Getting Stuck in Vegas (or, Adventures at the Tod Motor Motel)

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

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2 Days in Santorini (Budget Edition) 

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

One Day in Porto

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

How to Live it Up in Vegas (Even If You’re Not a High-Roller) 

Las Vegas is both hilarious and insanely amazing…GOOD. LORD!  If I had to write a tag line for this city it would be ‘like Disneyland for gamblers and alcoholics.’ And although I wouldn’t describe myself as either of those it was to my own astonishment that I was fully in my element when we arrived by airplane one March morning. After leaving the cool air of San Francisco we flew over mountains and desert, finally coming in to land over the bizarre turrets of our castle-shaped hotel- The Excalibur- and he Luxor’s pyramid and Sphinx.  I never thought about how surreal the idea of all these massive Disneyland-esque buildings in the middle of the desert really is.  One of the most surreal sights I’ve ever seen, actually.  I’m still laughing. Nothing but rock for miles and miles, then suddenly- BAM- here’s a giant castle, the Statue of Liberty, and the Eiffel Tower smack bang in the middle of No-Man’s Land.  WHAT. A. LAUGH. There’s something about Vegas that just makes you want to throw all your money in the air and have a party in it wearing an outfit made entirely of feathers and diamonds. But, what if you do not have a pile of cold hard cash and a tacky outfit to prance about in!? Fear not, pals. I’m here to help.  Continue reading

A casual review of the HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf

After a very brief stay in the HI Downtown San Francisco branch, we decided it was about time we upped sticks and moved on…to a different, cheaper hostel, in the very same city. Also part of the Hostelling International family, because as we had payed for membership we decided we might as well make use of it, know what I’m saying?

In comparison to the cloud of inner-city smell in the Downtown area (you know, the subtle aroma of bin juice mixed with car exhaust, urine and mouldy food from the back of restaurants), approaching the Fisherman’s Wharf hostel was practically like stepping into the countryside! This hostel is located in an old army barracks which is technically situated within one of the USA’s smallest National Parks, Fort Mason, on the cliffs overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and surrounded by greenery. Quite frankly; it was just bloody lovely!  Continue reading

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

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

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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Adventures at the HI:Santa Monica

The spooky mist that had shrouded the palm trees upon our arrival into LA had disappeared by the time we woke up the following morning, luckily. After checking out of our hotel bright and early, we made our way to a bus stop to await the #3 Big Blue Bus towards our hostel in Santa Monica. Transport in LA’s pretty shoddy as the city’s so full on massive, but Big Blue Buses connect Downtown LA to Santa Monica so if you’re heading that way from the airport it’s handy to know. And they actually are big and blue, so you can’t miss them. Personally I felt like a bit of an idiot sitting in my human-size purple backpack on a crowded bus, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Whilst on said bus, I overheard (so did the rest of the bus, presumably) half of an extremely interesting conversation between a shaven-headed man who seemed to be a suspect in a murder case, and an unknown person on the phone (who may or may not have been his mother). He was just on his way home from being questioned by the police and seemed very angry about the whole situation. No-one else on the bus seemed that bothered, so I just went with it. There was a mild moment of panic though, when neither me nor my bf could work out how people were managing to stop the bus when they wanted to get off- there were no bells to be seen. As we neared our stop my heart was beating ever faster, until finally I noticed a cord running along the length of the bus and realised that was what we had to pull to exit the vehicle. Panic over. This is the type of thing that causes panic at the best of times, know what I’m saying!?

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What to See in Santa Monica

Santa Monica: home to celebrities galore and definitely one of the more aesthetically pleasing areas of Los Angeles. The city itself is sprawled out across a ginormous surface area, and if you ever find yourself paying a visit, it’s definitely a good idea to stay in this area of town. It’s beaut, there’s plenty to see and do, and it’s smack bang right by the beach. On top of all that, the air feels a little fresher than further into the city where the general vibe is a little more urban. Mainly, the Chanel-clad shoppers of the area made me reminisce about the days of Clueless, but what bloody great days they were, let’s be honest.


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