A Weekend in and around Arundel, UK

travel

Depending on how fast you want to explore, 2 or three days is the perfect amount of time to explore Arundel and the surrounding area. Arundel is a great place to base yourself if you have a car and are interested in history, countryside, and beach visits. The area is diverse, with plenty to do. Here is my suggested itinerary.

(This blog is included in my animal blogs list because the entire trip (apart from the castle) was very dog friendly. Dogs were EVERYWHERE, in pubs, shops, at the beach and so on. If you want to take the pooch then I would say DO IT.)

Day 1

Arundel Castle and Gardens

Arrive early, settle into your accommodation then head straight for the castle. There is a car park opposite the castle entrance. Pay for the day (parking ends at 6pm) and spend the day here. START WITH A BANG at this incredible castle and make sure you purchase a ticket for the gardens as well. Wear comfy shoes and be ready to climb lots of steps and walk uphill. It is recommended that you pay the GiftAid charge if you are planning to spend any money at the gift shop. By purchasing GiftAid you will essentially get double your money back per ticket in the form of a voucher to spend there (accurate as of August and September 2021)

Arundel castle

Start with the Gardens – It is a good idea to start here because they open at 10am whilst some parts of the castle open later. Aim to spend an hour to an hour and a half exploring these beautiful grounds. Do not pick the apples unless there is a sign telling you otherwise, and do not pick the flowers.

Arundel castle gardens

Head for the main Castle and Keep – Get most of the stair climbing out of the way by starting with the Keep. It opens at 11am and is sure to give you incredible views over Arundel. If you are afraid of heights, chill out on the bridge instead and hear some amazing facts about the grounds from one of the many knowledgeable staff members. Once the Keep is done you are free to explore the castle rooms. The castle and gardens close at 5pm so feel free to return to the gardens once you have finished looking around.

Arundel castle The keep and stairs

Lunch

From the castle you can walk into the main town. We had lunch at a lovely pub before heading back out. No need to look at a map, the streets are small and you will find somewhere to eat lunch without needing to put effort into the search.

River, Museum, and Window Shopping

Walk back down the hill to the river to let the food sink down, then go to the museum (next to the car park opposite the castle) and spend half hour or so learning about the area. If you are up for more walking, take a walk around the town, spend your cash, or grab a coffee before you head back to your hotel for the evening.

Day 2

The beach and more

Start with the Cathedral – As it’s your last day to make the most of Arundel, park at the top of the hill to preserve your energy and save time… Take a quick walk around the cathedral and admire the architecture. Sometimes, events are held here that are open to the public.

Littlehampton – East Beach is a lovely lesser known beach that is super underrated. The beach is HUGE and well worth the visit. Once you’re finished with the cathedral, check the tide chart online before you go and aim for low tide. This way the beach doubles in size and you will find that you can paddle out for miles in your jeans! There are dog friendly areas further down the beach, (at low tide you can be assured that your dog will have plenty of sand and rocks to explore.) The drive from Arundel is around 15minutes and easy to get to.

Eat your traditional beach day lunch – East Beach has a few little kiosks that sell chips, any fish you could possibly want, kids meals such as chicken nuggets, hot dogs, warm doughnuts, and more. There is also a cute little seating area on the beach with tables and chairs in case you didn’t bring your own. Eat up and enjoy the view…. Oh, and do not feed the seagulls because they will poop on you and scare a lot of people as they swarm over the entire seating area.

Had enough of the beach? – If the answer is no, stay here and chill. If the answer is yes, be a child and get your cash out. There is a mini funfair as well as a traditional beachside arcade that you can playing in. My mum and I spent a good hour (definitely more than an hour) playing around in and spending all the pennies we had for zero results. If you don’t like the arcade, drive back into Arundel for a stroll.

Still not ready to sleep? – Drive up to the Bignor Roman Ruins and take a stroll around, or perhaps the WWT Arundel (Wetlands) to spot nature. Check out the Castle schedule of events too. Sometimes they hold open air theatre nights that you can book tickets for to fill your evening.

Day 3 – for those that aren’t ready to leave just yet.

Last Explorations before the drive home

Drive to Bognor, Worthing, or Brighton – If you have planned to spend another day here then branch out from Arundel and drive to Worthing or Brighton, or go the other direction to reach Bognor. These beaches are all quite rocky so you may want to opt for Brighton if you are less interested in rocky beaches. Brighton can offer more in the way of attractions than Worthing or Bognor.

Me and mum at Worthing beach

If you are looking for something to do on the route home, stop off in the beautifully charming town of Petworth. This place is the stuff of fairy tales. Park up and take a walk around the quaint streets or book a visit to Petworth House.

Don’t fancy Petworth? South Downs is so close and there is so much to see. Spend your last few hours looking around the beautiful countryside. Look at your options here – https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/all-abilities/family-activities/

Enjoy your trip to Arundel!

IG: @jemsadventure

Free London!

travel

So much to do, so little cash?

Why pay to have fun when you can do all of this for free! Here are 10 places to go for free in London. You won’t be disappointed.

1. The Temple of Mithras

Visiting the Temple of Mithras comes first on my list because it has to be the most underrated and random attraction in London.

Experience Roman London by learning about the culture and pastimes of the people who once lived there. You will then be directed downstairs into a dark room. Once there, the randomness begins. Lit head sculptures and moving screens will keep you entertained before you enter the main room. The main room experience is what really drives the whole theme and you won’t be disappointed by what you find inside.

When can you visit? Tuesday-Sunday 10am-6pm or Sunday 12pm-5pm

Pre-book or Arrive on the spot? Pre-Book to ensure your space.

How long should you stay? 30mins-1hour

Getting there: Walk from one of these underground stations to save time – Cannon Street or Bank Station or Mansion House.

2. Sky Garden

Firstly, good luck if you can get tickets! Secondly, if you get tickets book for a bright day. The Sky Garden was not as well lit at night as it could have been so we couldn’t see much in the evening.

The Sky Garden is exactly what it says on the tin with the addition of breath taking views across the city and the ability to grab a drink whilst you try to forget your fear of heights.

