Travel Diary – Kotor, Montenegro

According to GetByBus it takes 1hour and 50 minutes to get from Dubrovnik to Kotor in Montenegro. According to experience I now know it takes more like 3 hours and 50 minutes. The bus pulled out of Dubrovnik bus station at 10am and within 5 minutes I was deep into conversation with Kerala. We had met the day before in the hostel common room. Both solo female travellers, both on our last full day of our holiday and both looking for an escape away from the rain so we decided to pair up and go to Kotor for the day. I knew nothing of the city before getting on the bus and was really looking forward to exploring somewhere totally new and unexpected.

TOP TIP: You have to have your tickets printed to get on the bus and each ticket has 2 sheets of paper. Make sure to print them on separate pieces of paper and not double sided as the bus driver takes one and you keep one. If you don’t have a printer in your accommodation, there is a small travel shop about an 8 minute walk from the bus station that prints tickers for around 50p a page.

About an hour and a half into the journey we pulled into passport control and one by one had to step off the coach and present our passports to the officers. It didn’t take too long but hanging around in the rain for 30 passports to get checked will not go down as the highlight of the trip! After bustling back into the comfort of the coach I thought we were on our way. I was wrong. No longer than 20minutes down the road we stopped at a second passport control and had to do the whole process again. Now call me a naïve traveller, but it wasn’t until I had my passport stamped at the border that I realised Montenegro is not in the EU.

SIDE NOTE: This wasn’t an issue as EU citizens are allowed to travel through Montenegro for 90 days without a visa but if you don’t hold an EU passport then be sure to research what rules apply to you. The only problem I seemed to face with it was my phone usage charge for the day went up to £6 as I was no longer in the Vodafone Free to Roam zone.

After some manic (checking I am not about to be deported) searching, my fears were put to rest and we were finally back on the bus. The whole passport control process took about 45 minutes so be sure to factor that into any journey time! By this point I was quite ready to get off the bus but we still had around an hour and a half to go. Although it was a long journey it was a beautiful one. After breaking away from the border we emerged on a long road winding its way around the Bay of Kotor. We passed small seaside towns nestled between the mountains and the water’s edge and looked out over the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks that stands alone in the middle of the sea. If you have longer to spend in Kotor, you can get a boat out to see the church, something I would be loved to have done!

Just at the point when I felt like I had morphed into the bus seat, we made it to Kotor bus station. Now I have always been told not to judge a book by a cover but when we pulled into the bus station, I instantly thought we had made a mistake in visiting. The station looked out over an abandoned office block and graffiti ridden buildings that led down to a ferry harbour. We wondered down the road past building debris and old tattered cafes before emerging at the entrance to the city walls.  An easily missed passage, emerald green shutters framed the windows lining the single alleyway that we found ourselves ambling down. This was the Kotor I was imagining. Quaint, local shops appeared around every corner and, similar to Dubrovnik, everywhere you looked there was a different path just waiting to be explored. It was like a beautiful stone maze.

We soon popped out at one of the main squares and hid from the sudden downpour of rain in the Kotor Cathedral. Kotor had a handful of stunning churches, with gorgeous architectures and even more breath-taking interiors so we built up a good appetite dipping in and out of all the sites. By this point it was around 12PM and we settled down in the square for a bite to eat. The food resembled that of Croatia and was mostly made up of sea food, pizza and pasta, I had absolutely no complaints, and a pizza was around €8-10.

TOP TIP: Montenegro takes Euros and most places only take cash so if you are going on a day trip from Croatia then be sure to take out some Euros beforehand.

However stunning the old town was, it wasn’t significantly big and by this point we had seen most of it. With 5 hours to go till our bus departed we decided to get our 10,000 steps (plus a few more) in for the day and climb up the mountain to the Castle of San Giovanni. We had to ask a local for directions to the entrance as there weren’t any signs, but we found our way to the stairs at the base of the old town and began our ascent. Within a few hundred meters we were stopped by a man at a toll gate who charged us €8 each, I had heard that there is an entrance somewhere were you don’t have to pay but we were short on time and desperate not to get lost so we handed over the cash and continued the mammoth climb. 1350 steps hugged the mountain side and weaved in and out of old fortresses. Though my thighs have never burnt so much in my life the view got more and more spectacular with each step. I felt like Shrek on his way to find the princess as we dipped in and out of grey stone walls (and I was equally as out of breath and unfit as an ogre). The rocky terrain was quite hard to navigate at times and if you’re not a fan of heights then I would be careful not to look over the sides of the walls but if you’re going to Kotor then this is the way to spend your day.

TOP TIP: there were a few stops to buy drinks along the way but I am not sure what they were charging or how long the bottles had been sat in the sun for, so be sure to bring some water up with you to avoid dehydration.

At the top sits the ruins of the Castle of San Giovanni and was an incredible spot for some breath-taking photos. Though there are just a few walls of the actual castle left, it remained a great platform to sit, talk, take in the view and revel in pride that we had actually made it to the top! Unfortunately, time slipped away from us however and with only one bus to catch we had to start our descent back to the old town quicker than we would’ve hoped. The way down did pose a few more issues as it could be hard to grip on the rocky terrain but around 3 hours after we had set off we were back at the base of the steps. Now what better way to reward ourselves than with some ice cream and a Nutella crepe once safety back in the old town. We had a final mooch around the shops and grabbed some water and snacks for the bus journey home before heading back to where it all began.

