I'm 99% sure I already typed up this post but all of the text seems to have disappeared! But alas, onto the third day of my Budapest trip and I do think the cool tone of these photos shows just how chilly it was. Our apartment was right next to Fisherman's Bastion so we walked over and took in the beautiful turrets. All of these sights are totally free to explore, even with the city already being so low cost.
I do think I look like a green snowman above but it was freezing! We warmed up with a hot drink and made our way towards Buda Castle, until we passed a sign advertising a 'unique and amazing labyrinth' just around the corner. Our intrepid explorer instincts were ignited, though I did feel slightly uneasy as the stone tunnel entrance lead underground via steep steps. A few paces in and a fee of round £5 let you into a mile of tunnels, some pitch black, with random Edwardian party scenes with mannequins at different points... ? It. was. CREEPY! It didn't help that smoke and eerie music was pumped out, and there was a Dracula themed section. Argh! A bunch of potentially German tourists behind us too were making spooky noises as they laughed at our screams. It was hilarious and terrifying at the same time and you can see in my vlog it was more of a Blair Witch-style filming experience. I was glad to finally reach the end!
After our slight trauma, we browsed the castle grounds, with plenty of epic views, and worked up an appetite for the local vegan restaurant. We had spotted Eden right by our place and there's a hefty menu, but the star is a daily selection of special dishes that you can pick 10 of for around £10. I'm not vegan but my friends are, and this was super tasty despite it looking a little like a plate of slop!
We snapped the parliament building from across the river and took a trip to a supermarket for pre-drinks (aka prinks) and frozen chips, though we forgot we didn't have an oven at the apartment and ended up pan frying them dry. Yum!
There are a few larger clubs in a square so we jumped in a cab to one called Bob first and ended up staying there all night! First it was playing salsa music but then it was a load of chart stuff and everyone was dancing; there was no posing or perching at the sides. We were dancing with some guys and all I saw was one of my friends being lifted up by some random boy and then soar through the air like a bird when the guy dropped her! It was so funny but also completely not cool but also we were all laughing so much. It was another easy, effortless night with so many fun moments. Budapest was a breeze! Every activity was just completely effortless, inexpensive and unique. Let's just not mention that labyrinth!
As I said on the 'gram, are you even a tourist if you don't wear your bag to the front?! Onto day two of my Budapest trip and thinking back, we did so much that day! We'd only had a few drinks the night before so we were up and out bright and early for a free walking tour. Our apartment was on the opposite site of the Danube but we swiftly crossed the beautiful bridge and met the walking group, thinking it was a good opportunity to get our bearings and cover lots of sights in one go. One of the best things about Budapest is that there are SO many free sights and experiences, or it's super cheap. It was February so it was damn freezing and we departed with the group to take on St. Stephen's Basilica and the Parliament building. We were paying more attention to taking photos than keeping up with the group though!
I wasn't sure whether to include a photo of the Shoes on the Danube but you can read about this moving memorial here. Budapest is cloaked in history and this felt open and significant, ready to reflect on without the tourist crowds around you.
Despite it ending right by our apartment, we actually snuck off from the walking tour pretty soon! I would say you could plan out a tour yourself as the city streets are clear to navigate and sights are close to each other. It was so cold that it wasn't making sense anymore to be pounding the streets so we hung back and slipped away in search of a hot drink. The town wasn't very bustling but this made our search for a coffee shop rather redundant. In the end we grabbed a chai latte in an average Starbucks before moving onto the Terror Haza, a museum set in a place of great horrors of the fascist and communist regimes. The exhibits are hugely varied and use so many different, creative mediums to tell the story of the time, leading up to an eerie walk through the cells that's scary to think about even now.
It was time for some fuel and we walked across the city to vegan restaurant Napfenyes to sample giant pizzas. The difference wasn't too obvious but a sprinkle of real cheese wouldn't have gone amiss for me! Dining is so cheap that we could have visited there every day and this cute eatery made for a lovely rest.
Back to the apartment and onto the night! We joined Tinder purely to ask for local recommendations and made a plan to head towards another ruin pub. The apartment was an absolute delight and we were blasting music, applying piles of makeup and dancing around in pure comfort. This is going to sound ridiculous but half the clothes I brought didn't actually fit! Literally I walked into my friends' room with a dress barely covering my hips, so potentially that winter snacking crept up on me by surprise! Bring it on I say - the only problemo was that I only had limited outfits with me! I'd luckily packed a fair few extras of course. My friend Catherine had packed a set outfit per day but I always find I need so many options to mix and match. I dress on instinct and it strikes fear in my heart to think you might have to wear something that doesn't feel right on the night!
I had this faithful Missguided midi skirt that looks like faux suede but is actually rather stretchy, and a handy Missguided cropped bralette that may seem off-shoulder, but it actually has sweet straps. My hair was damn curly from the day in the freezing weather so I had to tie a little up to appear somewhat less dishevelled!
We snapped away on my Instax (the first thing I exclaimed when I saw the size of the apartment was 'this will be amazing for photos!') and had one last drink before heading to the bar. Gozsdu Udvar was an arcade full of cafes and pubs but on a Wednesday it was rather quiet. We dodged a bar with girls dancing on the tables and ducked into Blue Bird Cafe, soon realising... it was karaoke night!! Amazing. I usually hate karaoke but I included Snapchat videos in my vlog below because it was actually completely hilarious. We tapped our request into the iPad (Tribute - Tenacious D) and enjoyed streams of tourists singing everything from Disney songs to Queen in terrible accents, taking it extremely seriously, before complaining our song was taking forever. A traveller told us she had sneakily deleted all of the other requests before hers and that was the only way it played! By now though it was rather late and we just crashed other people's songs! It was such a fun night and didn't matter that we ended up staying in the bar as I've never laughed so much! Look out for my next instalment soon, or check out my vlog below for a sneak peek!
