California, California, here we come…

Well, not quite yet…in 7 weeks time! There’s a small matter of doing a half marathon the day before I fly. Eek. I hope to god that I’ll sleep like a baby on that 10 hour flight.

It’s my first time to the good ol’ US of A and I’m ridiculously excited, especially because it’s always been on my list of places to go to, the west coast in particular. One of my school friends moved to LA when we were around 13 and we pledged to meet up when we were 21 after I’d graduated and she was in her final year of school at Berkeley- hi Emma!

Alas, when I graduated from uni, I didn’t have the pennies to go anywhere beyond Spain really (not that I’m saying ‘woe is me’ or anything) but I’ve always been determined to go visit one day. Especially before life gets a little bit more serious than it already is.

This blog post is a little bit of a ‘call-to-arms’ to my fellow bloggers and friends who have visited LA before- which things are an absolute must-see?

We’ll be staying in Santa Monica with a car and of course we’ve got Hollywood, Beverley Hills, Venice Beach, Huntington Beach etc all on our list (so sad to discover that half of the stuff e.g. The Bait Shop, from The OC no longer exists- wah) but if you have any hidden gems, clubs, restaurants, places to chill out, please send them my way!

Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica Beach. Credit: Alberto Cabello via Flickr

 

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You know you’re a Brit abroad when…

Sorry it’s been a while but as you may or may not know, I had a week off in beautiful Spain but I thought that it’s time for another “You know you’re a…” blog post! Hooray! Thought I’d make this one a holiday themed one after my little break in the sun, so without further ado, you know you’re a Brit abroad when…

1) You complain that nobody else in the world knows how to queue. Us Brits are champions at it; lining up politely and waiting for your turn. You tut at anyone who even dares to cut in but lo and behold, everywhere else in the world is a free-for-all with every man for himself.

2) The paleness of your skin blinds everyone on the beach (except y’know if you’re from Essex) and then there are the slightly pinker Brits around you, who feel smug because they’re three days ahead of you.

3) Post-day one in the sun, you are a shining beacon of sunburn, sunstroke, dodgy tan lines and/or freckles but you’ll be damned if you’re gonna sit in the shade for the rest of the week.

4) That quaint little hotel you booked for a bargain online turns out to be a contender for ‘Holidays from Hell,’ you wish you’d looked it up on TripAdvisor before you went.

5) Similarly the phrase ‘Good distance from local amenities,’ turns out to be a 15 minute up-hill struggle everyday and 30 minutes after a few Sangrias.

6) Speaking of sangria, you discover that your ’10 pints record’ at home is halved because of European measures…chundering’ell.

7) The irony of coming down with a case of ‘Turkey-belly,’ after avoiding street market food and drinking bottled water, you forgot about the ice in your Mojito…oops.

8) Realising that ‘all inclusive’ means you have to compensate on the lack of a decent meal, palma violet flavoured ice-cream anyone?

9) By the end of the week, you’re ‘dying’ for a propa-British-cuppa!

Image courtesy of Spain Buddy

Image courtesy of Spain Buddy

10) Going topless on the beach is a no-go unless you’re French or German

11) Talking to waiters in LOUD pigeon-GCSE-French, only for them to answer you in English. Merde.

12) Packing your whole life in your suitcase and having to rearrange it at the airport because you’re over the luggage weight limit.

13) Despite rearranging said suitcase, dividing it between friends and ending up with half your shoes in your hand luggage, you’re still slapped with a luggage fine

14) Actually only wearing half of the stuff that you’ve packed, making the luggage fine sting even more so!

15) Stealing the miniature toiletries from your hotel room…EVERY TIME. They’re too cute but will result in an attractive leg rash later on. Ick.

16) When being searched at the airport, assuming that you’re going to end up in a Thai jail à la Bridget Jones

17) There’s always that ONE friend that says something inappropriate going through airport security/on the plane. You know what I mean…

18) Hiring a rental car and immediately regretting it when you realise that a) no one else abroad can drive and b) everyone’s driving at 90mph

19) You’re lost for the fifteen-thousandth time

20) When returning to the office, being asked “Have you actually been abroad?” a gazillion times. Le sigh.

You know you’re a Commuter when…

In light of this week’s tube strikes, this blog post is for those of you who use TFL on a daily basis and understand the woes of being a commuter. Hopefully this will inject some laughter into your day…

Keep_Calm

You know you’re a commuter when:

1) You’ve heard “This train is being held at a red signal…” more times than you’ve had breakfast..

2) You’ve been on a rail replacement bus service more times than…see above.

3) You remember when a bus ride was a mere 40 pence and took your Free travel 16-18 Oyster card for granted…those were the days.