When can you visit? 7 days a week with a valid ticket and stated time

Pre-book or Arrive on the spot? Pre-Book a maximum of 3 weeks prior to coming or you won’t get in!

How long should you stay? Times to book your visit are available here- Plan your visit – Sky Garden – London

Getting there: Walk from Monument Station

3. Camden

A visit to London simply isn’t complete without a good shopping spree around Camden. Be prepared to embrace all of the quirky things in life as you walk through the crowds of confident locals and fellow bewildered tourists. If you don’t enjoy crowds so much then walk over the bridge towards the stables and look for the food court. Tables and chairs are laid out there.

The addition of Buck Street Market brings you away from the main market action and into a cosy food hub that will be sure to fulfil all of your culinary needs. As this blog post is about FREE activities you may want to pack a picnic and sit by the canal. It’s best not to eat your own food on the premises of another restaurant or food truck unless you enjoy being asked to move.

Make sure you check out the stable yard (sorry there are no real horses here). You’ll have plenty of free food samples being thrusted into your face, so many that you probably won’t be hungry come lunch time.

When can you visit? Camden never sleeps

Pre-book or Arrive on the spot? Camden is always ready and waiting for visitors

How long should you stay? You could stay all day. If time is limited allow at least 4 hours.

Getting there: Walk from Camden Town or Camden Road stations and follow the crowd.

Camden Monopoly – @jemsadventure

4. Trafalgar Square > Downing Street > Westminster > Buckingham Palace

Head to Trafalgar square and gaze up at the giant lions before being thoroughly entertained by a variety of street performers.

Once you’ve had enough of craning your neck to see Nelson on his column take a 2-5minute walk to Downing Street. There isn’t much to see aside from the famous door but it’s simply a must if you want to see everything on the list. When you’ve finished taking selfies keep walking until you reach Westminster.

The giant architecture and the imposing giant that is Big Ben will be sure to occupy your mind for a while. On the far side of the houses of parliament there are some public gardens which offer a less crowded view of the river and a place to eat a snack. From here you’ll be in the perfect place to walk to Westminster Cathedral and on to…

Buckingham Palace, A 10-15 minute walk from Westminster Cathedral will bring you to the very grand Buckingham Palace. Tickets are sadly not free, but the view from outside is more than enough to leave London impressed. Get there early for the 10:45am Changing the Guard which takes place most days throughout the year. Do a quick internet search to make sure it is happening on the day you are going.

The palace is surrounded by public parks and is the perfect place to spend a chilled afternoon in the sunshine.

When can you visit? Anytime

How long should you stay? A good 3 hours can be spent in between Buckingham palace and Westminster

Getting there: Walk between the attractions to save time. Jump off at Victoria Underground for Buckingham Palace. Jump off at Charing Cross for Trafalgar Square.

Westminster – @jemsadventure

5. Museums

I could sit here and list the many many many museums in London but with a quick Google search you can find what you’re looking for. Instead I’ll recommend my 2 personal favourites.

  1. The Science Museum – Why? Because it’s fun. They are constantly updating the exhibits, and even the simplest scientific discovery can become the most interesting thanks to the creativity of the designers. Website: Home | Science Museum
  2. The Natural History Museum – Why? One word. Dinosaurs. Ok so there is so much more to see than just dinosaurs but nothing ever quite lives up to seeing the scale of a dinosaur jaw. Website:

If you want more museums have a read of this.

6. Tower of London in November

The historic is a beautiful addition to your activities for the day. Whilst I would recommend putting aside some cash to go inside, you may have run out and need to admire it from the outside only. If you are in London in November make sure you head to the Tower to admire the incredible poppy display that fills the grass in memory of fallen soldiers.

Key information: Use the website for all the information you need to plan your trip.

Pre-Book or arrive on the day? Either, but bear in mind it might be busy so it’s up to you to take the risk.

How long should you stay?

7. The Thames

If you manage to visit London and don’t see the Thames River then what on earth were you doing? The Thames is accessible throughout the city. I would recommend hitting Waterloo or Westminster to get the best views of it. Waterloo is full of market stalls and random entertainment to keep you occupied as you meander down the river.

When can you visit? Any time!

How long should you stay? A day, a month. There is no limit on the amount of time you should spend here.

Keep your eyes peeled online for seasonal events, festivals, shows, and attractions that you can visit for free taking place around the Thames!

8. Battersea Park

Confuse yourself by seeing the wonderful Peace Pagoda right in the middle of London. Explore this excellent Victorian park and admire the river whilst you are there. Take a picnic and relax in this lovely park

When can you visit? All year round. Check the website for any scheduled closures.

How long should you stay? The park is open between 6:30am and 10:30pm so plan accordingly.

Peace Pagoda – @jemsadventure

9. Visit a Market or Two or Three

There are so many markets in London, the tough decision is choosing which one to go to. Camden is already on the list as I don’t really class this is a typical market. Here are some recommendations for some more traditional ones:

Borough Market – This is predominantly a food market. Good luck walking round without wanting to spend any money! Everything looks delicious here and the atmosphere is great. Check to see if there are any events on here.

Greenwich Market – I stumbled on this market after visiting Greenwich Park right next door. This indoor market is full to the brim of food, fashion, artesian trinkets, and antiques. Grab a takeout meal from one of the stalls and eat it in the park.

Covent Garden Market – Possibly the most upmarket market available in London. Walk around to a violinist playing classical music, peruse beautiful jewellery, or just grab a drink and embrace the atmosphere.

10. Free Exhibitions and Art Galleries

There are so many exhibitions constantly popping up around London. All you have to do is Google ‘Free Exhibitions in London’ and the world is your oyster. Just go for whatever takes your fancy. Aside from random exhibitions there are trusty galleries like the Tate Modern and the Guildhall Art Gallery.

Tate Britain – @jemsadventure

Things to see and do in Windsor and Eton

1 week, england, europe, holiday, itineraries, travel, uk

Things to see and do in Windsor and Eton

I live a 10 minute drive from Windsor, and wanted to share a few ideas with you as to how you can get the most out of your time here. Sure you can spend all day trying to spot the queen, but there’s so much more you can do!

