A casual review of the HI Downtown San Francisco 

Our first hostel stay in San Francisco was for three nights at the HI San Francisco Downtown, and I’ll tell you for sure it was a good’n.  Although it was fairly late at night when our Amtrak bus deposited us into the centre of the city- get the lowdown on the Amtrak adventure here– the streets were so full of people that it put my mind at ease about finding a new place in the dark with only a memorised route to lead us there. Sometimes I get a bit concerned about wandering around unchartered territory in the middle of the night, know what I’m saying? The reception area on the ground floor had all sorts of people hanging out for the wifi purposes, and after checking in we entered the main hostel through a top secret door (i.e. nobody enters without a key) and went to find our respective rooms.  Continue reading

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What to do in Rotterdam (or, oh my days that is one full on cool city)

Most people head straight for Amsterdam when they take a trip to The Netherlands, which is understandable- it’s an awesome old city with a tonne of stuff to see and do and which is famous round the whole world. (For various reasons, know what I’m saying? Wink wink, nudge nudge and all that) But Rotterdam has a completely different vibe; Europe’s busiest port, it’s filled with abstract architecture and sleekly designed cafes, shops, bars and restaurants, as well as museums and galleries galore, all strung together with a series of bridges across the water. Truth be told, this place is just plain, downright cool, and the people are even cooler; I’m not gonna lie here guys, coolness is something that I often find rather intimidating, but fear not! In my experience, as a general rule Dutch people may be super cool but they are also super friendly and open to conversation. It’s a nice quality to have. Good on you, people of The Netherlands! I was able to explore the city when life just took me there by chance due to many overnight stays whilst our ship was docked there, and all I’m saying is, it is one full on interesting place with a completely different atmosphere to it’s more famous neighbour- far less touristy, way more like a living breathing bunch of people all being awesome together.

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Climbing Preikestolen 

Right you guys…I was pretty lucky the other day, and I’ll tell you why. We’ve now been in Norway for around two months, it’s the height of Summer, and despite that we’ve mainly had two months of solid freezing cold and/or drizzle. It gets a bit miserable after a while, you know!? But the other day as we docked in Stavanger- a city in the South East of the country- the clouds cleared and the sun was blaring down like there was no tomorrow. I WAS LOVING LIFE AT LAST! A series of amazing events meant that we didn’t have to work that evening on the ship, so it was clearly destiny that that was the day we should VENTURE TO PREIKESTOLEN. For those not in the know about Norway’s natural sights galore, Preikestolen is basically a massive cliff which looms majestically over the Lysefjorden, and is currently one of the country’s most-visited natural tourist attractions (as we were just about to discover).  Continue reading

Exploring Normandy…a day trip to Étretat

We docked in Le Havre in Normandy every seven days, but under normal circumstances got no further than the city’s pebbly beach, stopping here and there for either coffee or crepes, and one particularly adventurous day for real live snails. (Actually, they weren’t alive, they were cooked in garlic butter but, you get what I’m saying!? REAL LIVE SNAILS!!) Le Havre is a nice enough place; France’s second biggest port, with some really beaut parks and gardens but also a whole lot of concrete architecture which sprang up after the Second World War, when almost the entire city was destroyed. It’s a confusing mixture of prettiness and concrete blocks if I’m honest, however this modern architecture put Le Havre on the map and it’s now recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage sight. Anyway, my actual point here is that we’d heard great things about Normandy’s countryside and were determined to get out of the city and explore further afield; so that, pals, is what we did!!

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Seven Days in San Francisco (Budget Edition) 

Having spent two weeks gallivanting around the glitz of LA and the surfers paradise of San Diego, it was a strange old feeling coming into San Francisco in the middle of the night after an all-day train journey to Oakland and then a bus ride from there into the city centre. In comparison to our first two stops on the trip, San Francisco seemed almost European!? This was partly due to the higgledy-piggledyness of the streets and partly to the fact that there seemed to be a very clear city centre which is easily navigable on your own two feet. And I’m proud to say that even though it was dark and scary outside, we managed to find the HI San Francisco Downtown quite easily as I had become a dab hand at copying maps off of hostel computers, in record timing might I add. (Our trip was so budget that Internet was only available in wifi hotspots or at pay-per-minute hostel computers, so you’ll understand now why this is the Budget Edition of things to see in San Francisco)