4) The total amount you spend on travel each year equates to the amount you’re trying to save for a deposit on a house *le sigh*

5) You’ve seen more fare increases than Britain has seen sun

6) With the amount you pay for travel, you wonder on a weekly basis why you still have to put up with delays, cramped carriages and engineering works

7) You can add Train-surfing with coffee and paper in hand to your list of skills on your CV

8) There’s always THAT one dude who insists that you move down inside the carriage…do you want me to sit on someone’s lap?!

9) You’ve either fallen into someone’s lap or had a fellow commuter fall into your own

10) Eye-contact and talking will be not tolerated, especially on the morning commute

11) You’ve become a natural contortionist and have your personal space invaded on a daily basis

12) You’ve leapt onto a tube carriage James Bond style, only to realise that you have five minutes before the doors close

13) You’ve leapt onto a tube carriage James Bond style, only to have your coat/arm/bag caught in the doors

14) You’ve experienced a fellow commuter doing both the above and have had to stifle a giggle at their expense

15) You’ve sent a tourist in the wrong direction, without realising until after they shuffle away. Whoops.

16) You despise the dreaded Suitcase Wankers and Lazy Cyclists, unless its you, in which case you plead for acceptance with your eyes

17) Dawdlers, people who stand on the left on escalators and those talking loudly on their phones will be met with the same contempt as a Suitcase Wanker

18) You’ve become immune to the pungent smells of BO and unbrushed teeth but glare at anyone eating an onion salad or eating full-stop.

19) In true British fashion, if a fellow commuter is talking loudly on the phone/playing their music too loud/taking up space with their ginormous back-pack they will be swiftly dealt with via the commonly used Death Stare

Grumpy_Cat

20) You know the exact spot in which to stand, where the doors will open for various stations and feel immensely smug about it

21) You hope that one day you will be mentioned in Rush Hour Crush or the Good Deed Feed

22) Falling asleep standing up and waking up just before your stop is another acquired skill

23) Note: All navigation/commuter skills go out the window when inebriated; you have no idea how you ended up in Shenfield and then have to endure TFL’s Night buses or a £25 cab home. Ouch.

24) You’re well acquainted with the ‘Darting Squirrel’ tactic; you sought out that seat first and it will be YOURS.

25) It’s every man for himself…literally.

Good luck one and all!

Thailand Part II: Hanging Out in Hua Hin

A little overdue perhaps but again the past week or so have been a whirlwind of catch-ups with old friends, birthday outings and some cheeky last-minute tickets to the Fray’s gig on Monday night. Amaaaaaazing! So before my brain melts with more upcoming festivities, here’s part II of our adventure in Thailand when we take a little week-long trip to the beautiful resort of Hua Hin.

Getting There

Hungover and somewhat dazed and confused about the previous night’s antics in 999 West, the crazy Thai bar down Khao San, we managed to make it in time for our coach to Hua Hin. Jump in a taxi to the South Bus Terminal (if waving your Thai bus ticket doesn’t suffice, phone a Thai friend…literally) and make sure you’re at the right stop to get said coach to your destination as having just one No.7 stop is not enough, apparently. The 3.5/4 hour journey to Hua Hin isn’t massively scenic until you’re near the end but a nap along with a substantial lunch of Pringles and Oreos and a couple of episodes of Castles is enough to get you by.

Our return coach journey to Bangkok took around 5 hours because of a traffic jam so if you are going to be travelling around Thailand, make sure you book your return journey back for around 2 days before your last day. You can never be too careful!  By this point, you’ll also be well-rehearsed in being able to prolong your bathroom needs, unless you’re absolutely desperate on the coach journey. Enter if you dare.

Accomodation

We stayed in the beautiful Colonnade Hotel, off the main road in the town centre, behind the Colonnade  mall. The rooms were ridiculously spacious, for what we paid, and we had a lovely view of the pool from our little balcony. Every room has an en-suite bathroom and shower, TV, fridge and a safe along with a little lounge area for draping yourself across after a hard day’s work at the beach. Its in an really central location being only 5 mins away from the Night Market and various bars/restaurants and 5 mins in the opposite direction to the beach.

Our beautiful room in the Colonnade Hotel

Our beautiful room in the Colonnade Hotel

Like I said, it is worth booking  accommodation while you’re over there as you get better deals. The control-freak in me did panic slightly about not pre-booking something months beforehand but unless you’ve got your heart absolutely set on a certain hotel etc, its worth flagging up a few options and seeing what you can get. Adam booked the Colonnade a week before I was due to fly out and although I was apprehensive about being so last minute, it certainly paid off.