Windsor Castle:

Let’s start with the main attraction. This castle is the main residence of Queen Elizabeth II who loves spending time here. This means that although you can go inside, you won’t be able to explore it in it’s entirety as some of it is shut off for the queen. There is plenty to see and explore and the ticket price I feel is justified.
A perk of visiting Windsor Castle is that it contains St. Georges Chapel which is usually open for visitors (unless a private event is being held, or there are renovation works.) If you go inside the castle you can expect to spend a decent amount of time staring at the impressive Queen Mary’s dollhouse.

Book Ahead – When visiting the castle you can expect queues to get inside, unless you book ahead. On three occasions I have tried to get into the castle to show my friends around, only to see that the queue was over 2 hours long to get inside. On more successful visits I have booked ahead.
Book tickets for the castle here: Windsor Castle – Visit Windsor

How Long?: Allow 3 hours minimum to look around

Windsor castle JREID

The Long Walk and Windsor Great Park:

This scenic path runs straight from the main gates of Windsor Castle and up to the Copper Horse Statue of King George III. The walk is…. you guessed it, long. Along the way you are sure to see plenty of deer in the surrounding fields grazing and resting.

If you start the walk from the castle you may want to take the dog for a walk at the same time. Dogs are welcome to join you on your walk, and if you are both well behaved you can let them off the lead. Once you reach the green gates, you are entering into deer territory, at which point your dog should be placed back on the lead and not interact with the deer at all.

How Long?: The Walk is around 2.6miles so take water with you. Allow a couple of hours maximum to make it there and back if you’re not in a rush. ALSO if you have prepared your parking then add an extra hour onto whatever you think you need because you won’t want to run back!

Long walk JREID
Windsor Royal Station:

The Queen’ Locomotive can be found here next to the main train station and is a stunning piece of history from the Victorian age. Great for a quick selfie and just a quick look to say you’ve seen it. Aside from this you can spend half an hour exploring the market stalls and shops inside the shopping centre. 

Diamond Jubilee Fountain:

This fountain is a lovely spot unknown to many tourists. Visit it at night to see it all lit up, or swing by during the day to enjoy the river views with the fountain splashing beside you. This is a perfect lunch spot. There is a cute bowls court next to it and tennis courts just opposite for some free entertainment.

Windsor Guildhall:

This enchanting little re-purposed museum is a small but interesting way to learn about local history. The museum is great for all ages and frequently hold small events for families and individuals to take part in.

Shopping:

Plenty of clothes shops available to spend all your hard earned cash! High street fashion shops and luxury brands are available. 

The River:

The river is a great place to take a walk whilst in the area and may be preferable to those not wanting to trek down the Long Walk.  Swan feed can be purchased from the small cafe where the swans nest. You can also rent a small boat and take a ride on the river or join a duck tour .

Windsor JREID

Escape Rooms:

Fancy a challenge? There are a couple of companies super close to the high street offering this fun experience  simply google “Windsor Escape Rooms” and take your pick. An hour of indoor guaranteed fun for all the family. 

Eton College:

As an operational college you can’t just expect to receive a full tour when you arrive here. The external architecture is worth the short stroll down the road and there’s nothing quite as British as seeing the students walking between classes in their traditional tails.

Eton High Street:

Much quieter than Windsor High street, Eton’s main road is arguable more charming with a church set back away from the road that is almost un-noticeable. Eventually you will reach Eton College, but before you get there, take a look at the quaint and quirky shops that line the street. Also… Look how pretty it is at Christmas! 

Eton Christmas JREID
Legoland:

Who hasn’t heard of Legoland?! Whether you have kids or are a big kid yourself be sure to visit if you love Lego before you leave. Expect to spend at least an entire day here, or maybe two if you want to spend the night in the Lego hotel!

Theatre Royal Windsor:

A lovely theatre located just outside the castle offering shows all year round for reasonable prices – Theatre Royal Windsor – live entertainment at its best in Berkshire

Windsor Leisure Centre:
If you would like a serious lane swim or a fun day out in the family pool then this is the best place to go. Look at the website before visiting for more price and time information: Windsor Leisure Centre (leisurefocus.org.uk)

Windsor On Ice:

Ice skating!!! During the winter you can expect to find a Christmas extravaganza in the form of an ice rink, charming food stands selling traditional bratwurst and candy treats opposite the jubilee fountain at Alexandra Gardens. You can get your tickets here: Welcome to Windsor On Ice | Windsor on Ice 

Windsor on ice JREID

Hungry in Windsor & Eton

Food for those on a tight budget these are some of my favourite foody places: McDonalds / Honest Burger / Weatherspoons / Starbucks / Krispy Kreme / Manny local restaurants! If you want to take a picnic to the long walk or by the river then this is not prohibited. 

Food on a slightly bigger budget: Flaming Cow Eton /  Gourmet Burger Kitchen / Bella Italia / Many more restaurants right on the castle’s doorstep or by the river.

Getting There

By Train: There are 2 train stations in Windsor. They are a 10 minute walk from each other so whichever one you choose it won’t matter because you’ll end up more or less in the same place! Here is how to get into Windsor and Eton via each one –

Windsor and Eton Central – To get to this station you will have to connect at Slough. The train journey from Slough is very cheap and takes around 5-10 minutes. If you are commuting from London Paddington you will connect at Slough before boarding the short journey to Windsor.

Windsor and Eton Riverside – This station connects Windsor to other areas of London such as London Waterloo. The train has many stops and may be less convenient time-wise than if you are able to get the fast train from Paddington to Slough and on to Windsor and Eton Central.

By Car – If you are driving from Slough/M4 come up the dual carriageway and take the first exit to the castle. DO NOT park near the castle or the river unless you don’t mind paying extra. Try Victoria Street Car Park for more reasonable rates. It’s a three minute walk from the shopping street.

Where to stay:

It’s nice to stay in Windsor… It’s also quite expensive to stay in Windsor. Opt to stay in Slough instead. There is a Moxy hotel, Premier inn, Travelodge, and many bnbs that will save you a heap of money. There are buses and taxis into Windsor for less than £10 so you do the math! If you are fixed on staying in Windsor then you will find plenty of options available online.

Have fun exploring Windsor and Eton!

