Up until we reached Arizona, our time in the United States had seemed like a rather touristy affair. We’d spent three weeks in LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas, and even San Diego with its more laid-back attitude to life had a bit of a polished sheen to it. Knowing that we wanted to reach New Orleans at some point in the future, we decided the best route to take would be a fairly straightforward one; ie travelling by as direct a route as possible instead of criss-crossing back and forth via aeroplane all across the country. And so, somehow on our Great American Roadtrip-Without-a-Car, we ended up in Tucson, Arizona. Within the US this is a rather well-known city, but personally I had never once heard it mentioned until I opened our Rough Guides book and did some light reading; most visitors to North America will naturally go to the big cities on the East or West Coast (basically LA and New York with a few others thrown in for luck), so I was none the wiser about this intriguing location my friends, and let me tell you not knowing anything about a place can really lead you to being pleasantly surprised and downright happy to have found it.
Once upon a time, six girls and two guys (ie, myself and five friends) decided it would be a ruddy marvellous idea to go on a hen weekend in Paris, in celebration of one of my bestest pals Chris. Amongst other things, we bought with us a picnic basket, a selection of decorations for our AirBnB house, and a small child by the name of Noel. Don’t worry though- Noel’s mum was one of the six girl hens of the posse. He wasn’t just a random kid we picked up on the Eurostar as that would obviously have been really out of order. Our two days in Paris were jam packed with a whole load of extremely awesome things to do, so here for your reading pleasure is a blow by blow account of what exactly we did and the things I personally discovered along the way.
‘Tis the season to be jolly y’all!! And as I’m somehow located in jolly old Germany for this year’s Christmas season, it’s the first time in my entire life that I’ve experienced a real life German Christmas market, and let me tell you this for free: they are kind of a big deal. The only thing I knew of these markets up until now, was that secondary schools in England often like to do a day trip to one of these market squares in order to allow the language students to really get a feel of German culture (although maybe that’s not such a normal thing any more, given that languages and art and all that malarkey aren’t really popular with the UK government these days?) But enough of that for the time being, as a month ago I arrived in the North of Germany and found myself thrown slap bang into a Winter Wonderland, the likes of which far outdoes any offering that the actual London Winter Wonderland could ever offer. Soz, London. Just being honest.
Our ship sailed into Lisbon one midday in April, gliding underneath a red suspension bridge which looked suspiciously similar to the Golden Gate Bridge and past the Statue of Christ the King (ie, not Christ the Redeemer as they have hanging out in Brazil) high on a hill overlooking the river. The springtime sun was gleaming and quite frankly I was having a whale of a time. And despite the two smaller versions of well-known landmarks we were greeted with, let me tell you this, Lisbon is a unique stunner of a city- the oldest one in Western Europe- and having only had a few days in April and a few days in August to visit, definitely a place I need to explore further. The whole place is a wash of different colours, with the look of a pastel coloured fairytale land about it- in my mind the colours of the buildings in Lisbon were decided in the style of the fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty randomly aiming fire at Aurora’s dress (‘Pink!!!’ No, blue!’), and whilst I basically fell in love with the whole place and had a glorious time exploring, I also made a few critical errors whilst there. So here, for your reading pleasure is not just what you should do in Lisbon, but an opportunity to learn from my mistakes, pals, and realise what’s also really not a fantastic idea.
I watched a film a few days before we arrived in Reykjavik this Summer, and that film was called ‘Bokeh.’ You might have heard of it. Although you probs haven’t. It’s rather a low budget kind of film, in which not a lot happens; a young American couple go on holiday to Iceland (staying in Reykjavik, to be precise), and a couple of days into their holiday they discover that everyone else in the entire world has vanished. And that is IT, no reason given for the mass disappearance and no other massive developments in the plot after this mysterious event. Just two younguns, adjusting to life alone in one of the most isolated but beautiful parts of the entire world. I recommend watching it just because it showcases so much of the weird and wonderful scenery this country has to offer, though be prepared that it’s not your normal end-of-the-world Sci-fi blockbuster. What is striking about it is that it really hammers home just how isolated the country is; although technically part of Europe, it’s location is rather a long way away from every single other European country, and Reykjavik itself is the Northenmost capital city in the entire world, situated not too far from the Arctic Circle and therefore even before the fictional disappearance of humanity one of the quietest capital cities you are ever likely to set foot in. In the height of winter, the sun is up for a mere four hours, and in Summer (around the time I was there), it’s only set between midnight and around 3am. It is freaky you guys. Freaky, but pretty full on awesome at the same time, so here are some of the awesome things you can see while taking a visit yourself.
