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

Nicaragua – Must See List

nicaragua, travel

This country is vastly overlooked by travellers and my question is why? I have put together a brief overview of the key places you should visit based on my 4 cumulative months spent there, and how long to stay in each of the locations.

Ometepe Island

This spectacular island is home to two volcanoes! Do I need to say more? No, but I will.

Rent a bike – thank me later for this suggestion. You will see so much more if you are on limited time. It will be well worth it.

Hire a guide and hike up the volcanos – get those legs moving and climb up the volcanos. Personally I prefer the view form the bottom of the volcano, but if you want the challenge then go for it.

Ometepe display twin volcanos

Petroglyphs – If you are a lover of history then seek out the petroglyphs. Don’t know what they are? Rock art! Ancient rock art.

Hostels – there are some really fun hostels on the island. Have a search on hostel world before selecting the first random hostel you see.

Go nature and monkey sight seeing – you will hear the monkeys in the trees, but can you find them? And can you find the waterfall?

Waterfall in Ometepe

How long? If you are not hiking up the volcanos then 3 or 4 days is plenty.

Masaya

Full of culture, friendly people, excellent nightlife, and beautiful markets.

Things to do:

Laguna De Apoyo – aka The hidden gem of Masaya. My favourite place for a swim in the fresh water lagoon. Panoramic views. Kayak rental, stone beach, restaurants, occasional monkeys and birds… Do not leave this off of your Nicaragua sight seeing tour.

Group shot in the lagoon

Cultural Center Old Craft Market – Get ready to spend all your cash on the amazing hand crafts available here. There are so many things on offer here. Make sure you have room for a hammock or two in your bag.

Near the market you can walk over to visit the Folklore Museum which offers fabulous insight into Nicaraguan culture and history.

Folklore Museum mural

Parque Central – A wonderful place with friendly people and lovely parks to chill out in. Head to the central park for a slice of pizza and wifi. Look around the surrounding bars for a Toña or cafe’s for a nice ice coffee. There are lots of places to jump onto the computer nearby, so bring some change so that you can surf the internet and speak to folks back home when you need to. It is a good idea to base yourself near the park.

Volcano Masaya – This active volcano is well worth visiting. It may be best to join a tour, and if you can visit in the day time and the night time then do it! The contrast is amazing. Its incredible what difference the night sky can make. You can walk to the volcano but the walk is verryyy long. Maybe take a car instead.

Me and Yamil at Volcano Masaya

How long? 4 of five 5 is a great amount of time to see it all.

Leon

Spectacularly colourful. Friendly people with excellent night life.

Cathedral Basilica – visit the biggest cathedral in Latin America for a small price. Admire the architecture and tick it off your list.

Volcano boarding / Volcano sightseeing at Cerro Negro – thrill seekers gather round. I recommend staying at BigFoot hostel for excellent packages and shuttles to experience volcano boarding. The volcano is about 45 minutes away from Leon.

Beaches near Leon – easy commuting distance made easier if staying at BigFoot hostel.

Relaxing in hammocks comes easily in Nicaragua

Walking Tour – find a walking tour and learn about the beauty of Leon.

How long? With day excursions, allow 3 or 4 days.

Granada

This city is the oldest town in Nicaragua and full of Spanish architecture.

Things to do:

Climb the bell tower of Iglesia de La Merced for amazing views across the city. You will need to pay a dólar or two but it is totally worth it.

Visit the Guadalupe Church for a lovely look at the old architecture, then head to the Catedral de Granada for a brightly coloured and completely opposite experience.

Whether you smoke or not, take a tour of the Mombacho Cigar factory. The place is intriguing and you will find their processes intriguing.

Embracing Nicaraguan culture

How long? 1 day or 2 is plenty to see the main sights.

San Juan Del Sur

Surfer paradise, beach vibes only, perfect place to relax and unwind by the sea.

Things to do:

Climb up the hill in my picture below and look out over the sea like a pirate, before coming down to the sand for a necessary sun bathe and sand castle building session. Then jump in the sea to cool off.

Surfing is best done at Playa Maderas if you are experienced and in need of big waves.

