Top 5 Favourite Memories from Seoul

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It’s been almost a year since me, Becca and Jess set off on our adventure to Asia and to be honest I’m still not over it. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish I was back on that exact trip, reliving the entire experience. I wanted to share my five favourite memories from Seoul. It was an amazing city but unfortunately I don’t think we spent anywhere near enough time there. We arrived on the Thursday from Japan and were boarding our plane back to the UK on the Monday. We will definitely have to return to South Korea at some point but for now I’m gonna relive my favourite moments!

Banana Tree Café

Banana Tree

I’m not sure where I heard of this place, I think I’d been googling whacky cafes to visit in Korea since we already had so many lined up for Japan and when I heard of this place I wanted to go. They make cakes served in little flower pots and you receive a little shovel spoon to eat them with. When I told my friends they were happy to go too and off we set.

The café was actually tiny upon arrival, there was maybe like three or four tables when we arrived. There wasn’t a table that seated more than two people so my friends sat on one table whilst I sat on a seat by a little ledge. Unfortunately I believe we’d eaten at the SM Town café earlier and had been keen for something savoury but they only served sweet food so by the time we arrived at Banana Tree, again, we were craving something savoury. Unfortunately for me the only savoury food wasn’t anything up my street so I ordered a chocolate and banana cake so at least I’d still get the cute flower pot. I also got a chocolate milkshake.

I can’t remember what drinks the girls ordered but when our drinks arrived first theirs was bloody impressive as it came with a large dollop of candyfloss on top. My chocolate milkshake was lush and then the food came. Becca and Jess had ordered mozzarella toast, a sensible choice as Becca’s a veggie and they both like cheese on toast and fancied something savoury. For reasons known only to the café the mozzarella toast also came with peanut butter and pieces of ham. That’s the thing I found most bizarre about Asia, most food didn’t have a description of what was in it and for those that did they occasionally missed ingredients out. At one café in Japan Becca ordered the one item she thought was vegetarian and it still came with meat in. That would definitely not fly in the UK.

Banana Tree 2

On the bright side my chocolate and banana cake was gorgeous and was really cute. It was a shame that I fancied savoury food but luckily there was a rib place over the road so once we were done in Banana Tree we headed over – me and Jess shared some pulled pork with fries whilst Becca had a serving of fries. So in the end I got the cute cake and something savoury so it was a good experience!

Ice Museum/Trick-Eye Museum

TrickEye

The journey to the Trick-Eye Museum was eventful as Google Maps advised us to get on a specific bus but unfortunately this bus was only supposed to go to the airport and wasn’t meant to let travellers off beforehand. The driver wasn’t thrilled to let us off at our stop but luckily we made it to the Trick-Eye Museum with no further problems. We’d been cutting it a bit fine as it was getting late and wasn’t long off closing time.

When we arrived we received a ticket for the Ice Museum as well as the Trick-Eye Museum as they were in the same building and we were advised to go straight into the Ice Museum as that was closing quicker than the Trick-Eye one. I was looking forward to it as the year before we’d visited an ice bar in Amsterdam and that had been enjoyable!

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They didn’t give us anything to wear – in Amsterdam you were given a large coat to keep yourself warm but in Seoul we weren’t given anything and very quickly we were all shivering too much to particularly enjoy the sculptures. There was an ice slide which we all took a turn on but it didn’t go as fast as one would’ve expected from an ice slide and in the end it was too cold for us to stay in there. None of us had any jackets or anything with us and it was bloody freezing! It took me forever and a day to warm back up.

We headed over to the Trick-Eye Museum which was right up our street as it was mostly just photo opportunities but as it was nearing closing time we were literally tag-teaming getting some decent photos, kicking our bags to the next thing and then starting all over again. For the first few rooms I was genuinely sweating my balls off as we tried to get everything done. We did calm down in the end and the museum was tons of fun, I’d definitely recommend if you’re visiting Seoul. As it was late we had the place pretty much to ourselves and it was so much fun.

SM Town Videos

SM Town

As massive K-Pop fans we couldn’t have visited Seoul without a trip to SM Town so it was one of the first things we did. The museum was fun as it was cool to spot all the references to our favourite K-Pop artists but arguably the best bit about it were the photo opportunities.

On the top floor there was a photo booth where you could take a photo with two K-Pop artists of your choice – I chose mine quickly as I just wanted Sunny from Girls’ Generation who came with Tiffany which was fine by me, and then Jess chose hers relatively quickly and Becca took forever a day. Then when she finally did settle on someone she closed her eyes just as they took the photo so she had to retake it.

Then there was a section of the museum that you had to pay to enter and as you walked through each group had their own ‘room’ and just like the photo booth there were photo opportunities but these were more fun as two members would saunter onto the screen as if they were really preparing to pose with you and then the rest of the members just appeared as photos. In this room they also had small intros – for example my favourite one was in Super Junior which was ‘Mamacita’ themed, two members came on the screen and had a ‘shoot-out’. There was also two toy gun props and a cowboy hat – Becca donned both and made me pee my pants as she pretended to fire straight into the air – it’s hard to explain but there’s a video on my Instagram and I laugh every time I watch it.

It was really fun going from room to room pretending to interact with my favourite idols – if you’re a K-Pop fan in Seoul I definitely recommend a visit to SM Town as I imagine most K-Pop fans are fans of at least one SM group.

Lotte World

Lotte World

I wrote a long post about everything we got up to here but theme park days on long trips are NECESSARY! It’s a chance to just have fun without getting stressed about getting from one tourist spot to the next or running out of time to do everything etc. It was nice to just relax and have a good look around.

Unfortunately as we didn’t know much about Lotte World I don’t think we planned the day as well as we could have. For example the big thrill rides were in the outside section which we didn’t discover until the early evening which by that point all the queues were massive. I didn’t mind too much as I’m not a big thrill ride kind of person but I know Becca and Jess are so we should’ve gone outside first but we had no idea it existed!

My favourite parts were probably the parades as they were just whacky. I still get the ‘you’ve got a pum-pum-pumpkin head’ song stuck in my head occasionally and it was just a lot of fun. So was the night parade with the indoor fireworks. If in Seoul I’d definitely go back to Lotte World ‘cos it was just so much fun!

Karaoke

Karaoke

My favourite night from the trip! We took tons of videos and I love rewatching them, especially the ‘Lie’ (Jimin) video because we sound so drunk even though we were sober. We definitely wanted to do Karaoke whilst in Asia and Seoul seemed to have a lot of places to do it so Jess found one and off we went.

We were given a room for an hour and it was quite small with no windows but as there was only three of us it fitted our needs just fine, there were even maracas and tambourines for us. Unfortunately only two mics but it didn’t matter as we just shared. On our way to the room we could hear people in the other rooms and I don’t think we once heard anyone singing an upbeat song, everyone was singing slow ballads – if they could hear us they probably hated us.

