce Trip Sainte Luce Trip Sainte Luce Trip Then we had a bush party, where a local band plays and woman dance and then you all dance and it was pretty fun. I was really proud of myself cause we were quite remote – the drive out took a while and often I can feel anxious being far from a town. But this was fine. I camped in a tent with spiders, I used a squat latrine WITH HUNTSMEN SPIDERS IN THEM, and just got on with it. Go me. The Sainte Luce trip was another weekend spent being so happy and proud this is my life right now!Sainte Luce Trip