When in Serbia, Do as The Serbians Do

 

Which is what exactly? I have no idea.

Alan and I found ourselves heading the long way round to Kenya for the Christmas holidays. As we had travelled a bit, moved in together and started to talk about the future I thought it was high time he met the family. So we requested the time off work, I busied myself at the computer to get ahead of the University game, and we booked our flights. Unfortunately, as with the student lifestyle, we were on a budget. After much searching and seeking, we found two flights back to Kenya for the low price of a few hundred pounds each.

Although our flights were cheaper flights, the route home wasn’t the most direct. We found ourselves heading from Wales to Kenya via London, Serbia and Abu Dhabi. Usually, I would shudder at the thought of taking longer than 24 hours to get home but with Alan by my side, I started to look at the adventure rather than the journey. This would be our first major travel trip together… a make or break as it were, especially as Kenya and my family were the final destination.

Looking back now, we ended up paying roughly the same amount as a more expensive ticket if we added all meals, alcohol, souvenirs, hotel rooms and car parking to the equation. A word of warning: cheap flights don’t necessarily mean cheap. We learned this the hard way.

After a night in a London Easy Jet hotel, we boarded the flight to Belgrade and arrived in the depths of winter to a dark, cold and misty night. As we were flying early again the next morning, we didn’t venture too far into Belgrade because at this point; sleep was our number two priority, second only to me submitting my journalism essay because it was still in the editing stages when we departed and the deadline was looming. Thankfully, The Apart K hotel ended up being a little slice of Serbian paradise, and the upgrade to the penthouse suite was very much appreciated although totally unnecessary.

What Serbians do at night in the middle of winter is nothing… the streets were bare; the shops were full of produce, but empty of people and even the bars were quiet. After a brave wander through the mist for supplies and a quick last-minute glance at my journalism essay, we hid in our hotel room, had some traditional Serbian food (or not because I’m sure chicken and rice is an everyday staple), and we settled in to do… well, nothing.

I can’t sit here and sell you a holiday to Serbia because quite frankly I wouldn’t have a clue where to go or what to do but what I can tell you is that even in the dark, the Serbians are some of the nicest people. The hotel and their very minimal number of staff kept us warm and well-watered, and they produced a large amount of food for a little sum of money. My advice is never to take the cheap tickets or the long way round but if you ever find yourself in Serbia in the middle of winter, don’t be afraid to leave the comfort of your hotel room (no matter how penthouse-esque), because the people might just surprise you with their hospitality.

All in all, I’d love to go back during the day to get the real flavour of Belgrade, but all things considered, it made for an adventurous layover on a very long journey home. It was the perfect beginning to a trip that would end up changing my life forever.

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Hungary? No, drunk!

I have finally found some time to go through my photos and face one of the biggest first world problems I encounter almost daily: what do I Instagram? In this process of deciding how many pictures I should Instagram and what, I have begun to realise that I spent the majority of my 7 days in Hungary either drinking or eating. There was more drinking than eating in all honesty but very little else in between. Anyway, after umming and ahhing, I’ve Instagrammed the lot, and I hope that you’ll check us out here.

I don’t usually sit and watch the world go by let alone spend entire days moving from one bar to another but this time around I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my holiday. It may have been because I have been to Hungary before and did the touristy thing the last time I was there, or it was because perhaps, this time, I had company, and good company at that but in all honesty, it was a week of revelations.

When traveling, especially to fun and vibrant cities like Budapest, the flavour of the place isn’t always where the guidebook suggests. You don’t need to look very hard and in most instances, you don’t need to move very far either. In this case, the taste of Budapest is mint and coconut, and it’s served with crushed ice and a dash (or double) of rum. From the very famous ruin bars to a mates place down the road you are never short of a great place to sit, sip and enjoy.

I first went to Hungary many years ago before the idea of writing about it even occurred to me so instead of visiting the Buda Castle or stopping to awe at the Parliament building, I sat and watched the world go by. I’m not saying that you should give the tourist spots a miss, of course not. Hungary has some of the most beautiful architecture and some of the coolest buildings. The view from the castle alone allows you to soak in the Parliament building and a monstrosity known as the Intercontinental Hotel (just ignore the ugly brown and look for the old school).

Then, of course, there is the market hall and all the side streets and alleyways full of numerous restaurants and souvenir shops. So walk around, throw the map away and get happily lost in a world of architecture porn, Goulash and novelty t-shirts.

As I was dragging Alan along this time around, I thought we’d do things a little differently. I, unfortunately, can’t take all the credit for this; it was Alan’s idea, and I’ll be forever grateful to him for showing me another side of traveling. After catching up with my brother and teaching his kids how to cart-wheel, we thought we deserved many much-needed refreshments.

We visited far too many bars for me to mention them all, but some of my favorites are:
Kiosk Budapest; they do a mean pina colada with a twist.
Bar Pharma for a Gin and Tonic done old school style.
Fellini’s on the other side of the river because there is no better way to spend a day than sipping on lemonade eating langos paddling in the Danube.
And to end things on a high note, it can only be the 360 Bar for some of the most amazing views and incredible cocktails to boot.

