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Travel

Regrets from my travels. 

September 24, 2017

This is a bit of a weird post for me to write because I’m a big believer in not having regrets and that everything happens for a reason. However, I honestly believe I was quite naive to the tourist industry and I ended up taking part in, and therefore funding, activities that I now know are wrong on so many levels.

Should I have done more research before going to these places? Yes.

Would I go again? No.

It was wrong of me to do these things but unfortunately I don’t live in the world of Harry Potter and time-turners aren’t a real thing. (Obviously they were all destroyed when Harry and his pals were at the Ministry anyway…). There’s no point in wallowing in self pity so the only thing I can do is help spread the message that it’s not cool to take part in these activities no matter how good the picture will look on your Instagram grid.

So what activities am I talking about?

Specifically I’m on about my time in Thailand. I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of people next to tigers and riding elephants. I can still see the attraction. These are amazing animals that we wouldn’t normally get to be so close to. And that’s kind of the point. It’s not normal for an elephant to carry us around. It’s not normal for us to sit next to a fully grown tiger. It’s not normal for animals who are natural predators to be in the such close proximity to us.

It seems obvious now but at the time I was surrounded by other travellers who were all going to visit the tigers and ride an elephant. It was just the thing to do when you were in Thailand. It seemed normal for us to lay down next to a tiger. Normal. That now seems crazy.

I remember reading all the signs at the tiger place about how the tigers weren’t drugged and were trained to be around humans. I thought at the time that it seemed too good to be true and it’s only since I’ve been home and read more about it that I’ve discovered the dark side to Thailand’s tourism industry. The treatment of elephants is particularly horrific, even in places calling themselves an ‘Elephant Sanctuary’. It’s hard to know if any place is truly helping to rescue the animals from the tourist hot spots because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. I think it’s best not to fund any place that lets tourists near the animals for this reason.

If you’re heading to Thailand soon or any other country that exploits the welfare of animals for the tourism industry, then do your research before parting with your money. Is it really worth a few likes on a picture?

Belgium, Europe, Travel

24 (ish) Hours in Bruges

August 9, 2017

Before we went to Amsterdam the other week, we stayed in Bruges for 1 night so had a bit of time to explore the city and some of the surrounding area. This was very much a stopover on our way to our main destination so there is plenty more to see and see in Bruges but it was a good little introduction to this beautiful place.

This wasn’t my first trip to Belgium but I was quite young the first time and my overriding memory of my visit is getting horrifically seasick on the ferry over. So not the best memory to associate with Belgium. We did the ferry this time as well but I was armed with travel sickness tablets and felt absolutely fine. Phew! The weatherman had promised us a bit of sunshine so we decided to drive to a beach in Belgium on the way to Bruges.


The beach was in Niewpoort and we were all pleasantly surprised. With no idea what to expect, Niewport beach turned out to be a really pretty beach surrounded by sand dunes. Being able to feel the sand between my toes always makes me happy and this time was no different. One day I’d love to live close enough to the beach to be able to do this more often. Anyway, we found a sheltered area between the dunes and spread our towels out so we could have a sit down and look out to sea. Our friends who we were travelling with, Nath and Tash, are getting married later this month so there was plenty of wedding talk whilst we relaxed. The sun soon made its promised appearance and we decided to walk down to the shore. Nath decided to have a proper dip in the sea but the rest of us settled for rolling up our jeans and going in about ankle deep. The sea air soon made us thirsty and we walked a bit further along the beach and came across this cute little bar behind some sand dunes. We bagsied the swinging bed and made ourselves comfy with a pint. Stu and Tash went for a local 8% beer which actually turned out to be the weakest beer we’d try in Belgium. We love Belgium.


After our pint and swing session we got back in the car and drove to our accommodation in Bruges. We were staying within the city walls in the old town so were surrounded by picturesque bridges and buildings.


So, what is there to do in Bruges? I had done zero research but Tash was super organised and had lots of ideas of what we could see and do. When I think of Belgium I think of beer and chocolate but Bruges has a lot more to offer. We decided to head out and aim for some of the main sights and then just see how the day goes.


Our first stop was The Basilica of the Holy Blood which is a chapel which is home to a phial which apparently contains some of Jesus’ blood. Unfortunately it wasn’t on display when we were there but we’ve seen where it is kept which is practically the same thing right? The chapel itself was really impressive with huge stained glass windows and intricate displays. I love visiting religious buildings as you usually have to be silent and it’s nice to be able to take in your surroundings peacefully.


