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Tuesday, Three … More Free Things To Do In London

12th June 2018

Ok, maybe the best things in life aren’t free, but there sure are some pretty awesome things you
can do in London that just happen to cost you nothing.
See a free movie or opera
Did you know that House of Vans London is home to a cinema space? And it’s free! March was Women on Film month, April was low budget flicks and the month of May brings you the best of CyberPunk Anime. For the high-brow, The Royal Opera House is hosting free outdoor screenings during summer, with Swan Lake on 12 June, La bohéme on 26 June, and Don Giovanni on 12 July. All you have to do is arrive on time at Trafalgar Square (or one of the other less famous venues) and be ready to get cultured.
Walk the South East
Grab your walking shoes and take South East London by storm on one of the 11 sections of the Green Chain Walk. The idea is that you walk through green parks, commons and woods. Depending on which one you choose you’ll come across a hidden castle, a dinosaur park or one of the Magnificent 7 London cemeteries, one of the best free things I’ve ever come across.
Check out the Hampstead Hill Gardens

If flowers and trees are your thing, the Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola is the place to be. Story goes that a rich philanthropist wanted to build a pergola for his garden parties, but sadly he passed away before it was finished, so in his spirit lets all go hashtag him while you spam our Instagram #Leverhulme . And while you’re there why not watch the sunset at Hampstead Heath? If you manage to cough up some change with all the money I’ve saved you, get cheese and a bottle of finest M&S red and enjoy.

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Tuesday, Three Places I Can’t Tell You Anything About

4th June 2018

Some places I’ve visited have inspired me with lots of posts (I’m looking at you Reykjavik and Berlin) and then there are the places I’ve been I could barely give you a few words on. They aren’t necessarily the worst places I’ve visited, it’s just that they never had the chance.
I stayed for four nights in Nice – but didn’t see anything of the city, as I was just there to sleep, wake up and then get on a train to Cannes where I hoped to spot Bill Murray, Edward Norton and check which dress Diane Kruger would be donning for the day. Apparently Nice is known for its beautiful beaches, pretty landscapes and IG worthy viewing points. All I can tell you is that there was the idyllic terrace at the hostel, a supermarket that sold instant noodles and the train station was charming.

Krakow was another of those places that was just a base – this time for Auschwitz. In this case I arrived at the hostel after a long train ride from Linz, I was too tired to explore the Old Town, visit the Schindler’s Factory Museum or walk the Royal Way. The visit to Auschwitz was such so emotional that afterwards I couldn’t just go out and play happy tourist.

During my semester abroad in Jyväskylä, Finland I visited the nearby city of Tampere a few times. I can tell you the cinema on the main square has good popcorn, I can tell you I enjoyed hot chocolate in a place just off the main square and that Tampere Dream Hostel has the dreamiest bed. But I can’t tell you anything about the The Moomin Museum OR Tampere Lenin Museum because I went to the city during a bank holiday – when they were both closed 🙁

Have you been somewhere exciting, but not really?

London

Lee Bul’s dystopian sci-fi playground @ Hayward Gallery

3rd June 2018

After being closed for a two-year refurbishment The Hayward Gallery is back in action and is showcasing the work of innovative South Korean artist Lee Bul – so it’s monster-like bodies, futuristic cyborgs and mirror mazes galore.

When it comes to modern art it’s the installations that do it for me, you know the one when you’re not sure if it’s a renovation or modern art. Bul’s work is definitely the latter and her work will whisk you away to different worlds filled with giant foil Zeppelins and immerse you in funhouse-style mirror mazes. That said, the exhibits sitting in large, bright open white gallery spaces didn’t match the tone and would have worked better in a darker environment with some moody music (BRB:majoring in art history, becoming a curator and making this happen – watch this (art) space!). One thing I really enjoyed was the storyboards showing the artist’s ideas developing, plus even little mini prototypes of the sculptures, was just refreshing to have the pieces explained visually as opposed to just the little text boxes.

Lee Bul: Crashing runs until 19 August 2018 and tickets start at £13. Also note the infinite mirror room that’s used in the promo material is beautiful, but be aware only the people are allowed in at a time and the place cramped.


Depending on how long you spend in the gift shop the visit will not take you longer than an hour. You might want to leave the ever-crowded Southbank area ASAP, but while you are nearby why not escape to The Queen Elizabeth Hall Room Garden – a hidden gem and a quiet getaway with a bar, riverside views and a green garden to explore, or eat something at the Southbank Centre Food Market – we’re talking tasty smells, tons of food on offer and a friendly atmosphere.

Balkan - Sarajevo

Yes, No, Maybe: What (Not) To Do in Sarajevo

31st May 2018

It’s been a long-time coming, but finally here’s my take on what to do (and not to do!) in one of the cities closest to my heart. Bosnia’s capital makes for a great city trip or 2-3 days stop-off on your Balkans round trip. I’m sharing some things you should do in Sarajevo, some things to watch out for and some things that I missed out on or weren’t for me, but that might be for you.