I hope you enjoy reading these lengthy travel diaries as I have two trips up my sleeve - my solo New York whirlwind and my bae-cation with besties to Budapest earlier this year! I created the vlog at the end of this post almost as soon as I returned as I had so much fun documenting this trip. Proving you can make friends as an adult, I've only know Sarah really well for a few years, and it was less than a year ago that I met her friend Catherine, who has a YouTube channel too! No friends have ever really been keen to be in my videos but this time it was constant cameras out!
So why Budapest? We were looking for a bargain break that wouldn't be too icy and still had plenty of nightlife. Discovering handy flights out of BHX and the cheapest accomodation ever, we booked up pretty sharpish. Planning our Hungarian adventure was straightforward and stress-free too. The sights are clear and readily explained across the net, and a large handful of bars and clubs stood out right away.
We didn't fly until the evening but I did take the day off work to pack and prep. After a log slog in the office, I would not be starting the holiday in the freshest place, right! We booked checked cases for our 5 day trip so I greedily packed up practically every outfit in my modest wardrobe and we ubered off to the airport. We were in the middle of debating drinks and snacks before our flight when it was suddenly called to final boarding, so we hot footed it to the gate and away we went!
I'll spare you the rather alarming photo of my sheet mask during the DIY plane facial I created, but soon we were being whizzed through the streets of Hungary by our new favourite cab driver who shared many recommendations. He pulled up to a huge, eerie church cloaked in darkness and announced "girls, this is your home"... before laughing his head off and pulling up to our actual apartment. In a towering stone building with heavy iron doors and winding stone staircases, this was more like staying at an abbey too! We were met by the host and as he showed us around the glorious space, we kept our cool until he finally vacated and we could run around our pad. I cannot believe what money can buy in Budapest! You can see more of our flat in the vlog but the high ceilings, stained glass and major space meant it was Instagram-photo perfection and such a welcoming home. I've only realised recently how your accommodation can really make the difference to a holiday, even if you always intend to be out and about, as your choice sets the scene for the whole trip. The impact feels short lived as soon as you arrive, but the time you spend getting ready for adventures, gearing up for a night out and gossiping in the morning do play a major role in the getaway vibes. From eight girls in a one bedroom apartment in Abu Dhabi, to my recent New York room that could have fit in the bathroom of our Budapest apartment (more on that at a later date!), I've really overlooked the part accommodation has played in the past. I would highly recommend Piano Castle Hill apartments!
It was fairly late but the gals on this trip know how to party right. Within an hour we were dressed, drink in hand, finding the best photo spot and planning our escape. The cab driver had gave us the number of a local taxi firm and that's where we put his first top tip into place. The taxis have a set fare per kilometre so be careful you are not overcharged. You can check the distance on Google Maps and estimate how much you should be paying, plus a small initial charge, so when the driver quoted us literally four times what it should have been, we definitely disputed! Once fairly settled with a shrug from the driver, and despite it being a Wednesday night, we were destined for the best 'ruin bar', Szimpla Kert. Set in the Jewish Quarter a 10 minute taxi ride across the nearby Danube, the ruin bars take up abandoned, sprawling buildings left after World War II and create a maze of a pub-come-club, with walls covered in quirky graffiti, dog-eared posters and arty paraphernalia. With so much personality, you're in a hippy paradise and, quite importantly, surrounded my travellers. We walked into plenty of casual student types dancing up a storm and after a few rum and cokes later, we were too! We did meet some Brits abroad, most memorably a bunch of guys who said one of their dads had paid for everyone's trips, but we side-stepped these pretty sharpish. After a few hours we went in search for a vegan takeaway as I was indeed travelling with two veganistas. Three falafel wraps later and we were back to our apartment and sleeping soundly. Look out for my post about day 2 soon, but if you want to jump ahead already, here is my vlog! Enjoy watching.
Onto the last instalment of my Ibiza trip! And gosh, it's so making me ready for another visit. Or a one way ticket to any beach, anywhere, pronto! It was our third full day and we had already watched the sunset at Cafe Mambo, climbed the castle and partied all night. It was time to indulge in one of Ibiza's beautiful beaches and really have a day of relaxation. I can't comment on what they are like in high season but Cala Bassa was top of our list and one of the most popular. I forgot to mention in my previous post that I got chatting to the DJ of our favourite and only night spot, and he wrote a list of recommended beaches. This was high on list so we grabbed a short cab ride, lilo in tow.
We hit the restaurant first, overlooking the cove beach. Being on the Ibiza coast really does feel like a spiritual experience because you know you could swim around the rocks and discover another beach hidden just around the corner. They're small and natural and rugged around the rocky edges, but the water is clear and once out of the town, there's a lot of forest and countryside.
We sampled some local sea food and a few cocktails before hitting the sand. I had a new super cute rainbow bikini from Boohoo but again I don't think I'll post a picture here! One friend and I literally leaned on the lilo and floated around in the sea chatting for around an hour. I think I'd love to live by the sea - I'm really a mermaid!
We stayed sunning until around 5pm and hopped on the bus back to San Antonio. I think we grabbed some quick food nearby before heading to our hotel to get ready for the night. It was a Sunday evening but a lady at reception had recommended a local bar that stayed open late all winter and was the place to head to. I threw on a mini dress I hadn't worn in years as you can wear just about anything on holiday with sandals and some bronzer, and we sampled the hotel entertainment of can-can dancers with the other OAP guests. These delights weren't exactly our thing so once over, we trooped out and walked in the rough direction of the receptionist's hand-drawn map, eventually arriving at Habaneros. At least I think that is what it was called - something similar anyway!
