New Year in Saaremaa

We spiced up our New Year by going on a short trip to Saaremaa, an island in Estonia. There is a saying, that the way you end your year, it’s…

We spiced up our New Year by going on a short trip to Saaremaa, an island in Estonia. There is a saying, that the way you end your year, it’s what the new will be. We just have one wish – be able to explore more, see more and experience more in 2018.

To be exact, we went to Saaremaa capital city Kuressaare. Kuressaare or Arensburg (it was called like that until the beginning of XX century) was first mentioned in XII century and from that time it was one of the most important harbours.

We believe, that Kuressaare and Saaremaa are way more busy during the summer season and we would love to come back here as it reminded us a bit of Nida and Curonian Spit in Lithuania. But let’s see what we found there at the end of 2017.

Getting here

Even though Kuressaare has a small airport and some regular flights from Tallinn or Parnu, it’s impossible to book tickets online and the best way is to fly to Tallinn and take one of many direct buses to Kuressaare. Including the ferry, the bus takes around 3.5 hours and costs 6-10 euros depending on bus operator. Alternatively, You can reach Saaremaa from Parnu by bus connecting your trip from Riga, Vilnius, Kaunas or southern Europe.

Trip by ferry includes some beautiful views:

Accommodation

It depends either you came by car or not. If You came by car, then a good choice would be any apartments outside Kuressaare city so You would be able to enjoy calm nature and easily reach any part of the island. Of course, the price would be less than Kuressaare city centre.

If You don’t have a car then You should stay in one of the places near Kuressaare’s centre. Booking and Airbnb have plenty of various options.

For more luxurious stay You can choose one of the SPA hotels which are located all around the city.

Going around

We came to Saaremaa by bus and were here during NYE holiday so the public transport here was not so friendly for us. Public buses go all around the island all week long, but if You’re here on weekend then You’ll find just 4 buses going till 6 PM. Don’t give any hopes that You could make Your own trip around the island with those. Much better situation is if You’ll come during weekdays cause You’ll have plenty of choices to see the island cheaply (bus ticket cost around 0.55 Eur)

An alternative way is to rent a bike. A bike costs 10 Eur for 24 hours and You can rent it near Kuressaare bus station. Saaremaa island has plenty bike roads with scenic views so if You’re not in a hurry – spend some time on the bike exploring the island.

All around Kuressaare You can find taxis which are also an option if you don’t have enough time to see what you want in other ways. Standard fare for taxi is 2.2 + 0.8 euro per km. If you want to go outside the city – be aware that one hour of waiting cost around 17 Eur.

Your own feet is more than enough going around Kuressaare itself.

Eating + drinking

Even though the island is small You could find a couple of best restaurants in Estonia here and gastronomical culture is really in excellent conditions.

Kure cafe – coffee, pastries

This small and cosy place is the local family business. Prices are a bit bigger than in other cafes in a city but the quality is outstanding. Cup of cappuccino – 2.5 Eur. Pastel de nata – 2.5 Eur.

Classic Kohvik – breakfast, pizza, snacks

Located on the main street of the city this restaurant opens from 9 AM which is good, cause other places usually open later. Good selection of breakfast, thin or thick pizzas and a big variety of drinks. Beer or wine glass – from 3.5 eur, Pizza – 5-13 eur.

Kohvik Retro – local restaurant

This place was a real highlight of our journey. Service was fabulous and professional, food is fresh and local, the atmosphere is great. The restaurant offers a selection of local products which are raised to next level. Dinner for two with drinks would cost around 50-60 Eur. Anyway, we suggest to try smoked fish, salted fish, fish of the day and we were lucky to have fish soup also.

Saaremaa windmill – seasonal restaurant

Another great restaurant included in The White Guide of gastronomy. As we tried it in winter time, everything came clear in the moment when we opened the menu. All dishes, side dishes, desserts and everything is really seasonal. Beef cheeks, duck leg, carrots, cabbages, root veggies. You won’t find any summer ingredients here during winter time. Worth to mention, this place offers homemade beer, must-try cheese balls and mushroom soup served inside the bread. Dinner for two – 40-50 Eur.

Drinks

John bull pub – family pub with a hippy Volkswagen van bar located near Kuressaare castle
Vaekoja pubi – Pub in a city centre, cosy atmosphere.

Look around Kuressaare

Castle of Kuressaare

Castle of Kuressaare

Castle of Kuressaare

Streets of Kuressaare

Kure Coffee

The bay of Kuressaare

Happy New Year! We wish you will have a great one!

