Hostel Review: Meininger Cologne in Cologne, Germany

Posted on July 3, 2016 in
Meininger Cologne

I had never stayed at a Meininger Hotel before, but I opted for Köln City Center because there didn’t seem to be much available in the city. I walked to the hotel from the train station, so I got to see the Cologne Cathedral and a few parks on the way.

The Amenities

Meininger offers a hotel bar, which was not necessarily staffed. Instead, you buy your drinks from the refrigerator in the lobby and pay there. The guest kitchen is spacious, but they could definitely use better stocking on plates and utensils. The hotel offers 24-hour reception and an elevator. Paid parking is available, and the hostel also offers a washer and dryer. You can also buy snacks at the front desk.

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere was very quiet. I met another traveler in the lobby, a man from New Zealand who had been traveling for about a year, but this is definitely not a social hostel. If you want a quiet place to stay, this is definitely it.

There was a woman working at the desk with a name that started with G. I want to say it was Geraldine? Anyway, she was one of the nicest people I met in all my time in Europe. She was really comfortable to be around, and she gave me some great advice about dealing with Easter weekend in Cologne.

The Room

I had a single room, which was small but offered a TV and a private bathroom. It was sparsely decorated, but the bed was comfortable and I had sufficient linens. I also had a nice window overlooking the park, which was beautiful and green. I’m not sure how the dorms compare.

Meininger Cologne

The Food

I didn’t eat breakfast, but it was available from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Breakfast was 6,90 extra. They had a decent selection of beers and snacks at reception.

The Location

Meininger Cologne City Center is near Rudolfplatz, Neumarkt, Schildergasse, and Mediapark. It felt like a safe area, and I had no problem finding food nearby.

My Recommendation

Apart from feeling a bit worn out, Meininger in Cologne was great. They were inexpensive and had free wi-fi.  I’ll actually be staying at the Meininger in Berlin on Monday, so we’ll see if the service is consistent.

Links

Meininger Hotels

Hostel Review – A+O Berlin Mitte

Posted on July 2, 2016 in
A&OHostel

I stayed in two different hostels during the four days I stayed in Berlin. The first one was A&O Berlin Mitte, which opened in 2004 and was renovated just a few years ago. The hostel is in the Mitte district, which is a short subway ride from Alexanderplatz and a brief walk from the Ostbanhhof. I checked in in the evening, and the place was already buzzing quite a bit.

The Amenities

A&O is considered a two-star hotel/hostel and offers a variety of room sizes. It has Internet terminals in the lobby, which is huge. The lounge also has a bar and some food, which includes sandwiches and pizza.

The Room

My room was great, with a full bathroom and plenty of space. I was surprised at the amount of space my room actually had. It had a view of the outdoor lounge area below, which wasn’t very interesting. Still, it was nice and clean. I’m not sure how the dorms were, but my private single was great.

A&O Room Berlin

The Internet

One of the things I disliked most about this hostel was the availability of the Internet. I had to pay to get Internet in my room, and when I paid nothing happened. I had to request a refund and not have Internet for the night because I did not want to bother with it anymore. Apparently, you can have free Internet in the lounge. It’s just really, really slow.

The Atmosphere

Honestly, I wasn’t really a fan of the atmosphere at A&O. There were a bunch of football teams staying there at the same time, and so groups of teenagers were lingering in the hallways. I actually felt unsafe walking to my room because some guys kept making noises at me. They also made noise late into the night, which was frustrating. If you are traveling with a big group, this might not be a problem for you though.

My Recommendation

If you are traveling with a group, I think this is a great place to stay. The staff members speak decent English, and the lounge is nice and spacious. It’s not really a party hostel though. In fact, I would say it’s best as a hostel for large groups or families.

Links:

A&O Hostel Website

This post contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

Weekly Roundup: It’s Summer! Edition

Posted on June 19, 2016 in

When we read about stories like the Stanford rapist with the unjustly light sentence, we need to remember that there are people who help. In the same vein, Joe Biden’s speech was awesome.

I love the Solstice Canyon hike in Malibu.

I love this video about the quadrant system in the movie Drive.

I got to see the Watts Memorial in London for myself. It’s one of my favorite memories from England.