It turned out indeed to be an open pub with pool tables outside and those €5 euro drink offers of a syrup shot and sugary cocktail. A few strawberry rounds later and we were winning a game with the locals, dominating the DJ's request list and rocking back up to the hotel at 5am! It was just like our own private party as it wasn't heaving, but there were just enough last minute holiday makers to make it fun. Definitely our best night so far!
We woke up feeling the most delicate of the holiday but made our way to another recommended beach, Cala Gracio. This was much more hidden and serene, where you climb down wooden steps to get to the sand. I grabbed a book and sat on my lilo bobbing around for a few hours! One friend and I rented a boat with a slide and peddled out to the sea to discuss the life back home. Maybe I need to revoke my mermaid status as deep sea freaks me out and definitely got way too choppy at one point, so we peddled back sharpish!
As our last night and a sleepy Monday, we scouted local restaurants and stumbled across the pretty bay-side Villa Mercedes. We took an outdoor table in the balmy evening and made the most of their bargain set menu for around €15 for three beautifully presented, light dishes. It was so lucky to end on such a high with a great meal and great wine!
The next day we had a quick yet predictably terrible bite at our hotel and drank tea the colour of dirty water before sadly boarding our flight home! As I mentioned before, the good Hotel Arenal reviews are due to the competition to win a free return holiday based on your review!
Ibiza certainly has a magical air that's unique to any other destination. It does feel mystical and mythical, and the vibes of a summer of partying and sabbaticals meeting on this one island was left in the air, even after the season had completed. Don't miss my vlog of the whole trip!
I could SO jet off on a beach getaway right about now! These pictures are totally making me dream of summer. It's the third instalment of my Ibiza holiday and our second full day was sunny and warm. Around 25 degrees to be exact! Perfect. We were set for our first beach day, and I just had to go straight to the nearest shop and buy a huge blue lilo. Beach bags packed and hair bunned up, we set off to the sea!
Our hotel was literally on San Antonio beach so we grabbed breakfast before walking along the sea to a slightly nicer stretch of sand. I imagine this beach is packed full in high season but it was very quiet while we settling onto the sand with a few Coronas. There was a sweet beachy vibe but no lairy groups or pumping music, which suited us fine! It's not the greatest beach in terms of clear water or an absence of litter, and I assume it could be hit and miss at busier times, but a splash in the sea was all we called for. We took some great self-timer shots but I won't share bikini photos of my friends here!
I'm not even going to share a full-on bikini photo of myself as it felt a little TMI, but the new bikini I took was so lush! I spotted the brand Boho Rose on Instagram and the fluorescent coral hue of this set won my heart. All bikinis are hand made in a stretch, shirred-style fabric that is super comfortable and thick, yet the cut is seriously flattering. With a cool high-cut hip and at least ten different bra shapes to choose from, I'd so recommend this brand! I'd really like an acid yellow set for this summer, or the apple green.
The day quickly ran away with us and we vowed to be ready for 6ish to catch the sunset at the Cafe Mambo closing party. I had looked at booking a table before the trip but there was a €100 deposit so we chanced it. I wore this PrettyLittleThing set I've had for a few years but never actually wore due to the tiny amount of material it is! It's a wash of minty pastels and so pretty.
We made the sunset right on time and Cafe Mambo was much more laid back than I had anticipated. We walked straight in and spotted a free table as we queued for the bar. It was only after we ate dinner there too that we realised just how lucky it was to walk right in and get a table for food without a reservation, and apparently we had walked past a huge queue and just strolled right in! I just thought the crowds outside were milling around but it turns out there was some sort of door check and we'd been none the wiser.
A few more cocktails and the music really got started, but it wasn't quite our style. No matter how long I could spend in Ibiza, house music is just not my jam! We stayed until late and walked back through the West End, popping into a few bars that promised to be absolutely heaving after midnight. A week or so before and the nightlife may have been still alive, but most places were shut by mid October. We were soon back at the hotel of pensioners, getting a few hours sleep before another beach day tomorrow.
It's that time of the year when winter festivities are firmly packed away and you're realising one can never own too many bikinis. Here is the next instalment of my Ibiza trip last year after a breezy flight and first night adventures, and it was our first full day! After leaving the land that was closing down for winter, it felt like we had a second chance at summer as we awoke to blue skies, warm air and the promise of that Ibiza magic. First agenda: breakfast! With only one night down, we passed upon the breakfast at our Hotel Arenal as it was clear it was an over 50s affair. A programme of show dancers and a magician in the evening, plus various OAPs in hotel towels sitting back on plastic chairs, revealed that either the party season had long ended, or we were certainly in ancient accommodation!
The best thing was the proximity to San Antonio beach and we strolled along the pretty much empty sands to a nearby classic greasy spoon with a sea view, right next to a KFC. It's clear San Antonio has every fast food joint you could wish for when you're abroad with the lads, lads, lads, and that was cool with us. As I mentioned in my last post, we really chose Ibiza on a whim and I was so ready for an easy, breezy ride. One of our only planned activity days was to visit Ibiza town so we hopped on a nearby bus and was soon at the capital.
A definite upgrade from San Antonio's startling booze cruise advertisements and 2-for-1 fish bowls, the town has a rustic, Mediterranean vibe with pretty pastel apartments and a port untouched by under age tourists. We couldn't help stopping by Pull & Bear and Berksha, and I observed what seemed to be the island 'locals'; those with deep tans, threaded hair braids and tie dyed clothes.