Budapest and I are old friends, but I know that every time I pop in, it will show me a little something new to keep me interested because that’s what old friends do.

Love In The Time Of Sheep Racing

Living on Sark comes with its challenges much like living on any island that isn’t a booming tourist destination or owned by some millionaire. One of the most challenging aspects of living on an island is by far the company. With little to do and even fewer people to surround yourself with, it’s hard to find your people and even harder to find a significant other.

I went to Sark single and with every intention of leaving a single lady but as it turns out I found myself doing the exact opposite. I have indeed found myself a man… And he is a pretty decent one at that.

I’m not one for cliché stories but the way in which we met is possibly my favourite story to tell. We bumped into each other (almost literally) one very drunken night after a weekend of sheep racing.

Now although sheep racing is exactly what it says on the tin I am going to delve just a little deeper in to this island past time. As it turns out this is the biggest fund-raising event of the year on Sark. It doesn’t sound like much but when you are stuck on a really (and I mean really) small island in the middle of the English Channel you have to become adventurous with these things.

Unfortunately for me I was working the majority of the weekend and sleeping during my breaks which looking back now probably wasn’t worth missing this remarkable event. No fear though, I have been treated to the story of how Derek won Alan £2.50 on more than one occasion. So sheep racing for those who are pictorially challenged is where you do your best to strap a teddy bear to a sheep and encourage it to run an obstacle course as fast as its four legs can carry it. I’m not even joking. Check Google images if you don’t believe me, unfortunately as I didn’t attend I don’t have any photos to prove it for myself. You win some and you lose some, it’s always a gamble but for those who don’t like to throw money at beats running there are plenty of other ways to be entertained. A well stocked bar for one is always a good place to start but there are fancy dress competitions as well as other typical fete themed fun stuff to enjoy too.

So what exactly was Alan, a physiotherapist from Stratford doing in Sark for a weekend of watching woolly wildlife race? Well, he didn’t come over from London specifically for this occasion, he was working on Guernsey and when living on the islands one has to just get involved with island life shenanigans!

I can assure you that I had not expected to meet a man on the dance floor, many a cider down and borderline drunk and I am sure that Alan hadn’t expected to meet such a diamond in the rough either (excuse the cheese… and the modesty). He has believe it or not said that I am a diamond more than once so technically these are his words not mine.

We met on the dance floor somewhere between the Rolling Stones and The Fray. It wasn’t love at first sight for me, he was wearing a cookie monster t-shirt and was getting far too emotional and in to the music than my drunken self could handle but for him apparently he couldn’t keep his eyes of me (or so I’m told), and apparently couldn’t resist my epic dance moves (thank you Rekorderlig) and my cattle whistling (thank you sibling rivalry). One cider obviously led to another and before you know it I was willing to hand out my number to any stranger brave and forward enough to ask for it.

Instantly regretting my decision I prayed to the universe to have put one digit in wrong but apparently even intoxicated I’m still capable of typing. In true ‘morning after the night before’ fashion I woke up with The Fear and prayed once again to the universe that the previous night hadn’t happened. Not only did I hand my phone number out to a complete stranger I also decided that outside the church and in front of the cemetery would be a fine place to have a wee. Forgive me God; I don’t know if this is a sin!

I hadn’t foreseen that four months later we would be living together in Bangor and planning a trip to Kenya for Christmas for him to meet the family. Don’t get me wrong, getting to this point hasn’t been easy but it’s been pretty incredible.

At first I was a little skeptic, he was laying on the cheese thick and was being quite intense from the get go so of course my sober mind was telling me that all he wants to do is chop me up in to little pieces and store me in his refrigerator. Turns out he just really liked my eyes and loved me from the very first moment he set his eyes on me. I thought this kind of thing only happened in movies but like most things in my world I end up having to swallow my words.

It has only been four months but what a glorious four months it has been. I still remain un-butchered and he continues to spoil me with weekends away as well as bacon sandwiches in bed (I should say that he’s a vegetarian!)

If Sark has taught me one thing, it’s that even though you are stuck on a very very small island in the middle of a sea you never know who you will meet or what opportunities will come your way. Not only have I met some of the coolest people who know how to live island life to the fullest but I’ve also met someone who I have begun to think I could spend the rest of my life with.

I once read that you never know what comes from a few seconds on insane bravery and it couldn’t be truer. Alan has shown me what it means to be loved and to love in return and it’s because of his few seconds of courage that I now know that even with all my sides of crazy I can be someone’s whole world.

It’s been a long time coming but feeling this happy has been worth the wait. I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again, never settle for anything less than extraordinary but most importantly never underestimate what travelling to unpopular and out-of-the-way places can do for you, more often than not it’s life changing. There really is nothing better than this in this world. True story.

Sleeping With Strangers In Saint Malo

AirBnB: Got to love it, got to hate it! Recently (or not so recently) I found myself actually in a love hate relationship with this new way of sleeping around the world. When it works, it’s really awesome and it’s such a great way to meet new people… when it doesn’t work it has you contemplating sleeping outside the station wearing all your clothes and sweating away on a train calling your sibling and asking her to bail you out of trouble… yet again!

