Learning not to be a Travel Snob…

I may have gone a bit overboard with the holiday booking this year and I’m not long back from two lovely trips, both to Spain.  And as much as I love Spain, I have to admit, this time last year, I’d have turned my nose up at my trips… Which is ridiculous considering the fabulous time I’ve just had!

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In the school holidays in April, me and seven of my best friends from home went to Alicante for 6 days.  We had the best time.  We ate wonderful food, drank gins as big as our heads, almost made ourselves sick at Terra Mitica theme park and even day tripped to the beautiful Valencia.

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I am the designated Holiday Booker of the group and when we first started to plan this trip, a few of us wanted to go to Greece.  Having never been to Greece before, and constantly scrolling through Instagram pictures, of blue and white buildings in Santorini or windmills in Mykonos, Greece seemed like the perfect spot.  We discussed how we’d like to go somewhere that we could chill on the beach through the day then have a good night out, without being too Brits Abroad (we’ve done Magaluf twice in our younger years!).  However, once we started looking, there were no flights available on the dates we needed.  The few that were available cost a small fortune.  I was gutted.  I know that it’s silly but I was hating the thought of having to “settle” for somewhere like the Canaries or the Costa Del Sol…. However, I knew any holiday with my amigos would be fabulous and we decided to go to Alicante.

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And it turned out to be fabulous!  The views from the castle, the tapas, how easy it was to day trip from, our b e a u t i f u l airbnb apartment… we all had a great 6 days.

Just before we left for Alicante, I did something which actually made me really anxious at the time (mainly due to finances) and booked another holiday.  6 weeks after getting back to Glasgow, I was off again!  This time to Benalmadena, near Malaga, with two of the girls from work.  With this holiday, I really didn’t care where we went as long as there was sunshine and a beach.  We all went with 3 intentions – see the sun, relax and spend next to nothing.  Penny pinching managed to get us return flights for £50 and accommodation for just under £100.  Not bad.

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So we went and we did what we set out to do.  We read our books on the beach, forgot about worries back home, drank too many free shots and worked on our outrageous tan lines burn lines by the pool.  And where is the shame in that?!

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I have come to realise, wherever you go, you can explore, see sights and discover new things; or you can relax, drink wine, and sunbathe with your book for a few days.  And both are fine, neither make you less of a “traveller”.  I really enjoyed a post I read on Lucy Sheref’s blog a few months back about why she doesn’t count countries.  I can’t say I’m not trying for “30 before 30” but I completely agree with Lucy’s post that if your sole aim is to visit a certain number of countries, you may miss out on some incredible experiences, genuine fun or feel like going back to a country you’ve already visited is “a waste”.

There are so many things to see in every country.  I loved Sardinia and Positano so much.  But this doesn’t mean I’ve “done Italy” by any means.  Even visiting a city, you don’t see the half of it… I’ve lived in Glasgow for nearly 7 years and I’m still exploring new parts of it.  I still have so much of Scotland I want to see.  And as I said before, even if you’re not “exploring” or “discovering”, there’s still nothing wrong with going.

I hate the whole travel hierarchy thing and I hate how people don’t consider others to be “travellers” because they’ve never backpacked for 6 months at a time, or they’re heading on a package holiday with their family this summer.  Although I have definitely been a bit guilty of it myself in the past, this year has definitely been about ditching the travel snobbery, in favour of caring less, saying yes, and most importantly HAVING FUN!

 

 

Photo Diary: Poland, October 2016 – Wroclaw

Although I’d already visited France and Norway in 2016, it felt like I was absolutely desperate for a holiday by the time we booked to go to Poland.  After scrolling through, what felt like, pages and pages of summer holiday pics on Instagram, Ewan and I decided to look for somewhere to go for an October break.

Ignorantly, I had never heard of Wroclaw, but saw cheap fares from Glasgow.  We considered Prague and Budapest as well, both of which I’d still love to go to, but after doing some research on Wroclaw, and because the dates worked in best, we decided on Poland.  The flights were crazy cheap too, which is always a bonus.