The first goal was to climb Eivissa Castle for the sunset; the beautiful highlight Ibiza is known for. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this holiday was packing a small case exclusively of bright, summery clothes! Wearing these Missguided flares in Ibiza was the perfect place, and all of my festival floral crowns came in perfectly handy. My legs look freakishly long here due to my lens!
It's a surprisingly quick stroll along the cobbles to reach the 360 degree views from the top of the castle. We took in the views during dusk and could truly appreciate we were on such a small drop of an island in the gorgeous Balearic sea. I loved the beauty of a relaxed vibe and not having a 'holiday' in a rushed city with an overwhelming itinerary.
We wandered back down towards the centre, where the edges of castle are bursting with charming, open fronted restaurants with chalked menus on wooden plaques leaning against white walls. We chose La Oliva and a few glasses of Spanish wine perfectly complimented the fresh fish on offer. I love quaint restaurants that have beautiful, delicate dishes in a rustic, casual setting.
I had the sea bass followed by a crème brûlée, which is fast becoming my go-to dessert. Despite the pudding, it was an extremely light and fresh dinner, made even more atmospheric by the falling daylight into a balmy evening of eating and drinking outdoors on the cobbled streets as passersby lazily strolled on. On a city break it's often hard to sift the best restaurants from the tourist-calling, laminated menu offerings that you always tend to plump for. This was such a treat to dine leisurely with friends and enjoy a relaxed evening meal!
We headed back towards the bus stops, stopping off for one drink along the way as the town had such a perfect vibe. Once returned to the hotel, I experienced another pro of beach holidays. It literally took a shower, quick smoky eye and highlight, a party dress and soon we were ready to head out again and felt great. I wore a Boohoo dress that can only be reserved for a place that you spend most of the time wearing a tiny bikini anyway, as it's literally pants with a few strips of material here and there, and off we went off to the West End! I explained in my previous post but this is essentially the strip of San Antonio, Ibiza's party town. Our hotel was a quick stroll there in the warm evening air, so we arrived to the criss-crossing streets lined with bars raring to go.
Unfortunately the bars themselves were not... as in they were all closed. We wandered around, looking right and left for some signs of life or sounds of a bass, until we turned a corner and saw Soho's, the bar we had visited last night! It was their summer closing party (not quite in an epic proportion though) and all drinks were 1€. ALL DRINKS. Despite it being a crowd inside of around 40, the place was filled quite nicely and again we had the mercy of the DJ. A million requests later, the DJ had his hands in the air as Faithless blasted out to our modestly sized adoring crow, and we made friends with just about everyone. Sadly my floor length dress was not the item to wear in a bar that was attempting to drain every liquid in the place as by the end of the night, the hem was literally sodden by about a metre in whatever was on that floor. Nice. I literally left it to soak for about a week before washing it 20 times once I had brought it back home in it's own shameful bag. Never the less, a hilarious night!
And if you can't wait for all of the gossip from the other nights, my vlog is live! Would you consider an Ibiza visit?
It's January: the peak time for booking holidays. I already have one booked up for February as I really do work to travel at this point in my life/career/single status, and you may be pondering your 2017 destinations too. Ibiza could be a destination you hadn't considered (or you just like to read my super long holiday adventures?!) so I have a series of posts coming up this week of my trip to Ibiza in October!
Now my friends and I usually choose cheap, obscure cities for our holidays so we only need to use a few days annual leave and we can be assured we won't exclusively meet a) teenagers or b) British tourists, but also we look to party every night and sight see every day. Sleep is not part of the itinerary evidently! Ibiza came about because we wanted some late winter sun, wanted to stay in Europe and wanted some fuss-free nightlife. I've always been intrigued by Ibiza because I've always told myself I'm not enough of a beach babe to shine somewhere that a bikini is a dress code. Since the slightly disastrous trip to Dubai, I knew I never felt great with my hair bundled up to combat any sea water and the sand rubbing off my fake tan. I prefer cities to beaches and don't like sitting all day... or so I thought. Once October rolled around, all I wanted to do was sit in warm sunshine sipping cocktails! I didn't want to soak up culture or creativity; I just wanted to relax with a capital R. We spotted a super cheap deal and booked up!
I spent a few weeks shopping for cute bikinis in the sales and making an itinerary of secluded beaches. In Dubai we were super rushed to get ready each day and I felt almost scruffy compared to the luxe vibes there, but this time I had all of the pretty damn lovely holiday clothes I'd bought especially for that holiday and never got to wear, plus it all fitted neatly into a hand luggage-sized suitcase as jumpers, jeans and heels were not needed. I packed loads of headwraps, beachy jewellery and a head full of hair style ideas in order to feel happy on a beach. I didn't know how that would fare but read on to hear my revaluation.
It was actually pretty funny to be going to a classic holiday destination in an Inbetweeners-style jaunt. It was somewhere we knew we didn't need to take too seriously. I had low expectations as October was officially out of season, and while some places were still open, most of the prestige super clubs and beach parties were well and truly over. A few cocktails at a cheesy bar and a few books on the beach suited me fine! And as the UK was heading straight into autumn, it was great to pack a bag bursting with colour, choose a fluorescent orange for my nails and bring out the sandals, sun cream and shorts. I didn't care about going to the gym or glamming up before we went as there was no prestige, no expectation and no drama with this trip. It was one of the first holidays I felt no pressure to be extremely prepared and make the absolute most of; I was more curious to see what vibes this island had to offer.
