The exterior of the Hard Rock Cafe in Venice, Italy. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on May 4, 2021, that his country would launch travel passes for vaccinated travelers by mid-May. Hard Rock Cafe
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Travel is back and hopefully you have a trip planned for the near future! If you do have travels coming up, you’ll most likely want to figure out a way to stay connected while overseas. Things are changing quite quickly when it comes to this topic but luckily, it’s now remarkably easy, and inexpensive, to travel with a constant data connection. It’s all about eSIM cards as they are definitely the most traveler friendly option that exists.
What is an eSIM?
An eSIM is different than your usual SIM card that you would insert into your phone. Usually, your cellular company provides you with a physical SIM card and once inserted into your device, you are connected to their network.
With an eSIM, there is no physical card. Instead, it’s 100% digital, enabling you to connect to a cellular network without having to put anything in your phone’s SIM card slot. In short, it’s software that you download and that installs directly onto your phone.
A good example is Holafly’s eSIM for Europe as it allows you to download an international eSIM so that you can remain connected to the internet while traveling.
Why you should use Holafly eSIM?
First, it’s easy to set up and use. As you’ll see below, it only takes a couple of minutes from the moment you purchase your eSIM until it is ready to be used.
Second, the value is hard to beat. What you’ll pay for a month of data with a Europe eSIM card is about the same as you would pay for only 3 or 4 days of international roaming offered by your cellular company at home!
Third, it offers extensive coverage for travelers. You can purchase an eSIM for an individual country or even an entire region, such as Europe or Asia. This ensures that you are seamlessly connected wherever you go on your adventures, without having to worry about finding ways to get online every time you cross a new border.
Advantages of using an eSIM to travel to Europe
Let’s suppose you’re taking a trip to Europe. With HolaFly’s eSIM for Europe, you can buy your eSIM online in about 2 minutes and choose a plan that suits your travels. You can choose a plan for an individual country or for all of Europe if you’ll be bouncing around. You’ll also find plans for 7 days, 15 days and 30 days, depending on the length of your trip.
Keep in mind, you’ll still keep your phone number from home. If you have a regular physical SIM card in your phone, nothing will change with your phone number. But with the eSIM, you’ll be getting your data connection through HolaFly’s network of cellular companies, which is much cheaper than if you use the data connection offered by your cellular network at home.
Then, as soon as you land in your destination, you’ll be connected. And you won’t have to worry about exorbitant international roaming fees or paying for the very expensive international plan that you your cellular company at home offers.
How do I purchase an eSIM for Europe?
As mentioned, it’s simple. Here are the steps to follow:
- Go to HolaFly’s eSIM for Europe page: https://esim.holafly.com/esim-europe/
- Check the box that says “Phones compatible with eSIM” to make sure your phone is on the list
- Choose the plan that suits your travels and add it to the cart
- Go to “Checkout” and pay for the eSIM
- You’ll then receive an email with a QR code.
- Whenever you arrive in your destination (or right before you travel there), you just scan the QR code with your phone and the eSIM will be immediately delivered straight onto your device.
- Once this happens, your eSIM is activated and you’ll be connected!
Which devices work with the Holafly eSIM card?
There’s a long list of phones that are compatible with a Holafly eSIM card. Here’s the quick list but you can always check out the complete list of individual phones to make sure your device is indeed able to use an eSIM: Holafly compatible devices
- All models from the iPhone XS, XR onward, including the iPhone SE 2 (2020)
- From the Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra onwards
- From the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Fold 2 and onwards
- From the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 and onwards
- From the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and onwards
- Huawei P40, P0 Pro and later models
- Huawei Mate 40 Pro and later models
- Google Pixel 3, 3a (some versions do not allow eSIM)
- Google Pixel 4, 4 XL, 4a, 5 and later models
- Oppo Find X3 Pro
- Oppo Reno 5A
- Motorola Razr (2019)
- Motorola Razr 5G (dual SIM)
How much do I need to pay for an eSIM to travel to Europe?
