Europe is always a good idea in the summer…and Eastern Europe is an even better one! I visited the lovely country of Slovenia in August 2017 with one of my friends and I guarantee you that by the end of this post, you’ll be ready to book your flights!
We flew with EasyJet from London Gatwick in just over 2 hours. That day was the first time in my life that I had almost missed a flight. We had arrived at the airport early so after security, sat down for a long lunch and drinks.
When we finally checked the board, it said that our gate had already closed! We ran to the gate (a long 15 mins away), no passengers were waiting and they wouldn’t let us on. There was no way that I was going back home so we just stood in an awkward silent protest! BY SOME MIRACLE, this woman walks back through asking to be let out as she didn’t mean to board this flight…the staff are on their phones trying to sort out a recount so this was our opportunity and we successfully boarded! Thank you confused woman, wherever you are today!!
We stayed in a cute Airbnb – 1 bedroom flat with everything you could need including old school CDs for a karaoke night if you wish! It was slightly away from the centre though so we used the bus 6 to get around (it was 24 hour service). Our host had a friend meet us to let us in and orientate us as she was on holiday but she was easy to contact during our stay.
Things we saw and did:
Prešeren Square – this is a good starting point to explore Ljubljana. There are many shops, restaurants and sights surrounding it. From here we wandered a short distance to Butcher’s Bridge where we started our tour. We joined a boat ride – €8 for a 45 minute round trip along the river Ljubljanica. We passed underneath Tromostovje and on the way back underneath Dragon Bridge. In the August heat, this was a great way to start sightseeing without breaking a sweat!
As you can see, all the bridges are tiny! Ljubilana is a small city so a lot can be done by foot!
Central Market: This is located just off Butcher Bridge. It is a beautiful, vibrant market selling fresh fruit, veg, clothes and more!
Churches and castles: because a Europe tour is nothing without this! I will go into more detail on the impressive ones we visited further on.
Ljubljana Grad – which is Ljubljana Castle. It is sat at the top of the hill so is quite a hike to get to (once back down, we discovered that you can get a lift up!) It costs €7.50 entry for adults which was a bargain for everything that we saw inside. The castle is a complex of different buildings and sights (it reminded me of Prague castle which I had visited a couple of years before). You can look over Ljubljana from the viewing tower, visit the history museum, the art floor, chapel and my personal favourite, the puppet museum. We had so much fun creating our own shows!
Museum of modern art – €5 entry. All the art was very subjective, some politically charged and others just having a good time.
Contemporary history museum – which can be found within Tivoli Park. It offers a detailed look at Slovenia’s history and features a lot on the World Wars too. I always enjoy a couple of museums during a holiday a) catch a break from the heat/cold but also b) to try and understand what the country is about and how their history has shaped their current situation.
Tivoli Park – this huge park is perfect for relaxing during a summer day with an icecream in one hand (exactly what we did!). Also for cycling, skating, picnics plus it has a few museums and other activities for all ages.
Alpine Fairytale Tour – we booked this via Roundabaout Tour at the tourist office next to Central Market. If you live in the centre, any tour will pick you up from your hotel but for us, we had to meet outside the tour office. Our first stop was vintgar gorge where we had a 1 mile walk through the most zen place!
Next we came to the real jewel of Slovenia – Bled. Firstly we looked around Bled Castle which had the most incredible view over Lake Bled. Within the castle, there were various museums and different parts to explore. They had an old school printing shop where they demonstrated how printing used to be done and then you got to have a go…it was harder than it looked!
Lake Bled was our next stop and it was every bit as magical as I had expected. Some of our tour went on the boat to the small church which sits on the island and the rest of us chilled by the riverbank. This is one of my favourite views of all time!
A short drive away and almost as impressive was Lake Bohinj. It was easier go for a swim here as it was less busy and the mountains in the distance made it picture perfect.
Final stop was to the quaint town of Škofja Loka nearby.
I highly recommend the Alpine Fairytale Tour if you get the chance!
Postonja caves – the most cost efficient way is to get a local bus to the caves yourself for €6 one way (once you’re in the town, the walking directions are very easy) and then buy entrance tickets when you arrive. There are guided tours for the caves in multiple languages included in your ticket so you just queue for the next train to take you down. It gets so cold down there so we had to layer up! The tour takes about an hour in total.
Once you’re back up, you can take a free shuttle to Predjamski grad (castle) to explore its castle in a cave! Each visitor is given a headset so you have your own guided tour. It was huge inside and just so interesting…I had never seen anything like it before!
Urbano Dejanje Festival – runs for a week in early to mid August. During the day, they had various arts, music and cultural activities going on.
Food and drink As we were in an Airbnb, we had almost half our meals at home (bought from the local supermarket Mercator). But when we did eat it out, it never disappointed!
Hiša pod gradom – this restaurant was making serious dollar being just at the foot of the hill from Ljubliana castle. I had the famous Slovenian sausage and cabbage (I normally hate cabbage but this was really good).
Cream cake from Bled Castle…apparently it’s famous too (I hadn’t heard of this one before) but it was very tasty.
Rainbow trout at Lake Bohinj….mouthwatering.
Open kitchen – happens every Friday with food stalls from around the world. I had a Persian meal here for the first time. And for dessert, ice cream rolls..check out the video below!
Chinese food at Zhoung hua – as I continue my accidental Chinese food tradition around the world.
Spanish food from Joe Peñas – this restaurant had the coolest interior and the friendliest waiters!
Sushi and bubble tea from Tloft
And back to more classically Slovenian food at Sarajevo 84
Night time: For a small city, it had quite a lot going on at night. The best way to start your summer evening is by having drinks at any of the restaurants or bars along the river. Other ways we spent our evenings included:
Jazz cafe – we came here for a chilled early evening treat. It’s an outdoor place which has live jazz. Their jazzy drink is glorified water – perfect for Instagram but not so much for taste!
Urbano dejanje festival – at night they had live bands playing with a different genre being represented each night. You can sit on the park just outside to listen in for free.
