Phuket, Thailand

We went to Thailand for our honeymoon. We went in August which is during their wet season; the temperature was still mid 30’s. We spent 3 days in Bangkok followed by days in Phuket. The two places were contrastingly different. As they were so different, I’m going to break the holiday up into two posts, this one is all about Phuket!

Phuket

Phuket was a completely different atmosphere to Bangkok. It was calm and relaxing and completely wonderful. We stayed in Karon, on the west side of the island. It was a small place made up of mainly hotels, pubs, restaurants and stalls. It had a nice beach which was a bit rough to swim in but roughly 15-25 minute walk down the road was Kata beach which was a lot calmer.

James Bond Island Tour

We booked this through Two Sea Tour Company and I cannot recommend them enough. We left the harbour at 5:30am to miss all the traffic and the tour groups. There were only 8 people in our tour group so it was very inimate and two people are in a kayak at a time. We didn’t see anyone at our first two stops, and saw the hoard of people at them as we sailed past them on our way back. The first stop is Panak Island, where you canoe through the caves into the lagoons. They are so peaceful and beautiful, it is incredible scenery and wonderful to hear all the noises of the animals around you. It was definitely my favourite part of the day. Next is the beautiful Hong island where there are more beautiful caves and animals. The third stop is James Bond island famous for being a film location for The Man with the Golden Gun. We then ate an incredible, freshly made, 7 course thai meal as we sailed to a beach. The food included thai green curry, spicy fish and things wrapped in banana leaves. It was one of the best meals we ate our entire time out there! Whilst on the tour they took photos which were all made available to us for free, they would also purposely row us to a certain spot to take photos of us using our own cameras as well as theirs. On top of that, they gave us a tote bag and a really good waterproof bag for free! I could not recommend them enough!

 

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary

This was by far the best experience I had! Most of the elephants in the sanctuary are rescued, they are a strictly no riding sanctuary. We chose to do the whole day experience but the half day tour would have been enough. We arrive and fed the elephants bananas. Then we went on a trek with 3 of them (including the mum and the baby) through the jungle, this was a lot harder than I was expecting. We got them some banana leaves and we also found some jack fruit which we ate. We then had a bit of time on the beach. Some of the group went to cut down some bamboo for the elephants whilst I chose to return and feed the elephants again with the afternoon group. Then we gave the elephants a mud bath (although, I think it might be more apt to say the elephants gave US a mud bath) and then washed them off in the water. I had a grin of sheer joy on my face for most of the day. They took photos throughout the day which were made available for free on facebook. Again, I could not recommend this experience enough, it’s a definitely must! Book here.

 

Tour of the Island

We booked a half day tour through Tour East Thailand – this was OK. We went to Karon Viewpoint where you can see 3 beaches, Promthep cape, we visited Wat Chalong (this was the best bit), a cashew factory, drove through Patong and then finished in a Gem factory (which I really disliked). For me, the Gem factory really ruined the whole tour. Up until then we had a pleasant time, we saw parts of the island we wouldn’t have been able to get to by ourselves and the guide was well informed (if a bit racist). We were followed the entire way around the gem factory, with the person trying to get us to buy things that were way out of our price range and not letting us look at anything on our own.

 

Thai Massage

This was a must. How can you go to Thailand and not have a Thai massage? My Mr had never had a massage before so was relived to find out it was clothes on. They pull, put pressure on parts and twist your body into weird yoga-esk poses. It was wonderful

Dinosaur Mini Golf

This was really cool. It was, as it said, dinosaur themed mini golf. You had to jump over the river and go through a volcano, surrounded by trees and dinosaur replicas. It was a really fun hour or so. Next door was a restaurant attached and the waiters wore Flintstones-esk costumes and they had Fred and Wilma on the toilet doors!

Things we missed but sounded interesting:

  • Phi Phi Island tour – I would have loved to have gone but my Mr isn’t a confident swimmer so wouldn’t have enjoyed the diving elements and on the days we were there, the sea was too rough and lots of the tours were cancelled.
  • Snorkling
  • Big Buddha – We could see it from where we were staying but it was about a 2 hour walk and we weren’t up for that!

 


Have you been to Thailand?

What would you love to see/do?

See my other travels, including Paris, Iceland and Barcelonahere.

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Bangkok, Thailand

We went to Thailand for our honeymoon. We went in August which is during their wet season; the temperature was still mid 30’s. We spent 3 days in Bangkok followed by days in Phuket. The two places were contrastingly different. As they were so different, I’m going to break the holiday up into two posts, this one is all about Bangkok!


