Give Me A City Break: Bad First Impressions (And What I Would Do Different Next Time)

15th March 2018

A while ago I wrote about places I loved and wouldn’t mind visiting again, but I can’t forget the places I didn’t click with. Spoiler alert: it was me, always me (not them!).


On paper, Barcelona and I sounded like a match made in heaven: much needed winter sun, lots of history and delicious food – everything I usually need to satisfy that wanderlust. But for some reason we just didn’t hit it off.

Do Different Next Time: there was some kind of spark and I’m not sure if I should revisit Barcelona or try another region in Spain to rekindle the romance.


The day I arrived in Kyoto it rained and I was jet lagged and disoriented. As me and my friends only had one afternoon to check out the Gion area and the nearby park, it didn’t leave me in awe and neither I nor the city projected warmth and acceptance. Though the geisha we spotted was a plus.

Do Different Next Time: not just use it as a base for day trips but actually book a ryokan, explore the wider city and maybe even throw in a tea ceremony.


Poor, poor Ljubljana, the city I passed by so many times, but never really gave a chance – friendzoned it almost – as it was the last pit stop on our long drives from the Netherlands to Bosnia. And the one time I did make it to the city I was too tired and I couldn’t be bothered to visit anything except the castle and the main square.

Do Different Next Time: explore the city and tourist attractions instead of just the outer suburbs, plus maybe try the prison turned hostel.


Back when I was young, wild and free I thought it was a good idea to hit the 3 Baltic capitals in 5 days. Tallinn was cute and charming, Riga was raw and romantic and Vilnius was a finish line and the place to catch a breath before taking the plane home. Which is a shame as I only remember this Alice in Wonderland mural and a coffeeshop that made amazing lattes.

Do Different Next Time: schedule in more time and see what’s beyond the streets of the hostel.


While I was in Melbourne I was on the tightest budget ever, so I didn’t get to see much of the Down Under. A weekend trip with friends to Sydney was superbudget and supershort and you really can’t cover everything in two days. The Coogee to Bondi walk and day trip to the Blue Mountains were special, while Darling Harbour and the Sydney Opera House were not so much. Also … I kept comparing everything to Melbourne, which isn’t really fair..

Do Different Next Time: you guessed it right … take the time to learn, relax and see more of the city. And stop comparing it with the ever-perfect Melbourne.


Freetown Christiana in Copenhagen was another letdown. Where I expected a hippie community living from art, producing their own goods and living the life it was overshadowed by trash, torn down sheds and people smoking hash. Not to mention men in masks selling drugs on the main street and a lot of huuuuuuge dogs were walking around.

Do Different Next Time: yeah … there won’t be a next time, unless I can find a time-travel machine!


My research on Isla Mujares made it sound like a car free paradise where you could get around by golf car and with a world-class, beautiful beach, but instead there was traffic, streets full of rude golf car drivers and beach views ruined by tons of boats doing day tours cluttering the water. Isla Mujares was supposed to be this paradise and escape from Cancun, but it was really just Little Cancun.

Do Different Next Time: lower my expectations if I ever get the chance to go to Yucatan and maybe visit Isla Cozumel, Isla Holbox or one of the other smaller islands instead.

                                              What places did you just not ‘click’ with?


Get Your Kitsch On at Made in North Korea: Everyday Graphics from the DPRK

10th March 2018

This was my second visit to Granary Square’s House of Illustration in King’s Cross. The first being Female Comic Creators which had so much potential, but in my opinion was a bit of miss and lacked coherence.

When I read that this guy was showcasing posters, comics and packaging from North Korea it reminded me of the American student who was imprisoned for attempting to steal and export a propaganda poster…so you can say it had my interested piqued and I wanted to give the venue a second chance.

As you enter the first room with socialist style posters you’re given a sheet of paper with the translations explaining them, which worked really well. I won’t give too much away, but I loved the vivid, surreal and optimistic design that was refreshingly sincere. But there were too many pictures and not enough storytelling to transport me to Pyongyang (I realise for £8.25 that’s too much to ask). It might have been interesting to learn how the collector managed to get hold of everything and what his thoughts were (maybe that’s the book is for…).

A Google session taught me that he organised tours to North Korea and obviously has lots of access and stories from his trips and I couldn’t help but wonder why some of that wasn’t mentioned. If anyone could explain why there were North Korean Lady Di stamps, it was him.

I also had an issue that it was a bit glorified, you can argue that it’s not up to the curator to inform us about the current affairs of the country (and I’m not expecting posters of the labour camps) but with an issue like Korea you would expect a better backdrop. If you don’t want to go into that, fair enough. But why not go for the socialist realism as an dying art form?

All in all a nice snack, but it left me hungry for more – thankfully the surrounding area is full to bursting with restaurants like Caravan, Granted & Co and Dishroom, so plenty to satisfy your hunger of the stomach (not the mind!).

