Travel Review: Going Local in Rome

This post will be review of site called LocalGuddy and story of my tour with their local guide.

This Wednesday Thursday I am going to do something a little different. If you follow me in Twitter, you may already know that I spent my last day in Rome going to ready paid tour by LocalGuddy website. This is going to be my story and review of that tour, LocalGuddy and everything that led to it. I would like to start by saying that LocalGuddy paid the tour for me but they asked my honest review so everything I say here is totally from my own will and experiences.

So, how this all started?

After my blog’s reader count has started rising I have gotten a lot of companies contacting me about sponsored posts. Some have offered me a small sum of money while other want to send me free stuff. My answer is no to almost every email like that. Why? Well, I only want to share things I WANT in MY BLOG. This is why I only accepted this offer because after getting message from LocalGuddy I checked out their website and totally fell in love.

Meeting locals while traveling is one of the best sides of traveling if you ask from me. So, what would be better way to meet locals than go on tour guided by them? I decided to answer yes to LocalGuddy’s offer when they promised to give me free tour if I write honest review of their site.

Different side of Rome

Hunting for the right tour guide

After sending back and forth a few messages with LocalGuddy it was time for me to find a tour guide. Their site is easy to use and I only had to write the name of destination and all locals offering their services appeared in for me to look through. I wanted to go for tour made by local rather than pick out one of the food options LocalGuddy also has (local taking you to the best restaurants/bars or making local food for you). Because my Rome-Venice trip was close I checked tours for those two cities.

I send message to one local in Rome and one in Venice. Guide from Venice wasn’t available but guide from Rome was excited to show me the not so popular side of Italy’s capital. We sent about five messages after I first contacted her so arranging the tour wasn’t big bother (this is important for me because I am lazy traveler…) I told time that was okay for me and she agreed. Next time she contacted me was a few days before the tour reminding me to have full water bottle for the tour. So, everything went smoothly and seemed maybe even too easy.

What my tour included? Walk around contemporary art and Testaccio district
How long was the tour? About three hours. (But we decided to be only for two hours because it was too hot to do anything for me…)
How much did it cost? If I had paid for the tour, it would have cost $25 per person.

Street art Rome

Thoughts before the tour

I am often skeptic of everything but I still go for everything with caring too much of these feelings. This tour wasn’t exception. Someone online contacted me and offered free tour. I know it’s because I am now “travel blogger” and LocalGuddy seemed trustworthy site but things like this still make me feel weird. So, like any proper traveler I was a little suspicious but didn’t let it bother me. Fortunately, I had amazing experience but let me say that I was super nervous for days before the tour.

Why was I nervous expect the too good to be true deal? Basically my English sucks. You might think that it is okay if you just read my blog but believe me, I can’t pronounce anything. Walking around with someone while speaking English seemed like my nightmare at the time but fortunately my tour guide was understanding and I always get slightly better at speaking after the panic fades. 

Rome Pyramid

Meeting my AMAZING local guide

We had arranged meeting point in front of metro station. My guide said that she would be standing on the stairs but when I came outside there was several people waiting for someone. Fortunately she spotted me quickly and asked if I was meeting her for the tour. It took only a few minutes from me to define her as good person and not some online murderer. After that I was able to enjoy the tour with my full heart.

We started from contemporary museum but unfortunately there wasn’t any exhibitions. That didn’t matter a much because the area itself (old slaughterhouse) was cool and had even a few street art pieces like the one you can see in me post’s cover photo. After the museum we continued our walk around the area while she told me about the place and Italian culture. We also talked about everything else and the atmosphere was really friendly.

After that we continued walking along the river while she kept telling me about the local life and a little bit about herself. I also saw Roma’s pyramid and I have no idea why it is not one of the main sights. I mean, it’s real pyramid! I didn’t even see it in any guidebooks. One of the highlights of the tour was going around this road full of colorful bars (that were of course closet during day).

It was her first tour so at first it was a little awkward and some thing didn’t go as planned (we tried to find one mural for long time but in the end never found it). I think this will be the case with quite many guides from LocalGuddy because the site is quite new and there is many first time guides. Necessarily not bad thing because that just means they will have different view to the things than someone who has taken people around the attractions for years.

Here is link to her tour if you want to check it out or if you are planning trip to Rome. I recommend trying out her tour (and other tours in LocalGuddy) but if you are not friend of seeing the local side of destination you are visiting, don’t bother. Tours like this only fit for those who are ready to get to know more of the culture and local lifestyle.