Bangkok

I didn’t particularly enjoy this city.  Bangkok is an attack on your senses. It is hot and humid. There is traffic everywhere, the city is one giant traffic jam. Mopeds go the wrong way down the street and often on paths. They have some zebra crossings but motorists just ignore them. There are market stalls on most of the pavements, people offering tuk tuks at every corner. The metro is amazing but doesn’t go into the old part of the city so it’s either a 40 min walk or you get scammed by a taxi to get to the main attractions (They refuse to put the meter on for you and will make you pay 200-300 baht for a 70 baht journey). Add on to this that I was tired, hot and annoyed, the city and I didn’t particularly get along.

Grand Palace

This was stunning but incredibly busy, I would definitely recommend getting here early to beat the tourist groups. With all temples in Thailand, you must have your shoulders and knees covered to enter, so ensure you’re dressed appropriately. There are loads of stalls around selling cheap clothing before you enter if you require any.

The Grand Palace is made up of different buildings, temples and lawns. It’s 500 baht to enter which is quite pricey. There are lots of stunning buildings, mosaics and sculptures. I was pleased to see, and hear, monks praying in the temples which was wonderful to see that it is still used for it’s intended purpose. One of the main attractions within the Grand Palace is the Emerald Buddha which was in a stunning temple but I was surprised at how small it was.

Wat Pho – Reclining Buddha

This was my favourite site in Bangkok. It is where you will find the reclining  Buddha (2nd longest in the country). It was a lot less crowded than the Grand Palace and held some stunning sculptures and holds over one thousand Buddha images. I particularly liked the chedi’s which were tall and beautiful.

Wat Traimit – Golden Buddha

This was the first temple we found as it is in China Town, close to the Metro. It was interesting to find out that at one point the statue was covered in plaster to cover its true value until it was dropped whilst being transported and the gold was uncovered. It costs about 40 baht to go in. There’s a few steps to climb but the statue is very impressive.

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Boat Cruise

On the way back from Ayutthaya we had a boat cruise. This was a really good way to see the main sites as a lot of them are situated near the river. We didn’t go into Wat Arun as it’s the other side of the river but it was gorgeous to see from the river. The boat cruise we went on also served thai food, which was delicious.

Things we missed but sounded interesting:

Taling Chan Floating Market – this has to be a day trip as it is about an hour or more out of the main city. It is also only open on weekends.

Jim Thompson’s House – home of the founder of the Thai silk industry.


Ayutthaya

From Bangkok we took a day trip tour to Ayutthaya, the second capital of Siam. This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains remains of monasteries and palaces. We visited Wat Phra Mahathat which was ransacked by the Burmese, several headless Buddha statues remain. This is where you’ll also find the tree which has grown around a Buddha head. We also visited Wat Thammikarat which is the forth largest reclining Buddha in the country, this one is stone and has burn marks on it. We also visited another temple, within which there was a monk who was blessing people and giving Sai Sins – string that has been blessed by monks to provide protection and good health.


Have you been to Thailand?

What would you love to see/do?

See my other travels, including Paris, Barcelona and Rome, here.

Iceland

We went to Reykjavik for our honeymoon in April. I’ve decided to do this post in two parts. Part 1 was the city of Reykjavík (here) and Part 2 is trips and sights outside of the capital city.

Reykjavik is the main city on the island, holding over 2/3 of the total population. Although there were a few interesting things in the city, it the rest of the country that you really go to Iceland for. It has some of the most stunning and varied landscapes and beautiful natural attractions. We stayed in Reykjavik and only stuck to the west and south coast.


Blue Lagoon

This was an absolutely amazing experience and quite possibly my favourite thing we did while we were in Iceland. It needs to be booked in advance, as my parents unfortunately realised when they went to Iceland last year. I was told by a lot of people that you have to shower naked in front of everyone and this made me very apprehensive. I’m am super please to say that there are cubical and you can close the door so no one can see you *huge sigh of relief.*

When you book a standard ticket, they give you a wrist band, a towel, face mask and a free drink. You put the wrist band on and this opens your locker and pays for any extra drinks or face masks you might purchase. There are separate male and female changing rooms, with a small lockable cubical to get changed in. You then shower naked before you go into the pool. There are two ways into the pool, you can access it from inside or you can go outside before you then go into the water. We were really lucky and the water was around 38 degrees. I’ve heard that some people experienced it cooler than that. It was very surreal as the water was blue, with steam rising off, and the lagoon was surrounded by snow! You then have a bar in the middle and you drink your drink whist in the water and can apply free face masks. You can spend as long in the water as you want

I would definitely recommend going here.

