Exploring Europe: Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Since the pandemic happened I realised just how much I missed writing about travel so I'm bringing it back. It might help you get some ideas for when it is fully safe to leave the country again and explore cultures different to our own, I'm not ready to leave the UK just yet (even if we could) but I am excited to see the world again soon.

Five years ago I was too hungover to make it to the Sagrada Familia so this time I made sure it was top of my list when I visited Barcelona back in February. The queues to buy tickets are insane so I fully recommend being organised and buying tickets online before hand. It costs around £17 for a fast-track ticket with a timed entry. I follow recommend paying a bit more and buying the audio guide as the information offered is invaluable. It can get confusing as to what section they're talking about so pay close attention.

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is famous for being unfinished, by the time all construction has been completed in 2026, it will have taken 146 years to build. It will be completed on the centenary of his death. At the time of Gaudi's death less than a quarter of the cathedral was finished. As you stand outside in awe, you can clearly see exactly why it has taken this long. The detailing is absolutely insane and I find it so hard to comprehend how an idea as intricate as this has come from someone's head. One side of the cathedral is based on the Nativity section of the bible which is the New Testament and the other side is the Passion, the Old Testament of the bible.

It's not very often that I feel blown away by a building as I've been lucky enough to see some pretty spectacular architecture. But the Sagrada Familia really is on a whole other level. The amount of dealing really does blow your mind away. Oh to have that amount of creativity! If you only see one sight in Barcelona then this is the only place to buy tickets for. You'll be thinking about the cathedral long after you have left. It stays with you forever!


Exploring Europe: Bunker Del Carmel, Barcelona

Last weekend I went to Barcelona for a girls trip and wanted to do something that was new for all of us. Enter the civil war anti-aircraft bunkers aka Bunker Del Carmel. Located at the very top of Gaudi's Parc Guell, the bunkers are now pretty derelict and covered in graffiti. But you aren't visiting to see the bunkers, the reason everyone makes the trek is for the stunning vantage point at the top. You can literally see the whole of the city! Be sure to do a loop as you won't want to miss any of the views.

Make sure you wear some sensible shoes because the trek is pretty full on. Our Fitbit registered we walked up 42 flights of stairs. Flip flops just won't do! You can get a bus most of the way which leaves you with only a ten minute walk to endure. We got the bus from Sagrada Familla to the entrance of Park Guell and did the walk from there. Although at times it seems back-breaking, I'm really glad we did it as it was lovely to walk through the park. I'd recommend downloading the FREE NOW taxi app as Uber doesn't work. You can wait for a bus to take you back to the city centre but we opted for a taxi because it was pretty dark and we couldn't be bothered to navigate the public transport. Taxis are in short supply in the area which is why the app comes in handy.

We raided the supermarket before to put together a picnic and treated ourselves to a couple of bottles of cava to enjoy when we got to the top. We arrived around 5pm for the sunset which was happening around 6.30pm. It was pretty busy with people who had the same idea as us - lots of people were tucking into snacks and beer! We found a spot to lay down a blanket and set about making ourselves comfortable. It is pretty dusty up there so I'd recommend brining something to sit on. Don't forget to bring a bag to keep your rubbish in one place. Don't leave anything behind!

Sadly it was a cloudy day so the sunset wasn't the best but it was 100% worth it. I can only imagine how beautiful it would be if the clouds had played ball! We ended up sitting around chatting for over three hours until it got completely dark. It was such a lovely way to finish our trip and talk about everything we had done. It was still pretty busy by the time we left but I'd keep your wits about you as soon as it gets dark because it isn't very well lit.


Where to spend the day in London Bridge

The London Bridge area is one of my favourite places in London. You have the River Thames to enjoy, Borough Market to stuff your face, numerous pubs to enjoy a beer and landmarks such as the Shard to enjoy. If you can find hotels near the Shard to stay, you won't have to worry about catching the last train home. 

First up on any itinerary should be a trip to the incredible Borough Market. Yes it can sometimes feel like a tourist trap but it is 100% worth a visit. You'll be greeted with some incredible food and will want to go with empty bellies. I recommend heading to Borough Kitchen and sampling some of the food stalls. All under cover, get there early so you can grab a seat and table. You should seek out the juicy jerk chicken from Rudies and have a huge scotch egg from Scotchtails. If you love Spanish tapas than Brindisa Kitchen Bar is perfect for all your croquette needs. 

You'll never be able to sample all of the food on offer in one day so I like to go around my favourite stalls to buy products to take home. Nothing beats a picky tea right? I always have to make sure to pop into Spice Mountain. They do an insane amount of different spices, lots of which you'll never find in your local Tesco! The Brindisa shop is perfect for cured meats and unusual cheeses. If you're a fan of olives then you must take a detour to Borough Olives for a pot. The sweet peppers are also worth trying. It's essential to buy a cinnamon swirl from Bread Ahead to save for later. Controversially I prefer them over their doughnuts!  