So after Paris, plans somewhat changed and I found myself heading back to Saint Malo with nowhere to stay. With a trusty iPhone by my side I decided not to panic well too much anyway because I would surely find somewhere to stay on my AirBnB app. As it turns out I didn’t and even contacting and requesting to book every available space I was on the train with absolutely nowhere to stay.

When I arrived in Saint Malo I dressed myself in all my clothing, hid all my valuables on my person and prepared to camp outside the station until the next day where a new day meant that I would find somewhere to sleep! As it turns out I only half needed to panic. Thankfully one of the AirBnB folk got back to me with an available place to stay. There was only one small issue: it was his place and he was there.

Not one to abuse the help of strangers I jumped at the chance of having a roof over my head and prayed to the universe (I realise I do this a lot now) that he wasn’t a serial killer or some sort of traveller rapist. With very little money left to my name and very few hours left of patience and humour I jumped in to a taxi counted my pennies and spent the last of my phone battery messaging everyone I could think of the location of my whereabouts and the address of where I would be staying.

Things went from bad to worse… the house was under renovation and with only had one bedroom… this meant we would be sharing sleeping space. Again deciding that it was too late to back out now, I had no choice but to keep all my clothing on (if he was going to get me it was going to be after an epic fight with huge amounts of clothing) and crawl in to bed. In my mind I was drawing imaginary lines and telling myself that if his hands crept anywhere near that line I would be out and running as fast as my drag would let me. Unnecessary panic later my faith in humanity had been restored. He behaved and kept his hands to himself. Ok so he did sleep pretty much naked but his naked body stayed well away from the centre line and therefore well away from me. Phewie!

The next morning there was all the awkwardness of a walk of shame without any of the actual shame. With the help of sleep and daylight I decided that I couldn’t have picked a more innocent stranger to share sleeping space with and that actually in hindsight all my clothing was a little too extreme (I woke up a little more sweaty that I would have liked to and with no opportunity to have a shower). After a quick introduction to his parents… who I can imagine were a little happy to see him with an actual female we were in the car and on the way to town. He dropped me off somewhere out in the sticks but I found myself back to my station and very grateful to the kindness of strangers for taking me in and not killing me in my sleep.

AirBnB also came through for me once more and found me a better much nicer place to stay that was all mine (no sharing required). After finally feeling like life was all in order once more and with another adventure to add to my ever-growing list, I headed to the beach, picked up some cheese and baguette and enjoyed a leisurely walk in the rain. The weather stopping play, I decided against trekking to explore the old fort town s instead turned back around and took myself and my cheese home and parked myself in front of French SpongeBob Square Pants.

Although I have very little to report on Saint Malo itself I can assure you that I will be back. There was something so sweet about the people and the place: a sleepy French seaside village full of many characters and a little history too. The beach is pretty spectacular as well and if you have time then exploring around Dinard isn’t a bad idea. It may have been a stressful 72 hours but it was exactly what the doctor ordered after a very hectic few days in Paris.

Just a word of wisdom before I end… I’m not suggesting that everyone jump in to bed with strangers… It’s not the safest option and I got lucky. But saying this, don’t underestimate the kindness of strangers. Not everyone is out to kill and murder and kidnap, some just want to make sure that a lonely tired tourist has a good nights sleep somewhere warm and out of the rain. Thank you Carl, it was an absolute pleasure sharing sleeping space with you. You have restored my faith in humanity and I hope you enjoy New Zealand!

 

 

La Gourmandise Of Paris

The more I travel the more a pattern emerges from all the adventures I have been lucky enough to enjoy. From gorging on chocolate cake in Devon to pub lunches in Amesbury or ice cream in Beaumaris, I am never too far away from a good feed or a large amount of sweet goodness. Paris of course would have to be no exception. Famous for not only it’s iconic landmarks and impressive monuments but also it’s fresh bread and pastries, I had no choice but to enjoy a little of the gourmandise that the French have to offer.

“Tartelette Citron pour moi s’il vous plaît,” became my second favourite French line, second of course to “J’ai soif, une bouteille de vin rouge tout suit.” The citron tarts as well as the fresh homemade baguettes filled with all kinds of delicious Parma ham and salami were enough to have me falling in love with the city and also having to roll myself home unable to then walk up the numerous flights of stairs to my bed. Amazing food with the added bonus of some beautiful architecture and engineering, I was quite possibly in an Earthly version of heaven.

Don’t get me wrong; in between the food comas and the endless amounts of café lunches and bistro dinners I did indeed explore much if not all of Paris. Although I spent the best part of five days there I have to admit that perhaps five days is one or two too many. After eating more than enough pastry and bread and seeing most of the must see places there isn’t much left to do. With some careful planning and strategic routing you can eat and view the important things in a couple of days tops.

