PeruHop and me

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A colleague of mine. and fellow Peru lover, had recommended PeruHop following her trip to the incredible country.

Whilst I am usually the “you can go your own way” public transport kind of gal, I was also aware that I was attempting to see the whole of Peru (well as much as possible) in just over two weeks – just under half the amount of time that she had spent exploring the diverse country.

Expect to be fully immersed in Peruvian culture

With such little time but so much we wanted to see and do, we figured that the sensible option was to book with PeruHop – the seemingly smooth sailing company, for ease of travel.

Planning our route

After trawling the PeruHop website for which bus route we wanted to take we decided on the ‘Full South to Cusco’ option. The payment was quick, and when weighing up how much it would have cost us to take separate buses, flights, and taxi’s we were satisfied that the cost justified the journey.

The optional yet included cultural bus options, whereby the PeruHop gang whisk you away on a mini tour or take you for dinner en route, only further affirmed our ‘bang for your buck’ rationale.

Pisco tour sign at the entrance in Peru

One of the excursions included a free tour to learn about the creation of Pisco

The dashboard and PeruHop interface online is basic (in a good way). Your itinerary is laid out really clearly and you can change your pick up locations, dates, and times really easily.

Wanting to have as stress-free of an experience as possible, we organised most of our pick-up locations and hostels before arriving in Peru.

Tip; If you change your mind about where you want to stay, or be picked up from, you can always opt for editing your choices closer to the time which is great for rogue wanderers.

Hostel Pick-Up Points

My partner and I aren’t what you call “party people” so for us we were a little worried about the recommended hostel lists provided as pick up locations by PeruHop as we had heard that many of them were quite rowdy.

Instead of plucking any hostel from their lists uninformed, we did a little research into each hostel settling on some of the quieter and less popular options.Whilst you can book a hostel that’s not available on the pick-up list, we decided that we simply couldn’t be bothered with lugging our backpacks to and from pick up points, hence the choice of PeruHop’s.

Bananas hostel in Huaccachina Peru

Bananas hostel in Huaccachina was B-E-A Beauuutifulll

The Overnight Bus

During the two weeks we spent two nights on the PeruHop bus. We considered this another justification as to why this was worth the money. We would have paid around £20-30 for a private room anyway so this was definitely worth the money -that is, if we had a decent sleep whilst aboard.

Luckily enough the bus ride was smooth and we managed to sleep for a decent enough proportion of the night. The seats were

Arrivals and Departures

Having spent time in various places around the world I am all too aware that not everyone operates with the same efficiency in mind. With this open minded attitude I anticipated long delays, slow drop-offs, and late pick-ups. Yet, to my surprise, the bus was always pretty much on time and always where they said they would be.

Getting that free T-shirt

If You take the route that we took you will end up in Cusco. From the Main Square the office can be found by walking up the narrow alley until you eventually turn left.

Upon arriving at the office you will be welcomed by a friendly PeruHop member of staff. Then you be asked to complete a short survey about your PeruHop experience, (make sure you take note of the hosts names as you will be asked to provide feedback on your favourite guides).

So they complete its time to try on some shirts and select the comfiest size!

Is PeruHop for you?

For us, PeruHop Offered us an incredible service that made it easy to see everything we wanted to see and more in the diverse land of Peru.

Along the way we met many travellers that had used public transport for the bulk of their journey, but had decided to give this service a try to finish up their trip comfortably. The resounding reviews seemed to be very positive.

I’d seen on the website that many people had made lots of friends during their trips. Whilst this wasn’t our main aim when choosing PeruHop, we found ourselves heading to the market with a lovely Canadian couple, adding friends on Instagram, and joking around with people on the bus when they reclined the chairs just a little bit too far. Our Machu Picchu Pals

We loved PeruHop and we think you will too.

How to make the most of your time in Luxembourg City

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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!

Budapest: Feeling Outdoorsy – Top 5

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Feel like exploring the great outdoors? No problem. This guide will help you in finding the best outdoor activities for you.

I had a tough time choosing just 5 of the top outdoor activities! There are so many more but these should get you started…

No. 1 – Heroes’ Square

As you walk up to the entrance of City Park it’s hard not to miss the impressive structure that is Heroes’ Square.

This historic Square is significant to the history of Hungary playing host to statues of several important Hungarian leaders.

Heroes Square in Budapest Hungary.

Just one part of this huge square.

Travel Tip: If you don’t want to walk up to hero’s square then jump on the metro to Hősök tere where the Square will be waiting for you directly opposite.

