Travel Tips |Flying Solo!

I’ve had the title of this post in my drafts, along with an abundance of other travel posts, for about four months now and it’s time I got my act together! I am a nervous flyer and I have no idea where that actually came from! My mum was an air hostess and I always liked it when I was younger so your guess is as good as mine. Before this year, I’d only flown once on my own before and its safe to say it wasn’t fun. I was about 13/14 and I flew to visit my friend in Denmark and I’m sure I cried the entire flight there and quite a lot of the three day trip too! Oops. I did, however, get to experience the flight sat in the jump seat in the cockpit though which was one of the most amazing things i’ve ever done. So to be fair, getting that upset was worth it to some degree!

Over the last few years I’ve definitely become more anxious and I find that the idea of certain things such as flying alone is enough to make me feel ill. The big test came this year when my friend Emily and I arranged a trip to the States together during Easter. This all sounds fine right as we’d gone to New York together the previous Easter, but here’s the catch…she was already over there and I’d have to do the 11 hour flight entirely solo. There’s a bit of a spoiler if you’ve read my San Francisco, Seattle or Whistler diaries though as you know I did it! But here’s some tips that I found really helped me to get there:

  • If it’s making you ill, see the Dr! – I’m starting off with this as it really is important. The whole idea of it was making me feel physically ill so I paid my Dr a visit and got a very low dose of Diazepam. I took it the night before the flight and on the day and it definitely made me feel more relaxed. Not totally relaxed but it took the edge off!
  • Plan how you’re going to spend the flight – I pretty much had an itinerary! I knew what movies were available on the flight, which ones I was going to watch and when. I had three blog posts I wanted to draft and multiple audiobooks and kindle books to hand! Most airlines let you know the entertainment in advance so just google your airline and inflight entertainment and you should be able to find out easily!
  • Have a drink! – I never understood this one as I wasn’t a huge drinker but I had one Gin & Tonic (obviously) and it did just settle my nerves a bit. I’d probably have had another one but the Dr had said don’t drink with the Diazepam so I didn’t want to push it!
  • Make sure you’re comfortable. – I actually did an on the day upgrade to premium class as I was getting myself wound up in knots about the flight. For me this was the deal breaker. I had more space, better and unlimited service, I could recline and try to go to sleep and I was 50 times more comfortable in economy. I flew with Norwegian and to upgrade in advance was over £500 extra but on the day it was only £250. Worth EVERY penny in my mind. Had I not been able to, I’d taken an eye mask, the pillow from my bed at home, comfy socks and a face mask with me anyway to try and get more comfortable.
  • Talk to people – I was in the middle aisle and had a passenger either side of me. One liked to keep himself to himself but the other was very chatty and we spent a good few hours putting the world to rights and generally passing time. It both calmed me down and seemed to make the journey go faster so it was a win win! He also actually lived and worked in the San Francisco area so helped me out with a few places to go and things to see. It actually got me really excited to get there!
  • If you’re getting a connection, find other people doing the same one – On my return journey I had to connect in Toronto and we were running late. To put it mildly I was verging on a blind panic, but when I heard people discussing the flight to Gatwick nearby, I went and chatted to them and we ran to the next plane together. It was really nice not to be alone in that situation!
  • Get someone to take you to the airport – Both my Mum and Dad came to the airport with me and helped me check my baggage in, gather myself together and help me on my way. I’ve got to say though, walking through that barrier and carrying on on my own was the hardest part and it took everything not to run back to them. It was the thought of such a fantastic trip with my best friend that kept me going and how disappointed she’d be if I didn’t go. It’s not a feeling i’d like to relive though!
  • Get in the right headspace – This is the vital thing I think for me. Remind yourself what’s waiting at the other end, how short the trip will be in terms of the rest of your life and that so many people have had to do similar things. I guess to a certain degree it’s a little bit of mindfulness, living in the here and now not the what ifs. I’ve always tried to take journey’s in stages and tick them off in my head as I go and I find this really really helps! It goes a bit like: home>airport, inside the airport, the actual flight, inside the new airport, airport>destination. If any of these can be broken down any further I will do that too so I feel like I’m constantly making little achievements!
  • Just ask– The final thing is that if you’re unsure of anything, just ask. The air stewardesses are so helpful, as are people in the airport and for the most part other passengers too. This counts for speaking to your Dr too and anyone prior to leaving for the trip that may be able to help you out with more information!

