Why you should head to Belgrade for your next city break 21.11.21

Belgrade 2021

As you know from last week’s post, I recently spend a month in Serbia. I was mostly based in Belgrade and did some weekend and day trips to other hidden gems in the country. You already know how much of a good time I had in Serbia but its capital, Belgrade or Beograde as it’s known locally, deserves a post all of its own. Despite my staying for a few weeks, I never felt bored and always found something interesting to do! It’s time for a top 5 Belgrade!

Kalemegdan Fortress, Belgrade, 2021
  1. Kalemegdan Fortress

I’m not the only one to place this at the top of a Belgrade list. Take a look at any top Belgrade list and this is normally number one. As much as I don’t like being a copycat, the fortress deserves its place as Belgrade’s top thing to do in the city! You could easily spend all day here and take several visits and walks around the fortress. You’ll find cafes, museums, a huge park and some beautiful churches all within the boundaries of the fortress. It’s a great place to go and watch the sunset over the river with sweeping views of Belgrade’s many bridges. It’s also a top spot for people watching- you’ll find many locals meeting here for walks, selfies with the famous sunset and a few chess games. You’ll even find a Dinopark (if that’s what you look for in a fortress). It’s free to enter and wander around the fortress although there is a small entry price for some parts, such as the museums.

2. Saint Sava Temple

St Sava Temple, Belgrade

Next on the list is one of the largest churches in the world- St Sava Temple. The church is equally as beautiful from outside as it is on the inside. Outside, you can see the big green domes and take a few steps back and take a photo with the water fountains in front. Inside is beautifully decorated with ornate colours. It’s a very impressive place and not to missed during a visit to Belgrade.

The dome of the St Sava temple, Belgrade

3. The Yugoslavian History Museum

This isn’t necessarily Belgrade’s most popular museum but I enjoyed it the most. It is slightly out of the way from the centre. You can reach it easily by bus in 15 minutes or, as I did, you can walk which takes just under an hour. The walk isn’t very scenic so unless you really want the exercise, just catch the bus which stops outside. The museum didn’t cost more than a few euros and I found it to be very educational. There are three different parts. My favourite was the House of Flowers, the mausoleum of Tito, the former President of Yugoslavia. There you can learn about life in Yugoslavian times, his life and famous acquaintences as well as see his and his wife’s tombs. If you’re interested in learning about the past and Yugoslavia, this place is a must.

Entrance to the House of Flowers, Belgrade

4. Zemum

Zemun is a neighbourhood of Belgrade that was previously separate. Because of this separate development, Zemun has different architecture and a different feel than that of Belgrade. You need to take the bus to visit but the journey isn’t long. You can stroll along the river and check out the bars or take a walk up to the tower for some great views of Zemun and the rest of Belgrade.

Sunset in Zemun

5. Avala Tower

The view from Avala Tower

Avala just about makes it on the list although it’s not in Belgrade centre but rather in the suburbs. You need to take two buses and walk a bit to reach it or you can find a tour or driver. The architecture itself is very interesting with the tower being rebuilt after the original one was bombed by NATO in the 90s. It doesn’t take long to visit the tower itself and when I visited in October the area was very quiet. It’s much more popular in summer where you can spend more time walking around the area.

After spending some time in Belgrade, I can see why it’s an up-and-coming destination for a city break and especially for digital nomads. There is lots to explore and learn, the locals are friendly, the food is great and it’s a very affordable destination!

Belgrade sunsets

Why are you going to Serbia? 14.11.21

Saint Sava Temple, 2021

I can’t count the amount of times I heard this question when I told my friends I was planning on spending a month in Serbia. Although, on the one hand, I feel that people should probably know me better by now to know that I’m open to visiting anywhere, I also understood that Serbia is a country that not many people (from the UK and Spain at least) visit or know much about. After being based for a month in Belgrade, I hope to convince people to consider Serbia as a travel option with my adventures here.

  1. Belgrade
Incredible Belgrade sunsets

Serbia has a population of around 7 million and 1.7 million of those live in the capital, Belgrade. I’d heard good things about Belgrade and how it’s a new up-and-coming place for remote workers in particular but, other than that, I didn’t know what else to expect. Belgrade is a city with tonnes of history- the city has been destroyed around 44 times. There’s a lot to do in Belgrade (which will be next week’s post!)- a huge fortress and park where you could spend all day, beautiful sunsets over the river, museums, churches and lively cobbled streets full of cool bars and restaurants. It’s very easy to navigate the city- I walked almost everywhere. Belgrade is a city not to be overlooked for future travels!