Side street of Rome

Thoughts after the tour

Would I recommend using LocalGuddy? Yes, definitely. Before this tour I had been going to the most popular touristy places in Rome and the city seemed kind of boring from my point of view. After I saw a little different side of this popular holiday destination my image of Rome changed. Before I didn’t think I would return there anytime soon. But after the tour going back to Rome didn’t seem like that bad idea anymore. Locals will show you places you would never find by yourself.

I tried to use the site again now during my east Europe trip but realized that they don’t have any tours in the destinations I am visiting. So, if you aren’t visiting popular tourist destination, finding a guide may be a little harder.

Because locals always know the best places to visit and especially if you are like me the selection of street art and abandoned building tours will win you over quickly. First it may sound expensive because the prices of the tours range from 25 to 40 euros. But when compared to “professional” tours there is many positive points to remember.

  • The group size will be just you and your friends.
  • You can ask anything from the guide and they will try to change the tour to fit more of your wants and needs.
  • Local guide probably knows a lot of things normal tour guide wouldn’t tell and show you.

streetart_rome

So to sum this review up I would recommend checking out LocalGuddy.com but use your own common sense when contacting the locals and going for the tour. This doesn’t mean you have to be scared of the guides who don’t yet have reviews (mine didn’t have and she was lovely person) but remember to act like you normally would when meeting someone from online for the first time. Firstly pick out public and busy place to meet and secondly tell someone where you are going. I would give this same tip for those people who want to work as guide through this website.

Finally, I want to thank LocalGuddy for giving me this opportunity and thanks for everyone who read this far. Have you used this website? Or do you have any amazing experiences with locals or guides you want to share? Like always all comments are more than welcome. 🙂

Don’t forget to follow my InstagramFacebook and Twitter!
And check out LocalGuddy for amazing tours by locals.
With love,

Lost Viivi

Travel Diary: Bremen

My Bremen-London-Brighton trip is already over but I enjoyed every moment on the road. I am again a little late but today I want to share with you my days in Bremen. Are you ready for another probably boring travel adventure? I hope you enjoy!

Day 1: Wait, Bremen is COOL?!

After reading things from internet and seeing some photos of Bremen I truly thought it would be just city I was passing by quickly to get somewhere else. The photos I saw looked so dull and gray. Why didn’t I find any photos of colorful street art, charming tiny alleys or beautiful parks when researching? Apparently many people travel to Bremen because it is cheap but this city doesn’t get as much recognition as it should.

I really want to return there because I liked the feeling of being traveler in Bremen but two full days were quite enough to see the major attractions. If anyone is now planning Bremen trip, I recommend staying for a weekend. It seems like perfect European weekend gateway destination. However, for longer time it may be a little boring if you don’t decide to do day trips to cities close by like Hamburg.

Travel Blog: Bremen

But now back to my first day! This trip started totally differently than my travels usually do. No early wake up or long way to the airport. I had evening flight from Tampere to Bremen. My flight only costed 30€ and it is one of the reasons I decided to go in the first place. I am all for the cheap trips and budget traveling.

My dad drove me to the airport and I may have been a little surprised of the size of Tampere’s airport. I knew it was small but never thought THAT SMALL. Surprisingly I have lived my whole life near Tampere but have never visited our own airport! In addition to being amazed by the small size of the airport I soon noticed that I had to share my flight with too exited group of teens on field trip. Fortunately, they didn’t sit next to me on the plane even if Ryanair gives the seats to you randomly.

Travel Blog Flying

Instead I got very talkative man next to me. One of the first things he told me was that he got parachute in his bag right above us so if we crashed he was ready to save me. I didn’t know should I feel comfortable or even more scared. And he never made clear if it was normal thing for him to fly with parachute or if he was going to use it in the destination. You never know about people you meet during traveling.

After my short flight I arrived to Bremen’s airport and literally walked trough the customs without any slow downs. The place seemed dead. There was only people from our flight, a few staff members and no one else. Then outside of the airport I was totally in trouble. Everyone, remember to research how to get from airport to your accommodation before you are in foreigner country without internet! 

Travel Blog: Bremen

Fortunately, I wasn’t alone. Next to me was this Asian girl who later told me that she studied in Finland and she was here to meet her boyfriend. We tried to find the tram together and then she even taught me how to buy right tram tickets (not as easy as it sounds like). She seemed nice but I lost her after getting on the tram.

My problems continued in the tram but once again I had nice people who were able to help me. I don’t know why but in Bremen’s tram your ticket won’t fit in the ticket machine where you should mark it. Who the heck has designed thing like that? Friendly group of local boys fortunately shoved me the logical solution: fold your ticket. I would have never figured out that by myself!