I stayed at the Generator Hostel in Amsterdam and loved it.

Saying goodbye to a place you’ve spent time is never easy.

Here’s what you might have missed this week:

Life is beautiful. Just like you.

Going to Paris? 10+ Resources You Need

Hotel Review – Hotel Siena in Verona, Italy

Posted on June 16, 2016 in
Hotel Siena

Verona was my first stop in Italy, and I stand by it being one of my favorite European cities. Part of the reason I loved Verona so much was the fact that I stayed somewhere really nice. I didn’t have much luck finding a hostel in Verona, but hotels were plentiful. I opted for one that fit my budget, a two-star facility called Hotel Siena.

The Location

First of all, Hotel Siena is right in Central Verona. It’s in a great location, literally a 10-minute (or less) walk to Arena di Verona. The train station is also walkable. The hotel appears to be family-owned, but its appearance was also professional. The area feels safe, and my balcony overlooked a lot of action on the street, which is just what I wanted.

The Room

My room was lovely. It was relaxing to sit up there, especially on the balcony, after spending the day walking aimlessly. My room was comfortable and quiet in the new section of the hotel. It had those automatic blinds, which are actually pretty awesome and made my room nice and dark. I have no idea if the older section of the hotel is as nice as mine was. There was also an AC if you’re into that sort of thing, free wi-fi, and a TV that I never turned on.

The Bathroom Situation

The rooms at Hotel Siena have private bathrooms. Mine had a hair dryer, a bidet, and a very clean shower. I remember the shampoo and soap smelling really good, which is a plus because I had to use it to wash my clothes in the sink.

The Food

Breakfast was served in the morning, but I didn’t eat it. I did like that there was a drink refrigerator and coffee vending machine in the lobby though.

My Recommendation

I highly recommend Hotel Siena. It offers great value, and my room was awesome. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that I had to leave the room to my key with the staff members before I left. This doesn’t seem like the most secure thing in the world, especially because all I had to do to get it back was ask for my room number’s key. Other than that, everything was great.

This post contains affiliate links.

10+ Resources for Visiting Belgium

Posted on June 14, 2016 in
Resources for Visiting Belgium

It’s no secret that I absolutely loved the time I spent in Belgium. I had no idea that visiting Belgium would have such an impact on me, especially considering the events that happened while I was there. In spite of the events that occurred in Brussels, I continue to encourage people to visit the country. It was second stop on my trip to Europe, and cities like Bruges and Ghent will always have my heart. If you are thinking about visiting Belgium, there is quite a bit of research you should do ahead of time. I certainly know that more research would have helped me.

Know How Much Things Cost

In addition to knowing how much things cost in Belgium, you also need to know what you should spend money on. Hint: spend your money on metro day passes and beer. The waffles are also really good (and cheap).

I got lucky finding hostels in Bruges (Hostel Lybeer), but I didn’t have a lot of luck finding one in Ghent. Instead, I stayed at the Astoria Inn, which was amazing.

Understand Safety Warnings

Unfortunately, there have been safety incidents in Belgium, specifically Brussels, that you should be aware of. It is always a good idea to stay up to date with current events while you are traveling. Not only does this impact your safety, but it can also influence the availability of travel options, like train routes.

Know Which Cities to Visit

My favorite Belgium cities were Gent (Ghent) and Brugge (Bruges). Ghent felt more like a small college town, less like a tourist destination. This made it a lot easier to just walk around and enjoy the architecture. I loved Bruges, but it was much smaller and more crowded. Obviously, considering the vibe of the place you intend to visit is important. I recommend researching the cities and picking the one that appeals more to you if you are not able to visit both. They are definitely very different.

Learn More about Belgian Beer

Belgium has some excellent beers. In fact, visiting Belgium is what encouraged me to branch out in to the world of beer (though I still prefer cider).

Know How to Enter Belgium

Like other countries in Europe, getting there can be the hardest part. First, understand entrance requirements. You should also read a little bit about trains and planes too. Understanding the train system is the one thing that got me through Europe without feeling totally lost.

Realize that Belgium Isn’t Boring

Unfortunately, all too many people are under the impression that there is nothing to see or do in Belgium. This could not be further from the truth.