No. 2 – Gellerts Hill, and the Citadel

In the morning head up the steep steps and slopes of Gellerts Hill for incredible views over Budapest and a close up view of the Liberty Statue.

The liberty statue in Budapest Hungary with blue skies

The Liberty Statue in Budapest, Hungary.

During the uphill climb there are benches scattered throughout so that you can chill out whenever you need to.

One you get to the top real the benefits with a stroll around the fort to admire the view.

View over Budapest from the citadel where you can see the Danube river. Hungary.

Worth the hike? Definitely.

Travel Tip: Toilets are situated directly in front of the walk-up entrance but you will need to pay to go.

No. 3 – The Danube River Promenade

We unintentionally found ourselves walking across the Danube river multiple times to admire the views on foot rather than from the tram.

Head for the Pest side of the river and admire the statues and memorials by the waters edge.

Sunset in Budapest from the promenade with a statue sat on the fence.

Ain’t no sunset like a Budapest sunset.

Keep walking and you will encounter the Parliamentary building in its full glory. If looking at it from the outside isn’t enough then get online and book onto a tour.

Parliament from the other side of the river

Travel Tip: Short on time? Jump on the tram to get from one side of the river to the other.

No. 4 – City Park & Vajdahunyad Castle

If the weather is nice take a stroll through City park and discover Vajdahunyad Castle and it’s fairy tale style grounds.

Jemsadventures girl with statue sat down in Budapest castle

Take a seat and admire the view

If you are a lover of architecture, moats, and selfie-worthy statues then the castle grounds are easy to spend an hour or so milling around in.

The park itself is large, family, dog, an bike friendly. If you want to cover all areas of the park then bring a picnic and allow a couple of hours to chill and enjoy the fresh air to its fullest.

Travel Tip: In low season the moat may be empty!

No. 5 – Buda Castle & Fisherman’s Bastion

One of our favourite activities whilst in Budapest was strolling around Buda Castle.

Whilst there’s lots to do inside the buildings within the castle we much preferred walking in between the main attractions.

Soldiers display at Buda Castle.

Soldiers march at Buda Castle.

Don’t underestimate the size of this giant castle. We spent a whole 3 hours here one day and even popped back for a further 2 hours on our last day.

Travel Tip: Fisherman’s Bastion is just behind Matthias Church. It’s easy to miss so keep an eye out!

Not our style… But you might enjoy

Monument Park

This was on our backup list if we ran out of things to do. Unfortunately we missed this attraction but we did hear good things about it. I’m summary (As told by our hostel) ” basically they just took all the old communist statues that no one wanted to look at any more and dumped them in a park”.

The Music Fountain

The music fountain is (as told by the hostel people) “Yea its a cool colourful fountain that lights up at night. Don’t go there in the day because it’s boring.” Take this advice as you see fit.

Budapest: The Great Indoors – Top 5

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Welcome to the indoor activities of Budapest!

Here is a top 5 guide to staying indoors and having a great time whilst there.

These activities are perfect for when you are feeling adventurous but the weather just isn’t on your side.

No. 1 Szimpla Ruin Bar

“What is a ruin bar?” I hear you ask.

Ruin Bars are what they say on the tin- bars that have been built within the ruins of abandoned buildings in district VII of Budapest. They aren’t just your typical bar that you would find at at home.

Budapest is buzzing with ruin bars and they are well worth the visit.

Our local (and favourite) Ruin Bar had to be Szimpla. Upon entering it was a feast for the eyes, ears, nose, and any other sense you had yet to discover.

Szimpla Ruin bar during he day. Art work and graffiti on the walls

Szimpla’s walls come to life with art and graffiti.

From the outside you could be fooled into believing that you are about to walk into a steampunk underground rave.

An exciting line up of activities, performance, and other goings on can be found on the website or on the program guide.

Whilst we were there, this gem of a building played host to life drawing classes, open mic fun, Kraft beer, cocktails, foozball, art showings, and so much more.

Szimplas shisha pipes under a vintage “angels” sign

It’s never a dull night in the shisha room.

Travel Tips: Go at night for the full effect, and poke your head in during the day for a brighter perspective. The food is a little pricier but it’s also super yummy.

Entry is free of charge and you can expect a quick frisk search if you are coming in later in the evening.

Szimpla Kert website: https://szimpla.hu

No. 2 – Dohány Street Synagogue

The largest synagogue in Budapest is easy to miss nestled in amongst rows of buildings upon buildings on Dohány Street.