TOP TIP: Be sure to go to the toilet and bring some snacks before getting on the bus as there are no chances to do either along the way. (Well there was a toilet on the bus but peeing on the move didn’t seem too appealing to me!)

Sitting at the bus station we met a Canadian Guy called Mitch who was on his way to Dubrovnik too. After assuming he was traveling alone we were taken by surprise when he said he was actually away with 7 friends who had already successfully made it to Croatia. He told us that he had got the bus that morning at 10AM but after arriving at passport control, realised his passport was still safely locked back in his locker at the hostel. He trekked 3 hours in the rain back to a gas station where he managed to catch a bus to Kotor, retrieve his passport and was now retracing his steps to finally get to Dubrovnik and his friends. Moral of the story? Always check you have your passport!

TOP TIP: For journeys leaving Kotor, even if you already have you bus tickets printed, you have to sign in at the bus station and pay a fee of around €2 each so be sure to factor this in when planning your day!

Turns out our driver on the way out either had a fear of boats or just liked taking his time as on the way back we simply got a ferry across the bay and cut about an hour off the driving time! After hopping on and off the coach at the various passport controls and reuniting Mitch with his friends it was time to get back to the hotel. The bus station is just outside of the old town in Dubrovnik and you have to either get a taxi or a local bus from outside the station to the entrance of Pile Gate (I explained this in a lot more detail in my Dubrovnik travel guide). I would be lying if I said taking a day trip to an unknown country with a girl I had known less that 8 hours wasn’t daunting but it turned out incredible. The Old town in Kotor is like something out of a fairy-tale book and the views over the bay from the top of the castle were about as breath-taking as the number of steps we climbed to get there. I left with a new friend, some incredible memories and a desire to not sit on a bus again for a very long time!

Have you ever been to Kotor or is it a place that you would like to go to?

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Travel Diary – Dubrovnik, Croatia

My alarm went off at 4am but I don’t think I really woke up until I was sat alone on the EZY851 EasyJet flight to Dubrovnik thinking “what have I got myself into?”

I have been intrigued by the beautiful architecture, rich history and stunning scenery of Croatia for years now. To begin with I had looked into spending some time in Split or venturing out to see the stunning waterfalls at the Plitvice Lakes National Park but when a photo of Dubrovnik appeared on my timeline, and I learnt about its connection with one of my favourite shows (Game of Thrones), my sight was set. My decision to take on this adventure solo requires a blog post of its own, but I had a passport, a camera, a bit of money saved and a desperate desire for a holiday. I booked my flights, secured a bed in a hostel and jet off on one of the best holidays I have ever had.

TOP TIP: If you’re flying into Dubrovnik from England then aim for a window seat on the left-hand side of the plane as you get incredible views of the old town as you go into land.

The only ‘faff’ I seemed to have on the whole holiday was with the buses to/from the airport. According to my hostel instructions there was a bus that went direct to Pile Gate but on arrival I learnt this wasn’t the case. After a discussion with a rather aggressive bus driver I had to venture back into the airport to buy my shuttle bus ticket (80 Kunas for a return) which then took me to the main bus station situated about 20 minutes away from the Old Town. From there I followed a crowd of other seemingly lost tourists to a bus stop where we were predominantly shuffled into a large taxi and offered a shared ride in for the same price as a bus ticket.

TOP TIP: After a bit of questioning at the hostel later on I learnt that you can get the 1a, 1b, 3 or 8 to Pile Gate from the bus station and you can buy your ticket on the bus for around 15 Kuna or from a local newsagent for 12 Kuna.

Venturing in through the medieval Pile Gate, I emerged into the picturesque Placa Stadun – a wide road that cut straight through the Old Town, narrow alleyways broke off from it in all directions and at the end stood the entrance to the port where moored boats bobbed over the choppy sea. Had it not been for my heavy bag practically dragging my shoulder to the floor, I could’ve happily spent the whole afternoon stood there watching the birds fly over the burnt orange rooves and people meandering in and out of shops. But I was tired, hungry and anxious to see what my hostel would be like. I chose to stay in the Old Town Hostel because it was situated right in the centre of the Old Town (funnily enough) and had no issue in finding it down one of the many narrow passageways. It was too early to check in but I was able to leave my bag at the reception and set off in search of food. The only negative I would have to say about Dubrovnik is that it was busy and as a result of that everywhere was very expensive. Though the choice of restaurants was infinite I didn’t really want to spend money on 2 big meals out a day so I strolled through the maze of alleys until I found a perfect solution – a bakery. They offered everything from sandwiches to traditional pastries and even pizza slices, just enough for lunch without breaking the bank! (I would highly recommend the cheese and spinach burek from Mlinar bakery it was exquisite!)