Our flight was during the day time so we leisurely headed to our very local airport and were treated to a World Duty Free experience before our flight. We first perused what was new at the counters and admired the insane Liptensity shades at MAC, taking some awesome tips from the MUA who had lived in Ibiza for a few seasons. For some reason my friend and I bought the most ridiculous shades as we were SO in the Ibiza spirit, and I pictured myself rocking purple lipstick with my space buns and bikini at a fabulous pool party. Oh yes!
We wandered over to the new Jo Malone area that felt a world away from the bustling airport departures and explored the different scents. I chose Oud and Bergamot for my complimentary hand massage, and just check out my tan! I'd gone a little wild in my holiday prep and made the rookie error of not scrubbing my hands straight after. The hand massage definitely took the edge off this and was an absolute dream before our flight. I'm not the easiest of flyers but I am a huge fan of holistic remedies and even a short massage with the delicious scents helped to set the tone for a smooth and easy flight.
Some trashy chic lit later and we were zipping through Ibiza at dusk to our hotel. I'm not sure what I expected but it was at first a series of long tarmaced roads boardered with brash billboards of the hottest parties of the season. It was quite peculiar to know these dates had all passed and we had arrived to somewhere that was winding down. The hotel had a lobby full of a few towel-wrapped holiday makers and laminated evening entertainment programmes, and our room was something out of the '70s. Pink tiles, wooden sliding doors and turquoise pattered curtains contained two wooden single beds. The TV was ancient and the balcony view was of air conditioners and Burger King, but the room was massive, airy and cool. We grabbed some drinks and snacks from the open shop across the street and welcomed the other half of our foursome who had flown in from London and had most definitely already started the cocktail party on the plane!
I'd spent a summer in jeans and crop tops so quickly showering and cracking out a strappy orange mini dress from Pretty Little Thing, diamante choker from Claire's and flat embellished sandals felt damn amazing. Sandals! There's something so freeing about going strictly casual but of course all-out at the same time and only taking 15 minutes to get ready. Somehow a little makeup goes a long way and I had nothing to prove. Unfortunately we hadn't realised the average age of the hotel guests was around 65 and we were told instantly by the knocking night porter that any sound would not be tolerated. We sipped and chatted and selfied as quietly as we could before grabbing out clutch bags and doing that satisfying here-come-the-girls strut out to the cabs.
We made the mistake of taking one across the island from San Antonio to Playa D'en Bossa but the advertised pool party was like a ghost town! Luckily two of the group stayed in the taxi while we crept through the entrance and onto a completely deserted beach, made ever so eerie by the dark crashing waves. Back in the cab, we sailed back to the West End and found there too almost everywhere was shut up. We followed the calls of music and stumbled across one bar with just enough of a small crowd meaning we were constantly served within ten seconds and could request almost all of the music.
And that's how our first night went! I don't have any photos to share because they are all candid shots of us piling onto the single beds and talking each other into wearing our most fabulous dresses, but you can be sure it was a perfect first night! Maybe beach holidays were better than I first thought? Tune back in later for more!
Hello! Last Friday was spent very differently to this week as I whizzed down to MTV Crashes Plymouth! I LOVE a festival or any music event really; what could be better than a huge mass of people totally in the zone and sharing the sunshine vibes! That feeling you get after any concert, gig or event is something you can’t replicate.
CrossCountry trains treated my bestie and myself to a trip to the south for a day in Plymouth as loads of artists crashed the town with MTV. I used to holiday in Weymouth a lot when I was a little kid and would sit in the shallows of the sea with my legs to the side pretending to be a mermaid! But heading to the nearby Plymouth for the first time couldn’t have been easier as the route is direct from Birmingham New Street. A few hours flew by as we traveled across beautiful coastline and had those essential hours to fill each other in with all of our latest gossip. My friends and I mostly will meet for Friday night drinks now but when we do, it has to be especially early to reserve a few hours for chatting.
I JUST passed my driving test (wahooooo, that’s another post!!) but there’s no reason to sit on the motorway for hours when you can hop on a train with snacks, magazines and mates and actually relax before reaching your destination! Last year we had a few mini city breaks to Sheffield and Leeds, and it’s the perfect treat when a summer holiday is way too far on the horizon, and you can reach cities across the country so easily. The CrossCountry network is the most extensive in Britain, stretching from Aberdeen to Penzance and from Stansted to Cardiff, calling at over 100 stations, and we are so lucky to live in a country with so many easily accessible cities and landmarks just waiting to be checked out.
After an incredibly smooth journey peppered with multiple cups of tea and biscuits, we pulled into Plymouth Station and strolled across to our hotel to freshen up and decide on our outfits. I had to bring about 200 options and we chose really casual looks in the end as the festival was so central in the town and we didn’t want to go overboard with glitter, feathers and flowers!
Plymouth is a beautiful mix of cobbled streets and a thriving port with a classic British seaside vibe. I had a birthday voucher for Pizza Express so we stopped off for dinner before heading across to Plymouth Hoe to a HUGE crowd against the shore. It was a festival stage of epic proportions and one of the most excited and happy vibes of any music event I’ve been to, especially as the weather held off and it was a warm summer night. We grabbed a Pimms and partied with Afro Jack, Sub Focus and Example, featuring laser shows, smoke and mega beats. The shows were blended by independent DJs from Plymouth so it was literally one long, non-stop party all night!
Feeling hyped and happy, we went onto a local bar called The Dairy that served cocktails in milk bottles before heading back to our welcoming hotel beds! The next day we browsed the port again before leisurely hopping back on the train and chilling to the max all the way home.
Thank you to CrossCountry trains from us both! For students or about-to-be students, a 16-25 Railcard can get discounts of up to 1/3 on most adult Standard and First Class rail fares AND you can also get an exclusive 10% off CrossCountry Advance tickets with your NUS extra, or Apprentice extra card. Follow their student Facebook page here!
