New Year Resolution 2018

2017 has certainly has had its ups and downs, but I’m not the type of person to dwell on the past so the new year seems the perfect opportunity to look forward and plan for the things that make me happy.

And one of the things that has really cheered me up recently after a horrible break up was my trip to Budapest just before Christmas (blog post coming up!), so 2018 definitely needed to see more travel. And then I realised I said my new year’s resolution last year was to travel more, but I didn’t really do as much as I wanted. As well as Hungary, I managed to visit Poland, Cyprus and Scotland, all of which were very different experiences but all fantastic!

I wanted to see more of the world this year but couldn’t just leave it at that, so I’ve set myself a 12 countries in 12 months challenge! It would be great to do one country a month, but I doubt I could squeeze that much in around work and other family commitments, so I’m thinking a longer summer trip might cover several countries. I feel like if I make a proper plan with countries and a rough idea of dates it’ll be easier to stick to, so here it is:

1.Scotland (January) – I’ve already booked a night away in Edinburgh for the end of the January. I’ve been to Edinburgh before a few years ago, but there’s so much left I would like to see and do away from the main tourist spots that I visited last time.

2. Poland (February)– As I previously said, I did visit Poland in 2017 but that was for a Holocaust Education Trust CPD trip for work, so didn’t get to see much apart from the airport and Auschwitz. My brother and his girlfriend did a tour of several different places in Poland last summer and I realised just how much this country had to offer. I’ve been looking at budget flights for February half term to Wroclaw- a bit different from Warsaw and Krakow as the major tourist destinations.

3. Italy (March/April)– I visited Milan and Peschiera del Garda in 2016 and fell in love with Italy. As a teacher, we do get loads of holiday time so with the Easter holidays I’ve been thinking of flying to Naples (eating all of the pizza!), then travelling onto Pompeii and Herculaneum for the inner history nerd, then to Sorrento and either Capri or the Amalfi coast. Hopefully it won’t be too busy earlier in the year but will still be warmer than Yorkshire!

4. Holland (May bank holiday)- P&O ferries do mini cruises to Amsterdam which would make this a perfect weekend getaway but obviously going on a weekend drives the price up and if I’m trying to travel more this year I do need to be careful with the budget. Amsterdam is still high on my list, so I need to do a bit of research into flights and hostel costs v. ferry costs. One to think about….

5. Greece (May)- The combination of history and beautiful islands and beaches, along with great food makes Greece very tempting! This would be the perfect break and de-stress before the chaos of exam season at work. I’m thinking Athens and then somehow going to one of the islands for a bit- need some more research here!

6. France (June)- My birthday falls at the end of June, and with the start of the summer holidays for me (there has to be some advantage to working in a high pressure private school!) it might be the perfect time to have a little trip. Paris might be the city of love but as a newly single girl with no idea of what the future might hold in that department, I feel like seeing it for myself. I went as a kid to Disneyland Paris and did a day or so in the city but barely remember it so I think its about time I return.

7 and 8. Spain and Portugal (July/August)- I’m thinking a bit of a road trip around the Iberian Peninsular to cross off some of the places in Spain and Portugal that have been on my travel bucket list for a while. Barcelona might be the place to start- a bit of a cultural city break but also still the chance to take advantage of the beach before the crowds arrive with the start of the normal school holidays! I think I’d then head down the coast to Valencia, and on to Granada which I’ve wanted to visit for a good 7 years now! Then maybe to Seville before crossing into Portugal to visit Lisbon before returning home via Madrid. I know its a bit ambitious and would need a lot of saving up for, but it would be amazing!

9. Czech Republic (October)- October half term hopefully will see a trip to Prague. So many people have told me how great it is, and I’ve been dying to go for a while now. After a quick google, the weather shouldn’t be too cold so should make a perfect city break.

10. Ireland (November)- Like Edinburgh, I’ve been to Dublin before but there’s still lots I would like to do, the main one being listening to a proper Irish folk band in some old pub which for some reason we didn’t do when we visited last time… I just need to persuade a group of friends that they should be free for a weekend away!