Loaded up on a slice of pizza the real exploring could begin! According to the weather forecast it was meant to rain non-stop for the 2 full days I was there, so I really wanted to make the most of the sunshine whilst I could. I headed to the tourist centre, located right by the entrance to Pile Gate, and asked for some advice on what to do. As It happened I had actually arrived at a bit of a bad time, due to a financial debate the cable car to the top of the mountain had been closed and the rain in and around the area had caused the sea to be incredibly choppy so the boats weren’t running to Lokrum Island. 2 of the things I really wanted to do weren’t available for the duration of my stay, brilliant! All hope wasn’t lost however, and I was able to get a ticket to walk the city walls. You purchase the tickets at the base of the walls for 200 Kuna and then you are free to wander round above the city for as long as you like. It also came with an entrance ticket to the Fort Lovrijenac located just outside Pile Gate.

TOP TIP: Here is one I annoyingly didn’t learn till I left, If you purchase a Dubrovnik Card (either 1 day, 3 day or 5 day) it gets you into 6 museums, 2 galleries and a ticket to the City Wall. The 3 day card is around 250Kuna so a good price for all of that!

Now I know my opinion is limited as I wasn’t able to look down on the town from the cable car or explore the luscious botanical gardens of Lokrum Island, but I think if you were to do one thing only in Dubrovnik then it should definitely be the City Walls! You get the most stunning views across all aspects of the city from the main town square to the port and even out across the sea to the island and the fort. You can climb up the towers, hear the crash of the waves against the walls and watch the birds float across the sea of orange rooves. The passage itself around the walls is quite narrow but it is all one way and there are larger areas to stop and take in the 360 view. I stopped at one of the shady cafes halfway round and drank a fresh fruit smoothie whilst taking in the breath-taking view of the island. For any Game of Thrones fans out there you can also walk around the tower that Daenerys frantically runs around when her dragons go missing in the house of the undying. Including the smoothie break and stopping to take about 10000 photos, it took me just under 2 hours to complete the circuit, but you have full freedom to be up there as long or little as you like. Although you can only enter the walls by Pile Gate you can leave them at the port side of the city if you don’t fancy going all the way around.

Given my early start and the long day of travelling I was rather exhausted by the time the evening rolled around. After spending a bit of time in the hostel meeting my roommates, I set out for an early dinner. I will be uploading another post soon all about my hostel experience in a lot more detail so stay tuned for that! Seeing as Dubrovnik is located on the seafront it would be wrong to not try out some of the fresh seafood they had to offer! A live school orchestra was playing in the main square so I found a restaurant nearby where I could avoid the crowds but still hear the music. It was a bit daunting going for dinner on my own, but I actually got caught up in great conversation with an elderly pair of ladies sat on the table next to me. Their stories about the dishy captain on their cruise definitely made for an entertaining meal! I went for a fresh seafood risotto with extra prawns and had to hold back from licking the plate clean at the end. In general, I would say seafood, pasta and pizza seemed to make up the core of the food offered in the Old Town, though for my second night I did come across a Mexican offering the most incredible fajitas! The cobbled side streets were riddled with a huge variety of places to eat and drink, from vegan restaurants to Irish bars, and there were also a few supermarkets hidden amongst them if you prefer to make your own meals when away!

I slept like a baby that night and awoke to the gentle but disappointing sound of rain on the window. Of course everyone would prefer a clear day when on holiday but I was determined to not let it ruin my trip. I am English after all, if we can’t get on with life in the rain then who can! The bonus of the downpour was that not many people shared the same spirit as me, so I practically had the city to myself! I took it upon myself to seek out the famous cliff bar hidden on the side of the walls. After ascending the “shame” steps, GOT fans will know what I mean, I wound my way through the outer lanes of the city till I came across a metal gate in the wall and a wooden sign saying ‘cold drinks’ on it. The doorway emerged out onto the cliff edge where a row of steps led down to bar. I read a few reviews of this place before leaving and in the summer months it is supposedly packed, but on this rainy May morning it was just me, myself and I (well and the bar staff). I chose a seat right on the edge, ordered a coffee and read my book to the sound of the waves throwing themselves against the wall. I think it can be hard on short city breaks to actually allow yourself time to relax as it often feels like there is so much more you could be doing or seeing, but it is important to give yourself time to unwind and just enjoy the moment and the place that you are in!

Now even though I was only half way into my holiday at this point I am actually going to end this blog post here. The remainder of my Sunday I spent on a Game of Thrones tour, which I have written a separate post about here, and then on Monday I went on a day trip to Montenegro which I also think deserves a post of it’s own. At times looking back on this holiday I do feel as if I missed out on a lot Dubrovnik had to offer, I didn’t see the island or the views from above the mountain, but everything I did get to experience I loved. It is the kind of city that you can lose yourself in. The criss-crossing alleyways will always lead to new shops and restaurants to explore, you can sit and watch boats drift in and out of the port for hours and it is rich with so much history, all told in the various museums and galleries, that I think even if I spent a month there I still would be left feeling like there was more to see and do.

Have you ever been to Dubrovnik or is it a place that you would like to go to?