2. Mokra Gora and Drvengrad

I actually wouldn’t have known about this place if it weren’t a recommendation from a friend in Belgrade and I am so grateful I found out about it. A visit to Western Serbia and the mountains is a popular option for visitors to Serbia. I did an organised tour as it wasn’t possible on public transport. Although it was quite far from Belgrade to do in one day, it was a great trip. The bad weather didn’t ruin it either as the fog only added to the beauty of the mountains. A highlight was a visit to a village built for a famous Serbian film (Drvengrad), taking the famous tourist train on a two-hour trip around the mountains and the Drina river house.

The Drina river house, 2021

3. Nis

This city might not be on everyone’s list for a first trip to Serbia but I am glad I included it on mine. Birthplace of Constantine the Great, this city has seen as much conflict as Belgrade, which you can see. Travelling to the main cities in Serbia is really easy and affordable by bus, and comfortable. My three-hour weekend return bus trip cost around 11 euros. As it is in the south, I also enjoyed seeing the contrast between Belgrade and southern Serbia. It might not be for everyone but Nis has a very well preserved but unknown concentration camp from World War II. I was alone in the camp with nothing to distract my emotions. I read every word of the stories, looked at every photo and belonging- it was incredibly humbling and emotional and the most poignant memory of my trip.

One of the many statues in Nis, Serbia, 2021

4. Novi Sad

Novi Sad fortress, 2021.

Serbia’s second city being only an hour from Belgrade means it is incredibly accessible. There are several buses and trains that go every hour- the bus was the easiest for me- affordable and comfortable again. The city is overlooked by a fortress, where you get incredible views of the Danube. I was really lucky that the weather was great (although quite windy) and the city was lively with everybody out enjoying the last sunshine of October. The city itself is small but very charming, with a more “European” feel to the architecture than Belgrade.

5. Avala

Avala Tower, 2021

Avala tower is not too far from Belgrade itself and is accessible by bus (two buses and a walk to be exact). Due to time constraints, I went by car to visit the tallest tower in the Balkans. Bombed by NATO in the 90s, it was rebuilt and opened again in 2011. The views were great although it was very windy at the top! They told me that Avala is very busy in summer but when I went on a Friday morning in late October, it was quite deserted with cafes closed and more staff hanging around with nothing to do than actual visitors. It was nice to enjoy the tower without the crowds but I didn’t need a lot of time there.

After a month based in Serbia, I discovered that it really is a beautiful country with lots of interesting places to explore. What really stood out to me was the warmness of the people. From my incredibly welcoming friend who guided me around Belgrade, to my apartment host who frequently left me traditional Serbian pastries and fruit, I felt safe and at ease exploring. It’s a great place to start or end a trip to the Balkans and has a lot of good connections to other countries nearby. It was easy to get by speaking English (a little less in the south) but learning a few phrases didn’t hurt, and even got a few smiles out of the locals!

Zemun, 2021.

08.08.21: My top 5 Scandinavian adventures

There are many people who are put off by a trip to Scandinavian countries due to the higher cost of living and also, the much colder climate. However, in my opinion, Scandinavia should not be discarded. Here are my top 5 experiences which I hope will change your mind!

Tromsø, Norway 2019
  1. Chasing the Northern Lights in Tromø, Norway

By far my favourite northern adventure was my trip to Tromsø in 2019. The whole reason I chose to venture to the Artic Circle in December was with the aim of viewing the Northern Lights. Seeing the lights always feels down to luck with factors such as cloud coverage and time of year affecting your chances of seeing them. They say that Tromsø is the place where you have the most probability of seeing them so that’s why I chose the city. I was pleasantly surprised by the city itself- a complete winter wonderland with welcoming people and cool architecture. Our attempt at seeing the Aurora Borealis took two nights with the first resulting in us sitting in a dark field with cheap hot chocolate and returning back to our rental house unsuccessful and deflated. The second seemed to be going the same way until suddenly, in the early hours of the morning, we struck aurora gold and found them near a beautiful lake. Seeing the northern lights was a bucketlist item of mine and I will never forget the feeling of seeing the green lights dancing and wiggling above my head. The lights rarely look as they do on all the pictures on the internet but it’s still an incredible experience that you can spend many a trip chasing so I feel lucky to have found them on my first attempt.

Tromsø, Norway 2019

2. Helsinki, Finland

One of Helsinki’s cathedrals, 2019

Of course when referencing Scandinavia, Finland is sometimes counted, sometimes not- for the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to count it! I really enjoyed my trip to the Finnish capital even if it was short and tiring ( a five hour flight there and back for a night). We got really lucky that we arrived on what seemed to be the first warm day of the year and everybody was out enjoying the weather. Helsinki has not one, but two cathedrals both differing in styles which I enjoyed exploring along with the underground Rock Church and Suomenlinna fortress. There is plenty to do in Helsinki and it’s a very easy city to navigate.