The prices for an Holafly eSIM for Europe varies depending on the length of time. For the eSIM package that will connect you to fast internet in 40 European countries, here are the options:
5 days unlimited = $19.00 USD
10 days unlimited = $34.00 USD
15 days unlimited = $47.00 USD
20 days unlimited = $54.00 USD
30 days unlimited = $64.00 USD
60 days unlimited = $84.00 USD
90 days unlimited = $99.00 USD
Alternatives to Holafly eSIM to have a data connection in Europe
Of course, an eSIM such as Holafly is not the only way you can have a data connection while traveling in Europe. Here are some other options:
This involves simply keeping your phone on as normal when you go overseas. It’s certainly easy enough but you’ll end up paying a fortune as the rates your cellular company at home will charge you for international roaming will leave your jaw on the floor! To lower those costs, many cellular companies offer an ‘international plan’ which you can certainly use. However, these plans still cost much more than an eSIM. You can expect to pay around $10 per day (plus taxes) for such an international plan, so after 3 or 4 days, you’re already spending more than if you had an eSIM to travel to Europe, or anywhere else. Also, you often need to actually call your cellular company, wait to speak with customer service and then go through an activation process in order to set up the international plan.
Another option is to purchase a local SIM card in each of the countries you visit. When you arrive, you can find a shop selling SIM cards and by inserting one into your phone, you’ll be able to connect to that network. It’s also quite common these days to find kiosks and shops at airports where you can buy such a local SIM card upon arrival. The main downside is that you won’t be connected as soon as you arrive in a new country as you need to find a shop first in order to buy the SIM card. Also, if you are traveling to multiple countries, you’ll generally need to buy a new SIM card in each country you visit instead of simply being connected automatically through one eSIM.
You can also purchase an international SIM card. This would be more like a traditional physical SIM card that you would insert into your phone. Several companies offer these international SIM cards and they can be a good option, especially if your phone is not compatible with an eSIM. In general, you would get the same benefits of an eSIM although the cost of data would be more expensive with a physical SIM card.
Final thoughts about Holafly eSIM card
The days are gone when having a data connection while traveling was difficult, to say the least. The transition from internet cafes to expensive local SIM cards to expensive international plans has finally landed in a sweet spot. With an Holafly eSIM card, you can have fast internet wherever you go, for a very affordable price.
As long as your phone supports an eSIM, it’s the best option to stay connected while on the road by far. And the fact that it takes only a couple of minutes to get connected is a huge bonus. You could be on your way to Europe right now, download an eSIM while waiting to board your flight and as soon as you land in your destination, turn on your phone and you’re connected!
*This sponsored post comes at an ideal time. I just used an eSIM while on my recent trip to Iraq and I wanted to share why this is the best way to stay connected while traveling.
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Many major Canadian cities are fast becoming the most expensive places in the world to live. Ideally, you should travel to Canada before settling there for a significant amount of time, to get a feel for the place. But, for reference, you’re looking at at least $2,000 for a 80-square-meter apartment in Toronto, and you can double that if it’s a spacious place in the city center. Likewise, Vancouver is similarly priced, and whilst these cities have incredible amenities, the point of being a digital nomad is to be free from living in areas that we cannot afford.
So, when looking at flights to Canada, make sure you decide on the city that is right for you.
Halifax, Nova Scotia – Up And Coming
Halifax is on the rise, and whilst it used to be overshadowed by Vancouver, it’s soon becoming a wise alternative in the property market. Halifax has a decently-sized city feel to it when it comes to amenities and things to do, whilst its dense downtown is less easy to feel lost in than, say, Vancouver. It’s a small big city, in a way.
Halifax is cheaper than most of the big cities, but it is fast accelerating in prices, so you may not want to wait around. It’s currently around $1,500 for a one-bed apartment in the city. Because people are flocking here since the rise of remote work, it’s beginning to build a buzzing economy that has plenty of start-ups, making it ideal for networking and finding clients.
Ottawa – Affordable Big City
Ottawa is a great choice if you like a big city with plenty to do. With an average one-bedroom apartment costing around $1,600 per month, Ottawa is affordable for Canadian standards, given its 1-million population and strong economy. Often, the more affordable options in Canada have fewer things to do and less nightlife – but not Ottawa, it has it all. It’s a pedestrian-friendly and diverse city that has some great history to it.