Those who I went travelling with are probably sick of me saying this but Paris is a city you have a cheeky affair with, not a long and happy marriage. It’s great for a weekend of indulgence or as the French put it “Gourmand” but you wouldn’t want to buy a car or a house or go shopping for curtains. At least I wouldn’t. I enjoyed my affair and I loved every minute of it but by the fifth day I was happy to be leaving.

Although all I have talked about up until this point is the food, there is more to Paris than just croissants and baguettes. From the Eiffel Tower to the Sacré-Cœur and Notre-Dame to the Louvre you could spend hours and hours standing in lines waiting for your turn to walk through the doors until your heart’s content. Admittedly I was not one of those people stood in line and I wasn’t eagerly trying to book tickets online either, although if you are interested I would suggest booking ahead because it not only saves time but it’s also a little cheaper too. I for one wasn’t going to cut in to my binge drinking time to ooh and aah at the view or stonework so as soon as I saw the length of the line, I took my photos and left soon after arriving. I know I don’t do these historic sites justice by running by them so by all means if you have some spare money and of course extra time then do try to get in, I have heard that it is worthwhile.

If walking around the city is daunting then consider the option of hiring a bike because the amount of ground you can cover in a day is crazy. If you are on the roads, keep an eye out for crazy drivers, I’m lucky to be alive but I can’t say I’m the most bike savvy person I know and your safety isn’t always someone else’s priority. If that is too extreme for you then there is always the Metro, which is surprisingly really easy to navigate. I used and abused all three modes of transport, which my feet and legs hated me for but walking around and seeing the sights of Paris was far more exciting that heading underground and missing all the best bits.

In between the oohing and aahing and the cycling and walking, grab some wine, a good pastry and park yourself in a place where the locals gather. I say this because the locals always know best and there is a reason why so many squash in under one roof. Anywhere along the river is a personal favourite and one I would highly recommend. There was music to be heard and everyone was dancing and drinking and generally enjoying life watching the world go by. Even sat in a café and taking your sweet time over lunch, you’ll get a taste of the Parisian life and you’ll be amazed at just how infectious it really is.

Although it’s a city, the locals tend not to live in the fast lane. They always seem to have the time to sip on a glass of vin rouge and there is certainly always time to catch up with friends. Never once did I see anyone rushing and even though I thought it was time for work, everyone seemed to be ordering more wine or another round of bread during weekday lunches.

If Paris taught me one thing, it’s that there is always time to pull up a chair and put your feet up. Whether it be under the arches of the Eiffel Tower or around the fountains of the Luxembourg Gardens, life is meant to be enjoyed so take your time and enjoy the sweet stuff because if you aren’t careful, the world will pass by you in a moment and there will be no time left to enjoy a good pastry surrounded by great friends all washed down with a nice glass of French wine.

The best thing about me having an affair with this city is that when my marriage with the road gets tiresome and I need a little indulgence, Paris will only ever be a flight away and it will happily welcome me back with open arms and a plate full of my favourite pastries. And although I will love it unconditionally for a weekend, there will always be something reminding me that Paris will never be mine and it was never meant to be but that won’t stop me coming back for more of the gourmandise.

Sark Life

Recently I have found myself somewhat stranded on an island. Not quite a deserted one but if the Barclay brothers (co-owners of the Daily Telegraph) have their way then it could well be one some day. Before you get all excited about island life, I’m going to burst your bubble by saying that I’m on Sark, which can be located somewhere in the English Channel. Hardly the Bahamas or Caribbean or anywhere remotely exotic but still somewhere that I think should be included on an itinerary for the UK. I’m also hardly stranded here, only a Ferry ride away from Guernsey I can quite easily get on and off this island if work permitted. Sadly though this summer is all about working and not playing so I rarely have time for much other than sleep and sunbathing on the beach.

In terms of work… I have found myself breaking my vow and working in a hotel of all places. I thought Australia was the last time and I was quite adamant that it would be but sadly the student life has led to an unhealthy bank balance and I found myself contemplating whether selling organs to pay my rent was a good idea. I consequently decided that although I could get quite a lot of money for them, the after effects were just not worth it. I am therefore sucking it up for one more summer… but I am vowing that this will definitely be the last time. Fact.

Next year I will be working for some sort of publication… Hopefully. Even if it means camping out on the steps at NatGeo HQ and bothering them enough until they have no choice but to either consider me or have me arrested. When next summer rolls around do me a favour and remind me of this plan. I have decided that if all my follows are witness to this statement I will be more inclined to buy a tent and possibly even a gas stove. I may be camping on some building steps but at least I’ll be dry and not hungry.

Anyway as per usual I am digressing from my main point. Right now I am on Sark and this is all about the island life.

I’m actually not quite sure where to start, seeing as I have very little time for playing (thanks work) I find myself exploring the island bit by bit. I think for starters I should give you a little background knowledge and then go from there and see how that goes. I have a feeling this is going to turn in to another little series of blog posts because if I highlight it all in one go I will miss out some good things and there will be another long stretch of silence from me and I wouldn’t want you thinking the fishermen have kidnapped me and are holding me hostage.