The outside is beautifully designed, and the inside is a treat that is well worth the admission fee.

The main room of the Jewish synagogue on Dohány street.

The main room of Dohány Street Synagogue.

Upstairs you will find a quaint museum where you will learn all about Jewish culture and the history of Jews in Hungary. Downstairs you can admire the many memorials and learn about the tragic past of the Synagogue by way of countless memorials and photographs.

Memorial for Jewish people that have passed away.

Memorials to those Jews who have passed.

Travel Tip: Men will be asked to cover their heads with a card kippah given out at the entrance, or (if you have one) you may wear your own hat.

No. 3 – House of Terrors

This museum offers an interactive and fully immersive education through activities, slow moving lifts (you will understand once you’ve been there), and excellently themed decor.

House of terror in Budapest outside view.

This exterior roof makes The House of Terror hard to miss.

Whilst inside you will learn about the fascist and communist regimes in 20th century Hungary like never before.

Once you have paid admission and left your bag with the free cloakroom you will be directed to the top floor before working your way down until you are in the basement of the museum.

Inside the house of terror in Budapest is a tank and a wall of victims faces.

Many of the victims and a tank are visible as you enter.

Travel Tips: On a budget? Rather than pay for an audio guide, read the sheets of paper situated on the walls of each room and read about everything for yourself. Hungry? A small cafe is located inside the entrance.

House of Terror website – http://www.terrorhaza.hu/hu

No. 4 – Matthias Church

If you think this church is grand from the outside then just wait until you get inside.

Located within the centre of Buda Castle this one is pretty impossible to miss. The funky colours of the external roof tiles are just the tip of the design-berg as you are greeted with a splash of colours within the church walls.

Matthias church from the outside you can see the white spires and mosaic roof

This impressive church is hard to miss!

Head upstairs for information on the late Queen Elisabeth and information about how the church was built and its history.

Statue of The late Queen Elisabeth of Hungary in front of stain glass windows

The late Queen Elisabeth of Hungary.

Travel Tip: The church is made child friendly by its array of interactive touch screen games in the upstairs rooms.

Matthias church website: https://www.matyas-templom.hu

No. 5 – The Labyrinth

This underrated attraction is enough to make a grown man fearful of the dark. When we had purchased our tickets the woman on the front desk told us the following…

1. Don’t panic if you get lost because we can see you on the cameras

2. You will have no phone signals don’t worry.

True enough, but when you can’t tell your left from your right because it’s so dark; knowing that someone is probably laughing at you in a cctv room offers little comfort.

Opera re-enactment within the Labyrinth

Do you hear opera music?

Why not pay an educational visit to these dark tunnels whilst up at Buda Castle to spice things up a bit. Yes there will be moments of “are we going to be stuck here forever” but if you follow the arrows instead of winging it you will be just fine.

Travel Tip: Your phone torch won’t work in the tunnels that are full of smoke! The light bounces right back at you.

Labyrinth website: http://labirintus.eu

Not our cup of tea… But it might be yours.

Thermal Baths

During our stay in Budapest the question of whether or not to enjoy the thermal baths cake up a lot. Ultimately we decided it just wasn’t something we wanted to do. If it is your kind of thing then Király and Rudy and Gellert Thermal Baths came highly recommended by numerous people.

Opera House

Feeling fancy? If you are then head for the Hungarian State Opera for a tour. Admiring the outside was enough for us, but you may want to witness its grandeur from within.

Hungarian State Opera website: https://www.opera.hu/programme

Whatever you end up doing you will have a wonderful time in Budapest I’m sure of it.

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

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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!

Stopping for some grass to eat whilst on horseback. There is a brown horse called Charlie and a white horse called Tim.

Horse Riding in Bled, Slovenia

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The Build Up

Wanting to experience something different whilst in Bled, Slovenia I proposed the idea of Horse riding to Irfan. Excited to become the next John Wayne he agreed it was an excellent idea.

“You’ll ache so much” people warned us.

“You won’t want to do anything the next day, so make sure you have time to recover.” others advised.

Blissfully ignorant to the aches and pains of riding a horse, Irfan and I continued to live in the dream. The dream that we would be galloping around the mountains on our beautiful mustangs, reins in one hand, cowboy hat in the other, and slow-mo trotting in amongst the trees.

