The first time we sailed into Geirangerfjord, it was the end of April. I awoke pretty darn tootin’ early, threw on what I considered to be warm clothes, and made my way up to the bow of the ship (that’s the front, pals) in order to witness the marvel of the mountains. It truly was marvellous. There was an eerie mist surrounding us- very Pirates of the Caribbean, you know the opening scene with the little girl singing?- with the surrounding mountains just visible beneath, looming up to the sky on either side of us. They were still covered in snow, giving the whole experience a tinge of being in a mildly sinister yet epic black and white film from decades ago, with the ship calmly cutting through the calm dark water below us. Crazy. We passed the Seven Sisters waterfall; seven icy cascades of water plunging down from the top of the snow-capped peak…it was pretty full on AWESOME. Also pretty full on cold, so I needed to retreat and reappear with several more layers. As we rounded a bend in the fjord, the shroud of mist lifted slightly and we could see the tiny village of Geiranger at the dead end full steam ahead. Over the next few months we returned to the village every ten days, seeing it slowly change as the snow almost entirely melted, blossom appeared on the trees, and then the full bloom of Summer, before it started to retreat into Autumn again. So here, in all its glory, is what I have to say (or write,even) about Geiranger. Continue reading
Let’s just get down to it straightaway: Trondheim is a proper old city, with strong Viking roots and Medieval heritage galore. Dating back to 997AD (you see- PROPER OLD), the City Formerly Known As Nidaros is Norway’s ex-capital and where the country’s kings have been crowned for centuries now. The fact that the majority of the city was once made of wood meant that unfortunately the whole place has burned to the ground many many times (awkward to say the least), but nowadays although there are many beaut wooden warehouses lining the river, the streets have been redesigned with wide open boulevards to prevent those fires spreading so darn tooting quickly. A wise move, I’d say. My time in Trondheim spanned several months in Summer, although in all honesty the weather was most similar to a rainy day in March on most of the days that I visited the city. Maybe this is a silly thing to note- it is in Norway, after all- but so many people have been taken aback by this information that I feel it’s worthy of a mention. Continue reading
My pre-conceived idea of Madeira was that although in pictures it seems very beautiful, it’s also an island for mostly rich, retired people who want somewhere warm to hang out but also somewhere classier than your usual island getaway. (I.e. The Lanzarotes and Tenerifes of this area). Turns out, there is so much more to Madeira than I once thought!! (Although in terms of classiness, this definitely isn’t your Brits-Abroad, fry-ups and no integration with the locals type situation) This Portuguese island is to the West of the coast of Africa and slightly North of the Spanish Canary Islands, and it’s capital, Funchal, is where we docked every seven days. Although the rest of the island is packed full of things to do and places to see, I stuck to the city of Funchal (so called after the abundance of wild fennel that was growing there many years ago when settlers first arrived on the island) for the duration of my time, so here are the most awesome things that I found to do whilst there. Continue reading
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.
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
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!!
The last time I wrote about my experiences of Hamburg I was in a state of mild doom and gloom at the prospect of spending six weeks of my life living here- see SOS From Hamburg! for more info on the sheer desperation I was feeling- it’s a cracker. However I’m pleased to say that since that moment I managed to find my feet, got stuck into things and life carried on. I also managed to see past the hypodermic needles, blood and smashed bottles spattered across the streets of Sankt Pauli in the early mornings (I’m really selling Hamburg to you, aren’t I!?), to the silver lining that lies beneath. Despite elements of the city that are downright unpleasant, this can be said for probably any city in the world, and there are places here that are actually pretty awesome having given it time to acclimatise to. Every cloud does have a silver lining, I’m sure of it. Here is what I think you should be doing if you ever find yourself in Hamburg and wondering what on earth to do with yourself…
Here’s a life update for you guys. I’m currently located in Hamburg, Germany, and I will be here rehearsing for another month and a half. I find honesty is the best policy when it comes to writing blogs, so I’m just going to come out and say it right away: I DO NOT LIKE THIS CITY. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m staying on the Reeperbahn, ie the red light district’s main road for red light shenanigans. Wherever I turn I’m confronted with PVC-clad hooker-types (I actually don’t have a problem with these as generally they’re quite polite), hordes of aggressive-seeming stag parties (generally not polite), and collections of similarly aggressive drunken homeless people. Also, strangely, the odd very old German couple strolling along as if they’re on Eastbourne Pier, merrily meandering through the cacophony and snapping away with their cameras so they can remember these scenes forever. The main scent clogging the air is a combination of urine and bins, and as the days have worn on I feel increasingly like I’m in some kind of strange post-apocalyptic video game, dodging zombie-like creatures dragging their limbs along, sobbing women who’ve had waaaay too much to drink, and almost worst of all- gigantic piles of sick plastered across the floor. It. Is. Dirty.
Perched on the South East corner of Spain (although some would argue that it’s not a Spanish city but a Catalan one) Barcelona is one of the most interesting and simultaneously downright AWESOME cities I have ever been to. Now that is quite a claim. The only reason that I even knew very much about the city at all prior to our visit was because of a book I once read, and loved: The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. You should definitely go and read it right this minute because it’s BRILLIANT.
Anyway. That is beside the point. We booked the flights and accommodation extremely last minute, which gave us some hefty and welcome savings; three of us altogether, exploring Barcelona for four days at the height of Summer, and here’s what I recommend doing if you happen to find yourself in the same glorious area for a short while anytime soon.
After a week in Sweden, I decided to return to London via Copenhagen- partly because it was cheaper, (strange but true fact)- and partly because it seemed like a way more fun idea than just going straight home. Denmark is known for being rather expensive, so as is my normal style when visiting a highly-priced location, I turned the whole experience into a game of ‘how-little-can-I-spend-whilst-still-having-fun-times.’ So here you go pals- in no particular order are my top purse-friendly things to do or see in Copenhagen. Continue reading