From the chapel we walked to the historic centre of Bruges which is surrounded by impressive buildings in the traditional architecture.  A lot of these buildings including the bell tower are in the film, In Bruges, which I haven’t seen but feel like I should now. We had a little mooch around a chocolate shop near here but didn’t buy anything. We must be one of the only people to visit Belgium and not try and chocolate. Next time!


However, what we lacked in chocolate, we definitely made up for in beer. The 8% beer on the beach was followed up by an 11% one called Garre Tripel served in a tiny pub called De Garre which is nestled down a tiny alley way off the main square. This beer is only available here and is well worth the visit. It may be strong but as a non-beer drinker, I can promise you that it’s nice. It came served with some cubes of local cheese and we ordered some chopped cured sausage as well. Perfection!


We wandered around the canals for the rest of the afternoon/evening, popping in to local pubs and sampling more Belgium beer. I never drink beer and surprised myself how much I enjoyed it. I quickly learnt that a strong blonde beer would be fine for me so I’ll have to keep an eye out for these in future. In one of these pubs we stopped for some food. The waitress recommended some simple Italian dishes which turned out to be huge portions covered in cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking of them again. Before long, we headed back to our accommodation feeling very content with our time in Bruges.

I think I now need to go and watch ‘In Bruges’ and get planning a longer trip to this great city.

Have you been to Bruges? What else would you recommend to see or do?

Travel

Travelling – Being The One Left Behind

March 20, 2017

Travelling is amazing but have you ever thought about how the people you left behind are feeling?

I’ve left home twice for long term travel and although I miss my family and friends back home, it’s hard to truly empathise with them when you’re living in your backpacker bubble. Last month, for the first time, I was the one left at home. I drove my Mum and Stepdad to Heathrow and watched them disappear in to the Departures Lounge. And it was hard. Much harder than I expected.

I wasn’t sure if I would cry but when I hugged my Mum goodbye, the tears were flowing so fast I could barely speak. Don’t get me wrong. I was excited for them to have this experience but I love having my family close to me. I know the world is a small place now but at that moment in the airport, I felt lost.

It’s a mixture of emotions. Jealousy, sadness, happiness. I would give anything to go on a long trip again. I almost think it’s harder when you know what they’re going to experience. I have so many happy memories of my trips and it’s incredible that my Mum and Stepdad are going to create these memories for themselves.

I’ve always suffered from fear of missing out. When I was away I felt sad that I was missing huge milestones in my friends’ lives. Now I’m home, I’m jealous of people who are still living that backpacker life. I want the best of both worlds. Is there such a thing?

Relationships change with distance. Life moves on.

Maybe I’m scared of how this relationship will change. I know things were different with my friends when I came home. Different isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it can be weird.

A month after that emotional goodbye in the airport and my life has continued as normal. I’m incredibly envious of the photos of their trip and being facetimed from New Zealand was amazing. I’ve had a couple of moments when I’ve forgotten that my Mum isn’t just a few miles away and then had that sinking feeling that I can’t just pop round and see her. Hopefully Stu and I will be able to see them at some point on their trip but we have nothing booked yet.

I know understand how my family felt when I was away and it’s hard to miss someone yet be filled with happiness that they’re seeing the world. Why can’t we all just travel constantly and meet up in exotic locations?

This has become a bit of a waffle but I hope I’ve managed to articulate my feelings. If you’d like to read about my Mum and Stepdad’s adventures then have a read of their travel blog here.

Europe, Travel, UK

Exploring Brighton

March 6, 2017

Last weekend, Stu and I booked a half day at work on the Friday and then drove down to Brighton for the weekend to spend some time with friends we met in Australia. Time as always has flown by and it’s been a year since they came and stayed with us in Bristol. I have no idea why it’s always so hard to meet up with people. Why is everyone (including me) so busy?!


Brighton is one of the places in the UK that I’ve always wanted to visit but never had an excuse to go before. Growing up, Brighton was very most associated with being the gay capital of the UK but I think people now appreciate what a cool city it is rather than only thinking about the people that live there. That’s definitely been helped by the huge blogger and youtuber presence in the city.

We booked in to an Airbnb for the weekend which we mainly picked because it had a parking space and we’d been warned that parking can be a nightmare in Brighton. It was a cute little bungalow which was perfect for us to use as a base whilst exploring the city. We were probably a 10 minute drive from the centre but on a bus route and Brighton now has Uber so it was really handy for us.