3. Copenhagen, Denmark

The trip to Copenhagen was a cold one in February 2018 and the city was covered in snow. I find now, travelling from Southern Spain, I find myself getting excited heading to colder countries and snow! Copenhagen is a really beautiful city and with so many coffee shops, there’s always time to grab a coffee/ hot chocolate and a famous Danish pastry to warm up! My highlights of Copenhagen were, of course, the famous Nyhavn street and Rosenborg castle (see below). The Little Mermaid is another famous Danish attraction although getting a photo of it without a crowd is an accomplishment in itself!

Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, 2018

4. Oslo, Norway

The Norwegian capital was a little more industrial than I expected but I did grow to love it. After a rocky start (my travel companion nearly missed his flight and I was preparing myself for another solo trip), I found that Oslo has a lot to offer. I made my first mistake with my wardrobe thinking that 15 degrees in Oslo wouldn’t be that cold and my first visit in the city was a trip to HnM to buy a jumper and gloves. Norway is of course famous for its sweeping Fjords (still to do on my bucketlist) so we did a short cruise along the mini Oslofjorden hoping to get a smaller version of the might of the Fjords. Unfortunately they aren’t quite as impressive as their famous counterparts but it was still a good way to see the city from afar. My favourite things to do were walking up the roof of the Opera House and visiting the sculpture parks which have great views and interesting works.

Ekebergparken Sculpture Park, Oslo 2019

5. Stockholm, Sweden.

Stockholm 2019

I am very lucky that one of my best friends and favourite travel buddies happens to live in Stockholm. We planned a Balkan adventure so before we started, I flew out to Stockholm (that’s on the way to the Balkans right). The city had that old historic feel and I got to experience the famous Scandinavian summers of long days and 3am sunrises. I admit that I didn’t fall in love as much with Stockholm as I did with some of the other capitals but it was still a great place to visit and explore, which I am sure I will do again in the near future to catch up with my favourite person after being apart for two years due to covid-19.

As you can see, most of my Scandinavian expriences have been the capitals and I definitely intend to go back to explore more cities. I also have the islands firmly on my list (Faroe and Lofoten). I have found that Scandinavia doesn’t have to be expensive. If you want to stay in big hotels and eat fresh fish every day then yes, you will probably run up quite a bill but you can also search for cheaper apartments and more reasonably priced restaurants to cut costs. If you’re firmly against the cold, then don’t forget that summers in Scandinavia can be warm and beautiful with endless daylight! Even so, the cold is definitely worth dealing with if it means you get a glimpse of the Northern lights!

Copenhagen 2018

01.08.21 Why it’s time for you to take the plunge and try solo travelling

My street in Montreal 2019

I very often travel solo up to the point now where it feels strange if I have a friend sat next to me on an airplane or exploring alongside me. I suppose my first solo experience was heading off on my year abroad in university where I spent a year in Spain. Following on from that, I went on a mostly solo trip around Portugal in 2015 and since then, I’ve never looked back. I’d say at least half of my 26 visited countries have been visited solo. A lot of people ask me “why do you travel solo?”. Many people express concerns over my safety travelling alone, especially as a woman. If you too are a tad skeptical, below are 5 things about solo travelling that might change your mind!

  1. Complete freedom

My favourite thing about solo travelling is the total freedom to choose my own schedule and activites when I visit a new place. I don’t have to consult with anyone to decide on what to visit or when to visit it. If I get tired and need a well-deserved nap in the afternoon, I don’t have to explain myself. I can go where I want, when I want, eat what I want or do absolutely nothing if I decide to. How many of your holidays have been slightly tainted by disagreements over what to do, eat, who’s paying for what etc- this doesn’t happen when you travel solo! You get to leave your destination with no regrets- you did exactly what you wanted to!

My first real solo experience- Ayamonte, Spain 2013

2. Independence

Travelling solo, especially as a woman, truly gives you an amazing sense of independence and pride. When I think of the amount of flights I’ve taken, as a nervous flyer, on my own and managed to conquer, I feel a sense of achievement (which then goes back to dread about flying!). I’ve navigated transport in new languages (and new alphabets sometimes!) and had some truly amazing experiences all thanks to being just me. Travelling alone allows you to grow as a person and find out things you never knew about yourself.

3. Safety

Solo in the Greek Islands 2019

I’m not going to pretend that travelling is always safe or that travelling alone doesn’t have some added risk. However, it is completely possible. There are some countries I’ll admit I think it would be better to navigate with an organised tour rather than travelling myself, but there are plenty of people who do and perfectly safely. Travelling anywhere requires you to be alert, make sensible choices and listen to your gut. I personally don’t venture out too much at night when I travel solo, and that’s how I feel safer in a lot of places. I always send my accommodation and flight details and itinerary on to my family and have even sent my location to friends if I’ve gone on a long walk or hike. Taking these extra precautions can help you feel safer and more confident about travelling solo.

