The Travel Diaries| London August 2017 – Harry Potter, Speed Boats & Gin!

Tom and I have been together for over five years now and to say we I love travelling so much, you’d have thought we’d have at least spent a day together in London during that time! Sadly that wasn’t the case so this time we were determined to cram as much in together as we could! Neither of us have been down to do tourist things in London for years, instead going for work or a specific event, so we wanted to see the sights and treat it as a real holiday.

The sole purpose of the trip was actually to see Harry Potter & The Cursed Child as we’d booked the tickets a year prior to the day of the first show. We took the train down on Thursday morning and our shows were Thursday & Friday Night. I think i’m going to go into more detail about the show in a separate post for those of you who are interested, but it’ll be mentioned a little later on don’t you worry!

If you’ve ever tried finding a hotel in London, you’ll know how flipping expensive they are! I booked ours a while ago through Booking.com (that link will give you £15 off your next trip if you’re interested!) and it was the Shaftesbury Premier London Paddington Hotel. This was located really close to Paddington station which has 4 tube lines running through it I believe so it’s perfect for getting around! I found the hotel to be perfect for what we needed but we did get an upgrade after complaining about our original room so I would err on the side of caution if booking it. The room we ended up with was a club room which was brilliant but the ‘deluxe’ double we should have had was actually in the basement with next to no light and a shower cubicle the size of a postage stamp that also smelt of stagnant water. Be warned.

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Nelsons Column didn’t quite make it into this picture!

On the Thursday we arrived at our hotel at around half 2 and after a quick freshen up, we headed out to Trafalgar Square to see Nelsons column and then on to Covent Garden. It’s safe to say Covent Garden was entirely my choice and was purely to head to Ladurée, Deciem & Charlotte Tilbury! Macaroons eaten, I went to find my shade in The Ordinary foundations as I hadn’t wanted to guess online! I ended up going back to buy some for Lora & Sophie too on the Sunday!

After a bit of shopping, we had to grab an early dinner as the theatre recommends being at the show an hour in advance of the start time (7.30pm). Tom had found a place called Polpo online and it turned out it was directly opposite the theatre! It was a really cute place that served tapas that was delicious! If I was to be picky I’d say that the staff were too attentive and almost bothersome and I got my prosecco served in a IKEA tumbler! Not quite what I was hoping for but we had a delicious meal all the same!IMG_1501.JPG

From here we crossed the road to the palace theatre and queued to see the Cursed Child part 1! Our tickets were in the dress circle which I would say is always my favourite place to sit in the theatre. They do come with a bit of a price tag though as I think they cost us £70 each per show! In my opinion they were totally worth it though and if you’re going to go and see the show, you may as well do it properly and not scrimp! The acting and the special effects of the show were absolutely out of this world and I was on the edge of my seat at times! I’d actually read the book so I knew the story line but I was actually glad about that as I didn’t have to spend ages focussing on the plot and I could just sit back and enjoy it all! Part 1 does end on a bit of a cliffhanger though so I could imagine that if you’re new to the story, waiting 24 hours felt like a lifetime!

IMG_3633.JPGDay two started with a real bang for us as we’d actually arranged to go on one of the Thames Rocket Tours*. As someone that can get a bit sea sick I was a little nervous beforehand but I loved it! The trip runs from the London Eye Pier and lasts around an hour. On arrival we were given warm waterproof coats (very handy!) and life vests! Each boat takes about 12 visitors and has a tour guide and a skipper. Our tour guide was a lovely guy called Bill and our skipper was Andy! For the first 20 minutes of the ride we leisurely rode out towards Tower Bridge, taking in the sights at our leisure. Bill came round to take some pictures for us all and even took a sneaky selfie on Toms phone.

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Hey Bill, betcha didn’t think this picture would make it to the blog!