I had booked the experience online with 3GlavAdventures prior to leaving the UK. At just 50 Euros each for over an hour of riding we would have been silly not to have booked the experience. I found the adventure company via random Google searches. The reviews looked good, the prices were reasonable, and the horses looked well cared for. With no booking fee to worry about I booked it and paid the invoice a few days later.

3glavadventures horse riding booking , 3 glav adventures , Bled

Communication before the activity was great. We were both notified by text as to when the driver would come and collect us. When he was running late we received another update. The driver that came to pick us up was chatty and friendly, and turned out to be the son of the farmer that owned the horses.

He transported us up towards the mountains that formed the backdrop to our walk into the centre of Bled until we reached a small farm.

Jumping out of the car we were greeted by the owner of the horses. He encouraged us to say hello to the horses so that they knew who we were before straddling their backs and whisking them uphill.

Shortly after arriving another couple arrived to complete our party of 4. Knowing that the riding group was small which was a relief. With just 4 of us taking part it was nice to know that the two instructors would have their full attention on us if anything were to go wrong. Now came the horse assignments.

Irfan was given Tim – Tim was an elderly grey with lazy tendencies and a handsome head of white hair. He was also notoriously stubborn, strong willed, and would remain at the back of the line throughout the journey.

Ifran in a helpment getting ready to ride the horse called Tim around the mountains in Bled Slovenia

I was assigned to Charlie – Charlie was a big brown beauty with a tendency to stop and eat anything and any given time. If you let him have his head, the chances were that he would be bending down to find food.

Charlie the brown horse in Bled Slovenia being ridden in a yellow topMe and Charlie.

Time to Ride

Without any teaching we were hoisted up onto the horses. Instinctively (and i’m sure thanks to watching many movies with horses in) we all grabbed the reins, tapped the horses side with our feet and began to walk out of the farm.

Whilst exiting the farm we were instructed on how to turn the horse by pulling the reins one way or another. Having ridden this path many times it was highly unlikely that the horses would decide to go off course, or be diverted by our terrible riding skills.

Entering the main road locals and tourists stared at us. Children waved, and cars slowed to allow us to pass. Ten minutes or so later we approached a steep rocky hill. We all seemed to stare at our horses for a moment in fear that we may fall off backwards. “You’ve got this Charlie” I encouraged him.

Stopping for some grass to eat whilst on horseback. There is a brown horse called Charlie and a white horse called Tim.

Our trusty steeds made it up the steep pass and onto the small town road. As we all began to feel comfortable the horse leading the group began to trot. Our horses followed and the results were hysterical. The other girl in our group let out a little scream, Irfan and I clung on for dear life, and the other guy nervously laughed as we all bounced up and down.

We were given a quick lesson on how to rise up in the saddle and fall back into the saddle. This was not easy.

Stopping for a drink

Following our little uncontrollable trot we wound up in a huge lush green field. The horses knew that this was feeding time. We gave the horses their heads and they all began to feast. Nearby stood a small restaurant, and out of it came a smiling woman with a silver tray. Approaching us without a second thought she raised the tray beside me offering me a shot.

Despite not being a lover of alcohol I took the shot in good spirit. I was definitely allergic to the berries at the bottom of the glass, but not wanting to offend I drank the fruit concoction. “Nazdravyeah” (not the correct spelling) we all said attempting to sound Slovenian.

Handing the glasses back to the lady it was time for us to move on. We continued out scenic walk up to a small lake. Here, the leader of the group jumped off his horse before offering to take photographs of us all. This was unexpected but appreciated. After all, there’s only so many pictures you can take of the back of a horses head.

Letting the brown horse called Charlie eat some fresh grass. Nice hair Charlie!

The leader jumped back on his horse and led us up a small pathway and then down into a shallow stream. The thought of our horses navigating the rocks and slippery surface was scary. Once again reassured Charlie as the others reassured their horses. Luckily for us they were all sure footed and to reward them we stood a while in the cool stream and allowed the horses to cool off and take a drink.

Back We Go

The stream had sufficiently cooled our horses down but now it was time for some more sight seeing. We had been riding for a while now, and the stirrups were beginning to ache our feet. It was also becoming clear that our bottoms were bonier than we first thought, and why cowboys seem to walk with their legs so far apart.

This was that aching feeling that we were warned about.

Exploring through the trees up in the hills we all became a little cocky and begun taking selfies here and there. Everyone managed to keep hold of their phones, but decided that horse riding was best done with two hands on the reins.