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Whale Watching

We went to Iceland in April which the the beginning of the whale watching, although we were informed that you can see wildlife all year round. We were lucky enough to see a Minke whale, a pod of dolphins and porpoise! If I were to go to Iceland again, it would definitely be in July as that is when the puffins and humpback whales are abundant.


Vik

This is the famous black sand beach, know to the locals as Reynisfjara. This beach was just incredible, as you go around the corner you keep seeing something new; black sand, caves, basalt stacks and huge waves. It may look familiar as it was used as one of the filming locations for Game of Thrones.

As we were approaching the guide told us a story about the rocks in the sea. According to folk law there were two trolls who saw a ship wreck so went out to pull it in for their supper but found that the wreck was a lot heavier than they expected. Just as they were approaching the beach the sun rose and turned them into stone.


Waterfalls

Iceland is full of so many beautiful waterfalls. We visited Gullfoss whilst on the Golden Circle tour, Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss.

Skógafoss was really cool as at the bottom the spray was so cold it has turned into ice on the rocks. There was also a beautiful rainbow coming off of the bottom. You could walk up the side of it but I had a bad leg on the day and there were a lot of steps! You can usually walk behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall, unfortunately as it was so cold the spray had iced over the paths and made it very dangerous so they closed off the path.


Golden Circle

This is one of the most popular tours in Iceland, with very good reason. We only did the half day tour, which was just about enough time but I think I would have prefered the whole day as I would have liked a little more time to explore Þingvellir.

We did the express tour which was Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir geothemal area.

Þingvellir is a UNESCO world heritage site where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia spilt and drift. It was an incredible place to walk and I would have loved to have spent more time there.

Gullfoss was an incredible waterfall, although absolutely freezing. You can see the waterfall from above and go down the steps so you are next to it.

The Geysirs were a lot of fun. It shoots hot water 20m into the air every 5 minuits. It was a lot of fun waiting for it and trying to capture the photos.


Northern Lights

We went at the end of the Nothern Lights season, so we weren’t holding out hopes high. We were picked up at 8:30 and spent hours standing outside, in the cold, staring at the sky. We technically saw a bit but it really wasn’t much. The company (Greylines) allows you to keep going for free until you do see it, with your details saved for 2 years. To capture it you need to have a decent camera and no flash. The amount of idiots who kept putting flash, or torches on was very infuriating.

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Glacier

On our way down to Vik we dropped people off to do a glacier hike and we had a change to go closer when we went to pick them up. Seeing Sólheimajökull was eye opening. The tour guide informed us that 70 years ago the glacier came all the way out to the car park, which was a good 7-8 min walk away. We then stood next to the lagoon, which was the edge of the glacier, and she explained that the lagoon was not there 5 years ago.

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 If I were to go back to Iceland, it would definitely be in the summer so I could see the humpback whales and the puffins. I would also do a glacier walk.

Have you been to Iceland?

What would you love to see/do?

See my other travels, including Paris, Barcelona and Rome, here.

Reykjavík

We went to Reykjavik for our honeymoon in April. I’ve decided to do this post in two parts. Part 1 will be the city of Reykjavík and Part 2 will be trips and sights outside of the capital city.

Reykjavik is the northern most capital in the world, a fact that I find incredible. It was, surprisingly for me, quite a modern city with lots of buildings built in the last decade and more hotels and skyscrapers being built. This is unsurprising when you consider that it’s largest form of income is tourism, which has rocketed in the past decade.


Hallgrímskirkja

This is a modern cathedral which is designed to look like the striking trap rocks that you can see in places like Vik. It is a very unusual design for a cathedral but very beautiful. If you have a chance to go inside, there is a large organ with 5275 pipes. You can go to the top of the cathedral, however there is a massive queue.

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Harpa

This is an absolutely gorgeous concert hall. The tour guide explained that this venue ended up costing a lot more than they expected and can hold 1,800 people, which for the small population of Iceland is a lot. The building has different geometric designs on the different walls. The glass is designed to change colour depending on how the light hits it, meaning that the Harpa looks different throughout the day. It’s situated on the harbour front meaning you get a beautiful view over the harbour and of the snowy mountains.

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Perlan

We got to this due to the tour of the city, however there was also a free shuttle service next to the Harpa. The observation deck is situated on top of large hot water storage tanks. Inside there are exhibitions, viewing platforms and a man-made ice cave. You have to pay to go on the viewing platform but on gorgeous days, like we had, you can see for miles.

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The Sun Voyager

We were told by our guide that this is a Viking ship but upon a bit of googling it turns out that this was not the original intention for the sculpture. Instead it was meant to represent the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progression and freedom. Situated on the harbour front it was stunning any time of day, especially at sunset.