In the first room we kicked it off with ‘Bang Bang’ by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj but I also remember singing Mic Drop by BTS, Bang Bang Bang by Big Bang, Breaking Free from High School Musical, Boombayah by Black Pink and Waterloo by ABBA. I can’t remember everything but all our songs were upbeat and we sounded like messes – especially when we had to sing in Korean.

Once the hour was up we didn’t want to stop so we went downstairs and paid for another hour. Becca also grabbed us each a bottle of water as screaming lyrics for an hour had absolutely killed our throats. We were given a different room number and when we went up it was bigger with a large window which although felt nicer as it was less claustrophobic meant that people could see into the room whilst we did karaoke. It definitely didn’t stop us though!

In here we sang Lie by BTS’ Jimin, Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, Hello B*tches by CL, Ring Ding Dong by SHINee and I’m sure tons of other songs – we also sang Sorry Sorry by Super Junior, I’m pretty sure that was our last one, and as Becca was doing the choreography she looked out the window and noticed two guys from the street were watching her.

That night was so much fun and we got some amazing videos of it – the only downside was that our throats killed by the end of the night but never mind, definitely worth it.

So there we have it, my five favourite memories from Seoul! Let me know yours if you’ve ever been or what you’d like to do if given the opportunity to visit.

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Top 5 Favourite Memories from Tokyo

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I’ve written a sort of ‘series’ where I describe my three favourite moments for the places me and my friends have visited. Tokyo was packed full of so many amazing memories that I couldn’t possibly narrow it down to three so I’ve upped it to five which will still be a struggle but slightly easier. Here goes nothing!

Mt Fuji Day Trip

Mt Fuji 8

I wrote a long post about this but it was an amazing day. We all knew we wanted to see Mt Fuji but had heard it was difficult to reach by public transport so we booked ourselves a day trip that would take us to Mt Fuji and to the Aokigahara Forest. It was full of so many moments – my favourite being that we’d all been looking forward to a two hour coach journey to relax, maybe have a nap and our bloody tour guide was like “Let’s all sing a song together!” To be fair she was lovely, very enthusiastic and knew a lot about the mountain.

We thought the whole group would also go to the Aokigahara Forest but it turns out it was just us three and the tour guide. It was a bit embarrassing but was also good because our experience was very personalised. I’m proud of myself for getting down into the ice cave even though I was terrified and for not falling flat on my face once we were inside.

It was an amazing trip that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Gundam Robot

Gundam Robot

I don’t think I looked up the Gundam Robot before we went, I think it was put on the list by Becca and Jess because I hadn’t heard of it before we went. The girls just described it to me as a giant robot and I was definitely down to visit because like who doesn’t wanna go and see a giant robot?

It had been on our itinerary to visit the robot after visiting Joypolis and we’d had so much fun inside there that it was quite late when we left. We took photos of the Rainbow Bridge and then walked over to the Gundam Robot. As the thing is massive we spotted it as we were approaching and it looked INCREDIBLE. It was all lit up and moving around and I was so excited to take photos of it. The literal second we got close enough to fully enjoy it he shut down – the lights went out and he stopped moving. That’s absolutely typical but he still looked super impressive anyway so we took lots of photos.

He was the last tourist spot we visited in Tokyo as it was our last night and it was a perfect way to end the day. If I ever return to Tokyo (which I intend to do) I’d love to go back and see him actually moving around properly this time as it was so annoying that he shut down just as we arrived. It was still an awesome sight though!

Fortune Forest at Joypolis

Joypolis

Speaking of Joypolis my absolute favourite attraction was no doubt ‘Fortune Forest’. When we arrived Becca and Jess bought tickets that basically got them into every ride as they’re thrill seekers and knew they’d happily go on anything. I’m more timid, not a big fan of anything fast and stuff like that so I bought a ticket that I had to top up once inside which worked out better all around. I didn’t go on as much as them as a lot of the attractions were in little rooms and I was worried about going through and discovering it was too fast or too scary for me but I did go on a few things. I was easily persuaded into ‘Fortune Forest’ as it wasn’t a ride, it was just described as being a fortune telling experience.

I topped up my card and the three of us went to the entrance where we were given ‘crystals’ from the women manning the stall and we went in. At the first stop you enter some basic information about yourself and what you want to find out. So your name, age, gender etc and then I think we all just picked a ‘general’ fortune. You then walk into a room where you put your crystal into different slots of your choice and then you answer questions. I think you pick three slots, they’re all decorated and it’s a forest theme hence the name. Then you go through to the final room where you put your crystal away and you receive a printed out fortune.

Maybe the best thing about it was that it was accessible for everyone, it was available in a ton of different languages so there weren’t any barriers – all the questions were in English and the fortune was printed in English because that was the one I’d selected as obviously it’s the only language I speak. The fortunes were quite generous, they were on an A4 piece of paper and were split into different sections. The three of us took it in turns to read our fortunes to each other and decided that we’d had so much fun that we had to do it again!

The woman at the entrance didn’t even blink when we reappeared, just gave us our crystals and let us through. We all went for a different theme this time, I can’t remember exactly what everyone picked but mine was to do with relationships, I think Becca’s was similar but slightly different and Jess’ was money related. I think you could also do joint friendship crystals but I can’t really remember, it’s been a while since we went now!

As we went round the room picking our slots I noticed a room that was barred off and pointed it out to my friends. They read the instructions on the wall and they were like “Oh, we need to both put down our crystals and maybe it’ll let us in!” So Becca and Jess both put their crystals either side of the door, held hands and waited for a moment only for a loud voice to boom “STOP! YOU MAY NOT ENTER THE SPECIAL ROOM! TAKE YOUR CRYSTALS AND LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!” It doesn’t sound funny but watching them hold hands and then hearing that loud announcement had me crying with laughter throughout the entire trip whenever I remembered it.

I have a suspicion that we went in a third time because we were really enjoying it but I can’t fully remember. Joypolis in general was a lot of fun but ‘Fortune Forest’ was definitely my favourite aspect of it!

Awkwardness of Maidreamin

Maid Cafe

I wrote a longer post about this in my themed cafes blog post but this was one of the most awkward experiences of my life. We’d known a Maid Café would be a bit of an awkward experience but we wanted to do it anyway ‘cos hey we may never return to Tokyo so might as well experience all of it. Becca was less keen but me and Jess dragged her along. It might’ve been just about okay but unfortunately the Maidreamin we ended up in was absolutely empty except for us.

We got the full experience from wearing animal ears to having to do cute actions before we ate our food. I think my absolute favourite though was when she told us that when we were ready to order to get her attention we had to go “meow meow” whilst pretending to be a cat. None of us were feeling particularly confident about this so when we were ready we made eye contact with her and she went “meow meow?” and we had to do it anyway.