GOSH it's hot! I'm writing this lying stretched out on my bed in the most awkward style but it's extreme weather in the UK right now and I can't find a way to sit and type that doesn't feel like I'm wearing the air as a blanket. But hey, summer is here and sadly I don't have a tropical holiday on the horizon! Maybe this will change but my friends and I always prefer to discover another city rather than sit by a pool. I'm not sure you could look forward to a week of lounging as you can with a week of discoveries, but I probably need to widen my beach destination list. I need to feel like I've accomplished something when I have time off work and I figure I can sit on a sunbed when I'm older. I guess I'm not a sun worshipper!
My holiday to Dubai in November wasn't all it was cracked up to be and was mega pricey, so we'd waited a while to book another break. I'd heard the getaway idea of spending a few days in Paris and a few days in Bordeaux, and we looked at switching that up to Paris plus the south of France. This would have been even more costly than two separate holidays so we booked off 6 days to spend in Paris! I've been to Marseille with my friends in a hilariously impulsive trip that cost just £20 to fly and it ended up being truly awesome and effortless, so Paris was the city to ticket off next. My friend is a huge Mumford and Sons fan and they were touring there at the time we wanted to go.
So Paris it was! And it was also a New York reunion for myself and two of my friends who are always up for an adventure; our aim is to be as social as possible. I had my sights set on seeing some beautiful landmarks, mixing with the ‘locals’ and drafting ourselves into the coolest circles and hotspots.
The flights from Birmingham airport are easy peasy as you’re at Charles De Gaulle in little over an hour and we lazily took an Uber to our (Booking.com) apartment; it worked out pretty much the same cost as train and metro travel into central Paris, and we all had large suitcases for the six days rather than our usual overloaded 10kg hand luggage allowance that we always abuse. We picked the central 14th arr. which had a host of local restaurants and supermarkets nearby, but we did end up getting Ubers and the metro during the day and night towards the centre of the city. I’d aim to stay as close to the Seine as possible to be the most central to the night life!
Our apartment absolutely blew us away as we were welcomed in by the owner, Bertrand. This flat was a work of art itself, with incredible 19th century furniture, hundreds of guide books on Paris culture and sights, and actual art and sculptures with their own spotlights. We charmed our way through his meticulous tour of the flat, “this is the kettle”… *extensive how-to lesson*… “this is the cleaning cupboard”… *extensive description of all items*... and he kindly left us with a bottle of champagne and a beautiful cake! What a delight. A hotel is great if you want the upkeep of new towels and a tidy each day, but an apartment crucially gave us the freedom to buy supermarket food to save on eating out constantly, and have some chill time rather than be cramped into one space. We had a hotel in New York but an apartment really worked in Paris as we did spend a fair time eating and getting ready there each days.
After a day of travelling, we browsed the local area with Bertrand’s handy custom maps and recommendations, and tucked into some fair French food with a slight touristy edge. Finding great restaurants is still not my forte as I’m not the biggest foodie but it does pain me to pay top dollar for dull food from a laminated menu full of photos. I was very torn on what to do that evening but one of my friends and I decided to head to a bar just for a few drinks as to not waste our first night, and I literally wore my matching leggings and lace up khaki set that I’d worn on the plane and just topped up my lipstick!
In the run up to travelling, I was actually the most chilled out I've been for any holiday. I had just changed my job a few weeks before and we unfortunately had a furry visitor under our floorboard at home, so I was too wrapped up and stressed about other things to spend my usual weeks leading up to a holiday knee deep in online guides and top 10 listicles. I did manage to collect a selection of bar and club descriptions, though this is an extremely hard task as there’s so much dated information online and a description of a club is so subjective. I’d managed to collect a list of decent-sounding bars and clubs though I annoyingly can’t remember the one we headed off to, which was a tiny dark hole in the wall with a basement cove of open brick-work packed with people dancing to a live band, and a bar circled with the most attractive French hipsters. It was all beards, long hair and smouldering looks, and after ordering two gin doubles that came to around 40 euros, we were slightly apprehensive this would be an EXPENSIVE holiday! A band of older dudes joined the first band on the tiny stage and they encored to the crowd’s delight, and we had a giggling gossip before heading home around 1am as we had to be up and out the next morning for DISNEYLAND!
Now I’m not the hugest Disney film fan as I’m not particularly into cartoon films but obviously I appreciate Disney, the magic and a great chance to be entertained. We chose an off-peak day and the tickets for both parks were under £40 each, and we took a train from Paris straight there easily. I’m hilariously scared of rides and my friends had to coax me onto even the child-friendly ones, but we soon learnt that some queues were not worth waiting in as we spent way too long in the Toy Story area. We had a fast pass but didn’t realise you had to queue up at the start of the day to each separate ride and collect a timed ticket, and by the time we tried to go straight into Ratatouille, the fast pass ticket times were all sold out – oops! We queued up anyway for the top rides so next was the Finding Nemo rollercoaster which was actually super scary, and some 15 year old French girls in the queue were totally making fun of us behind as we waited which made for some hilarious commentary for our friends back at home when we sent an SOS Whatsapp message that we were being bullied by teenagers.
After circling some more rides on the leaflet map and making a rough order of the day, we headed back to Ratatouille and skipped the massive main queue to get straight on in the ‘single riders’ queue. If you don’t have kids that have to be with you at all times, I’d recommend taking this queue as generally you are in the same set of carriages or cars as your friends, and most experiential rides don’t need you to be next to your mates as you aren’t exactly having a chit chat during them! That 3D experience was completely awesome, and I think we then went off for some lunch at Annettes, where I lived my dream of being at a restaurant with servers on rollerskates! We made a slight error in queuing up for ages for the Armagedon ride that just made loads of little kids cry, and the Tower of Terror was absolutely the scariest thing I’ve ever been on! Especially when my friend were secretly touching my hair and I thought it was part of the ride.