Weirdly enough now, I actually prefer to fly solo! I find it therapeutic to have a bit of time to yourself and you’ve only got yourself to worry about. I’ve flown on 4 solo flights this year and knowing that I did the 11 hour flight really helps as I feel like I can do anything now if I set my mind to it! Stepping off at the other end is obviously still a relief but such an achievement in it’s own right too! I hope these helped and if you have any other tips yourself then please leave them in the comments!

Much Love

xoxo

 

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The Travel Diaries |Whistler April 2017

Whilst on my travels around Canada & The States, we headed up to a little village called Whistler so I could attempt to try learning to ski in one day. I’d never put skis on before so I had no idea what to do, but I’d always wanted to go to a ski resort to see what all the fuss was about. Whistler is a gorgeous place in British Columbia and is a favourite with skiers worldwide. Even the winter Olympics has been held there so I knew I couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to pay it a visit!

There’s actually a fantastic transfer service from Vancouver to Whistler, so we jumped on the bus at about 5am and trundled off through the mountains. I have to say that the scenery on the way there is simply breathtaking and had I been driving myself, it would have taken so much longer as i’d have been stopping for pictures all the way! Think mountains, waterfalls and roaming elk and you’re probably still not even close to how beautiful it was!

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Getting off the bus, optimistic about my skiing abilities. 

We got off the bus at the entrance to whistler village and headed off for a breakfast of nutella crepes and strawberries at a cafe called ‘Hot Buns’. Even though it wasn’t peak season, the village had a real buzz about it and I enjoyed just watching people lumber around in their huge ski boots! We decided to check into our hostel which was only a very short bus ride away after breakfast so we weren’t carting around loads of bags. As I mentioned in my hostel post, we had such a good hostel that was very synonymous to a log cabin and very very cosy! As ski passes were really expensive for me, we decided to go tubing on day one and skiing on day two. I have tubed before but I forgot how much fun it was! You’re only a small way up the mountain but by that, you are still above the cloud bank so it’s pretty high! We paid for an hours tubing and it was so much fun! You basically fling yourself down an icy hill in a rubber ring and its brilliant! Strangely, it’s really tiring trudging back up the hill with your rubber ring through shin deep snow!!

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Dragging my ring up to the top!

I’ve got to say we were absolutely soaked after tubing as you can’t wear any kind of boots to do it in! Clearly, trainers offer next to no protection from the snow and they were like little pools by the time we’d finished! Tired and hungry we headed to an Italian in the Village called Pasta Lupino for some much need carbs! This is such a lovely little Italian and was really reasonably priced! Its set at the back of the village and has a lovely family run feel to it!

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All the gear but no idea.

Day two saw me finally tackle the challenge of skiing and its safe to say I was pretty crap at it!! We started off on the nursery slopes to get me used to it but the snow was very slushy so Emily said I’d probably find it easier higher up. I’ll let you into a secret, I didn’t. The slopes were green runs obviously, but in my eyes they were so steep! I don’t think I could count the amount of times I fell over, cried, swore, had a strop or even told Emily to leave me there for the wolves to eat. By the times i’d done 5 hours skiing I was exhausted and in agony so I headed off with my tail between my legs to have a hot chocolate and told Emily to join me later. I would definitely like another go at skiing in the future as I do think I was pretty hard on myself as it was the only time i’d ever tried to ski before. I’m not easily defeated so I’m going to try at the local snowdome sometime soon!

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A common occurrence throughout the day.

After a bite to eat in Starbucks our short time in Whistler had come to an end and it was time to head back to Vancouver. I honestly loved the place and I would go again at some point in the future. For reference, a days ski pass and boots/ski hire was about $150 so it’s definitely not a cheap day, but worth it if you’re in the area!