Things To Do & See

The Beach: While I’ll admit that I’m not really a beach-bum (too much sand, y’see) I was quite happy to spend three days soaking up the sun on Hua Hin’s beautiful coastline. Powder-white sand, drinking from a fresh coconut and swimming in the crystal-blue Gulf sea. Bliss!

Good tip: If you enter the beach from Hua Hin Alley road, walk to the right, you’ll avoid the rocks and you’ll come across a little rum shack with sun loungers, plonk yourself on one of them and let the friendly bar staff look after you all day. It costs literally peanuts to occupy your lounger for the afternoon and if you’re feeling a bit peckish, you can choose from a variety of rice and noodle dishes on their menu.

The Night Market:

Located between the Petchkasem road and the railway station, the night market is a bustling street full of food vendors, handmade trinkets and imitation leather goods. The great thing is that most of the restaurants/cafes are located in the same street so you can have a little perusal before dinner. Unless of course you’re absolutely starving and you’re in a hurry, you may want to sharpen your elbows to get through the crowds ha! The market is on every night of the week, from around 6.30pm so you won’t have to worry about missing out.

Hua Hin's popular Night Market

Hua Hin’s popular Night Market

The Elephant Sanctuary:

Hutsadin Elephant Foundation was a place I found online before our trip and it was one of the things I really wanted to experience while in Thailand. There are so many elephant sanctuaries and safari parks across the country but I’d read a few reviews on Trip Advisor regarding certain ones and wanted to steer clear of any where the animals weren’t being treated properly. Hutsadin is an elephant hospital as well as a sanctuary for retired elephants who’ve had laborious lives or for those who have been rescued from poachers etc. The nice thing about visiting is that you don’t feel obliged to take the elephants out trekking, if you just want to have a look around the sanctuary and chat to the very friendly volunteers who work there, you can, as its a non-profit organisation.

We had a little play with their youngest elephant, four-year-old Songkran, who was rejected by her mother when she was a baby. Believe it or not, she’s quite small for her age and will have to take calcium supplements for the rest of her life, which in effect have made her hairier than the average Asian elephant but uber cute! The area surrounding them is vast and they’re constantly fed, watered and bathed. If you do visit any elephant sanctuary in the Hua Hin area, make sure its Hutsadin. They’re magnificent animals and its great knowing that there are organisations out there, who are doing their best to look after them.

Eating Out

As I said in Part I, I’m not the most adventurous of souls when it comes to my eating habits but if you luuuuuurve seafood then you’ll be in your absolute element in Hua Hin. From the stalls in the night market to the restaurants that line the coast, you probably won’t find anything fresher. Adam tucked into this little guy (below) in the Rod Fai restaurant. Eeeeeek.

Fresh off the BBQ!

Fresh off the BBQ!

If fish isn’t your thing, then there are a number of noodle bars and European restaurants to choose from. We even had an Italian at the Hilton Hotel in Naresdamri Road and found an awesome little British cafe called Buffalo Bill, run by the lovely Bill and Lorraine. Pop in there for a fruit cider when the Mai Thai’s get too much and a good ol’ traditional Sunday Roast.

Nightlife

While Hua Hin was definitely a lot quieter on the nightlife front than Bangkok was (no surprise really!) it was nice to just bar-hop, sink a few cocktails and watch the world go by. The liveliest of streets was Soi Bintabaht, which we dubbed “Slapper Alley,” (ha.) but on a serious note, it isn’t as sleazy as it sounds and if you want a bar with a bit of music or sports screens, this is probably one of your best bets. We took up a pew at Tina’s Bar on the corner on a couple of occasions but if you wander further down, outside the Hilton hotel are a number of a cute little cocktail bars. Our favourite being the Tug Boat bar, reasonably priced and the bar man is hilarious!

Failing that, get a 300 Baht (£6) bottle of white wine from the Night Market and watch hilarity ensue as you think 1) that you haven’t got a corkscrew 2) Upon buying a corkscrew, you discover one on the back of the bottle opener that’s in your hotel fridge and finally 3) Discovering that the wine actually tastes like vinegar but what the hell, stick on some Sinatra and have yourself a drink al-fresco on your balcony. Smooth.

Chinese New Year Parade

Chinese New Year Parade

30C heat now feels like a lifetime ago *sob* but it really was one of the most amazing trips that I’ve ever done and I’d love to go back to explore more- here’s hoping! Spring seems to be on its way at long-last and I’m sure it won’t be long until I get itchy feet for travelling again, although it’ll probably have to be a little closer to home this time! Any suggestions, mes amies?