11. Austria (December)- After watching the new years celebrations in Vienna on TV I’m thinking another pre-Christmas trip to get me in the mood and have a quick escape before the big day with the family. Vienna looks stunning and I can’t wait to visit as the perfect end to the year!

12. Unknown! Still undecided on this one. All my school holidays are filled in this plan so it’d have to be a quick weekend break or maybe sneaking in on holiday with my parents during the long summer holidays! I am trying to be more spontaneous and not such a control planning freak, so this leaves things a bit open. You never know, I might find a Mr. Right to whisk me away for a weekend somewhere romantic…… or just go on my own again! Any suggestions would be welcome!

With a plan in place, all I need to do now is to do a bit more research and save up enough to actually pay for all of this! But it sounds so amazing and I want to make the most of my youth and freedom while I can (and also avoid the nagging feeling of needing to be a real grown up!)

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A trip to Bassenthwaite, Cumbria

 Last Easter we took a short break to the Lake District, and stayed in Ravenstone Manor near Bassenthwaite for two nights. It was a beautiful old manor house with a large en suite room overlooking the lake, and lovely communal rooms with a fire and library. The breakfasts were huge- we got a selection of toasts and pastries, and then a cooked breakfast that you ordered the day before. However, I’m not one for sitting around in the hotel, so we packed plenty in during the day!

When we arrived, we dropped our bags and then quickly went out to visit the Lakes Distillery on the other side of the lake. Not only do they distill whisky, but also gin and vodka which made for a really interesting afternoon. We booked onto the last tour of the day (there were only 2 other people on it), but had a little time beforehand to browse the shop and walk around the back of the distillery down to the river and to see the alpacas! The hour long ‘Distillery Tour’ will cost you £12.50 but you do get a £5 voucher for the shop so its not bad value. You also get a tasting of all three spirits at the end, which is everyone’s favourite! It was really interesting to see the vodka and gin being made, as I’d been to a whiskey distillery before but this was something really new and different.

The next morning looked pretty good for the weather, so we decided that this was the day for a hike. After asking the nice lady in reception, and filling out a route summary for her just in case we got lost, we headed out. There’s a path just behind the hotel up towards Ullock Pike, and from there around to Carl Side, following a circular walk back to the hotel. We didn’t have a proper OS map but were given a PDF print out, had walk instructions downloaded from here and the lady reassured us that the route was clearly marked, which it was. However, as we started to get close to the summit of Ullock Pike the weather turned- it was freezing, foggy and getting quite windy, and on loose chip paths at quite a height we were starting to slip as we climbed. We decided perhaps this wasn’t the best idea as we weren’t really dressed for bad weather (it was mid-April after all) so turned back. We weren’t too disappointed in our aborted hike as we’d seen some amazing views of the lake before the fog descended, and fitbit reckoned we did over 15,000 steps just in the time we did have. There’s really no point continuing if you aren’t enjoying it, and especially if you’re starting to feel uneasy about safety so this was definitely the right decision. A note for the future- bring your full hiking kit and woolly hat even in April in the Lakes!

After a quick cup of tea in the hotel room to warm up, we headed back out but this time somewhere a little more sheltered! The small town of Keswick seemed just the right place for lunch and something less adventurous! After consulting Trip Advisor over our sandwiches, we went in search of the Puzzling Place, mainly on the basis that it was inside and it was still raining a bit. For £3.75 you can enter their ‘World of Illusions’ with lots of optical illusions of all sizes and shapes. I loved it, but the boyfriend didn’t really get into the spirit of things and being a big kid so we didn’t stay long. (This may be part of the reason he’s now an ex, the boring old fart!)

The weather had started to clear by this point so we headed out of Keswick and towards Castlerigg Stone Circle just outside of the town. After finding a parking spot on the side of the narrow road, and deciding it was too cold still for a visit to the ice cream truck we crossed the field to enjoy the view over Helvellyn and High Seat. While obviously nowhere as impressive as Stonehenge, Castlerigg is among the earliest British circles, raised in about 3000 BC during the Neolithic period and was a nice bit of history for me, especially with the mystery of nobody knowing exactly what this circle was for as there’s no sign of burial sites here but archaeologists believe some of the stones are specifically aligned with planets or stars. I took so many photos of the views here as they really are stunning, but hard to find one with no other people in!