My advice? Read as much as you can about Belgium before you go.

Weekly Roundup: Bad Day Edition

Posted on June 12, 2016 in

This week I’ve made plans to go back to Germany, ran a lot, and got my best run time ever. I’ve also been having a terrible week, so let’s focus on not feeling like garbage next week, right?

This SNL skit always makes me laugh when I’m having a tough day (like today).

I’ve been recapping Six Feet Under as I rewatch it for the millionth time.

If you’re going to Europe, you should know a little about transportation there. I wish I had that link before.

 

 

Six Feet Under Recap – The Foot (Season 1, Episode 3)

Posted on June 10, 2016 in

The opening death (called OD from now on) is a man named Thomas Romano, who is chopped into many pieces when the dough mixer he’s cleaning is turned on. Unfortunately, the last thing Mr. Romano heard before he kicked it was a stupid question from his teenage employee about whether or not people have ever had sex inside the mixer.

Nate and Brenda finish boning, but then he can’t stop going on about he wants to go the hell back to Seattle. Then he tells Brenda, a woman he’s known all of like two weeks, to come to Seattle with him.

Ruth is tired of hearing David complain about business and gets mad because he didn’t soak his bowl of oatmeal. I identify with this scene. I am David.

Nate has decided that he needs to convince David and Ruth to sell the business to Kroehner, but then he changes his mind. This might go over better if Nate does not literally sit down at the table and say, “Uhh, we need to sell this place,” and then later says that maybe this is his calling.

Claire shares a romantic evening of sucking toes with Gabe, only to come out to her car later to see it vandalized with lovely phrases like “little piggy lover” and “toe slut.” Luckily enough, a man’s foot has just been torn off by a dough mixer and its sitting at her family’s home. Guess who ends up with a foot in their locker?

Meanwhile, David and Keith are having cheesy conversations about lamps.

Also, I want to point out something this show does a lot that I absolutely hate. Honking. It makes me cringe when somebody is sitting behind the wheel of a car and daydreams, only to be honked and yelled at. I can think of three specific instances in which this show does that.

My favorite scene in this episode is probably the one where Nate is trying to put Mr. Romano’s body on the table, only to drop it. He’s already dropped it when Claire walks in and he’s all, “Look what you made me do!” Actually, no. It’s probably the scene where Keith pretends that David is his crazy partner.

Going to Paris? 10+ Resources You Need

Posted on June 6, 2016 in
Going to Paris? 10+ Resources You Need

I did  not have very high expectations for France. In fact, I sort of dreaded going to Paris after listening to everybody else talk about their trips. Fellow travelers had made Parisians sound rude, and others described Paris as romantic. Considering that I felt terrible about the state of my current relationships and had watched people suck face all throughout Europe, the prospect of seeing the Eiffel Tower wasn’t all that.

In reality, going to Paris meant that I got to share a hostel with some really interesting people from around the world, drink expensive wine, and listen to karaoke. It also meant I stepped on a lot of trash and ate cold fish. Paris is certainly of two different worlds to me.

If you are planning a trip to Paris, it is important to know your stuff ahead of time. I was caught off guard a lot in Paris, but I found ways to manage. Here are a few resources that will help you along the way.

Learn Some French

You absolutely need to know a little bit of French when you visit Paris. Most people can speak English with you, but it’s actually more courteous if you try French first. Duolingo is your best bet for learning quickly. You can even download the app and practice on the plane or train there.

Understand Some Etiquette

This list of 100 tips for going to Paris will help you get along. One of those tips? Speak as much French as you can. You should also be aware of some important Dos and Don’ts. The French seem to value certain formalities, so it is important to take note of them if you want to have positive interactions with Parisians.

Know What You Need to See

Some things really are must-sees in Paris. You can’t pass up the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or the Louvre, right? Plus, you should also know how to avoid the lines while you’re at it. You should also get acquainted with some popular walking spots in the city. My personal favorite was walking through Notre Dame.

Avoid Tourists

If you are anything like me, you want to see the most popular attractions in an area, but you also want to take some time in a quiet space. Knowing some of the offbeat ways to spend a day in Paris will help you do just that. One of my favorite things to do was just leave the hostel and go for a walk. My advice is to walk away from train stations rather than toward them.