Because of its cosmopolitan and progressive nature, Ottawa is popular and friendly towards immigrants. Much more so than say, Quebec, and it remains to have a very high median income and stable economy. Plus, you’ll meet tons of other digital nomads.
Edmonton – Cheap Big City Near Nature
Edmonton is the capital of Alberta, which lies in the midwest of Canada. Despite having almost a one million population, Edmonton is both very cheap and in the midst of amazing nature. With an average rent of $950 for a one-bed apartment, Edmonton is arguably the cheapest city on this list.
Although the city grid is fairly large, conservation areas and nature parks surround it. Elk Island National Park, Muttart Conservatory, William Hawrelak Park… The list goes on. And, despite the large city feel, Edmonton has one of the best bus networks in all of Canada, with 7456 bus stops. Usually in the US and even Canada, you can only have one of the two: Affordability and public transport. However, Edmonton offers both, making it ideal for the low-key outdoorsy types.
The extensive landscape of the US makes it a popular destination for tourists the whole year round.
There’s something to do for everyone: families, couples, and single travelers alike. No matter what time of the year you’re visiting, there’s a destination for everyone to enjoy.
Whether you love exploring the corners of new cities or you want to go hiking off the beaten track, we’ve got some beautiful destinations that will satisfy your wanderlust.
This guide will take you through some of the best entertainment options as well. It’s not just the views that can take your breath away!
Whether you’re interested in outdoor activities, bars and restaurants or even casinos, we’ve got all the entertainment you need. There are many options to choose from, including some Michigan online casinos.
No matter what you’re looking for in the USA, we’ve got all the best destinations off the beaten tourist track.
Bars Off the Beaten Track
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, Michigan
One of the oldest jazz clubs in the world, it’s no wonder that Baker’s is a must-see attraction in Michigan. Built all the way back in 1934, this historic arts venue has always been a Detroit hotspot. The food is some of the best in town and the service is always impeccable. And with legends such as Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and George Shearing having graced its stage, Baker’s legendary status is no surprise.
Tunnel Bar in Northampton, Massachusetts
If you’re a fan of a martini in an unusual location, then the Tunnel Bar in Northampton is the bar for you. Located in (or under) Northampton’s Union Station, this tunnel was previously used for commuters and train workers. Now, it’s been transformed into a beautiful bar with all of its original brick and stone fully intact.
The Coffin Club in Portland, Oregon
This next bar is not for the faint-hearted! It’s the Coffin Club in Oregon and we think you can probably guess the theme. It’s full of spooky memorabilia and glow in the dark skeletons that makes for a spooky night out. The Coffin Club has even been voted as being one of the top ten themed bars in the world!
Unique Nature Sites
Ocqueoc Falls in Rogers City, Michigan
If your interests are less city and more out in the wilderness, why not take a trip to Ocqueoc Falls just outside of Rogers City? Not only can you experience the beauty of these magical waterfalls but there’s also a campsite nearby where you can stay. You’ll have to be quick though, there are only 15 sites for tents and small campervans and they’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
You can hike up to the falls along the Bicentennial Pathway and you can even do some trout fishing if you’re so inclined. Make sure you’ve got the right equipment to cook it though! There are only very basic amenities onsite including vault toilets and a hand pump well for water. So it might be campfire cooked trout for dinner!
Sleeping Bear Dunes in Lake Michigan
The Sleeping Bear Dunes are found alongside a 35 mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s eastern coastline. This park is known for its incredible scenery including its beaches and forests as well as, of course, the sand dune formations. You’ll also find the North and South Manitou islands nearby which are accessible via ferries.
There are 20 miles of hiking trails as well as an 1871 lighthouse that you can visit. And if you’re a history buff, there are plenty of tours you can take as well as a museum to visit and learn all about the rich history of the dunes and surrounding areas.
Goblin Valley State Park in Green River, Utah
Don’t let the name put you off – Goblin Valley is one of the most unique sandstone formations you’ll see anywhere in the world. In fact, its landscape is often compared to that of Mars! With its weird and wonderful sandstone formations, you’ll feel like you’ve entered another world. It’s a once in a lifetime sight and one you won’t want to miss!