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A lot can happen in a year. 2016

Usually people overview their year before Christmas, or on New Year’s Eve, creating new resolutions. I’m a bit late, but anyway, this post is coming out as a reminder to…

Usually people overview their year before Christmas, or on New Year’s Eve, creating new resolutions. I’m a bit late, but anyway, this post is coming out as a reminder to myself – a lot can happen in a year.

Let’s say I’m in a period of my life which looks like this:

Feeling being a bit stuck. Feeling like not moving forward.

But then I go back just one year and oh my, will repeat myself – a lot can happen in a year. We sometimes do not notice. And if the speed of life goes lower sometimes, there is nothing bad in it. Sometimes you need to be bored to be active again.

So, what happened in 2016?

Winter was a season of preparation – preparation for new Open Kitchen season, preparation for our food truck season, preparation for the wedding.

Food truck season

We bought a food truck in 2015 but officially started our season in 2016. It took us some time – weekends and after work hours – to prepare it. We did everything ourselves. Electricity, painting it – everything.

We even got nominated for the most beautiful name of our company, registered in 2015 in the Lithuanian language. “Juokiasi puodas” should be translated as “Laughing pot”.

Wedding

We just picked the date and did it. Nothing much to say. Was the most beautiful day with family and best friends.

Trip to Istanbul

After the wedding, we went for a trip to Istanbul. The city we both fell in love and would come back again and again.

Open Kitchen Vilnius + Kaunas

We kicked off with Open Kitchen 3rd season (2nd for me). And this year not only in Vilnius but also Kaunas!

CreativeMornings Vilnius

In 2016 November we celebrated 1 year of CreativeMornings Vilnius. I’m still on it!

There are hard moments – but who doesn’t have them?

Trip to Southeast Asia

I will admit it – summer season was pretty hard. Open Kitchen in two cities, our own food truck. And a breakdown. I felt like I couldn’t go this way, and needed to stop.

We spent a month and a half backpacking in South East AsiaMalaysia, Vietnam, Phillippines, Singapore. Articles about this trip are all over the blog – feel free to read our story and some tips.

Back to life

It didn’t take long after we were back home and we started working again. I got back to organising events and T. started working in a family restaurant.

So if you sometimes think you do nothing – try to go back and think about how much you already did. Some things just need time.

Love, L.

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Nida: where happiness lives

Nida was my summer destination with family. We were going to the beach, eating breakfast and cooking dinner together, painting on little stones we found on the beach, walking these…

Nida was my summer destination with family. We were going to the beach, eating breakfast and cooking dinner together, painting on little stones we found on the beach, walking these long walks in the dunes.

After a pretty long time (I count at least 3 summers) we came back here for a short autumn weekend. Welcome to Nida –  a place, where happiness lives.

All pictures were taken by Lina, with her phone.

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californication

Two weeks in sunny California. First time in States, fell in love with Cali. Who wouldn’t? Always sunny, a lot of micro breweries, delicious food, sun, beach, happy people! See…

Two weeks in sunny California. First time in States, fell in love with Cali. Who wouldn’t? Always sunny, a lot of micro breweries, delicious food, sun, beach, happy people!

See my visual story:

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Dinner with Vietnamese family

In our previous post about Hanoi, we have mentioned our crazy good last evening with local family. We really enjoyed it so much, that we think everyone should try it,…

In our previous post about Hanoi, we have mentioned our crazy good last evening with local family. We really enjoyed it so much, that we think everyone should try it, doesn’t matter where are you heading next.

HOW DID WE MANAGE TO GET TO LOCALS FAMILY HOME?

This is thanks to our friend Linas and Withlocals. He was the one to offer us  dinner with Vietnamese family. And it was so so worth it – we have spend our last evening in Hanoi (and in Vietnam in general) shopping, cooking together and chit chatting with Hannah and her family.

2 HOURS OF WALKING AND THEN SHOPPING

Three of us we were hanging around the city since morning and decided to take a walk to Hannah’s home, visiting some places on the way. It seems we saw half of the city that afternoon – French villas, lake with abandoned restaurants, Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. Hannah was patiently waiting for us, as we were late for at least half an hour. She met us and we directly went to market to buy some products for our dinner. Let the pictures talk for themselves.

DINNER

We brought all the goodies back home and immediately started chopping and rolling – there was at least 10 dishes waiting to get cooked! Someone was rolling spring rolls, another was chopping carrots, third was cooking, Hannah’s children were helping to prepare the table.

 

We somehow finished all these dishes, Hannah’s husband came back home and all 7 of us gathered around the table. Bite after bite we were getting to know each other, asking questions, discussing… life, habits, culture. Hannah’s children even played the piano for all of us!