The horses completed a loop of the undergrowth before heading back to the lush fields. This time we were to walk through the fields without stopping for a a snack. Charlie and Tim however had clearly not agreed to this plan and both begun fighting for their reins to be let loose. Being the push overs that we are, Irfan and I let the reins go and allowed them another quick snack before catching up with the rest of the group.

Taking a break from horse riding to let the horse, Tim, eat some fresh green grass by the pond / lake in Bled, Slovenia.

The road back was beautiful and sad. Heading back to the farm meant that our time with Charlie, Tim, and the others was almost up. We could have spent another hour and a half at least riding through the hills. The roads were clear so we all had another go at moving a little faster. We had still not perfected the rise and fall motion, but it was fun trying, if not painful.

The end is Neigh

Arriving back at the farm we dismounted our horses. “Oh my gosh” exclaimed the other two riders holding their knees. Still atop of my horse I looked at them confused. There was nothing wrong with my knees…  I jumped down from Charlie. “Ouch my knees!” I joined in. Somehow our knees had all begun to ache. This was extremely strange as the only pain we had felt throughout the whole journey was in our butts and our ankles!

We all stood on the ground a while and stretched our legs to relieve the aching. We now believed that we would ache the next day, but not from using our muscles, instead it would be from the bouncing and our bones clattering against the saddle.

We had all formed a bond with them over the past few hours and notably sad to be leaving them. Whilst the incredible father and son duo de-saddled the horses and took two of them inside Irfan and I stayed a while longer to stroke and thank the horses (as you do) for being gracious hosts. An adorable stable kitten came to say hi as the horses were allowed to run freely around the farm fields.

It was time to go. We reluctantly got back in the car and drove away from this incredible place. As we stared back out of the window Tim dropped to the ground and began happily writhing and rolling around on the cold grass putting on a mini show as we departed.

We were dropped back at our hostel and were left wanting to take up horseriding as a permanent hobby.

A panorama shot whilst on horseback of the mountains and the small pond / rive up in the mountains of Bled in Slovenia

Overall Experience

The entire experience was fantastic and really made an impression on us. Bled is beautiful, but even more so when being seen from horseback.

The horses were well cared for, the price was fair, and the owners were friendly.

Booking the riding was made easy by excellent communication, and the spot of wine made for a very uplifting afternoon.

We would definitely do this again.

Jemma in the yellow top stroking Tim the white horse before we begin horseriding around Bled in Slovenia

A whirlwind tour of… Belgium

1 week, holiday, itineraries, itinerary, travel, whirlwind

Country: Belgium

Time spent: 2 nights and 2 days

Places Visited: Bruges and Brussels

Friday: Hoping to spend as much time as possible in Belgium we set off on the Eurostar on Friday night from London St. Pancras. With French border control in a pleasant mood I was able to obtain a brand new stamp in the passport. Begging is required.

We arrived promptly in Brussels Midi Station. Feeling tired and ready for bed we headed straight for the metro. A short ride later we were in Louise, and (overestimating my map reading skills) headed down the Long main road towards the hotel… Or so I thought.

Louise by night was a pleasant walk. Charming street lamps, modest nightlife, and high end shops made the walk bearable.

45 minutes of walking later it was clear that I had made a mistake. What should have been a 5 minute walk had taken us 2 miles in the wrong direction. With help from a couple of friendly local women we were put back on track and finally arrived at our hotel – Beau Site.

The man on the reception desk was entirely helpful and welcoming, just what we needed after having dragged our bags around the city. We jumped in the lift, went in the room, took one look at the beds and crashed.

The walk that should not have taken 45minutes.

Saturday morning: Rising early we sat down to a big breakfast before setting out on foot to explore Brussels.

Taking our bags with us to save having to go back to the hotel, we grabbed the tram to go and see the Royal Palace of Brussels and it’s gardens.

With the temperature soaring we lingered just long enough to take in the scenery, some selfies, and sun rays. We then crossed the road and began exploring the surrounding gardens. The gardens were lovely. The statues were interesting, the ducks were swimming in the ponds, and the trees offered shade in the sweltering heat. Approaching the Government Office we made a left and headed for St Michael’s cathedral.

St. Michael’s Cathedral is free to enter with the option to make a donation if you would like to. The interior architecture is a beaut. Walking around you can see why it has taken a decade to renovate. The stain glass windows, statues, and gothic style walls are well worth heading inside for.

If you prefer to observe from the outside take a seat on one of the benches in the park opposite and take in its immense size.