Devil’s Tower in Wyoming
Another unusual rock formation is the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. This astonishing geological feature was formed by molten rock millions of years ago and has managed to stand the test of time. There are lots of hiking trails to complete – or even rock climbing if you’re feeling brave! But note that there is an annual climbing closure for the month of June to respect the Native American cultural significance of the site.
White Sands National Park in New Mexico
The White Sands National Park is so unique that it is even home to a type of sand that is rarely found anywhere else. It’s called gypsum and is so rare because it is actually moderately soluble in water – meaning that you won’t be finding it on a beach. White Sands National Park is actually the largest gypsum dune field, covering 275 square miles.
The rarity of this landscape means that all of its life and plants are protected. It also means that not a lot of people know about it – so it’s always a peaceful place to visit.
Channel Islands National Park in Ventura, Los Angeles
Despite its proximity to Los Angeles, Channel Islands National Park is the second least visited park in California. That’s great news for travelers who prefer to bask in the beauty of nature in peace. It’s also a must visit place for activity lovers! There are loads of hiking trails to explore such as the Smugglers Cave trail.
If a day trip just isn’t enough time for your island trip, there’s also the option to camp on the island. Just make sure you pack light – it’s a mile long hike to get from the ferry to the campsite!
Given the vastness of the USA, it’s no surprise there are some places that are hidden away from the usual tourist traps. Whether it’s a park, lake, or entertainment venue – there are plenty of unknown places to explore.
Which hidden gem would you like to add to the list?
Sicily is of course a part of Italy and is the largest island in the Mediterranean with a host of attractions that make it famous. This stunning island is one of the twenty regions of Italy and is famous for such things as Mount Etna, The Roman Theatre of Taormina, as well as the bustling city of Palermo—which is an attraction in its own right and should definitely be included on your Sicily itinerary.
Sicily is an island that has the perfect combination of beautiful landscapes, fantastic beaches, incredible cuisine as well as one of Europe’s best climates, so it’s no wonder that this island is a favorite among travelers and holidaymakers.
So, let us show you what an 8 day Sicily itinerary could look like.
Here’s how to plan an eight day Sicily itinerary
Let’s start off your Sicily trip in Palermo.
Day 1-3: Palermo
You will begin your dream trip to Sicily, by starting in the capital city of Palermo which is famous for its beautiful fountains and glorious piazzas. But mostly for its incredible food culture—which is one of the main reasons you’re in Italy right?
Sicilian cuisine is out of this world and attracts many people for this reason alone, and one of the major attractions you cannot overlook is the ancient La Vucciria food market. This market holds social significance within the city as well as playing a central role here. This iconic food market is where you can indulge in all kinds of delicious and local street food, experience locals enjoying the dolce vita as well as embrace the lively atmosphere, which makes this a standout spot.
To get here, make your way to Piazza Caracciolo, Palermo anytime between 7 am and 7 pm Monday – Saturday. Palermo is an ideal spot to try some famous street food such as arancini (Italian rice balls) and sfincione (Sicilian pizza), as well as take a cooking class to learn the secrets behind these mouthwatering recipes. If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to try the famous beef spleen sandwich known as pani ca meusa.
With full bellies, you are ready to take on some of Palermo’s best attractions over these few days.
- Cattedrale di Palermo: This impressive Roman Catholic church dates back to 1185, and is a fantastic building of great significance within the city. It’s open Mon-Sat from 7am-7pm and Sun from 8am-7pm.
- Palazzo Dei Normanni: This is by far one of the best-preserved examples of Arabic-Norman-Byzantine architecture and can be visited Mon-Sat from 8:30 am-4:30 pm and Sun from 8:30 am-12:30 pm.
- Teatro Massimo: The largest opera house in Italy and the third-largest in the world.
If you find yourself with time on your hands and are looking for more things to do, then make sure to add these optional attractions to your list.
- St John of the Hermits: A medieval Norman church with impressive Arab-Norman architecture. You can visit Mon-Sat from 9:30am-6:30am and Sun from 9:30am-1:30pm.
- The Ballaro market: Another market to experience more delicious Sicilian food as well as clothing. You can find some mouthwatering fruit, cheeses, fresh fish, and local vegetables. Mon-Sat 7:30 am-8:30pm/Sun 7:30am-2pm.