After staying for three days at The Excalibur, which FYI is a gigantic and fantastically tacky castle-themed hotel and casino at one end of the South Las Vegas Boulevard, the plan was to venture in the vague direction of the Grand Canyon and continue from there, moving onwards across America in a joyous semi-pioneering fashion. What we didn’t plan for is suddenly having access to our money stopped (owing to simultaneous problems with our cards), giving us no option but to stay in Vegas indefinitely, and no longer in the giant fake castle, but instead at an equally cool-looking but potentially cockroach-infested motel. This, my friends, is the harsh reality of long-term travel: it doesn’t always go to plan and it definitely isn’t what it always seems on instagram. No way, José. Continue reading
The Canary Islands, so named because the islanders apparently used to worship dogs (Canary/canine, get it?) are a little cluster of Spanish islands situated in the Atlantic Ocean, closer to the coast of Morocco than Spain or anywhere else in Europe. They’ve only been officially Spanish since the 1400s, and before then they were inhabited by actual native locals, giant lizards and giant rats, and other endemic species of which exact kind I’m not actually sure. All I do know for definite is that there is far more to this place the beachfront resorts that first meet the eye: a whole ginormous range of landscapes, climates and people. By the way pals, at this stage I should let you know, the reason this is titled a ‘brief’ guide is because it’s only about the islands that I’ve actually visited. Otherwise I might as well copy and paste off the internet about places I have no actual knowledge of, and that would be no fun for you and definitely no fun whatsoever for me. So unfortunately Fuerteventura and La Gomera will have to wait, but here’s a very tiny bit of what the rest have to offer.
Something a little different today, pals. Because today is the day I share with you my experience of one of the many many jobs I have undertaken in my life; the job in question being a waitress for an events company in central London. There are dozens of companies like this one in the city centre, renting out staff to wait at high-end events like balls, award ceremonies and corporate events, as well as the more interesting birthday parties of billionaires and royal dinners at various palaces across the capital. The company sends a text message out to all the staff on their books, the staff members agree or disagree to work a shift, and BOOM, next thing you know one hundred waiters and waitresses are at the back door of The O2 Arena dressed in black and white with Sensible Footwear ready to serve whoever needs serving. Magic. All sorts of people worked for this company; newcomers to London from Eastern Europe and beyond, university students, actors who are between jobs as they say, a few older gents who’d been made redundant and therefore had to find a job doing whatever they could in order to pay the bills. All round, a brilliant collection of people. You never know who you’re going to work with, when you’re going to be working from one day to the next, or whether someone is leaving the company, but it definitely can make for some interesting and mind-boggling situations.
For some reason which I can no longer actually quite put my finger on, once upon a time I decided it would be a fantastic idea to head off to Greece, for a grand total of seventeen glorious days. I would be spending some time solo, some time cruising around with my good pal Rachel, and some time visiting another absolute legend- my other good pal Erin, who moved out there a while ago. Rachel and I had also been promised ‘THREE KEYS’ in Lefkada (one for a house, one for a boat and one for a car), several times, by a Greek chap we worked with; the elusive THREE KEYS never materialised but maybe that’s for the best. (In case you’re wondering, THREE KEYS has to be written in capitals because that’s exactly how he said it, with a good dose of spit thrown in for luck.) So here we go pals: after a failed attempt at sleeping in Gatwick airport (was awoken by sniffer dogs), and one night in an Athens hostel, resulting in oversleeping by two hours and almost missing my second flight, our story begins….on the tiny and very insta-famous island of Santorini. Continue reading
It was quite a surprise to be in Porto, I’ll tell you that for free. I was supposed to have left for home a few days earlier so when our ship docked at the port of Leixões, I made my way as early as possible to the closest tram station to enjoy a grand day out in a city I knew hardly anything about. When I say I knew hardly anything I mean: basically NOTHING AT ALL. I didn’t even know how to buy a tram ticket to be honest, so spent a good five minutes holding up the queue fumbling with all my change and trying to work out which ticket I needed (not even knowing the direction the city is in is, let’s face it, a poor start). But you guys, I only went and bloody made it there didn’t I!? And what a beautiful city it is, too. Located in Northern Portugal, Porto is Lisbon’s sleepier sister, still filled with nooks and crannies but with a slightly less urban feel. Despite my prior lack of knowledge about this beautiful city, I’m proud to say that with limited time I still managed to learn some stories and get a taste of what awesomeness Portugal’s second city has to offer. Continue reading