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Game of Thrones tour – Dubrovnik (Kings Landing)

Quick disclaimer: there may be a few spoilers dotted around this post so if you haven’t caught up totally on the seasons yet then tread carefully!

The stars of the seven kingdoms aligned for me (mixed in with a little bit of careful planning) and I was in Dubrovnik the weekend that the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 came out. I woke up early Tuesday morning and manoeuvred my way around the city till I could find a spot clearly visible in the programme. I felt like I had stepped into my screen and was watching all the drama unfold from within the walls of Kings Landing. Luckily though my biggest threat of attack came from a pigeon eyeing up my croissant not a fire breathing dragon! I was brought back to reality however when I learnt from the lovely Laura at LauraOverThinksIt that all of those scenes in Season 8 were actually filmed on a replica set built in Dublin, not actually in the streets of Dubrovnik. The smug look on my face dropped quicker than Little Fingers at Arya’s trial in Winterfell and I felt weirdly hard done by but as soon as the bells started ringing out across Dubrovnik the magic was restored.

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Although those specific scenes in Season 8 weren’t filmed in Dubrovnik, plenty of other incredible moments from Seasons 1-7 all took place within the walls of the old city. In order to see as much of it as I could, I decided to go on a Game of Thrones tour. There are hundreds of tours that take place throughout the city, but I chose to go on the one organised by the tourist office at the entrance to Pile Gate. It cost 150 Kuna (about £17) and lasted 2 hours. I bought tickets from the office on the day that I wanted to go and then simply met up with the group outside the large Amerling fountain 10 minutes before it was meant to set off.

TOP TIP: If you walk the City Walls, anytime up to 3 days before the GOT tour, then included in your ticket for that is an entrance ticket to the Fort. You go to the Fort as part of the GOT tour and entrance is 50 Kuna but if you have a city walls ticket then you can use that and get in for free.

We were guided around by the incredibly bubbly and knowledgeable Ivana, who said that she regrettably turned down a role to be an extra in the first season of GOT, and started our tour by the ‘docks of Kings Landing’. The stunning pier protruding from the base of Fort Lovrjenac (also known as the Red Keep) is the spot of many famous scenes like when Jamie returned to King’s Landing with Myrcellas’s body and Robert Baratheon’ bastard kids were killed. It was incredible to look out over “Blackwater Bay’ and see exactly what the actors and actresses saw when filming, but the highlight of this area for me came from a stranger in my tour. On this particular day it was raining cats and dogs (actually more like lions and wolves) which had caused the sea to be dangerously choppy. As a massive wave crashed over the pier and soaked everyone on it, a man from the back shouted, “WATER IS COMING!” I will be totally honest and say I nearly peed a bit laughing so hard.

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One thing I came to love and loathe about Dubrovnik was the number of stairs it had; the true test of my thighs however came when we had to climb up to the Fort Lovrjenac. After a few moments to catch our breath, and once we had gone through the ticket barriers where my top tip comes in handy, we entered into the iconic “Red Keep”. Some really notable Lanister scenes took place here such as Joffrey’s Nameday Tournament and Cersei and Littlefingers debate about what “Power” is. An aspect of the tour that I really enjoyed was that Ivana would hold up pictures from the programme in each area we visited so we could see exactly how it matched up in real life and what they edited in or out of the scenes. The fort itself was quite bare but it did have spectacular views of back over the city walls. After talking us through the Game of Thrones scenes as well as a bit of history about the fort itself, Ivana gave us enough time to take those all-important photos before heading back down the stairs to the old town.

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On the walk back Ivana told us stories of how the cast used to mingle amongst locals and that apparently Tyrion Lannister drank as much in real life as he did on screen. Things like that made me really glad I went on an actual tour instead of following an online route as the guides had so many personal stories about the series. Once inside the walls of the city we momentarily stopped at the entrance to Pile Gate, as a lot of the riot scenes from Season 2 were filmed here, before going to the most iconic place of all. The Walk of Shame steps. I think it is one of the most memorable scenes in the whole programme and seeing as it was raining, we were lucky enough to have the place to ourselves. Ivana filled us in on plenty of interesting trivia about how many extras they needed for the filming of this scene and that it originally was meant to be filmed outside the Dubrovnik Cathedral, but the Priests denied them access once they learnt Cersei would be naked. I can imagine it would’ve been an incredible sight to film looking out on over 2000 extras and it was a great experience to stand at the top put yourself in Cersei’s shoes. I can’t say that anyone stripped down to their birthday suit on my tour thankfully.

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There were some areas that we didn’t cover on the tour however such as the Spice King’s Palace in Quarth, as it is inside the Rectors Palace that requires an entry ticket, or the House of the Undying which is situated on the City Walls but Ivana did point them all out to us in case we wanted to go back and visit them another day. The tour concluded in a souvenir shop, nestled amongst the maze-like streets of the city. It contained a replica of the Iron Throne and as part of our tour we were allowed to take photos on it. If you’re not on a tour you can still use it but you have to make a purchase in the shop first. I think this was the most underwhelming part of the tour as the throne was just cramped into the corner of the shop and I found it almost awkward to take a photo on when the shop was busy but still a good memory to keep!