A bizarre experience but still a fun one and I’d definitely go back to a Maidreamin if in Tokyo – but probably the more popular one in Akihabara!

Electric Parade at Disneyland Tokyo

Disneyland 4

Arguably my favourite moment of the trip was the electric parade at the end of the day when we visited Tokyo Disneyland. To be fair the whole day at Disneyland was just a lot of fun, any day spent at a Disney park always is but if I had to narrow it down to a specific moment it would definitely be the electric parade. When we’d visited Disneyland Paris a couple of years previously we hadn’t had much time and we hadn’t had chance to see any parades but we planned Disneyland Tokyo a bit better and managed to catch the Halloween parade earlier in the day and then the electric parade in the evening.

I think it was fun to just sit and catch my breath for a minute whilst enjoying the amazing floats that were coming past. The parade went on for quite a while, Becca kept turning around to where we could see the parade approaching and she kept going “THERE’S MORE!” The best was when the Peter Pan float came past and me and Becca waved madly and managed to get a wave back from Peter Pan. Then hi-fived each other ‘cos we’re lame.

If I could return to one moment from that trip it would probably be that one. It was fun and we weren’t far into the trip by that point, we had a lot left to do and I was looking forward to it all.

So there we go, my five favourite memories from Tokyo! I could’ve included a lot more, as I was about to publish this I remembered our crazy experience at ‘The Lock-Up’ which was absolutely hilarious as well. Tokyo was just an amazing city and it was definitely my favourite holiday ever. Let me know your favourite memories of the city or what you’d like to do if you ever visited!

10 Things I Wanna Do/Achieve Before I Turn 30

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As I write this I am currently 22 years old, turning 23 next month and I feel like since becoming an adult I’ve achieved quite a few things that I want to do. However there are plenty more things I want to do and I decided to make a list of my top ten priorities that I want to cross off. So here we go!

1. Go on an Out-of-Continent Trip on My Own

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This one is a bit of a cheat because I already know I’m going to do this. I’m heading to Hong Kong next month to celebrate my birthday, assuming the protest situation doesn’t get any worse and even if it does and I can’t go (fingers crossed I can!) I have a solo trip booked to Orlando, Florida in early 2020 so I can finally visit Disney World.

However it’s also not a cheat because I think I would’ve wanted to do this regardless of already having trips booked. I’ve travelled solo around parts of Europe and I wanted to take it a step further, prove to myself that I can do it. I’m worried it’ll sort of be like pulling a cork out of a bottle and soon I won’t stop but hey, the world is large and I want to explore as much of it as possible!

2. Publish a Book

I’m not sure if this one is too ambitious considering I haven’t attempted ‘the novel’ in a long time but like I want to get it done and to achieve it before I’m 30 would be ideal. Obviously it’s not the end of the world if I haven’t done it by then, there will still be plenty of time but I just really want to publish one!

I still ‘write’, I write my blog posts, I write stories for my friends (mostly at Christmas but I have done birthday ones and just ‘cheer up’ ones), I write short stories occasionally but I want to publish THE NOVEL y’know? I’ve got a few ideas knocking around it’s just actually putting the words onto paper that’s the difficult bit. At some point though I will definitely need to crack down and get on with it though so fingers crossed that I actually put in the effort to achieve this!

3. Visit Africa

Africa

Okay, I know Africa is a big place so I’d need to narrow it down but it’s on my bucket list to visit every continent across the world. However, I think I’m going to give Antarctica a miss because it’s really expensive to visit and I just don’t imagine there’s much to see or do up there but all the other continents I’d like to visit. So far I’ve ticked off Europe (obviously because I live in Europe), North America and Asia.

Me and my friends are definitely going to go to Australia one day, it’s Hirst’s top place that she wants to visit and I just know that we will eventually go. However I think the next continent I personally would like to tick off is Africa. I’d love to some of my favourite animals in the wild and I just imagine it’d be an amazing place to visit. So I’m not sure when or how but I’d like to go one day – preferably before I turn 30!

4. Move Out

Still living with my parents at 22 isn’t the end of the world. I can afford to do all the things I want to do like travel, eat out regularly, go to concerts etc. whilst paying the bare minimum of rent. But I feel like by the time I’m thirty I will definitely be overdue needing my own place. Living with my Mom and Step-Dad is grating on me, I won’t lie, and I want my own space. I’m not worried about living by myself because I live for the moments when my parents go on holiday and I get the house to myself – I can’t wait to have that all the time!

I feel like if I really wanted to I could potentially just about afford to move out now but that would mean only being able to afford to live – paying rent, bills, groceries would take up pretty much all of my wages and I’m not willing to give up the lifestyle I’ve currently become used to. Maybe in my late 20s I’ll feel ready or I’ll earn more – but not yet!

5. Take my Mom on a Holiday Abroad I’ve Paid For

Mum

I mentioned this on my bucket list and it’s something I really want to do. As a kid my Mom made sure me and my siblings had a holiday every single year – okay we didn’t go abroad every year but we did go occasionally and for the times that we didn’t we went to Wales and stayed in a caravan. I loved those holidays as a child and would be happy to do another caravan holiday one day but at the moment I’d much prefer to spend my money and annual leave on going abroad and exploring new places.

For my 21st birthday my Mom splashed out and booked me a trip to New York, at my request. I’d really love to repay the favour on one of my Mom’s big birthdays. My friend Hirst recently took her Mom on holiday for her 50th birthday and my friend Becca is planning her Mom’s 50th birthday present. Unfortunately I was still at school for my Mom’s 50th birthday so couldn’t do anything spectacular but in a few years my Mom will turn 60 and I want to book her an amazing birthday trip.

I’ve tried to figure out where she’d like to go and I think I have a vague idea so now I just need to save and surprise her. Easier said than done as it will probably be very expensive but my Mom definitely deserves a treat after all the shit she’s had to put up with from me and my brothers. As my Mom turns 60 before I turn 30 I’ll definitely be ticking this off the list!

6. Attend a K-Pop Concert in Seoul

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I had a recent blow. I’d been keeping an eye on any concerts that would be happening the week I was in Hong Kong and discovered that Mamamoo, a K-Pop girl group who at one point were my favourites, would be performing a concert the literal night before I arrived. I would be on the plane on my way to the country whilst they were performing. THEY COULDN’T HAVE HAD IT A DAY LATER!?

I kept an eye out when me and the girls went to Seoul for any K-Pop concerts that were happening but there weren’t really any. All of our K-Pop faves will perform a concert in Seoul at some point and I wouldn’t mind travelling, it’s just many K-Pop concerts are announced at the last minute making it difficult to travel that far. But before I’m 30 I want to return to Seoul and see some of my faves in concert. I’ll make sure of it!