Understand the Weather

Is there a best time to visit Paris? Probably. I visited in mid-April, and I thought the weather was great. My hostel was cheap, and there were even empty beds. I recommend springtime for travel.

Get Inspired

Pinterest is a surprisingly great tool for finding some travel inspiration. Reading about other people’s travel experiences is a great way to learn what to do and what to avoid.

Expect Some Culture Shock

As an American, I can say that the culture shock was very real no matter where I went in Europe. Paris is no exception. My biggest culture shock was probably the language, but with some basic knowledge you can at least read signs and order food. If you can do those things, you can do nearly anything.

Going to Paris? Get Packing

Knowing how to pack for your trip is just as important as knowing what to do once you arrive. My advice, as always, is to pack light. Keep your important documents close, as Paris is known for having quite a few pickpockets in those tourist areas.

What’s missing? What helped you plan for your trip?

Weekly Roundup: Back to School Edition

Posted on June 5, 2016 in

I’m starting school again on Monday and planning another trip to Europe for next month. That’s pretty intense, right? I also met my 5K record running this week, and then caught a bad cough. I’ve spent the week getting ahead on work, and things are actually going sort of alright in spite of a few setbacks.

Here’s what I found this week:

It’s been 15 years since Six Feet Under first aired. Isn’t that amazing? This interview with Michael C. Hall was interesting.

Oh No Ross and Carrie just finished their series of podcasts about Scientology. It’s completely fascinating and even a little terrifying.

I absolutely love this post about banking happiness for when times are tough. It was something I very much needed to read last week.

I love reading travel love stories. What a great post.

Hey, America. Here are some good ideas from the UK.

You can make your beauty routine TSA-proof.

I love pop art. These ideas and tips are really helpful.

I like traveling alone, and I also like being safe.

If you were busy this week, you might have missed some of my posts from the last week. I recapped the second episode of Six Feet Under, and I also review the hostel I stayed at in Leipzig.

 

“Life is beautiful. Just like you.”

Posted on June 4, 2016 in
Life is beautiful. Just like you.

My time in Paris had me swimming in everything from self-doubt to excitement. On my last day there, I was really struggling to just make it through until it was time to catch the Eurostar and head back to England, a place where I would feel more comfortable. In the meantime, I sought refuge at the only familiar place I could find — train station Starbucks.

The line was longer than usual for a European Starbucks, but I was determined to have something I recognized. They were especially busy behind the counter, and my drink was already done by the time I approached the cashier. He’d just had a bad interaction, it seemed. I couldn’t understand what he’d been saying, but it did not sound nice. It seemed that the person in front of me had been rude.

He gave me the total for my order, and I dug around in my purse. I had so much change, but deciphering it would take too long. I handed him 10 euro, and he said, “You don’t have change?”

I gave the man, who appeared to be in his 50s, an apologetic look. “I don’t think I do,” I said.

I started digging through my purse, pulling out coins. I could feel the urgency of the people waiting behind me, even though I could hear or see nothing to indicate that this was the case. Somehow, I was holding up the entire universe. It made my hands shake.

“No, no. That’s okay. Don’t stress. Life is beautiful. Just like you.”

I learned something that day. A few things, really.

First, one bad interaction cannot color your entire day. You just can’t carry a bad attitude over to somebody else. You’ve been screwed over, but that does not mean the next person is going to do the same thing. Give people a chance.

Second, those little things are nothing to worry about in the grand scheme of things. So what if I couldn’t count out change quickly enough that one time? I was still learning. I was stressed out. I didn’t have enough time. Anybody who was going to use that moment of my life to judge me would be a terrible person anyway. So, who cares?

Third, coffee is good for everybody.

Finally, just be nice. I will always remember that man’s kindness. I’ll always remember that he gave me an “out.” In that moment, it seemed like he saved the universe from crushing me.

Anxiety is terrible. I still have minor anxiety attacks, even though it is so much better now than it used to be. But sometimes people can be a source of comfort instead of a source of pain or fear. Sometimes we need to let them.

Photo via Stock Up

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