Our flight was in the late afternoon and after double checking my pronunciation of dziękuję (thank you) with our taxi driver, we got into our beautiful airbnb apartment!  I don’t have very good photos of it but you can see better ones on airbnb here.

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Once we were settled in, we went to explore the city in the rain, but not for long, as it was getting dark and we were hungry!  What we did see, was lots of street art and pretty coloured buildings.  Then it was time for a Mexican feast, and then some cocktails at Whiskey in the Jar.

The next morning, the sun was out for us and we started the day with a walk along the river and a trip to the cathedral.  The lanes surrounding the cathedral were beautiful and from there we could follow the river into town.

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On the way into town for our lunch, we passed the National museum.  This building was absolutely beautiful from the outside and we decided to go in for a small fee… would not recommend.  We felt very unwelcome and awkward and the art wasn’t to my taste at all.  We left shortly after going in and continued on our search for food.

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When we got into the city centre we picked up a map of the Wroclaw dwarfs – they are so fun!  There are around 350 little dwarves all round the city and you can get a map, or an app, to try to spot as many as you can.  Such a fun way to explore.

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Following the map on a leaflet we’d picked up in our apartment, about the best cafes and restaurants in the city (best to base everything on food!) we found a nice cafe for lunch, then went for a walk through the park, round the main square and to Wroclaw’s market hall – an indoor market of fruit, veg, cheese, flowers and more.  Next stop was crepes for pudding from FC Naleśniki.

After truly stuffing ourselves for the afternoon, we walked it off by heading for the Sky Tower for fantastic views of the city as the sun set.

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We had dinner, at a traditional Polish restaurant, then went back to the apartment quite early that evening to watch Netflix and eat chocolate, as we were up early the next morning for a World War II tour.

We went on a tour called Secrets of World War II with Wroclaw Sightseeing Tours which was so interesting.  The first stop was a village called Krzyzowa and a centre of reconciliation between the Poles and the Germans.  There were some really moving quotes there and our tour guide was really good at explaining things that were not available in English.  It was only us and one other couple from Sardinia on the tour.  We had a cup of tea at the cafe and discussed Brexit and the Scottish independence referendum, in relation to friendships between countries etc.  It was very interesting to hear people from other countries views, and our tour guide discussed how he had spent some time living in Scotland.

The next stop was Project Riese, a secret Nazi military facility at the foot of the Sowie mountains.  It was a network of underground tunnels built by prisoners of war, most of whom died during labour due to the conditions.  The project was never finished and because of lack of documentation the purpose of it is uncertain.  Some believe it was for Hitler’s headquarters, other believe it was for residence.

 

We then went to Ksiaz castle for a lunch stop.  The castle was recently made famous by the rumours of a Nazi gold train.

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The final stop on the tour was Gross Rosen Memorial and Concentration Camp.  We were the only people visiting the concentration camp at the time which made it particularly eerie and emotive.

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When we went got back to our apartment, we relaxed with some music and some cava and got ready to go out for Thai food and drinks.

The final full day of the trip was sort of awful at the time but funny looking back!  We had planned to go to the Japanese Botanical gardens and Centennial hall.  We set off without breakfast, planning to get a coffee and a bite to eat on the way.  It was around a 40 minute walk there and half way there it started pouring… like really, really pouring.  We didn’t pass a single cafe en route, so between being soaked and starving, we were both in a pretty bad mood by the time we reached the Centennial hall.  There was some sort of car show on that didn’t interest us at all but we went in for a while to seek shelter.  We then decided to brave the gardens and then rush back to a Starbucks we’d seen at the other side of the road on our way there.  They were absolutely beautiful but I wish we could have seen them in the sunshine!  There was also a fountain and light show  which would have been beautiful in the dark.