TOP TIP: I learnt at a later date that there is actually a better throne that you can sit on for free on Lokrum Island and it has more space around it rather than being cramped in a shop.

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I know that tours aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and there are a tonne of free online resources, such as blog posts, that I think would be another great way to take in all the Game of Thrones sights but I just personally wanted to do a tour. I didn’t have to worry about getting lost or missing anything and hearing Ivana’s personal stories of how much of an effect the GOT franchise has had on Dubrovnik and its residence really made the whole thing special. Since the series began, tourism has increased in Dubrovnik by 30% and it appears everywhere you turn either in souvenirs or themed dishes in restaurants. Being taken round by someone who has come face to face with the cast and seen the enthusiasm for the show grow over the years made the whole thing a lot more personal and I also enjoyed how she dropped in facts about the history of the city as well.

Every sign across the town states that they are offering the “best Game of Thrones tour ever” and I am sure, with a bit more extensive research, you could discover which one of them was actually telling the truth but I chose to just go with what the city offered and I am really glad I did. I shamefully descended the stairs like Cersei, looked longingly across Blackwater Bay like Sansa and eventually left feeling like Varys – knowing everything that goes on behind the scenes of Kings Landing.

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Verona outfit diary

I was lucky enough to spend a few days exploring the beautiful Italian city of Verona and I am a sucker for city break fashion. Here is my diary of what I wore day to day on my holiday (also keep your eyes peeled for a vlog and blog post about my trip)

DAY 1 – City Break

Our first day was spent wandering the streets of Verona. I knew I wanted something cool and comfortable but I was so inspired by the colour palette of the gorgeous buildings I couldn’t not wear this dress from New Look. It’s such a flattering length on my legs and didn’t stick to me in the boiling sun. Easy breezy as I like to call it. I opted for comfy shoes to get me across the cobbled streets and the rose gold stripes on these trainers matched my dress so perfectly.

  1. Dress – New Look
  2. Shoes – Adidas
  3. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_2838-1

DAY 2 – Poolside

Would it really be a holiday if you didn’t spend one day lounging around the pool. Our second day was spent doing just this. I absolutely adore this swimming costume from New Look. It has padding for my chest and synchs in slightly at the waist to give me such a flattering figure. Extra important to remember to put suncream on under the chain at the front though as no one wants a burn in the shape of a ladder running down their boobies now do they!

  1. Costume – New Look
  2. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_2840-2

DAY 3 – Lakeside

Seeing as we were only an hour out from Lake Garda we decided we would be stupid to miss out on seeing its beauty. I knew we would be out walking all day so I wanted to protect my shoulders from the sun and didn’t want to wear anything tight or uncomfortable. This dress was absolutely perfect. It’s thick enough to save my skin from burning but was so loose and floaty that, if I’m honest, I didn’t feel like I was wearing anything at all.

  1. Dress – Pretty Little Thing
  2. Watch –  M&S
  3. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_3111-2

DAY 4 – Sweet and Simple

Sometimes you just want to keep your outfit sweet and simple. I love the combination of the white and denim and think the blue trim on the top really ties the outfit together. We didn’t really have a set plan for this day so I thought this outfit would be perfect as it was comfortable enough to move around in but also made me feel put-together and girly. Lets be honest, you can never go wrong with a classic white tee and a bit of denim can you!

  1. Top – Zara
  2. Skirt – Topshop
  3. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_3148-2

DAY 5 – Traveler

If you haven’t gathered by now I am all about comfort when it comes to clothes and especially when my day involves a lot of traveling. This jumpsuit is the perfect transition piece as it is chic enough to wear around the city but the wide legs also means you can nice and comfy on your flight home. I would’ve been lost this holiday without this little rucksack as well. The colours goes with everything and its the perfect size to fit in all your essentials without feeling like you’re carrying around the kitchen sink everywhere you go.

  1. Jumpsuit – Stradivarius
  2. Rucksack – Accessorize IMG_3187-2

NIGHT TIME – Bar Goer

Every evening we found ourselves in out hotel bar playing cards and drinking cocktails. This was my favourite outfit of them all, firstly because it matched the colour scheme of the building so well! It is definitely a piece that can be dressed up easily with some jewellery and a pair of pretty sandals. The colour is so complimentary with my hair colour and I find wrap dresses to be so flattering. A 10/10 all round!

  1. Dress – New Look
  2. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_3025-2

If you want to see what I got up to in more detail here is my vlog of my trip too!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Lapland travel diary

In December of 2017 I was lucky enough to visit Lapland, Sweden, for my 21st birthday. It was the most amazing holiday of my life and I made sure to vlog it, which you can watch here, but I figured it also deserved a written account on my blog. Here is my travel diary of what I got up to and the things I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a magical winter break next year.

