Bern Münster (Cathedral), Switzerland

Bern Münster
Münsterplatz 1, Bern, Switzerland
https://www.bernermuenster.ch/en/berner-muenster/infos-kontakt/

After several days of indulging in mulled wine, cheese, and potato rosti, I figured we were due to do something slightly more labour intensive than raising a plastic cup to our mouths. Over a 10am beer and pretzel, I asked husband what he thought of climbing to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower. He looked down at morning tea and agreed.

We arrived around midday to find the gates just being opened, and made our way in – it may be a place of worship, but it gets a lot of international visitors, so you’ll still enter and exit via the small gift shop. It costs CHF 5.00 (around AUD $7.00) for a ticket to climb the 100 metre bell tower, and there’s only one staircase to take you up and down. One staircase made up of 312 steps.

Word of warning: it is small and dark, and as I mentioned, there is only one way up and down, so if you’re on the claustrophobic side, please be careful! But if you can push yourself up, you’ll be rewarded with some really spectacular views over the UNESCO World Heritage city.

I also really loved the carvings up on the bell tower itself – they’re one of those things that look like such small, insignificant details from the ground, but up close they’re some seriously impressive pieces of art.

On the way down, you’ll pass the actual bell of the bell tower. It’s an absolute behemoth, and when it rang on our way down (we were almost at the bottom), the whole tower vibrated. Consider your timing on the climb – I’m not sure how pleasant it would be standing right next to that bell when it rings…

If your legs aren’t completely jelly after 624 steps, you can make your way into the cathedral, too. It’s small, but beautiful – the stain glass windows and ornate ceiling are worth the visit alone. There’s no entry fee, it’s just asked that you’re quiet and respectful, as it is still a functioning church with parishioners.

Because Bern’s historical centre is so small, climbing the bell tower really does give you the best view over it. And the good news is that when you’re done climbing, you’re in Switzerland, so a big pot of cheese fondue won’t be far away to replenish your energy stores. Everyone wins!

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View from the top: EON 51 at Bitexco Financial Tower, Saigon, Vietnam

Cafe EON 51
Bitexco Financial Tower, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
http://eon51.com/cafe-eon/

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If there’s a better view in Saigon, I don’t know where you’d find it…

The day after we arrived in Saigon, we went out on a tour to see the Cu Chi Tunnel complex, and our tour guide was amazing. She was a young lady who spoke English particularly well, and as clearly very well educated. She told us so much, not only about the tunnels and the history of the area, but so much about life in Vietnam for the average citizen. One of the other things she told us about was the Bitexco Financial Tower, the big, shiny high rise in the middle of the city. She said it would give us an incredible view over the city, but not to bother paying to get up onto the observation deck; it was cheaper to just buy a drink each at the cafe on the level below!

While the drinks up there weren’t cheap (we paid around AUD$18.00 for a fresh coconut and a mango juice), it was still cheaper than the observation deck tickets (around AUD$12.00 per person), and gave us the advantage of being able to sit down in an air conditioned cafe and enjoy our drinks without rushing. And with the most spectacular view…

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If you’re visiting Saigon, this is definitely something to add to your to-do list, because seeing such a big city from that high up is pretty amazing! They also do food, coffees, cocktails and desserts, so you’ll be well catered for any time you decide to drop in – I feel like sunset would be pretty incredible up there…

Through my eyes: watching the sun come up over West Hobart, Tasmania

We were so lucky to have had the most gracious Airbnb host when we visited Hobart earlier this year; Anne was so kind, friendly and thoughtful, making sure every little detail was taken care of for us. Including the tip to set the alarm early, bundle up and enjoy the sunrise from the decking….

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Perfect, much?

Stay here: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Australia

Hotel Grand Chancellor
1 Davey St, Hobart
http://www.ghihotels.com/hgc/hobart/hotels.aspx

I was lucky enough to be gifted a voucher for a night’s accommodation at any Hotel Grand Chancellor in Australia by my very generous boss at work last year, and I knew immediately that I wanted to use it during our visit to Tasmania over Easter; their property in Hobart is the most popular one on their roster, and for good reason!

Sitting right on the water, the hotel may not look like much from the outside with it’s older brown brick facade, but step inside and you’re in a completely difference world. The 4.5 star stunner has views of the Derwent River out one side and Mount Wellington out the other, so you’re not going to be disappointed either way; we were lucky enough to get a room with a view over the water…

It’s in the best location, a stone’s throw from pretty much everything, particularly the great food and bar district at Salamanca Place. If you can’t be bothered, though, they also have a bar and restaurant on site, as well as a pretty well decked-out gym and indoor heated pool area.

We stayed in a harbour view spa room, which was big, beautiful, open, bright and everything you could possibly want to end a trip with. If you’re thinking about staying, some of the other perks you’d get to enjoy are:
– big, comfy king beds
– work desk/station
– mini bar
– tea & coffee station
– hairdryer (I know the men don’t care, but the ladies do!)
– Peter Morrissey toiletries
– dry cleaning and laundry services
– room service
– 24 hour front desk
– on site parking (charges apply)
– post and parcel services
– currency exchange
– there’s even an on site hair dresser and massage services!

