Getting lost in a city isn’t something you always want on holiday, but places like Dubrovnik practically beg you to escape from the crowd and savour the architectural treasures of the old town, imagining all the drama that took place on these cobbled streets over the centuries.
Though most people rent out their place in summer you will still spot signs from the locals: the old ladies who are chatting, hanging laundry out to dry, and cats sunbathing all day and give you a fuck off when you try to take a photo. While you, me and everyone’s grandma seems to have discovered the place, it suffers from overtourism (there are plans to only let 4,000 people a day in) so enjoy those views while they last.
If Dubrovnik was a travelquote it would be something in the line of: every alley leads to new adventures so don’t be afraid to get lost in the labyrinth. Like you might stumble upon a hidden bar built into the side of the cliff that also happens to be a cliff diving spot. You can watch people jump or decide to actually to embrace your inner daredevil and take the leap.
Kew Gardens’ revamped Temperate House re-opened the other day and it’s all over the press and Instagram this weekend. I went a few weeks ago and found the place a lot more building site than world class botanical garden.
It was a ‘glass half-empty’ kind of experience for me, I knew the Temperate House was still in the works, but nowhere was it mentioned on the main website or when you booked tickets that the famous Pagoda was closed for refurbishment, so I was a bit shocked when I saw it under cover as my bus approached…It was a day of mixed emotions, and got me thinking about the previous times I’d encountered hiccups in my adventures.
Times it wasn’t so good:
Cinque Terre is known for its beautiful winding walking trails descending high above the Tyrrhenian Sea, aside from my time there, when half of them were closed.
Hiking up the Alps in Innsbruck and joining Maria in the Sound of Music is every girl’s dream, except when the ski-lift is closed for the season and you have to walk all the way back down on blistered feet.
Putting on my belle of the ball gown and dancing down to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria was meant to be Disney-worthy trip of a lifetime- except the Beast had the builders in…
When every cloud has a silver lining and it turned out for the best.
I went to take rightful place at the seats of gods at Athens’ Akropolis (I’d be the Goddess of Tea) and sections might have been closed, but you get a half discount, so more money to spend on souvlaki!
Dover Castle managed to withstand the Avengers assaulting it, but when I headed down there, it was a tad too windy to be able to open for the public. But this meant I went on an adventure of mine own to nearby Canterbury and the following day the castle was empty so it was even better!
In the paradise of Kotor, me and my friend thought we could just rock up and expect two beds in the town’s only hostel – of course it was fully booked, but the kind owner went out of her way to find us a lovely space in an old grandma’s house, which ended up being one of the highlights of the trip (local knowledge!!)
What was your best/worst ‘when travel gives you lemons’ experience?
Medieval ruins and bluebell forests? 30 Minutes from Central London? Sign me up!
This year I promised myself I’d really delve into London’s unseen secrets, and that’s how I found myself crossing Abbey Road… but not the one you’d think! It was less 70s album cover and more abbey ruins, woods with bluebells and more dogs than you can shake a stick at.
No, you haven’t been transported to the set of yet another grim medieval fantasy show, this is actually within easy reach of London and you can explore to your heart’s content. What I loved was imagining the monks going about their daily lives. While most of the walls have long ago fallen, the abbey layout remains intact so it’s like starting a Sims game – wondering how you’d decorate and which room went where. Otherwise, the main activities I saw were playing hide and seek, family picnics and dog walking; there’s also a cute cafe selling lovely slices of banana bread.
Here’s the TL:DR take on the history – the abbey was originally built around 1180 and everything was fine and dandy until Henry VIII couldn’t keep it in his pants so all the monks and monasteries had to go.
I can’t believe the place hasn’t been transformed in apartments. At the moment it’s 30 minutes from London Bridge, but once Crossrail opens you’ll make it to Abbey Woods in 12 minutes from central London. That’s basically prime location.
If/when the apartments come I hope the mulberry tree survives – planted by King James I (well, his entourage), it looks so old it makes Pocahontas’s Grandmother Willow look like Baby Groot.
Once you’re all abbey-ed out you should explore the Lesnes Abbey Woods – ancient woodland carpeted with bluebells and other natural wonders – you’ll forget you’re in a huge city until you accidentally walk into someones backgarden.
Do you have any historic city secrets you can share?
When thinking of city trips Reykjavík might not spring to mind as there’s so many geysers, waterfalls and stunning landscapes to go see elsewhere on the island. That’s a shame as the city has a lot to offer. The capital is cute, compact and there is A LOT TO DO. I preciously shared my favourite food and drink spots and today I’m sharing some highlights of things to see and do in the most northern capital in the world.
360 ° view from the Hallgrímskirkja Not just an impressive architectural sight, Reykjavik’s iconic Hallgrímskirkja is the place to go for the best bird’s eye view of the city. They say the layered curves and ridges were inspired by glaciers and theIceland’s landscape, but it looked more ribbed for pleasure to me (sorry!)
Walk Around the centre
The center of Reykjavik is not very big but it’s perfect for a little stroll, checking out the cute houses and engaging in some (window) shopping. This is also the place to hunt for the iconic Iceland sweater…until you realise how much they actually cost and just leave with a key chain.
