Travel is a special thing always close to my heart, but sometimes you’ll have a bad travel experience which can leave a sour taste in the mouth. This is a little rant I wrote when I was experiencing a bundle of travel-related chaos so while I whittled away the time by being a bit harsh on airports.
Airports should be wonderful, magical places where plucky young travellers embark on amazing skybound adventures. However, this is often very very far (we’re talking the distance to your Ryanair gate) from the truth…
Most of the time they’re soullessly modern, filled to the brim with grey pillars, shiny white panels and lots of glass showing you either – the grim place you’re departing from – or the wonderful sunshine you’re having to leave. And so what if they have a world-class architect-designed glass ceiling, well – you won’t get to marvel at this one, as it often looks better from the outside in an exterior (legal) drone shot, or if it does look alright inside, you won’t be seeing it as you’re forced to stare into a branded shop if you’re lucky enough to have grabbed that last seat in the waiting area.
And what’s with the all the shops? With the lack of carry-on space and ever-increasing charges for baggage, how can you fit any purchases into your bags and suitcases? Does anyone really want to hit up jewellery shops, unless you’re buying a ‘I cheated on you while on my business trip’ necklace or watch? And don’t get me started the hazardous toxins (nope we’re not talking toilets) you’re often forced to traverse in the form of perfume shops which are on the way to gates and departures.
When you finally reach your gate, you may think you’ve got a brief respite from the chaos. But of course, this is never the case. Lack of seats aside, the battle to find and keep a charger is an ever-pressing matter, I’ve seen full-blown arguments break out over those little device energy portals – and I don’t blame them, just being in an airport seems to drain the life of everything, electronic devices included. Way before any flights are called, there’ll immediately be a super-eagy mess of random queues forming to the various possible desk spots, putting everyone on edge, while you’re just trying to stare into the electronic oblivion of your soon-to-be-dying phone.
If the expensive, crowded and often-delayed bus or train to the airport didn’t test your patience, well wait for the little shuttle buses between the terminal and your plane for when your route isn’t important enough for a jet-bridge/walk-way contraption. They may or may not turn up, and when they do, you’ll feel the urge to buy your fellow passengers breakfast for how up close and intimate you’ve been with them. But the light at the end of the tunnel nears close, as you finally board the magnificent mechanical bird to soar you to your wildest dreams. I’ll leave any plane-based criticisms for another post
Of course, we shouldn’t complain, it’s not like air travel is particularly ethical in the first place, so maybe airport crappiness is some sort of karmic penance that we must all suffer for our continued air miles and destruction of the planet. Otherwise, I guess there’s always the exclusive executive lounges…
As nothing exciting or life changing happened in the first 48 hours of 2019, what better time to look back to last year and share the stories behind my 2018 Best 9.
The dining hall at Christ Church in the University of Oxford. And yes, this IS the dining hall that inspired Harry Potter’s Great Hall. How amazing is that? Spellbindingly magical moment. You can read more about it in my An Afternoon in Oxford Post.
I spent around 36 hours in Paris and managed to squeeze in a walk to the Eiffel Tower, three museums and a catch-up dinner with a friend. #Paris is always a guarantee for top likes, even if the picture isn’t that great.
London Lumiere was one of my favourite events in London and I’m so sad it’s not coming to London this year! Instead, it’s all happening in Durham, where it’s returning to the place it started 10 years ago.
Throwback to this cat in Kotor who has it all figured out. Look at this guy! He has life all sorted out. You can read more about how I reached such dizzying heights in my Hiking the ladder of Kotor post.
You can’t go wrong with a good inspirational quote. Like this one near Angel station.
Probably the only good thing from my visit to Kew Gardens. The rest wasn’t great: the place wasn’t in bloom, the Temperate House wasn’t open and the giant pagoda was closed and covered in scaffolding.
And closing off with a throwback to Barcelona. Parc Guell is actually another park/garden that I didn’t really enjoy: it was tiny and you had to pay to go inside – something I only learned once I got to the place (so much for my credentials as a travel blogger). I think London’s free parks/gardens have spoiled me because if I have to pay I become a self-proclaimed critic.
Just like last year I’m sharing a few things I’m hoping to leave behind this year before I focus on all the possibilities, dreams and opportunities waiting for me in 2019.
My faithful travel mate ‘Hans’ (I cursed it in my 2017 post). ‘Hans’ was a Burton backpack that I got in Germany and who accompanied me almost everywhere for 11 years, but the wear has got to him and the zip almost gave up when I was in Paris so I knew it was time to put Hansie into retirement. His replacement ‘Otto’ (a Patagonia Arbor) has been fine so far, but with so many zips, strings and pockets it all adds up to additional chances for a quicker breakdown. Let’s see how long he’ll last and if I’ll have to make use of Patagonia’s lifetime warranty.
After Georgia, I decided the early/mid 20s budget travel style wasn’t for me any more. I can’t do to cheap quick meals on the go for 5 days, I need to schedule in my down time and I am too old to share one bathroom/shower with 4 others. There I said it.
I also said goodbye to buying new Converse Chucks as the quality has fallen off a cliff. After having bought 3 pairs of the low black ones in less than 2 years I decided to swap them for the greener version of Ethletics. I still have a few high top pairs that are holding in there…for now.
While we are on the topic I’m hoping to leave behind fast fashion. Some 14/19 items I bought this year were green (second hand, vintage or from a brand with a green message). I was either too lazy, found fair things too expensive or couldn’t find an alternative for all of my purchases, but I definitely want to continue and make more ethical choices.