Top 6 – we found this club by following a group of dressed up people to the entrance (a few Brits I spoke to inside had done the same)! The entrance is in an alleyway which takes to you the lift to go up to the 6th floor. It was free entry for ladies and drinks prices were standard. That Friday was reggaeton night which was SO good.
And finally, our day trip to Croatia!
I’m a big fan of trying to maximise your time away and if I can fit in multiple places into 1 journey then I will. Croatia is close to Slovenia and I discovered that it was only a €33 return train to Zagreb so we booked and went!
We arrived at 11am in time for a free walking tour via Free Spirit Walking Tour. Our incredible guide Luca managed to keep all 40 of us going in the blistering heat. It was a good way to see the main sights of Zagreb in 2 hours, learn about its history and also for recommendations of where to eat and drink.
The strangest place that we visited was the Museum of Broken Relationships which was filled with objects that normal people had sent in attached with a story of heartbreak. Some were funny, others sad and a few just petty!
We had lunch of meat sandwiches at Kitchen and grill plac and then spent some time in the market. There was a huge storm in the late afternoon which meant we had to take shelter for the rest of the day. So we had a lasagne style food called strukli which can either be sweet or savoury followed by drinks on Bar Street until our train was due.
I have to give a shout out to my fave travel app Triposo for always helping me navigate foreign streets via their offline map. I’ll have no monetary gains from this but I just love them!
So have I successfully convinced you to visit Slovenia? Let me know if you do go!
I visited Peru in May ‘17 with one of my friends for a busy 10 day trip including travel time! Considering that the quickest journey from London to Lima was a whole 12 hours, we had a lot of planning and prioritising to do!
Luckily May is outside of the peak season so we didn’t have to book most of our tours before we left and British passports don’t need a visa for short stays. Peruvian currency “nuevo sol” is best exchanged in the city centres (pound, euro and dollar at least are all accepted).
We flew from London Heathrow with Avianca via Bogotá, Colombia (couple of hours wait) and then to Lima. Lima is Peru’s capital and receives the international flights.
As we were starting our trip in Cuzco, we had a final 1 hour plane journey to go. The flight to Cuzco is amazing! You start to see all the mountains and appreciate Peru’s natural beauty. The air hostesses gave us coca tea to start building our tolerance to the altitude.
Once we arrived at Cuzco airport, we found 2 fellow travellers to share a taxi with into town. We paid 10 soles each after some serious negotiations (basic Spanish is helpful in this instance).
Our hostel booking was a disaster. The first was too far away and suspiciously empty. The second one we booked in a panic had mixed outdoor showers and toilets…Cuzco at night in May is FREEZING. The final one we settled with, Vinicunca Hostel, was quite basic (as was the breakfast) but it was only a few minutes away from the main plaza and had a lovely host.
After a day of recovering from jet lag and our hostel woes, we were finally up to walking around Plaza de Armas to try and acclimatise to our new environment. The altitude sickness is real guys! It’s advisable to spend a day or two chilling before you start hiking and such. The weather is also very confusing with sun, gale force winds and rain in the space of a few hours so pack for every season!
We met up with some friends in Quinta eualiana – very authentic Peruvian restaurant which I highly recommend. Their breaded chicken was really good.
Another good way to spend your chill day here is visit one of the many knitwear shops around the square for incredible designs and the comfiest jumpers that I’ve ever felt!
Our friends were staying in one of the party hostels called Loki hostel so we visited in the evening for food, drinks and “blood bombs” (naturally the UK was well represented in a drinking game!)
Our only preplanning had been to buy Machu Picchu train tickets online at Peru Rail so we picked them up in the store at the Plaza. The train is ideal if your trip is short as you can do Machu Picchu in one day. We had also bought the entrance tickets (www.machupicchu.gob.pe has official tickets but the website is in Spanish!) which you definitely need to do in advance if travelling in Peak season as there’s a limit of 2500 daily visitors allowed.
We visited the Inka museum to learn about inka history ahead of our tours, watch the women weaving in the courtyard and buy handmade souvenirs.
We had lunch at Ukumari which was mixed with tourists and Peruvians. I tried the alpaca meat which is delicious. Another Peruvian delicacy on offer was the guinea pig which I wasn’t brave enough to try but do let me know if you’ve had it before!!
For a fancy but not too pricey dinner, I recommend Capriccio. It’s a mainly Italian menu with some Peruvian faves e.g. quinoa. Their fresh juices and desserts are tasty!
If your accommodation has cooking facilities then Orion supermarket is a great place to buy ingredients plus toiletries etc. We visited a few times to stock up on snacks for our tours.
The evening was spent walking around avenida del sol and we visited the textiles museum. It has a small museum at the back showcasing Peruvian fashion for different occasions and ages throughout history and in the shop at the front, there’s traditionally dressed women weaving amongst the knitwear and bags.
The first tour of our trip was to the Sacred Valley. We bought tickets for this at Loki tour office the day before for $15 (shop around for the best deal for you).
We met at 7.30am in Plaza de Armas to join our tour. Our guide Eloy was knowledgeable and had cracking one liners and he worked with our driver Orlando, who expertly manoeuvred the narrow roads and scary bends.
The Sacred Valley was part of the Inkan empire for centuries before the Spanish arrived. Within it, we visited Pisaq, Calca ,Cayo and Ollaytambo. As we had visited the Inka museum yesterday, Eloy’s history and culture lesson was really easy to follow. We saw fields of quinoa, climbed up many of the sights, stopped at the Silver museum to watch them making silver jewellery, shopped in local markets and found ourselves in another weaving museum!
Lunch wasn’t included so we opted to eat in the local cafe instead of the suggested tourist buffet restaurant.
This is the perfect tour to do before Machu Picchu as you can stay in Ollaytambo and go by train or hike the next day ( a closer distance than from Cuzco). Sadly we hadn’t realised this beforehand!
We had dinner at super pollo back in Cuzco which looks like a typical chicken shop from the outside but don’t let that fool you! I had rainbow trout and Nadia had lomo saltado (strips of stir fried beef), both of which were amazing.
The next day was our trip to Machu Picchu. We had booked the 6.40am “expedition” train from Poroy (these meet ups get earlier every day!) Poroy is a small town just outside Cuzco so we got a taxi for 22 soles to the station.