4. Solo doesn’t have to mean solo for the whole trip

Solo in Andorra 2021

Nowadays with everyone using the internet more than ever, it’s easy to meet other travellers should you wish to find some company. You don’t have to spend every day with people but if you feel like heading on a tour with someone or grabbing dinner then it’s relatively easy to do so. You can join meet up groups- there are many for solo travellers in particular or even put out word on other social media sites. Staying in hostels is an easy way to meet people if you feel that you’d rather have a more socialable trip. I also love taking advantage of meeting up with contacts I’ve met over the years working abroad- it’s great having a local guide! Remember to always take the same safety measures as you would anywhere when meeting up!

5. Have you ever wanted to go somewhere badly but noone will go with you? GO

This is probably one of my main reasons for travelling solo so much. Travelling is my number one passion in life and a lot of friends don’t prioritise it as much as I do. We might not have the same interests in terms of countries to visit, the same financial means or even the time due to work and other commitments. How many people do you know who have expressed any desire to visit Uzbekistan or Georgia? If I sat around waiting for someone to come with me, I’d probably end up travelling about once a year, if I got lucky. As a self-confessed travelholic, that’s just not what I’m happy with at this point in my life! If you want to go, just take the plunge and go. Otherwise, you’ll find life passing you by and end up with some travel regrets.

Solo in Luxembourg 2019

Solo travelling is becoming more and more popular and even more accepted by the world. It can be scary to take the first trip, to get on that plane alone and head off on your own. A good idea is to choose a relatively familiar country and go for a few days at the beginning if you feel nervous. Solo travelling is not for everyone but for some, they may end up wondering why they waited for so long.

11.07.21 Country of the Week: Andorra

Andorra 2021

This post was promised quite a few weeks ago when I got back from Andorra but, unfortunately, life got away from me a little bit! The next few weeks are packed full too but sadly not with travel (well except a quick getaway to Gran Canaria!) but with exciting work things.

Sometimes, like a work opportunity, a country can come along at just the right time and heighten the experience even more for you. That’s what Andorra was for me. It meant a lot after so many months of not being able to travel (or leave Malaga much) that, if I’m honest, I probably would have had a good time no matter where I ended up. Andorra also had the pleasure of being my first new country in nearly two years (so close, why didn’t I think of this before?) and the 26th country I’ve visited (#30before30 could still happen!!!). So without further ado, here are my top 5 things about the tiny nation of Andorra!

  1. Mirador del roc de senders
Mirador roc del senders

Anyone that knows me well knows that when I travel, I love a good viewpoint and especially one of mountains. With Andorra being a country in the heart of the Pyrenees, it’s full of spectacular places where you can get a good panoramic of practically the entire country! I had an eventful start to my trip to this mirador as I missed my bus and then proceeded to cry on a bench in the middle of Andorra (drama queen I know). I decided I was so desperate to see the views and join my tour that I asked a taxi driver to catch me up and he happily did so. We sped up to one of the highest points in Andorra (made me a little WOAH in the car even though the roads are perfect) and I joined my group. It was definitely worth the taxi fare as you can see from the photos!

2. Passeig del Rec del Sola / Irrigation Sola Canal Trail

This trail can be accessed from many points in the capital city of Andorra la Vella. There’s a little climb up which shouldn’t be a problem for anyone with a decent level of fitness. Once you get to the trail, it’s relatively flat and you can enjoy great views of the cities and of course, more mountains! It passes by the entire city carrying on to the next town. It was relatively peaceful except for a few keen early morning walkers and dog-walkers.

Passeig del Rec del Sola Trail

3. The 7 Poetes of Andorra

One of the Poets at night

As you arrive in Andorra la Vella, you will see these statues on the way (they looked like Buddhas to me from afar!). It wasn’t until I was told of the story behind them that they really caught my interest. The 7 statues of the poets are built in front of the administrative building and they light up at night- forever changing colours to the point where you cannot predict which one will go which colour next. My tour guide was very passionate about the meaning of these statues- 7 for each of the parishes (towns) in Andorra that sit and contemplate life’s great questions. They also reflect nicely against the reflective walls of the adminstrative building (another fun fact from my tour guide). I really enjoyed seeing these statues at night. There was something about the colours against the dark backdrop of the cloudy and moody mountains that I absolutely loved.

