Friday, 28 April 2017

My Top 5 Places in America

Over the past couple of years i've had some great opportunities to travel both America and Europe. Sometimes i've been solo, other times with friends and sometimes with people i've met on the road.
I've never not liked a place i've visited but of course I have my favourites so here they are 5 for America and 5 for Europe. I have tried to rank them in order but it's so difficult to do with these amazing places so the lists are fairly fluid with which is on top

  1. Yosemite
This is the most incredible place and so different from the other national parks I have visited. There is just so much to see you could be there for a year and still not manage it all. Yosemite is on my list for a few reasons first is the spectacular views as you can see in the photos below. 

I hiked the Mist trail all the way. This trail is made up of 2 parts the hike the Vernal falls where you can turn back or you can cary on to Nevada falls which I did. It's a pretty difficult hike at points with several areas where you are basically crawling up rocks and boulders. This is especially true when it comes to getting closer to Nevada falls where you zig zag up the cliff side and the path isn't particularly clear. However it is worth every bit of the aching legs and the sweat to get there. Another reason I love this place is Tunnel view which if you have a Mac the view from here is your default background! There's a fun fact for you. Also you cannot forget the brilliant lakes that you can swim in even if they are freezing! 

Yosemite also has a great visitors centre with restaurants, chill out rooms and very helpful rangers for when you get lost before you've even found the trail head.

My top tip for Yosemite is go to Tunnel view even if it is a bit of a drive you won't regret it!

1. Tunnel View 2 - 4. Mist Trail

 2. Grand Canyon
The second national park on my list and another essential for any visit to America. However this place is about as far from Yosemite greenery and lakes as you can get. It is a complete different type of beauty.

I was lucky enough to get to camp in the park for 2 nights and even after a visit from a skunk it was still an amazing experience. I hiked down to Skeleton point which is the furthest point down you can go in one day any further and you need a permit to be allowed to stay there over night. Due to the heat we set off at 6.30am to hike down over 2,000ft. The further down you get the hotter it gets and there are no water points on the hike meaning you have to be prepared. Down was difficult but not too bad and it was amazing  passing each check point known we where getting closer with multiple breaks for photo opportunities which you can see below.

Theres also lots of wildlife to see including snakes, birds of prey and very friendly squirrels that will get into you bags and steal food if you leave them unattended! Now hiking back up is where it gets difficult everything seems a lot steeper and a lot longer going back and you can definitely see how people get into major trouble but not being prepared and going down further than their fitness level allows.

My top tip for the Grand Canyon is to be prepared if you're hiking and there is nothing wrong with sticking to the rim to get those amazing views.

1. Skeleton Point 2 - 3. Rim 4. Enterance

3.  Chicago

Chicago was somewhere that I hadn't been too keen to go but the friends I was with where and boy am I glad they where. We stayed in an Airbnb with a crazy host; Cote, luckily most of there quirks where funny so we didn't have too many problems.

I didn't expect Chicago to be as beautiful as it is, the water front is stunning lined with bars and cafes where you can look out at the skyline. If you want an even better view of Chicago you need to get up high in the Willis (Sears) Tower to see this incredible city, it cost a little bit but definitely worth every cent and you can see that from the pictures below.

Another bonus of Chicago is it's famous deep dish pizza which is not being exaggerated at all and if an essential part of any Chicago trip in my opinion. Sport fan or not I'd also recommend going to see the red socks play baseball I'd got a taste for the game in NY but here was something else. It happened to be Elvis night so we where treated to Elvis impersonators, sky divers, flamenco dancers and much more!

We also stumbled across a great bar near a free comedy show we attended and I can honestly say that the bar tenders int hat bar made our trip. Its true when they say you should get to know the locals because these guys where amazing we had such a funny night and got so many tips as well as invited along to a party the next day. I still have Carlos one of the bar tenders on Snapchat and Facebook.

My top tip for Chicago is to go the Willis Tower and sand in the glass boxes.

1. Willis Tower 2. Water front 3. Redsox game 4. Wills Tower

4. Washington DC

This was the first place I visited in the US after working in NY so the first place that I was actually there travelling. A short bus ride got me and my friends there from NY and then we went to a great Airbnb hosted by Brett. We managed to find a deal for a hop on hop off tour which allowed us to make our way around this massive city and all it's sights pretty easily.