YES
Sarajevo was under siege for almost 4 years – to help understand what was going on and learn about the day-to-day life, head to the city’s History Museum – just off ‘Sniper Alley’ which tells the complex history of the Balkans, and details life in a city under siege. For extra credit, read Zlata’s Diary by Zlata Filipović, where 12 year old Zlata documented her wartime, and Fools Rush In by Bill Carter, an aid worker in the region at the time with an incredible story to tell.The city had a hectic history long before the siege, so join a walking tour to get the low down on this. The tour stops include the spot which kicked off World War I (where Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot), the so-called ‘Sarajevo Rose’ – where the mortars hit and were later filled with red resin creating a floral-like memorial, and the Canned Beef Monument, an ironic statement on the quality of food aid given during the siege.

Allow some time to get lost in the cobbled streets of the Old Town, a crossroads of cultures with the Ottoman architecture alongside Austrian-Hungarian. Wander around market stalls, and stock up on hand-made woollen socks, jewellery or local copper-ware. Followed this up with a traditional Bosnian coffee at a ‘Kafana’ or Cafe bar – they come with a sugar cube or piece of Turkish delight.

The Old Town is also where it’s at for food. For lunch grab a sandwich at Fan (Kundurdziluk 11) or chown down on burek (meat or veggie filled pastries) from one of the many bakeries. Or maybe skip lunch and wait for dinner with cevape at Ferhatović Petica (Bravadžiluk 21). Everyone will tell you to go to the famous Željo 1 (Kundurdžiluk 19) for their cevape, but after some very in-depth research I can tell you Petica is the only location you need to know about.

Just outside Sarajevo, in the village of Donji Kotorac, is the famed tunnel the Bosian Army built during the Seige of Sarajevo to bring supplies into the cut-off city. Today, the tunnel entrance has a small museum where you learn how it worked and you can enter a small section of it to feel what the people at the time went through.

NO
Don’t spend money on bottles of water ad it’s safe to drink the tapwater. Plus if you fill up your bottle at the Sebilj Fountain in Old Town, legend says you’ll return to the city again!

Hiking in the mountains is definitely something you should add to your to-do list, but do not wander off trails as some of the hills around the city may still contain unexploded landmines. There are enough ways to safely explore the Bosnian countryside, but make sure to check the latest info at the tourist information or take a guided tour.

This brings me to empty and abandoned buildings in rural areas that might look like great for urban exploring. Just don’t as they might be booby-trapped with explosives and mines to stop looters from stealing their homes. The explosives may not have been removed so stay on the safe side.

Of course not everyone who is being up-close and friendly is on the hunt for your wallet or phone, but keep an eye out for pickpockets on trams. It’s not terribly bad, but similar to Prague or Paris.

MAYBE
Did you know that Sarajevo played host to the ’84 Winter Olympics? The abandoned 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics Bobsleigh Track, found high in the mountains above the city is the place to be for urbex. Remember to stay on the tracks though.

A day trip to Mostar to see the Stari Most, Old Bridge of Mostar – a rebuilt 16th-century Ottoman bridge connecting the two parts of the city. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed in 1993, the replica was rebuilt in 2004 and it’s as glorious.

Have you been to Sarajevo? What did you think?

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Tuesday, Three Reasons Why I Avoid Travelling on Bank Holidays

29th May 2018

I avoid leaving the country on bank/public holidays, almost always have. I grew up doing jobs in hospitality which meant they were always days to work with the hope of overtime while everyone was out having fun, and that was fine by me. Then I worked in tourism, where you instead go on holiday during the low season and never pay the full price. Now I just avoid leaving London’s Zone 2 on bank holidays. Though many people would see it as wasting an opportunity, and I see why, it just isn’t worth the stress that it brings.

This bank holiday I was ducking and diving to avoid all the obstacles thrown at me and as each one hit me I clearly remembered why it’s not for me.

1 | Public transport is a mess
The drama already starts as soon as you leave the house. With a bit of luck someone’s decided it’s time to do some repair work on your route so you’re forced to get a bus, a train, a replacement bus, and alternative train and then a taxi. With journey times doubled or even tripled your patience may begin to wear thin as mine did, but whatever you do try not to think about the fact that the extra buses and train tickets really eat into that ‘cheap airline ticket’ deal you smiled as you purchased weeks/months before.

2 | Drama at the airport
If you do make it to the airport, chances are your flight will be delayed, plus everyone else’s will be as well, meaning it gets a little crowded in the tiny terminal and everyone’s eying up everyone in a desperate game of musical chairs while getting grumpy with the lack of information. If you succeed in grabbing a seat, be prepared to hold on to it with your life, and if you’ve got a plug nearby, make all you can it of it before it’s pounced on quicker than a 1st class upgrade!

3 | Expensive & Crowded
Ticket fares as well as accommodation costs go up during bank holidays to ridiculous amounts, meaning you’ll end up hurting in the wallet a lot more than you expect – 2-4 times as much in many cases (mine was 3 times for this trip) And while tickets for most attractions stay the same it gets super crowded, on a recent bank holiday I saw the lines double, possibly even triple for the London Eye

I’ll just stick it to staying in town and host a BBQ and support group for the people facing the same trauma.

Do you ever brave travelling on a bank/public holiday?