Guys. My left shoulder is in serious pain- I can barely lift my arm above a 30 degree angle to my body- and this is mainly due to the fact that I just got back from zip-lining through the treetops of the Costa Rican rainforest, during which I clung on so tight for dear life that I almost dislocated an arm in the process. I am also completely mud-spattered and bedraggled from the rain. BUT. And this is a big but. Doing that zip lining course was the most fun I’ve had in full on ages, I’ll tell you that for free. After docking in Puerto Limón, a port city on the East coast of Costa Rica, a big old bunch of us headed to Brisas de la Jungla (that’s Jungle Breeze to you non-Spanish-speaking folk), to get a bit closer to some good old fashioned nature whilst simultaneously being very very very much higher off the ground than normal. The fact that it was raining didn’t matter one bit (I mean, it is rainforest territory after all, so what do you expect?), although I’m going to be honest here and admit that I was quite concerned that the quantity of water on the zip lines would seriously affect the speed with which we zipped from one treetop platform to the next. Turns out, just like every other time I’m massively afraid of something but decide to go for it anyway, I had nothing to fear whatsoever! (Sort of)
After a few days alone in Santorini, the tiny town of Monemvasia was the first stop on our Grecian road trip for me and my pal Rachel. Located in the South East of the Pelopponese, the large rock that the town feels like it’s carved from is now joined to the mainland by a long causeway just above sea level, with the houses and castle nestled into one side and hidden from view of the mainland. Back in the day this was all part of a clever strategy to hide the townspeople from potential attacks from those pesky mainlanders, but these days it all just adds to the magic of the place and makes you feel like you’ve really discovered a true hidden gem where you seem to step back in time as soon as you enter the stone archway into the tiny cobbled alleyways that lie in secret behind it. Monemvasia has changed hands many times during its extremely long history- from the Spartans to the Turkish to the Venetians and back again, and amazingly it’s actually the only castle in Europe to have been continuously inhabited since it was first built…parts of the area date as far back as to the 6th Century, so basically- it’s really full on old, you guys. After a mildly hair-raising drive up the side of the rock to the castle’s entrance, both me and Rachel were full on enchanted by this beautiful little town; of all the places I have visited in my life, this is definitely one of the most spellbinding.
Although I’d arrived in Santorini by aeroplane, as I had the time to spare and it seemed like a good thing to experience in the grander scheme of life, I decided to return to Athens at the end of my stay via the medium of FERRY. Oooh, ferries! Despite the fact that I spend a great portion of my life living on a ship, I’m not an experienced ferry traveller and do get quite seasick from time to time, so wasn’t sure exactly what to expect in the way of comfort and nausea levels. But luck was on my side that day in September: the water was calm and the journey was smooth. I was overjoyed.
I’m a bit late to the party here pals given that we’re almost one month into the new year, but at this particular moment in time I appear to be stuck in a hotel in Hamburg with not a whole lot to do; so what better way to fill the time than a casual reflection on the year just gone!? I mean, I thought I might as well, for a laugh. If anything I always find that it helps you to feel grateful for the experiences you’ve had, the lessons you’ve learnt and the people you’ve met, and at this point in time (the point in time where I couldn’t board a flight to the Dominican Republic due to a sick bug and am hanging out in Hamburg for a week instead), I feel like this could really help me, know what I’m saying!? Continue reading
The Château de Versailles is, let’s face it, one of my most favourite places that I’ve ever visited. In my naivety I’d imagined that visiting it would be a bit like visiting a National Trust house back at home, and in a way it is…it is a rather large royal residence after all. But this Palace is off the scale of splendiferous, so large and ornate and full of stories that I was blown away and could not get enough of it. I spent a day there in August, and despite the fact that we were there for a good seven hours, I felt like we can’t have seen even half of what there is to explore.
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.
‘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.
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
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