On board expedition, we were given free drinks, coca tea to prep us for the higher altitude…and a cookie. It was a really pleasant scenic journey with strange fusion oriential/latino house sounding music!!
From the train station, we took a bus from the town up to Machu Picchu which is a 20 minute journey for $48 return. Alternatively you can hike up to the entrance. You need to take your passport for this tour as they check it before you can buy a bus ticket and also it’s checked at the entrance of Machu Picchu regardless of how you got there.
We arrived just before 11am and spent about 4 hours here. Honestly it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. If you do one of the treks to reach Machu Picchu e.g. Salkantay then you arrive in the morning and beat the crowds. There are various parts and different mountains, some requiring early entry to hike and the rest open all day. It was nice to bump into the people from our tour yesterday too!
I even managed to get a llama selfie which involved using Nadia holding food as bait to get its attention!
There’s a restaurant and toilets just outside the entrance (you’re allowed 3 entries with your ticket that day so don’t worry about saving it all until the end). And when you finally leave Machu Picchu, you can get your passport stamped for fun. DO NOT pay anyone for it as it is free and the ink is there for you to use yourself.
We took the bus back to the town and wandered around the markets before our train. It’s best to avoid eating here as the prices are high. Our train back was called vistadome and was a slight upgrade from the morning. We were given free hot drinks and quiche for dinner and had entertainment plus a fashion show in which passengers could get involved!
The later trains often won’t go back as far as Poroy so our final leg of the journey was a shared bus back from Ollaytambo to Cuzco for 15 soles each which took another 2 hours!
The next day was our final tour of the trip to the Vinicunca “rainbow” mountains. We had booked 2 days earlier in a shop around the Plaza after searching around for the best deal.
We had to meet at 3.30am to get on our bus with the “friends of the nature” tour.
Our first stop was for breakfast and coca tea which was included in the price. We then drove to the bottom of the mountain and were given attractive green vests to wear so we wouldn’t get lost in another group. It took me about 2.5 hours to ascend and 2 hours to descend. The mountains are about 5000m above sea level so it was a gruelling hike. We ate many of coca sweets and our guided provided smelling salts to help with the walk. Locals also provided mules if you were struggling to walk (30 soles one way).
Once everyone was back and could breathe with ease again, we were taken for a carbtastic lunch (also included in our tour) and then made our way back to Cuzco.
So that marked the end of our time in Cuzco (I told you it was brief!)
Lima was so much sunnier and had lower altitude! The simplest way to get to and from the airport was with an airport bus return for $24 with free wifi and USB charging ports.
We were staying in Pariwana hostel which was the best hostel of our trip! We had the matrimonial room with an ensuite and it was far away from the bar so we could sleep. The hostel served food all day long and had themed nights and 2for1 cocktails.
We only had 24 hours in Lima so went to explore the malecon and beach. We also wondered around the streets and spent time in Kennedy park nearby which had stalls and entertainment.
Our last evening involved a BBQ dinner at our hostel and group beer pong which my team won! So we kindly suggested free shots for everyone! We met so many travellers from all over the world which is my favourite thing about hostel life. I remember first hearing Despacito here and thinking that it was a nice Spanish song, before we came back home…and the rest is history!
Peru is a huge, exciting and friendly country with so much to see and do. But it is possible to go for a shorter time period if you need to and fit in enough activities. Who else has been or plans to this year? Let me know below!!
PS. My next visit to this part of the world will be much longer so stayed tuned…! Live updates of my upcoming Central America tour will be coming next month on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages!
Chinese New Year is one of my favourite festivals. I love the intricate designs, beautiful red lanterns, traditional clothing and excellent food. It usually occurs between late Jan to Mid February, on different dates each year due to the lunisolar cycles.
2018 is the Year of the Dog. Dogs are a (hu)man’s best friend and very loyal creatures so this is a pretty strong year to be associated with! As you may know, each cycle occurs every 12 years with 12 different animals. I was born in the Year of the Monkey (which last occurred in 2016)..a few traits include being witty, mischievous, curious..and surely cheeky!?
The colour red is very important in Chinese culture, but particularly during this time along with the lanterns and firecrackers. I read about a mythical beast called Nian who used to eat children in villages and one day a villager discovered that the colour red and loud noises scared away the creature so boom, a tradition was born!
Wherever you are in the world, there are bound to be celebrations going on. London has a free Chinese New Year event that happens in the West End every year (2018 being the 16th year!) so I decided to check it out.
I wore as much red as I could find, but unfortunately I don’t own any dog pattern accessories!
The event usually occurs on the Sunday closest to the date of the New Year (this year it was on 18th Feb, 2 days after the official date). It started with a parade in the morning at Charing Cross leading towards Shaftesbury Avenue. We arrived at midday where Trafalgar Square was filled to the brim (as expected). It was hard to get in but we could see the stalls and stage on which various acts were to perform.
We made our way to ChinaTown (via Leicester Sq) where we found a beautiful display of lanterns, dragons dancing outside different restaurants and of course plenty of places to eat and drink. We even found Pikachu! If you manage to pick the right restaurant, you get a perfect view of the performances from the inside.
Shaftesbury Avenue had martial arts on stage and also people dressed as Pandas giving away freebies! There were also remnants of the beautiful floats from earlier.
We walked down to Covent Garden where they had women from the designer accessories shop Radley wandering around with the cutest dogs to promote the celebrations and I managed to take the most perfect shot!
ChinaTown has so many incredible restaurants (Golden Dragon being my favourite). They range from buffets to the very fancy sit downs, dessert places and bubble tea shops! But outside of it, there are plenty more to enjoy so here’s a short list of my favourites in South London:
Dragon Castle. Sit down restaurant located on Walworth Road, very close to Elephant and Castle tube and train stations. It has such a beautiful interior and very friendly staff. Hard to pick my fave item as it’s all so good. They have a limited edition Chinese New Year menu available until the 2nd of March so book asap!
Ping Pong. They have quite a few branches including at Southbank. Very cool interior, amazing cocktail list and good priced dim sum. My favourites were the crispy dumplings (both!) and duck bao. Also offering some Chinese New Year dim sum items this week.