DAY 1 – Arrival 

Today was solely a travel day. We got a flight from Gatwick to Stockholm and then changed to a domestic flight to Kiruna which overall took around 4 hours. When we landed at Kiruna, at about 4pm, it was pitch black and -20 degrees which I must admit was a bit of a shock. We were picked up by a representative from Nordic Visitor, who were our travel company for the trip, and taken to their base to pick up some warm overalls, snow boots and grabbed a slice of pizza for dinner. From there we were dropped at our accommodation, we stayed in cabins at Camp Ripan. Each cabin was big enough for a family of 4 and there was also a main reception with a bar, viewing platform and restaurant. After unpacking we headed into the bar for some Glogg, a traditional mulled wine made with cloves and cinnamon, and some gingerbread cookies – absolute heaven!

DAY 2 – Icehotel and Snowmobiling 

Kicking the holiday off with a bit of exploring, we layered up and headed out into the town of Kiruna. It was like something taken out of a fairytale with pastel coloured houses buried under mountains of snow. We looked around the traditional church and even sat in to listen to some beautiful carols being sung. The whole town is built next to a iron mine and as a result it is slowly sinking. They plan on up and moving the whole town and its residence 3km away from its current location, including taking apart and reassembling the church, which was really interesting to read about in the town hall. Lunch was a very surreal experience. We found a burger van parked in a petrol garage that was selling reindeer sandwiches and chips but it also had the most beautiful teepee seating area filled with fairy lights and a roaring open fire. Very delicious but left you very delirious when you stepped out to see the locals filling their cars up with petrol.

Once back at out hotel we got picked up by a guide and taken to the Icehotel. It is a stunning structure made entirely of ice and offering 65 individually designed rooms for guests to spend the night in. We spent a couple of hours exploring the different rooms, my favourite being the space themed room, before being shown to our own bedrooms for the night. We were lucky enough to stay in the deluxe rooms which meant they had a ‘hot room’ in the back with a bathroom and sauna in. The bedrooms themselves are kept at a constant temperature of -5 degrees (which was actually warmer than the -25 degree temperature outside) so you have to sleep in a thermal sleeping bag and wholly hat. My room was like a maze of giant walls of ice that created a pathway to the bed and it felt like something out of Game of Thrones.

In the evening we were taken out deep into the middle of nowhere for a snowmobiling trip. We followed the guide out along twisty paths through the snowy forest but the most amazing part of the night happened when we entered a massive clearing. For the next 20 minutes we sat and watched the most incredible display of northern lights in the sky. Our guide told us it was the best they had seen for 4 years and it was absolutely breath taking. Turns out it is also very difficult to photograph but I will never forget the bright colours dancing across the sky. We carried on snowmobiling and then stopped in a cabin for some dinner of lingonberry juice and reindeer stew (there is lots of reindeer on this trip)  before returning to the ice hotel for one of the most bizarre night sleeps of my life.

DAY 3 – Spa and Snow Shoes 

I was woken up by a lovely member of the Icehotel staff who gave me a hot cup of lingonberry juice and essentially checked that I hadn’t frozen the death in the night. Given the circumstances I slept really well, the beds were comfy and the sleeping bags were incredibly warm, I just got a very chilly nose! We had one last look around the Icehotel and then headed back to Camp Ripan where we discovered the spa. Dipping in and out of the saunas and hot pools we had a very relaxing day and caught up on a bit of sleep that we missed out on the night before.

Of all the days this was our least busy and most relaxing. In the evening my dad, brother and I ventured back out into the forrest with some snow shoes. They were like big spades with grips on that you attached to the bottom of your shoes and they allowed you to trudge through the snow. Of all the activities this was my least favourite I have to admit, it was very cold, quite difficult and in a way rather pointless as we just walked around in a circle. We did start a fire and saw some amazing stars, as we weren’t allowed any lights, but other than that it would not be something that I would recommend.

DAY 4 – Huskies and Sky Station 

This day was without a doubt my favourite! We spent the day being Husky mushers (driving sleds pulled by huskies) and it was practically my dream came true. On arrival we were greeted by around 140 dogs and led to our sleds made up of 6 huskies. My brother and I took it in turns driving whilst the other sat on the sled being pulled along. We ran across fields of snow and through the woods, with the most beautiful views, but most importantly we got to stroke and cuddle around 30 husky dogs. The youngest on our sled was around one year old and each one loved being snuggled more than the last. I cannot recommend this experience enough! All the guides were so friendly and we stopped for lunch of hot mushroom soup and cheesy bread in a lovely teepee. Most importantly though it was a day with dogs, lots and lots of dogs! (Have I mentioned that dogs were involved enough?)

In the evening we drove for about an hour to the Abisko Sky Station. We were meant to go up a in a chairlift to the station but unfortunately the winds were too strong so it was cancelled. We still got an amazing 3 course meal and watched an interesting presentation all about the Aurora Borealis (northern lights). Following the meal we went on a walk down to a lake where there was a possibility to see the lights again but due to the wind it was incredibly cloudy so we weren’t able to. We were told that it is known to be a place with a high chance of seeing the lights though so if you want to see them you should check it out!

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I forgot to take any photos of the sky station or the meal so here are more dogs to make up for it

DAY 5 – Reindeer farm and Home time 

This was our final day in Kiruna. In the morning we checked out of the hotel and got a taxi to the local reindeer farm. The farm itself was really interesting as it had lots of information about the natives and how they used to live. We were then able to go into a cornered off area and hand feed some reindeers. It seemed a bit intimidating at first as they are rather large animals but turns out they are just like large friendly dogs! They took the food so gently and were happy for you to give them a stroke. It is important to say however that they are incredibly greedy animals so if you want their attention then you will definitely need some food!