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Emily has the patience of a saint.

Have you ever been to Whistler or any other ski resort?

Much Love

xoxo

Summer Essentials| Travelling in Style With Cabin Zero!

A few months ago I was sent a backpack from the team at CabinZero to put to the test over summer. The idea behind the bag is that it is the perfect size to use as hand luggage on an aeroplane whilst being so light (only a mere 760g!!) that you can make the most out of your 10kg allowance. As a frequent traveller and also someone who often travels with just hand luggage to avoid unnecessary cost, I was eager to see if this would work out well for me!

There are actually a variety of different capacity bags available but knowing I always over pack I picked the biggest, the 44L bag in the colour Blue Karma*.  When it arrived I actually was a little concerned that it was going to be a bit too big for me, however since travelling with it a few times I’ve found it to be absolutely perfect! There are a series of pockets inside which makes the bag incredible handy for cramming things in and also not losing things to the depths of your bag! On the inside of the main pocket there is a padded laptop sleeve and also a small zipped pouch which I used for underwear or things that I wanted to keep separate from the rest of my luggage. The most deceptively useful pocket is the main one on the front. This looks incredibly flat and if i’m honest, a bit useless, however it has some amazing ability to fit all my shoes in! Every time I’ve travelled i’ve had at least two pairs of shoes AND all my laptop cables in there and it closes perfectly!

The bag also has a couple of nifty little features that you perhaps wouldn’t have expected! Firstly, it can be carried in three different ways. It can be carried as a rucksack with two padded straps; it can be carried vertically using the strap on the top of the bag, or it can even be carried horizontally as there is another strap on the side of the bag. The other feature that I was surprised to see is that there is actually a little tag on the bag that can be registered online so you can track it if it goes missing. This is amazing if it ever gets lost or stolen and is just something that I would never have thought to add, but really makes this bag stand out from the rest! IMG_3083.JPG

The actual material of the bag is a robust canvas material that is lined on the inside. I’ve just checked on their website and the bag is actually waterproof which is an even bigger bonus for me! I honestly didn’t think it was as it doesn’t look like that horrible anorak material!  I’m notoriously quite a clumsy person and often am a bit carefree with my belongings but so far so good with this! It’s incredibly durable and hopefully will stand the test of time! Talking of time though, should anything go wrong, each bag has a 10 year warranty that comes with it and this is upgraded to 25 years if you simply like them on Facebook! I’d be pretty damn impressed if it lasted 10 years never mind 25!!

The bag I picked retails for £60/$78USD/€68 (other currencies are available!) and their website offer free worldwide shipping so you can pick up one of these bags no matter where you are in the world! I personally loved though that they are based in Leicester, which is only a stones throw away from where I live. I love supporting start-ups and local brands and this is honestly a product that I love and will be using for years to come. If you fancy supporting the brand too, they’ve kindly given me a discount code to share with you which will give you 10% off! Simply enter CZROSEBEAUTYFILES at the checkout. But be quick as it’s only valid for the next 30 days!

Where are you planning on travelling to next? Let me know what colour you like the best from their range, we’re definitely planning on picking up some more so we all have one to travel with!

Much Love

xoxo

*I have been sent this product as a PR sample in exchange for a review however all opinions remain my own. This post does contain affiliate links. It sounds cliche but this product has been a lifesaver this summer with the travelling i’ve done so far and for the trips i’ve still got to come!