Zing Zing. Takeaway place located on Walworth Road (it has many branches around London). They have an extensive menu including many vegan options. Their bacon special fried rice is something else! They regularly have themed items to celebrate all festivities.
New Golden Wok. Takeway place located in Peckham. They have quick service and the food was fresh. If you can handle your spice, their salt and pepper chicken is a must!
Happy Valley Chinese. Takeaway located on Southampton Way, Camberwell. This has been my go to for years as it’s prices are exceptional. Most dishes are under a fiver, the lunch menus are a bargain and delivery is free over £8! The sweet and sour chicken is one of my faves.
Hope you all enjoyed the festivities this week! And if anyone has experienced Chinese New Year in Asia before, I would love to hear about it!
Marrakech was my second visit to Africa (after Accra). Morocco is becoming more of a tourist hotspot year after year but they still maintain their traditions and Islamic culture. I did a lot of reading before I visited to make sure we were well prepared for the experience.
1. If you know any Arabic or French, it’s so useful when trying to communicate with the locals.
2. As a woman, it’s ideal to dress modestly in public areas to try and blend in (having your hair out didn’t seem too controversial). But you will still look foreign so prepare to attract some attention. It is harmless so don’t be afraid to just keep walking on.
3. Alcohol isn’t widely available but is served in some restaurants and sold in a few shops.
4. It’s quite difficult for vegetarians and vegans to order appropriately when eating out. When you ask for a non meat/other variant option, make sure you reinforce that you don’t want meat and actually describe the meal including the sauces that you want otherwise you’ll end up with a plate of fairly dry vegetables (which happened to one of our group!).
5. Make sure you have a pen to fill out the cards at the airport both when you arrive and leave Morocco.
6. It’s best to get the Moroccan currency (dirham) once you arrive..there are many exchange places in the airport and around the city. Keep your receipt as you will need it to change any money back before you leave.
Me and four female friends visited in Jan 18. Morocco is a 3 hour journey from London (except on our occasion, it took 5 hours due to delays and then Ryanair dropped us off at Agadir due to apparent fog so we had to endure 4 hours on the road to get to Marrakech). During this long journey, we met a nice Brit who has been working and living in Marrakech, now speaks Arabic and gave us tips on how to make the most of our time. Finding a trustworthy local/long term resident will be your key to saving time and money.
We finally arrived at Riad Faraj 13 hours after initial takeoff from Stansted! Our gorgeous house is owned by a lovely Italian-Australian couple. They waited around to meet us so we could be orientated to the surrounding streets and best places to eat, drink, visit and enjoy a spa day. They had a lovely driver for our airport transfers and day trips if needed, as well as a cook who made us an incredible breakfast daily (on request plus dinner if you require).
I would highly recommend staying in the Medina to be at the centre of the action. It is the old fortified city which contains the famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square, souks, many tourist attractions and beautiful riads within its walls. Riads are glorious houses which you can find on Airbnb to rent. They range from ones that can accommodate a group privately to much larger ones which contain spas and multiple bnb rooms.
First dinner of the holiday was at Niranj. We had a feast of hot and cold mezze, various meat dishes and mint tea. There is something very addictive about Moroccan tea…I challenge you to resist!
I used Triposo (my fave travel app if you didn’t already know!) to take us around as we didn’t have free roaming. I was impressed at how well the offline map navigated us through the confusing Medina streets. Our first sightseeing day took us to the spice markets in the Jewish Quarter where your senses will be truly satisfied. Be wary of anyone who wants to direct you to specific stalls/shops..the pressure is then on to buy something from that vendor! Or you might have to pay a tip for their services..so we tried to look as confident as possible even when we were completely lost!
After a long morning of haggling prices, we were all craving a filling tagine lunch. We found ourselves in a popular but tiny cafe called Châibi Meryem. The waiting staff were lovely and created a new table for us as it was too cold to sit outside. Food was okay, prices were better.
Only 3 minutes walk away was the Bahia Palace. The entrance fee is a mere 10 dirham. We confidently strolled in following a large group, expecting to hit the ticket office somewhere in the courtyard. However it was Friday, the day that Moroccans get free entry here, so this crowd of locals had already walked past the tiny ticket office without us realising. Embarrassingly they singled us out to go back and pay!
Bahia means brilliance which was clearly seen in the beautiful tile work both inside and outside.
Another highly recommended place to eat dinner is at Le Salama..prices are more expensive than other places but it’s a nice treat. I had a beef kebab and couscous for 175 dirham. The restaurant has rooftop views, serves alcohol with happy hour deals (not the easiest to find in Marrakech) and Shisha too.
Jardin Majorelle is a BEAUTIFUL garden which was owned at one point by THE Yves Saint Laurent! Within its grounds, it has the Islamic Art Museum, Berber Museum, YSL’s own museum and memorial to him. It costs 70 dirham for the gardens alone and more for the other attractions. One word of caution..be prepared to queue if you go in the middle of the day (it took us a whole hour to get in). Early birds or those who prefer to go nearer to closing time will get in quicker.
We came back to the medina to immerse ourself in the souks. These are giant marketplaces selling everything you could want (and things you didn’t know you needed). You need to haggle down the price for everything but it can be really exciting if you’re good! There are also many vendors in the rest of the side streets of the Medina and we found a few absolute gems…one local who was married to a LA resident but still enjoyed selling lamps for a living and another local who looked like he was straight out of a quirky French show and had some cracking one liners. My favourite being: “Those spices are only useful if you know how to cook!”
We found a rooftop restaurant called La Terrasse Ben Youssef for a late lunch. This has incredible views across the city with Ben Youssef Mosque, Koutoubia Mosque and the Atlas Mountains clearly seen. We heard one of the prayer calls whilst up there which was surreal – I spotted a man on his rooftop joining in with the speakers. Although we heard prayer calls multiple times in the day, each time was so powerful yet soothing.
Have you ever been to a Hammam spa? They are quite the experience! We visited Les Sources Berbères Riad & Spa and during the 3 hours we each had a massage, exfoliating scrub and free jacuzzi time for an absolute bargain compared all the spa experiences I’ve had in London! If you’re lucky, you can walk straight in to a free slot but if not, they will happily fit you in later/the next day. It is well worth it to de-stress from all the haggling!
