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.
‘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.
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
Silence is golden 💛
Whenever I tell people I’m off to Sweden (I have family there, so it’s a fairly regular occurrence), they often presume that means I’m off to the frozen wastelands of the far North. No, no, my friends! Contrary to popular belief, Sweden is not just about Ikea, Abba and snow. The cities are nice, but don’t shun the countryside, guys- look how amazing it is!!
After spending a few months travelling abroad, I realised I had explored more of there than I had my own metaphorical back garden; what’s the point of going to places so far away if I knew nothing about where Im from? Fast forward to last Summer and to help make up for that I was spending the day with my pals, exploring my hometown, TOURIST STYLE. Who says you need to cross half the world just to have an explore??
Between the ages of approximately eight and fourteen, I was regularly made the Official Chief Navigator in my Dad’s car. It was a job I took very seriously, because in those days my friends, GPS navigation was not a real thing; it was all about the A-Z Atlas. This was a job that involved real skill, not just the ability to talk to Siri.
I would look up our destination in the index, find it on the grid, pencil an ‘x’ (because we all know ‘x’ marks the spot), on our end goal and then attempt to determine a suitable route for our adventures. On quite a few of these adventures my dad would suddenly announce, ‘I don’t believe it…we’re lost!’ Turns out I might not have had such a strong hold on those real skills as I believed at the time.
But my point here is that all those times we got lost meant more fun, the discovery of new (way more scenic and pretty and interesting) routes, and set me up for life in the belief that getting lost- if you follow the Rules of Getting Lost- is always a good thing. Even if it feels like a bad thing at the time, you’ll probably learn something from it 😝
Brrrrr. You guys, I am full on freezing to the core. And also I have that thing called Reynaud’s, which is basically a fancy way of saying I get really cold hands; needless to say winter is not my friend and I doubt it ever will be. One thing I will say for sure though is…if you can block out the stabbing pain in your hands and feet whilst beholding it, West London in the winter is an extremely pretty experience.
Here, in no particular order, are my top places to have a little wander and attempt to brighten up your January days…