4. Lake Engolasters

A great way to see Andorra in summer without a car is by taking the government- run tours that leave every day from the capital- each day has a different itinerary. I decided to visit the lake one Friday with one of these tours and ended up being the only one on the trip (Covid-affected tourism). I was driven around Andorra on a 60- seater coach by a driver and a tour guide and then joined by another guide from the electric museum. After a private tour of the electric museum (more interesting than it sounds!), we headed to the lake which is where Andorra makes 50% of the electricity (check me out remembering my tour statistics). It was a cool experience to go under the dam in my hard helmet (no pictures unfortunately/ luckily) and then take a walk around the lake with my two tour guides / personal photographers. The lake is beautiful and the surrounding area has a lot of walks you can do and, of course, it is pretty high up so that’s right, another panoramic view!

Lago Engolasters

5. Andorra Free Walking Tours

I couldn’t write a blog post about Andorra and my favourite things without mentioning this tour. I decided to do a walking tour of Andorra la Vella on my final day to fill in the gaps and questions I had about the country. I was really intrigued by its history- how did it come and still continue to be a country?? Who runs it? What’s it like to live in Andorra?

I booked a three-hour walking tour with Xarli. When I went to meet my group, it turned out that I was the only person who showed up (yes this happened a lot that week- Covid times!). Remember just because a walking tour is free, doesn’t mean you should just not turn up without sending a whatsapp- people do wait for you! The fact that I was the only person did not deter Xarli at all. He was an incredibly knowledgable tour guide and his passion for his job was clear to see. He told me so much about the history of Andorra and inspired me to take a night walk before I left to check out Andorra la Vella at night. If you are interested in the history and culture of the cities you visit, walking tours are the way to go! You learn so much from local people. I even ended up visiting a part of the city I hadn’t seen before despite having been there for a week.

Andorra is an absolutely enchanting country and has become one of my favourites. Of course, it’s famous for skiiing in winter but in summer it is a beautiful country full of mountains and … views! The people were so welcoming and accommodating and the capital is easy to explore. Of course, if you don’t have a car things can be more complicated but if you go at the right time like I did, you can check out the tour bus which will allow you to see the main sights of the country. Because Andorra usually has a lot of international tourists, I felt like I was the only one there at the time with covid restrictions in place, which allowed me to get a lot of private tours and check out the unspoilt scenery!

Andorra 2021

My top 5 tiny European adventures

Andorra 2021

This week’s post is a very special one for me. It’s my first post written and published while I’m actually travelling! Where did I head to this week? You’ll find that out soon. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll already know and be sick of the photo already (sorry). This week’s trip inspired me to write about the smaller European countries I’ve visited and loved. In my experience, the smaller the country, the more charm!

  1. Montenegro

Montenegro isn’t exactly a microstate but it is one of the smallest European countries (normally around 10th on the list depending on which you consult!). I visited Montenegro in the summer of 2019 and absolutely fell in love with the town of Kotor. Surrounded by the most southernly fjords in Europe, it just amazed me everytime I looked out the window. It also helped that my friend and I stayed opposite the town- the view from our swimming pool was incredible (see below!). The people were really friendly and everything was reasonably priced. I would love to go back to explore more of this hidden gem.

Kotor, Montenegro, 2019

2. Andorra

Andorra la Vella 2021

Andorra not only takes second on my list but it also gets a special mention for being my first new country in almost two years and where I’m writing this post from! Desperate for new adventures, I came to this small country between Spain and France for a week and it hasn’t disappointed me at all. The people are so helpful and welcoming, you instantly fall in love. Let’s not forget that Andorra is a moutaineous country so there are endless lookout points with views for days of the Pyrenees! Next week, I’ll delve deeper into the delights of Andorra!

3. San Marino

San Marino 2019

In my book, a trip to Italy is not complete without diverting to the microstate of San Marino. The capital city is situated on the mountain and looks as regal as it seems- San Marino is the world’s oldest country that still exists today. You don’t need too much time here but it’s definitely worth spending a weekend to take in the views and wander around the streets.

4. Luxembourg

I decided to take a trip to Luxembourg in November 2019 to get in the Christmasy mood. Living in the south of Spain, sometimes it doesn’t quite feel like Christmas when we get to that time as the weather is warm (I know I’m not complaining I promise). Visiting Luxembourg city gave me that winter feeling as it was certainly colder than Southern Spain! I only spent the weekend there and I felt that that was enough for the city – enough to visit the Christmas markets a few times and stroll through the city. If I had the opportunity to go back, I would definitely venture out of the city and explore the castles Luxembourg has to offer!