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Whales of Iceland

It took us ages to find this museum as it was behind the main harbour. After seeing incredible photos on line it was a must. It was quite expensive (2,900 ISK= £21) but also very impressive. Inside there are to scale models of different whales, baleen and interactive displays. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting, meaning we were only in there for about an hour, but it was very enjoyable and I loved being able to touch the baleen (stringy whale’s teeth).

Picture: whalesoficeland.is


There are also various museum in the city including The Saga Museum, The National Museum of Iceland and The Phallological Museum.

Whist in Iceland I didn’t try rotten shark as I was warned against it by many people, including people born there. I did try Skyr, smoked lamb and various meats. It turns out in Iceland they basically eat anyhting that moves, including puffin which I was informed is delicious. I can vouch that their lamb is gorgeous and I now have a slight addiction to Skyr.


 

Have you been to Reykjavik?

What would you love to see/do?

See my other travels, including Paris, Barcelona and Rome, here.

Edinburgh

We’ve figured out that October is a really good time to go on holiday – it’s not too cold, not too expensive, there are less people around, and things are still open! We would love to do the Edinburgh Fringe but it’s always really expensive so the city would have to do!
We spent three days in Edinburgh. We didn’t manage to do everything but, depending on what you want to do, you probably wouldn’t want to spend more than 5 days.

As you’ve probably gathered from my previous posts, I spend a lot of time walking around the cities rather than getting public transport, Edinburgh was no different. The only time we used public transport was to get to the zoo (£1.60 for a single) and the tram from the airport (you can buy a return at the machines). It was super easy which is always a plus.


Edinburgh Castle

Right at the top of the hill, this is pretty hard to miss. It’s really easy to get tickets on the day, we didn’t have to wait for that long. We didn’t get an audio guide, instead we followed a free tour guide, who was brilliant and wore some funky tartan trousers, so we instantly liked him.

There were some really cool things here! The exhibition leading to the Crown Jewels was really good, lots of it was 3D. It told the story of the jewels and the monarchs before you finally saw them. The hall next to it was designed by boat makers, so the roof is made just out of wood and is structured just like a boat. It also has the oldest building in Edinburgh, a chapel, which is still used for weddings today – there was one on while we were there!

The best bit is definitely the firing of the gun at 1pm. You need to get there early to get a good sport – people start lining up from about 12.30.

As it is so high, it is quite windy and some parts are a bit steep, so wear good shoes and wrap up warm. There’s also a whisky shop to help warm you up. You’re treated to some lovely views of Edinburgh though!


Edinburgh Zoo

This was quite possibly my favourite thing of the whole trip! We just had a simply smashing day!

I would strongly recommend booking tickets online in advance as there is a massive queue if you don’t, and you have to book separate (free) tickets to see the pandas, these go really quickly if you haven’t booked in advance.

We were a little disappointed quite a few of the exhibits were closed for refurbishment and the top part of the zoo was closed off (tigers and lions) due to mating season. This was quite disappointing as I love tigers and red pandas. However, there were lots of other things that made up for this!

Edinburgh is the only place in the UK to have pandas and koala’s – and they have a baby koala! We were really lucky to see both! Unsurprisingly, these are both really busy, so we popped back later in the day to see the koalas and were treated to seeing the baby koala (a joey) out!

The other highlights of the day were seeing the penguin parade, where the penguins (by choice) do a walk around the green, and a baby squirrel monkey putting their face up against the glass to look at my camera. It was freaking adorable.


J.K.Rowling Links

J.K.Rowling lives in Edinburgh, and wrote much of Harry Potter there, so there are lots of nods to her all around the city. Our first stop was The Elephant House which is where she wrote a lot of the books. It has a bit on it’s logo saying it’s the birth place of Harry Potter, they have something on their shirts and there’s a frame on the wall inside with a few images and new clippings of her. Other than that, they haven’t gone HP mad, which is lovely to see. The toilets were something of a shock. Fans have write messages EVERYWHERE. Literally. On the frames, mirror, walls, door, hand drier… everywhere. It’s pretty incredible.

Just around the corner is the Greyfriars Kirkyard. In there, you can find the grave of Thomas Riddell and William McGonagall. If you look through the gates, you can see what is now a private school which use to be a school for orphaned children, and is thought to be the inspiration for Hogwarts.

The road along is Victoria Street, which is through to be the inspration for Diagon Alley, with it’s tall and brightly coloured shops. There is an incredible HP shop which reminded me a lot of House of Mina Lima.