Right after the dinner, we two had to go to the airport. Hannah was very helpful to call us a taxi. I really couldn’t have imagined better evening before leaving Vietnam.

It was more then just local food experience. Those people are ready to open the door of their home and family to you and they want to learn about your culture as much as you want to know about their. Life is full of beautiful people! Thank you Linas and Withlocals!

L&T

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Asian cities: Hanoi

Hanoi – the capital and second biggest city in Vietnam, racing to make up for time lost during the war. Endless layers of history – Frenchy cathedrals, villas and boulevards;…

Hanoi – the capital and second biggest city in Vietnam, racing to make up for time lost during the war. Endless layers of history – Frenchy cathedrals, villas and boulevards; Chinese pagodas and temples; hectic and always busy Old Quarter; Modern architecture giving a way to skyscrapers. Give the way to scooters!

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How to get here?

Hanoi is in the north of Vietnam and the bets way to het here is by plain. If you are traveling inside Vietnam, you also might arrive there by train, bus or probably even scooter or motorcycle. 

Noi Bai International Airport

Nội Bài International Airport is one of the newest airports in Asia, with Terminal 2 opened in 2015. Every year new flights are added and new destinations founded in this airport, so it’s easy accessible from any point of the world.

There are special airport taxi, that will cost you 200 000 VND (10 eur).  It will take ou to the city centre in around 30 minutes. Public bus no. 17 will take you to Long Bien bus station for 0.3 eur in 1 hour. Or go grab Uber. 

Accommodation

Hanoi city is fully loaded with various inexpensive hostels or hotels. You will probably want to stick around Hoan Kiem lake, somewhere near Old Quarter. Tip – do not to choose the main streets of Old Quarter if you have issues with falling asleep when disturbed by noise.

Dorm room in good quality hostel should cost you 4-7 eur per person, meanwhile double room might cost You 20-30 eur per night.

Our Choice: Chien hostel near St. Joseph Cathedral was excellent by it’s location and crazy free beer offer. Price is 5 eur per night in mixed dorm room with shared bathroom.

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Sights

Stroll in Old Quarter, go around Hoan Kiem lake and then go get lost as you will need to eat your way through the city and it’s streets or back-alleys.

On your way you will see:

Old Quarter – in the north of the lake this district is full of shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and…. surprise surprise…. scooters! Find a bar or coffee shop that has few floors above, sit in their terrace and watch the street – hypnotising how all these scooters and pedestrians are moving and crossing the street through each other. 

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Hoa Lo Prison Museum – it’s a bit lighter version of War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh. So if You like a bit of history, then You can spend nearly an hour there.

Streets of French villas – if you will by any chance take a walk from Old quarter to the Truc Bach lake by Hoan Hoa street, you will find lots of French villas in a long alley. 

Ho Chi Minh memorial – massive and solemn – complex of memorial garden, mausoleum and museum in one huge square.

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And lot’s of temples, pagodas, little shops, street food. We are not too much into visiting all the museums. We usually spend our money on food.

Alternate day trips: Halong Bay tour. 

Eating and drinking

Rules for eating and drinking are the same as in Ho Chi Minh City.

What to try?

x Pho soup – the best dish for an excellent start of the day

x BBQ hot pot  – frying meat by yourself

x Bun cha – lots of veggies, fat pork and some noodles with hot sauce

x Hanoi’s coffee with condensed milk – very sweet but good to try

x Bia Hoi – very cheap local beer

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What else we did there?

Well, we had only 2 days there, but we left with most beautiful memories. First of all we met our friend Linas there. Yup, 3 Lithuanians randomly meet in Hanoi, why not? Our meeting pint was – Hoa Lo prison.

We spend the rest of the day walking, eating Bun Cha, drinking beer and talking about our trips. After a decent power nap we went out for some night life (let me remind you that it was Monday). I lost the number of bars we have visited, but we went to a club, we had free drinks, we went to an underground club and ended up buying tooth paste in the super market.

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Next day was our last day in Hanoi, as we had our flight to Philippines late at night. Of course after heavy Monday we had some issues waking up earlier, so we managed to meet for lunch (dear Pho, you were the saviour of the day). And Linas gave as best present – he invited us for dinner with local family!

No, he doesn’t know them personally, but he works at With locals, that are doing this awesome stuff! The evening couldn’t go better. After walking to the house of the family for 2 hours (we had some time so we decided we can walk there), we were rewarded with countless number of dishes and lovely talk with family, and their daughter played piano! And this dinner is worth whole article, so we will get back to that right away!

Want some advice about travelling in Vietnam? Drop us a message and let’s talk: hello@traveloffin.com

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