For starters, Sark is only a short flight and ferry ride away from the UK so if you haven’t already been here I suggest that you take it in to consideration. If you own a boat, I hear it’s a great place for sailing too! The unique selling point of this island well in my book anyway is that there is no danger of being run over by a bus or even a car for that matter. There is no tarmac on any of the main roads here and the main mode of transport is horse and carriage or bicycle. If these two are too adventurous even for you, have no fear because the island is very small so you can walk just about anywhere worth visiting in under an hour, give or take a minute or two. There are one or two tractors that you need to avoid but other than that I would say that crossing the road here could be done without looking both ways. I know living life on the edge like you would not believe.

Also a fun fact for you, Sark has been designated as a Dark Sky Community and consequently the first dark island in the world. This is due to having no vehicles and no streetlights so no light pollution. FYI if you do plan on coming here bring a torch because walking home from the pub at night is slightly more hazardous than normal but do yourself a favour and stop and look up at the sky once in a while; the stars are almost as impressive as the Kenya night sky.

Anyway, as mentioned before, the Barclay Brothers are slowly but surely trying to take over this island. Once upon a time there were many hotels and now there are only two; one of which I work at. This has of course pissed off the locals and hasn’t done good things to Sark’s economy but I can’t help but see a little genius in the evil brothers plans. I have been here just over a month but already the beauty of Sark is hard to miss. The seawater may not be warm and the beaches far from pristine white sands but the views and the general setting alone are enough for me to want to join them. My family and I have always thought that owning an island would be the thing of the future so I’m definitely on board with the idea, and if there were an island to own Sark would certainly be some top island real estate.

Ok before anyone goes sharpening their pitchforks or filing some police reports all I am saying is that I don’t blame them. They have the money and sadly with money comes power so what do you expect? I do on the other hand hope for Sark’s sake that it doesn’t happen. The UK really does have a little slice of island paradise and it would be a shame for it not to be open to the public. There are also some really quirky characters that have lived here for years and it wouldn’t be the same without them. I actually don’t know much about the politics surrounding this but it’s always a topic of conversation so maybe one day I will return and do some more digging of my own and really uncover what goes on here. For now though I am going to keep my head down and just enjoy the rocky beaches and impressive views.

Speaking of views… I am in a slight quandary. Do I or do I not include Sark as a new country? Recently the UN has granted this little island it’s own country code and it does have it’s own parliament and laws so going by my rule book this would make country number 17. I say 17 because I have also been to Guernsey, which is in the same boat as Sark. I also feel that as I have considered England and Wales as separate then Sark and Guernsey should be no different. I’m definitely going to need an unbiased opinion on this so if any of you know of someone who carries the official rulebook to this kind of thing let me know. Similarly feel free to let me know what you think.

Until then I’m going to get back to my pebbly perch and chilled cider but I promise that once I am done baking myself in the sun I shall update you on the must dos and sees of this very strange but actually quite awesome little island.

My Kind Of Village

I never thought that visiting my Grandfather would actually end up being an enormous hoot. I expected early morning walks and endless amounts of tea and tales of way back when he was my age, I didn’t expect to find a little slice of gin heaven. It comes in the form of a pub and it’s tucked away down a not so main street in the little village of Woodbridge in Suffolk.

I know that many of you are going to be checking your maps and trying to work out where this place is or even wondering if gin is really worth the journey. I am here to assure you that you will not be disappointed.

Woodbridge doesn’t have just gin on offer. Fortunately for this little village it lies on the sea and we all know what goodness comes with salty waters. You guessed it: Boats and obviously fish.

Surprisingly large amounts of people are finding themselves quite literally stuck in the mud and living on houseboats in this small harbour. I can’t say that boat life is for me and if I were to do that I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the mud but it seems that real estate doesn’t always mean bricks, mortar and a small amount of land. If there were a place where I would swap the studio apartment for a canal boat then Woodbridge would probably be the place to be. Just over and hour and a half from London you are still very much within reach of the city but with the luxury of coast-life and the countryside.

If you find yourself in these muddy waters then take a walk along the waterfront and breathe in the sea air, there are so many boats of all shapes and sizes for you to be bored by and the scenery doesn’t disappoint either. If you fancy a little history lesson too, head to the Tide Mill (you can’t miss it… it’s a big white wooden building) and watch in awe at how waves help make flour. This isn’t as boring as it sounds, there is an art to milling and back in the day when there was no technology or heavy-duty machinery everything was made by hand and people had to get inventive. This particular mill was actually the last commercially working tide mill in the UK, which has now been restored to working order. There is quite a lot of history packed in to a building and the views out of the window are pretty awesome too. Just remember everything was made by hand and everything depended on the tides.

When you have milled and mulled over boats until your heart’s content, then casually stroll through the streets of Woodbridge. From old buildings housing pubs to colourful doors and water wells there is a lot to take in. Walk in and out of the alleyways and don’t forget to stop in for a beer here and there. My personal favourite watering holes are The Table for some awesome alfresco dining when the sun is shining, The Kings Head Inn because the building is the oldest in the town and worth a snoop around, The Anchor because although when we arrived it was more a working mans pub than a place where women go to drink they still pour a good pint. FYI women are welcome… we just so happened to be the only three in there! And last but by no means least The Angel is a definite stop spot, perhaps save it for last because you are going to need to dedicate many hours to get the full effect of how awesome this place is.