Our final morning gave us one last chance to do something before the long drive home, and we decided on a trip to the Lake District Wildlife Park. At £9.50 it was a little expensive for a small zoo but we still enjoyed ourselves, watching a flying display with the hawks and cooing over the very cute sleepy red pandas. However, my personal favourite was the very photogenic meerkats who were out playing in the sunshine.

This was a lovely get away, and it was totally worth splurging on a nice hotel for our base for this trip. I definitely need to return to the Lake District again soon as there’s so much to explore in this beautiful landscape, but next time I will definitely remember my woolly hat!

Take me back to: Dublin

I have just realised that exactly a year ago today the boyfriend and I celebrated three years together by nipping over to Dublin for a quick city break, and somehow I forgot to mention it on my blog! So here’s my low-down on what we got up to and why I wouldn’t say no to another visit!

We flew with Ryanair from Manchester airport which was hassle free, convenient as the train station is inside the airport and cheap too (about £28 each I think). Although a bit cramped on the plane in terms of leg room, the flight was only an hour so wasn’t too bad.

We stayed at Leeson Bridge Guest house for 3 nights (around £40-£45 a night if I remember rightly) which was a little bit out of town but easy enough to get to on the bus from the airport, and you could walk into the city centre if you wanted. Leeson Bridge was fabulous- the staff were lovely, the breakfasts huge and filling and meaning we didn’t need to buy lunch if we smuggled out some fruit! The main selling point for me though was the sauna in the bathroom which was so perfect as an anniversary treat and needed after a long day’s sightseeing!

Our first day sightseeing we headed to Dublin Zoo- if you’re a regular readers you know how much we love animals and can never resist an good zoo! Since we had no car we decided to buy a 3 day city tour bus pass that drops off  near the zoo at its furthest point which took a while but at least was easy and has a stop right outside the guest house. Despite it being freezing we had a great day walking around and getting over excited like little kids (even buying tiny cuddly toy souvenirs!). With a long bus journey and several hours at the zoo we decided to head back to the guest house to have and go in the sauna before heading out to an early dinner at a small restaurant called Cafe Java down the road which served a really good mezze platter.

Our second day was chosen by the boyfriend and so we again boarded our bright yellow bus and headed into the city centre to the Guinness Storehouse. A little on the pricy side buy a must see while in Dublin, you get a self guided audio tour about how they make Guinness and then other small exhibits and tasting areas as you work your way up the building, which is shaped like a Guinness glass. I’m not a huge fan of Guinness but quite enjoyed my time looking around, and could exchange my pint token for another drink in the sky bar. Unfortunately it did feel like mostly a marketing hall as it’s not got much of a working brewery left on site, but it was still an interesting way to spend the morning.

We then headed into the city centre attend visited Dublin Castle. You have to book onto attend tour to actually go in, but if you just turn up and they’re all full like we did, you can still buy attended limited access tour which we did. It was decidedly average unfortunately and we probably could’ve just done with admiring the castle from the outside. Our next stop was the Dublin writers museum for the boyfriend who was finishing a Masters in English Literature at the time. While not really my cup of tea and swarming with bored school children on a trip, he seemed to enjoy it so was worth the detour. Absolutely exhausted by this point we headed back to the guest house to get changed and go out for dinner, again in one of the local pubs called O’Brien’s near Leeson Bridge for our anniversary meal. Although the food was really good and they did damn good cocktails, the whole of Dublin seemed very expensive for food and drink. I know it’s a capital, tourist city but we did end up spending more than we planned on this trip, so just be aware.

Not my photo, it was swarming with crowds when we were there!