Once we’d hit Tower Bridge (not literally thankfully), the fun began and we sped off at around 30 knots. I’m not a speed demon but this was amazing and the hilariously dramatic soundtrack in the background was fantastic. Think James Bond, Don’t Stop Me Now and Rocket Man to name but a few! I was so so sad when this part of the journey ended as it was so much fun and unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It’s safe to say I looked very windswept when we got back on dry land and Tom’s hair had taken on a mind of it’s own!

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Don’t worry, he never smiles!

The final 20 minutes of the journey was at a leisurely pace again but this time, Bill pointed out major sights on route. His favourite things to point out were things that hadn’t perhaps gone to plan and gave Tom and I a tonne of facts to take away with us! My personal favourite is that Waterloo Bridge is also called Ladies Bridge as it’s the only one to be built by women. Its also the only one to come in under budget; get finished on time and it also cleans itself! Girl power at it’s best!

Once we had disembarked the boat, we decided to do a bit of wandering and looking at the sights. We crossed over Westminster bridge to take a look at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (which is actually the name of the bell, not the tower!) and made our way towards the Shard! We were going to go up the Shard but for around £55 for the pair of us just to go up in the lift we decided to give it a miss! We did have a spot of lunch on the ground floor though at Lang! It’s part of the Shangri-La hotel and offers amazing pastries! We had a toastie each and then it was on to the most fantastic cakes! I had a salted caramel tart and Tom had a raspberry and rose macaroon! They were delicious! One very random thing that was present at Lang was a heated toilet seat! If we had that at home, I honestly don’t think i’d ever see Tom ever again!IMG_3638.JPG

Feeling rather heavy, we decided to walk to Borough Market to take a look at what it had to offer. There is an amazing array of food stalls and all sorts of other goodies there and if I lived in London I would love to get my groceries from some of the stalls! It’s definitely an upmarket place though, selling truffles and caviar and other fantastic, yet very expensive, delicacies on every corner! We got the tube to Buckingham Palace from here as it’s just a must-see place for any London Tourist! We saw the beefeaters and took a good wander around the park and the lake, just enjoying being outside in the reasonably nice weather! We finally took a little gander at 10 Downing Street although since I was last there security has naturally been stepped up and you can barely see a thing. We also ended up walking by New Scotland Yard, where Tom took a little boomerang of the sign for his Insta Story!

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Oh Hey Your Majesty!

After heading back to the hotel for a quick freshen up, it was time to head back out to see part 2 of The Cursed Child. Having never seen a show in London, to see two on consecutive nights felt like a right treat! I found the second part to be very emotive, partly because I knew it was the final of something I’d be looking forward to for so long and also from how the story unfolded. I feel like the actors were incredibly emotive and the casting had been picked exceptionally well. My favourite character was definitely Scorpius but I would say 90% of the characters represented both their paper and film counter parts amazingly! It’s totally worth a visit if you can!

IMG_1599.JPG.jpegDay three was our final full day in London and being people that spend a lot of time on social media, we wanted to take a trip to Camden Market to try and find THOSE Halloumi fries from Oli Baba’s! I had no idea how big Camden was so it took us a while to find them. I may of perhaps tripped into a distillery shop and picked up yet another new bottle of gin, but this one, Half Hitch, is actually made at the market so I couldn’t not get some! We finally found the fries and oh my god they were amazing! Deep fried halloumi with mint yogurt, something that tasted a bit like balsamic glaze and fresh pomegranate seeds. Simply divine! IMG_3658

We wanted to do a spot of shopping from here so we of course went to Liberty’s, Carnaby Street and Harrods and Harvey Nic’s amongst others. I always love Liberty’s and Carnaby street has such a buzz about it. I actually hadn’t realised I’d never been to Harrods before so we whiled away plenty of time in there as it’s HUGE! They sell absolutely everything you could think of and I loved exploring it. It’s a crazy shop full of so many treats that I can’t even begin to list them! After a quick walk down Sloan Street to see if we could spot any super cars for Tom, we headed back home for a quick refresh before dinner.