We had a rather tense journey home as we were only allocated 50 minutes, once we landed in Stockholm, to get to our connecting flight back to London. Seeing as we were going from a domestic flight to a international flight we had to cut through the lines at security and passport control in order to make it. Ironically after sprinting for the flight our plane got held on the tarmac for an hour due to heavy traffic, at least it gave us time to catch our breath! Before long we were back home and the magic was over! I cannot express enough how much of a winter wonderland lapland is and could not recommend  it enough as a holiday if you want to get away in the colder months! Just remember to pack lots of layers and some reindeer food!

Once again I did vlog the whole holiday so if you want a more visual representation of what I got up to then you can watch it here!

Go and grab another cuppa (or a glass of Glogg) on me, Em x

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Honest guide to Disneyland Paris

February was a perfect month. I turned 21, got a 2:1 in my university coursework and I got to spend 4 amazing days in Disneyland Paris. Before leaving I read through hundreds of blog posts about Disney from booking to hotels, food to souvenirs and each one was more helpful than the one before so I thought I would add my own take on the happiest place on earth into the mix. Here is my honest guide to Disneyland Paris…

Dates – Before booking my trip I headed down to Thomson (now known as TUI I believe) and picked up a guide to Disneyland. Inside there was a helpful chart with a week by week guide to how busy the park would be throughout the year. Luckily for me one of the least busy weeks coincided with my reading week at uni so it was like it was meant to be! As you can imagine Disneyland is never going to be empty but I don’t think the crowds were too horrendous, on average we only had to queue for 30 mins and always had a decent view for the fireworks/parades. I would definitely recommend February as a good time to go just make sure you wrap up nice and warm!

Travel – I opted to take the Eurostar simply because it was slightly cheaper than flying and just felt like less of a hassle. We sped through passport control in St Pancras and before we knew it we were through the tunnel and into France. Overall it took about 2.45 hours and as soon as you step out the station you are a 5 minute walk away from the entrance to Disney. There was an option where you could pay to check in on the train so you could head straight to the parks but I didn’t pay for this as I didn’t mind going to the hotel and settling in a bit first before heading off to the castle! On our way home we were told to only leave 40 mins before our train left but THIS IS A LIE! The queue for customs was so long and we only just made our train so I would recommend heading to the station with at least an hour to spare

Hotel – We stayed in one of the new renovated rooms at the Disney Cheyenne hotel and, for the price we payed, I think it was lovely. Our room had an ensuite, with a shower and a bath, and 2 large double beds. It had air conditioning, heating and a large tv that played endless repeats of Thats So Raven so I really couldn’t complain. The hotel had a gift shop, a Starbucks, a bar and a buffet restaurant which we didn’t actually end up trying but it looked perfectly nice. It was a 10/15 minute walk from the parks or a 3 minute bus ride. I can imagine in peak season the buses would get very crowded and you may have to end up waiting around for one but seeing as the park was at its emptiest we never had to wait longer than 5 minutes for one. I really like the Cheyenne hotels wild west/toy story theme and would 100% stay there again!

Food – I was most worried about the food and how much it was going to cost me to simply not starve but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Our hotel offered a buffet breakfast for a rather large cost so instead we chose to just go to Starbucks in the morning and grab a cup of tea and a croissant which turned out to be much more cost effective (and yummier I can imagine). Seeing as we didn’t have a weight limit on the Eurostar we stocked our bags up with lots of snacky foods like breakfast bars and biscuits to keep us going throughout the day. For lunches and diners we tended to opt for the quick service restaurants in which you could get a main (like a burger or hot dog), a side, a desert and a drink for around €15, if you chose off the set menu, which I thought was pretty reasonable and they were decent sized servings. Although food was the thing we spent the most on it wasn’t as extortionate as I had feared and there was definitely a great variety. I would highly recommend the chicken fajitas at the quick service restaurant opposite Big Thunder Mountain! Disney do offer meal plans but seeing as I didn’t use on I don’t feel like I know enough to comment on them but I will say that I didn’t leave wishing that I had got one.

Rides – As previously mentioned we got quite lucky with wait times and also took good advantage of the fast pass system that Disney offers. The biggest problem we faced however was rides closing down. We got to the front of the queue of Pirates of the Caribbean to have it shut down and I couldn’t ride Space Mountain until the last day as it always seemed to be closed. It was frustrating but in the end we did get to ride everything we wanted! The last time I went to Disney I was around 10 and lots of the rides hadn’t changed at all since then but in a way I think that just adds to the sentimental value of Disney for me. My top ride recommendations would be Buzz Lightyears Laser Blast, Big Thunder Mountain, Ratatouille and It’s a Small World simply for how bizarre it is. The only ride I would question would be Crush’s Coaster, it was fun but over very quickly considering we queued the longest for it out of any of the rides.