While I wouldn’t have been able to justify spending the money on something this nice before we visited (lead in rooms started at AUD$189.00 per night), being a very budget-conscious traveller, now that I’ve actually been I’d have no problem expanding the budget a little if I visited again to treat myself to a night or two here. I mean, look at the view from our room as the sun went down…

Travel Tuesday: Dodger Stadium, LA

Dodger Stadium
1000 Elysian Park Ave, Los Angeles
http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/ballpark/

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Husband and I decided to hire a car and drive ourselves from Anaheim to LA when we visited last December, which proved to be a fantastic decision; LA is not walkable on limited time, the public transport system isn’t amazing, and there are basically no cabs driving around. We figured that seeing as we were hiring the car for a relatively quick drive which was still charged as a minimum one day hire, we may as well have gotten our monies worth and use it to see all the things we thought we’d have issues using the above mentioned methods to get to, like Grand Central Market. Unfortunately we overlooked Greystone Mansion, but that’s another story

After finishing at the market and consulting the map, husband also realised that Dodger Stadium wasn’t going to be easy to get to without the car, so we took as detour on the way back to returning the car. I’m not a baseball fan, I wasn’t too fussed about going there, but holy wow, that view…

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The stadium was also open to visit, and the view from the seating way up was pretty impressive too, even for a non-baseball fan like myself. Well worth the visit if you’ve got that car and a bit of time to spare before returning it!

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A view from above: Top of the Rock, New York

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Well, if you’ve stuck around this long, allow me to thank you for joining me this week as I reminisced my way through New York… Truly, it’s one hell of a city, and I’m already planning my return (seriously). I thought it only fitting to end the week off with this post; there haven’t been many other times in my life where I have felt both literally and figuratively on top of the world to this extent…

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Taking the elevator up to the 67th floor of the Rockefeller Center on a cold but clear January day was exciting, but walking outside and up the stairs to the 70th floor was something else. From way up there, out in the fresh, open air, I could see so much more than I ever could have imagined possible in the middle of such a big city. From one side, Central Park sprawled through the middle of the metropolis. From the other, the Empire State and Chrystler Buildings sparkled in the morning sunshine.

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Do yourself a favour when you’re in New York, don’t bother waiting in the ridiculous line to get to the top of the Empire State Building; surely when you take your photos of the New York skyline, you want that to be in there! Buy an express pass for the Top of the Rock, visit early in the morning if you really want to skip the crowds, and enjoy the most gorgeous view of the city without the long waits  : )

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Stay here: Homewood Suites by Hilton, Chicago, USA

Homewood Suites by Hilton, Chicago – Downtown
Website

I’m heading back to Chicago today, and taking you on a quick little tour of the Homewood Suites by Hilton – this was our home for a week over Christmas, and I couldn’t have been happier! We decided to stay here on a recommendation from a friend, and that’s why I wanted to share; if you’re looking at visiting Chicago, do yourself a favour and look into the Homewood Suites.

The hotel is in the perfect location, bang in the middle of the city – it backs onto Eataly, is a stone’s throw from the red line’s Grand station, and even closer to the Magnificent Mile. A few minutes’ walk will get you to the Billy Goat Tavern (check back in tomorrow for more on that!), the river, and a Whole Foods. Location wise I don’t believe it can be beat.

The rooms are fantastic, and the fact that our was self-contained made it my favourite hotel of the trip – I was quite unwell one night, and just wanted some home cooked pasta with veggies and butter, and having the kitchen meant that was easily do-able. Happy days! Here’s what the kitchen area in the one bedroom was like:

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We went with the lead in room type, given that there was only two of us – we didn’t need anything too big or fancy. We found ourselves checking into this gorgeous suite with not only that nice big kitchen, but also a bedroom, large bathroom and a separate lounge area:

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Other amenities you can expect to find in the rooms here include:
– work station
– complimentary wifi
– 2 LCD TVs (one in the bedroom, one in the lounge)
– fully equipped kitchen, including flatware, fridge, microwave, cooking utensils, dishwasher and stove top
– black-out curtains
– dining table and chairs
– adjustable thermostat
– Neutrogena bath amenities
– iron and ironing board
– full wardrobe with coat hangers and shelving
– hair dryer
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The services at the Homewood are second to none as well:
– complimentary hot breakfast
– 24 hour Pavillion Pantry Market
– ATM
– luggage storage
– guest activity desk
– laundry and valet services
– safety deposit box
– fitness room
– pool

We paid just under AUD$120 per night for 2 people over the week of Christmas (December 23rd to 29th to be exact), and couldn’t have been happier. The amenities and services were fantastic, the staff were incredibly helpful, and it really felt like a home away from home, which was so very appreciated at Christmas  : )

Oh, and the view from the lounge room and bedroom windows?

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