WE of course visited all the big sights such as the White House, Lincoln Memorial and the Jewish Museum and the parliament. Which is where we met up with a friend who was on an intrepid trek and happened to be in the city the same time as us.

The Lincoln memorial was my absolute favourite it is stunning and such an iconic place to visit and another place to get some stunning photos. While we where in Washington we also visited the zoo. This is great for travellers on a budget as it's free and has some great exhibits, It so great when city provide good free activities it make the stay seem so much better, I think anyway.

My top tip for Washington is to plan what you want to see, there so much you have to prioritise!

1 - 2. Lincoln Memorial 3. White House 4. DC Zoo

5. New York

Last but not least New York! I feel like this being on my list is a bit bias as I lived here for 3 months working with horses so I not only got to visit the city multiple times but also experience upstate New York and the suburbs. This will also hold a special place in my heart because if the people I was with. I not only made friends but also family here. Don't get me wrong there where some massive downs here but the ups out weight this massively. My time in New York really deserves its own post but I will try to do it justice here.

Firstly the people here are so friendly, they where more than happy to take us to the movies, for ice cream and on every night out and make it the best experience they could for us which allowed me to experience things that I never would have dreamed of otherwise such a ice cream at a remote farm and then a drive in movie!

There are so many places in New York that are just must sees such as Central Park, The Empire State, 9/11 memorial and museum which just for reference you need a full day to do properly it took me about 3 hours to go round the museum fairly quickly. To see everything you'd need much longer. You also can't forget about going to broadway, seeing the Yankees play , Time Square, The High Line and Little Italy. You can also not forget nights out in Hoboken which is just across the Hudson.

However the highlight for me was the view from the top of the Rockerfella centre you can see the picture below and you will see just how spectacular it is. I did this on my first day in the city and beyond glad I had an experienced friend to suggest this instead def going up the Empire State.

There is still so much to say but that'll wait for another post, and theres still so much  didn't get to do here I would have loved to go to the Natural History Museum and to Coney Island.

My top tip for New York is to prioritise going up the Rockerfella Centre and to spend as long as you possibly can here. Whatever you think is long enough add 2 more days!

1. Rockerfella Centre 2. Time Square 3. Brooklyn Waterfront 4. My NY home ❤️❤️❤️

Where is you favourite place in the USA? Is it the same as one of mine? Tell em about ti in the comments


Monday, 24 April 2017

Vienna ✌🏻

Vienna what a city! This is not a place I would have originally planned on going but it was the destination chosen to meet with the group of people I was travelling with who had already been on the road for some weeks.

Luckily I managed to get cheap Ryanair flights out for the day before I was due to met my group as well as getting a bed in the same Hostel that we where staying in the next night meaning no moving hostels after one day which for those that have done it will know how much of a pain this is. This was the first time I had stayed in a Wombat hostel but wouldn't be the last and I can honestly say I have never been disappointed by on of their Hostels. Even better for their Vienna location is the Naschmarkt street market on their door step (Photo right) which I explored the morning of my second day.

My first late afternoon/ evening after I arrived was all about relaxing I'm a bit stress sometimes especially when it comes to getting places by myself and my trip from the airport to the hostel hadn't been the smoothest. I had managed to get the train into the city which I had pre-planned but silly me hadn't checked the stop so I had to guess resulting in me ending up further away than i'd thought and the attempt to walk was not very fruitful so in the end I did give up and get a taxi. Thankfully I had written down the address so I was able to show the driver this!

So after some food and a short walk into the centre which included me catching part of the famous Vienna ballet which was being projected onto the side of the theatre! This was a great free little bonus, I headed back to the hostel to rest, I was up early the next day as I had to check out of my current room to then check into a different room with my group later in the day, so I stored my suitcase at the hostel and ended out for the day. Starting with the Naschmarkt as I mentioned above. There was everything from food stalls to clothes to toys to antiques, I had already planned a picnic in the Schonbrunner Gardens so I bought some fruit from the market for that.

I then headed to the gardens, there is so much to see in them from fountains and lakes to beautiful structures so I took my time walking around before settling on a place in the shade to eat and rest before I headed to the most exciting part of my day.