7. Continue to do something fun every month

BTS Wembley 4

I can’t remember when but a couple of years ago I decided that I wanted to do something ‘fun’ every single month out of the year. For me this meant something slightly different to my every day stuff and usually included a trip, a theatre visit or just something different to the norm for example in February I did an escape room and I counted that as my fun thing. I’ve been doing it for a while and I want to continue it until I’m 30.

It’s actually much easier to achieve than I thought. I have several trips booked a year anyway, sometimes concerts get announced that I want to go so that counts as my fun thing and then I quickly slot in something relatively cheap for the leftover months. I imagine I’ll continue doing it long after I’m 30 but I definitely still want to do it every year until then!

8. Go to America with my best friends

Los Angeles

Me and my three best friends love travelling together but so far the four of us have only visited Europe together. Me, Becca and Jess travelled to Asia together but unfortunately Hirst couldn’t afford it at the time. I’ve only visited America with my Mom but I’d love to go with my friends one day. I don’t even particularly care which state, it’d just be fun to explore part of America with my friends.

We have a few plans on where we’re going to travel over the next couple of years and America hasn’t featured yet but we have just over seven years to plan a trip so hopefully we will. It would be so much fun!

9. Go back to Japan

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I have never loved somewhere as much as I loved Japan, it’s my favourite place I’ve ever visited and I’m glad we went for two weeks and explored three different cities instead of just going to Tokyo and then leaving. We visited Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and I loved pretty much every day we spent in the country. It felt surreal to finally visit somewhere I’d been longing to go for years and even now it still doesn’t feel like we went!

I’ve been saying I plan on returning to Japan in 2022 but we’ll see, however I definitely want to return before I turn thirty. Even though we spent a full week in Tokyo there were still some things we had to miss as we ran out of time, I’d love to spend more time in Osaka, there was a place we visited in Kyoto at night that I’d like to see in the daytime and I’d also love to see a new part of Japan that we didn’t get to visit last time. Whilst on that side of the world I could easily visit another country like we did last time when we visited South Korea so I definitely intend to return.

10. Improve My Wardrobe

Last year I suddenly decided I didn’t like wearing jeans. I’m not sure why, I think it was in Japan when it was extremely hot and my jeans weren’t helping the situation they were just making me chaff. When I returned I started wearing leggings with dresses and when I eventually wanted to wear a t-shirt to a BTS concert I went out and bought a skirt so that I wouldn’t have to wear jeans.

For a while my style was literally the same dress from PRIMARK but in different colours and that was pretty much all I wore but then I realised I wanted some summer clothes and also clothes I could enjoy outside of work. Pretty much every outfit I owned was suitable for work and that’s BORING – practical because I work there five days a week and only have two days off but regardless I wanted clothes I actually liked not just clothes that were practical.

Also, most of my clothes were still black – I went through my emo phase as a teenager and yet my wardrobe now mostly still reflected that. I don’t want to wear black all the time, I actually want to start wearing some colours now!

Unfortunately the majority of clothes I like are either teeny tiny or extremely expensive. But that won’t stop me shopping around from now on to expand my wardrobe. I recently ordered a really cute dress to wear at Disneyland later this year and the online shop I bought it from has a large selection of cute dresses in larger sizes that are relatively affordable. I definitely intend to buy a few more and expand my wardrobe a bit. I want to have a wide and varied wardrobe by the time I turn 30!

So there we go, that’s 10 things I want to achieve or do by the time I turn 30. Hopefully I’ll manage all of these but if not it’s not the end of the world – after all life doesn’t end at 30 and I’ll have a lot more living to do!

Travel Fails: Berlin Edition

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Those of you who read my Belgium Travel Fails blog post will be aware that me and my friends got off to an unfortunate start with our flight. The moment I got home I lodged a complaint and waited for a response. We were told we’d each receive some compensation money and I imagined that we’d probably receive about £40 each. I mean, the flights had cost about £108 each, our flight home left on time and we’d actually still made it to Belgium on the day we were meant to so I figured we’d get a part refund. Imagine my surprise when we each received about £230 each.

Immediately I was on skyscanner planning the next trip and before I knew it I’d booked myself flights to Berlin and back. I’ve wanted to visit Berlin for a few years now and my friends Becca and Jess had been in 2017, and both of them said they loved it. I booked my hotel and before I knew it Friday 5th July had come around and I was ready to set off.

Although I’m a nervous flyer and it’s not recommended I like being at the airport as early as possible. I need time to account for long queues and then I want time to relax in the departures lounge before catching the flight instead of having to rush around everywhere. I was flying with Flybe who I like flying with because I like their self-service machines and for some reason I just trust them more than I do other airlines. Also generally their flights are more comfortable as they’re 2-2 instead of 3-3.

I sauntered down to the self-service machine, popped my passport in and then… The machine told me it wasn’t possible to check-in? I didn’t have any suspicions at this point, I optimistically went up to the main desk and told the women there the self-service machine hadn’t let me check-in. Maybe I was too early, maybe because I’d booked through a third party site they needed to manually check me in – oh how naïve I was.

Turns out my flight had been downgraded and there was now no longer a seat available for me on the plane. My options were a flight the next day at 6:40AM or a 7PM flight to Hannover today with a coach taking us to Berlin. Neither option was particularly perfect and I asked if the airline would put me up in a hotel for the night if I chose the 6:40AM one but I was informed that since they’d offered me an alternative to get there today they wouldn’t be able to. So I took the Hannover flight.

To be fair to the women that had to break this news to me she immediately gave me a compensation form that she’d filled in, told me how to send it off and made sure I got a food voucher to spend in the airport while I was waiting. Sure £7.50 wasn’t going to get me far but it knocked a bit off my usual pre-flight meal in Giraffe.

The first thing I did was tell my Mom, my best friends and a colleague from work. I hadn’t taken out my frustration on the woman behind the desk because that wouldn’t have achieved anything but I needed to let it out somehow so I had a good rant to everyone I could think of that would actually give a damn.

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Obviously I was pleased I was still reaching Berlin tonight but Hannover is about a three hour drive away from Berlin so at the best we were going to make it there by midnight. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that for me, my least favourite part about solo travel and the part that makes me nervous, is getting from the airport to my accommodation. I’m not sure why but once I’ve checked in I can relax and enjoy the holiday, the moments leading up to it though are anxiety-ridden.

I messaged Flybe on Twitter to ask where we were going to be dropped off and was informed it would it be at Berlin Tegel airport which to me didn’t make sense – what am I supposed to do at the airport at midnight, how would I get to the city centre? But there wasn’t much to be done so I got on my flight to Hannover and hoped for the best.

The flight went smoothly and landed a lot quicker than I’d thought it would. I was one of the first off the plane, raced through border control, quickly used the bathroom and then went to find the coach. I was terrified at getting left behind and at first I had no idea where to go so I went over to the information desk. Luckily I was intercepted by a lady whose job it was to round up all the Hannover-Berlin people, she told me where to wait and said there was eighteen of us that she needed to find.