Oh dinner,  how amazing it was! We went to the infamous Distillery on Portobello Road which specialises in gin, gin and more gin! We ate in one of the two restaurants they have there, Gin Tonica. This was yet another delicious tapas restaurant with a gin list a mile long. Weirdly, Tom dislikes gin so he chose a wine that was absolutely delicious! I thought ‘when in Rome’ and opted for the Portobello Road gin which was amazing! We shared numerous tapas dishes which were mouth watering and a pudding that still has me thinking about it! My only thing was that the gins were VERY pricey, the cheapest ones were around £10 a glass so I felt like I could only really have one for fear of racking up a huge bill! I would 100% go back though next time I was in London and I’d LOVE to stay in the hotel they have there! They also have a fantastic gin experience that I am totally putting on my birthday wishlist!

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The Distillery on Portobello Road

On our final day we had to head back just after lunch time so we decided to have a yummy breakfast instead to finish the holiday off in style! On recommendation from Lora and her husband Chris we joined the queue at The Breakfast Club in Soho and decided to wait in line no matter how long it took. As we were a two it was actually only around 35-40 minutes which I’m lead to believe is pretty good in there! Tom had a full english along with a tea and I had cold pressed orange juice with a veggie breakfast. The juice was some of the nicest i’ve ever tasted and the breakfasts were gigantic! I think next time I would opt for something a bit more specialist so I can try their take on things but the veggie breakfast was amazing! We were both so so full after we’d finished and didn’t need to eat anything again until dinner time!

Sadly that brought our trip to London to an end but we had an absolutely fantastic time full of action packed boat rides, amazing food and wonderful theatre! Let me know what your favourite thing to do in London is!

Much Love

xoxo

*Tickets provided for PR purposes. A huge thank you to the team at Thames Rockets for helping to make our trip so wonderful!

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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

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

Travel Tips |How to Hack Hosteling & a Few Recommendations!

I’m a snob and i’m totally not ashamed to admit it. Sharing a room with complete strangers; sharing a toilet down the corridor and sleeping on a lumpy bunkbed.. hell right? Well despite being a snob, I am also on a pretty low budget whilst i’m finishing my degree so to be able to travel, a girl needs to lower her expectations regarding sleeping arrangements! Emily, my resident travel partner and all round bestie, convinced me to give it a good shot and I thought i’d tell you all about my experiences as, if I can hack it, you most definitely can!

I’ve stayed in a hostel twice before my US/Canadian road trip, however both times I stayed in rooms filled entirely with people I knew so it was slightly different. My first ever experience was in Barcelona (cue Ed Sheeran) where I only stayed for one night as a place to crash before heading off to Benicassim festival! As this was back in the summer of 2013 I had to do some investigating regarding where we stayed, but I’m pretty sure it was in the Barcelona BCN Go! Hostel and we had a four bed room with ensuite.

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Barcelona dorm rooms!

This was a pretty tame introduction to hosteling as it was so modern and I had bathroom facilities in the room, like a hotel, and my room was filled with my friends. Easy. If you are unsure then this is definitely the way to start as you are with people you know and have an ensuite so no bathroom sharing is required!

The second experience was back in 2014 in Stockholm where I stayed with two of my besties in a three bed dorm. This was a bit more of a jump into the hostel world as a) we had to share a bathroom down the corridor, b) the room was microscopic and c) THERE WERE NO BLOODY WINDOWS! Having said that, it was miles cheaper than any hotel options we could find and the whole bathroom sharing was actually okay! It was kind of like a swimming pool changing rooms with toilets and showers. All totally fine! When I went to try and find this hostel I drew a complete blank – Sorry!

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San Francisco Dorms!

So now, a few toe dips into the hosteling thing, I embarked on the proper hostelling! Now you have choices when booking your room, mixed or single sex dorms; the size of your dorms and whether you want an ensuite or not. All of these vary in price of course but I would say that the price difference between a mixed and a single sex dorm is usually only a couple of pounds so definitely go with what would make you more comfortable. We went for female only dorms and i’m glad we did! We also went for four person dorms which are slightly more than say 6, 8 or even 24 (I know ridiculous right) bed dorms but I felt a lot safer leaving my belongings in the room. We didn’t have an ensuite as the price difference was quite significant, but it was honestly no trouble at all in any of the hostels we stayed in. They seem to ply you with toilets and showers (all in single rooms with lockable doors!!) so I don’t think I ever had to wait!

