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| 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!

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

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.