I hope you all had a lovely weekend, another packed one for me, despite having that a cold that keeps trying to rear its ugly head! Friday night involved a lovely meal at a gorgeous little Italian Taberna Etrusca, tucked away near Cheapside in Bank before some drinks with friends at the Vintry nearby while on Saturday, I donned beads and embellishment for the Prohibition 1920s party in Bloomsbury with the girls. You may have seen my tweets #GettingMyGatsbyOn and I’ll be following up with a blog post shortly.

Have an awesome week, lets hope this sunshine sticks around!

Thailand Part I: The Madness of Bangkok

As promised, here is my first of a two-part instalment on my adventures in mad but beautiful Thailand. We stayed in Bangkok in the old-fashioned but rather quaint Royal Hotel, which is just around the corner to the infamous Khao San road and across the ‘run-if-you-want-to-live’ Ratchdamnoen Klang road. The traffic system is probably one of the first bizarre things I encountered when arriving in Thailand, not only does everyone drive like a nutcase but there doesn’t appear to be a coherent pedestrian system either and if you can get your whole family (plus a chicken or a suitcase) on the back of your moped, why not? It throws British Health & Safety regulations completely out of the window…

Despite the current protests going on, we didn’t feel uneasy while staying in Bangkok. Obviously, it’s best to check and find out more about the area you’re staying in before you travel but like with any trip abroad, keep your wits about you and your belongings close to you. Before I get carried away and go off on a tangent, I’ve decided to break down the trip into some nice little bite-sized guides…

Thailand2014

Getting About

Taxi’s are probably the most comfortable and easiest way to get from the airport to your hotel etc. Always agree a price with the taxi driver before you set off and don’t forget to tip at the end too. Thailand is ridiculously cheap for most things so your money tends to go a long way. Thai’s don’t have the best understanding of English so keep a note of any addresses/places in your bag so that you can show them to the driver. Although on one occasion, it took nearly 15 minutes to explain that we wanted to go to the South Bus Terminal while showing the bus ticket (written in Thai) but its all part of the adventure, I guess!

The nearest ferry port to Khao San road is Tha Phra Athit and from there you can get on either the commuter or tourist boats that ferry people up and down the Chao Phraya River. Commuter boats are cheaper but they literally cram everyone on board so opt for the tourist ones instead. Blue and orange flags will indicate which way the boats are going (check the timetable) and each port is numbered even if you’re not sure when they announce the next drop-off. Again the Thai’s don’t do things by halves, the boat will basically crash (for want of a better word!) into the floating port, chuck a piece of rope over to steady it slightly and then you hop on quickly, before they pull away with the same gusto.

While, Tuk-tuk’s are not the safest mode of transport but you have to experience them at least once in Thailand, especially if you haven’t got loads of luggage and you need to be somewhere quick. Again, agree the price with the driver beforehand, sit back and enjoy the ride…

Things to See & Do

Bangkok is a huge city so I didn’t get to venture too far outside of Khao San but Adam said that you’re gonna visit any temple in Thailand (and there are hundreds of them!) you’ve gotta see the Golden Buddha.

The Golden Buddha

The Golden Buddha

We jumped on a ferry from Tha Phra Athit to Ratchawong Pier in Chinatown and from there, we took a tuk-tuk to Wat (Temple) Traimit in Yaowarat Road. I think it’s around 350 Baht (£6) to wander around the temple and its exhibitions and from there, you can learn about how they encased the Buddha in a thick plaster to protect it from being snatched by Burmese invaders in the 13th/14th century. Its golden exterior was eventually discovered in 1954 during some restoration work and its now one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangkok.  Weighing in at 5.5 tonnes, its worth around $250m (£150m). Kaaaaachiiiiing!

Khao San Road itself is a worthy tourist attraction and despite its somewhat sleazy reputation, it is a back-packer’s dream. From hotels, bars and restaurants to beauty salons, souvenir shops and food stalls, Khao San has it all. Its thriving at night with a street market, street vendors selling barbecued insects and of course, promoters trying to sell you tickets for ping-pong shows! No we didn’t, in case you were wondering! Its worth taking a trip to, even if you just want to sit in one of the many bars and watch the world go by.

Eating Out

You’re spoilt for choice in Thailand and you’re up for trying something different, then this is the place to come, while testing the strength of your stomach at the same time! I joke but again, be careful when buying food from market stalls and only drink bottled water.

As I’ve said, I’m not the best person when it comes to talking about food as I’m quite fussy. No fried cockroaches for me, thank you very much! We mainly found places to eat around Soi Rambuttri, the road that runs parallel to Khao San. It has a mixture of Thai and Western restaurants and while its not as lively as its neighbouring street, it is a lot prettier on the eye. Cocktails are always a must and you won’t find a better Mai Thai anywhere else in the world.

Having a Mai Thai in Khao San...