On our final day we were flying out just after lunch so we got up early and hopped on the first bus to Kilmainham Goal, where the Easter Rising rebels were held and executed. You can’t book the tour, it’s purely a first come first served basis and despite and arriving around 9am, the queue was already huge and we were told it’d be over an hour and a half wait, and with the hour tour and having to collect our bags before going to the airport, we just didn’t have time.

Disappointed, we got back on the next bus and headed into the city centre. The bus driver recommended the Jameson Whiskey tour but again, bad luck struck and we had just missed the tour, the next one not being for another hour! In desperation, we followed a sign for a museum called ‘The history of the Irish’ and after paying something like €17 we had found something to do for the morning. It was so, so bad… a guy dressed up like Gandalf clearly thought he was the next big acting breakthrough dramatically took us through a series of rooms (through magic portals!) to tell the history of Dublin, and helped by videos of Irish goddesses…. there was only us two and one other woman looking very awkward and trying not to laugh. Honestly, it was such a rip off and I’m sure even kids wouldn’t be impressed by the takky costumes! He didn’t even go into anything about the Troubles as “it was too divisive” despite being the most important part of their history. Feeling pretty miffed off yet very confused/amused we headed to the airport.

Despite the failure of the last morning, I did really enjoy this trip and certainly have fond memories of Dublin. However, there’s still plenty left to see, especially the old fashioned pubs with the folk music that I was totally gutted we didn’t do, as we were just too tired after a long term at school to drink until the small hours. My dad did promise to take me to Dublin specifically for this purpose on my 18th birthday, and I’m still waiting six years later so here’s hoping I can persuade him to take me this year!

New Year’s Resolution: Take every opportunity to travel!

I didn’t use to make (and definitely didn’t do well at keeping) new years resolutions but since my 2016 one of getting healthier actually succeeded, I thought I’d set myself another one for 2017…. to take every opportunity to travel! Although I’ve got a bit more to spend on travelling this year, I doubt it will be as ambitious or adventurous as many people as I’m also trying to save up for my own house but it’s a start. 

So far I have properly planned a couple of trips but there’s others I would love to fit in at some point this year and cross some places off my city break bucket list

London: several trips to London are in the pipeline over the next few months- a birthday weekend celebration with my uni friends at the end of the month, a mini break during February half term to be a complete tourist plus a wedding in March to look forwards to. 

Cyprus: We’ll be returning to Cyprus over the Easter holidays for a spot of sun and relaxation and hopefully explore further afield if we hire a car this time.

St Andrews, Scotland: Another wedding in August takes us to St Andrews, and we’re going to make the most of it, having booked a family holiday for the week with my parents, brother and his girlfriend. Not exactly summer holiday weather but it will no doubt be good fun!

Spain: One of the perks of working in a private school is the long holidays, and I have a few weeks at the beginning of July when I am off and for once wouldn’t be done over by school holiday price hauls. I’m thinking Barcelona, Valencia and possibly Granada in a long road trip. As much as I love going away with the other half, sometimes travelling alone is just what I need.

Paris: The boyfriend’s mother lives very close to the Eurostar and so when we visit in July sometime I’m planning on popping across to La Belle France for a day or two to explore this beautiful city.
Vienna: Absolutely would love to visit Vienna and my dad is also very keen so it might be a perfect daddy-daughter get away. I was thinking May half term for this one, as it would be beautiful in the sunshine but not too hot for my cold blooded Yorkshire father!

Amsterdam: Not sure when I can squeeze this one in, but with mini cruises leaving from my home town of Hull, it seems like a perfect one to tick off over a bank holiday perhaps? A girly weekend might have my name on it…

So there’s my plans! Have you got any tips or suggestions to help out a budget traveller wanting to see it all? 

Top 15 European City Break Bucket List 

Since travelling solo around Europe this summer, I’ve been badly bitten with the travel bug and have been planning my next trip ever since returning. So here’s the top 15 places in Europe I would like to visit for a long weekend city break or a short half-term holiday (in no particular order of preference, more by geography):

Barcelona 

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I’ve wanted to go to Barcelona for a while now- I remember working in France in the summer of second year and being very jealous of the other girl who was there and going to Barcelona afterwards, and kept showing me photos of where she would be going! I also follow Barcelona Blonde who’s blog has beautiful pictures of this city as well as ideas for the best places to visit and eat while there. Also it’s close to a beach and fairly warm, so I wouldn’t just be a culture vulture all weekend.