Day 3-5: Taormina
Today, you will leave Palermo and follow the north coast towards Taormina, stopping off at Cefalu—a stunning hamlet by the sea—before continuing to the east coast of the island. Taormina is a fantastic resort town, which is definitely worth a visit. On your first evening, make sure to take a stroll down the bustling main street of Corso Umberto and pick a bar or restaurant to spend at for the evening.
After dinner, why not take in an open-air performance at the Greek Theatre which dates back to the 3rd Century—guaranteed to be a great experience, as well as provide insatiable views of the famous Mt Etna in the distance.
The next day, there are a host of activities you can enjoy in this beautiful coastal town, including:
- Relaxing on one of the beaches such as Isola Bella.
- Enjoying the panoramic view from Piazza IX Aprile, which has the best view of the city and Mt Etna and is, of course, open 24 hours a day to enjoy.
- Chiesa Madonna Della Rocco for more incredible city and sea views, a peaceful haven to relax and the perfect spot to enjoy a glass of local wine. Mon-Sun 8:30am-7pm.
- Alcantara Gorge, which is a 50-minute drive from Taormina and is a geological marvel, as well as the perfect place to visit to see glorious waterfalls and take a refreshing dip in the Alcantara River.
Spend your second evening in Palermo listening to live music and enjoying some delicious Italian cuisine in town.
Tip: The Godfather fans can visit a few of the movie’s film locations in the town of Savoca, just outside Taormina, which was used as the fictional town of Corleone.
Day 5-6: Catania
After breakfast, you will leave Taormina and head to Catania. However, you will of course be stopping at one of the most famous attractions on the island along the way–Mount Etna. This active stratovolcano is the tallest volcano in Europe and attracts many visitors to marvel at the sheer sight of this natural attraction. You can either take on the Mt Etna trail, which is around a 1-hour return and is of medium grade, or you can simply spend some time enjoying the views and the endless photo opportunities before continuing to Catania.
Related read: The World’s Most Famous Volcanoes
Note: While Italy is generally not an unsafe place to visit, you should be aware of pickpockets and petty theft, especially in touristy areas, so be vigilant and take care of your valuables in places such as this.
Catania is the second-largest city in Sicily and is a place that you just cannot overlook on your Sicily itinerary planning. When arriving, expect to be greeted by a fantastic view of Mount Etna, which forms the iconic backdrop of this stunning city. Here you will spend the evening absorbing the atmosphere of the city in all its glory, which is apparent at the Piazza Duomo.
The following day you will have the whole day to explore the city’s sights, including:
- Palazzo Biscari: Visit this marvelous palace for its incredible Catanese Baroque architecture, complete with stunning frescos. Given that this historic location is now being used for concerts, check their website for upcoming unmissable events. Mon-Sun 10am-1pm.
- The Cathedral of Catania: This beautiful and historic cathedral is centrally located, so there is no reason to miss out on seeing the wonderful baroque architecture which makes this so popular. Be on the lookout for the domed roof, the columned facade, and the numerous frescoes that can be admired for hours. Dedicated to the patron saint of Catania, St Agatha, whose festival is held from February 3rd – 5th. Mon-Sat 10:30am-12pm/4pm-5:30pm, closed Sundays.
During your time sightseeing in Catania, make sure to refresh yourself with a cold and fruity beverage from one of the historic Catania kiosks which date back to the 1800s and are found in many of the piazzas, especially Piazza Umberto. Enjoy another beautiful evening in Catania, with a delicious local dinner of Pasta Alla Norma (pasta and eggplant) and a stunning sunset over Mount Etna, as you take in all you have encountered today, as part of your 8 day Sicily itinerary.
Day 6-8: Siracusa
Today, after a fresh and tasty Italian breakfast, alongside some world-famous coffee, you will set yourself up for the day and make your way to Siracusa, which is an ideal spot to discover its attractions as well as being close to some major stop-off points too. On your way here, you can stop at the archeological site of Agrigento, which is one of the most significant historical sites on the whole island. After marveling at the various mesmerizing ruins, you will continue to Siracuse, where more adventure awaits.