Brighton definitely has two sides to it. You’ve got the typical British seaside resort with the Pier and your fish and chip shops and then you’ve got all the quirky bars and restaurants and the vintage shops which line the Laines. I loved exploring the Laines. It’s got a similar sort of atmosphere to Camden and it’s packed full of people who look far too cool for me. I’d love to wear all vintage clothes but I get sucked in by the high street and end up wearing your standard fashions rather than anything unusual.



Brighton Pier is like any other Pier you’ve visited, it’s a complete contrast from the Laines but it’s good fun if you take it for what it is. Expect penny slot machines, candy floss and plenty of fish and chips. Storm Doris was still kicking around when we walked along the Pier so we look completely windswept in all the photos and didn’t stay for too long! I’m pretty sure another bar was beckoning us away from the wind.



We didn’t actually go ‘out out’ in Brighton but we did visit a few bars and took full advantage of any two for 1 cocktail deals we could find. If you stay away from the chain bars then most places have a very studenty feel which I always like. Bars like that usually have cheap drinks and good music which is a win win for me!

It was a flying visit to Brighton so I definitely want to visit again. Hopefully next time there will be less chance of being blown over by Doris and I can have an ice cream in the sunshine!

Travel

Where I Want To Visit In 2017

January 9, 2017

Last year I put a post together about where I wanted to visit in 2016 (Have a read here) so it’s only right that I do the same for 2017!

First of all, I need to point out that these lists are a bit ambitious when you’re working full time and have limited annual leave and money but I love looking at places for some wanderlust inspiration. Dublin was the only place that got ticked off last year’s list so here’s the revised ‘ Where I want to Visit’ list for 2017.

 A Greek Island… or two.

I am in desperate need of a beach holiday. I want a sun lounger, a good book and an even better cocktail so I can relax in the sunshine for 1 or 2 weeks. The Greek Islands are still very appealing and Thomas Cook do a good island hopping holiday that I’ve got my eye on. If you want to escape to a different  world on your lunch break then have a look at the properties in Santorini available on AirBnB – you can live like a celeb for such little money! Those infinity pools are calling my name…

Iceland

Iceland is still firmly on this list. Stu and I have spoken about maybe booking this for his birthday in December. We’d like to go when there’s a lot of snow and hopefully catch a glimpse on the Northern lights as well. Iceland has become really popular in the last couple of years but that doesn’t really bother me. They can fight me for the best spot at the Blue Lagoon!

Eastern Europe

I love a good city break so hopefully I can squeeze one in at some point this year. I love exploring a city for the first time and it always feels like such a treat because you’re only away for a few days. I’m thinking maybe somewhere in Eastern Europe as that’s somewhere I haven’t been before. Do you have any recommendations? Prague, Tallinn and Krakow all appeal to me.

A Long Haul Adventure? 

And to top off the list I need to mention that my Mum and Step Dad are heading off on a round the world trip in February. They’re going to be away for at least a year visiting amazing places such as Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, South East Asia, South America, Central America and pretty much all the other exotic places you can think of! I’d love to visit them somewhere so need to start saving the pennies as pretty much every country is a long haul flight away. Hmm, 2018 trip?

Are you going anywhere exciting this year?

Europe, Ireland, Travel

A Surprise Trip to Dublin

November 2, 2016

Last month it was Stu’s Dads’s 60th birthday and what better way to celebrate than having your family surprise you with a trip to Dublin?! After months of planning we finally surprised Greg in the departure lounge of Bristol airport. It was such a relief to be able to talk about Dublin after months of stopping sentences half way through when you realised you were about to mention something you shouldn’t!


This was my first time to Dublin and my first time to Ireland. I’d heard good things about the city so was looking forward to the 5 days ahead. We had a lot planned for our visit so this post will summarise what we got up to and hopefully give you some ideas for your next trip to the Emerald Isle!


I have to start with the beautiful house we rented for our stay. I’d seen the pictures on Trip Advisor but I was still in shock at how immaculate the house was. I picked up lots of interior design ideas for our house that’s for sure! The house is situated in the Portobello area which is a 15 minute walk from the city centre.


So, what did we get up to? The majority of us hadn’t been to Dublin before so we wanted to do some of the more touristy things and get to know the city better. So obviously, the only way to learn about a city is to dress up as a viking and travel around on a bus which transforms in to a boat, right? The Viking Splash Tour was SO much fun! I loved roaring at unsuspecting members of the public and our bus driver was absolutely hilarious. I can’t recommend this tour enough!