When the crowds of the market get too much, sneak down the side roads and make your way to the Anchor pub. Although it looks directly over the river you'll nearly always find a seat as it is pretty big. Take your time to walk upstairs to seek one out. It also has a fantastic terrace overlooking the Thames, a fab place to enjoy a glass of wine during the summer months. Or even the winter months if you're prepared to wrap up warm!

Once you've quenched your thirst and had a wander along the river, no doubt you'll build up your appetite again. Flat Iron Square is a pretty new food market. They often show sports on a large screen so it's great if you want to catch a match. It's filled with a few bars and a undercover selection of food stalls. It's a lot less busy than Borough Market so you should be ok to get a seat. This time we opted to hunt down Mother Clucker for their chicken strips. Make sure you ask for their Guinness gravy. You won't regret it!

Do you have a favourite place to visit in the London Bridge area?

The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com but all views are my own

Exploring Ireland: Monea Castle, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

We did the drive from Derry to Dublin back in July and passed through a few places in Northern Ireland we had yet to visit. We stopped off halfway at Enniskillen for some lunch. After a quick search on Tripadviser to see what was nearby, we stumbled across Monea Castle and decided to give it a whirl. As with so many attractions in Northern Ireland, the castle was deserted and we luckily had it all to ourselves.

Dated back to 1618,  it became the residence of the governor of Enniskillen in 1688. The castle was gutted by a fire in the 1700 and abandoned, that is the ruin you see today. It is free to enter and to be honest there isn't too much to do. But on a dry day, its a little gem to walk around and explore. There really is something special about having a ruin all to yourself. It feels as if you are on a secret that no one else knows about. I wouldn't go out of way to visit it but it's well worth a stop over on a road trip. I imagine it would be lovely in the summer sunshine with a picnic! It's not too far from the Fermanagh Lakes so would be good to combine the two.


2019: A year in travel

I said I wanted to have a big year for my 30th and it certainly happened. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, it's been one of the best years of my life. I've seen and been places I have always dreamed off and I'm not quite sure how next year is going to beat it. What a year!

Our first holiday of the year was two weeks in Malaysia back in February. We booked flights the day after my 30th birthday party, not the wisest idea we've had, and flew out to see our friends who were living out there as teachers. South-east Asia is a part of the world I had been dreaming about visiting since I was 17. I wasn't somewhere I thought I would be lucky enough to tick off so when I did it was absolutely incredible. It still feels like a dream! For the first week we did an epic 7 days road trip visiting Malacca, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands and Fraser's Hill. After our friends went back to school we took things a little easier for the second week and visited Georgetown and Langkawi. I can't wait to explore more of south-east Asia now and hopefully will be able to go back to that region soon.

Las Vegas
A mere two months later I headed to the bright lights of Las Vegas with five other friends to help celebrate our 30th birthday year. We had this trip planned since we were 21 so it was slightly shocking to realise we were finally old enough! Vegas was an absolute whirlwind and I've never experienced anything like it. It was bold, brash and intense. It's not a city I can see myself visiting again but I had the absolute best week. My highlight was an overnight stay at the Grand Canyon. It was the first I have ever been rendered speechless in my life. Words really can't do it justice.

I booked Dublin as 30th birthday treat for my boyfriend originally as a surprise. But, as usual I got far too excited and spilled the beans. Sadly we had some sad news a few days before we were going to fly so we had to do a detour to Derry. But we made it to Dublin a day later than planned and spent the next few days eating and drinking around the city. The Irish capital is just as expensive as people say but I really fell in love with it. There isn't an awful lot of sightseeing to do but it's a fantastic place to just chill. We pub hopped and stuffed ourselves silly on some good food. Ireland really is the best country in the world.

My best friend and I decided we needed a few days away bonding with each other but didn't want to spend much money. So we headed to the Travel Lodge website and had a search of hotels to find the cheapest one two hours or less away from home. Our search concluded with Birmingham and we paid a mere £35 each for two nights over the August Bank Holiday. Despite being the only adults in the attraction without children, the detour to Cadbury's world was a highlight. We spent the three days gossiping about everything and everyone whilst eating all the best food Brum had to offer. We had such glorious weather so it was a real treat. A kinda last hurrah to the summer.

September saw me head to Rhodes for the first time for a work colleagues wedding. The whole team jetted out to Lindos on a wild adventure. I have never laughed or partied so hard as I did for those four days. Certainly a trip I won't forget in a hurry! It look me a good week at home to feel normal again.

I was lucky enough to go on a press trip with Made.com to Paris through work. A whirlwind of a trip, it was lovely to spend a couple of days exploring new places in the French capital. the girls at Made put on a fab itinerary and it was nice to get to know new people.