I was the first one there and it was quite a wait as people slowly made their way over. One couple even went and grabbed some food which was slightly annoying as we were left waiting but they turned out to be nice so I let them off the hook. After about maybe half-an-hour there was a grand total of nine people even though she’d been expecting eighteen of us. She made us wait another ten minutes before finally taking us over to the coach people. I had a quick look at the prices for transfers when we got there and it was a whopping 325 euros to be transferred to Berlin!

There was then a bit of a kerfuffle as some of the guests thought along the same lines as me – being dropped at the airport so late at night was a bad idea and it would be a lot easier if we were dropped off somewhere central. There was a lot of arguing in German whilst I stood there awkwardly until eventually one passenger who could speak German and English said “Who doesn’t speak German and needs me to translate that conversation?” He was actually super helpful and sort of became the ‘leader’ of our little group as he managed to convince our driver that being dropped off at the central train station in Berlin would be a better idea.

I ended up in a car with him and two guys from China whilst the rest of the group got into a different car. The people I was travelling with were lovely to be fair, we did some quick introductions before we set off but then as it was so late we tried to sleep or just chilled on the long journey. The driver asked if we wanted to stop on the way but we were all keen to just get to Berlin at this point so we said no. To be fair our driver got us there quicker than expected but due to the delays before we left we made it to Berlin at about 1:20AM.

Berlin 4

I hoped and prayed that we wouldn’t be a long walk from my hotel but Google Maps said it was about forty minutes. Not impossible, I’ve walked that far before but I didn’t really want to set off by myself at this time for a forty minute walk in an unfamiliar country. Luckily there was public transport still running and according to Google Maps it would only take about twenty minutes. The German/English guy checked with everyone whether they were going to be okay to find their accommodation and we went our separate ways.

I was surprised public transport was still running but also surprised how busy it was? I think it’s a good idea to have public transport still running so late on a Friday night but I’m pretty sure they don’t do that in London. Luckily I didn’t get lost once and before I knew it I’d made it to my ibis styles hotel.

Someone was still up and on reception and by this point I was so happy I hadn’t gone for an independent budget hotel as sometimes these don’t have twenty-four reception. Check-in went smoothly and quickly, and I took the lift up to my room. I was right down the end of the corridor so I found my room, put my key in the door and… It wouldn’t turn all the way? I tried back and forth for a good five solid minutes before admitting defeat and heading back to reception.

I told him the key wasn’t working and he was like “oh maybe you got the wrong one” but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the problem because the key still fit in the door? Never mind, he went and fetched me a new key and told me he’d watch out on the CCTV footage to make sure I got into my room. So back up I went and yet again, unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. I headed back towards the lift and the receptionist came out, confused as to why I couldn’t get in. He came down the corridor… And immediately opened my door with the key I’d been using. I was baffled but he just said “The door gets a bit stiff sometimes” – I was certain that wasn’t the problem as I’d been putting my full weight on the door at some points. Whatever. I went in, had the quickest shower ever then finally collapsed into bed.

Berlin 5

I was up earlyish to fit in with the times the hotel served breakfast (which to be honest hadn’t been worth paying the extra money for) and got locked out of my room again afterwards. Luckily I’d heard two other guests complaining they were locked out of their room too so I knew it wasn’t just me having these issues. A different receptionist was on this time and she came with me to my room and immediately opened it. She advised you have to pull the door towards you when you open it so I was able to actually get into my room for the rest of the trip. I was a bit annoyed though considering I’d spent the extra for a ‘styles’ hotel – why do I need to perform circus tricks to get into the bloody room?

To be fair as trips go this one went quite smoothly. The main thing was really that I kept worrying about unnecessary things. I kept getting stressed about public transport but I navigated it smoothly. I was worried I didn’t have the right transport ticket but on the three times my ticket was inspected they all thanked me and said it was correct.

The only major fail I can think of whilst actually in Berlin was that on Saturday night, after an extremely late night and a full day of sightseeing I was looking forward to climbing into bed and having an early night. I don’t know what was going on across the road, there was like a little outdoor pub/club and some guy kept talking extremely loudly into a microphone for about three hours then occasionally playing songs. I assume there was some kind of quiz night or something but it was SO LOUD. I just laid in bed fuming my absolute head off until luckily it eventually stopped and I was able to fall asleep.

Berlin 6

Unfortunately disaster struck again when I reached Berlin Tegel airport to return home. I went to check in but unlike at other airports this one didn’t have the self-service machine – I don’t like hanging round the first bit of the airport, I like being in the departures lounge so I went up to the desk but was advised check-in wasn’t open yet. No biggie, I headed to Starbucks and got myself a drink and a cake.

As I sat there I got a text alerting me that my ‘8:15PM’ flight was now a ‘9:40PM’ flight. Not the biggest disaster in the world but it started me worrying on whether I was going to catch the last train home. I never book the day after a trip off work, I just don’t have enough annual leave for that and the last thing I needed was to sleep at the train station for the night. I tried to think optimistically though.

Eventually check-in opened so I got my boarding pass and I soon discovered that Berlin Tegel airport is the weirdest airport ever? At every airport I’ve been to you go through security into a central departures lounge. Not here, you wait by your gate, go through security there and then just sit in that specific gate until your plane arrives. I was praying there’d be a food stand and luckily there was, I grabbed a hot dog, two bottles of water and sat down to relax. Security had been slow and frustrating but I was through to the gate now, I could just relax.

Wrong sir, wrong! After watching the first episode of ‘Derry Girls’ on Netflix I overheard a woman announcing anyone waiting for the flight to Birmingham now had to go a different gate. This other gate was literally on the other side of the airport, I had to get in an elevator, go down, literally leave the airport and enter a different building only to join another long security queue. I had to bin my two unopened bottles of water and nearly ended up in a long ‘documentation check’ queue but luckily followed two girls and went through an automatic system straightaway.

I think if I hadn’t had issues with my flight on the way over I’d have been fine but since there’d been so many flight problems I was literally like stomping around the airport in the worst mood. Fair play to our pilot though who was like “I apologise for the delay BUT I AM GONNA SAIL US BACK TO THE UK, WE WILL GET THERE EARLIER THAN SCHEDULED” and was true to his word. I was very stressed but did manage to make it to my last train in time.

Berlin 7

To be fair, in the grand scheme of things all of these ‘fails’ were outside of my control and compared to other trips I feel went extremely well. So pat on the back to me, I finally had a trip where I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself. Well, I did get locked out of my hotel room but never mind. Could have been worse!