If you have read my post about Australia you will of course know that Grandma’s Bar in Sydney is my favourite pub in the whole world I am going to have to put The Angel as a very close second. With 150 different types of gin on offer this is literally my kind of heaven. The only thing I regret from my weekend is not having enough time to sample them all but collectively between us we managed to get through nine.

I actually don’t remember what most of them taste, I think that had something to do with our pub crawl but there were some awesome fruity flavours like blackcurrant and blueberry but the two that really stick out are Elephant Gin distilled in Germany and Mombasa Club distilled in London.

If you are big in to conservation, especially Elephant conservation then Elephant Gin is the drink for you. Proceeds from each bottle sold go to saving the species in Africa and every bottle that is distilled is dedicated to one Elephant in particular. The bottle I was drinking from and consequently finished was helping to save an Elephant called Nana. Rather fitting considering my grandmother was known to Nana by us all. Not only does this bottle of gin taste mighty fine but when you can drink and save wildlife in one go I am all for it. This I feel is an iconic drink for an iconic species and one I will be ordering from somewhere and stocking it on my shelf. It is after all in the name of conservation… I am doing it for the Elephants!

The Mombasa Club recipe dates back to the colonial days where they used to drink gin by the gallon in the era of the British Empire on the coast of Kenya. It has a very distinct flavour and one that definitely reminds me of home and definitely one I will find myself sipping anytime anywhere. For all of you non-gin drinkers out there I urge you to do a little alcohol explorations. If ever there were a gin to convert these two would be it.

Woodbridge may be a little village for the retired or eager seamen but it certainly doesn’t disappoint the young traveller either. Not only will I go back to spend some more time sipping tea out of mugs that remind me of my childhood and listening to my grandfather recount his youthful days I will certainly go back to complete the challenge of trying all of that gin. 150 gins in 150 Days or possibly even hours… who’s to say it’s impossible?

The Cure For Everything

Barely a stones throw away from Bangor, Beaumaris is a very sweet little fishing village that packs in an amazing view. I have often been tempted to trek across the Menai Strait marsh to go for an ice cream. Yes, I could swim there if the waters were warmer, it’s that close.

Unfortunately I’m not in the tropics so the sea has quite a chill to it but thankfully this is also the UK where public transportation functions the majority of the time. A short bus drive through the country lanes and sheep farms of Anglesey, Beaumaris is a place that you simply have to visit when in North Wales.

I have even searched high and low for some fun facts for you all. It’s not the best I have found as of yet but it will do. Pay attention, this could be useful when it comes to pub quiz trivia. So get that Wales guidebook out again and find the highlighters, I can guarantee that you will not want to drive past this town in too much of a hurry.

Biwmares as the Walians call it is home to one the most technically perfect castles in the UK. With it’s classic proportions and perfect symmetry it is quite a site. It even has its very own moat that is home to a swan or two. If I was a castle enthusiast, I am sure this would be considered castle porn. As I am not too familiar with castles I can’t be sure but from a fine-architecture enthusiasts point of view it is beautiful. If Edward I had actually finished it I know that it would be even more spectacular.

According to some other website, he was running out of money and the Scots were being very effective with their resistance to the English Monarch so his grip on Wales was slowly but surely slipping out of his hands. Long story short, he had to focus his attention elsewhere so the rest was left as quite literally history. It gets a little more technical with the extravagant plans of “walls within walls” and the high-techyness (not and actual word I know) of if too but I have a feeling that I could be boring you to sleep if I continue for much more. Apparently it also pissed of the locals who were forced to move to a nearby beach. Who would have thought a cool castle would be so an irritation?

Anyway Google it if you fancy some more information. I didn’t go in to the castle itself so I can’t tell you much more, I don’t think it would be very fair. It’s a pricey place in my opinion too but I think that’s because I continue to live on a very tight student budget!

You are probably thinking this isn’t much of a fun-fact, that’s because it isn’t really the fun-fact I had in mind. A little history has to be done when it comes to these things, especially when castles are involved, not all facts should be fun really.

The real fun fact of Beaumaris is actually to do with the name of the town. Beau Maris in French means ‘beautiful husbands’ so as you imagine people get quite confused as to why this small fishing village in named after good-looking people. The truth is, it’s a corruption of Beaux Marais, which means ‘beautiful marshes’, and of course this makes more sense. Edward I (the man who didn’t finish building the castle) was French-speaking which is why it is derived from the French language. And of course the Welsh being Welsh, they have named it Biwmares, which I think is just the Welsh world for Beaumaris (I’m still don’t know how to speak Welsh).

This small quaint fishing village in indeed quite beautiful and I guess it is quite marshy too so I can see where the inspiration came from. The views alone to the Snowdonia Mountains make the town a worthwhile place to visit. No denying it, the castle has it’s own beauty and dark story to it too but there is nothing more beautiful than snow-capped mountains down by the sea.