No trip to Dublin would be complete without a trip to the world famous Guinness Storehouse. Dublin is the home of the black stuff and I had high expectations of the brewery tour after our trip to the Heineken Experience a few weeks before. As expected, Guinness didn’t disappoint. The storehouse is huge and you learn all about the brewing process, the history of the Guinness family and get to pose with the famous zoo animals used in traditional Guinness advertising. At the end of the tour, you get to enjoy a free pint at the Gravity bar which offers stunning views across Dublin. I seem to be becoming a bit of a beer drinker these days and once again happily got through my pint!


A bus tour and a trip to the Guinness Storehouse probably sound like a very traditional trip to Dublin so we decided to plan something a little bit different for our next attraction. And what’s more different than walking the roof of Croke Park Stadium? We were all absolutely freezing but it’s incredible to be walking above the pitch and to see all of the Dublin landmarks from a different perspective.


Our little break in Dublin was perfect, I’m incredibly lucky to have such a lovely family to create happy memories with.

Europe, The Netherlands, Travel

Amsterdam – A Photo Diary

October 17, 2016

Hello everyone! So this is my first post since I’ve transitioned from a ‘Travel Blog’ to a more ‘Lifestyle Blog’ and ironically it’s actually a post about my recent trip to Amsterdam. Haha bad timing from me!

This trip to Amsterdam was a birthday present from Stu (the boy did real good!) and he announced the trip in a fantastic way. On the morning of my birthday Stu put a load of balloons in our living room and some of them had a letter on and I was told that the letters spelt out my present. At first I couldn’t believe Stu was making me do an anagram on my birthday but then I got really into it. Stu was worried that the letters would spell out something else and funnily enough the first letters I found were, M…A…R… and then …M…E. The next letter I found was a ‘D’ to which I said to Stu, “There isn’t a ‘D’ in ‘Marry me’ is there?!” Soon after I had Amsterdam spelt out in front of me and Stu started playing Blind Man in Amsterdam by George Ezra. I burst into happy tears straight away! I was so overcome with emotion that Stu had arranged such an incredible present. I’m very lucky!

I thought I would share with you some of the pictures we took in Amsterdam. It’s a really pretty city and we loved that we didn’t know much about it before we went. When we went to Paris last year, we knew what landmarks we should see but Amsterdam was totally different so our break felt much more relaxed. I hope you enjoy the photos and I’ll write a post soon about what we got up to!

Australia, Travel

Visiting Sydney Olympic Park

August 23, 2016

I loved the Olympics! I found myself watching the most random sports and start talking about them as if I’m an expert (That triple spin in pike was cleeeeearly only a 12.25, how could the judges even justify giving a 15?!). Anyway, when Stu and I were in Sydney we decided to go check out the Olympic Park.

Getting to the stadium is actually quite cool. You can catch a ferry along the Parramatta River or get a train from the CBD. We got the ferry there and the train back to experience the best of both worlds! I’d recommend taking the ferry at least one way so you can take some great pictures of Sydney harbour and let’s face it, you can never have too many pictures of that!

The Sydney Olympics were probably the first Olympics that I remember watching. I watched Denise Lewis win Gold and then became obsessed with that game on the BBC website where you competed in the heptathlon.  All this meant that I was really excited to see an Olympic stadium. I haven’t been to the London Olympic Stadium and now West Ham play there so I doubt it would have the same effect to be honest!

The day Stu and I went, there was a big Easter family fun day going on so it was REALLY busy. However, because most of the families were local, they’d clearly seen all the tourist stuff before so Stu and I could get a good look at the Olympic torch and Olympic Cauldron.

Obviously the stadium would have been more impressive if there was a sporting event taking place as it was definitely missing the atmosphere which that would have provided but I was still pleased that we went. You only need to spend a couple of hours there maximum unless there is an event going on so take that in to consideration when planning your Sydney trip.

Have you been to any Olympic stadiums? What did you think?

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Travel Advice

Should You Do A Bungee Jump Or A Skydive?

August 20, 2016

Doing a bungee jump or a skydive are often right at the top of a backpacker’s bucket list. But more often than not, you can be a bit strapped for cash as a backpacker and you need to make difficult decisions on what to spend your money on. Personally I’d recommend doing a bungee and a skydive and living off noodles to make it happen but if you really have to choose then I’ve created some pros and cons to each to help you come to a decision.