Because she won the Edinburgh Award, where her hand prints and name can be found in the City Chambers under the bridge. I don’t think many people knew they were there because we got a lot of odd looks for going there.

We didn’t manage to get to Spoon Cafe, which is another location that she wrote lots of the books. We did have a look around the Writer’s Museum but were disappointed to find that the book had left!

 


Other things we did…

Greyfriars Bobby – A statue of a little terrier which became famous for spring 14 years guarding the grave of it’s owner until he died. His statue is outside the graveyard, and he has his own grave inside which people place flowers on daily. And someone also placed a stick.

Carlton Hill – Included in the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, up here you can find the National Monument and Dugald Stewart Monument. There are beautiful views of the city and Arthur’s Seat.

Scott Monument – Right by Waverly Station, in the centre of the city, this is really hard to miss. It’s the biggest monument for an author in Europe – Sir Walter Scott, author of The Bride of Lammermoor and Ivanhoe.  He also conducted the search that found the hidden Crown Jewles. We didn’t, but you can climb up it to the top.

Museum of Childhood – We heard really good things about this. Unfortunately it was closed for refurbishment!

Holyrood Palace – The official Royal residence in Scotland.  We couldn’t be bothered to go in, but it was pretty to look at.

Writer’s Museum – A huge collection of books, personal items and portraits of Robert Burns (Auld Lang Syne), Robert Louis Stevenson (Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Treasure Island) and Sir Walter Scott.

Hume Statue – A statue of the philosopher David Hume, with a shiny toe from people rubbing it for good luck or to absorb his knowledge.

 


Food

We went to so many amazing cafes in Edinburgh! I swear I’ve put on at least a stone over the three days!

Deacon’s House Cafe –  Deacon Brodie was a cabinet maker and Edinburgh city Councillor who had a secret life as a burglar. He inspired the novel The Stange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. This cute and hidden away cafe was a must see. Plus, they sold roiboos tea, I was very happy.

Saint Giles Cafe and Bar – They did amazing rosmary buns. Yum.

Mrs Macintyre’s Coffee House – this was absolutely tiny but beautiful. There was lovely artwork all over the place and people were talking photos from outside. The hot chocolate was delicious.

Boozy Cow – Oh my goodness. This place was amazing. It does meat and drink. The burger was incredible, the chilli cheese fries were delicious and the drink scrummy. Plus it was playing more rock than Hard Rock Cafe, and playing Captain America.


If we were to go again I would love to go up Arthur’s Seat.

Have you been, or like to go, to Edinburgh?

What did you do / would you like to do?

See my other travels, including Paris, Barcelona and Rome, here.

Oxford

The City of Dreaming Spires

As a house that is obsessed with Tolkien and Harry Potter, Oxford seemed like the perfect location for a house trip. 3 trains and 2 hours later we were in the famous university city, on what we assume may have been graduation day, that or they have very fancy uniforms that include mortar boards.


University Oxford Botanic Gardens.

Founded in 1621, the oldest botanic garden in Britain,  this small but beautiful place was out first stop. It isn’t anywhere near as big as Kew Gardens but is just as beautiful. It has over 8,000 different plant species in it’s gardens and green houses. Lots of people were sitting and relaxing, while people were being punted down the river beside it.

It cost £5 to get into, but offers student discount.

I personally liked the giant lily pads and seeing the pineapple grow.


Bodleian Library

Oh my goodness! This was just incredible and a must see. You can either get an audio guide or a guided tour – I would definitively recommend a guided tour. It is still a working library, so you’re not aloud to take photos inside and you have to be very quiet. Our tour guide was really knowledgeable, telling us about the library, how the books were made and about the filming of the Harry Potter films – both the library and the Divinity School were used for the Library, Hospital wing and for the Yule ball practice dance. It was really interesting to hear about the history of the library and how a lot of it was destroyed due to Edward VI and the reformation. I would love to gush to you about all I learnt but that would completely spoil it for you!

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Bodleian Library Treasury

Opposite the library, inside the Weston Library, is the treasury. This is definitely worth a visit – and it’s free! It displays some amazing collections of work including handwritten letters by Kenneth Grahame and JRR Tolien. We all found the Morse Code letter from the Titanic incredibly interesting. It’s also got a 1217 engrossment of the Magna Carta. Simply incredible. We all walked out stunned.

J.R.R. Tolkien, A letter from Father Christmas


Bridge of Sighs

As this was right outside the Library, we had to all have a quick selfie!