On our final day, we found a camel ride tour happening in the nearby Palmaerie Village..a short drive from the Medina. All half day and full day tours can be booked through tour agents scattered throughout the Medina…remember, the first price isn’t the last!
I had never ridden a camel before so this was a new experience. We were all given matching traditional dress and headscarves to wear. Our guide taught us Berber songs during our ride (Berbers are indigenous to Morocco and other North African countries) and he happily took pictures of us for a tip.
Our final sunset was spent on the rooftop of the lovely Islane Hotel Restaurant which overlooks Koutoubia Mosque. This is the largest mosque in the city and can’t be visited by non Muslims like the rest (some allow courtyard visit) but it is gorgeous to view from outside…or better still, a rooftop.
The evenings and night time can be spent in Jemaa el-Fnaa night Market. It is full of food stalls, market stalls, entertainment, snake charmers and more. It is so crazy and had an energy like nothing I had experienced before. During the day, everyone is vying for your attention but it seems amplified at night. FYI haggling rules still apply at night, which we learnt the hard way with the henna…! To escape the madness, there are many rooftop restaurants and bars surrounding the square for great views.
Unfortunately due to our delays on the first day, we couldn’t visit the Atlas Mountains or the Sahara Desert as planned. However we managed to fit in a lot in our days and truly experience the Moroccan way. January was a colder month to visit than we anticipated…especially with those desert nights! To experience the African sun, I recommend visiting from March/April.
Have you visited Marrakech or another part of Morocco before? Let me know about your experiences!
Hygge is the Danish concept of being cozy and is all the rage during wintertime. My first trip to Scandinavia was during a bitter cold February 2017. It had snowed heavily in the days before we arrived so the city looked gorgeous but also dangerously icy in some parts . Luckily I had come prepared in my Timbs and hoped to enjoy some hygge too.
We stayed in the lovely Meininger Hotel which is a 5 minutes walk from Copenhagen Central Station. The hotel has a cool vibe and a delicious buffet breakfast daily (easily won us over). The hotel was also really near Tivoli Gardens which is a huge amusement park. Sadly it isn’t open in winter outside of Christmas time but can be enjoyed from April.
During our few days in the city, we mixed in cultural sights with some aimless ambling too:
National Museum – Nationalmuseet. It takes you on a journey through Danish history. They also have displays of objects and artefacts from around the world.
University of Copenhagen botanical garden– I can imagine that they are beautiful but it was hard to see much underneath the snow! Free to stroll around in.
Nyhavn – the infamous colourful buildings by the canals. There are many restaurants and bars here with tourist prices attached but just strolling along gives you a taste of its beauty too.
Christiana – This is definitely one of the coolest spots in the city. It’s an edgy, hippie neighbourhood with its own community, rules and interesting history. We were told that pictures weren’t allowed inside so we didn’t chance it. So check it out to discover their secrets..!
Rundetaarn – you get a perfect bird’s eye view of Copenhagen from this tower. Entry is only 25DK which also includes the cute church inside.
The Little Mermaid – this bronze statue is located at Langelinie promenade. She was inspired by a Danish fairytale, not the Disney character! Unfortunately she hasn’t been treated too well in the past (defaced many times and beheaded twice). However she is currently sitting pretty and whole on the rocks.
The rest of our time was spent just strolling around to get a feel for the vibes.
Food in Denmark is delicious and varied. We had visited during Copenhagen Dining week which happens every year with select restaurants serving a special set menu. A few of my dining favourites include:
Karlas – where I had the classic Danish smørrebrød for lunch. This is a sandwich made up of rye bread and fillings such as cheese, cold cut meats or fish.
Bror – Very elegant looking restaurant which decent prices. We shared an array of snacks from the starter list but you can also have a multiple course fixed meal.
Poon chai Thai – this restaurant was very close to our hotel. It had the most beaut decor of all the places we ate in. I highly recommend the garlic spicy ribs below!
Osaka sushi – an all you can eat sushi restaurant which was also close to our hotel (we had picked a great location to stay!)
Cofoco – this was one of the restaurants which were taking part in the Dining Week menus. For a fixed price of 225DK we enjoyed 4 interesting courses (plus more for alcohol). And yep it was a short distance away from our hotel!
We had an incredible couple of nights out in Copenhagen which were full of surprises. One night was spent in Club Mambo which had a salsa room AND a hidden afrobeats room which was very popular! Our other night was at RubADub for reggae on a Sunday!
I absolutely loved Copenhagen and found every Danish person we met to be so friendly (and tall and good looking of course). Our trip was short but sweet and I would love to visit again when it’s warmer, especially to experience Tivoli Gardens and Nyhavn again.
Have you ever been to Denmark or enjoyed some hygge? Let me know!
Paris is always a good idea. It’s the city of love and probably has the one of highest proposal rates in the world! It’s London’s well dressed, cool and cultural neighbour. I first visited aged 13 on a school trip to Disneyland which was great. But my most recent trip was during November ‘16 for a brief weekend trip with one of my pals.
We took the last EasyJet flight of the evening from Gatwick to Charles De Gaulle Airport and stayed in the cosy Hotel Elysees Flaubert . It was a room only so we could indulge in cute French cafes around town.
The next morning was so sunny and it stayed so pleasant all weekend! We were a 10 minute walk away from Arc de triomphe so after passing numerous pharmacies (anyone who’s been to mainland Europe will understand!), we started our sightseeing here. The Arc is an absolute beauty and as impressive as it appears in films but is surrounded by the most stressful roundabout that I’ve ever seen!
We continued our tour with a stroll down Champs-Élysées..this infamous French avenue stretches down to Place de la Concorde and is filled with shops, boutiques, restaurants and more. We are mere mortals after all so couldn’t pass Sephora without going in..amount of time spent in there will never be known!
Close by are the Grand Palais and Petit Palais…if given the choice, would you rather live in pic 1 with the view of pic 2 or the other way round?!