Souvenirs – Everywhere you turn you will see a gift shop and if you like Stitch then you are definitely in for a treat because he seemed to be everywhere! Even though there were lots of different shops I felt they all seemed to sell the same thing and Disney had clearly singled out a few films to focus their merch on. The most noticeable difference for me since the last time I went was just how much Star Wars stuff there was, it was everywhere! Just like the food I wasn’t as shocked by the prices of most things as I thought I would be but €5 for a pencil….come on now Disney. I ended up picking some pins and t-shirts to take home and am very impressed with the quality of them so although this sounds like I am ripping into the souvenirs I am not, I do think there are some great things you might just have to push past the racks of overpriced stationary to find them.

IMG_1862.JPGTop tips – Here are a few tips that I wish I had known before going on my trip to Disneyland Paris….

  1. Invest in the Photopass! Even though it was quite pricey (at around £40 I think) we will be forever laughing at some of the photos we got from the rides and are definitely great memories to treasure!
  2. Don’t feel like you can’t take some time to chill! You have spent a lot of money and want to get the full bang for your buck I know but we found that going back to the hotel for a couple of hours in the afternoon for a rest made our whole experience more enjoyable.
  3. Get a lanyard with a plastic card wallet on. I ended up buying one from the park for about €10 but it made it so much easier having our park tickets, hotel key, fast passes etc all in one place. Plus it was a great way to show off all those new pins!
  4. If there is a ride you really want to go on but the queues are too long, wait till when the parade is on then I guarantee the lines will be a lot shorter.
  5. Use a blank white photo frame to get signatures from characters then when you’re home you can add in one of your favourite photos and have all of the memories of the people you met shown off around it.
  6. Bring layers for the evening. If you’re planning on staying till the fireworks then keep an extra layer in your bag, especially if you’re going in the winter months, because you won’t enjoy the fireworks if you feel like a human ice cream.
  7. Secure a good spot for the parade early because there is nothing more annoying than having a 6ft 4 dad with a kid on his shoulders in front of you when you’re just trying to wave to Pluto from his float.
  8. If you’re meeting characters take videos as well as photos, you can get good stills from them and it’s also a great way to look back on the moment.
  9. The minnie mouse ears that Disney sells are made for kids heads so, I found them to be at least, very tight and very uncomfortable. Look into some pairs on Etsy before your trip, I got my Winnie the Pooh ones here and I love them. Plus it is a great way to connect with your favourite character if you’re wearing ears that represent them.
  10. Enjoy every moment of it because it honestly will be one of the most magical trip you go on no matter what age you are!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Tenerife holiday outfits 

For the past 5 days I have been lucky enough to be chasing the sun in Tenerife. Although I am far from a fashionista I’ve always had a love for clothes and particularly summer trends. I thought I’d share some of my holiday outfits I wore, maybe for inspiration or maybe just so you can all get a good laugh at my tan lines! (Btw you can tell as the week goes on because I turn a darker shade of red by the day)

Pool day 


This is my go to outfit for a day by the pool, the swimming costume from New Look is incredibly flattering and it’s dark colour helps attract the sun for a good tan. The maxi skirt is from BooHoo and is perfect to slip on when jumping from the pool to the bar. The shoes (which you will be seeing a lot of) are from Marks and Spencer’s

Sightseeing day 


On days where I’m out and about exploring a town, doing some shopping or enjoying some good old sightseeing I like to be comfy but not feeling slouchy. I adore this top from BooHoo and when paired with these New Look shorts I think it makes it look like I’ve made an effort but really it’s a very simple outfit. This bag, also from New Look (bet you can guess my favourite shop now), is the perfect size to fit all holiday essentials but not be too bulky. Personally I find these shoes really comfortable and they keep my feet cool but if you’re going for a long day of walking then they can be substituted out for some converse etc

Beach day 


I have a love/hate relationship with the beach. I adore the sound of the sea but I always seem to get unbelievably burnt whenever I step foot on the sand. For that exact reason I always like to have an option to cover up when I’m at the beach and this maxi skirt and top co-ord from BooHoo is ideal. It’s floaty and light but can protect me from the sun when I start to become a human tomato

Travel day 


When traveling the most important thing is comfort. I always find, particularly on planes, I get really hot so I always try to wear an outfit that will keep me cool. I chose this skirt from New Look and then just placed some cycling shorts underneath so I could cosy up on the plane and not have to worry about flashing anyone! My top is also from New Look and most likely I will pair this with a jacket for any cooler areas that I end up in

Evening


Going out in the evenings was a good chance to dress up a little bit. My sunglasses, that have appeared throughout, are from Accessorize and I would definitely recommend as they are cheap enough that it isn’t the end of the world if you lose them but they’re good enough quality to actually protect you from the sun. By this point I’m sure you can guess that the playsuit is from New Look, it’s flattering, pretty and comfortable and could work in a club or at a nice restaurant

So that’s it, I’m sorry for the long post but even if you just scrolled down to see the pictures (which lets be honest we have all done at some point) I hope you enjoyed it. I am thinking of doing a post about recommendations of what to do in Tenerife if that’s something you would be interested in but until then…

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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