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Dumping My Emotional Baggage On The Runway: An Airport Rant

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…

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The 2018 Best 9 Post

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.

Can you see how excited my hair is about going inside Hampton Court Palace? I loved exploring the palace, gardens and tennis court. The kitchens were being being restored during my visit so I think that’s a reason to go back.

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.

Covent Garden has become quite the London photo opp (there are also lots of things off the beaten path things to do in the area). If it’s not the flower benches, it’s the Christmas car or … these giant red balloons. They were part of a campaign for luxury fashion label, but no one remembers that.

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.

How was your 2018 Instagram game?

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8 things I’m leaving behind in 2018

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.

What are you leaving behind in 2018?

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Favourite Mexican Food Hotspots in London

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.

What’s your favourite go-to Mexican place?

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Leeds In A Day

Under the guise of seeing more of what the UK has to offer I ended up on an eye-wateringly early 7 AM train to Leeds with a mini itinerary and about 9 hours to explore the city. To me, Leeds was just the place in the north that the Keiser Chiefs, Mel B, and Malcolm McDowell came from, so I was curious to see what it was all about. Here’s what I got up to.


Arcades & Alleyways


Fun fact, if you get into the city at 9 AM on a Saturday, nothing much is open. Which makes it the perfect time to grab a cup of coffee/tea from one of your favourite chains and explore the hidden arcades and alleys before they get swamped with shoppers. How amazing are these ceilings?


Blue Rinse Vintage


I should have read up on Leeds’ vintage stores before I set off as they were everywhere and I do love a good vintage find. I only went into Blue Rinse to see what the fuss was all about and have to say that their corduroy offering did not disappoint.


Leeds Kirkgate Market


This market is full to bursting with fresh fruit and veg, delicious street food and all things arts and crafts. It’s also the founding location of Marks & Spencer which opened a stall there in 1884! I just loved walking around the gorgeous building and seeing the city come to life with everyone setting up.


Corn Exchange


The Corn Exchange is something I saw on TV and always imagined it as a huge mall type of thing, but it’s actually a much smaller space that houses independent shops on the upper section and food places on the ground floor. Don’t leave without marvelling at its magnificent ceiling.


Royal Armouries Museum


Here I was complaining about the lack of armours in castles … well looks like they are all on display in Leeds at the Royal Armouries Museum. Along with historic weaponry from various eras and parts of the world. The museum also features outdoor jousting tournaments, ghost hunts and if you want to blow off some steam – a crossbow range.


Leeds Art Gallery + The Henry Moore Institute


The Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute house fine collections of contemporary art pieces and sculptures that will keep you busy for at least 1 hour. I’m a huge fan of both, but if you’re not into it go here for the Instagrammable coffee shop and photo wall.


Parkinson Building Library


The University of Leeds’ (not to be confused with the nearby rival Beckett University!) main building is a nice piece of art deco architecture and the library/reading room looks like something out of Harry Potter. Especially since my uni only had five desks that were never free. For more Potter, head further into the campus to see university’s Great Hall, which screams Hogwarts.


Woodhouse Moor & Hyde Park Corner Cinema


I mentioned here before that I wanted to go to Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds ever since seeing a picture of its external ticket booth. There was sadly no time to go and see The Wife – so I’m saving that for another time. Keep an eye out for activities in the nearby Woodhouse Moor – I was lucky enough to catch a quidditch practice session in action, with the hoops and everything.


Kirkstall Abbey


No trip to Leeds is complete without a visit to Kirkstall Abbey. About 20 minutes outside the city centre, you’ll find yourselves a world away at the complex that used to be the home to an old Cistercian monastery. These days it’s an adventure playground for kids, dogs and photographers, plus it hosts a food market on some weekends. Despite the crowds, it’s easy to find a little corner to hide away and get whisked back a few hundred years.


Abbey House Museum


Across the street from the Abbey you’ll find the Abbey House Museum, which I wanted to skip as it I thought it would just give background info on the abbey. But it’s actually set up as a Victorian high street, with shops, a bar and chemist. The upstairs floor does feature the history of Kirkstall Abbey, as well as a section on childhood. I was so happy I did end up going as it’s actually one of my favourite types of museums: dusty, clustered and too many things on display.

Leeds is a great place for a short trip, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it in just one day – I only just managed it due to a custom-made itinerary from a local and good walking weather. Instead, make a weekend trip out of it and perhaps combine with nearby Manchester?