Northern Ireland
The last trip of the year was to Northern Ireland in October. A place very dear to my heart. This trip was made even more special as it was where we got engaged! It still feels really weird to say that out loud... We took two of our friends over for the weekend and showed them all our favourite places. There is just something about the Emerald Isle, especially this part, that makes my heart sing. We had such great weather with lots of blue skies so really lucked out.

Exploring the U.K: Torr Head scenic route, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland

We've been over to Northern Ireland so many times over the last decade yet it still surprises me when we stumble across somewhere new. It only increases my love for this part of the world. There's still so much I need to explore! On our last trip back to Northern Ireland back in October, something special happened which I'll take about more in the next post, we decided on a whim to follow the Torr Head scenic route.

The route is very well signposted but I recommend popping Torr Head in your satnav if you have one. Just to be on the safe side. Although getting lost isn't too bad in a beautiful place like as the Causeway Coast. The scenic route takes along the coast up winding and sometimes hair-raising roads to the top of a huge hill. It isn't for the lighthearted and I had to refrain looking out of the window. It didn't do my nerves very good! Keep in mind it's a narrow road and you'll have to move over to let other cars come through.

Once you make it to the top of the hill, park your car on the side of the road and start climbing! It's still a fairly undiscovered place so you'll more of less have the whole place to yourself. At the very top of the hill there is an abandoned house which isn't really that nice. But once you've given that the quick once over, start exploring some more. Don't be afraid to climb over a few fences. Just don't go to close to the edge on a windy day. You'll be able to see Scotland in the distance on a clear day. It'\s such a beautiful place to take in the sheer beauty of the Emerald Isle.


Exploring Europe: Acropolis of Rhodes, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece

The most famous landmark in the village of Lindos is the Acropolis. Overlooking the village, you'll be able to see for miles once you make it to the top. A long hard slog to get there, even more so when you've been to a rooftop bar the night before, you soon forget about how much your legs are aching when you are greeted by the endless views. Make sure to stop a few moments and truly take in the sights below you. I'd recommend going as early in the day if you can to avoid the crowds and the heat. We ventured up about 2pm and it was pretty busy and the sun was in full swing.

Entry to the Acropolis costs 12 euro and you can pay in care or in cash at the top. Children can enter for free. Once you're through the barrier there are more steps to climb before you get the very top. You'll find lots of donkeys in and around the area at the bottom. Although they look well looked after I don't really agree with riding the donkeys up the steep hill in the searing heat. It doesn't quite sit right with me.

Built around 300 BC, the temple of Athena Lindia grow under the Romans with more building being added. The buildings fell into disuse during the medieval times. In the 14th century they were overlaid by a massive fortress. Work is still being done today to help preserve the ancient buildings. 

Be sure to keep away from the edge as there isn't any barriers to stop you toppling off. That Instagram post isn't worth falling headfirst into the surrounding sea and rocks. 

I'd recommend a drink in Lindos By Night as the rooftop bar offers a fantastic view of the acropolis all lit up in the evening. 


Postcards from Lindos, Rhodes

Well I'm a bit behind with everything recently - just where is the time going? I feel like this year has completely flown past and I haven't kept up my new year resolution to keep on top of this blog! But I thought I'd do a little postcards from Lindos post from my trip back in September.

Our picture editor at work was getting married in Lindos on the isle of Rhodes and invited the whole team over to Greece to celebrate. So in September we all trekked to Gatwick and made the trip over to Lindos to take H&P on tour for a few days! I hadn't been to Greece since I was a kid so was excited to experience one of the islands as an adult and tick Rhodes off my list. I was expecting white-washed houses, little coves you could get lost in and history on every corner. And it was exactly what I experienced. I don't really do 'relaxing' holidays, always so keen to cram so much in so I don't feel like I've missed out as soon as I get home.  So this trip was such a welcome change and made me think maybe I should try relaxing more often!

Well relaxing during the day anyway! I don't think I went to bed before 3am for the four nights I was there. I didn't think I still had that in me. I thought that had all passed away by the time I entered my mid-twenties! Part of me is a little proud I can still do it night after night. Just about! Who knew Lindos was such a great place to party the night away... I had so much fun and don't think I stopped laughing the whole time I was there. But by the time it rolled around to Monday I was ready to come back to normal life and my own bed. I don't think any of us truly recovered from the four nights until after the following weekend. Turns out dancing all night really does take its toll...

Lindos is a great place in Rhodes, especially if you go with a big group of friends. It has the rooftop buzzing bars for those who want to party with the best of them. It has the stunning acropolis for those who love a bit of history. It has the endless winding streets of shops for those who love to pick up a souvenir or two. It has beautiful beaches for those who love nothing more than laying in the sun. It has cute little tavernas for those who love to try local food. It's a good hour from the airport which can sometimes put people off but I'd say it was well worth the trek.  This little jolly to Rhodes has made me want to explore so much more of the Greek islands - especially those much more remote, less touristy gems I've heard so much about.


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