Having a Mai Thai in Khao San…

I must, of course, mention the Supatra River House, a beautiful river-side Thai restaurant that has amazing views from its terrace and gorgeous food. You can reach it from the Chang pier, where the Supatra’s wooden boat will pick you up to ferry you across. There is also evening entertainment if you visit on a weekend. We went on our last night in Bangkok and it was an awesome way to end our time in Thailand.

Nightlife

I don’t think the words ‘brilliant’ and ‘hangover’ go particularly well together but after the epic nights out we had in Bangkok, it was worth feeling like death on the 3.5 coach trip to Hua Hin and eating our bodyweight in Pringles and Oreos.

Its easy to bar-hop your way down Khao San and while there’s a different sort of clientele that come out in the early hours, there’s no party like a Thai party. Connecting Khao San and Soi Rambuttri roads, there’s Susie Walking Street (yes, I was dubious about it after seeing the name) but down there is a hidden gem- 999 West Bar.

The place was full to the brim with happy Thai’s dancing and jumping around to a six-piece Thai band. Despite being two of the only few Farangs   (Foreigners) in there, we didn’t feel out of place, so much so that someone got a little bit too involved…I blame the jagerbombs.

Adam in 999 West with his new-found friends

Adam in 999 West with his new-found friends

Handy Tips

1. Carry your cash in different ways; Take some in sterling to change up while you’re out there (the rate is so much better in Thailand), take some in Traveller’s cheques or alternatively one of those Travel Money Cards, where the rate for withdrawing cash from an ATM is fixed (With Thomson its £1.50 per withdrawal). If you have to use your card abroad, make sure you telephone your bank beforehand to let them know and check the charges. You’re never usually far from a bank/ATM over there.

2. Insect Repellent- Absolute must-have! Although malaria is not rife in most of the tourist parts of Thailand (check with your GP before you travel) there’s nothing more annoying than being feasted on by one of the little suckers in middle of the night. The higher the level of deet in the spray, the better as it gives you maximum protection.

3. Tissues- While it’s not entirely true that bathrooms and toilets in Thailand do not contain tissue or paper towels, its worth always keeping a pack in your bag as the level of hygiene (shall we say) is not always up to scratch.

4. Learn a bit of Thai- When in restaurants and shops, you can get by, by pointing at the menu etc, however it is polite to learn a bit of the lingo, even if its just a couple of basic phrases:

Hell0: Sa-wat-dee-kraup (kah on the end if female)

Thank you: Kop-khun-kraup (kah if female)

No, thank you (you’ll use this one alot!): Mai-au-kraup (kah if female)

That’s it for Part I, I’ll be bringing you Part II: Hanging Out In Hua Hin very shortly. Stay tuned for photos of postcard perfect beaches and the cutest little baby elephant…

Welcome to 2014…

Hello and Happy New Year to you all! I know it’s been a while but time ran away from me in the run up to Christmas, I mean like craaaaaaazy busy!

There was not only one but THREE Christmas parties, which was great because I felt like I got to know everyone I work with better, can’t believe I’ve been there over three months now- time flies and all that jazz.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest via Lin L

Photo courtesy of Pinterest via Lin L

I’ve also got some exciting news to tell you, which if you follow me on Twitter etc, you’ll probably know about it but I’ve taken over the Gig Panel guide in The Ticket, an entertainment supplement free with The Daily Mirror every Friday! I’m absolutely over the moon to have been given the opportunity to do this and I’m looking to work on more projects in the future. Many fingers, many pies! My second panel is out tomorrow so don’t forget to grab yourself a copy.

It’s been all systems go since the New Year, I’m on full holiday countdown and as a result, my to-do lists seem to be endless (I totally do need a new Cath Kidston passport holder, right?) and my inner Super Girl has upped the ante so that I’m one step ahead at work while I’m away…I’ll let you know how that progresses ha!

Thanks to everyone who has posted and sent me some recommendations for Thailand, so unbelievably excited! Although I’m slightly apprehensive about the 11 hour flight, never experienced a long-haul  before so again if you’ve got any advice, throw it my way. I’m just praying that I don’t get a snoring drunkard sitting next to me with a bladder the size of Wales en route.

This weekend is a busy one as it’s that time of the year again, its almost the day of my birth and I really wish that time didn’t go so quick sometimes, feels like I was 19 only about a year ago ha! Alas it’ll be the last year that I get to tick the ol’ 18-24 age box on a survey (*sob*) so I’ll happily do any questionnaires or quizzes etc for the next 365-odd days. Just don’t ask me come January next year!

Celebrating with my fellow January babies Dan & Emma and we’re off to Kanaloa in the City for a bit of Hawaii in the winter…makes sense of course! There will be photos and a little review…if I don’t let the cocktails go to my head too much.