Luxembourg 2019

5. Vatican City

Vatican City certainly has to go on a list of tiny European adventures as the world’s smallest country! The first time I visited (while in Rome of course), I visited the Vatican museum which was really interesting whether you are an art lover or not. In high season, the queues can get ridiculous so booking a tour with queue jump is well worth the money. The second time I headed back to Rome, I didn’t visit the museum but I did head to St Peter’s square which is always worth a visit. You also get a great view of the Vatican from Castel Sant’Angelo- one of my favourite spots in Rome.

Vatican City 2018

My experiences of the smaller countries in Europe have been some of the best! Next on my list would be Liechtenstein and Malta- fingers crossed I (and you all) will get to visit them soon!

Montenegro 2019

30.05.21: Canada: My top 5 memories

Montreal 2019

I almost feel like a fraud writing a blog post on Canada. Such a big country and I have actually only seen a small part of it. However, any plans to return have to be put on hold for now, perhaps Canada will see my post and make an exception and let me in to explore the rest? Quite unlikely. With travel to the Great White North not possible at the moment, I decided to look back on a great trip I took in 2019.

I often travel alone- sometimes because I prefer it and sometimes because it’s the only option – it’s hard to find people who want to do the same things as you, go to the same places and have the time or financial means to travel. I had travelled on my own many times before Canada but the feeling of heading off to North America alone was empowering and a reminder that if you want to do it- just go and do it!

Top 5 Canadian memories:

  1. The people

I was really lucky to meet an amazing group of Canadians whilst I was working in Switzerland one summer (another story for another post!). One of my favourite parts about working in TEFL is the amazing people from all over the world you get to meet and…the great travel connections! I had already booked and planned my trip to Canada when one of those connections offered to host me in Toronto- of course I jumped at the chance. Whilst on that trip, I got to reconnect with my favourite camp roommate and even see a friend from home who was working out there- just two Welsh girls eating fish and chips in a Canadian pub- completely normal right? This post is dedicated to my wonderful host Mariam who spent her time driving me around to bus stops and train stations, taking me to eat amazing food (more below) and welcoming me into her family home.

2. The food

The famous Canadian Poutine

“If you want pretty lakes and mountains, you go to the West. If you come to the East, you gotta eat!”

These were some of the first words my wonderful friend and host spoke to me upon my arrival in Toronto and boy, was she right. The days I spent in Montreal consisted of three things: poutine, poutine and more poutine!!! For those unfamilar- fries, cheese curds and gravy make up this famous Canadian dish- every one’s late night takeaway dream right? My Torontonian host was dedicated to taking me to great food spots and her dedication even led to me eating ice cream in the pouring rain before I was heading back to Montreal- man that was good ice cream. Let’s no forget the legendary Tim Hortons coffee chain which no trip to Canada is complete without!

3. CN Tower, Toronto

So let’s actually get to some sights of Canada on my list! The famous tower in Canada was once the tallest in the world and is not for those afraid of heights! The price of the ticket at around $40 might put you off visiting but I promise it’s worth it. The views are, of course, incredible. Determined to get my money’s worth, I took a book, got myself a drink at the bar and spent a few hours there taking in the view.

The view from the CN tower, 2019

4. Niagara Falls, Niagara

Niagara Falls 2019

What is a trip to the East of Canada without visiting the famous waterfalls? They were every bit as impressive as you imagine. I spent a while just walking back and forth along taking in the falls. I went up the tower for a panoramic view and also took the “Behind the Falls” tour. I would have preferred the boat but unfortunately it was out of season when I visited. However, I did get close up to the falls and see the parts that were still frozen over from winter (Canada in April!) I will warn you that there’s not much else to do in the actual town of Niagara (unless you like steak houses and casinos) so I did end up aimlessly walking around until it was time to get the bus back.

5. Mount Royal , Montreal

Mount Royal, Montreal 2019

I was really impressed by Montreal itself with its multicultural vibe. One of my favourite parts was the walk up to Mount Royal. I was a little jet lagged but didn’t let that stop me, you’re only in Canada once right? (or several times if they let you!). The views were great, the air was fresh and there was still snow on the mountain which, arriving from sunny Malaga, I was really excited to see. You can spend a while walking around the top and the parks as well as grabbing a drink. I really enjoyed my stay in Montreal from the mountain to the barbie museum (it was raining but still not to be mocked!).

Montreal, 2019

So there you have my favourite 5 things about my trip to Canada. As I said, there is still so much left to see- I never made it to Quebec and I would love to explore the West to get to those lakes and moutains! Will you take a trip to Canada when you can?

My street in Montreal! 2019

16.05.21: Why I started a travel blog in a pandemic: Travel Depression- a real thing or time to get over yourself?

Perhaps this should have been my first post. Normally a good intro is explaining your motivations for writing but I decided to leave it a bit and settle into the routine of writing.

