Holiday and Souvenir Shopping in Vilnius, Lithuania

Friday, November 29, 2013

In honor of Black Friday, signifying the beginning of the Holiday shopping season, this post is dedicated to locally made Lithuanian products that will make great gifts. When visiting a new place I always try to purchase locally made goods, particularly unique items from artisans and special foods. If you read other travel articles about Lithuania you'll be guided to purchase amber, woolen items, and honey. I've wandered the twisting streets of Vilnius for several months and every amber store I've visited has left me unenthused. Let me propose some alternative gifts from the stores pictured below.

This is my favorite store that I've visited in Vilnius. Visit Aukso Avis on Pilies gate for art and accessories all made by local Lithuanian artists. The prices are very reasonable and all items in the store are color coordinated!
Buy some wild-collected teas from Senamiescio Krautuve on Literatu Gatve

Bring home some linen goods from Linen Tales, which recently moved to Stikliu g.


Visit Sarka on Sv. Ignoto g. for housewares


Shop at Decolte on Stikliu g. to purchase clothes from the Lithuanian designer, Kristina

Visit the Accessories Studio on Stikliu g. for accessories and clothes made by Lithuanian designers


Visit Butega on Stikliu g. for beautifully knit sweaters, silky dresses, and accessories.

Also visit Ona on Sv. Kazimiero g or visit their online shop for local goods, art, and jewelry. Everything is reasonably priced.

Woolen socks purchased on the street

Hand-beaded headband made by a local artist, purchased at Butega

Hand-knit gloves purchased on the street

Earrings from Ona

Tea from Senamiescio Krautuve

Hong Kongas Restaurant = the Worst Asian Food Ever

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I've been craving delicious Asian food lately, maybe because of my recent Shangri-La post or trip to Belgium. To fulfill my craving I decided to head out for lunch in Vilnius, Lithuania and try a Chinese restaurant (Hong Kongas) that was recommended to me. Wow, the food was superbly terrible. The "fragrant and crispy" duck was so heavily breaded and overcooked that I was unsure of what meat I was eating. The "garlic broccoli" was made from a frozen vegetable mix and had absolutely no taste. What surprised me most about this restaurant was that it was relatively crowded. This meal was a serious disappointment and I strongly suggest avoiding this restaurant.

Garlic broccoli

fragrant and crispy duck

Reminiscing about Shangri-La, Yunnan

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Streets decorated in prayer flags


Looking through some old photos and travel notes made me want to upload a new story about Shangri-La. A visit to Shangri-La is one of the best ways to get off the beaten path.

Tourist season is not yet up and running in frigid, Shangri-La in March. This makes for a quiet, relaxing, and freezing (no heat in Shangri-La) trip. Outside of the Shangri-La Old Town is a place filled with wonders. Expect to see Tibetan girls and women dressed in traditional clothes shopping for cell phones at China Mobile. Get ready to see monks in red robes strolling the streets, and steaming cups of yak butter tea. Chang Zhen Lu has several Tibetan stores, which sell teapots, rugs, and Tibetan outfits. I am particularly fond of the thick jackets.

In Shangri-La Old Town try the Best Price Wholesale Scarf Store for (can you guess it?) scarves in any style. Dropenling sells Tibetan handicrafts made locally.

Visit Khampa Caravan to set up a local hike.

Suggestion- Avoid purchasing exotic furs because they may be from poached animals.


A fluffy, baby yak

The giant, golden prayer wheel in the center of Old Town


Tibetan women dancing in the Old Town Square


Upcoming Trips

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hooray! I am excited to announce a trip I just planned for Riga, Latvia. Riga was the first place to have a decorated Christmas tree, so I am visiting during the Riga Christmas festival. I'm really looking forward to it and am excited to provide travel tips.

Packing for a week long trip - Autumn Edition

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Clothes laid out before packing


I often have last minute travel plans, which require frantic packing. Luckily, I've perfected my packing routine and with it, a closet curated to match.


Jeans are the cornerstone of my wardrobe and the first thing I pack. I dress around the jeans by packing sweaters, undershirts, and a nicer shirt for meetings or going out. I switch up my outfits by packing several accessors. To save space I typically don't pack extra shoes. I also always make sure to pack moleskin, because with all the walking I do during trips it is easy to get blisters.


Leave space for gifts!
In my bag: skinny jeans from Loft, two t-shirts, a sweater dress from Lands End, a heavy knit sweater, and a top from Forever 21. I also packed fleece-lined tights and wore black boots with everything.

I will be creating new packing lists for each season and each occasion. The next planned packing list is for a weekend trip in the winter.

A sweet tooth let loose in Belgium

Friday, November 8, 2013

I have a serious sweet tooth, so I was excited even before arriving in Belgium. I had high expectations for Belgium sweets - and luckily, my expectations were met and exceeded!  