A few rides were shut for maintenance but we completed them all and then headed to Disneyland Park for the 5.30pm parade. At 5pm there were spaces along the street but after we grabbed a drink, the pavements were lined with families and it was harder to get a great spot. I’m gutted Ariel wasn’t in the parade but it was a delight to see all of the characters and dancers! I assume the parade is the time when lots of families call it a day as this park was open until 10pm and there were hardly any ride queues from there on in. We worked out way around Buzz Lightyear Lazer Blast, It’s a Small World and every ride that was open that day, although I was too chicken to go on Space Mountain! Soon it really was late and we had to head all the way back home, make a supermarket stop for dinner, and get set for a night out.
Another ingenious thing I did was to put in my Tinder profile that I was in Paris for a week and needed nightlife recommendations, and then swipe right for the first 100 guys that popped up. Dodging the many ‘I recommend you hang out with ME’ messages, most people did send over some great suggestions and we chose the hilariously named Le Titty Twister as our destination. We heard it was a rock club but as we stepped out the Uber, we didn’t realised it would be a roped off entrance reminiscent of New York. The door lady surrounded by bouncers asked if we were on 'the list', to which my friend replied yes and improvised with a random name, and we were let into the dark, swanky space themed on Tarantino film and playing hip hop and trap music all night. This wasn’t quite what my friends had in mind but it was more up my street, though we didn’t stay too long as it was rather pretentious and we weren’t feeling that for a Thursday night. We spoke to a few 'business owners' but whether they were real or phoney will remain a mystery!
Plus the next day we were out and about in Paris as we’d bought the Paris Pass. We didn’t end up visiting all of the sights we’d hoped but it’s always useful to prebook as much as you can before heading somewhere so it’s as easy breezy as possible to get up and GO. We headed straight for the Louvre of course and browsed around the galleries before scoping the Mona Lisa, which has apparently been subject to theft, an acid attack and a fire?! She is one rad babe.
We explored Notre Dame and had some massive omelettes by the Seine, and paid a pilgrimage to Sephora before passing some hotties in the street and getting another recommendation for the best parties. The weather was beaut that day and we took a final walk to the impressive Panthéon for a browse before heading off home and getting set for that night. As it was Friday we hit a cocktail bar first in a cool side street packed with after-work drinkers, and got an Uber to Wanderlust. The queue was absolutely massive and about five people thick, snaking all the way down the road, but we confidentially walked straight to the front and basically just asked to come in. At first the bouncers looked bemused and grabbed a guy that could speak English, and we literally just said we need to come straight in while trying to look like we were ‘somebodies’ in an aloof, prestige sort of fashion, and somehow we just casually strolled in. I don’t quite know how we do it but you just need to walk straight in without a bouncer saying yes or no, giving the air that you are meant to be there! My one friend also casually walked straight past the 18euro entrance desk and we were on the huge rooftop party dancing all night and meeting Insta-famous body builders apparently.
Satisfied but a little delicate, we awoke to Bertrand’s alarm clock of a sublime classical music CD and headed on the train to the Palace of Versailles on the boiling hot Saturday. We spent most of the time walking and queuing, and saw little of the Palace after we discovered despite our entrance pass, visiting the gardens was a further 10 euros. 10 euros for open air seemed a little mean and we continued around the grand palace before travelling back to central Paris and not visiting Opera in time. We still had a few hours before we needed to head back to get set for the night out so we hopped on the nearby open top bus tour and chundered round the sites in a bus that really felt like it would topple over at any point! The extended tour did start lulling us to sleep and we soon hopped off and onto the metro home, refreshing ourselves for another night out at the Moulin Rouge club, La Machine. After our recent experiences of club entry, we mentally prepared ourselves to encounter some super strict bouncers, but this club seemed to be super casual and it was a night called Chronologic, where each hour played music from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and then the ‘00s in order - of course! We walked in at the end of the ‘60s era to a swimming pool-style low dance floor surrounded by balconies, and a stage with super camp dancers and crowd invasions. On the hour there was a grand countdown and the next decade of tunes began. This place was absolutely awesome but IT WAS SO HOT. It was literally the temperature of a sauna and I managed only a few songs before having to go stand near the entrance and popping back in to instantly hit a wall of heat. Next time I would wear something dark and super loose, and NOT wear your hair down! It was such a party but really impossible to stay very long - it was honestly a million degrees!
The next day we had our Mumford and Son’s gig in the evening so we attempted to book a wine tour but instead went on a boat tour down the Seine, which I wouldn’t really recommend unless it’s a sunny day and you can sit on the boat roof. We were so low down in the boat that you couldn’t see any sights over the river walls anyway and listening to a telephone spiel of the commentary was annoying so we just chatted and face swapped instead! I’d choose the bus tour over a boat tour any day.
We grabbed dinner and got back to the apartment just in time to get ready again and take an expensive taxi to the Zennith arena at the edge of Paris. The arena was quite small so it was an intimate-enough gig, and though I’m not a huge M&Ss fan it was a great show. We met some French hippies and a few English guys and hung out before it was home time in a giant shared Uber.