Until then, aloha!

My Next Adventure…

I think it’s pretty obvious that I always seem to have a massive case of wanderlust and once I’ve returned from a travel expedition, I’m already looking for the next one. If I could up-sticks and escape to another continent for three or four months, I totally would but I feel like my career is just getting started and y’know money restraints and what-not. Maybe someday…

City breaks were the theme of this year with Amsterdam and Barcelona ticked off my list, I visited Berlin back in 2010 and as you may know, I’m the Girl Who Didn’t Go To Paris in my second year of uni so that’s high at the top of my travel bucket-list. However, I’ve been looking to venture to somewhere a little bit more exotic and long-haul.

Koh Samet via Beth Durkinn on Pinterest

Koh Samet via Beth Durkin on Pinterest

We’re off to Thailand in January!!! I’m soooo excited!!

The 11 hour flight on a cold, winter’s evening will certainly be worth it. I’m going for ten days and we’re planning on spending a few days in Bangkok before catching the bus and a ferry to this gorgeous little island called Koh Samet. It’s registered as a National Park too so it’s relatively unspoilt. Looking forward to relaxing, experiencing a different kind of culture (although spare me fried insects and chicken feet!) and a little bit of winter sun. The temperature in Thailand in January can be anything from 23C to 33C…niiiiice. I’m also turning 24 a couple of days before I go so perhaps becoming another year older, won’t be as bad afterall.

My lovely other half, Adam, has been to Thailand a few times before so I’m relying on his navigation skills (no pressure dude) throughout our trip. If any of you have any other tips to share, please do let me know.

In the madness of preparing for Christmas, I’m also now trying to find some holiday outfits and accessories. I’ve ordered a couple of summer dresses from ASOS already and I’ve got my eye on some bikini’s and sandals. Again, if you know where the winter-sun bargains are at, please feel free to add your comments. As promised, I will be putting up my Winter Warmers post this week and a special little guest feature called Nostalgia.

læ̂w phb kạn rĕw!*

 

*”See you soon” in Thai 🙂

The Art of Smiling when you’re Overwhelmed

So how many of you are  sprawled out on your sofas, wine in one hand, bag of Malteasers in the other, with a good movie on the TV? Whether it’s a pizza and movie night or a candles and Massive Attack one, I hope you’ve all breathed a sigh of relief because the weekend is here people!

I’ve got my ol’ Indie Chill Out playlist on courtesy of Spotify, I’m adding gems to it all the time from electro and indie dance to acoustic and pop. If you’re on Spotify and you wanna take a listen, check it out here- Indie Chill-Out.

It’s been an absolute hectic week, y’know the ones where everything seems to come at once and you feel slightly overwhelmed by things…yeaaaah THAT. I’d probably get bored if life didn’t put me on my toes every now and again, you’ve just gotta learn to pirouette out of it. I am grateful to be having a night in though with a bit of peace and quiet.

Although things are crazy, I’m massively happy and I know I have a tendency to write ‘deep’ (for want of a better word!) blog posts but in a way, writing is my therapy. If I’ve got something on my mind (99.9% of the time!) then I  find that if I write things down, it’s a way of getting things off my chest without having to bombard my friends and family etc. I always used to keep a diary when I was younger- found some the other day, hilarity ensued- and after about the age of 19, I stopped for some reason. My future self probably knew that I couldn’t hack the cringe-fest! But anyways, I still keep a journal of sorts, but it’s less formal than a diary (the empty pages put me on a guilt-trip) so I kind of just write in it as and when I feel like it.

How do you guys deal with feeling overwhelmed?

smile

Anyways, before I go off on another tangent, happy I be and even more exciting, I’m off to Barcelona in a couple of weeks for a long weekend. I’ve heard and seen so many awesome things about it and I can’t wait to see more of the country I call my adopted second home. Of course, a blog post will follow and in the meantime, I’m hunting around for last minute summer threads because jumpers, boots and those gorgeous, rich Autumn colours are starting to creep on to the High Street. Although I prefer Summer over any season, any day, I do love Britain’s Autumn trends. Again, keep a look out for an upcoming post.

If anyone has got any advice on things to do and places to see in Barcelona, post your comments on here! Las Ramblas, the Sangrada Familia, Nou Camp, Placa de Catalunya and the beach are already on our list of things to do but if anyone knows about the city’s hidden treasures, throw them my way!

In the meantime, whatever you get up to this weekend, take time out of your day to unwind and have some YOU time.

Short but sweet post today…my bed’s calling.