On your first day in Siracusa, you will get the chance to discover many things, including:
- The Fontana Diana at the Piazza Archimed: Dating back to 1907, this is a major feature in the city of Siracusa, which is dedicated to the Goddess, Diana.
- Ortigia, which is accessed via a bridge and is famous for its incredible Baroque style Piazza del Duomo–one of the best in Italy.
On your second day in Siracusa, you will visit Modica, which is a haven for the sweet tooth, given that it is famous for the Modica chocolates—which you can taste and, of course, take home. This town is famed for its beautiful array of historic buildings, its chocolate museum, and its tiny narrow, picturesque streets.
You will spend the rest of the day as you please, wandering this beautiful hilly town, before making your way back to Catania for your last evening in Sicily, closing off your fantastic 8 day Sicily itinerary.
Planning your trip to Sicily
I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You’re in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.
If you’re looking for an alternative Osaka travel guide, you’ve just landed on the right page. Japan expert, La Carmina, shares her best tips and advice for exploring the more underground side of Osaka.
Only three hours from Tokyo by bullet train, Osaka is a turbo-charged setting for a long weekend getaway. Although it’s worth seeing historic landmarks such as Osaka Castle, travelers shouldn’t miss out on exploring the underground culture for an alternative perspective of the city. For instance, Osaka is home to a gritty and raucous music scene that’s matched only by its drinking holes — where the staff has feathered and dyed hair, the speakers blast Def Leppard, and the walls are decorated with grinning skulls.
I’ve been writing about Japan and visiting Osaka for well over a decade on my La Carmina travel blog. Here are some of my favorite subculture hangouts in the city, which I hope you’ll get to check out on your next trip.
See also: A day in Osaka, Japan
Osaka shopping guide
Let’s start off this alternative Osaka travel guide with a few vintage, indie and unique shopping spots in Osaka.
Shinsaibashi’s Shopping Arcade is a bustling treasure hunt: look for indie and vintage boutiques, such as Dangerous Nude, amidst the mass retailers. Nearby Amerikamura is the cultural equivalent of Tokyo’s Harajuku, with Goths, punks and rockers hanging out in Triangle Park (here’s a map of the best stores). Poke your head through the beaded curtains for cyber fashion, tarot cards and 1980s toys.
A stone’s throw from Umeda Station, EST is a young women’s “shopping town with dream and excitement.” The boutiques lure you in with frantic J-pop music and the chic outfits seen in Cutie and ViVi magazines. If the hundred-plus indie and alternative shops aren’t enough, across the street is Hep Five, a shopping and entertainment megalopolis with a red Ferris wheel.
Sightseeing in Osaka
Here are a few more unique sights to visit in Osaka.
Believe it or not, the Pokemon Center is one of the top tourist attractions in all of Japan. The gargantuan Umeda, Osaka store is stocked with every character imaginable. Children in Pikachu hats will remind you that the brand’s motto is “gotta catch em all,” so bring your wallet.
Kaiyukan is one of the largest aquariums in the world and a family favorite. Young Osaka resident Takumi Tanaka reminisces on his childhood visits. “It’s always fun to see the penguins and dolphins playing, but my favorite thing to do is visit the Floating Jellyfish tanks. It’s so relaxing to watch the intertwining tendrils,” he says. “Also I love to watch the staff feed the sea otters, who play like children.”
Tanaka also encourages first-timers to visit the historic Osaka Castle, especially during the cherry blossom season. “There are always festivals and gatherings in the beautiful park, and little stalls that sell traditional foods like takoyaki. It’s fun to just sit on the benches and watch people go by,” says Tanaka.
Related tour: Guided Walking Tour around Osaka Castle
Bars and Nightlife in Osaka
What’s an Osaka travel guide without a list of the best bars and nightlife?
Related tour: Osaka: Nightlife Experience
Fans of Visual Kei/J-rockers Blood were heartbroken when the group disbanded. But like a Goth Elvis, vocalist Fu-ki is alive and ominously wielding an ice pick behind the counter of his Bar Midian.