Weekend in London 8th June – 9th June 2019

London 2

A few months ago my Mom announced she was going on holiday to Spain for a few nights. People that know me know that I don’t get on well with my step-dad and the thought of spending five nights alone with him was not appealing in the slightest. I like going to the theatre so decided to book one of my usual trips to London for one night to escape for a little bit.

On the Saturday I caught the train early-ish, around 10AM and made it to London around 12PM. I don’t normally bother with a suitcase when I go to London for the night as I can fit my things into a backpack but I hadn’t stayed at home for two nights prior to going to London and hadn’t had chance to pop home so I had no choice but to take a suitcase with me. Luckily Euston do store bags for people but Jesus wept at what cost? It was a lot more complicated than it had been when I’d stored my bags in Japan because my bag had to go through a scanner like you get at the airport but I suppose you can’t argue with safety precautions. At least my suitcase was safe and I didn’t have to lug it into the theatre with me (though I think they’d have denied me entry anyway).

My first show was ‘Betrayal’, a show I didn’t know much about and had only booked because Tom Hiddleston was in it. I went straight to the theatre and joined the complicated queue system – luckily there was a member of staff outside who pointed people in the right direction and made sure people were in the correct queue. There were people lurking near the stage door who I guess were there on the off chance they’d meet Tom – me and Becca had been planning to do this the week before when we were in London but unfortunately didn’t have enough time.

Betrayal

Picking up my ticket was easy enough and I went off in search of the bathroom. I ended up at the top of the theatre and stood in a ridiculously long line and when I got to the front I was annoyed to discover there was literally one toilet. Whoever designed that needs to re-evaluate their life.

My seat was good, I was down in the stalls, a few rows back and on the aisle. This ticket hadn’t been cheap and I’d forked out £140 to see this show. There were signs everywhere advising that if you needed the loo mid-show that was a shame because you wouldn’t be allowed back into the auditorium. You literally couldn’t miss them yet it didn’t stop one bloke getting up mid-show – the attendant literally sprinted down the aisle to tell him he couldn’t go back in if he left so he reluctantly went back to his seat.

The show began and it wasn’t a long show, only 90 minutes without an interval and relied heavily on the three main actors which were Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox. I’ll be 100% truthful and admit that whilst I was happy to see the show as I would’ve been gutted to miss it, it definitely wasn’t my cup of tea. It was just three characters talking, lots of long dialogue and not much action. Which like is fine. Just not particularly my cup of tea. The play was non-linear as the further into the story we got the further back in time we went, and the basic plot was that Zawe was married to Tom Hiddleston but was having an affair with Charlie – I can’t remember the characters names, sorry!

I’m also very ashamed to admit this after how much I spent on the ticket but once or twice I did nearly fall asleep. No disrespect to the actors who did an amazing job, or the story itself, it’s just I’d had a lot of late nights that week and there were a lot of long, dramatic silences in this show. When the show finished I had wanted to try and meet Tom but I was so relieved to walk around and wake up a bit that I decided to just collect my luggage and go find my hotel. A lot of people did try and meet Tom, the girl sitting next to me literally climbed over me to leave the theatre so she could go and join the queue by the stage door outside. I would’ve loved to have met him but I was pretty much a walking zombie by the time the show was over.

In the end it was quite lucky I didn’t join the queue as the trip to my hotel was actually quite long. I’d booked a Premier Inn in Chiswick, an area I’m relatively familiar with as I used to stay regularly in a budget hotel in that area. This meant it was quite out of the way of central London which is a both a pro and a con. A pro because the general area is quieter and a con because it takes longer to get there.  I caught the tube to Turnham Green and then went off on the fifteen minute walk to find the hotel.

I’ve discovered that generally you can’t go wrong with Premier Inn and if you get the right deal they can actually be cheaper than most ‘budget’ hotels. After a few naff hotel rooms I’m comfortable just sticking with Premier Inn for the moment. Check-in was easy and my room was a decent size.

I was then met with a dilemma. I had a ticket for ‘Mamma Mia’ at 7:30 and I’d been hoping to get to the hotel, have a power nap and head back out. Due to how long it had taken me to get to the hotel I literally had ten minutes in the room before I needed to head back out to get to the theatre in time. It was just as well I wasn’t hungry because there definitely wasn’t enough time to get dinner. I was honestly so tired that I wondered about losing my money and just getting an early night. If I’d nearly fallen asleep at ‘Betrayal’ would I last for an evening show?

In the end I knew I’d regret not going so I put my shoes back on and headed out. It did take a while to get to the theatre but I got there in plenty of time to use the loo, grab a drink etc. It was nicer as I’d been able to dump my backpack in the hotel and only had my handbag with me now. My seat was good, I was on the top balcony at the end of the aisle but on the front row and the stage didn’t seem very far away at all. There was a bar to stop people toppling over the edge of the balcony but if I leant forward it didn’t obscure my view.

Mamma Mia

The show began and I’m so happy I decided to just go for it as the energetic music and general atmosphere of the theatre kept me awake and I loved every second of it. At the end the actress playing Donna announced this was the last night for a lot of the cast including herself and it was a bit emotional, and I’m truly glad I didn’t miss out on it. I had seen ‘Mamma Mia’ in London previously with my Mom but at the time I wasn’t a fan of the film. I am now and was glad to see it now that I’m a bigger fan of the story and the songs. I also didn’t remember the atmosphere being as fun as it was but maybe that’s because it was the casts last night or maybe that’s always the atmosphere? I’m not sure!

The journey back was long and unfortunately I believe I picked up a bug on the underground. The journey was convenient actually as I didn’t have to change but I remember sitting in a seat, listening to my iPod and holding onto the bar for some reason and I think that’s where I picked something up. I made it back to the hotel feeling a tiny bit under the weather but I shrugged it off, had a shower and settled down into Premier Inn’s comfortable bed and went to sleep.

One of the most convenient things about Premier Inn is that in the lift they advise what breakfast times are the busiest, which are quieter etc. I’d paid extra for a Premier Inn breakfast so I didn’t have to faff around finding anywhere to eat and when I went down it was a bit busy but they managed to find me a table straightaway. Everyone milling around was doing my head in so I didn’t spend long down there before heading back up to my room.

I’ve been to London so many times now that I feel like I’ve ‘been there and done that’ with all the tourist spots so I chilled in my room until it was time to check out and then headed back to Euston so they could store my suitcase for me again. I don’t understand their prices though because three hours and under is only £6 something, anything between three and twenty-four hours is £12. Where is the logic? Surely between six hours and twenty-four hours would be a bit more fair than three?

I spent some time chilling at Euston before hopping back on the tube to go and see ‘School of Rock’. I’ve seen this show a couple of times and hadn’t intended on going to see it. For Christmas my Dad got me some ‘theatre tokens’ which were a thoughtful gift but unfortunately are only redeemable either over the phone or in person. I hate talking over the phone so had originally been planning to bring them with me then shop around until I found a show. I accidentally left them at home when I set off a couple of days previously so on a whim just paid for a ticket to see ‘School of Rock’ again as I do love that show and it had been a while.