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Eagle and Child Pub

How could we not go to Oxford and drink in the same pub as the Inklings? We hunted this narrow, dark pub as our last stop. A frequent meeting place of many famous writers, including Tolkien and C.S.Lewis, we were all eager to go here. I must admit, it was a lovely pub, but I was expecting more mention of the the writers. There’s a few memorabilia above the fire place, and a plaque as you come in, but not much more else. It was still a lovely place to eat – and very yummy.


There are lots of other lovely places in Oxford that we missed, but as it was only a quick day trip we definitely did a lot! Alex was thrilled as he was able to buy 3 classics from the Oxford University Press shop!


Have you been to Oxford before?

What did you enjoy most?

Barcelona

I have just flown back from a couple of days in Barcelona. This is slightly shorter than what I would usually spend in a city so we had to just do the highlights.

As you’ve probably gathered from my previous posts, I spend a lot of time walking around the cities rather than getting public transport but Barcelona has so many steps I had to cave and get the Metro to save my poor legs! The Metro is super easy to use – you get a T-10 ticket that lets you have 10 rides on any form of public transport.


Park Guell

A lot of Barcelona is designed by the same architect, GaudíWe had been pre-warned that this sells out quickly so to book online, on the day we arrive all tickets for the day were sold out by 10:30, so unless you’re getting there super early and willing to wait/come back later, definitely book online. The gardens around the main Park are open to the public and are beautiful, I especially enjoyed the balcony walkways and the mound with three crosses on. Inside Park Guell itself is phenomenal. Incredibly busy, but totally worth it. There are mosaics everywhere, including the houses and the iconic lizard. I particularly loved the tall white marble columns with the mosaics on the ceiling. This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip!

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La Rambla

At one end, closest to the sea, is a giant statue of Christopher Columbus pointing out to sea. I had great fun pretending he was singing different songs (I want you, you and you). If you walk down La Rambla it is heaving! It has lots of pavement cafes and souvenir kiosks. What can be more touristy than drinking Sangria and eating Paella on La Rambla! Only downside is there are lots of people selling things illegally and lots of warning about pickpockets, including by our transfer.


Picasso Museum

We turned up on the first day around 4pm and the wait for tickets was 2 hours! SO we turned up at 9 the next day and we only had to wait 5 minutes – so definitely get there early if you don’t want to pre-pay or wait for long. I was really surprised by the vast amount of work by Picasso in this museum, and the range of styles! I’m only use to his iconic cubism and surrealism but he was disciplined in many forms. We got audio guides and went into the exhibition, both of which I would recommend as his more well known pieces were on display in the exhibition.

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Montjuic

At the top of a mountain, there is a way to walk up to it, but there was no way I was going to do that! There is a funicular you can get on that takes you to the top! I was very excited to go on the funicular for the first time. Turns out they sound more exciting than they actually are! At the top there are some beautiful gardens (with yet more steps) and the Olympic Stadium. We also found the Magic Fountain but unfortunately they only do displays on certain times and it wasn’t on during our stay – this is definitely something I’d like to come back again to see.


Parc de la Ciutadella

This park was gorgeous! In the middle is the most gorgeous fountain and steps. It’s so splendid that my little camera couldn’t get all of it in. There is a cute little pond that had boats on so you could go rowing and, absurdly, a giant mammoth you could have photos with. At the other end of the park is the zoo.

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Sagrada Familia

This is quite possibly the most breathtaking building I have ever seen. We booked tickets online to go inside and got the audio guide, which is definitely worth the money. The building is still not complete, construction began in 1882 and isn’t due to be complete until 2026.

On one side of building it depicts the Nativity – Mary begin chosen and Jesus being born – and the other side depicts the Passion – the death and Resurrection of Jesus. Both sides are completely different and utterly breathtaking. Even if you’re not going inside, seeing the Sagrada Familia is phenomenal.

Inside is a stark contrast to the outside but just as beautiful. It’s very white with large, colourful stained glass windows. The pillars were built to replicate trees, and designed so that sound can’t echo.

My only sad point was that we booked to go up the towers and they were closed because it had rained a bit! Would definitely love to have gone up them!

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As per tradition, we also went to the Hard Rock Cafe. We also went to see Casa Batlló but didn’t realise it was still open so didn’t go in!

If we were to go again I would love to go into Casa Batló , see the Magic Fountain, go up the towers in the Sagrada Familia and I know Daz would want to go to Camp Nou.

Have you been, or like to go, to Barcelona?

What did you do / would you like to do?

See my other travels, including Paris and Rome, here.

Berlin

It’s been almost a year since my trip to Berlin and I have finally gotten around to writing about it.