Luxembourg City – Long Weekend, Travel Recommendations

travel

If you are looking for somewhere to spend a long weekend in Europe then look no further than lovely Luxembourg.

Here is a guide for getting into and around this tiny city, and some ideas of activities you can do to make the most of your time there.

Recommended time here

2 days for Luxembourg City.

4 days or more for Luxembourg City and the wider country.

Getting into Luxembourg City

The airport is teeny tiny and you will have no problems getting into the main city. Ditch the taxi and jump on a bus directly outside the airport. If you need to arrive right in the city centre then be sure to jump off at Hamilus. The bus costs between €2 and €4.

Passport stamp from luxembourg

How to get around

Many cities claim to be “walking cities” and many are lying to you. Luxembourg City truly is a walking city. You will be surprised how easily you can walk around the entire city without feeling ridiculously tired and over-walked.

The hop on hop off buses here, in my opinion, tend not to be value for money comparative to other larger cities that are navigable by road. As the majority of the city centre, and therefore many of the main attractions, are inaccessible by road this really is a city best seen by foot.

If you are branching out to see Kirchberg (just outside the main city) you should however jump on a bus to save time.

Heading further north, south, east, or west? Many buses can be caught from most of the main roads surrounding the city centre which will take you to the train station.

 

Choosing your hotel in Luxembourg

Something I learnt very quickly was that the map of Luxembourg City makes the city look a lot bigger than it really is. This should aid you in choosing the most cost effective accommodation.

Any hotel listed as being in a ‘good location within the main city’ will be within walking distance of all the main attractions, so you may want to save some cash and opt for the cheaper ‘inner city hotel’ option available.

Staying in a hotel right near the centre is a good idea for those with one and a half, or two days here.

Looking over the grund in Luxembourg city

Staying for more than 2 days?

If you are staying in the city for more than 2 days I recommend staying a little outside the of the centre. This is not only a little cheaper, but will also provide you with a little ‘escape’ from the busy tourist scene as you wander back to the hotel in the evening.

We stayed in a hotel to the north of Parc Municipal which gave us the nice 15 minute walk to and from the centre via the park each day.

 

Attractions in the city

History, science, and art museums are easily found here with many offering free admission for international students.

In Kirchberg, Fort Thüngen has been converted into an art museum, and whilst art museums aren’t my idea of a holiday activity, seeing an old fort certainly is.

Luxembourg City History Museum was our favourite museum due to it’s variety of topics covered – despite there being no information provided in English. The funfair exhibit on the top floor was nothing less than random, especially when we couldn’t translate the supporting information.

The Science centre/ museum is also a great way to spend a few hours with workshops taking place throughout the day.

A girl stands inside of a blue arty circle

Visiting with children

The capital city of Luxembourg, aptly named Luxembourg City, makes for a wonderful weekend trip whether you’re on your own, with friends, in a couple, or with the family.

If you are travelling with children, you can expect to spend hours at the huge pirate park in Parc Municipal playing with water and sand, sliding down the huge slide, and swinging from mini ropes.

Pirate park in Luxembourg Municipal Park for children

Aside from the incredible pirate ship park, the science museum, and local history museum offer plenty of opportunities for your children to get involved and learn a little about Luxembourg along the way.

The city is very family friendly and during the summer months you can expect the community to run events and mini shows for children to get stuck in to.

 

Do you speak Ger-Fren-glish?

The perplexing mix of germanic/french languages can be confusing and sure kept us on our toes. Many of the restaurant staff spoke French as we entered but switched to English when they realised how poor our French was.

Strangely, despite everyone approaching us in French, most of the writing that we saw on shop windows and on numerous menus was in German… Google Translate app at the ready!

Street view in luxembourg

 

Other activities in Luxembourg City

Bok Casemates – With the weather forecast not looking so good for our second day, we saved our visit to the Bok Casemates for the second day. As the Casemates are at the edge of the city, you can grab a bus here, or a taxi for a reasonable amount.

A woman looks over the town from the casemates

The Casemates are interesting but sparse on information. As you enter you should take a flyer (not available in English) and attempt to learn a little about why they are there.

The Grund and Neumunster – This UNESCO Heritage site can be seen on foot, or better yet from above. We took a walk through the Court of Justice of the European Union, past the fountain there until we reached some benches where we sat and admired the Grund and Neumunster in it’s entirety.The grund in luxembourg. Water reflects the trees

From the Casemates you will inevitably find yourself walking down and up the walls of the Corniche where you can grab some incredible panoramic views over the Grund atop of “Europe’s most beautiful balcony.”

Cathédrale Notre-Dame – This is only in France right? Wrong! The cathedral is huge and beautiful on the inside and out. Whether you are religious or not you are sure to find the underground crypt interesting.

St Michaels Church – As the oldest church in Luxembourg, this beautiful piece of architecture should not be overlooked. Take the look at the stain glass windows and admire the interior for a while before heading to the next place of interest.

Grand Duchal Palace – Why not spend time visiting the home of the world’s only Grand Duchy. This building, despite having “grand” in the title, is easily missed as it blends into its surroundings (especially on days where the guards aren’t stationed outside!).

Grand duchal Palace luxembourg city

One last thing

Enjoy your time here and make sure you make the most if your days in the city. We found that we visited all of the main sites and more within a day and a half. Considering we were leaving the hotel at around 11am, stopping for a good hour for lunch, and longer for dinner, it’s safe to say that if you are in Luxembourg for longer a day trip out of the city may be the best option for you.

Have a fabulous trip!

Hotels, Hostels or Homes? How to save money in your sleep whilst on Holiday.

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, couples travel, destination, europe, holiday, home, hostel, hotels, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend, review, travel, Uncategorized

The decision of whether to stay in a hotel or not whilst on holiday is not usually at the forefront of many people’s minds. Most holiday goers will book their flights and then the top recommended hotel without even a second thought as to where else they could stay.

Why are so many of the population failing to remember that there are alternative, cheaper,  more immersive and entertaining options available. Or maybe they just haven’t been informed yet. Well in that case, let’s begin.