My phone. Not literally obviously, but I’ve wasted too much of my life on there. I’ve enjoyed digital detoxes on holiday, going out without having the urge to check my phone all the time and recently having a no screen at certain times while at home. Which I definitely want to continue with.
The hope of finding a decent hairdresser in London, just an OK one would be fine. One where it’s not too cold, where my hairdresser doesn’t go AWOL for 30 minutes or tries to talk me into buying add on treatments galore. The three times I went this year were just tragic experiences and I’m going to crawl back to my Dutch hairdresser, make sure I schedule them in while I’m in the Netherlands and hope she forgives me for cheating on her.
Dreams and expectations. There is no time to dream these days and I can’t keep promising random things to myself – instead I’m going to dominate those fantasies and start fighting for them so I am going to turn those dreams into plans by setting strict goals and making things happen. But first, I think this needs to go on an inspirational quote poster.
Newsletters…so many newsletters clogging up my inbox and luring me into buying things I don’t really need. Anyone remembers GDPR? My inbox has been the best, sure I did miss a few ticket and exhibition pre-sale announcements, but overall it has been great.
A few months ago my Twitter and Instagram exploded as everyone who saw Stacey Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets started questioning the clothing hanging in their closet or even clothes they wanted to buy. Though a few bits of the documentary are questionable (if BBC is looking for a fact checker: hiiii) I am happy it has opened some eyes and led to new conversations.
I do feel guilty about being so easy with booking a flight, buying a chilled plastic bottle of water or just being a basic white girl in certain countries so at home I try to compensate as much as possible and one of those ways is by buying clothes that are ideally produced in ethical environments and as sustainable as possible. Now I am probably in the top 10 least fashionable people and I’ve never seen myself as a shopaholic, but I do love beautifully crafted garments and I want to make ethical choices so I’ve started educating myself on this topic as much as possible and minimalised fast fashion buys. I think I’ve done a good job as only 5/19 clothing items I bought this year are not from ethically produced/sustainable brands or not second hand/vintage (pat on the shoulder)
You’ve seen Fashion’s Dirty Secrets and then you probably saw The True Cost on Netflix. But what’s next? If one of your 2019 resolutions is buying less or going for the green road then I can highly recommend the below documentaries.
It was after seeing this Norwegian documentary that I decided to try to buy my clothes as ethically and sustainably produced as possible. This film shows the lives of sweatshop workers in Cambodia through the eyes of three Norwegians students and whose perspective is forever altered after a few days of living, working, and speaking with fellow human beings who spend most of their lives working long hours up to 7 days a week for only a few pounds a day in sweatshops.
The Price of Free
In-between all the Christmas movies I watched The Price Of Free and cried my eyes out as it’s just heartbreaking to see how cruel the world is if you are born on the wrong continent. The documentary follows Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi’s journey to liberate every child slave in factories. Though this is not only limited to fashion factories it’s a must watch.
And to close off with one with a bit different tone. This 13-minute documentary gives a much-needed look into what happens when people in the West throw their clothes away and the Indian recyclers turn the huge bales of clothes into yarns. The garment recyclers don’t understand where so many, practically unworn clothes come from? Is it water shortage in the West? Or is it because we don’t like washing our clothes?
Is this a topic you’re passionate about? Do you have any favourite documentaries on the subject?
It’s been years since Taco Bell first introduced yours truly to (Tex) Mex cuisine and crunchy, mouthwatering tacos. Since then I’ve been on a journey to savour all sorts of Mexican-style flavours, textures and herbs wherever I can find them. And while most US chains have long since made their way to Europe, it’s taken years and years for me to cross paths again with the Bell. Until finally last week, when they found their way to London’s Hammersmith (and now Holborn too). Their crunchy tacos still have that special something and I’ll definitely be returning to stuff my face with more, but they can’t compare to some of the favourites I’ve collected through the years.
Favourite all-rounder – Wahaca as there is always one nearby when that craving hits you, and their sweet potato/feta taquito is everything!
Favourite Margarita – the Pink Chihuahua at El Camion has more cocktails than you can imagine, but the pomegranate margarita stole my heart.
Favourite burrito – Pink Cactus! Whatever the crunchy thing is they add to their burritos just does it for me. And don’t forget their addictive sauces with the power to transform any boring dish into mexi-heaven.
Favourite misses – the Mexican couple at Maltby Street market brought a tear to my eye with their little tomales stand, but when I returned there was no trace of them. Bless you my taco angels wherever you are…
Favourite non Mexican Mexican – Korrito (Korean Burrito) at KERB in Southbank. Because why not mix those two worlds together?
Favourite grab and go – It’s always a choice between Chipotle, Benito’s Hat, Tortilla and Chilangro, but I have to say Chilangro is the one for me. But be warned Chilangro, Taco Bell is fast on your heels!
Favourite IG place – La Bodega Negra has brilliant neon signs to snap, and if you love your fish this is the dish, but altogether a little too fancy for me.
Favourite local – Jalisco in Brixton went through more name changes than Prince but they haven’t lost their magic touch or secret recipe. If you don’t want to wait for the queue on the weekend check out the stand and let the sombrero-wearing chef make your tastebuds smile. The title of ‘Best Quesadillas’ and ‘Best Frijoles’ also goes to them.
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