The Travel Diaries |Seattle April 2017

Hello! Long time no see! My exams are FINALLY done and I have officially finished my degree so back to blogging it is! I’ve got so many posts in drafts and I can’t wait to get back to it! I put a poll up on twitter to see what you wanted to see first and the majority said it was time for my Seattle Travel Diaries! I honestly cannot believe how long i’ve been back now and how much has happened since! I love writing these posts though as I kind of get to relive the whole holiday again! IMG_9007.jpg

My last post finished with us leaving San Francisco to get the plane to Seattle, a brief journey of just over an hour! When we arrived we found our hostel and dumped our bags in order to find some much needed food! We found this amazing restaurant just around the corner from our hostel called Local 360, if you ever go to Seattle definitely check it out as everything from the drinks to the food is all from nearby and as much as possible is actually from Seattle! The food was delicious and set us up for an afternoon of wandering round the waterfront.DSCF0275.JPG We got to see the famous Seattle wheel, an icon in the  scene from Grey’s Anatomy that is played nearly every episode! At the waterfront, yet again we were greeted with some gorgeous Sea Lions and beautiful views over the water. We also had a look around Pike Place Market, one of the key tourist attractions in Seattle where you can buy just about anything you can think of! DSCF0280.JPG

The market was full of beautiful blooms, homemade produce and fresh fish, caught by the local fishermen. I could have spent hours wandering around the market just taking in the gorgeous array of things. IMG_9039.jpgI can imagine that if you were local then it would be the ideal place to go shopping each week! I feel like Seattle involved a lot of eating and remarkably we had become hungry in that short space of time so we visited a local cheese shop called Beechers who made the most delicious cheese I think i’ve ever tasted! They are inundated with customers wanting to try out their Mac N Cheese which is made from their own cheese! I have got to say it was hands down the best Mac I have ever tasted! Do not miss out on this is you go to Seattle, they also do an incredible tomato soup too! DSCF0274.JPG

The next day we decided to try and take in more sights and we of course headed straight to the Space Needle! This is a iconic monument in the Seattle skyline and it was amazing to see it in person! We headed to the top (in something silly like 40 seconds) and walked out onto the observation deck to see 360 degree views of Seattle! It was beautiful! They even have a brilliant way of taking a picture for you at the top with the scenery in the background! DSCF0295.JPGWe’d bought a twin ticket which enabled us to get into Chihuly Gardens & Glass too. I had no idea what to expect with this but it was a beautiful combination of intricate, coloured glass sculptures set amongst gardens. DSCF0299.JPGThe work was absolutely incredible and we even managed to watch a glass blowing demonstration too which was fascinating! The whole city seems to love handblown glass so there are always shops with demos going on too but i’d definitely recommend a visit to Chihuly! IMG_8990.jpg

In the evening, we got to do something that I found really special. Before I was born, my mum was actually an air hostess for British Airways. She travelled all over the world but always spoke about a restaurant in Seattle that she always visited called Cutters Crabhouse. She said that if it was still there, down by the waterfront, then we should definitely go. Luckily for us it was and it was a lovely experience being able to eat a gorgeous dinner, overlooking the water with my best friend, in a restaurant that my mum has such fond memories of. It was an evening that I will always remember for great food, company and the fact I got to make my own fond memories there too!

The next day we decided to do some shopping and have a more chilled day. However, to head down to the shops we hopped on the monorail to take us there! They are such weird little trains that drive above the road. It was a really quick but enjoyable ride and I’m glad we got to try it out! We got off the monorail and hit the shops, Sephora definitely took a bit of a battering that day! I’m totally not sorry!

For our final day, we decided to have brunch to start the day off right. We headed to a popular cafe called Tilikum to enjoy some incredibly thick, but delicious pancakes! I can safely say it started the day off perfectly! IMG_9025.jpg We’d read online about the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and decided to go and check it out for ourselves. It focuses on conservation and has some native creatures from the Pacific North West that i’d never seen before! I actually got to see a huge brown bear that day and they were as stunning as i’d imagined! The park was fantastically well maintained and the beautiful array of creatures was amazing! There was even a porcupine and mountain goats!IMG_2950.JPG We spent a good few hours wandering around with the bird enclosures being some of my favourites as you could get right up close and feed them! We headed off to see the troll statue under the bridge after this as it was only a short walk away. It’s so strange to be in a little residential area and then suddenly see a huge statue of a troll holding a car! Very random but quite a funny little sight to see!IMG_9029.jpg We decided to eat at Cutters again that evening for our final goodbye meal in Seattle and to celebrate visiting another fantastic city! Washington was such a stunning state and i’d love to go and do a few more outdoor activities there in the future as I bet it’s brilliant! DSCF0285.JPG