Saturday afternoon:

By the afternoon Brussels had become rather busy and London-esque, we decided to walk to the Central Station just 3 minutes away and head to Bruges.

With trains departing regularly to Bruges there is never any rush to make the next train. We grabbed a quick snack for the journey and hopped aboard the 50 minute train.

Arriving in Bruges it was clear that we had two options. Taxi or bus. Not wanting a repeat of Louise we opted for a taxi to our hotel ‘Hotel de Pauw’ for 14 euros.

The hotel stands opposite a small church which made navigating there was easy. We checked in, dumped our bags, and started exploring.

Strolling down the river we came across a giant blue whale made from recycled plastic by fluke. The whale is a sad yet true poignant reminder of how our oceans are being destroyed by plastic pollution.

We found ourselves sitting and staring at the whale for a good twenty minutes before continuing on our way towards the market town.

Saturday evening:

The market square is the perfect place to spend a half day shopping, eating, and exploring. The road leading to the tower are full of restaurants and so we sat down to an early dinner/late lunch.

Feeling full we continued down the road towards the market square where we were greeted with an impressive view of the tower.

We spent to rest of the evening looking around. Walking under the tower gives you an insight into just why Bruges has its UNESCO status. The history museum (the pictured building on the left with the flags) is great for all ages. We even discovered a virtual reality gaming room if you walk straight through the museum to the other side.

After buying some souvenirs we continued to explore the surrounding streets until we needed up in another square. During the summer months free concerts are held in Bruges. Luckily today was one of those days so we grabbed a bench, enjoyed the music, and soaked in the wonderful buildings surrounding the stage. Eventually the heat got the better of us and we headed back towards the river to chill out and then onto the hotel for a well earned sleep. As we walked through the town there was a notable quietness. It seems that everyone hangs around the main square. This wasn’t a problem, but it was eerily silent.

Sunday morning:

With an early check-out time we rose early and filled up on yet another continental breakfast. With no solid plans for the day I nabbed a couple of bread rolls to feed to the ducks on the river on the way through.

We checked out, took one last look at our church across the road, and went to wake up a little more by the river.

With the swans and ducks of Bruges fed, we decided to head back to Brussels. The quick bus ride back to the station gave just enough time to plan what we were to do in Brussels until our 8pm departure back to England.

We finalised our plans on the train to Brussels. We were going to see the Royal Palace.

After the quietness of Brugge the centre of Brussels was a shock to the system with people flying everywhere. Not wanting to hang around in crowds we marched out of the station and followed the signs for the palace.

There it was! A ten minute walk from the station. Whilst you can go into the palace we opted to admire it from the outside instead picking a nearby restaurant for lunch.

Despite being an obvious trap for tourists we were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices and large portions. Belgians sure do make an excellent club sandwich!

With our time short we used our last hours people watching, art scanning, and statue observing., before heading back to Midi-Station to await the Eurostar home…

And of course, I asked for a passport stamp!

I hope your time here is equally as lovely.

Bruges:What is it good for?

  • Quite strolls down the river
  • Leisurely bike rides
  • Chocolate shops
  • Beer experiences
  • Architecture
  • Chilled town vibes

Brussels: what is it good for?

  • Busy city vibes
  • History tours
  • People watching
  • Shopping
  • Chocolate shops
  • Museums

Thailand, Vietnam – Mini Reviews: The Good And The Bad

2 months, a month, backpack, backpacker, beaches, destination, holiday, itineraries, itinerary

mahut attire at the elephant jungle sanctuary

Howdy!

After having spent a few months exploring the popular, and not so popular, sights of Thailand and Vietnam it’s time to help you all in choosing where you want to go. Whilst I’ve only included a few reviews, we travelled more of the countries and I would strongly recommend you do too!

Whilst in both countries, the big kid on the left and I purposely chose to visit some destinations that weren’t in your average itinerary. The destinations on this list can be visited in depth if you allow a month and or so in each country.

Below you can find the following mini reviews.

Thailand: – *Ayutthaya – *Bangkok – *Chiang Mai – *Chiang Rai – *Chumphon – *Lopburi – *Phuket

Vietnam: – *Dalat – *Ha Long Bay – *Ho Chi Minh – *Hôi An – *Phong Nha

good and bad things about Thailand reviewing the fun and not not fun stuff

Bangkok review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the countryreview the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the countryreview the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Thailand and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Vietam and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Vietam and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Vietam and being there. Mini Review of the country

review the good and bad of Vietam and being there. Mini Review of the country

Happy travelling!

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