Then as we were leaving the gardens, to add to the fab day, I realised I was hypo (low blood sugar) and didn’t have any treatments on me.  I felt as if I couldn’t walk a step further but we managed to find a news stall and bought me some sweets.  We finally made it to Starbucks, which I would usually avoid, especially on holiday, but we were desperate!  However when we got there, they didn’t seem to do any hot food which Ewan was after so we headed across to a big shopping mall.  We thought we were sheltered from the rain and things were looking up, we’d get some food and do some shopping… but the cherry on top was waiting for over an hour to be served while I felt like absolute shit!  And when the food arrived it was average at best.  We headed home and had a lie down until I felt better.

Our last night in Wroclaw involved more food and drink of course 🙂  The meals had been ridiculously cheap all week.  It was about £20 in most restaurants for the two of us for two courses and drinks.  The restaurant we went to on our last night was more expensive than the others but it was well worth it – the best sushi I’ve ever had.  It was at a place called Sakana Sushi.  We pretty much had our own personal chef who asked us what flavours and foods we liked then made things up for us.  It was delicious and Ewan even tried octopus!

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I would definitely recommend Wroclaw for a short break – flights, food, drink and accommodation were all ridiculously cheap, and there’s plenty to see and do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Diary: Norway, May 2016 – Oslo and Kragerø

In May last year, Ewan and I, went to Norway to visit my new nephew, Liam, for the first time.  He was born the 29th March, little brother to Lukas.

We booked flights to Oslo from Edinburgh with Norwegian air.  After getting the bus through to Edinburgh our flight ended up getting cancelled, until the next morning.  We were put up in a lovely hotel in Edinburgh and ended up getting flight compensation (which paid for our next flights to Poland!) but we missed out on some of our time in Oslo.

The plan was two nights in Oslo and cramming a full itinerary in, before getting the bus to Kragerø, where my brother stays.  When we finally made it to Oslo, we stayed in this lovely studio apartment which we found on airbnb.  You can find it here.     We were meant to stay for 2 nights, but ended up being one due to the flight cancellation.  The apartment was beautiful and really handy for town.  I would love to stay again and definitely recommend it.

Because we lost most of our time in Oslo, we didn’t do a huge amount while we were there.  It was a sunny day though so we walked a lot, took some pictures and explored the beautiful city.  Definitely a city I’d love to go back to…  We then did some shopping – I was delighted to find a Monki store there – and then went for dinner and cocktails.  It was quite early when we headed back to the apartment to watch Netflix and drink countless Nespresso coffees, before getting an early night for our bus journey to Kragerø.

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The next morning, we went for a coffee near our apartment and a walk down by the harbour then headed to the bus station.  My brother, Kevin, warned us of two things about the bus journey – 1. the doors in the bus station won’t open to let you on the bus, but don’t panic, the driver will come and open them.  2. If you get off the bus on the toilet/refreshment stop and you’re not back at the exact time you were told to be, the driver will leave you stranded.  We saw it happen to a girl, in the middle of nowhere, with over an hour until the next bus and her belongings on the bus that left you!

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We arrived in Kragerø and saw Kevin and Annika’s beautiful home, which they’ve built, for the first time, and most importantly, met Liam!  He is perfect.  It was so good to see him and Lukas and I saw such a difference on Lukas since the last time I saw them.

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Our time in Kragerø included lots of walks, lots of nice food cooked by Kevin & Annika and LOTS of bouncing on the trampoline with Lukas. 🙂  We were really lucky with the weather while we were there and Kevin & Annika’s house and garden is such a nice space, so we spent a lot of time outside reading books, playing with Lukas and taking Liam for walks.  The sea view from their house is incredible as well, perfect to watch the sunset with a beer.

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Kevin and Annika don’t actually live in the town of Kragerø, but in the pennisula of Stabbestad, a 10 minute ferry journey from Kragerø.  It is very small and has beautiful views of Kragerø, a popular golf course, a spa and hotel resort.  A short drive away is Portør, where we went for a walk on one of our warmest days and played and paddled in the rock pools with Lukas.