The Article Circle 2019

It might seem like an odd time to start writing about travelling when currently, so few people are actually doing it- including myself. However, I feel that I got to the point where if I don’t talk more about travelling or reflect back on the travels I’m lucky to have had so far, I might just burst into tears. Why? I’m travel depressed. There. I said it. So in this post I want to look at “travel depression” and why we should talk about it and, more importantly perhaps, why we shouldn’t?

The definition of “first world problem”

I choose this title to talk about why we shouldn’t talk about feeling down in the dumps about travelling because quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised or annoyed if that was the response to someone talking about needing to travel. We are living through an incredibly difficult time where people are losing their jobs, loved ones and their own lives. Millions of people have died and more are separated from their families, yet I’m complaining about not being able to have a holiday? That thought has plagued my mind since my first cancelled flight and is still equally as important to remember right now.

Tromso 2019

Let’s also not forget that travel itself is a gift. Even under normal circumstances, not everyone can travel as freely as I have been able to. Whether this is due to financial reasons or political, we should remember that although it may take a while to get back into travelling, there are those that will never experience its joy. What’s waiting a year or two compared to a lifetime of being denied the privilege of travelling all over the world? I still feel it’s important to have some perspective before you go plastering how much you miss travelling across social media.

A Real Thing

Although I absolutely and whole heartedly agree that sometimes we do need to get over ourselves when we complain about not travelling, sometimes you just can’t. For me, travelling isn’t simply a holiday a year on a nice beach, it’s heading off whenever and wherever I can. I try to travel around 8-10 times a year and this varies from quick weekend trips to longer summer stays. For me, travel is a lifestyle and something I think about 24/7. It’s reading the latest lonely planet article, playing around on Google Flights “just to see” or looking at the world map and wondering “Where next”? For some of us, travelling is something we live, breathe and throw all our energy towards. It’s why I work so hard- my reward. Take that away and what is left- an aimlessness that just can’t be fixed.

Dubrovnik 2019

Perhaps one of the most important reasons for missing travel is something that can only be experienced by expats and loved ones of expats: family. When you are separated from your family living abroad, the comfort is there that you can return when and if you need to. Living in Spain, I know that my family are only a three hour flight away and I can be home in the same day if I need to. It’s this element that hurts people all over the world. There are families separated by oceans and thousands of miles who have not been able to see their loved ones, let alone hug them. Now we are faced with more complicated travel procedures- tests and quarantine where whether I am able to see my parents this year seems to lie in the hands of the British Government (a scary thought really).

So there you have it. Both sides of the coin. I suppose to answer the question I had initially proposed, I started writing about travel because I cannot travel. I need something to hang onto and something to remember. I also need to remind myself how lucky I am to have my health, my job and that my friends and family are all well. But sometimes, your mind slips and you’d give anything to board that plane to, well, anywhere!

09.05.21 Country of the week: Romania

Peles Castle and the surrounding mountains 2016

Anybody that knows me well will know that Romania is a very special place for me. It was the first place I went to teach English after completing my CELTA and also the first place I felt like I was going out of my comfort zone travelwise. Many of my friends and family, when I told them of my plans to go and teach in Romania for summer, asked me “Why Romania?”. My answer and general travel philosophy was and still is “Why not?!”. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, one which I repeated the following summer. The welcome I received in Romania was incredible and is something that will stick with me for a long time.

My travels in Romania were mostly concentrated in one part of the country due to my work, so rather than the usual top 5 cities, I present to you my 5 favourite things I did/ saw in Romania!

  1. Peles Castle
Peles Castle 2015

I have been to this castle a few times and it’s always a place I recommend people visit if they visit Romania. The summer palace of the former monarchs is an absolutely incredible visit. It has amazing gardens where I’ve seen a few proposals take place too! You’ll find Peles near the city of Sinaia- it’s a very famous attraction in Romania so you will find plenty of tours to take you there. There is even a room modelled after the Alhambra in Spain so it was a nice surprise to see a little bit of Spain in Romania!

2. Brașov City

I got to know this city quite well as it was the closest city to the camp where I was working. My favourite part is the funicular which takes you up to the Brașov sign (who needs Hollywood?). The views from up there are great and it’s a nice walk around. I also found the Black Church really interesting which was scorched black from a fire years ago.

Brașov 2016

3. Bran / Dracula’s Castle

Bran Castle 2015

How can you spend nearly two summers in Transylvania without adding Dracula’s castle to the list? If you’re expecting a terrifying experience in the castle dedicated to one of the most famous horror stories in history…. well you might want to keep searching. Dracula’s Castle otherwise known as Bran Castle won’t creep you out. However, it is a great visit to include on your Romania itinerary. It’s a really beautiful castle that somehow ended up being associated with Vlad the Impaler, a theme heavily promoted by the town. In case you haven’t noticed so far, Romania is a great places for castles!