I chose the first option…
After deliberating this decision, we continued to the banks of the River Seine and then onto the beaut garden Jardin de Tuileries.
Now everyone knows of the Louvre but I had no idea how amazing it truly is. This epic art museum (the biggest in the world) has a never ending display of paintings, prettier ceilings and naked statues…and of course is home to the most hyped painting of ALL TIME. Prepare to immerse from the Louvre as a newly cultural being.
Last big stop of the day was the beautiful medieval cathedral Notre Dame (no hunchbacks were spotted though). The architecture is gorgeous so it’s worth a visit inside too. Literally round the corner and my fave restaurant of the weekend is Au Bognat . Whatever you choose to eat, make sure you get a side of their chips because those are the tastiest dam potatoes that I’ve ever had!
So guys, night time in Paris is lit!
After a post dinner tour of the Eiffel Tour, our Saturday night continued to Monsieur Bleu for drinks and ended at Djoon club for their Motown party! If you get a chance to go to their themed nights, I highly recommend it.
Sunday was a cool down day with a romantic walk along a large stretch of the River Seine to the “Love Lock Bridge”
Final and perhaps most the important stop of the weekend was to this place…
So that’s my Paris weekend in a nutshell! If you are aged between 18-25 inclusive and have an EU passport, then you get discounted entry on many sights which we enjoyed! And the metro is a fairly pleasant way to get round for longer distances (the spacious double decker one which took us to the Eiffel Tour was my fave).
Paris deserves to be experienced many times over so I will be visiting again to hopefully see it like a chic Parisian (but starting with a show at Moulin Rouge!). How many times have you been to Paris? Let me know your favourite things to do!
I have a love love relationship with Spain and Spanish life in general. Smart 13 year old me jumped at the chance to learn the language at school so I could forever visit and enjoy the culture. Prior to this trip, I had already been to Spain a few times: Malaga, Grenada, Barcelona plus islands Menorca, Ibiza and Spanish speaking Cuba.
So when deciding on a sisters holiday for Summer ‘16 (June 19-24) and Valencia came up (coincidentally also my favourite Insta filter), I was excited to explore a lesser known part of this fab country…and boy it didn’t disappoint.
We had a simple easyJet flight there from Gatwick and took the metro directly to our accommodation. We had booked to stay in another Airbnb. This pristine 2 bed flat still remains my favourite Airbnb of all time and our host Nerea earned her status as the fourth sister! We lived near many fresh food markets and Mercadona (supermarket) so often cooked to economise.
We started our holiday at Tapearte with paella and sangria. After lunch, we took a leisurely stroll to explore the surrounding attractions, first starting at classic Spanish department store el Corte Inglés. Our next stop (max 10 minute walk from our place) was the infamous Ciudad de las artes y ciencias. The city of arts and sciences includes the science museum in which you can wander around some parts for free, a palm tree greenhouse, beautiful art structures and more.
We continued our walk to Turia Gardens which is a long stretch of greenery, parks, water features and cafe hotspots. Perfect for cycling and people watching.
We found the beach the next morning..a solid 25 minute walk from our place. Playa de la Malvarrosa is a gorgeous sandy beach which has many activities going on from sunrise to sunset.
After the beach, we continued to explore and soon found ourselves in the centre walking through squares naturally!
In the evening we went to High Cube…literally a floating cube by the seafront! A cool club to visit in the summer.
The next day, we visited Valencia Central Market which is large and mostly indoors (important for keeping cool!) It has beautiful architecture as well as an abundance of fresh food, drinks, souvenirs and more.
We visited Llotja de la seda aka Silk Exchange. It’s a impressive gothic building, previously used for silk trade which made it very important centuries ago. It’s only a couple of euros for entry (or €1 for students…and free on Sundays!) and inside the complex it has various buildings including a small chapel, grand hall and a cute orange garden outside!
Afterwards, we just carried on strolling through Valencia..on a sunny day it is just pretty side street perfection!
Our next big stop was Torres de Serrano. This impressive tower was once part of the ancient city wall. It’s a bit of a workout to get up here but once you are, the views are amazing!
Our incredibly busy day was not over yet. We passed through Palacio de Benicarló (old gothic palace now used for Parliament), Plaza de la Virgen (main sights here are the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the Basílica de la Virgen de los Desamparados and the Palace of the Generalitat) and Valencia cathedral which lives in Plaza de la Reina. By this point, we were in need of ice cream and shade!
After a full on day of exploring, we had a well deserved sunset rest on our fave beach.
There were still a couple of places to visit despite our epic few days of exploring! We had a great day visiting Oceanogràfic – a huge aquarium complex very close to the City of Arts and Sciences. It has every form of aquatic life to look at and learn about and a very popular dolphin show. We bought youth tickets for €24.20 online the day before.
In the evening, we went back to Plaza de La Virgen for paella, sangria and to hang out in the square which has plenty of restaurants, bars and evening entertainment. We found ourselves back at our favourite floating cube afterwards for the last time!
Our last touristy activity on our final day was to visit L’Almoina (archaeological museum). You walk through visualising how Valencia was built up through the ages until the modern day. Also €2 entry or free on weekends and bank hols.
Nerea our lovely Airbnb host invited us to the beach in the evening for the San Juan festival..this celebrates the beginning of summer with the whole city coming together to eat and drink around bonfires and then at midnight, you jump across 9 waves for luck! It was crazy and the best way to end our amazing trip.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and have been persuaded to visit Valencia this summer! It is seeped in art, culture, history with friendly people, beautiful sights and quality classic Spanish cuisine….a trip for everyone!!
I am of Ghanaian origin but was born and have lived in London my whole life. So I was excited to visit the Motherland and get back to my roots during Easter 2016! African countries often don’t get the appreciation they deserve so I was ready to see it from all angles.
Ghana is in West Africa and is well known for its gold (previously known as Gold Coast), azonto, friendly people and semi jokes rivalry with nearby neighbours Nigeria. It is a relatively safe country with good education (so good that Mugabe studied here!).
I flew with British Airways which goes from LHR to Accra (the capital of Ghana) nonstop in 6 hours. These flights are quite expensive in peak times so worth shopping around. I had to get a visa too which I did via the Ghanaian embassy in London. Cedi is the currency of Ghana (incredible exchange rate)..best to get it in Accra.