The Umeda dive is near-impossible to find, so I suggest studying these detailed directions on my La Carmina Blog. Midian’s decor is a heavy metal wet-dream: a dripping candle sits in a Dracula wine bottle; an axe rests in the umbrella stand. That night, we sat with tattooed rockers who headbanged to Black Sabbath videos and scandalized us with their boy-on-boy antics.
Drinks are 500 yen and have names such as Black Rose and Satan. Fu-ki mixes a strong cocktail and will gladly make you a special one, or pour you a Belgian Satan Beer. He’s also known to pick up the tab for newcomers, especially if you bond over music — so don’t forget to ask him about his Motley Crue cover band.
When metal and rock bands tour Osaka, they frequently stop by Moonwalk, a bar that pumps Marilyn Manson and Japanese glam metal to a young, heavily-pierced crowd.
My travel comrade and I had an instant crush on our eyeliner-smeared server Kouta, who plays bass in a new Visual Kei band. The fantasy faded a little when he went into the kitchen to cook our orders: tasty 315 yen plates of Korean fried rice and lotus pork cakes. There’s a 400 yen cover charge, but the drink menu — which has over 300 offerings for 200 yen each – more than makes up for it. Got a sweet tooth? Try the raspberry yogurt cocktail. More of a hardcore type? Go for the brandy ginger mixer. And don’t be surprised if the charming bartender brings over free shots.
Bar Rock Rock
Alice Cooper. Bad Religion. Motley Crue. Metallica. They are among the hundreds of famed faces who have raised hell at Rock Rock since the bar opened in 1995, leaving behind autographed photos and tales of destruction.
The atmosphere reminds me of a really chill jazz club, only with screamo vocals. The bar plays anything from punk to metal and has events throughout the year that bring in throngs of rock fans. These include special DJ nights such as Hell’s Bells (AC/DC), Emotion is Dead (emo) and the self-explanatory Loud & Heavy.
The menu is a typical selection of pizzas, pastas and salads (600-800 yen). The drinks are standards, plus a selection of fruity cocktails (500-800 yen). A little pricy, but worth it when they’re poured by celebrity bartender “Noxl Rose.”
Food in Osaka
Take your tastebuds on an adventure.
See also: Japanese Pork Chop in Downtown Osaka
Non-Japanese speakers, memorize the word “okonomiyaki.” It’s a tragedy if you leave without tasting the grilled savory pancake (usually with seafood, and topped with bonito flakes and brown sauce) that is Kansai’s soul food. Look for family restaurants such as Tengu, where recipes are passed down from several generations.
Takoyaki — grilled octopus balls made from pouring batter into molds — are another Osaka specialty. Every major street has a stand where you can buy a dozen for 500 yen. Twists on the original include egg or melted cheese toppings, and takoyaki stuffed in a crepe. But nothing beats mom-and-pop shops, such as Tako House at Umeda station, where a shy grandma oversees the cooking.
Yuzu (citrus fruit)
Yuzu is a divine mating between a lemon and a tangerine. In Osaka, you’ll find the flavor in seemingly every type of dish: sorbet, sake, shochu. The fruit is rarely found fresh outside of Japan, so don’t hesitate to gorge on it at every meal.
Day Trips from Osaka
If you want to escape from Osaka for a day, check out a few of these nearby places.
Take a jaunt to Kobe to explore its outstanding parks, zoo, and harbor. For a walk on the dark side, visit Gothic / fetish / occult / Satanic Bar Idea. The friendly ladies behind the nail-spiked bar will chat with you and perform dark rituals, including shibari or rope bondage demonstrations.
Get away from the grit with a day trip to Nara, only an hour away by subway. The cultural capital dazzles with six Buddhist temples, a Shinto shrine and the Imperial Place. But the biggest thrill, for tourists of all ages, is petting the sacred deer that roam in Nara Park.
Related tour: From Kyoto or Osaka: Private Walking Tour through Nara
Kyoto is located north of Osaka, and home to thousands of well-preserved places of worship such as Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion). First built in the 14th century, the three-story gilded structure holds the Buddha’s ashes and is set in an exquisite garden with a mirror pond.