The following day we got the Greyhound up to Vancouver to start the next leg of our journey. I had such a lovely few days in Seattle and I’m so glad I got a chance to visit! Have you been to Seattle? If so what was your favourite bit about it?

imagesMuch Love

xoxo

The Travel Diaries |San Francisco April 2017

It’s been nearly five weeks now since I got back from one of the most fantastic trips of my life. I went travelling along the west coast of America and Canada and had the absolute time of my life. I spent 16 days with my best friend and we had so much fun. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to do such a great trip and I wanted to share plenty of pictures and highlights with you today! My first stop was San Francisco, a place I’d always dreamed of visiting and experiencing the Californian lifestyle.

I arrived in San Francisco on the 6th June after an eleven hour solo flight, a huge huge challenge for me! I was absolutely shattered so headed to bed at about 9 in order to make the most out of the next day. We decided we’d head to the infamous Pier 39 first to check out the sea lions and see what was going on in the Fishermans Wharf area. This is such a lively and bustling part of the city and a definite must-see if you head to the city. DSCF0188.JPGPier 39 has been inhabited by a large group of sea lions who like to show off to the crowds that flock to see them. They are such beautiful creatures and it was hilarious to watch the dominant males fight each other off the ladies! We were really lucky when one sea lion just happened to swim right up to where we were standing! DSCF0194.JPGWe spent the rest of the day doing what my Grandad would call ‘a recce’, sussing out the surroundings and deciding what we wanted to do on each day. I tell you one thing I didn’t know about the city, how bloody hilly it is! Literally the roads are almost vertical! We staggered up a particularly steep one to get to the top of Lombard Street which is the most insanely curly road! I would LOVE to drive down it at some point!DSCF0220.JPG

Day two saw some of the most glorious weather so we headed to see the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in the sun. It is such a work of art and look even more amazing in person than I can ever describe.DSCF0239.JPG The colour is such a vivid red and is so striking against the backdrop. It’s about a 1.5km walk across the bridge each way so we decided to walk all the way over and just sit for half an hour on the other side before heading back. We both managed to catch the sun that day and the walk across was lovely, there are plenty of points to stop and take pictures! Once we’d walked back we decided to check out China Town which was incredibly beautiful! Lanterns were strung down the middle of the street and shops sold authentic Chinese food and goods. I honestly thought we’d been transported to China! After a lovely day we headed out for some dinner at a restaurant called Puccini Pinetti for some good old Italian food and then went for cocktails afterwards at a bar called Benjamin Cooper. I’m telling you now, they were some of the strongest cocktails I have ever experienced in my life! It’s safe to say I definitely felt worse for wear the next day!!

The following day Emily had to drag me up as I felt like i’d taken a sledgehammer to the head! We plodded on in the heat to find the Cherry Blossom Festival which is a celebration of Japanese culture. It was full of stalls to wander around but I was a bit disappointed there was no actual Cherry Blossom! We carried on walking until we found the house that was in the Mrs Doubtfire movie!IMG_8886 I found it so weird that it is in fact just a house and we saw a regular family who now lived in it! I kind of hoped they would have kept it as a shrine for the movie but it really was a beautiful property! Back up the hills we went to see the painted ladies – apparently the first brightly painted row of houses in the city. They reminded me a little bit of the children’s programme Balamory but in entirely pastel hues! For the afternoon we wandered around the quirky Haight Ashbury and I did a little bit of shopping to cure my hangover whilst Emily headed to Golden Gate park. We of course needed some more sustenance in the evening so went to a beautiful restaurant called Tratto for a pick me up (sans alcohol this time!).IMG_8825