4. Bucharest – parliament tour

I was lucky enough to spend a few days in the capital with my colleagues at the end of summer. I still remember the excitment of getting on the bus knowing that our work was done and we were heading to Bucharest! One of my favourite experiences was the tour of the Parliament building that we did. It’s absolutely huge (one of the largest and heaviest government buildings in the world) and doing an hour tour will only allow you to see 3% of it!

The only photo I got of the Parliament! 2015

5. King Michael I Park / Herăstrău Park

Bucharest has two experiences on the list with the park being my number 5 visit. The park in the middle of the city was a great place to relax in the summer sun with my friends. We went to one of the restaurants that jutted out over the water and had lunch with a view. The park is a nice place to walk around and find some nature (and summer shade!) in the capital- you can even go on the hunt for the Michael Jackson monument.

Lunch with a view in the park 2015

My time in Romania working and exploring was incredible. It was the place where I started my TEFL adventure and I got to know a place I might not have considered otherwise. The people I met were wonderful and they looked after us so well. I would love to head back to Romania one day and check out some other cities – is Romania on your list?

02.05.21 Country of the week: Portugal

Porto 2020

My history with Portugal goes right back to when I was a child. My parents often took me to the south of Portugal for our family holiday and although I might not have realised it growing up, I was getting to know an incredible country from a young age. I still have fond memories of the people and the incredible beauty of the country. Years later, I lived on the border between Spain and Portugal and spent many weekends there and later I travelled the length of the country. Here you have my Portugal Top 5!

  1. Porto

I have decided to choose Porto as my number one as it really does have a special something. The first time I went, I liked it a lot. The second time, I completely fell in love with the city. It was the only trip I could take in 2020 and I didn’t want it to end (so much that I did extend my stay- the beauty of remote working!). I love the cobbled streets and the architecture of the whole city. You can find an abandoned building but examining it further can surprise you! Of course we can’t mention Porto without mentioning the famous bridges- the views are incredible of course from the Ponte Luis IX and taking a walk along the top or bottom of the river is a great way to admire Porto and all its beauty. In particular, I enjoyed the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal where you can take a long walk and get a great view of many different points of the city.

Porto 2020

2. Lisbon

Lisbon naturally takes my second place- in fact I almost want to award it tied first. It’s a city I love going back to again and again. Get ready for leg day every day with its famous seven hills but at least from those hills, you get some amazing views (the castle is a great place for a panoramic shot!). I love the different neighbourhoods and how they can all have a different feel. My favourite is Belém where you will find the Torre de Belém (it’s small but not to be missed!) and the monument Padrão dos descobrimientos where you will find a tribute to Portugal’s famous explorers- remember that Portuguese is spoken in most continents so it has quite a history! Lisbon has a great transport network which is pretty cheap too making it a very easy capital city to explore.

My first trip to Lisboa 2013

3. Évora

Évora is a charming city in the middle of Portugal where I made a stop on my South to North trip. It’s a city surrounded by medieval walls that have preserved the historical sights inside. One highlight in particular is the Chapel of Bones (no explanation needed) and the temple (I love a good temple!). Portugal is very well connected by bus and trains that are fairly cheap too. Évora is definitely worth a stop on the tour and it’s very easy to do so.

Evora 2015

4. Lagos

I couldn’t write a blog on Portugal without mentioning the famous Algarve region. There are many towns I could have happily chosen for the list each with its own charm and amazing beaches. I decided to choose Lagos for my Algarve entry on the list. It’s a small town with beautiful beaches and caves. I spent a few days here relaxing and having a drink at the marina watching the world go by.

Lagos 2013

5. Coimbra

Coimbra is a city famous for its university- the oldest in the Portguese speaking world. For this reason, it has a very chilled, international vibe as it attracts a lot of students but it isn’t too overrun with tourists so it can be a nice change of pace on your Portugal trip. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Coimbra but I really enjoyed walking around and checking out all the old buildings on the University campus and in the Old Town.

Coimbra 2015

Although I feel I have spent a lot of time in Portugal, I still have places to explore- Braga and Sintra are still pending and I could take a trip to the Algarve anytime! What I love about Portugal is the people- they are always so welcoming. I speak Portuguese and they always want to know how I came to learn the language so learning a few words will always go down well with the locals. It’s relatively easy to travel round by bus or train and the cities aren’t more than a few hours apart.

Let me know your Portugal recommendations! There is always something new to discover!

One last one of Porto (it is number one after all)