 

From the Narm to the Dam

So it seems that Spring might finally be upon us, well that’s what it feels like this weekend so hopefully the sun might decide to stick around and the wind will hopefully sod off. It might have been a little premature but I busted out my Forever 21 red polka dot shirt-dress today while watching the London Marathon.

This time last week however, I was sitting outside the Heffer cafe in Oudebrugsteeg, Amsterdam, sipping from an ice cold pint of Heineken, watching the world go by.

Rocking the European backpacker look...

Rocking the European backpacker look…

After waking up at an ungodly hour on the Saturday morning and blasting the Foo Fighters along the dual carriageway to the airport, we were surprised at how short the plane journey was to Schiphol (35 minutes! Crazy when you consider our 6 hour coach journey up North at Halloween) and we were in central Amsterdam by 10am. You can’t fault most of Europe for their transport system, especially at 3,90€ for a one-way journey.

We arrived to a slightly, drizzly morning but luckily the sunshine decided to stick around for the majority of our trip, although we layered up in typical British style (sunglasses and a scarf anyone?). We found our hostel The Globe Hotel after veering off course once and were delighted to be served breakfast straight away in the sports bar. I have one bone to pick with the Dutch though when it comes to their idea of breakfast; 1) They love fried eggs on toast with cheese and 2) Their idea of ‘tea’ is a mug full of hot water with a choice of teabags on the side, it’s nice to be given a choice but no one complains over here if you’re given bog-standard Breakfast tea. Your pancakes, cheese and beer are marvellous though, I digress…

Outside our quirky little hostel

Outside our quirky little hostel

Flights and accommodation in Amsterdam are stupidly cheap, especially at this time of the year when it seems that half of the people I know seem to venturing over there at some point this month. If you’re opting for a hostel, don’t expect to find four star luxury but you will get cleanliness (thank god) and although we were a little dismayed to discover the 7ft bunk-beds in our room did not provide any form of protective side panelling or ladders, no one miraculously fell off in the middle of the night in a Heineken-induced stupor. If in any doubt, use coats and towels as some sort of crash-mat.

Amsterdam never really appealed to me, until a couple of years ago when I read that there was much more to it than the Red Light District, sex museums and the infamous coffee shops. Of course, when in the Dam, do as the Dam do but beneath some of the seediness is a  pretty, cosmopolitan city buzzing with history, art and culture.

Everything is within walking distance, a tram ride (if you’re feeling slightly lazy) or bicycle (if you’re insane) and seeing as the weather was so lovely, we followed routes along the canals, popping into quirky little boutiques here and there. After sticking close to our hotel on the Saturday and exploring around Damrak and Dam Square, we ventured to the newly refurbished Rijksmuseum on the Sunday. For a decade the building underwent renovations, costing 375 million euros and it finally reopened to the public on the 13th April 2013.

The Rijksmuseum is home to 8,000 objects of art and history from 800 years of Dutch history from the year 1200-2000

The Rijksmuseum is home to 8,000 objects of art and history from 800 years of Dutch history from the year 1200-2000

While I am not the most enthusiastic of art fans, having been relieved that GCSE Art was not compulsory while I was at school, the architecture of the building with its glass ceiling in the main foyer is stunning and it was pretty cool to see some of the world’s most renowned masterpieces up-close from Van Gogh to Monet and Rembrandt.

Van Gogh's infamous self-portrait

Van Gogh’s infamous self-portrait

Having fulfilled our cultural quota for the day, we headed to the awesome Heineken factory in the late afternoon. Well worth its value of 16 euros for a ticket, the whole of the brewery is interactive from sampling the barley mixture before the Hops are added to the World of Heineken where you can make your own silly music video, sit in the 007 train used for the Bond movie advert, have your own personalised bottle of beer made and of course, have tasters along the way. With your wristband you can also catch the Heineken boat from outside the factory, which takes you to their merchandise store across the city, close to the flowermarkets and Rembrandt Square. While I’m not usually a massive beer lover, I think Heineken might have converted me.

Fun in the Heineken Factory

Fun in the Heineken Factory

On the Monday morning, we went to Anne Frank’s House, as the queue was notably shorter than the previous day. It’s been a place that I’ve always wanted to visit, having read her diary while I was at school. While the front of the house (once home to her father Frank Otto’s spice and jam business) is the visitor’s entrance, the Annexe in which the family hid in has remained the same, void of its furnishings. The ‘leg-breaking’ stairs up to the Annexe itself make you realise that although they were well-hidden, how hard it must have been for them to remain quiet at all times and still keep their sanity in dark and somewhat cramped conditions. Even if history isn’t your thing, it’s definitely one of those places that touches you and leaves its mark.