So…here we go pals. In no particular order, for those who are interested, these are my recommendations for how to explore San Francisco on a strict budget. (It’s totally 100% possible, trust)

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The Beginners Guide to La Palma  (Secret of The Canaries) 

Oh my goodness you guys. My incredibly pessimistic view on life is that if you have little to no expectations of people/places/things, you will rarely be disappointed (it may be pessimistic, but it also means I’m pretty much always having an awesome time by default). The island of La Palma is a PRIME EXAMPLE of this philosophy. Probably the lesser known island out of all the Canaries, it’s main industry is actually growing and selling bananas as opposed to tourism like the rest of the surrounding islands. There are few hotels there and not a massive number of international flights in and out, so the general atmosphere that I experienced there was far more laid back and natural-feeling than somewhere like Lanzarote or Tenerife. And although the island is volcanic, it is also incredibly fertile leading to tropical plants galore, bright colours all around, and obviously an abundance of bananas. (Miniature bananas at that)  Continue reading

One Day in Cádiz (or, solving an Easter mystery)

Cádiz is a place which I knew absolutely nothing about until the day our ship docked there, and had it not been for that one day I doubt there’s any reason that I would ever have considered visiting. It’s just not one of those places you hear very much about, is it? Set on a little slice of land hanging off of the South-West corner of Spain- it’s the oldest most continually inhabited city in Europe, and is therefore just full on drenched in history and the classic Spanish culture that I full on LOVE. A highly unstable and costly on-ship wifi connection meant that we hadn’t been able to research what to do or where to go, so with a mere day to explore, upon arrival my pal and I headed for the tourist information centre to ask a few questions and work out what on earth we should do in this crazy town of Cádiz. It was at the point that we arrived that STRANGE things began to happen. STRANGE, AWESOME, UNIMAGINABLE THINGS! Well. Sort of. And it took us all day to get to the bottom of it.

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What to Do in Lanzarote 

If you’re not the kind of person that loves package holidays, English breakfasts in non-English places and sunbathing until you’re red as a lobster, you might be thinking Lanzarote is not the location for you. Well YOU THOUGHT WRONG, MY FRIEND!!! Not only did my grandad live there back in the day, but in more recent times I’ve also been able to explore regularly whilst working on a cruise ship. One of the Canary Islands which lie off the coast of West Africa, once you get past the major touristy areas and into the rest of the island, it is a beaut place to be with a unique landscape unlike any I’ve ever seen before. The whole island has been molded by it’s volcanic past, growing mountains and carving caves through the bizarre landscape of rocks, black sand and every now and again a sprawl of succulents and cacti. Continue reading

Eight Reasons Why…You Should Visit the New Forest!!

Right you guys, I’m just going to come out and say it.

I get pretty frustrated when people come all the way to England and visit only London, with maybe a day trip to Stonehenge thrown in for luck. England’s actually quite an interesting place, and there’s more to it than Big Ben and a pile of mysterious rocks behind a fence. (No offence, Stonehenge) My twelve year old self once went on a camping trip to Dorset and after stopping for a break in the New Forest on the way there and back I swiftly decided it was My Favourite Place In The Whole Entire World. A bold claim for one so small.

But this leads me to my next point. On my first cruise job last year, I docked at Southampton every seven days for a grand total of four months (that’s quite a few times, then), and the only place I wanted to visit whilst there was The New Forest. Well. Let me tell you this for free, I do not blame twelve year old me one tiny bit.  Continue reading

What I Learnt From 2 Days in Rome (Dreams Come True: The Sequel)

When I was eight years old, I wrote to Girl Talk (a comic for like-minded eight year old girls across England), telling them that I had loved learning about the Romans so much at school that it was my ultimate dream to learn even more about the Romans, in my own spare time. The editors at Girl Talk HQ clearly took pity on me and decided to help me realise my dream by taking me to a Roman museum in Dover (of all the places), where they dressed me up in a hessian tunic and gave me a tour which was featured on a full page spread on their ‘Dreams Come True’page. I was pretty disappointed about the hessian tunic if I’m honest as I’d worn my lime green Spice Girls dress and knee high socks specially for the occasion, but the rest of the day really was a dream come true. Good one, Girl Talk! Anyway…the point that I’m getting to is that eight year old me would be so ragingly proud of the fact that I JUST GOT BACK FROM REAL LIFE ROME!! At long last, I actually got to visit my childhood land of dreams, my own personal Disneyland.  Continue reading