I’m not going to complain about this hot summer we are having. I mean, hello: eating ice cream any time of the day has totally become normalised! It’s only during my commute that I’m having problems with finding peace with the heat so I’ve been keeping my brain chilled by revisiting some of the cooler destinations I’ve visited.
A winter season in Austria
One of my favourite winters I spent in Austria working front desk at a holiday chalet park located in the middle of 6 different slopes. It was amazing to lock the reception doors during lunchtime, grab your snowboard and hit the playground. Even on the coldest day, it was still sunny and you could slide down the slopes with a windbreaker and a hoodie. I don’t even remember it being too cold or too grey, it might have been the alcohol that kept me warm and made me forget about the lesser days.
A semester abroad in Finland
I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Melbourne when it was 42°C and a month later I was in Finland where it was -12°C. I spent my exchange semester walking around like a Michelin man and it was so different from the winter cold I knew from Austria. I LOVED living in a place where they had a proper winter and snow didn’t suck after one day. So many soup options on the menu, hot chocolate was mandatory and enjoying sauna sessions meant everyone was too busy to complain about the cold. What not to like?
A house-sit in Berlin
I love how winter, snow and even the cold can put a magical carpet over a destination. Like arriving in snowless Berlin mid-December and seeing the first snow fall and how it changes Christmas, New Year’s and the days in between. Potsdam was like a winter wonderland episode of a cheesy fairy tale, mulled wine at the abandoned amusement park Christmas Market just tasted better and even getting squashed in the crowds of tourists couldn’t bother me. Can I book again for holiday season?
What’s your favourite cold destination to go shiver?
I saw a really bad slogan on a tourism board advert the other day, which led me down a Google blackhole of tourism slogans – and I must admit it wasn’t pretty, so many are a such a big let down! It was like back in the olden times when you would judge people based on their very deep and emo MSN Messenger quotes. However, it did inspire me to write a post on the slogans that would get me on the plane there pronto!
Albania • Go your own way!
Arrogant? Maybe! Confident? Hell yes! That pretty much sums up the Balkan attitude and I love that Albania is the country that makes full use of it. I’d love to explore Tirana, hike in the mountains and see the infamous bottomless deep blue spring.
Djibouti • Djibeauty
The sad thing about punny jokes is that they don’t always translate well, but can we all appreciate what Djibouti did here? It definitely attracted the attention of Lonely Planet who named it one of their top places to visit in 2018. It would be interesting to get my culture fix at their archaeological sites, test if I can speed up my mind and body with khat and venture to Moucha Island.
El Salvador • The 45 Minute Country
Honesty is always the best policy in my book and that’s why their slogan inspires me to load up my favourite booking site and buy a ticket to travel to the past in the Mayan temples, munch my way trough a plate of pupusa and catch some waves. Yeah, I have the feeling a visit to El Salvador may be short, but would definitely be sweet, plus it’s not always the length that matters eh?
Iran • You Are Invited
Whenever I read blogs about Iran I love how basically everyone meets someone who invites them into their home and meets the parents, grandparents and probably half of the neighbourhood. I would love to be part of this experience where people are proud to show off their culture and country. On top of that, I want to soak up ancient history at the Ruins of Persepolis, visit Shah Cheragh Mosque and sit down for many, many TEA sessions.
Lebanon • Live Love Lebanon Mainly because it sounds like the title of a Gossip Girl book … think Blair and Serena somehow end up in Lebanon instead of Paris, now that’s a season I would love to see. However, I’d be more interested in checking out Beiteddine Palace, seeing the Jeita Grotto and scoffing all the mezze.
Uganda • You Are Welcome
So cheeky, but I love it. During my semester abroad I had a few people from Uganda in my classes and this fits them so well. I still have some invites lying around and I’d love to visit them and finally have that shot of Waragi, do some National Park hopping and see the locations that inspired Wakanda.
You may have heard of Ansel Dominic Bakery for introducing the world to the wonders of the cronut or just being a highly Instagrammable place, but neither of these two things tickled my fancy. But then I saw their watermelon soft serve sprinkled over Instagram and I was sold! For me, the only ice-cream that really counts is soft serve. Sadly no one on Instagram mentioned it was sorbet-style, so whoever named this soft serve knows nothing about ice-cream. It was nice, but not worth the £6.50 and the Rowntrees Watermelon Lolly you can get at the supermarket across the street is a gob-smackingly cheap 55 pence!