For our final day in San Fran we decided to start the day off American Style by heading to Pine Crest Diner for brunch. How I walked around for the rest of the day I don’t know as that was one huge pile of waffles and pancakes! We wanted to have a quick look around the Yerba Buena Gardens where the Martin Luther King memorial is. It’s a lovely water feature with a path around the back and quote etched into the marble walls, a really special tribute! We spent the rest of the day by the water front and basking in the sun. In the evening we decided to head to Buena Vista Cafe where apparently the first ever Irish Coffee was served in the city. The tables were actually shared so we had a lovely family sat with us who actually lived in San Francisco. IMG_8931To top off an incredible few days we headed back to the hostel in style… on a cable car of course! I think we got luck as our driver was hilarious and really added to the experience, joking with us all, singing songs and pretending that we were going at about 70 miles per hour! It was something I’d longed to do and definitely something I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.IMG_8946.jpg

Sadly that marked the end of our time in California and we went to bed to get up bright and early for our flight to Seattle, Washington. I’ll be continue the travel diaries as soon as I can with my Seattle adventure but in the mean time I really hope you enjoyed this post! Have you ever been to San Francisco? What was your favourite part if you have?love-from-san-francisco-art-by-linda-woods-linda-woods

Much Love

xoxo

The Travel Diaries: Tenerife September 2016!

I thought Sunday required a nice chilled out post so let me transport you to the Canary Islands for a few minutes for some sun, sea and relaxation. I got to spend 8 lovely days in Costa Adeje in southern Tenerife with Tom last month and I wanted to give you some hints and tips on where to go and what to do when you’re on the island even. We did nothing but lazing around in the days we were there but i’ve been going back to the same location in Tenerife for about 10 years now so I’ve got plenty of good things to share with you! (Sneaky little fact for you, but Costa Adeje is actually the ‘Isle of Fernando’s’ from Take Me Out for all you fans of the show!)

Where to stay?

We always stay at my Auntie & Uncle’s apartment in the El Beril Complex, however, there are numerous hotels and other aparthotels right near by if that’s more your thing! Just up the road are two lovely hotels from the Riu brand called the Palace and the Arecas. The palace is 5* and the Arecas is 4 so there is some price variation there. There are also some really luxurious hotels in the area such as the Grand Hotel El Mirador which is rumoured to have had Michael Jackson stay in it in the past!

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The view from our apartment complex!

What to do?

Playa Del Duque beach is the gorgeous beach in the area and is a really great place to sunbathe, swim or even go crabbing as there are plenty or rocks to scramble over. There is also a little bay where lots of people pop on their snorkel to see what they can see under the waves! You can also hire jet skis or go paragliding from this beach so theres plenty to keep you busy. There are also tonnes of cafe’s and restaurants along here to grab a drink and a bite to eat to avoid the midday sun! If you are more of a thrill seeker then head to Siam Park which has been voted the best waterpark in the world! It has one infamous water slide that is so steep it is almost vertical and takes you through a tunnel where sharks swim above your head through a few mm of glass! If you fancy something tamer or are taking children with you then there is another water park called Aqua Land or you could venture a bit further and go to Loro Parque which is full of animals and birds for you to see. I went here quite a few years ago and absolutely loved it, I will definitely be going here again next time I go!

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Off out for a lovely meal! 

Where to eat?

Tom and I enjoyed so many lovely meals just walking distance from our apartment. If you are looking for a quick and cheap bite to eat in the day then head to Taberna Lorenzo they do lovely pizzas and some of the nicest omelettes i’ve ever tasted for something stupid like €5! This place defines cheap and cheerful! If you want a mid-priced meal then try Trattoria Portifino which does gorgeous pizza and pasta and is located just off the end of the beach so it’s really easy to find! The waiters are so friendly and the food was so tasty! If you want to celebrate; have a slightly larger budget or just want to indulge then head to either La Nonna or Rosso Sul Mare. These were amazing restaurants, both with stunning scenery to witness from your table! La Nonna is right by the beach and set on a terrace that allows you watch the sun set from your table. The food was pricier and had smaller portions than other places but it was absolutely delicious! Tom has roast pancetta and I had gorgonzola pasta and they were really high quality! My personal favourite restaurant is Rosso Sul Mare which translates to ‘Red Sea’. It is set in the nearby area of La Caleta and is easily reachable on foot by a 10 minute walk along the beach! It serves gorgeous food and delicious wine and you can enjoy all of this whilst looking out at the waves crashing against the cliffs and the sun setting. It’s beautiful and somewhere I have visited every time I’ve gone over the last 10 or so years.