It was when I reached the theatre that I began to feel under the weather again, I could feel my throat was a bit funny so I decided to treat myself to a cookies and cream ice cream which didn’t help very much but did taste really nice. My seat was good, just a few rows from the stage and the view wasn’t blocked. It’s a decent theatre, not massive and quite modern so I enjoy my visits there.

As usual the show was amazing, if you’re a fan of the film then I think you’ll definitely enjoy the stage version. It’s essentially the same storyline as the film but with more songs. My favourites include ‘Stick it to the Man’ and ‘When I Climb to the Top of Mount Rock’. When I first saw the show they were giving out badges but they’ve stopped doing that which is a shame but I’m glad I got one!

School of Rock 2

After that it was back on the tube to Euston, quick dinner at Burger King and then time to catch my train back to Telford. I’m glad I went but gutted I picked that bug up on the tube as it lasted a week and I haven’t felt that ill in a LONG time – it was actually horrendous. But overall it was a good weekend in London and I’m looking forward to my next theatre weekend – I just need to book it!

Favourite Sights in San Francisco

San Francisco 2

I recently got back from a weeklong trip to San Francisco with my Mom. To be truthful San Francisco has never really crossed my mind when considering places to visit but my Mom had been talking about it for a while and was really keen to go. She mentioned it to my step-dad who didn’t want to so I offered to go with her. Booking the trip was a nightmare because my Mom’s so fussy but in the end we chose a week, Mom found some flights she was actually happy with and before we knew it we were jetting off!

There was a lot about San Francisco to love so I thought I’d write a quick blog post about some of my favourite sights!

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Probably the most obvious and iconic landmark in San Francisco. Most people hire bikes and cycle there from the city centre and then cycle across the bridge, either by themselves or in a group tour. This is sensible as although the bridge looks relatively close it is quite far. Nevertheless me and my Mom decided to walk towards it from Fisherman’s Wharf  – we did mention the bikes but I’m not sure I’d remember how to ride one. I know they reckon you never forget but I have serious doubts about that.

The walk wasn’t horrendous compared to central San Francisco as after the first hill it was pretty much all flat until you’re almost right at the bridge and then there is a bit of an uphill climb. It’s just quite long and on the day we walked although the sun was shining the wind was horrendous.

Golden Gate Bridge 2

By the time we reached the bridge we were quite tired so we only walked halfway across it. I think we’d have only done that anyway as the bridge was so windy that my Mom was holding onto the poles as she was worried about ‘getting blown off the bridge’.

I’m normally the type of person to be like “it’s just a bridge, big deal” but there was something about it that just made it seem special and I’m glad we decided to walk there.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

Another obvious ‘must see’ whilst in San Francisco. My Mom was stressing me out by telling me how quickly they sell out and that we needed to book it in advance but she didn’t seem to do anything about it until luckily one day she forwarded me a confirmation email to say she’d booked it. Make sure you buy from the official website though, there are a lot of rip-offs and we even heard one Australian family on the boat coming back talking about how they’d been scammed on one of these sites.

There are a few buildings on the island but the most interesting one is obviously the Cell House. Upon arriving you’re given an audio tour guide which I normally avoid like the plague as they just irritate me but I was keen to learn more about the prison so I accepted it and I’m glad I did. It was really interesting and kept you moving from one place to the next. At first it was a bit annoying as everyone was clumped around the one section of where the tour was meant to be but it thinned out as the tour went on making it less frustrating.

What I liked was that it wasn’t just ‘the building was built in this year, it served this purpose’ – there were stories about the prisoners and life there. My favourites were about the attempted escapes. There was one where supposedly in the canteen the prisoners began to riot because they were served spaghetti again or something? Either way, the audio tour was really interesting.

Alcatraz 2

Also I never knew that the prison officers lived on the island too with their families. They’d bring their wife and kids with them and they’d just live on the island – they never had any contact with the prisoners but it’s bizarre! The kids would catch a boat to the mainland when they went to school and I believe there were a few boats a day so families could go over to San Francisco, do what they fancied and then return back home at the end of the day.

Anyway, Alcatraz is a must see when in San Francisco but make sure you book it in advance. There were still some available tours when we went but my manager at work told me she’d visited and unfortunately it had been sold out when she was there. Don’t risk it as Alcatraz is not somewhere you’d wanna miss visiting!

San Francisco Play House

San Francisco Playhouse

My Mom knows I’m a massive theatre fan so before we left she researched some theatres in San Francisco and some shows that were on. One of the shows she suggested was one called ‘Significant Other’ – we weren’t sure but decided we’d make our minds up when we arrived.

In a weird coincidence it turned out that the show was actually playing inside our hotel! On the second floor of our hotel was the ‘San Francisco Play House’ and any hotel guests got a discount on their tickets. On our second night we decided to get tickets as we couldn’t miss out on seeing a play right inside our hotel.

More people turned up than I’d been expecting and it was an interesting show. I wouldn’t say it was ‘ground-breaking’ or anything but I’m glad we saw it. The basic plot is about a gay guy who watches his three best friends get engaged, married and essentially move on with their lives whilst he worries he’s getting left behind. It was quite a simple show but I was impressed at how they all remembered their lines – I know that’s their job but there was one scene with just two actors where they both had long lines of speech at a time and it was just pretty impressive.

My favourite part was probably that once the play was over instead of having a long walk back to our hotel we literally just jumped in the lift and we were back in our room within minutes. How convenient!

Pier 39

Pier 39

I think this place was somewhere I would’ve spent more time with my friends. It’s full of gift shops, arcades and places to get food. Me and Mum did spend some time here more than once and it was strange because it didn’t feel like America, I could’ve just as easily been at Blackpool. It was a lot of fun though.

There was a carousel at the end of the pier and I’m normally a sucker for carousels but to ride this one cost like five dollars so me and Mum gave it a miss. Behind the carousel was a stage – I’m not sure if they have different shows every so often but while we were there it was one guy called Bob who put on a show. I’m pretty sure he had different ones but the one we saw he rode a unicycle and stood on some cylinders – it’s difficult to explain but it was pretty impressive.

Pier 39 2

My favourite shop on Pier 39 had to be the Christmas shop. Whenever I go away my Mom always asks me to bring back a Christmas decoration themed like the country I’ve been to which is usually the most difficult thing ever to find so to find a whole Christmas themed shop in San Francisco was awesome. There was literally a decoration for almost everything in there. We’d actually already bought a Cable Car themed decoration from one of the gift shops in China Town but the shop was still amazing, a must see for any Christmas fan.