And a hostel in Venice offers comfy and private beds with a large communal area bar and kitchen. Very code to the train stationAt crazy affordable prices – Anda Venice offers comfy private sleeping areas, bar and kitchen areas, and a communal space that spans the entire ground floor.

Hotels: What are you paying extra for? Absolutely nothing.

If you enjoy late night strolls around a resort, listening to a British expat performing Whitney Houston Covers, and fighting other holiday makers for the sun lounger closest to the pool then hotels are definitely for you. Hotels are notoriously safer, and offer heightened security for families with private lockable rooms with en-suits and balcony areas. Great! But this is not the say that the same quality can’t be found elsewhere.

To offer some tangible evidence of what Hotels offer lets look at ibis hotels.

Whilst staying in an ibis hotel I couldn’t fault the breakfast service, the room, or anything else for that matter really. Although, the common area was less of a common area and more of a standard entrance area into the hotel.

Ibis hotels make good on the buffet breakfast and provide you with all your breakfasty needs from cereals to continental meats you’ve probably never thought to eat for breakfast.

This is all well and good you might say, but why oh why am I paying £50 – £100 (or more) a night. One person, one room, one bed, one breakfast, and you are asking for £60. Call me a cheapskate (because I am) but I say this pricing is totally unnecessary!

Hote de Paul in Belgium Bruges is small but charming At over £50 a night Hotel De Pauw offers a breakfast buffet, close proximity to the main square, and a nice view of a church…

To be completely fair to ibis hotels, I searched the going rates across 10 countries in Europe, even ‘cheap’ countries and the prices were pretty similar across the board. Ibis hotels aren’t the only offenders of high prices for little in return, Premier Inn, Travel Lodge, Best Western, Hilton, Marriott…  You name it, it was all a little too overpriced for me.

In my opinion, if anyone is paying £50-£80 per night, this is the least you should be asking for:

  • Blackout Curtains
  • Sound Proof Walls
  • Breakfast and Dinner
  • A fun, free, functioning common room
  • Outdoor seating areas
  • Comfortable bed and en-suit
  • Tea and Coffee in your room

If your paying over £80 for a hotel room then firstly – what on earth are you thinking? And secondly, there had better be a huge heated pool and a sauna with onsite creche for the kiddies to play in.


 Hostels: It’s not all doom and gloom

Once you understand that not all hostels are as grubby as they seem in the movies your holiday savings will increase, and your holiday experience will change forever.

Hostels are available in almost every country in the world, and at a fraction of the price of booking a hotel you’d be silly not to consider it. Some of the nicest places I have ever stayed have been hostels costing no more than £13 a night WITH breakfast included. For more information about what staying in a hostel is really like read Myth Busting: Hotels – To stay or not to Stay.

Bosnian hostel sign on the front gate entrance pink sign This is one of the most enchanting hostels in Bosnia. The host is friendly, helpful, and fun. The location is excellent and the vibes are chilled.

So, let’s address 3 of the main issues that people talk about when I suggest that they stay in a hostel.

1- “I don’t want to stay with 10 other people with no privacy or bathroom to myself.”

2- “It won’t be a safe environment for the kids to sleep in or to be able to walk around in.”

3- “I’m not sleeping in a dirty room where the sheets are gross and the bathroom smells”

I am happy to report that for the most part I have found none of this hearsay to be true. Read

Overall I have found hostels to be more welcoming, friendly, cleaner, entertaining, and helpful than any hotels I have previously stayed in. Private rooms are always a little pricier, but you get what you pay for after all. Booking is easy with sites like Hostelworld and HostelBookers offering a transparent efficient service to users.


Home Stays: Living like a local

Staying in someone else’s home can feel daunting, especially if the family are still in the vicinity during your visit. Unless you had selfish plans to trash the place there’s no reason to feel nervous at all, provided  that you have done your research beforehand.

Jemma Miguel Katie Juan Roxana jenifer Rocio Francisco Beth given Karen host famil picture in front of house in Nicaragua

Me with my incredible host family in Nicaragua. 3 months together and we were part of the family.

Whilst in Vietnam we stayed in a host home – accidentally.  The family had advertised their home on a hostel site. We were pleasantly surprised as, luckily, we got on well with the family. They were knowledgeable and friendly, and we learnt a lot from the experience.

Whilst some host family / home stays are advertised on the usual hostel sites your best bet is to head over to sites such as Homestay.com or simply type ‘host family stay’ into Google and check out the many country specific results available.

Another option is the increasingly popular Airbnb which offers a wide variety of options depending on your needs. You can rent a whole home, a room, or shared accommodation. The majority of places you find on Airbnb will be self catering, so you will miss out on the luxury meals you are used to at the hotel, but with thousands of yummy restaurants around every corner why not sample the real local cuisine in the streets. This also cuts out all of the moaning about the lack of diversity on the hotel menu.

When booking with Airbnb be sure to tick the ‘whole house’ option if you don’t fancy meeting the homeowners each day. Another mistake we made whilst in Paris was not ticking this. We didn’t mind ultimately, but we did find it strange that the owner was still at the house. That is, until we realised we hadn’t ticked the all important ‘home alone’ button.

Despite any booking errors we may have faced in the past, staying with a host family is always a very enriching experience. I’ll admit that it’s more of a solo traveller / couples travel option, but if children are welcome then why not just book the whole house instead for a fun family experience?


Will you take the plunge?

I think it’s clear to see that I am a hostel kind of girl. Be it a private room, or a communal room, it’s all good to me. Don’t forget to read my blog ‘Myth Busting: Hotels – To stay or not to Stayfor a real insight into why I view Hostels as being the best.

Camping serenissma in Venice Italy is a hostel and a camping ground pitch up a tent of stay in the bungalows pictured by the grassWhy not push the boat out and stay in a hostel camp site!? Camping Serenissma in Venice offers private bungalows or tent space, and even has a restaurant and pool!

Next time you book your accommodation for your holiday perhaps you may take a step back and consider just how much you could save to spend on enjoying expensive foods or activities, rather than on the £100 room that you could have got for £20 elsewhere.

Happy Booking!