Like I said before, I wasn’t expecting a much from Bremen. Maybe that’s why it was love in the first sight. I stepped out of the tram in city centre. Old buildings all around me, students laughing and running over the tram tracks, trams passing by in lines. The last straw for me to be amazed was weather. You know that moment before storm when everything looks so fresh and vibrant. Sun is still shining but you can see dark clouds in the horizon.

Travel Blog: Bremen

I started walking to the direction I believed was right one (probably the first and last time in my life when I was right!) I had to walk past old buildings and old bridge. Then between two sides of the amazing park going through whole Bremen. And lastly to the area full of graffiti and artsy cafes. Later on I will tell you that this artsy area I totally fell in love with wasn’t as nice as I believed but first let’s talk about my hostel.

My hostel was nice and cozy. I got my key and basic information easily before going towards my new room for the next three nights. I scored lower bed but had to take bed that was in place where you will literally see everyone when they come to or leave the room. As shy person that’s good and bad thing. Why? Well, it is the easiest way to make friends in hostel. Just greet them with smile. However, after a while it will get tiring to not have your own hiding place.

Travel Blog: Bremen

It took a few hours and one trip to close-by convenience store (I may have bought too big bag of candies that took over my backpack and that I still have somewhere even if I gave them as souvenirs for my family and friends…) before I began meeting people in the hostel. There was a lot of people who had been on same plane as me. Finns talking everywhere. Surprisingly, I didn’t make friends with any of them but rather talked a little with some German guests. Pro tip for any traveler meeting Finns. We usually want to talk but we are just super quiet and don’t want to disturb anyone so you have to talk for us first.

Day 2: My Inner Science Nerd

I woke up late. Like breakfast was already over late but that’s wasn’t really problem for me because that food was expensive. However it was problem for a older hostel guest who was staying in same dorm room with me. He kept telling me that I should go to eat because breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I have no idea how the old hostel guests always want to take care of me. I feel like there is always someone who gets worried for my bad eating habits or wild adventures.

pink_cafe_bremenAfter my late start for the day I walked towards the closest metro stop. On my way I bought some food and ate it on the go. My tram trip was towards Universum Bremen museum. I love science museums but usually skip them while traveling because of the high prices. Visiting Universum was one of the best decisions I did in Bremen. That place was amazing! I can totally recommend.

16 euros (11 euros if you are student) sounds high but with that price you could stay the whole day in this interactive museum. Definitely better place if you have friends with you because then you can truly embarrass yourself while trying all the thing. For solo travelers this is quicker stop but still fun way to spent your one extra day in Bremen.

Bremen museums Universum

Only bad side was that it’s not the easiest place to find. I may have jumped of the tram like two kilometers too early. There is so many stops that have similar names. And then I couldn’t of course wait for the next tram because it would have been embarrassing! So, I did what any awkward traveler who is too scared to take public transportation would have done. I walked.

When you come to the Universum building, you will recognize it from the whale like shape. However the main door isn’t in that building but on another one across the street. This museum has three parts. The first building with changing exhibitions and lobby. Whale looking building with the interactive exhibitions. And lastly outside area with adventure park. All of them are worth of checking out but I would use most of you time in the interactive area.

Universum museum BremenHere is small list of my favorite things in Universum:

  • Playing with small artificial tornado. It was like normal tornado but a lot smaller and you were allowed to touch it.
  • Dark labyrinth. There was room where you couldn’t see anything and then you had to walk towards trough all these strange rooms. There was sounds, weird materials, soft floor, different objects, smell and all kind of things expect sense of seeing.
  • Intelligent computers. I totally fell for the computer area. There was all kind of tests for you and computers who knew things. Well, at least they tried to know things. This one computer was meant to tell your age, gender and current emotion if you stood in front of its camera. Wanna guess what it told about me? Apparently I am middle-aged angry man… Yeah, so correct…
  • Aquariums and turtles! As person who used to study animals you can totally charm me with just showing me some animals. Aquariums and turtles have always interested me. I could spend hours just looking at them.

This list was just short example of things you can find from Universum. The interactive area has four floors so there is a lot of things to try.

Universum_park

Maybe the funniest thing during my visit here was that I had expected children and maybe teens but the museum was full of old ladies, a few romantic couples and me. So, I can recommend this for people of any age. Everyone I saw was having a lot of fun.

After taking another tram trip back to the city center I meant to go back to my hostel and rest for a while. Didn’t go as planned. When I exited the tram the old narrow streets just attracted me too much. I had to go and adventure a little more.

I can’t really say anything about the old city expect that it is worth of visit. Aesthetically appealing would be the right term. Especially when it’s sunny. So, I spent a few hours just walking around and visiting small shops. Then I ended up to newer part of the center and shopping small. That took even more of my time!