We booked to go just before Christmas so we could see all the Christmas markets. What we didn’t take into consideration was that we would inevitably fall ill as soon as the children stepped out of the classroom. Never NEVER NEVER fly with a cold or sinus infection, it was one of the most uncomfortable journeys I have ever had and it put me in a miserable mood for the whole trip – part of the reason it’s taken me so long to write this. Now I have had time to get over how awful I felt, I can reflect on the wonderful things we did and saw in the city.


Berlin Zoo

This was my favourite day in Berlin and one of the biggest and best zoos I have been to (and I’ve been to a lot of zoos). The zoo is huge and we spend the most part of the day there. It was the first zoo I had been to that had polar bears! I loved the seals as they were putting on a show for us. The highlight for me was definitely the penguins as I was able to stroke them! This was probably a bit naughty of us but other people were too…


Museum Island

Five museums each packed with artifacts from all over the world. Our personal favourite was the room full of penis’ and pottery covered in phallic objects. Our particular highlight was the statue of a man carrying a massive penis. The Romans really were very randy. Of course there was the impressive bust of Nefertiti and the Mammoth remains too.


Brandenburg Gate

This iconic gate was one of our first ports of calls. It’s on the edge of a huge park (Tiergaten) which was beautiful to walk through.There’s also a Starbucks right next to it – super for those of us who can’t speak any other language and just want a cuppa before they begin to cry with exhaustion.

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Christmas Markets

People had said to go to Germany for the Christmas markets. However, once you’re there you realise that they are no different to the once that come to England. They did AMAZING bratwursts – they were basically all we ate in Berlin. We went to some markets outside of the Charlottenburg Palace, which was beautifully lit up at night, but you can find the markets all over the city.


Memorials

The city is full of reminders of it’s past with the hauntingly still Holocaust Memorial and remains of the Berlin Wall. sadly, not everyone was so respectful and thought it would be hilarious to climb all over the holocaust memorial and jump from the different parts.

Holocaust Memorial


Have you been to Berlin before?

 What was your highlight?

Prague

I have just returned from a lovely 4 days in the beautiful Prague. Being Autumn, the city is cool with gorgeous colours everywhere.

If you have read my previous posts on traveling, you’ll know that I spend a lot of time walking around the cities instead of using public transport. Prague was ideal for this as the city is quite small, however a lot of it is up hill! We had to be very careful that we didn’t wear ourselves out by walking up and down all the time didn’t do everything in one day.

My highlights of the city are as follows…


Prague Castle

Situated on the top of the hill, it was a long old climb to get there! The view of the city once you get there is very pretty. The Castle is more a collection of building than a castle in the sense that Dover castle is. The main focal point is St Vitus Cathedral, which from the outside reminded me a lot of Notre Dame with it’s Gothic style and the large, circular stained glass window. Inside the church, it is very grand and beautiful. One of our favourite rooms in the castle was the torture chamber, with the leading pikes and the handing ropes (we enjoy a bit of gore). We also really liked the Golden Lane, where alchemy was practiced, which had historic houses, inside some were real shops and others were set up like they used to be.

The gardens of the castle are beautiful and certainly not to be missed. You can see the old summer house and walk down into the moat. In Autumn it is absolutely spectacular.

Outside of the castle, in the square, we were lucky enough to see the changing of the guards and them practicing for the Independence Day celebrations (October 28th).

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Churches

There are a huge amount of churches all around Prague. So many churches, most grand and full of splendor and exquisite art, architecture, statues and window. There were so many that I began grow less impressed and bored near the end. From the outside, the Church of Our Lady before Tyn is gorgeous, and is the one you can see towering above everywhere with it’s grand spires, inside it is a little less impressive.However, St Nicolas’s Church in Lesser Town is a must see, and despite being the last one we went into, it completely took my breath away.


Old Town Hall and The Astronomical Clock

The Astonomical clock is on the outside of the old town hall, situated in Old Town. It is one of the oldest and most elaborate clocks ever build – it has the astronomical dial of the sun and moon, a hourly show of moving figures including Death and The Apostles, and a calendar dial. This clock was so frustrating as we kept waning to see the movement at O’clock and kept missing it! At one point we were even up the tower when it went off. We were able to catch it on the last hour before had had to leave to fly back back!

I would highly recommend going up the Old Town Hall tower. It gives you lots of information about the tower and the clock as you go up. Once at the top, you are treated to a beautiful view of not only Old Town, but of most of Prague.


Charles Bridge

One of the most impressive, and busiest, bridges I have ever been on. The whole bridge had statues all the way down of different Saints and Monarchs. The best time of day was early in the morning as there weren’t many people. Apparently later at night is also a great time, and one I wish I was able to see.