As with the rest of the continent, mosquitos and their sidechick malaria dominate the streets so it’s really important to get your malaria tablets and nets before you fly! And you must have an in date yellow fever jab too..
I stayed with family in East Legon during my trip so can’t comment much on accomadation. However there are plenty of hotels and homes on Airbnb to choose from. Alternatively, if you have a Ghanaian friend (easily identified by their charming nature) then I would recommend joining their family for excellent hospitality!
My first day in the Motherland was Easter Sunday so I spent the day getting used to the heat and being paraded around my relatives…This African heat is no joke! But it was close to the start of rainy season so there were a couple of days where we had immense rain and lost power!
My touristy activities began the next day and were spread throughout the week. Touring is best done with a driver/tour guide as public transport isn’t quite there yet. However if you’re feeling brave, there is the option of travelling on trotro to fully immerse yourself amongst Ghanaians. The roads in Accra are quite hectic though! From farm animals casually strolling around to people (including children) trying to sell you things in traffic, a distinct lack of traffic lights and large potholes, it was often a bumpy ride! But as long as you travel in a big car with a conscientious driver and good a/c , you will be okay.
We passed the Flagstaff House (Ghana’s version of The White House) towards the Independence Square. Ghana gained independence from the British Empire on March 6, 1957 (ahead of most of the continent). So there’s no language barrier with tourists as almost everyone speaks English as well as their tradition tongue.
The tour continued to the Accra Sports/Ohene Djan Stadium..mostly used for football matches, including during the African Cup of Nations back in 2008 when Ghana hosted it! There is a big love for football here plus pride for some of the country’s more well known players who have made it abroad.
Accra Mall is a great place to go shopping but also to eat and people watch which was fascinating. Everyone moves at a slower pace and in a more relaxed way than in London shopping areas! All the clothing brands here were original…I loved the mix of traditional kente print and western styles. You can also buy accessories, groceries, toiletries, electronics and change your money to Cedi here. They even had a version of Nando’s called Barcelo’s…and the chicken was definitely better!
The next day was quite emotional for me as I went to visit the house of my late grandma. She had lived with us on and off in London for years so we were close.I had never been to her house in Accra whilst she was alive so it was weird to meet her neighbours and imagine her sat out on a chair with them all gossiping away!
After this, I visited the Artists Alliance Gallery which has many great displays inside showcasing Ghanaian talent.
Another very important place to visit is the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. It’s a beautiful memorial park and museum dedicated to this revolutionary man. He was the Prime Minister who led Ghana to independence and was then elected as its 1st President. His story is very interesting and can be read about in the museum with great photos.
We visited Jamestown (Old Accra) which was important during colonial times and still has a large fishing community today. It has a non functioning prison and light house from which you get an amazing birds eye view of the area. The area is quite derelict compared with other parts of the city that I had seen.
Not satisfied with shopping at the mall, I also visited Oxford Street! As well as some shops and markets, there are also restaurants and ice cream parlours to enjoy.
For the duration of my trip, it had been far too hot for me to enjoy a beach day..so when it became cooler and overcast for one day only, I took advantage and visited Labadi Pleasure Beach. It is a huge stretch of beach with the fancy parts attached to the Labadi Beach Hotel and the rest available to the public. Within it, there are a few restaurants and stalls to get drinks plus the opportunity to ride horses across the beach or just chill on a sun lounger to music.
My family’s house was close to The Aknac Hotel which is really cute! Non staying guests can visit to swim in their pool and enjoy the bar….I took full advantage of this on my last day.
As this was mostly one big catchup, I didn’t get to explore the nightlife as much as I like to when abroad. Depending on where you’re staying, there are lots of open bars and restaurants to see you through the night. Ghanaian cuisine is amazing..classics include jollof rice, banku, kenkey, fufu, plantain plus lots of meat so wherever you go, your tastebuds will be impressed. Of course you can get other types of cuisine too…and yes I did find a Chinese restaurant(!) called Noble House Chinese which DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Also do try fresh coconuts from street vendors (I can verify that these are tasty), all the fresh fruit and veg and the chocolate!
There are so many more places to visit depending on your time and budget including Elmina Castle, Cape Coast ( where you can visit their castle, Kakum National Park and take in the sea views), Volta Region (true natural beauty), and Kumasi (in the Ashanti Region..lots of interesting history from the Ashanti Kings to Colonial times), Mole National Park for safari and more.
I hope you will consider visiting this amazing country and let me know what you think!
I’ve always wanted to visit the Big Apple as it features in every film ever (plus one of my favourite TV series Gossip Girl! ) So I was super excited to experience the magic for myself a couple of autumns ago with my other half. The forecast was cold but sunny which was okay for what we had planned.
We flew with Virgin Atlantic from LHR for the absolute bargain of under £400 each return!
I really wanted to live in the Upper East Side, Manhattan for the week and the most cost effective way to do so was via Airbnb (my first time using it). The married couple we stayed with were great hosts and it felt comfortable sharing their flat.
After we arrived at JFK and go through security relatively painlessly, we went into the subway…amidst the confusion of which platform to use and then having to run for the train, I manage to lose my handbag…
We get off at the next stop and take the train back…I figure that I must’ve put it down on the seat at our original platform. Luckily it had been handed in to the ticket booth upstairs but the lady couldn’t keep it due to security fears of unaccompanied bags. So it was going through the system to lost property and we had no way to get it back that night. Our saving grace was that my phone was in my coat pocket and my boyfriend had our passports in his bag…but all my cards, keys, our mate’s camera, my jewellery (which I ironically keep in my handbag in case something happens to my suitcase) were gone.
This was the first time I’ve had such a disaster abroad so I was absolutely gutted but we tried to not let it spoil the trip. Our amazing hosts gave us pizza and much needed drinks when we finally arrived 4 hours later than planned.