Fancy a little excursion?

If you want to see another beautiful area then jump in a car and head to Los Gigantes! It is an absolutely beautiful town by the sea that is incredibly picturesque and is great for walks or even hikes as it is quite hilly! This is quite apt seeing as Los Gigantes translates to ‘The Giants’ in english, referring to the mountainous back drop for the resort! There is a lovely marina so make sure you get to visit that if you head that way!

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Lizards, and sadly cockroaches, are a very common occurrence in Tenerife, especially in the summer so don’t be concerned if you see them! Tom and I found this little guy on the wall of our apartment, he is now known as Ricky. 

I hope you like my little travel guide to help you out if you decide to head to Tenerife. I don’t know whether it’s because i’ve been going there for so long but it really does feel like a home from home for me and I just relax as soon as I step out of the plane. If you are heading to Tenerife and want any more ideas then just drop me an email. Where’s your foreign ‘home away from home’?

Much Love

xoxo

 

The Travel Diaries: Brussels August 2016

So last week I headed off to Brussels for 3 days as part of the prize for my Undergraduate of the Year award! Brussels was somewhere that I had never visited before so I was looking forward to seeing what it was like. We also were travelling by Eurostar, again something that I had not done previously so I had no idea what to expect there either! I just wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone at ACCA (Association for Chartered & Certified Accountants) for organising this trip and making it as amazing as it was – especially Alicia (who I hope will be reading this!!).

It was an early start for me on the Tuesday morning as my train left Nottingham for London at 5:50 am. I wasn’t impressed!! However, I did get to see the sun rise, something that I don’t get to see very often so it made it more manageable! Once in London, I dashed through the station to catch my Eurostar to Brussels and thats where I met Alicia and Daniel. Alicia works for ACCA and coordinated the trip and Daniel is last years runner-up so he got to come along too. I was really really surprised as the Eurostar only took 2 hours to get from London to Brussels and did just feel like any other train but we were clearly going a lot faster!IMG_1650.JPG

Day one consisted of meeting members of staff from the ACCA office in Brussels and also hearing about the European parliament and how it effects the different businesses. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know all about Brexit so the trip really enlightened me as to the consequences of Britains exit from the European Union. After our lunch meeting and chats we headed off to check into our hotel which was the Thon Hotel set in the European Quarter. It was a great hotel that was lovely and modern and had the best buffet breakfast i’ve ever seen! You could even make your own Belgian waffles, which I did every single morning!20160831_100940.jpg

That evening, we headed off to Place Luxembourg for dinner and drinks with two lovely members of the ACCA Brussels office, Cecile and Vikte. This square is set just down from the EU parliament building so is a popular networking place for the professionals living and working in the city. Although I’m not a beer drinker, I was told I couldn’t leave Belgium without trying a Belgian beer! I opted for a Liefmans Fruitesse which was a light fruit beer so wasn’t too overpowering and was a good starter beer for beer haters!! It was very similar to fruit ciders like Rekorderlig or Kopperberg so it was really tasty! We stayed there for hours, soaking up the atmosphere and the sun and enjoying the food and drink until tiredness got the better of us all!

