Stopovers – the cost-effective city breaks

I love to travel. You all know that. But then, there are those destinations that I wouldn’t necessarily consider as vital items on my bucket list; consequently, I wouldn’t pay much to get there [because I would rather invest the money in a flight somewhere I would really-really like]. Out of these big cities, there are some that get under your skin, although you wouldn’t have expected it to be that way. And then, there are those places that you were in love with, in the first place, and that you’d like to re-experience, feed on your memories, and help create new ones. I’ll just let you figure out the category in which each of these cities falls. :-) /it can be difficult to travel this way post-2020, but it's worth a shot; my note, 17.02.2022/

A) Milan
When and why?
September 2008, en route to Lisbon (and back)
March 2009, en route to Edinburgh (and back)
March 2011, en route to Belo Horizonte (via Lisbon, and back)
Enough time to…
Eat your heart out [if you’re an Italian food addict, like me], walk around Piazza del Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II several times, see Colonne di San Lorenzo and Scala di Milano, topped with an unforgettable visit to your [he he] favourite football team’s [AC Milan] home stadium, San Siro.   
As it clearly seems, Milan – apart from being one of the cities that I love with all my heart [and it’s always going to be like that!] – is my life’s most common stopover [so far]. In total, 5 nights in the city, 1 night at Milan Malpensa [I know that airport by heart...] and several more hours in-between.
Duomo di Milano; Milan, Italy
B) Madrid
When and why?
December 2008, en route to Marrakech (and back)
Enough time to…
Get drunk on sangria, eat yourself silly, and hang out with the old ladies of the neighbourhood in one of the tapas bars in Barajas.
We were so tired on the 2 nights spent near Barajas Airport that we didn’t manage to explore Madrid properly. So, we’ll have to reschedule the visit. Another stopover probably. Whereto? Aaah, that’s the question!Landing in Madrid, Spain
C) Lisbon
When and why?
March 2011, en route to Belo Horizonte (and back)
Enough time to…
Head back to Belém and to that unmistakable taste of the Pastéis – some with delicious cinnamon, some without, and some to go. A glass of orange juice beside our plates, that’s understood. Then, a longer walk along Tejo River, taking in the sights of Torre de Belém and Padrão dos Descobrimentos and heading afterwards to Praça do Comércio and the winding alleys leading to Alfama.  
When it comes to one of the cities that I adore [and there are not many on that list!], not even the risk of not catching the flight to Brazil could stand in the way. Or the 6 morning hours following a freezing night spent in Lisboa Airport [long layover, you presumed well].
The yellow trams of Lisbon, Portugal
D) Berlin
When and why?
July 2012, en route to Reykjavik (and back)
Enough time to…
Enjoy a grapefruit-flavoured beer + some apple strudel and vanilla ice cream and a pre-booked [and free] visit of the Dome of the Reichstag Building.
There were quite a few telling me that I was a fool trying to spend those few hours outside of the airport, jeopardising my flight to Iceland. Well, I’ve told you it seemed doable in the first place, haven’t I?
Reichstag Building; Berlin, Germany

E) Rome
When and why?
October 2012, en route to Tbilisi (and back)
Enough time to…
Sample a delicious unorthodox breakfast including cappuccino, pizza with mozzarella and rucola, and finally gelato, and visit Foro Romano [missed out during the first time in Rome].
5 hours and a totally different experience in Rome. Bitter taste replaced by a sweet-savoury one.Foro Romano; Rome, Italy
F) Budapest
When and why?
September 2013, en route to Edinburgh (and back)
Enough time to…
Get to the Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya), spend a wonderful evening with your cousins and aunty, meet up with your kayak instructor for a jazzy evening, try to escape from a basement (TRAP /it no longer exists; my note, 17.02.2022/), sample lovely vegetarian dishes and sweets, walk the wide streets up and down, and even get to Leányfalu and the adjacent thermal baths, courtesy of your cousin. 
3 nights in one of my favourite cities – and I was still left craving for more.
Fisherman's Bastion; Budapest, Hungary

G) Istanbul
When and why?
April 2014, en route to Tehran (and back)
Enough time to…
Have breakfast and at least 2 (!!) cakes in the exquisite Saray Muhallebicisi, visit your favourite hamam [a.k.a. Çemberlitaş Hamamı], see the Blue Mosque once again, then cross Galata Bridge after paying a visit to the Egyptian Bazaar and end by walking the hectic streets of Beyoğlu and caressing a few cats.
Probably 6 hours altogether to revisit one of the most special cities in my heart.
Istanbul, Turkey 
H) Copenhagen
When and why?
September 2014, en route to Aberdeen
Enough time to…
See Nyhavn, head to Christiania [where you are not allowed to take pictures or run; p.s. weed is in the air], have some very nice rhubarb muffins at Lagkagehuset, and finally understand that things may not always go as planned when you are asked to leave the cars of the subway heading to the airport, twice [you understand that as, we, Romanians, claim – Se întâmplă şi pe la case mai mari].
Only 5 hours, but such a nice surprise! And the first time I’ve ever felt welcome in Scandinavia; returning here = a must.
Copenhagen, Denmark

I) Belfast
When and why?
September 2014, flight from Aberdeen
Enough time to…
See the City Hall, the panorama offered by Victoria Square Shopping Centre, and SS Nomadic, walk to the Titanic’s Dock and Pump-House and sample a cider with your very dear friends = the perfect hosts and guides.
4hrs30’ filled with the laughter and joy of your friends. Priceless.Titanic Museum; Belfast, Northern Ireland
J) Dublin
When and why?
September 2014, bus from Belfast
This would have been an excellent idea [as I planned the trip from Romania to Scotland and back]. However, I left 1 minor detail out: issues with luggage. The thing is you can’t really stroll at ease when you’ve got only 2 wheels left on your trolley... following several flights. Hence, an extended (and direct) visit to the airport follows.

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