Jesus statue – Why not pay a visit to one of the biggest Jesus statues in the world whilst you are here? It is called The Christ of Mercy and costs a couple of dollars to visit.

How long? I love the beach vibe here, so 2, 3, or 4 days can easily be spent here if you love the laid back beach life.

Managua

This bustling city is a bit of a maze. Good luck navigating without a map! There are plenty of bus stops, so getting around is relatively easy.

Things to do:

Antigua Cathedral is a really beautiful location that is well worth visiting. You can spend a good hour exploring and learning about the history of Managua and the building itself.

Shopping – Managua is the perfect place to grab all of your essentials and more. Head for the Centro Comercial Galerías if you want a lot of shops and a cinema, or the smaller Metrocentro.

The best advice for Managua is just to explore. Just ensure you have 3 or 4 days to spend here. There is plenty to see and do. Take walking tours. Head for historical buildings or soak up the bustling city. Use Managua and your entry and exit point for easy access around Nicaragua. Buses are very easy to get from here. Use your spanish and be prepared to get a little lost now and then.

Estelí

Stunning mountains with an abundance of unforgettable views.

Things to do:

Being at one with nature – rivers, mountains, nature. It’s all here in Estelí.

Estelí views are extremely diverse.

“Fat woman” statues – These random statues are beautiful but bizmare. Dotted around Estelí you can expect to find a few of them holding different items. How many can you spot?

El Jalacate – Spend a few hours admiring the creative rock carvings. Paying to enter is not a problem when you see how much work has gone into this place.

How long? Day trips are perfect. But if you are enchanted by the mountains, stay for longer. I stayed for 3 days and have zero regrets.

There are so many things to see and do here! A month overall is recommended if you can get the time so that you can explore these places and more.

I hope that this has helped you plan your perfect Nicaraguan trip.

PeruHop – Peru Journey Plan

2 weeks, a month, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, couples travel, holiday, hostel, itineraries, itinerary, return, review, travel, whirlwind

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.

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!

Animal Lovers – 4 places to go in and around Nairobi

travel

Whether you are an animal lover or not, the pull of magnificent wildlife in Kenya is hard to resist.

The Giraffe Centre

Rothschild Giraffes reside here as part of an incredible conservation effort to increase their numbers. For less than $15 you can enter the Giraffe Centre, feed them, and admire them as they chill out in the sun. If warthogs are more your scene then you’ll appreciate the few that scuttle around under the Giraffe’s feet.

Giraffe kissing someone at the Giraffe centre in Nairobi I said no tongues!

No shouting or loud noises should be made in the centre as the giraffes are easy to scare. To see what else this amazing centre does for the Rothschild Giraffe visit the website: https://www.giraffecentre.org/our-sanctuary/

Giraffes standing to get food from people at the centre in Nairobi

Come face to face with giraffes.

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Open for just an hour or so per day, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust opens its doors for feeding time in a successful effort to raise money to support the elephants that they care for. At around $10 to enter the centre there’s simply no reason not to go.

Elephant drinking water from the hose This cheeky elephant helps himself to the water supply

Tourists pile in the doors to witness the feeding of young elephants and learn about the reasons they live within the trust. Despite the high presence of tourists this centre is not to be missed. It is vital that all generations are continuously reminded of the importance of elephants and the need to conserve them in their entirety… tusks and all.

For more information visit the website and make sure you arrive on time or face disappointment at being turned away: https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

Enough words… just look at these adorable elephants enjoying a drink!

Elephants cool in off by drinking water at the Sheldrick Trust in KenyaTime to cool off

Nairobi National Park

This National park is nestled within the city of Nairobi. It’s bizarre to drive so deep into the habitat of lions, water buffalo, wildebeest, and more, but to still see skyscrapers on the horizon.

The safari is pricey in comparison to the smaller rescue and conservation sites, but the expense is well worth it. With a good driver you can expect to see a lot of wildlife. We even managed to see a rare rhino!

Water buffalo in the sunshine at Nairobi national parkThere are plenty of water buffalo to see in the park

Within the park rests the historic ivory burning site. Marked as a picnic site you can take a moment to learn about the tragedies of Ivory poaching and Kenya’s role in preventing the practice. End ivory poaching. Kenya sign in Nairobi national park.