Day two started with a breakfast meeting back in the ACCA office and was swiftly followed by a trip to the European Commission office to find out more about how policies were set. I didn’t realise it can take years to make even a small change and that even then it might not be accepted! It was really interesting finding out more about what goes on behind the scenes as most of us only see what is directly in the public eye.20160831_111610.jpg After that we headed off to the European Parliament building which was perhaps one of my favourite things we did. The building is absolutely huge and has thousands of people from all over Europe working inside. We got to sit in one of the rooms where the meetings take place and I couldn’t get over how big it was! 20160831_130928.jpgThe main thing that struck me was how many translation booths there were inside that room. Obviously everything has to be translated into the many languages of the countries from the EU (I believe there are 24?!) so there are plenty of clever men and women working hard to ensure that happens! We also met a couple of lovely ladies who work for Members of the European Parliament (MEP’s) and found out more about what they do day-to-day. 20160831_132437.jpgPolitics is not a career path that I am particularly interested in but hearing abut their jobs did paint it in a completely new light for me! They are so busy and permanently running from one place to the next that it sounded quite exhilarating! Sadly, Brexit has had a negative effect on some of these roles and sadly means that some MEP’s and their colleagues will no longer have a job.20160831_151118 As someone who was a strong supporter to stay in the EU it did make me quite sad that the majority of the country had voted against this fantastic union! IMG_1718.JPG

After our trip to the parliament we headed off to do some more touristy things! We paid a visit to the Magritte museum which was full of the amazing art from René Magritte who was a Belgian artist specialising in surrealism. Now I am not really a lover of art so I was not sure how I would find an art museum, but it was amazing! The surrealism element made the paintings so intriguing and there were clear patterns in the style of his paintings at various stages of his life. I set myself a bit of a challenge to try and come up with an interpretation of each painting but some of them were very ‘surreal’! After the museum we had a wander round the older streets of Brussels in search for the Manneken Pis (Weeing Man) statue. We eventually found it on one of the street corners and couldn’t believe how small it was! It was such a funny little statue but one of the main things you have to see when you go to the city! We spent the next half an hour wandering in and out of chocolate shops being handed samples from the staff. I could definitely have got used to that!! IMG_1674.JPG

Finally it was time for cocktails and Alicia had received a recommendation from Vikte that we should go to La Pharmacie Anglaise, which describes itself as a ‘cocktails and curiosity’ bar but specialises in gin – something that I am incredibly fond of!! The bar itself is incredible. It has all sorts of knick-knacks and jars full of crazy things lining them walls and even a staircase full of Hendricks Gin bottles!IMG_1662.JPG There’s also a fantastic balcony level that overlooks the bar too. We all had different cocktails with Alicia opting for a Tropical themed cocktail, Daniel a rose flavoured one and me a berry and sage concoction! They were some of the best cocktails i’ve ever tried and really set the scene for the rest of the evening! We headed off to dinner after that at the delicious Les Petits Oignons which was a delicious french restaurant! I had a amazing truffle pasta dish and we drank some of the best wine I have ever tasted! It was a lovely meal and we all headed back to the hotel very full! IMG_1666.JPG

For our final day, we had no set plans so we decided to try and see as much as we could on foot to make the most of our time in Brussels. We headed straight for the palace as this was something we all wanted to visit. It is actually free to enter so we spent a while wandering the grand hallways and marvelling at the tapestries! It’s definitely worth a visit if you have a spare hour in Brussels!20160901_115328.jpg We spent the next couple of hours wandering round the shops and taking in the atmosphere. We had a bite to eat and then decided that we wanted to find the other famous statue in Brussels, the Jeanneke Pis (Weeing Girl). There was clearly a bit of a theme going on with these statues! This was even funnier than the first one and was set in an even more obscure place – down a small side street opposite a restaurant!!IMG_1677.JPG Sadly, we were fast running out of time so we started to make our way back to the hotel to grab our bags. On the way we did manage to fit in one more sight which was the beautiful Notre Dame De La Chappelle which is a gorgeous church in the centre of Brussels. It was as beautiful inside as outside and made a great end to our trip!20160901_141235.jpg

All good things come to an end and it was time for us to head home on the Eurostar! I was so pleased I got to see such a beautiful city and I would love to see more of Belgium in the future. One thing that did really stand out for me was the fact that there were a lot more women than men doing these kind of jobs. It was incredible to see so many fantastic ladies in such powerful jobs and was something I found incredibly inspiring! Thank you again to ACCA for making the trip possible and to Alicia and Daniel who put up with me for three days! Bits of this post may be distributed by ACCA so don’t panic if you see it somewhere else! Have you been to Brussels before?

Much Love

xoxo