During the evening, we bar-hopped our way back from Dam Square, usually gorging on huge slices of pizza, a dogzza (Adam and Kevin’s name for the hot-dog pizza) or a chocolate-covered waffle. Amsterdam did absolute wonders for our waistlines and our wallets over the weekend.

Damrak near Central Station

Damrak near Central Station

Like London, Amsterdam isn’t cheap and you may find yourself wondering how on earth you’ve only got a few crummy euros left in your purse by the end of your trip (enough for a train ticket and one last bottled Heineken) but Amsterdam isn’t a place where you do can things by half really. Pints of beer on average are usually around 6 or 7 euros (always try and opt for a bottle if you can!) while spirits alone can be 5 euros before they’ve even added a mixer. I guess with the amount of bicycles, trams and canals, it’s not  a wise idea to get completely inebriated but just enough so that you can navigate your way  back to your hotel in one piece. And if you do venture into the Red Light District (which is an odd bit of tourist attraction with whole families wandering up and down the main strip, pardon the pun) stick to the main road and don’t be tempted to wander into any back alleys.

The Dutch themselves are probably the most welcoming of the Europeans and their English is pretty much perfect, no manic arm gestures or shouting  “CAN WE HAVE THE BILL PLEASE?!” needed.

While it was a pretty much a fly-in visit to Amsterdam, it certainly won’t be our last. It’s a city with far too many hidden gems to uncover. Until next time Dam…Proost!

 

Cabin Fever and Wanderlust

First and foremost, I apologise for my lack of blogging posts since New Year’s day; a slight affliction of the January blues and getting back into the swing of things post-Christmas are mostly to blame. Nevertheless, I am now writing to you from the cosy pit that is my boudoir, having decided that hibernation from today is the way forward.

Don’t get me wrong, snow’s pretty and all that jazz but unless you’re at primary school age where snow days are inevitable because Dairy Crest can’t fulfil their delivery duties, it loses much of its elements of fun. As I’ve probably mentioned before, I hate being cold with a passion and would happily live in Sahara-like conditions all year round if I wasn’t confined to the British Isles. The winter months over here and our dismal summers constantly give me itchy feet and if I were offered a job in somewhere like Australia tomorrow, I’d be on that plane quicker than you can say “G’day mate!

Wanderlust...a very strong and impulsive desire to travel. Photo courtesy of enjoyeventscoblog.com

Wanderlust…a very strong and impulsive desire to travel. Photo courtesy of enjoyeventscoblog.com

As much as I find change to deal with at times, I do have this underlying craving for a change of scenery and working abroad has always been one of my major life goals. I guess it’s all about timing and money in this sense because with the uncertainty of the economy, people feel even more pressured to hold on to their current jobs for security purposes and of course, to travel and work abroad, money is another massive factor. If you’re slightly more carefree, perhaps you’ll chuck a few belongings into your polka-dotted handkerchief, get a one-way ticket to anywhere and promise to return when the economy has “sorted itself out.” A girl can dream right?

While I plot my imaginary escape to paradise in my head, in the meantime, I am living my last day and a half as a 22 year old…eeeek! Although I can’t imagine I’ll develop wrinkles overnight, it does take me one year closer to the big 3-0 and as they say, time flies by when you’re having fun. I do however look forward to a week’s worth of revelry with my friends and family, snow or no snow!

I am also still embarking on my fitness regime, which was temporarily thrown off course by illness, but I have now officially signed up for the Swimathon 2013, where I’ll be taking on the Ultimate 5K Challenge (that’s 200 lengths in layman’s terms!) in April. The Swimathon helps to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, an amazing charity whose nurses help to provide home support for people with terminal illnesses and their relatives.

Since 2007, more than 100,000 swimmers have jumped in the water and raised vital funds, last year alone more than 26,000 swimmers raised a staggering £2.4 million.”

So if you would like to show your support and help me raise funds for a brilliant cause, you can sponsor me here and donate online at:

http://my.artezglobal.com/personalPage.aspx?registrationID=411798&langPref=en-CA 

Thank you so much for your sponsorship in advance and I will of course keep you up to date with my progress on here. I’ve so far been hitting the 100 lengths mark in my sessions so far and like with anything long distance, it’s all about building up your stamina. I’ve always wanted to get involved in the Swimathon, having swum competitively from my childhood to my teens and I wanted a goal to work towards so that I could get back into it and have the added bonus of keeping fit. It also ticks off at least three goals on 2013’s Bucket-list; keep fit, take on a challenge for charity and get back into swimming. Hoorah!

Working abroad is definitely on my general bucket-list and although, stranger things have happened, I think it’s always a little sensible to keep your goals slightly realistic. But of course, my inner carefree soul hopes that she’ll be writing to you from a beach this time next year.