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my trip to The Cotswolds and I though I only visited 4 villages I can’t say it’s as quaint, cosy and silent as Instagram suggests. What those IG close-ups don’t mention is that they are all zoomed in on that cute row of houses because there’s loads of noisy cars passing by, and no one shows that the little town centres are basically car parks. It was the countryside walks from village to village where I found the quietness I was looking for.
I mentioned why I didn’t like Isla Mujeres here, but Tulum wasn’t the paradise I expected either. Look for #Tulum and you’ll see IG models lounging in tropical beach huts, having fresh coconuts and biking through paradise – a lot to live up to! But it turns out most people go for a hostel in town, spend their pesos on tacos at Antojitos La Chiapaneca and whatever the cheapest drink is. And that bike lane through paradise? It’s more like a concrete traffic nightmare. That being said, yogis can be found on the drop-dead gorgeous beaches and there are carefree swings for you to try out and take a quick snap to spark some jealously back home.
So message for future self: be wary of Instahype and do some actual research.
Central London in summer is my own personal little corner in hell. Just like many other major cities, London is starting to burst at the seams with overtourism, and to catch a peaceful moment I’ve started avoiding the major attractions – instead I head South of the river, to the far far East or even to the West!
One of those recent stops for me was re-visiting the Horniman Museum and Gardens – a quirky museum in Forest Hill which houses a lot of stuffed animals, musical instruments from all around the world and African, South American and Siberian anthropology.
We owe the place to Frederick John Horniman, a Victorian tea trader and avid traveller who brought back curious things from around the world to Forest Hill to let people share in on his passion. I assume his partner and friends got tired of hearing how he got Wally the Walrus for the 20th time so he opened up his display to the public. As the collection grew and grew and attracted more visitors I imagine his wife wasn’t too excited with people wandering around her house and so they secured a nearby building that still houses the museum and gardens. To top it off, there’s also a butterfly house, an aquarium and a crazy golf course – sadly it wasn’t the one from Alice in Wonderland, but is still worth a shot.
It doesn’t take more than 1 hour to see everything, which leaves enough time to go up the hill for the amazing view over central London, see the gardens in bloom and grab some food at the Saturday Farmer’s Market for a picnic on the grass. The collections are a bit dry and leave a lot to the imagination, but it’s kind of charming in old fashioned way with Wes Anderson style fonts and pastel colours, and did I mention it’s (mostly) for free?
It’s a bit out of Central London in Zone 3, so it might not be the ideal hotspot for your first visit, but definitely hop on the bus/train if you are visiting London for a second or third time or love stuffed animals, dried insects and a bash on the drums in the music room.
I was at the airport on a Sunday in late May. As always, my flight was delayed, so I thought what better time to put my investigative reporter hat on and answer the Frequently Asked Questions that really matter about Southend Airport.
So … How much for a bottle of water? You’ll find the cheapest bottle of water at Arnolds & Forbes and it will coat you £1.50 (that’s around €2.80 / $3.50) which is nothing unusual for an airport. But the 750 ml Buxton at WHSmith costs you £1.99 (€ / $). There was at the time of my visit nowhere to refill your bottle, so not great for the environment.
And can I get my Big Mac or a Grande Triple Chocolate Soya Mocha at the airport? There’s no chains except for WHSmith which serves up a soggy meal deal. A pub-style restaurant, a sandwich place and some kind of dessert bar are the other options. I saw lots of people with McDonald’s bags outside and turns out there is one about 5 minutes walking distance from the airport.
Whatever. What about the real essentials? Is there Wi-Fi? Yes, the annoying one where you have to register and add your e-mail and come up with a password. It’s worth it as pretty quick and I could even play Instagram stories without issues. Let’s not dwell on what they’re doing with my personal data…
I know enough. Can I charge my phone, tablet and laptop while waiting? After security you can only charge at the Bourgee dessert bar. And weirdly … at the Arnold & Forbes Café Kitchen before security you can charge your phone, but after you can’t. Something to fix soon Southend!
Are the chairs comfortable at all? Could I nap comfortably when I have a stopover? Take a look yourself … As far as airport chairs go, it’s pretty comfortable to sit. Good luck with lying down though.
What about the toilets? There’s a lot of them, I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait for a free one. But the flush buttons really hard to press, which leads to people being lazy and the toilets are almost always dirty and not flushed.
Anything cool you saw? A Dixon’s vending machine to get things like adapters, headphones and chargers. The future is here!
Anything else I need to know? This airport has the quickest security I have experienced, everyone seems to be in sync. And outside there is a nice green bit where you can relax ahead of your flight, so you can avoid cabin fever.
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