I am an avid horse rider and have been riding and competing for year so to me I could not go to Vienna without visiting the Spanish riding school of Vienna, I unfortunately could not afford to see one of the performances as even the cheapest seats where well above my budget. However the school does offer tours of their facilities which was a much more affordable €22 so I jumped at the chance of that opting for the 2pm tour. The tour was great it lasted about 2 hours and allowed us into the main school where we learned about the history of the school and horses as well as getting to sit in the most expensive seat (picture below) and then walk along the balcony. The guide showed us the stables and courtyards including introducing us to some of the horses and explaining their unique names, and then on to the tack rooms, feed rooms and horse walker areas. All in all definitely worth the money.

After this I headed back tot he hostel to meet my group before we checked into the new room and headed out for dinner across the road from our hostel and then onto the hostel bar to get to know some of my fellow travellers better.

Have you been to Vienna? and if not would you like to?

Friday, 21 April 2017

Budapest 2.0

I am currently planning a spontaneous and not so spontaneous trip to Budapest. I have been to Budapest before during my time travelling eastern Europe after i finished my Bachelors degree and before I started my Masters. However at the beginning of the week my boyfriend mentioned wanting to go so I said lets do it!

(photo from my first trip of the parliament building during a cruise down the Danube)

That is the spontaneous part however he then suggested we go in August hence the not so spontaneous. During a particularly slow period at work today I had a chance to look at our travel, and with some persuading and price related incentives we have decided to go during the first week of June. Here is where it got tricky, he as a swim instructor work evenings during the week where as I due to a period of time over may and June where I will not be office bound and free to go whenever I feel like it. So after looking at our options I deprived wanted to go mid-week to get some crazy cheap prices such as return flights for under £40!

Now I do understand the constraint of work due to working in a variety of places such as a retail shop and currently and office where I am a Social Media Executive, but even then finding out Tuesdays and Wednesdays are off the table was so frustrating. This led to my great search for cheap and good flights as well as again a cheap and good hotel in a greta location.

During my time travelling solo in the past i have always opted for hostels, as long as it was central I didn't care. Hostels are usually safe, you get what you pay for and it's a great way to talk to other travellers and make yourself a friend or 2 even if it's just for the night. Even when not travelling solo i have alway booked either hostels or Airbnbs even if they are a little further out as when travelling with friends taxi costs or public transport becomes a lot easier. This time thought I am making an exception, it is the first trip together with my boyfriend and after all those hostels and Airbnb's I am craving a nice hotel with all the amenities. No messing around wth putting sheets on bunk beds, or dealing with lockers and keys. Just a nice simple hotel set up with an ensuite!

Now this all sounds pretty easy doesn't to we have the days we can go: Thursdays - Mondays, I have decided the type of accommodation I want: Hotel and my boyfriend has said August.

Alas it is not as easy as it appears and having many experiences with doing this in the past I was aware of what I was about to embark on. Firstly flight where automatically more expensive when counting in weekend days but I did manage to find some fairly cheap deals although not in the month I was suppose to be looking in. During my very initial investigation I decided that August was too long to wait and it had to be earlier. With not much persuasion needed I convinced my boyfriend that early June would be far better.

So I had good flights for the 1st June - 4th June even if this did count a very early start on the 4th to get our plane home. Next was a hotel and this is where the difficult part started, while searching I found that a lot of the accommodation was apartments which initially sounded great however the more I read about each one the more problems arose. I even got as far as booking one before realising they required you to pick the keys up from a location 20 minutes drive from he apartment which would mean getting ourselves and suitcase from the airport across Budapest to then come back the other way to get to the apartment. I quickly cancelled that one and narrowed my search to only hotels.

It is so hard to tell from photos what a hotel will really be like but i eventually decided on one called the Leanard Hotel (photos right and below). Located in the Ferencvaroud business district, it come with a double room, free wifi and fitness centre. For 3 nights the price was €206, making it €103 each or €34 per night which I don't think is bad at all combine it with the £43 return flights I found and we're looking at a pretty cheap weekend get away. Therefore I reserved us a room in this hotel luckily with great sites like I could reserve the room without paying anything and can cancel up to 23.59 on the 28th May giving us plenty of time to have another look around.

Now all that we need to do is officially book flights, decided on our itinerary which although we will have will not be rigid rather a general list of things we'd like to do, very much including the baths and ruin bars. Juts so we have an idea and don't miss anything we really want to do.
Luckily for me as well my boyfriends family live in London meaning we are able to stay close to Luton airport where the flights are from for no cost and hardly any commute.

All in all i'm very much looking forward to my first trip away with my boyfriend and second visit to the beautiful Budapest!
(photo from my first trip below)