Myth Busting: Hostels – To stay or not to Stay

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, accommodation, couples travel, destination, europe, holiday, home, hostel, hotels, travel

A significant part of your travelling experience lies in the places that you choose to call home each night. Whilst you may not return home with wondrous stories about the incredible comfort levels hidden within the mattress, or the delicious breakfast you ate each morning – the chances are that you will always recall the things that made the accommodation terrible.

When booking my stay anywhere in the world I look at five factors. 1. Is it close to the main attractions. 2. Are the rooms clean and comfortable. 3. Am I paying a decent amount for what is on offer. 4. Will I have somewhere other than my room to hang out in the evening, and 5. How well has the space been rated by past experienced travellers.

I hope that by confronting some of your doubts and answering some of your questions with real experience I can bring you to book your first hostel stay somewhere.


1. You said: I’m not sharing a bedroom with anyone I don’t know. So I might as well just stay in a hotel room anyway.

I say: If you really don’t want to stay with anyone random then the answer is simple, don’t stay with random people. Booking a private room in a hostel is easy and will still save you a large amount of cash. Let’s look at an example I have stayed in –

Where we stayed: The Secret Garden Hostel – Krakow, Poland. 5 nights, two beds for £160 total.

For just £160 we stayed in a lovely private twin bed room with ensuing, TV, cleaning service, common room, kitchen area, and free city maps.

This hostel has family vibes – meaning you are unlikely to be awoken by noisy party goers at 2am in the morning. If you like your privacy and like being slightly out of the centre of town then The Secret Garden hostel is an excellent choice.

If you want breakfast included then you only need to pay a small fee for this, or why not pop to the grocery store just a 2 minute walk away and make your own?

If you opt for one of the many Hotels in the area you will notice ( with a quick search on booking.com ) that you will be lucky for find a room for 5 nights for two people, and under £350.

Choosing a private twin room in a hostel in Krakow saved us £190.

Secret garden hostel in Krakow Poland room with twin bed and green cupboards. This homely hostel got mums seal of approval with its pristine, pretty, and private rooms.

2. You said: Hostels are for young people.

I say: No they’re not!

Where we stayed: Basecamp Bonn – Bonn, Germany. Suitable for all ages.

This quirky hostel offers a very varied environment, and by varied I mean – you can stay in the train carriage a private caravan a tour bus and more, all housed in a giant warehouse of fun.

Whilst younger visitors might opt to stay in the entirely cramped tour bus, older travellers can opt for the privacy and spaciousness of a private caravan for the night. The hostel offers traditional fun boardgames for the younger visitors (not that it stopped us from playing) and a mature atmosphere for the older ones.

If staying in a caravan isn’t your thing then there are plenty of other options available for all the travellers in the world of hostels. All you have to do is set your preferences wisely when searching, and if mobility is an issue then check the facilities and the location before you book.

In the peaceful town of Bonn, Germany is this bonkers hostel. Housed under one huge warehouse sit a renovated train carriage, private caravans, and tour buses to sleep in!

In the peaceful town of Bonn, Germany is this bonkers hostel. Housed under one huge warehouse sit a renovated train carriage, private caravans, and tour buses to sleep in!


3. You said: I’m not sharing a bathroom!

I said: Whilst it can be hard to find, hostels with private bathrooms do exist.

Where we stayed: Villa Varich – Chumphon, Thailand private ensuit.

Ok, ok, so this hostel isn’t on Hostelworld anymore because it wasn’t technically a hostel, but as the owner was just starting out these private villas were placed on Hostelworld and for bargain price. It’s just so great not feature it here. This does however raise an interesting point about being meticulous in your search for the perfect private bathroom.Once again I urge you to set your preferences to private ensuite and searching for a decent hostel with a private bathroom. Who knows you might just stumbled upon something is great as Villa Varich!

Jemma and irfan outside selfie by the river on the swing in Thailand With the villas on the river front it would have been rude not to take a self on the swing.

4. You said: I don’t want to party all the time. I just want to read with some light entertainment.

I said: party hostels are all around but if you search with the correct preferences you will find a hostel that suits you perfectly without all the loud music.

Where we stayed: Easy Tiger is an incredible hostel located in Phong Ngha, Vietnam.

Whilst from the booking websites this may seem like an incredibly rowdy hostel you couldn’t be more wrong. You’ll also be pleased to know (for those of you that wanted a private bathroom recommendation) that rooms with four beds in one private bathroom or available.

Upon entering your room you will be greeted by tiger print walls, floors, bedding – you name it! The rooms have thick walls keeping all outside noise out. Scheduled musicians and other interesting acts play in the evenings for your entertainment whilst you grab a bite to eat from their yummy restaurant.

I also recall there being a pool, pool tables, and a theme of supporting good causes.

Hills and mountains in phong nha Thailand by easy tiger hostelThe entire hostel is surrounded by incredible 360 views such as this. You also get an awesome wrist band upon entry.

5. You said: I’ve heard stories. Hostels just aren’t safe!

I say: To date, I have yet to be robbed of anything, nor attacked in some dark hallway. I’ve thought that I’ve been robbed a few times by then realise I just dropped my things next to my bed.

Where we stayed: Asta Venice, Venice, Italy. The locker is under your bed, and bag storage options are available.

some hostels have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to security, but we were pleased to see that Asta has nailed the locker system. Although Asta has done a good job, always travel with a minimum of two padlocks as most hostels or not supply them for you free of charge.

Many of the newer hostels you will notice have cameras around the building and outside rooms (which by the way most hotels only have cameras in the lobby). If you notice any suspicious behaviour, notify the staff (as you would anywhere else) and you will be just fine.

Anda Venice hostel entrance sign. Modern Art DecoAnda Venice is the trendiest hostel inVenice offering security, young fun vibes, and funky decor.

Berlin: Things to know before you go

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, couples travel, destination, europe, holiday, home, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend, return, review, shock, travel, volunteering

Getting in:

Flying into Berlin is a pain free, quick, and easy process that is truly reflective of that good old stereotypical German efficiency .

Shame about the train stations… The train stations that baffle and bewilder many a tourist ruin the efficiency illusion in an instant and, if you don’t speak German, will have you wishing that you had listened more in German class (if you even had the option to learn it).