The first hostel we stayed in was in San Francisco and was the HI (Hosteling International) Hostel Downtown and was great! We stayed for five nights and found the location to be perfect, the beds were comfy and they even provided a free breakfast! Admittedly it was a rather sparse array of food – bagels or bagels anyone?5023 Saying that it was nice to have the option and did help to line your stomachs for a day out sightseeing! Each dorm was equip with a sink and lockers for you to store your valuables but you do need your own lock, something I had completely overlooked! You did get towels and free wifi though so you can’t really complain for £30 a night!

One thing I would say is that your roommates really are luck of the draw. You could have completely rowdy people or lovely sociable solo travellers. It’s hard to predict but I would say look at how the hostel describes itself and that usually a good idea of the kind of people you may be put with. ‘Lively’ is usually a sign for lots of partygoers so if that’s not your thing, look for a more ‘friendly’ or ‘sociable’ option! We were very lucky in all our hostels and never had any issues with any of our roommates and actually had a good chat with a few of them! In San Francisco we had a lovely solo traveller from Melbourne and a quite quite Chinese girl who kept herself to herself.

Next stop on our hosteling adventure was Seattle and again another good hostel! It was the City Hostel Seattle and was definitely more ‘indie’ than San Francisco and seemed to have a lot of quirky characters in it. Each of the rooms has artwork on the walls, painted by local artists. Emily had previously stayed here and said that her room was incredibly creepy last time but we were very lucky this time with stained glass windows painted on to the walls

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Rather elaborate artwork in Seattle!

We had a variety of people staying with us, including two au pairs, a 60 year old woman and an asian girl who came in at 3am and slept in her full going out outfit. It was a real mixed bag but all of them were lovely! Again ‘breakfast’ was provided but we did get the choice of pineapple and bran flakes this time! This hostel had the most amazing bathrooms but the showers were ridiculously powerful, seriously if you’d turned around, you’d have probably lost at least one of your nipples.

The final hostel was by far the most unique one of the bunch and I LOVED it! This one was in Whistler and was called Whistler Lodge. It was all wooden, surrounded by trees and snow and even had a hot tub and sauna! whistler-lodge-hostelAgain for £30 a night you could not really ask for more! The hostel is very quiet at night which I liked and each ‘bed’ was a pod with a mattress, curtain and light – incredibly cosy and I slept so so well! It also had a cute ‘no shoes inside’ policy so everyone was padding around in socks which made it feel very homely!

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Whistler Lodge ‘Dorms’

So what would I recommend for you to do if you’re planning on staying in a hostel?

  • Do your research – Think location, atmosphere, dorm size, gender and price
  • Take a lock and a towel – unless you don’t mind renting them both for a small fee
  • Go in with an open mind – hostels are improving so much and many are just hotels with less stars as they have less facilities.

Finally, what are the pro’s and cons?

PROS

  • Incredibly cheap
  • You can meet new people from all over the world
  • They often have events you can get involved in

CONS

  • You don’t know who you’re going to be sharing a room with (some people do not share the same hygiene standards as you – don’t you brush your hair over the sink?!)
  • They’re quite basic
  •  You have to act like a child and sleep in a bunk bed!

Overall I would say I had a fantastic time staying in hostels, something which I NEVER thought I would say! I got to see some fantastic cities for a lot cheaper and I genuinely slept well and would stay in them again in a heartbeat. I felt safe, welcome and comfortable and enjoyed the whole experience! If you’re on the fence about it like I was then definitely give it a go! Have you stayed in hostels before?

Much Love

xoxo

P.s all photography in this post is not my own (found through Google) as I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures when I was sharing with people I didn’t know.

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