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(not my photo – Prague City Tourism, 2016)


Lennon Wall

After John Lennon’s death, this wall has been graffitied with different pictures, quotes and lyrics from the him and The Beatles. The original portrait of John Lennon is long gone under all the graffiti. While we were there, there was someone adding to the wall. When we saw it, it was mainly writing but sometimes there are amaing pictures. Below is previous graffiti on the wall.

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Petrin Hill

We climbed up here on our last day and boy was it a climb! Once you get to the top of the hill, there is the tall look out tower, which is made to look like the Eiffel Tower. If you chose to climb to the top of here (your poor, poor legs) you are treated to a view of the whole of Prague.


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Have you been to Prague before or would you like to go?

What did you see? What would you like to see?

When in Rome…

Last year we were lucky enough to spend a few days in Rome. We booked a hotel in the North East of the city – this was perfect as it meant we did the South of the city on one day and the West, towards the Vatican, on another day.

Italy is wonderful for students and young adults – if you are 18-25 and a European Citizen, you can get free/discounted entry into lots of top attractions! So take ID with you!

Although Rome is meant to have very good transport links we walked the entire time!

The Colosseum, The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill

When you buy a ticket for the Colosseum, you also get entry into both the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. When in Rome, the Colosseum is a must see! There are a few signs when in there but I would definitely recommend getting the audio guide as you get to find out lots of really interesting facts – did you know it was mainly used for animal fighting? They found a giant blue whale on the beach, so they brought it in and used it as a stage prop. It’s mouth opened and bears came running out!

As it is a super popular attraction, the queue was very long! So get there early to avoid the huge wait!

For all three attractions, have sturdy shoes as it is all cobbled and uneven flooring. It is also all outside, so take suncream!

As they are included in the ticket prices, The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are worth doing too. They are both very close to the Colosseum, so you can’t miss them. The Roman Forum was where the old parliament met, and there are lots of remains still there. Palatine Hill is where, in Roman mythology, Romulus killed Remus, and thus Rome gets it’s name.

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The Pantheon

Free to get into, this is really interesting place and a must see! It is the resting place of many famous people, including the Renaissance painter Raphael. The dome is, along with the main door, the only source of light, and is a thing of beauty to look at.

Outside is a lovely courtyard, surrounded by lots of lovely gelato shops! Yum!

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Trevi Fountain

Unfortunately, while we were there, parliament was in session and we couldn’t get to the fountain as armed police were blocking the way! But it looks like it is a thing of beauty!


Vatican City

The walk to Vatican City is beautiful, passing by lots of shops (mainly touristy and gelato) and castles, along the river. Unfortunately, you are plagued by people trying to forcefully sell you stuff until you get to the gates. Once you are in St Peter’s Square, they are not aloud to sell – wahoo! The outside is very impressive, with a semicircle with large statues of Saints looking over you. There is quite a long queue to get in, mainly due to bag searches, but it is free once you are in (do not let the people at the desks try and con you into giving them deposits or your passport!) The inside is beautiful, but incredibly busy. I personally got very annoyed I found people incredibly disrespectful – I saw people posing for photos outside of confession boxes, talking on the phone and posing for photos in cornered off areas for praying! A colleague said they went very early in the morning and had a far more pleasant experience, and were blessed to be witness to four separate masses going on at the same time all in different languages!

When in the country, the Pope does an audience on Wednesdays, but you have to get there early!

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Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel

There is an entry cost, but it is definitely worth it. We were fooled into thinking it was just the iconic  Sistine Chapel but it is far more! You walk through mazes of rooms, filled with gorgeous artwork from the likes of Da Vinci, Raphael  and even Matisse. The ceilings are phenomenal. Finally you get to the Sistine Chapel! This was far more respectful as once inside you were not aloud to take photos as it is still used as a practicing church. Michelangelo’s iconic artwork is clear and pristine, and I was shocked to see was only a small portion of the much bigger artwork! It truly is breathtaking. You leave through the iconic spiral stair cases at the end of the gift shop.


Piazza del Popolo

Here they have a really tall Egyptian statue (similar to the one outside the Pantheon). While here we popped into a Da Vinci museum – which was not worth the money! They had no/limited original things! You could play with the wooden recreations of his designs (at least, I did, whether we were meant to or not…) but I was expecting a lot more!


Spanish Steps

These were very close to our hotel, so we went there numerous times. Unfortunately, once again I got very frustrated with people selling things as they wouldn’t leave us alone! Especially when trying to get pictures, they would shine the green lazers at the Vatican.


We had a super time and would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.

 

Have you ever been to Rome? What did you do?

Is Rome on your bucket list?