Granada 

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Granada has been on my list since I did my A Level history course on the reign of Isabella and Ferndinand who created modern Spain by recapturing the city and finally expelling the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula. The city is therefore a mix of European and Arabic styles and steeped in history- the Alhambra Palace where the royal family settled looks stunning! Again, being southern Spain the weather would be lovely and sunny which always helps!

Lisbon

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I passed briefly through Portugal last summer on the way into Northern Spain and realised there’s a lot more here to see. I figured visiting the capital would be a good place to start, and Portugal is known for being cheap at the moment. Lisbon seems to be becoming very fashionable on the Foodie scene so I reckon we could try some really amazing cooking while here too.

Paris

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I think the last time I went to Paris was to go to Disneyland at about 9 years old, and didn’t really enjoy the culture as much as I should have- I only really remember counting the stairs of the Effiel Tower and attempting to eat snails- yuk! I’d love to go back and do it all properly, especially after my brother visited about a year ago and raved about it for weeks!

Venice

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Who wouldn’t want to visit this iconic city? Mostly I want to see it before the tourists completely take over and ruin it so would definitely visit off season, but it just looks so beautiful and jam packed full of intriguing history! My very lucky friend Cass was taken for her birthday weekend and I’ve been jealous ever since!

Florence 

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Florence is high on both mine and the boyfriend’s list and could end up as more than just a long weekend, but again it looks beautiful and a classic Italian culture city. Not only the views, but the food also sounds pretty tempting too… you may be sensing a theme here. Lots of history and culture all day and stuffing my face with local food at night- the perfect holiday!

Rome

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OK so here come the huge history geek ones- I’ve always wanted to visit Rome as it’s long history and mythology is fascinating plus it’s mostly warm when I picture it. Again it’d be one to visit off season to avoid too many tourists and one that the little brother loved- how come the poor student always seems to beat me to these places?!

Athens

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The centre and beginning of the civilised world as we traditionally see it, Athens sounds so interesting! Greece is cheap right now so makes up for the longer flight, and I have really come to love Greek food after visiting Cyprus this summer. The language and totally different alphabet completely baffled me but that’s what Google translate is for right?

Amsterdam 

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Amsterdam is super easy to get to from my home town of Hull, which is only an hour from my current home so the ferry seems the most reasonable option. P&O do a lot of 2-4-1 tickets for thier mini cruises and you can choose to spend a night in Amsterdam and get the next ferry back for a longer experience of this city, famous for bicycles and the house of Anne Frank.

Vienna 

In 6th form we were supposed to have a trip to Vienna that never happened and I always wondered what I missed out on. My friend Sophie visited recently and reminded me of the pretty architecture, museums and of course, the Lipizzaner horses- every little girl’s dream! Also to visit the home of Sachertorte would be amazing as it’s by far my favourite type of chocolate cake…

Berlin 

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I’ve been meaning to visit Berlin with uni friends for a while now but we never get around to organising anything! As a history teacher I’ve spent a decent chunk of each year teaching 20th century German history and really feel I should visit. It looks a little bleak but very interesting and cool (Im not sure I am cool but hey, I can still try!)

Prague 

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Prague looks stunningly beautiful- my friend Nicole went last winter and bombarded my news feeds with beautiful snowy pictures and it looks so perfect for a long weekend of culture and hot chocolate. I also met someone while working in France this summer who lived nearby, so would even have a free tour guide!

Budapest 

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Another city I know little about but looks amazing, Budapest is lingering at the back of my mind. I actually think not knowing much can be more fun as it’s as bit more a surprise when you get there and allows you to be more spontaneous! I think it’d be a spring time trip though, as the temperatures drop quite a bit over the winter months and I’m definitely a summer baby!