Unless you have arranged a pickup, I strongly recommend that you research the route to your chosen destination BEFORE you get on the plane. If you are staying in Berlin then you will probably find that the S Bahn is your best option. Type your route into google maps and print it before you leave home. Google maps has a tendency to be rather incredible without shoving your stupidness in your face.

blue sky clouds Germany

 

When to go:

Berlin is a city that can be visited all year round with no real limitations to activities due to weather conditions. Just bare in mind that if you want to climb a tall building (because there are so many here) to get a great view, this is not going to happen when it’s poring with rain or foggy outside.

Remember that Sunday afternoons and public holidays can be quieter, with many museums and shops being closed.

Money:

The currency is Euro. Berlin can be expensive in and around popular tourist sites. Despite this, it is easy enough to find cheap food if you venture into the suburbs. Kebab shops, burger stops and chippies are never more than a five minute pace away.

Getting around:

The Sbhan is the easiest way around the city. If underground trains aren’t for you then grab a map and explore on foot. Many attractions are close to each other so you shouldn’t have to walk too far between sights. Typical to most European cities, Berlin’s inhabitants do fall prey to telling tourists that “it’s too far to walk” and that they should “take the train because it’s faster and easier”. At least once I challenge you to ignore the nice citizen and go on foot to see if it really is too far. And if come back and it was too far… Well, I’m sorry and I’m sure you made memories that made it worth it anyway right!?

Things to do:

Reichstag dome – Tickets must be purchased online in advance of your visit or you will be refused entry. Allow 15-20 minutes to get through the quick security checks before you enter. Upon entering through the mini airport security you will be transported by an elevator up into the huge dome that sits on top of the reichstag. Audio guides are free and automatically feed you information as you scale higher and higher into the sky. If you are scared of heights you may want to think twice as the majority of the dome is glass, so not looking down is not really an option! germany architecture berlij

Brandenburg Gate & Around – The gate is situated near some of Berlin’s other main sights and is usually tourist heavy. Before heading here have a walk through the Jewish Monument situated a ten minute walk away. Both the gate and the monument make a big impression at night when the lights come on.

History:

It is almost impossible to go to Berlin and not learn a little about the history it possesses. Going down to see the remaining wall is an interesting visit along with Checkpoint Charlie (be warned that it gets very crowded with tourists), and free museums such as the Topographie des Terror (a highlight of our trip).

Not so central – Venturing out of the centre is highly recommended. Just in the train and explore outer Berlin for some spectacular sights and entertaining things to do. Parks, museums, and more are easy to find.

olympic rings outside berlin stadium

A place to stay:

If you are looking for a decent place to stay then Plus Berlin Hostel is great. The hostel is by far the biggest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and with a swimming pool, family friendly rooms, common rooms, restaurant, gardens and even its own art exhibition,it’s as though this hostel made love to a hotel and produced this huge beast. Staying in a dorm here was strange. The rooms were cleaned daily with cute chocolate pieces left on your pillow. Fresh towels were on the foot of the bed when you came back from a days adventures ( see! Just like a hotel right). The pool was a great addition. On one of the days when it was raining we opted for a swimming session which was totally worth it. The food was reasonable for dinner, and the all you can eat breakfast buffet was delicious. Every smart traveller knows – get up a little later and make the buffet a brunch instead of a breakfast for optimum money saving.

plus berlin hostel in central berlin

Extras:

 

Vibes- The general vibe in Berlin is a friendly yet equally standoffish vibe. Kind of like London but with less rushing and more chit chatting. An example of the humour and lightheartedness of Berlin was when I asked a guy if he would take a photo of us. He joked saying that he could not… I didn’t get the joke and stood apologising for even asking, embarrassed. My boyfriend, the comedian, and his friend found it hilarious and laughed at my expression.

Bears, green men, and red women-

If you really pay attention to your surroundings you will notice things that people often miss. Sadly for the unobservant (and I’ve asked around) many people return from Berlin having not seen a single bear statue. Considering its significance here it is sad that they have not one photo or memory of seeing one. Sadly, these same people also have no idea what I’m taking about when I ask them what they thought of the traffic light people. They stare at me blankly… “There are entire shops dedicated to the little people inside the traffic lights! How could you miss them?!” It turns out they just weren’t looking hard enough. Therefore, my recommendation is to pay close attention.

Overall thoughts:

Berlin for me is a standard city of art, culture, history, business and pleasure. Personal preference sways me to feel no real urge to return. A controversial feeling I am aware. Personally, having seen Potsdam, Dresden and Bonn I find that I prefer these smaller jewels for reasons of which I’m not quite sure. But why does it matter? Make up your own mind and get to travelling! berlin map on the berlin wall british and german

5 Things You Learn From… Travelling With Your Boyfriend

1 week, 2 months, 3 months, a month, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, couples travel, destination, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, long weekend

Before jumping aboard the “couples travel” train I was quite against the idea of exploring with anyone other than myself. Why exactly? I’m not quite sure. I guess there is a common misconception that travelling alone means that you have more freedom of choice. I have learnt from travelling with a partner that this is (thankfully) not necessarily true, and that travelling with a partner can actually cause you to end up going to places you love that you had you been alone wouldn’t otherwise have gone to.

Here is what traveling with him has taught me:

1) You should always, always, always pack an extra day bag. Our first trip away together was to Rome. It was a dream for the following reasons. Whilst we explored… A) I carried my stuff. B) He carried his stuff. The end.

By the second trip away together however, we had obviously got comfortable with each other because well, let’s just say that if I have to carry his stuff because he forgot to pack a spare bag AGAIN then there will be trouble.

Now every time we plan a trip and start packing my first conversation with him is “have you packed a spare bag” to which his answer is usually “na, I’ll just carry my stuff in my hands”… (what he means is, “no i’ll butter you up and you’ll be carrying my stuff before you know it”

Berlin Wall. Irfan Chaudhary No Bag Hoodie Nike

Enjoying the Berlin Wall museum… Bagless

 

2) When he suggests going to somewhere you think you will hate you should just say yes and go along. The most notable examples here are Disney Land Paris and Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.