The exhibition runs til 13th of May at the House of Illustration. Make sure to also check out the the Lucinda Rogers exhibition about the gentrification of London’s East End.


Hello From The Cotswolds

4th March 2018

In December I wrote a post on the places I’m hoping to visit in 2018 and now (only a few months in), I can finally cross off the first one! I went to the Cotswolds – even if you are not from the UK and the name doesn’t ring a bell, chances are you’ve seen pictures of the quaint brick houses in fairy tale-like villages where people seem to live the slow life.

And things are definitely slower in the Cotswolds – I get frustrated when I miss a tube/bus and have to wait 5 minutes – but if you miss the bus there you’re stuck for at least an hour if you’re lucky. A taxi came to the rescue and I was joined for a cab share with a local for a short ride to Stow-on-the-Wold where I learned that the recently opened Aldi and hospital are the talk of the day.

Cotswolds are a popular blogger destination so I have read a post here and there, but what no one mentioned was the noise pollution from the constant stream of cars, which is understandable as it’s the main way of going from A to B, but it does take away from the fairy tale/slow life feel.

”Speak, friend, and enter. ” The doors of the St Edwards Church inspired Tolkien’s Doors of Durin – the gates of Moria. Thankfully there was not a monster-filled mine behind these doors, but just a small, peaceful religious spot. It’s also worth noting that a pub in the nearby Moreton-in-Marsh inspired the Middle Earth’s most famous drinking hole, the Prancing Pony Inn. St. Edwards Church is only a few minutes away from the main square and a must stop, even if you are not a Tolkien fan, just to appreciate how the mastery of combining large trees into the architecture.

As I had time to kill before the hotelroom was ready I had the option to go to a pub, have an afternoon tea or walk to the nearby village of Broadwell. As the weather was great and I wanted to find that slow life I went for the walk, which was an easy one – mud is probably your only obstacle, plus the fact that the alpacas on the route are not interested in you and will avoid any form of communication (ghosted right!?). Broadwell itself is tiny, with one main street with a church, bus stop, lots of B&B places and one inn.

My favourite bit of Broadwell was watching these sheep – the one on top of the stone wall seemed to be on an adventure of his own and braved a perilous walk on the wall instead of taking the longer safe route on the ground. Better than anything Netflix released in the last 3 months.

During most of my teenage years I worked in a country hotel/restaurant that would fit the boutique hotel category these days and I love staying in similar places that bring back these memories. The Old Stock Inn did all of that and came with a lovely interior and map art work adorning its walls. There are restaurants/traditional inns in Stow and the rest of the area where you can head to for your lunch/dinner and as well as more afternoon tea place than Pret-A-Manger’s in Central London, but I opted for dinner at the Old Stock Inn where they focus on regional and seasonal dishes. I couldn’t be more happy about the onion tarte tatin and the beetroot/goats cheese starter.

The walking trails to nearby villages are adventures on their own as you have no idea where it will bring you next – Google Maps hasn’t caught up yet, but that’s a good thing. The yellow arrows on gates and fences will lead you from walking next to the main road to a muddy meadow where the horses and sheep come and greet you. More than once you’ll start to doubt the trail and your map and wonder if they are real walking trails or if the farmer will wait for you with a pitchfork. They didn’t.

Which destinations have you crossed off your 2018 list?

Stamp This

Stamp This! Travel bloggers’ Passport Stamp Stories Part VI

28th February 2018

passport stamps

I must confess the last Stamp This post is so old that it included a Pokemon Go reference, so it was about time that I invited travel bloggers to share the special stories behind their favourite passport stamp.

Enjoy their more than stamp-worthy tales!

No Longer Native | Danielle

I’ve always loved traveling but on the other hand, I’ve always liked coming home too. I just wasn’t the kind of gal who loved living out of a backpack for weeks on end. It makes sense then that I married my opposite, someone who was always dreaming of an around the world trip.

That’s why this stamp—a two-year Colombian visa—is my favorite. It represents a leap we made together into the best of both worlds. We both got adventure and a life outside of our comfort zones, but we were able to put down some temporary roots as well.

The funny thing is that since moving abroad, I’ve learned that “home” isn’t a fixed place. I can feel at home in my apartment just as much as when I’m floating between hostels and traveling with no plans. For the next couple of years, we’ve settled in Madrid, Spain and I’m already getting excited about what is coming next.

Our Escape Clause | Jeremy & Kate

It’s hard to pick a favorite passport stamp–we tend to fall in love with each and every single new one we get (except for the boring EU style–wish they would step up their stamp game!).

One of the favorites we keep coming back to, though, is Thailand.

Not only was Thailand the first country in Asia we visited, making the stamp have sentimental value, it’s also objectively pretty: they used brightly colored blue and purple ink, the stamps are clear and vibrant, and best of all–they’re not rectangles!