Relax at the pool
Blue Lagoon sounds great, but also expensive and crowded. A cheaper alternative is to go to one of the many geothermal swimming pools around the city. In Iceland, hot water comes straight out of the ground so the locals make most just of it, when life gives you lemons!
What is this marvellous looking structure by the old harbor? Well, from the outside it could be an art museum, a fancy hotel, media hub, but it’s actually a conference/concert hall. With many reflections, slick angled staircases and lego-like windows, your camera will overload (it was also in a recent Black Mirror episode!).
Check out the street art For such a small centre, there’s a surprising amount of murals and street art to discover in its (side) streets, so open your eyes and keep your head up for some visual treats.
Take the ferry to Viðey (Videy) island
If you’ve had enough of ‘busy’ central Reykjavik you can escape to this island for the day. There is dramatic, sweeping landscape, cute cottages and moody beaches. But the swing with a view was my highlight …
Free Walking Tour
City Walks offers various tours, including a free walking tour where you’ll learn all about the history of Iceland, the evolution of Reykjavík as a town and Icelandic culture.
Check Out the Museums
The National Museum will take you on a journey through Iceland’s history with surprisingly charming interactive videos. The only downside for me was that there wasn’t enough details as I wanted to know more. There is also the Reykjavik Art Museum, which hold some things that make Bjork seem tame. If you want it less traditional why not check out the Icelandic Phallological Museum (it’s much bigger in real life I swear) or the The Icelandic Museum of Rock ‘n’ Roll?
Go to a concert
There’s much more to the Icelandic music scene than Bjork, Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men. For a small city it definitely has a big music scene, especially Airwaves, where sometimes don’t know what you are going to get, you might end up seeing a 14-18 all female hip hop formation. You won’t understand a word they say, but feel it’s #GIRLPOWER
The old airport in Zagreb holds a special place in my heart. It was the very first destination I flew to and the first time I returned to my home country Bosnia after having fled 6 years earlier. I know that sometimes old can be charming, but the terminal was in need of a make-over. Thankfully my prayers were answered and a brand new terminal had appeared in 2017 and last week I got to dip my toes in for the first time.
My flight was delayed so I was lucky enough to spend my Saturday at the Gate 16 – 26 area from about 12.45 til 15.00 and while admiring the shiny steel and concrete architecture I thought I’d answer some Frequently Asked Questions about Zagreb’s Franjo Tuđman Airport – not that you asked.
What’s the most important thing to know? The airport is still relatively new, with lots of stores ‘coming soon’, so you won’t be able to kill much time window shopping.
Now for an easy one … How much for a bottle of water? At Caffe Nero a bottle of water costs 21 kuna (that’s around £2.40 / €2.80 / $3.50) which is nothing unusual for an airport. Are you trying to save the environment by carrying a refill bottle? Well, bad luck for you as there are no fountains to be found. You technically can do it in the rest rooms, but the water is lukewarm.
And can I get my Big Mac or a grande triple chocolate soya mocha at the airport? Caffe Nero is the only chain to be seen at both arrival and departure. The best thing about this Caffe Nero? They serve pita/burek for only 12 kuna (that’s around £1.40 / €1.60 / $2) ! So if you haven’t stuffed your face with enough already in Croatie (or the Balkans) this is your last chance. There’s also a pub and a buffet-style restaurant with the usual soups, pastas and burgers as well as cevape (but without the bread sadly!). Prices start at 60 kuna (that’s around £7 / €8 / $10).
Whatever. What about the real essentials? Is there Wi-Fi? Yes! And since there isn’t much to do to kill time you and Wi-Fi will be besties. Like at most airports all you do is sign in and you are online! There wasn’t a time limit and it was really quick – so you can blame them for all the posts I’m spewing at you at the moment.
I know enough. Can I charge my phone, tablet and laptop while waiting? Throughout the departure hall there are several poles with a number of USB and charging plugs, the downside is that you have to stand around the poles while waiting. Who knew poles could be so exciting … and for free.
Are the chairs comfortable at all? Could I nap comfortably when I have long stopover? There are no armrests between the seats, but don’t get too excited as you can see they are not the most comfortable to lie on, so you’ll obviously need someone to lie on top of …
What about the toilets? There were enough around the gates, they were super clean and I can’t complain much, except that the coat/bag hangers in the toilet stalls I went to seemed to be broken. Why or how do you break a toilet coat hanger????
Anything cool you saw? I still can’t get over the fact that well known Italian coffee chain sells pita/burek. #nospon. In case you are wondering … Pita/burek is the Balkans’ very own comfort food – a filo dough filled with meat, potatoes, vegetables or cheese.
Anything else I need to know? Not something I can guarantee, but literally every staff member I encountered was superfriendly and smiled, which I was extra surprised about as us Balkan people are masters of the resting bitch face and most of our names rhyme with bitch for a reason. Everyone either seemed to be having a good day or they were keeping their laughs in when I spoke to them in my backwards farmer way.
Have you visited the airport? What was your experience and what did I miss out on at gates 1 – 15?