And then it was our last day! Which was actually rather lovely as we got up slowly and packed, realised one of Bertrand’s DVD collection was a film we had been talking about all holiday, and went back into central Paris to have a meal at the cutest, most authentic French restaurant that was truly delicious and opposite Laduree. We strolled down the Seine until sundown and grabbed snacks for an evening of Saved the Last Dance in our cool apartment, before our early flight the next morning.
As I hadn’t been away or taken a break from work for for 6 months, and I’m lucky enough to usually go on a short break with my friends every few months for the past few years, it was SO a few days away that I really needed and I came back feeling refreshed and motivated. It was the perfect mix of action and chill, and my camera was playing up so I didn’t concern myself with documenting the holiday too much. I did get a few shots for the vlog below but there was no full video this time!
We're thinking about a late September break that is relaxing and laid back with just a few cheeky local bars and a whole lotta sea and sand - can you recommend anywhere? We are considering Venice!
I hope my previous post didn't send you into despair but here is my penultimate round up of my holiday! We were onto the Dubai stretch and it was bliss to have a shower without a queue of eight girls, though I still felt pretty horrible. One of our group had a cousin who works in Dubai and stays at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah Resort. Let's just say it was fancy. And I mean fancy!
He said we could use the resort's beach that day and we all trooped off in taxis with me skipping breakfast. I was wearing my new River Island bikini with a gorgeous jewel toned maxi dress from Boohoo that I'd picked up for next to nothing, but was feeling quite quiet and took more of a back seat. Usually I'm the one sharing plans, gossiping and laughing at every moment so it really was rather rubbish to be feeling so under the weather!
After a few questionable moments on whether we were allowed in, we soon met the elusive cousin and were setting off in golf buggies towards the resort, as of course you do not take one step on foot when you stay in a place that costs £6,000 a WEEK! It was such a strange place - who is this rich?! It was hard to figure out if it was full of holiday makers having a dream vacation or just filthy rich people. Of course it was amazing to be there and just so surreal.
You can just see the golden horses lining the drive, which we whipped past and soon came to the most luxurious villas with incredibly plush interiors and personal butlers. Another buggy later and we were at Jumeirah beach. The paradise was complete with massage tents and various waiters bringing around fresh fruit, ice lollies and of course cocktails. Feeling like I was surely going to turn a corner at some point, I ordered some plain wedges and a drink with ginger beer, hoping to keep my stomach settled. I've always wanted to go to an idyllic beach like this but in reality it was missing any character. It's quite artificial and like a picture had come to life; there's nothing to take away because it's all aesthetic. It's quite hard to explain but maybe there just wasn't the atmosphere that a seaside or natural beach can have. That said, instead of feeling fabulous and glorious, I was feeling pants so maybe that is why! It was of course absolutely beautiful.
I took a dip in the sea and relaxed on the sun loungers, just chilling really as there wasn't a lot of potential for people watching. Sadly I started to get really bad tummy pain and literally found the nearest bathroom and just sat on the floor of it for about half an hour feeling so terrible and absolutely gutted that things were not getting better. I had to get back to the hotel as soon as possible and just lie the heck down, you literally couldn't have got me there fast enough! I dramatically said a very swift goodbye to the group and tried to find my way out of the maze of the resort with one of my friends, covering my tears with sunglasses. Oh it was miserable! What felt like an eternity later, I was finally in the hotel room. I was so sad to be missing out on the event of the holiday which is when we always make the time to have a really lovely meal, and my friends were heading out that night for the first night out in Dubai. I would have definitely been keen to even go out the night before if I'd felt better and I gossiped with my room mate as she got ready before she headed off out to Mahiki with everyone. They were of course all gutted too and I wished them an awesome night and watched BBC World News for the rest of the evening!
My friend rose bright and early the next day as we had been booked onto a visit to the top of the Burj Khalifa and a desert safari. When she told me that the night had been terrible, I told her not to make it seem worse just because I couldn't go too, but apparently Mahiki was like any old mainstreme UK club, full of Brits abroad and the free ladies night drink was watered down mohito. I still didn't feel up to coming out so I stayed behind until around 3pm when the girls arrived back with a mission. They plied me with more tablets, crackets, bicarbonate of soda, and even asked if I wanted to fly home, but somehow the fact that we were still there until Sunday and it was only Wednesday really made me stay for sure. Even if I just chilled in the hotel room, I was there.
They trekked off to the desert safari and again I stayed in watching movies. At first I kept thinking the films were full of errors but then I realised that any scene to do with love or kissing was cut out due to the country's religious laws, and seems as all of the movies on the odd film channels were romcoms, half the plots were missing! It was actually quite funny. Another thing about Dubai is that there feels like a huge rich/poor divide and when the hotel porters were kindly cleaning around the room while I sat in a chair and were asking if I was OK, I think I tipped them about £30. I wasn't using my Dirhams anyway as I wasn't going anywhere!
Unfortunately my room mate pal returned and said the desert was essentially crowds of people at the side of a motorway road and hardly the middle of the desert, and the camel ride was just cruel. It wasn't quite the Sex and the City 2 vibe that I had hoped for and I even felt bad for putting it in our original itinerary! The consensus of most of the group was the the top of the Burj Khalifa was also a slight waste of time. Three girls were heading home the next day and I think the general thoughts were that we'd had some surreal and amazing moments, but that we didn't have so many of the usual traditions we have when we go away together, such as spending hours getting ready while being super silly, having nights where we are the only English people in the bars or clubs and meeting the locals, and browsing around our destination at a more casual pace, rather than taking taxis everywhere and feeling like everything was making a huge effort to be flashy and luxe or in a rush. Have you ever been to Dubai? Well tomorrow I'll show how we explored Old Dubai and went to the top of the Burj Al Arab with lots of eventful happenings along the way... of course!