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It was Norway’s national day during our trip which great to see.  It celebrates Norway becoming an independent country, from Sweden, on May 17th, 1814.  There are parades all over the country, people wear national dress and there is lots of food and drink (it was on this trip I realised how many hotdogs, or “Pølse” they eat in Norway!).  We went to a parade in Kragerø which Annika and Lukas took part in, followed by going to Lukas’ school where they had another mini parade for the children.

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It was so nice to see Kevin, Annika, Lukas and Liam and such a great trip.  It’s great to know we can go back anytime and flights are relatively cheap.  Next time I’d love to go in the height of summer when there are more seasonal things open in Kragerø.  I’d also love to visit Oslo for a bit longer, and see some other parts of Norway.

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Photo diary: France, February 2016 – Paris and Dijon

The great thing about having so many friends and family living abroad, is having so many places to visit.  The bad thing is not enough time/money to see everyone!
At Christmas time (2015), Ross and I decided to book a trip to visit Lynn in Dijon.  It was my first ever time visiting France.  I arrived in Paris on the Wednesday afternoon, with Ross flying out to meet us on Thursday night.1

Lynn met me at the airport and after checking into our hotel, we went for a wander around Paris.  We walked along the river and saw the Eiffel Tower.  It was so beautiful!  I always expect these things to be overrated but after seeing thousands of pictures of it, it was pretty surreal to finally see it in reality.  We got a crepe with Nutella (when in Rome!) and walked some more.  All the buildings and cafes were so pretty, I had to refrain from taking 1 million photographs!   We walked up the along the Champs-Elysées, past all the designer shops and saw the Arc De Triumph.

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We then took the Metro to a random stop to find somewhere to eat and luckily we seemed to end up in Paris Chinatown.  We had a lovely meal on a quiet little street then bar hopped.  We had so much catching up to do so plenty of wine and cocktails were required. 🙂

Day 2 – we got up fairly early and had some breakfast at our hotel (we just stayed at a cheapo Ibis but it was an easy location to get round Paris) then we headed to Sacré-Cœur, which I ignorantly had never heard of but is absolutely stunning!  The streets around that area were lovely to wander and we got some ice cream and had a look through a wee market.

We then jumped back on the Metro and went for a walk around the Hotel de Ville, visited the Notre Dame and wandered the Latin Quarter.  The Notre Dame was beautiful and the park outside it is lovely for a break from all the walking!  The Latin Quarter had been recommended by my sister who said it was really nice just to walk round all the streets, but we actually got quite confused trying to find it, before deciding we were already in it!!

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We wandered around for AGES here being our indecisive selves trying to find something for lunch before settling on a crepe place – fab choice!  It was a really good deal for two courses and a cider or apple juice.  Savoury crepe starer and sweet crepe pudding.  So yummy!

In the late afternoon we headed for Tour Montparnasse.  It’s a tower where you go up to the 57th floor with incredible panoramic views of Paris.  I would never have heard of it, if it wasn’t for reading Easyjet magazine on the way over which had a guide of what to do for Valentine’s Day in Paris (being the February edition – cringe 🙂 ).  I didn’t think it was very well advertised but so glad we found it!  We picked late afternoon so that we saw it in the daylight and the dark too, as well as the beautiful sunset.  We sat and had a bottle of red wine up there as we watched the sun went down – so romantic me and Lynn are!  My photos don’t do it justice at all.

 

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Next on the agenda was pizza and wine then back to our hotel to await ROSS’ ARRIVAL 🙂

Next morning, the three of us were up at the crack of dawn for our train to Dijon.  Lynn took us to her lovely flat and then we went on a wander through the town.

There were so many pretty buildings in Dijon – even the post office was beautiful! It all looked very typically French.  Later that night we headed to a lovely park full of animals 🙂

We cooked tea and ate in that night to save some money for a well earned night out that night 🙂  All the cocktails, tequila and dancing!
The next morning we were supposed to be going up a tower with a lovely view of Dijon, but the hangover said no!  We finished our trip with some more exploring and a lovely little restaurant that was basically just cheese and tatties – just what the doctor ordered!  🙂

 

Loved my first trip to France and would definitely like to go back and see some more of it…