Related tour: From Osaka: Kyoto Top Highlights Day Trip
At the heart of walking holidays in Spain lies the Camino de Santiago – Pilgrimage of Compostela – known as the Way of St James in English. This is a network of pilgrim paths dating back to the 9th century, when the remains of the apostle Saint James the Great were discovered, in which different towns and villages across Europe all lead back to Santiago, Spain.
Although Camino de Santiago Frances begins in France, these routes all end in Spain. For this reason, Spain has become a very popular walking holiday destination, in which holidaymakers and hikers from around the world dive into a segmented route within one of the pilgrim paths.
This type of holiday has it all: physical activity, culture and history, and is a chance to explore different places. Whilst you may have driven from one town to the next in Spain, it’s not quite the same experience as walking, in which you have lots of time to take in your surroundings and see every inch of soil between two connected villages or towns.
Within Camino de Santiago, there are many routes with varying levels of difficulty. Sarria to Santiago is a popular one as it’s graded 2 out of 5, yet covers 111km, crossing various significant Spanish towns such as Sarria, Puertomarin, Palas de Rey, and Arzu.
This particular route takes 7 days to complete, in which there are many great hotels along the way. Of course, because most of the day is spent walking, which is free, and the hotels include half board or breakfast (up to you), these walking trips have very few unexpected costs.
Another popular route to Santiago is from St Jean Pied de Port. if you’re thinking that doesn’t sound very Spanish then you’re right, because this route begins in southern France and ends in, you guessed it, Santiago. The ‘French Way’ is one of the most culturally rich walks in the world. St Jean Pied de Port in the French Basque region is a 12th-century town. Soon, you head to Pamplona, which is world-famous for its bull-running, before you eventually pass through northern Spain. This walk is extremely diverse, allowing you to see both the differences and similarities in Spanish-French architecture, culture, and terrain.
Socialising and Culture
Of course, meeting other pilgrims along the way is also a key part of these routes – this is the benefit of sticking to the historical trails. Other like-minded folks will undoubtedly be crossing the same paths that are experiencing the same challenges.
Because these are historical routes, the towns they cross are culturally significant too. Almost any route you choose will have a plethora of cathedrals, architecture, and authentic cuisine. Rustic villages and forests are plentiful in northern Spain too.
What Time of Year is Best?
Southern France and northern Spain are both fairly mild climates all year round, with average summer temperatures of 25 degrees celsius (80F) and average winter temperatures of 12 degrees celsius (54 F). For this reason, no time of year is too challenging to make these walks, although between June and September is recommended if you want as little rain as possible.
It’s not a surprise that I often think back to my recent trip to Jamaica.
Whether it’s the flashes of white sand and perfect water, the local food, the wanders through downtown Montego Bay, the day trips into the jungle-covered interior and, of course, the infectious vibe of the people, the trip was beyond memorable.
I had been to Jamaica many times when I worked on board cruise ships as a Tour Manager, way back in the early 2000s. But this time was different. Instead of visiting for a mere few hours at a time, on this occasion, it was a full 10 days on the island. Naturally, this gifted me the opportunity to do more, meet more people, eat more food and simply visit far more places.
A vacation to Jamaica should be high up, very high up, on any traveler’s list, especially if that traveler is fond of tropical destinations, a combination of relaxation and culturally-focused excursions, endless natural wonders and, to be honest, feeling happy from the moment you arrive. From that first smile and all the positive energy you’ll soak up from your first few conversations, by the time you reach your accommodation you will already know that you’ve made the right choice for your trip.
And the good news is that traveling to Jamaica right now is quite easy, with a simple set of Covid guidelines to follow:
As for my personal recommendations of places to visit:
- Beaches (Negril Seven Mile Beach is gorgeous!)
- Dunn’s River Falls
- Bob Marley Museum
- Wandering around downtown Montego Bay
- Appleton Rum Tour
- Food tasting (find out where the locals eat and try jerk chicken, codfish and meat patties)
- Hire a driver for a day trip through the interior (stop in villages along the way and meet great people!)
Jamaica is also a short flight from much of the US, making it an even more ideal destination for that well-deserved island vacation.
I’ll be back again myself, for sure. And it will absolutely be for another 10 day stay (at least!) as I still have plenty more of this welcoming, laid-back island to explore!