Reykjavik

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OK, despite just saying I’m a aummer baby, Iceland seems like a place you should only really visit in winter. Another friend, Helen, went to Reykjavik for new years last year and while freezing her ass off, had an amazing time and even saw the Northern Lights! I also follow This FP Planet whose recent posts on Iceland make it all the more tempting and real in my head!

Copenhagen

I’d never really considered Denmark before, but two weeks ago I happened to be watching Rick Stein’s Long Weekend when he visited Copenhagen at the same time as scrolling through my newsfeed when I saw several posts by Ticket to Adventures about the city and it just seemed like it was a sign! A little off the beaten track it’s still full of the things I love- lots of history and interesting food!

So that’s it- my 15 top European cities I want to visit! Of course there’s lots of other places I want to visit in Europe and further afield, and if I was given the opportunity I’d practically go anywhere! If you have any suggestions or have been to these places, let me know!

 

Top 3 Tavernas in Mandria 

There are several restaurants in Mandria, 3 traditional tavernas, a fish and chip restaurant and a Chinese and Indian restaurant. We felt that it would be silly to eat English food we could get at home while on holiday so stuck to the 3 more traditional tavernas. Here’s what we thought of each:

1. Kentpoikon 

By far our favourite, we ate here almost every night. It’s a family run business and all of the staff are so friendly and welcoming. While they do have some English dishes available, we tried nearly all of their Cypriot ones- halloumi and fig salad, moussaka, kleftiko, stifado, lamb meatballs, pork kebabs and sheftalia pittas. Every portion is enormous and all reasonably priced, from around €5 for a pitta to €10 for the kleftiko. All their ingredients are locally sourced and delivered fresh daily. Their cocktails are also amazing- €4 each and just enough kick of alcohol to them for a pleasant buzz in the evening sun! They also do delicious desserts- we tried their waffle with chocolate and icecream. Their breakfast sandwich is also perfect for setting you up for a big day sightseeing. Absolutely 5* review!

2. Klimataria 

We ate here twice, trying out pizza, a lamb burger and a village salad. All these meals were tasty and again were very filling portions, but unfortunately he pizza base was a little soggy and the service was not quite as friendly as Kentpoikon. Also, it was slightly more expensive. All of these things are little niggles and wouldn’t prevent me from eating there again, but I would give it a decent 4* review.

3. Maria’s Taverna

We only ate here once- having a village salad with chips and a halloumi, lountza and spicy sausage pitta. The pitta was huge and very tasty but the salad was a little disappointing and there wasn’t  really any other choice for a vegetarian. A decent enough meal at a very good price, but being a bit off the main road meant it was very quiet and maybe because of this the menu was smaller. Still a solid 4* though.

Tomb of the Kings, Paphos 

Our final place to explore while in the Paphos area was the Tomb of the Kings. It is not actually the burial place of royalty but rather a large necropolis for wealthy Romans from around the 3rd century BC. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site, excavated and under the care of the Cypriot Department of Antiquities.

You can easily reach it by the 615 bus to Coral Bay but there’s no big sign announcing that your at the right bus stop- thankfully the boyfriend can read a bit of Greek enough to read the writing on the bus stop sign. It is a very reasonable €2.50 pet adult to enter, and I have to say that they couldn’t really charge much more after out visit.

Don’t get me wrong, the tombs are fascinating and we spent an hour walking around exploring them. There are 9 main tombs that have information boards plus many more small ones dotted around. As with many European sites, these boards don’t have much information on them, just a description of the layout of the tomb and nothing about the people or objects that were once inside.

Tomb 3
The best tomb was by far number 3, with a large atrium and adjoining rooms. Tomb 6 was also notable for the small section of fresco you can spot behind modern gates to keep people from touching. This was the only area that was off limits- you could  climb and touch everything else, but considering these were the final resting places of real people I felt a little odd about clamboring all over and taking selfies like some of the tourists. 

Tomb 6 with a tiny bit of fresco above the alcove

Overall, it was a good way to spend a couple of hours but it was VERY hot even underground in the tombs so be sure to take plenty of water and wear sensible shoes as it is quite uneven in many places.