Elephants are worth more alive…

Lake Naivasha

If you love birds, gazelle, zebra and hippos then Lake Naivasha is he place to go. The lake is north west of Nairobi and best accessed by bus or private car.

The boatmen are full to the brim with animal facts and will assist you in identifying the creatures you see.

Hippos has n the lake. A pod of them you can just see their heads. A pod of hippos play in the lake

Pulling the boat up close to the hippos will be enough to set your heart racing. They will also strive to hep you experience the swooping of an eagle as they throw a fish into the water just meters from where you float. The payment for a boat tour around the enormous lake is per person and lifejackets are supplied. Learn more here: http://www.kws.go.ke/park-activities/viewing-lake-naivasha

Birds gather on lake naivasha in Kenya

Birds galore in Lake Naivasha

Have an excellent time animal spotting in Kenya!

Budapest: Feeling Outdoorsy – Top 5

travel

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

travel

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.

A little bit of Augsburg in my life…

1 week, long weekend, review, travel, whirlwind

It was an unexpected pleasure that I had ended up in the little-known historical city of Augsburg, Germany. Visiting Germany in the winter months has become a sort of an unplanned tradition for me, and despite being one of the largest cities in Bavaria I have yet to meet anyone that has actively travelled there, nor stumbled upon it during their time in the country.

I had come to this little gem, just a stones throw away from Munich, for work purposes, and so there was very little time to explore. But hey! That’s what evenings and early mornings are for… exploring.

With this being my third time in Germany I had some expectations; friendly people, giant beer glasses, a bratwurst dominated menu, Gothic architecture, and cold weather. I was mostly right and the main sites were worth bracing the cold weather in the afternoon!

Augsburg could easily be missed, but if you’ve run out of things to do in Munich then a half day/ day trip here wouldn’t be a mistake. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Mozarthaus

Leopoldo Mozart (Mozarts dad) was born in this humble home, tucked away in amongst surrounding shops and houses. Tours and audio guides are available for those who want to soak in as much information as possible.

Mozarthaus augsburg Germany red museum front. Composer mozart's father was born here.

Mozarthaus museum in Augsburg

2. Maximilianstrasse

Two words, night life. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat, party, dance, or drink then this is the street for it. Maximilianstrasse is full to the brim with excellent bars, restaurants, and necessary chip shops to soak up the German beer. Despite getting lost looking for the “Oyster Bar” which turned out to actually be called the “Auster bar” we had no trouble in finding dinner here.

Just some of the quirky menu options on Maximilianstrasse.

Just some of the quirky menu options on Maximilianstrasse

3. Perlachturm Tower and Town Hall

The 70 metre tall ex-watchtower is a sight best viewed from one of the restaurants below in the square. Situated next to the Town Hall I recommend that you sit down for a snack or a beer and enjoy the view for a short while before continuing your tour of Augsburg. For a small fee (1 Euro for students) you can enter the town hall and learn a little more about he history of Augsburg.

Augsburg the square Town Hall and watch tower at night

Evening view of the town hall and the tower

4. Augsburg Cathedral

The enormous Roman Catholic Church is hard to miss. The architecture is so varied that our will be left questioning when on earth it was built. Augsburg cathedral Germany

Augsburg cathedral

5. Dorint Hotel Tower

Ok, so this may be considered an eye-sore to many, but if you can manage to get yourself up to the top then you will be presented with a view that is simply the best in Augsburg. I found the building itself to be quite interesting especially following some research on what it is and why it looks the way it does. This tower is known by locals as the ‘corncob’ and has a large open park at its base, perfect for a picnic or afternoon stroll.

View from the dorint hotel augsburg corncob tower

The view from one of the Rooms in the tower that was being rented as an Air bnb for the week.

With little time to explore I sadly didn’t get to see much else in Augsburg, just enough for a half day visit.

If you have longer to stay in this lovely place then why not check out the highly rated Fuggerei, botanic gardens, or many interesting museums.

Want to explore more of Germany? Have a read of this

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!