Travel Blog: Bremen

Bremen has a lot of shops selling cards with cool texts. I of course had to buy one travel themed card but later on was disappointed… Why? My mom told me that they sell exactly same card in her shop… She takes all the joy out of my travel shopping. Every time I find something cool I realize that I could get the same thing from my mom’s shop.

After walking all day my feet were literally dead. Wearing high-heel sneakers wasn’t probably the best possible choice. But hey at least those shoes look super nice? I returned to my hostel and felt wanted just to sleep. Instead of sleeping I went on my computer because as basic member of my age group day without computer would be impossible. Also I had some writing jobs to do and after traveling too much this year every penny counts.

I am happy that I decided to surf around the internet for a while because one of my roommates happened to leave the room with his computer in his hands. Surprisingly we had exactly same computers and having something identical with your hostel roommate means that you are automatically new best friends. We talked a little but then he had to work and I had to work and we decided to talk more later on.

Travel Blog: Bremen

I knew that I should rest for a while but my feet took me out of the hostel. I ended up visiting the close-by art museum. I have always loved art so I have nothing to complain about. Except well I may have accidentally interrupted some kind of art therapy yoga class. The last room of this museum had big windows and it was huge open space. There was art on the walls and a few sculptures on the floor but about five people in the middle of the room made me freeze.

One of the five was walking around and speaking while the rest of them had their eyes closed and stood in odd positions. For a moment I didn’t know if I should exit or just keep going. You never know in these modern art galleries if people are doing something important or if they are performing art as part of the exhibition. I think that one person who was walking around saw the horror in my eyes because he smiled and motioned me to continue my way around the museum.

Travel Blog: Bremen

Do I even have to say that I left that last room too quickly? I don’t even care that I paid to see the exhibition. That situation was too awkward for me to worry about lost money.

After the frightening museum experience I decided to walk a little bit around the are full of pretty graffiti before returning to my hostel for the second time on that evening. This time I stayed, spend some time in the common room and then went to bed too late.

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Have you ever visited Bremen? Or have you had anyone interesting sitting next to you in plane? All comments are welcome like always! And sorry for my blogging silence. I have had total lost of inspiration but I think I am slowly getting over it. Thanks for all the old and new people who are reading my blog. I will come back soon with another as boring and long travel article.

Have an amazing day!
With love,

Viivi Severina

“Beautiful” word from stranger

I have met kind people around the world. I have got new friends I will never meet again and memories staying with me forever. I wanted to share this story about the woman who impacted me greatly. I’m thankful to her and will be probably until the end of my life.

“Beautiful” How can one word change person?

It was my first week volunteering in Kyoto. I lived in small hostel free for working three hours day and it had taken only a couple of days for me to feel like in home. At daytime I explored the city and the nights I spend writing in the hostel’s common room. In one of those nights I met her.

She was older lady and I never really get to know what she did in the hostel. The language barrier between us was huge. I didn’t know Japanese and she didn’t speak English. However she kept talking to me and I tried to understand.

Soon I get to know that she knew one word in English. Beautiful. She told me just that. You beautiful. No one has ever called me beautiful. I have never felt particularly pretty. When I went to school people used to call me ugly and it has always stayed with me.

Beautiful. That one word and her kind eyes changed me. Nowadays when I feel ugly or worthless I recall that moment and feel better. That one moment and stranger impacted me for the rest of my life.

I didn’t see her the night after and come to the conclusion she had stayed only one night. I hoped I would have talked more with her. But like a magic and destiny I get to meet her once again. After two months and my last week in Japan we met like old friends.

I spend the night in common room like always and she came in. She put her things next to met and while she cooked we tried to talk like the last time. This time too she kept calling me beautiful and I even got to thank her. She was like angel with her bright smile.

Then she put plate in front of me and surprised me once again. She had cooked a miso soup for me. Even if I tried to say she shouldn’t or would she take some of my food as returning favor she didn’t take any of it. It was the perfect last week for my Japan trip.

I know I am probably not going to meet that woman again. I wil remember her. The kindness and the one word he was able to say in English. Beautiful. You just can’t forgot person like her.

 

.    .    .

I didn’t have time to write anything long today (trying to back for my Sweden trip) so I came up with this memory. I have been thinking about writing “story times” or my memories once in while but I don’t know would those be interesting.

Have you met kind strangers? I think this world is full of kind people and I hope I will meet more of them while traveling. Maybe in the future I will write about all the people I have met on my travels.

With love and wanderlust,

Viivi Severina