The next day after we had sorted out money, we had a tequila burrito brunch for my boyfriend’s birthday then took a leisurely stroll to Central Park. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn’s day so both New Yorkers and tourists alike were out in force. We saw dancers and singers entertaining, artists drawing passerby’s and a slightly awkward engagement photo shoot. I was given a spontaneous massage by a small Thai woman (she literally reached up to my shoulders and started massaging) ha! But most importantly, we found where Blair and Chuck got married…to those of you who appreciate this, I was seriously living my GG dream.
We ended his birthday at Dive Bar surrounded by locals…alcohol in America isn’t as cheap as in the UK!
The next day, we took the subway to Times Square 42 St so we could go to Macy’s and surrounding shops, check out the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Broadway and Times Square! We were at Times Square during sunset and it was surreal how the sky was getting darker but we were oblivious for ages due to the brightness of our surroundings. Unfortunately we hadn’t looked early enough to book a decent Broadway show.
The evenings in New York are even more magical..I just couldn’t get enough of the lights. After dinner and a cheeky cake from Magnolia bakery, we spent time in and around Rockefeller Centre.
So we had the most incredible privilege of being taken on a personal tour of the United Nations HQ…what?!!!! We got to mingle with delegates, see the various conference areas, sit in a couple of talks and experience the breathtaking views of New York. Honestly, it was such an inspiring building and had good vibes from everyone we met!
Another thing I managed to tick off my bucket list was to watch a live basketball game. We had bought tickets for the New York Knicks vs Charlotte Hornet game at Madison Square Garden(!!!) $65 each from a resale on Ticket Monster. It was such a great game and I loved how much energy Americans have. It was also cool to see Carmelo Anthony play live again, having first seen play him as part of Team USA whilst I was a London Olympic 2012 Volunteer in the Basketball Arena (oh yes!). We finished the night at a nearby Irish pub called Foley’s.
One place that we had to visit was the 9/11 memorial which was absolutely stunning. It had been tastefully done and everyone was so respectful of it.
We then wandered through the financial area, passing the infamous Wall Street and made our way to the Battery Park which faces the New York Harbour. You get a great view of the Hudson River and Brooklyn Bridge. However this was the only grey day of our trip so it wasn’t so cute!
Later that night, we went to Cielo club in the Meatpacking District after popping (cheaper) bottles at our Airbnb and a mini bar crawl…good area to come for a mixed and fun crowd.
On our final full day, we had to pay our respects to the Lady of the City. As our tickets for the Statue of Liberty tour were in my bag which was still lost, we decided to go on the free ferry which goes to Staten Island and back. You get a decent enough view of the Statue of Liberty so it’s great if you’re not bothered about climbing up it. The sun was out again so she looked beautiful.
New York exceeded my expectations.. and although the trip started badly, the friendliness of New Yorkers, the amazing sights the city had the offer, our lovely Airbnb hosts and the HUGE portions of very tasty food made it all worth it. And yes, bagels from New York really are the best! I also indulged in supersized Chinese, and Indian meal at Ruchi, so many burgers, ribs, fries and shamefully a Maccys.
I would love to return when it’s warmer (and I can keep hold of my bag) to enjoy a rooftop bar, see a Broadway show, visit Brooklyn and experience the city like a local.
A week after we got home, I received an email from the MTA to inform me that my bag had been found…all that time spent talking to the local police and visiting MTA’s lost property office in between our activities had paid off. When I finally received it a couple of weeks later in the post, EVERY SINGLE THING was inside! 🙏🏾
Anyone else been to New York or planning to? I would love to hear all about it!
Amsterdam is ALWAYS a good idea..so good that I’ve actually been twice.
The first time was on my 20th birthday for a spontaneous post summer exams adventure with 2 of my Uni besties. £44 for a return coach trip from Leicester to Amsterdam. We spent exactly 24 hours there with no place booked to stay..so we ate plenty, stopped for “coffee”, wandered around the city, Vondelpark and watched Holland play in the UEFA Euro Cup in a pub. During the night, we went on an epic bar crawl and had to sit outside in the Red Light District from 4am until our coach was ready to leave…good times!!
My second visit in autumn of 2015 was short but not so crazy…!
I flew with 2 pals on British Airways because free vodka and crisps…now no longer a perk on their short haul trips unfortunately. We stayed at Meininger Hotel Amsterdam City West which was a bit outside the centre so we got buses to town which took 15-20 minutes. Lovely hotel to stay in though with a great buffet breakfast, bar and lounge and really nice ensuite room for the 3 of us.
Our first activity was a canal tour..there are so many to choose from depending on what you want to see. Ours was a guided tour with headphones in which you choose your preferred language. Despite it being grey and miserable, we were feeling cute and the city was too.
But at times the weather defeated us so at times we cheekily hopped onto a random tour boat to take us to our destinations.
It was hard to escape walking through the Red Light District again. It’s a strange juxtaposition of the women posing for work and Dutch people going about their normal lives with tourists who have come here to just stare. I learnt about the different coloured lights used to advertise to various customers’ tastes.
We continued to brave the miserable weather to visit Vondelpark for a romantic walk. It is a huge park full of lakes, trees, a few places to eat and many cyclists of course.
For the perfect tourist shot of Amsterdam, you must visit the Rijksmuseum..it’s an art and history museum with the well known I Amsterdam sign outside. It is also near Van Gogh Museum and the designer shopping streets.
As if we weren’t cold enough, we visited the Amsterdam Icebar at night for more. It’s gorgeous inside but the best part for me was the bar that you defrost in after the tour!
We really wanted to go to the Museum of Prostitution (Red Light Secrets)..but weren’t sure how it would be. So for some Dutch courage(!), we first went to one of Amsterdam’s most well known coffee shops – The Bulldog.
The Museum was actually very interesting as it took you through the history of prostitution, examples of environments that the women work in and thoughts and expectations of some of the women. One unexpected part is where you get to stand in a window to pose as the women would do.
We managed to eat and drink our way through the city in the short time that we were there…Pancake Bakery being my personal fave.
Other places to visit but not pictured include Anne Frank House (book in advance/ get there as early as possible as queues are mad), Tulip Museum, Bloemenmarkt, Rembrandt House museum and of course to cycle your way around the city.
Planning to visit Amsterdam in the new year or have been recently? Share your thoughts and tips below!