Dead set against going to Disney I moaned as he pressured me into coming with him. (By pressured I mean that he bought tickets and I thought meh it’s free why not.) When we arrived at Disney Land I absolutely transformed into a huge child. It became less about him geeking out, and more about me wanting to have a photo taken with Mickey Mouse and watch the princess show. Our time there was nothing short of FUN. Possibly the most fun ever.

The Olympic Stadium also hadn’t appealed to me. Being the supportive girlfriend that I am I said yes. It’s only fair that you both get to see things you enjoy right? Although it wasn’t quite as thrilling as Disney World I had to admit that the stadium was an impressive site, and I left there happy to have seen it in the flesh.

Jemma and Irfan in front of the disney Land castle in paris

Disney For Life

 

3) You will become a pro at masking your embarrassment (usually to do with his bad habits) and, at lying to other travellers to cover your partners back. I won’t go into too much detail here, but when your sharing a dorm in a hostel and your other half blocks the toilet, in one of the coolest and cleanest hostels ever, because “the plumbing is different than England”… you will find yourself pretending you know absolutely nothing about it. “Yea I know it’s gross, it was like that when we got here” you will say to the desperate, tired travellers who really need to pee but can’t. Your boyfriend will smile at you in solidarity, and you will never speak of it again. Until the next blockage. (Or you decide to write about it in your blog) – sorry Irfan ❤️

Sitting above the elephants on the right hand side in our mahut clothingAn embarrassment free day at the Elephant Nature Park.

 

4) You will always end up playing the role of 1) the head of logistics 2) linguistic guide and, 3) chief ideas generator.

“I’m taking you somewhere” he will say beaming from ear to ear. You will arrive in the country of his choice and await his instructions on where to go from the airport. Only to be greeted with “how are we getting to the hostel?”

This truly is when you realise how much you like them, because if you didn’t you would probably just walk away and make your own way there without them.

Being the loving person that you are you will get your phone out, google maps the data right out of your phone, walk up to random strangers and ask for directions in your best GCSE level French – all whilst he tags along behind you until a solution is found.

Note that he WILL make the trip excellent. He just won’t make the journey from the plane to the hostel an easy process.

Irfan Chaudhary and Jemma Reid stood outside the Lourve museum in ParisSometimes getting lost leads to the Louvre!

 

5) You learn how to live with them.

For couples that don’t already live together, travelling with a partner is an excellent test of whether or not you would survive/ put up with/ work well living together. Whether you are travelling for a weekend, a month, or longer seeing how you both cope in stressful situations is a great indication of how you will function as time goes on.

Lucky for us we have found that travelling together is no issue as long as you give each other space sometimes. Whilst on our travels we have met every kind of couple. The ‘glued at the hips’, the ‘I’ll go my way and they’ll go theirs’, the ‘this relationship only works at homes’… We have seen it all.

I’m not saying that we are ‘couple of the year’ (although we come pretty close) but one thing we have definitely learnt is that when you respect each others boundaries and let each other do their own thing, travelling together is easy and fun.

Tips: Exploring Thailand? had enough of staying in dorm rooms? Treat both yourselves to a private villa when in Thailand by staying Villa Varich in Chumphon.

standing on the edge of a cliff in Vietnam whilst on a motorbike tour in Da Lat. Look at that viewVietnam: Separate motorbikes, same shared experience.

 

Happy travels.

Travel Fashion That’s So Bad You Just Have To Try It Out

backpacker, destination, fashion, holiday, long weekend, travel

Ask anyone that knows me and they will tell you that fashion is not something I consider as a priority. That’s why when I’m travelling I’m more than happy to embrace local dress or copy the ‘quirky backpackers’ in the hostel’s fashion choices. I look like an idiot in many a photo, but I strongly recommend you try these fashion ideas out whilst exploring… Here are some tried and tested items.

When in… South East Asia:

Printed trousers (also known as ‘Gap Yah Pants’) – These are the epitome of backpacker fashion and scream “I have a care free attitude’ to all the non shoestring budget travellers. They’ve got zero stretch, making the most basic activities hard, but who cares when you look this cool ?!

Hippy Head Scarf/Wrap – So you were at the vegan hostel for a night and now you think you’re a Greenpeace representative? You bought a cool hippy scarf and you’re ready to show the world how organic you are with your head wrapped in a multicoloured cloth. Yeah, it will probably never see the light of day after your trip… but it makes an excellent sweat band in the ridiculously humid temperatures. Plus you look like a lovely free spirit.

When in… South America :

Never before worn hiking boots – There’s always that one backpacker that’s hobbling behind the rest of the gang because they didn’t wear their boots in. Despite the pain they will carry on because they look super outdoorsy and adventurous. If you’re nice you’ll give them the blister plasters your mum told you would “come in handy”.

When in… any country in the world:

Universally accepted alcohol advertisement shirts – When I went to Tanzania advertising the local beer ‘Tusker’ (hilarious as I wasn’t even old enough to drink yet). It may have been the elephant on the front, or the slogan “baada ya kazi” (enjoy your drink) written on the back that made me so compelled to buy it. Regardless, I bought it, and 8 years later I still have it, along with multiple other beer shirts from other global locations. The funny thing is. I don’t drink beer. Weird right?

Bracelet heaven. Forgotten what your wrists look like? Me too. When you get bored of buying magnets for your eclectic fridge it’s time to switch to bracelets. The best part is being able to tell a story about your travels to all those who admire them. The worst part is when you lose one or it falls off. When my Tanzanian bead bracelet snapped in a hostel in Germany I may have had a little cry in the middle of the dorm 👀.

When in… Europe:

The borrowed life guard jacket – All you need to know is that I borrowed one, did a slow motion Baywatch run down the beach, had a photo, pretended to be a life guard, freaked out when a kid hurt himself and thought I could help him, and gave the jacket back. Why wouldn’t you get one?

Socks and sandals – You know it’s a bad look when people would rather see your bare feet than what you are currently displaying to the world… Let me just clarify one thing. I do not endorse this look. Especially if you have sandals that go in between your toes. How do you even grip the shoe??? Anyway, if you are a wearer of the sock and sandal. I salute you for your courage, but I do not applaud you.

Whatever your quirky travel fashion choices are, continue to embrace them as I continue to observe, laugh, and join in!