Cuberdon 

Cuberdons are traditional cone-shaped, raspberry-flavored candies. They are incredibly sweet but also very delicious!

Cuberdon from Elisabeth Chocolate in Belgium

Belgium Chocolate


I was overwhelmed by the different options of Belgium Chocolate around every corner. Neuhaus Chocolate Shop completely overwhelmed me. We ended up purchasing an amazing box of special chocolates that were created by chefs using flavors from around the world. We also worked with one of the incredibly nice shop clerk to pick out an individual selection of chocolates for our families.

Mmmmm chocolates from Neuhaus


Cuberdons, chocolate peeing boys, licorice, hot chocolate sticks, and other assorted treats


Bruges, Belgium

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I loved visiting Bruges and if I could I would move there. The city was smaller than Brussels and you could easily get away from the crowds of tourists. The architecture in Bruges was even more intricate and elaborate than in Brussels and the canals gave it a special touch.


Getting there: It was simple to get from Brussels to Bruges via train from the central station or Brussels Midi.

Eat: Cafe au Lait- A great local eatery with delicious pumpkin soup.

Shop: There was an unlimited amount of shopping, and prices were a bit cheaper than in Brussels. Modeatelier la Rose is a beautiful store with unique gifts (Groeninge 1).

I didn't really have a visiting plan of action for Bruges, I just picked up a map at the train station and wandered the town. It was very easy to get to the city center from the train station by walking. The streets intertwine and lead to all the popular tourist destinations. I'd suggest following the less crowded streets to see the unique architecture and find smaller shops and restaurants. Just follow your feet and enjoy the view!

Shopping while walking into Bruges from the train station








Market square packed with vendors selling everything from meat to veggies to plants


Cupcakes



A great place for shopping

Faces in the walls



Monastery grounds...shhh

View across the river from the monastery


Brussels, Belgium

Friday, November 1, 2013

Welcome to Belgium...the tastiest vacation...get ready to pop your pant button!



Stay: We stayed in the Ibis Hotel near St. Catherine is not that great but in a perfect neighborhood if you like cultural diversity. The bathroom is ridiculously small, and the breakfast (14 euro) per person is outrageous. Additionally, the website says free airport shuttle, however that only refers to the closer international airport, which isn't outlined online.

Eat: The food in Belgium is amazing. Think a mix of French, Asian, Belgium, and American. Food isn't necessarily expensive if you look a bit off the beaten path.

  • Fin de Siecl- we ordered ham and spare ribs for dinner and mousse au chocolate for dessert. This place gets jam packed after about 7 pm so show up a bit early for a table. The portions are huge, so if you are looking to save money you could share. 
  • Au Bon Bun is a Vietnamese place. Expect huge bowls of noodle soup with special pulled noodles for cheap (~8 Euro) with Asian waitresses saying bon appetite. I definitely recommend this restaurant. Rue de la Bourse 6
  • Paul Bakery is a chain bakery that has delicious and giant macaroons.
  • Lowie Bakery has the best chocolate eclairs that I've ever eaten and fresh, warm croissants
  • Ellis Gourmet Burger- we had been craving some comfort food of burgers and fries so we hit Ellis Gourmet Burger. The burgers were pretty good, the atmosphere was great, the food came quickly, and the prices were reasonable. Place Ste. Catherine 4
  • Sultan of Kabobs- Their HUGE and cheap sandwiches make a great lunch.
  • Hop Dog- Conveniently located near the Grand Place check out Hop Dog for a cheap, quick lunch.

kabobs
Pulled noodle and duck soup at Au Bon Bol

Soup and a hot dog from Hop Dog

Ham from Fin de Siecl

Chocolate mousse from Fin de Siecl

Shopping:

  • Gabriele Vintage
  • Elisabeth Chocolates- try their chocolate marshmallows and hot chocolate sticks, Boterstraat Rue au beurre, Grasmarkt 55 Marche aux Herbes
  • Neuhaus- the best chocolate in town
  • International Home of Cooking- store for excellent cooking supplies, Chaussee de Charleroi, 10 1060 Saint-Gilles
  • Sterling Books- A bookstore filled with English books.


Getting to and from the Charleroi Airport: Charleroi airport is about 50 km away from the tourist areas in Brussels. Try the airport shuttle to/from the Charleroi Airport to Brussels Midi station. From Brussels Midi you can easily walk or catch a cab to hotels in Brussels. Expect to pay about 15 euros for the airport shuttle.

Great things about Brussels- architecture, diversity, access to international good/foods, food, chocolate!, pastries


great bookstore

The female version of the Manneken Pis- Jeanneke Pis

Huge macaroons from Paul Bakery



Street Art


macaroons



Ellis Gourmet Burger





Street Art

Manneken Pis