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Price

In most locations, a skydive is going to be more expensive than a bungee. In Australia for example, a bungee will cost approximately $$$ but a skydive will set you back $$$. If you just want to experience one and only care about price then the bungee jump is the one for you!

bungy jump cairns

Time

By time I mean the amount of time you’re actually doing the bungee jump or skydive for. With a skydive, you’ll usually be in freefall for about a minute and then have a few minutes of floating down to the ground with the parachute open. On the other hand, the bungee will all be over in a matter of seconds. You jump, you fall, you bounce up and down a couple of times and then you’re either lowered to the ground or hoisted back up to the platform. So if you’re looking to get more value out of your hard earned money then you should definitely go for a skydive.

cairns bungy

Souvenirs

Souvenirs aren’t for everyone but I personally love them! The bungee that I did in Australia had a t-shirt included in the price but you had to pay for any extras such as photos or videos. Now the photo of you jumping off the edge is pretty cool but I couldn’t see much value in buying a 60 second video. In all honesty, how often are you going to watch that?

Now the skydives I’ve done in Australia had no freebies and you had to pay for everything. Again, you have the option to buy both photos and a video. Do NOT buy the photos if you’re planning on getting the video because you can take screenshots of the video when you play it on a laptop. Ta Da! Free photos! Having a video of your entire skydive is pretty cool but again, consider how often you’re going to watch it! If you’re low on money then souvenirs are probably not going to be an option but if you really want one then go for the skydive video.

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Fear Factor

The big difference in fear comes down to the fact that when you do a skydive, you’re attached to a trained instructor but when you do a bungee, you have to do the actual jumping bit on your own. Don’t get me wrong, both experiences give you a huge adrenalin rush but when you jump off that platform to do a bungee jump, you’re going against everything your body wants to do. Mt advice is to look straight ahead and jump as soon as the countdown reaches 0. Don’t be that person that takes about 4 countdowns before they can actually jump.

With a skydive, your instructor is the one who jumps out of the plane leaving you to enjoy the whole experience. Freefalling through the air doesn’t even feel like falling, you feel like you’re flying. It’s incredible.

Overall Experience

This is obviously down to personal opinion and you might feel completely different to me but I enjoyed the skydive so much more than the bungee jump. When I landed after my skydive I was on such a high that I wanted to get back in the plane and do it all over again. The views from a skydive are phenomenal and my instructor let me take control of the parachute for a bit which was cool.

I enjoyed the bungee but I wasn’t as fussed about doing one again in a hurry. I think that’s because it’s over so quickly. A skydive might cost more but it’s definitely worth the extra money. And if you buy the video, you get that exhilarating feeling all over again when you watch it back!

Have you done a bungee jump or a skydive? Do you agree with me?

 

Travel Advice, Travel Book Series

Why You Should Keep A Diary When Travelling

August 10, 2016

Life is full of wonderful experiences and when you’re surrounded by such fantastic sights and sounds, it seems impossible that you will ever forget this moment. But as we experience more and more equally wonderful moments, it can be hard to remember the little details which made it so special in the first place. This is why it’s important to keep a diary, especially when  travelling.

Ever since I was little I’ve been one to keep a diary. I now have lots of diaries to look back on from school days, holidays and everything in between. I cringe reading some of them again and I’m amazed at what I used to worry about. What scares me though is how many people and places I’ve forgotten about. They were important enough for me to mention in my diary and now I can barely recall them!

When you travel the world, you meet so many other travellers that it’s impossible to remember them all. You might only spend 1 day with them or it might extend to a few months. You add them on Facebook and then move on. But these people who you have crazy adventures with deserve to be remembered. So write about them! Put a face to the name when you discover pictures from your travels in years to come. It will prompt you to try and get back in touch with these people who were an important part of your life at one point.

Write everything you can about that trip you just went on. Describe the smells and the sounds as these are the first things you forget. Explain how something made you feel. It’s amazing how reading a diary can bring back so many memories. You’ll read your diary and find yourself laughing out loud one minute and crying the next as all the details come flooding back to you.

Lots of travellers I meet say that they started out with good intentions and kept a diary for the first couple of weeks but then forgot about it. I’m not saying you have to write in your diary everyday, you don’t want it to feel like a chore, but make the effort to write names, quotes and random memories down as much as possible. Add tickets, leaflets, photographs etc to your diary to help prompt the memories as well. If you’re anything like me then you will be keeping all of these things in your suitcase anyway!

Don’t let something as important as travel become a distant memory. Your diary will be worth more to you in years to come than that random vest you bought in Thailand.

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