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.
Wherever you are visiting in the world, there is always somewhere you can go where you will find great things to do for free. I’ve written about such places in cities both cheap and expensive, and now it’s the turn of Wrocław in Poland. Here’s your first free experience before we get down to the nitty gritty: how to pronounce the place you’re visiting! Because if you say what you see it’ll come out something like raw-claw, and according to Bernie from Fluent in 3 Month, you’ll only earn yourself blank expressions or disdainful looks. So I saved you the trouble of looking through language-related websites like Babbel or Listen&Learn to find out how to pronounce this city’s name correctly and here it is, say it with me, here are …things to do in Vrot-suarv…
Follow the gnomes… Around the city are dotted some 300 gnome or dwarf-like characters, none more than waist height. These krasnoludek figurines started appearing as a protest against the Communist regime back in the 80’s, but have since turned into a beloved tourist attraction for young and old. There is a little gnome shop where you can pick up some gnome memorabilia, and they also have their own website where you can check out their profiles. There isn’t really a better way to wander around the city exploring than hunting down these gnomes!
Visit Centennial Hall… The Centennial Hall is thought of as one of the greatest architectural achievements of the 20th century. It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and though you might have to pay to attend certain exhibitions, it never costs a penny to have a nosey from the outside, does it? The grounds are just stunning, and you’ll be spoilt for selfie opportunities trying to capture the perfect angle to fit in the hall’s dome. And depending on the time of year you visit there are also often concerts and other live events here that, well. There’s nothing to stop you listening to for free, is there?
Wander the Rynek… That’s Market Square to you and me. This beautiful old town corner is stuffed with tiny cobbled streets to get lost on, multi-coloured faceted buildings, and more architecture than you’ll have time to absorb. The square is lined with cafes and bars should you feel like parting with some precious złoty, but between the buskers, free walking tours, and various free exhibitions that tend to be held here throughout the year, you have plenty to keep you busy without spending a thing.
Experience the Wrocław Multimedia Fountain… Honestly. If you think a little night time entertainment has to involve parting with your hard-earned cash, clearly you’ve never been here before! Okay, you can also enjoy the show every hour on the hour throughout most of the day, but there is something special about seeing this place lit up at night. There are 300 water jets creating geysers and water mists as well as a ton of other shapes. And all of these are highlighted with a light display that’s set in time to music. As water fountains go, this is the most stunning one I’ve ever seen. Though it’s a crowd-drawer, so make sure you get there early to see what all the fuss is about!
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.
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.
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?
Guys! Autumn has kicked in London town: bring on the grim weather, eternal darkness and the hunt for the perfect winter scarf. But first let’s look at what happened during my summer season.
Netherlands: Amsterdam, Zeeland & Dullsville
I spent a weekend in at a holiday park in the sea capital province of Zeeland. And since it was great weather where else do you spend it than on the beach? I also visited the city of Middelburg to sample its gorgeous cathedral, grand Town Hall and cute houses, plus I got the best ice-cream to make up for missing the last canal boat ride of the day.
There was also the morning in Amsterdam where I visited the Banksy Exhibtion at Moco Museum, scoured vintage shops in the 9 Streets area to find new dresses and got lost in food heaven with a cheese sandwich in a forgotten corner of the Amsterdam Museum courtyard.
Leeds In A Day
I have the feeling I saw everything there was to see in the 9 hours I was there: from the Corn Exchange and the various shopping arcades in the city centre, to Kirkstall Abbey and the Docks area a bit further afield.
In London I …
wasn’t too impressed by the James Cook exhibition nor with the one about ice-cream, paid a revisit to Granger & Co and proved that their scrambled eggs are as dreamy as I remembered, enjoyed a flavour invasion at Caravan and Temper, revisited Tate Britain and Horniman Museums & Gardens, finally saw deer up close at Richmond Park, ran through a golf course on Wimbledon Common, went out for Open House again and enjoyed a salon recital at 1901 Arts Club.
It’s a bit random, but I wanted to go to Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds ever since seeing a picture of it when I was learning about UK cinemas. Look at the building! Look at the external ticket booth! Look at those prices!!
The train ride back from Leeds wasn’t great: we’re talking groups of drunk people in every carriages being loud and rude, using e-cigarettes, trying to chat up any women walking who clearly weren’t interested and making sure they blocked anyone who wanted to get past them.
Banksy exhibition at Moco Museum in Amsterdam was not worth the money or time, I thought there was permanent collection of contemporary art in addition to the temporary show, but it turns out it’s just Banksy and an exhibition by Icy & Slot. And instead of raising questions and creating conversations the curator decided to go for the my-first-exhibition approach and tried explained the meaning behind every piece, yes we’re talking “the flowers replacing the weapons represent peace…”.
Open House actually isn’t as horrible as I thought so I really should go out and give things a second chance.
What’s the main lesson you’ve learned in the past 3 months?
Sure I do the occasional complaining about everything from the dull weather, to the weird separate hot & cold taps and the painful costs of public transport. But there are tons of things I do love about this country. Kicking off with …
August Bank Holiday
Most countries’ public holidays are all bunched up in the first half year and for someone who doesn’t have a summer holiday anymore it’s very exciting to have a surprise three-day weekend in the last week of August. It’s like finding money that was already yours in a jacket you haven’t worn for a while. And it doesn’t even matter that it’s likely to be miserable and rainy.
Free Entry To Museums
Free entry to most museums is really one of the best things about the UK. Especially with all the budget cuts and prices going up every year, getting cultured and learning new things will still cost you absolutely nothing. So I’m going to enjoy those until someone realises they can cash out.
People Saying Sorry, Even When It’s Not Their Fault
If someone bumps into you, they’ll apologise without even thinking about it. Sure, half of the time it comes out as a bark and the other half as a snark, but getting that five letter word out really matters. The day that British people stop apologising, it would be the end of civilisation as we know it!
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