Obviously on a cloudy day these wont be visible so you have to put your order in for some sunshine with the weather Gods but even if it is cloudy there are other things that more than make up for it. As it is a fishing village you can entertain yourself with a spot of fishing off the pier, take a walk in the countryside, explore the Georgian architecture, grab a seafood lunch (highly recommended) or just have an ice cream.

You are probably thinking ice cream during winter is downright insanity but trust me. The Red Boat ice cream parlour isn’t famous for nothing. It’s all hand-made and with so much love you can actually taste it in the flavours. I couldn’t decide on which flavour so I went for the Mascarpone, strawberry and balsamic vinegar one only because apparently its their most famous?!? Anyway it was beyond delicious and I could have sat there all day just eating myself silly on the overly yummy goodness. Just looking at the chocolate one alone gave me diabetes but I imagined that it would be so worth it. After a delicious seafood lunch at the Pier House this was the dessert to beat all desserts. And it’s not expensive either, you would think that with the fame the ice cream would cost a fortune, it’s doesn’t. I would have paid much more for my scoop, well worth every penny of the £2.50.

Take it away in a cone or a cup and find a bench down by the waterfront and just sit. There is no better place to watch the world go by and to contemplate anything. With the calm sea, different shades of blue everywhere, the snow-capped mountains, and a little sunshine topped off with the orgasmic ice cream you are bound to forget any worries even for a short while.

The cure for everything isn’t just salt water anymore; it’s strawberries, sexy castles and of course stunning scenery as well. You also never know what could happen, you may be lucky enough to find your Beau Maris around town too. I have a lot of love for this beautiful marsh and you should too.

LlanfairPG (For Short)

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

It may look like I have just slammed my head down on the keyboard but I haven’t, I promise, although I came close to it. Trying to spell it alone was painful enough I couldn’t even begin to imagine saying it. I have developed a theory that pronouncing this ridiculous word is only possible if you are either A. Welsh or B. a genius. For those of you who can indeed say this with perfection, you deserve some sort of certificate; because I have tried and failed many a time therefore have decided it was high time to give up. This obviously long and complicated word is the name of a not so long and complicated town situated somewhere in the North of Wales along the Menai Strait. Look it up if you don’t believe me. I know you are wondering why someone in their right mind would name a town in such a way; it must be purely for the humour factor right? Give it a go for yourself… don’t you sound like an idiot and wouldn’t it make for light entertainment? The truth is, they weren’t looking for cheap laughs and it wasn’t trickery either. It was all just a ploy to get more tourists to visit this sleepy village packed with a little history. Speaking of history, Llanfair PG (for short) used to be called Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, which is, as you see, just as hard to pronounce. In the 19th century it was decided that this town deserved to be recognized so the only way to do it was to make the already overly complicated town name even more overly complicated. Please note, sometimes I can do even a little history. Their aim was to encourage tourists to the area and for once a crazy idea actually worked. By giving this town the famous and uber long consonant-mangling name and therefore an uber long station sign, they were on to a winner. The effect I like to imagine must have been something similar to throwing bread at a duck pond: feed them and they will come. Tourists (myself included) flocked (pun intended) from all over the world to get the much-needed cheesy photograph (no doubt a selfie) with the longest one-word place-name in Europe. You would think that with such a high number of tourists the town would be a booming metropolis of shops and sights and all things tourists like, I can assure you it isn’t. There is a shop and there are sights but these do not rank highly on anyone’s to do list. To give credit where credit is due, the shop might be of interest because as shops go it is the mac daddy of malls, but an hour or two is all you need to cross this place off your list. To this, I can testify. Only yesterday I found myself procrastinating, and doing my best to avoid any university work so I decided to go somewhere that was close and of course cheap. I have been to Llanfair PG before in all honesty but I only stopped for no more than 10 minutes. This time I thought I would give it the best part of 3 hours, a good amount of time to avoid work at all costs especially if I factored in the need for some well-earned sustenance, after all sightseeing is hungry work! Ok in all fairness, I did wait for the train for an hour which even I couldn’t justify but seeing as I spent at least and hour in the shop already I couldn’t think of anything else to do and I conveniently left my required reading at home. From bedding to crockery, model trains to tweed coats, whiskey to trinkets, you can walk away with everything including the kitchen sink and it is all conveniently laid out in one not so small shop. Let’s not go forgetting the standard knickknack souvenirs that you find in every tourist shop either! It has everything. Of all things I could have walked away with, my favourite thing that I found in the shop of all shops was this:

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I have in my hand the smallest bottle of scotch whiskey, and no I do not have giant hands. So not only does this small Welsh town have the longest one word place-name in Europe but it also has a collection of the smallest bottles of whiskey. And why not? Well, if you are going to hold a Guinness World Record, why stop at just one. I couldn’t agree more. When you have shopped your house and car full may I suggest taking a little walk, there are a couple of historical columns to climb up (it’s only 115 steps) with views that I can only imagine as dreamy. The one I am talking of in particular is the Marquess of Anglesey’s Column which commemorates Wellington’s right hand man in the 1815 battle of Waterloo; Henry William Paget. I know, yet more history, even I am starting to amaze myself! Unfortunately it was closed but I know the view can’t be anything less than incredible up there. If you have a look at http://olivingthedreamphotography.com you will see some of my photos. Ok so these roadside versions do not do it justice and the snow isn’t a permanent feature but you get the gist. Shame about the pylons though, but I guess you can’t have it all! These scenes of snow-capped mountains and sheep actually remind me of New Zealand. The longer I live here the more I am discovering why I find these grounds so familiar. New Zealand as you know is my home away from home so Wales is quickly becoming my home away from my home away from home. It took a while to work out that sentence, not going to lie. It is because of this that Wales, in my book, has become a forgotten part of the world. I have therefore vowed to myself to do the best I can to get it back on everyone’s maps, and what a better place to start than the town with two world records. So mark the town of Saint Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a rapid Whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio near the Red Cave on your maps because with a name like that do you really need any other reason? From myths to mountains, world records to recorded worlds and more castles than you can count on two hands there is so much on offer in Wales that will whet absolutely anyone’s appetite. Get out those guidebooks and prepare to highlight the fun facts readers because this is just the start of my very own Epic Welsh Adventure.

The Countryside Version Of London

Bristol may not be the number one destination for most people but seeing as I know enough people there I thought I should pay a visit to the place people call “Little London”. Bristol is most famous for the infamous graffiti artist who has been stencilling his way around the globe and in to the hearts of any lover of street art. I can’t say I am a great following of Banksy; I don’t tour the globe hoping to catch a glimpse of his latest masterpiece and I certainly don’t sign myself up to all the many appreciation societies or the like. I do however enjoy oohing and aahing at his latest and greatest. And what better place to ooh and aah than Bristol?

Banksy isn’t the only street artist to plaster the walls and doors of this city, if you walk down Gloucester Road alone you will get dizzy crisscrossing the road to try to absorb it all. Wonder down all the little alleyways too and pay attention to the shutters of all the shops. There is art and talent to be seen absolutely everywhere. It takes a while to walk down the road so I would strongly suggest a good breakfast and even a boosting smoothie from the two Boston Tea Party shops that can be found in that area. If BTP doesn’t take your fancy there are heaps of other independent shops and cafes for everyone’s taste buds. Plug in the tunes and have the camera ready, this road alone is enough to entertain you for a whole morning! Keep an eye out for the Banksy that can be seen on one of the walls there too, it’s a goody! I hear there are a couple of others not to far away either so if he is your thing then download the map or join a walking tour and get seeing!

If you are starting to feel peckish pick up a map and head down to St. Nicolas market for a bite to eat. From Moroccan to pies and even biltong (South African delicacy) you really can’t go wrong. The smell alone is enough to get your mouth-watering. Pick a place and dine in or take out. Pretty cheap too and students wave your cards about, there are many discounts to be had! Be warned it does get busy but don’t let that put you off. When bellies are full and the feet have recovered from the walking, head further down to Queens Square and sit for a while, watch the world go by and soak up the sun (if it’s a summers day). If you don’t fancy just sitting then keep walking and head towards the Marina, here you will find yet another Banksy (my personal favourite) and maybe even a pirate ship or two. The M Shed Museum will also give you the run down on the history of Bristol if you fancy something a little more history based. Pretty exciting stuff for a city in England!

I think that’s about all you would want to do in a day, it’s quite a lot of walking and sightseeing so head back up towards the market and find the Milk Thistle speakeasy bar or any restaurant that happens to waft your way. Another brilliant feature of Bristol is the food, I would love to go back and feed myself silly on a restaurant tour. From breakfast to brunch, dinner and even just tapas there is so much on offer. Make sure you book, it’s a busy place so don’t get disappointed. I only managed a trip to The Ox on Corn Street but it was the best steak I have had and the atmosphere made it all the more so. It’s down in a basement somewhere but ask and someone will point you in the right direction. I am only going to touch on this subject as I ran out of time but find some locals and ask them where and what it is that you should be eating and drinking. There is so much happening you will be spoilt for choice!

When you have eaten and drunk yourself in to a coma jump on a canal boat tour or venture up to Clifton. There are some really cute knick-knack type shops and more cafes to savour and enjoy! The view to the suspension bridge and across the city is also something to marvel at and just the coloured houses alone are enough to keep the eyes well entertained. Don’t forget Bristol is also a massive student town so keep and eye out for the wild parties if you want to throw some shapes and if you find yourself around the area from the 6th to the 9th August live a little and join in with the annual balloon fiesta, it’s not to be missed!

I will be going back to Bristol soon and will of course update you on more of the ‘must dos’ but with so much to see, do and eat you would be silly not to stop by if you are around. Keep in mind that Bath is just down the road too so why not make the most of what the South West of England has to offer. Check out http://visitbristol.co.uk for a more up to date version of the what’s what and who’s who and get planning. Who needs the bright lights of the big city London when you can get all this and more in the smaller countryside version?

Head over to http://olivingthedreamphotography.com for a little insight in to the wonders of Bristol.