I know it sounds silly, but there’s something about an unconventional stamp shape that really makes us smile–it adds something whimsical to the collage of passport stamps on a page.

For that reason, Belize and Cambodia are among some of our runner-up favorites.

All of us who collect passport stamps know the joy of seeing a new stamp on the page–and that when it’s a pretty, vibrant stamp that sticks out from the crowd, it’s the tiniest bit more fun to receive! | Dianna

August 29, 2017 at 7:00, I remember standing at passport control in the Reykjavik airport. With my heart beat racing, I was extremely nervous handing my passport over. This was my first time flying alone. All the way from Chicago, I was now in Iceland for a layover on my way to my final destination in Kalmar, Sweden. This brief meeting between the control officer and myself was quiet. I was preparing answers in my head to a range of questions about my travel, especially since I flew with a one way ticket. About a minute and a half later and zero questions, she handed my passport back to me. I walked away (with the biggest smile on my face) and opened it up to find my very first stamp. This moment changed my life.

This stamp is very dear to me because it symbolizes a turning point in my life. At 24 years old, I had just finalized a divorce, quit my job, sold all my belongings, and made the decision to live a life overseas. The entry stamp to the Schengen Area from Iceland allowed me to continue to pursue my dream of living in Europe. Do you understand why I was so nervous now? Without this specific stamp on this date, my life would have taken a turn I wasn’t prepared for. Looking at this page in my passport now reminds me of the endless memories I had in Sweden, some of the best times of my life.

Thanks for sharing your stories. 

What is your most precious passport stamp or visa and which one would you like to add?

Harry Potter - London

Day Trips From London: An Afternoon In Oxford

25th February 2018

oxford harry potter filming location

Oxford is a go-to destination for visitors wanting to explore beyond the tube map, but until recently I haven’t had the urge to go. Despite its history and being the birthplace for incredible books like Alice in Wonderland, His Dark Materials and Harry Potter, it wasn’t reason enough for me to take the bus, tube and train to actually go there. But as a stop off on my way back from the Cotswolds, I decided to see what the fuss was all about.

oxford harry potter filming locationThe train station and high street could be any generic British town and it’s not until you reach the college grounds before it gets interesting. They are like little villages, each with their own characteristics and look like they are something out of a magic world.

oxford harry potter filming location oxford harry potter filming location

My first stop was the Divinity School at the Bodleian Library. Rather than going there to soak up its rich history (being the oldest surviving university building), most visitors were there to see the set for Hogwarts Infirmary in Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, as well as where the students learned to dance ahead of the Yule Ball in the Goblet of Fire.

Next on everyone’s Potter tour was the nearby grand surrounds of Christ Church College. There’s a lot to see here, but let’s get the important wizarding stuff out of the way first.

oxford harry potter filming location

1.You’ve got staircases galore from The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets.

oxford harry potter filming location

2. The cloisters where Hermione revealed to Harry that his father was a seeker during his time at Hogwarts.

oxford harry potter filming location

3. Last, but definitely not least, is the Dining Hall that inspired Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Sadly, they couldn’t actually film there as there weren’t enough rows of tables to represent the four houses and resorted to building a replica set in the Warner Bros Leavesden Studio.

oxford alice in wonderland

The Dining Hall didn’t only inspire JK Rowling, but also Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, who attended and taught at Christ College and was friends with the Dean. See those figures on each side of the fireplace? They inspired Alice with a long neck when she won’t stop growing.

oxford alice in wonderland

The Alice in Wonderland books started as tales told to Alice Liddell, one of the daughters of the dean and many locations in the books are based on parts of the college. Like the little door in the garden where Alice entered Wonderland. If you go to the Christ Church Cathedral they’ll be able to show you the garden. Also, the big tree on the far right is where their mischievous cat would climb up and pretend to be stuck…but when people would get a ladder to rescue it, it would climb down all by itself with a giant grin. Sound familiar?

Speaking of the cathedral, its stained glass windows are a piece of art, with intricate details and such vivid colours you’d expect more in a graphic novel than in a church. This one featured here tells the impressive story of St. Frideswide, Oxford’s patron saint and for some reason it includes a modern looking toilet in the last panel. Toilet humor never gets old, right?

The Radcliffe Camera – which by the way has nothing to do with Daniel Radcliffe – has to be one of the coolest libraries and a lovely piece of architecture to boot. Something Tolkien noticed too and he based Sauron’s temple to Morgoth on this very building. If you have more time, you can go on the hunt for Oxford’s many other precious Tolkien sites, such as Merton College, the Bodleian Library, Addison’s Walk, the Botanical Gardens, The Eagle and Child pub and Tolkien’s home.

Which locations from your favourite books have you seen or really want to see in real life?