Beach Blanket Babylon

Beach Blanket Babylon

I didn’t really know much about this show but Mum was adamant it was ‘the’ thing to see whilst in San Francisco. Apparently the show began in 1974 and is the world’s longest-running musical revue. Mum was even keener to see it when we found out the show was actually ending later this year – it would be our only chance to see it.

Unfortunately we waited until the night we wanted to see it to go to the box office to enquire about tickets (fun fact, the Americans kept calling it ‘wilcol’). We were told tickets were sold out until the following Wednesday (when we’d be back in England) but if we wanted we could wait outside the theatre as sometimes people came along to sell their tickets. The show didn’t start until 8 and it was 6:30 by this point so I wasn’t keen as I highly doubted we’d get two tickets but Mum was determined, especially after one woman told her she had just one ticket. We only needed to find one more and then we could both go.

It got very complicated, the woman with the original ticket went outside and then we found another woman selling one ticket but we weren’t sure they were in the same part of the club (I said it wouldn’t matter but Mum wasn’t sure) so she went in then very kindly came out to tell us she had been seated in the part the woman with the original ticket had also been seated. It was getting close to show time so I paid the money for this woman’s ticket, my Mum went in with that ticket, bought the ticket off the other lady we’d originally seen, came back out to get me and soon we were both inside. I was originally seated away from Mum anyway but it turned out the seat next to her was free so I moved. I had a worse view next to her but it didn’t matter.

The show was bizarre to say the least. It was basically a musical following Snow White was looking for love and all the characters wore bizarre costumes with oversized hats or wigs. There were a lot of pop culture references and I was surprised at the scene where they took the piss out of Donald Trump and his family as all the Americans thought that was hilarious – which to be fair, it was. I’m so glad I got to see it and it was definitely worth the wait outside the theatre.

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Pier 39 Sea Lions

Probably my favourite part of Pier 39 was that off to the left of the pier there was a large gathering of Sea Lions. They’re below the pier and unless you jumped into the water or had a boat you can’t get near enough to teach or harass them so they’re pretty much left alone. There are a few signs up asking people not to feed or bother them and people stuck to that rule. There’s usually a crowd of people on the pier watching and taking photos of them but the sea lions are still pretty much left alone.

As there were so many of them I wondered if they were there of their own freewill and it turns out that yes, they are. There was a sign up nearby that said the sea lions had shown up a few years ago to the annoyance of people who had boat slots in that particular area. There was a debate apparently but it was decided the sea lions could stay and a lot of boats had their slots moved to a different part of the pier.

The area didn’t smell brilliant and the sea lions made a lot of noise but it was interesting and nice to be able to see the sea lions without feeling guilty the way you do when you visit a zoo or aquarium. I’d definitely recommend giving them a visit when in San Francisco.

Cable Cars

Cable Car

Everyone at work kept telling me I’d need to ride the cable car and I assumed they meant the ones you get that take you over the city, you know the ones I meant? It turned out they were cute old fashioned trams and there was a stop at the end of the road where our hotel was. On our first day we walked pretty much everywhere and I had not realised when people said San Francisco was full of hills they MEANT it. So when we next needed to get to Fisherman’s Wharf from Union Square we paid the seven dollars each to catch the cable car.

We rode it twice and both times managed to get the best seats – there are two compartments to the cable car, one indoors section and an outdoor one where you can either sit or stand and hold onto the pole. It did look cool to stand and hold on but my legs were already aching and we had two seats in the front of the outdoor section so they were good seats!

The ride on the cable car was amazing and a bit scary at times – whenever it went downhill I’d be struck with the worry that the cable car would just start rolling down at full speed but of course it didn’t, they were driven very well. It was an absolute must in San Francisco and I’m glad we got to ride it twice.

So there we have it, those are my favourite sights from San Francisco! If you’ve visited feel free to leave me your favourites or let me know which ones you’d love to see one day.

Advice for First Time Solo Travellers

Dublin 4

On my most recent trip abroad to Dublin I realised how much I’ve improved since my first solo trip abroad to Poland last year. I’ve recognised the parts of solo travel abroad that stress me out, that I love, the things I need to do to make myself feel better. Because of this I decided to write a post with some advice for anyone going abroad by themselves for the first time!

Don’t Judge the Trip by Day One

Dublin 5

When I landed in Poland last February I remember thinking ‘why have I done this? What do I do now?’ and for most of the day I felt quite overwhelmed. I didn’t understand the language, I struggled to know which travel card to buy, I nearly burst into tears as I tried to find my hostel (Google Maps kept telling me I was there but I couldn’t see it and my phone was on like 11% at this point), I was too nervous to order food and I didn’t really know what I was doing.

That night I had dinner at a McDonalds in a shopping centre (the only place I wasn’t too nervous to order food as I knew what I was asking for), went to see a 4DX movie at the cinema then went back to my hostel for a good night’s sleep. And by the next morning I felt a lot better. I set off to do some sightseeing feeling a lot more confident and ended up having an amazing trip.

If you feel completely overwhelmed on day one then don’t stress, I promise the entire trip won’t be like that it’s just you’re somewhere new by yourself and you need time to adjust. It was easier in Dublin as at least everyone spoke English but I’ve realised that I know what I need to do to help myself adjust to a new country more easily and I managed to apply this logic when I visited Romania in January too. And it really helped!

Getting to my accommodation from the airport is always the worst part for me as I worry I won’t find it but of course I always do so I just tell myself to relax and then I calmly follow Google Maps until I find my accommodation. After checking in I go and have my first meal in the country, even if it does end up being at McDonalds. I have a chill first day and then after having my first sleep in the new country I feel a lot better by the next morning and I’m ready to start some proper sight-seeing.

When I travel with my friends we have a running joke that our friend Hirst always decides she hates whatever country we’re staying in on day one due to something small. We landed in Lithuania quite late and on our way to our accommodation we bumped into a couple of weird people and she was like “I’m not a fan of this country!” By the end of our trip she’s usually changed her mind and actually quite likes it.

If you land in a new country and start getting stressed or overwhelmed just keep calm and trust me that after your first night you will feel a lot better. Don’t let the first day stresses define the rest of the trip!

Pick Accommodation That Suits You

Abbey Court Hostel

A lot of people I see that write about solo travel are like ‘get a hostel, you meet new people, it’s the only way to solo travel’ etc. etc. If you like meeting new people and staying in hostels then great, you do you until the cows come home. However I’ve quickly realised that I much prefer hotels.

I’m an introvert and my trips are a great way to recharge my social batteries. My interactions with people selling tickets to attractions or food etc. are enough to keep me going, I don’t feel the need to go out and find a new best friend. And at the end of a day of sight-seeing I like to come back to my room and have some downtime to myself.

In Poland I stayed in a hostel to keep costs low and ended up sharing a room with a talkative girl who was lovely but didn’t understand that once my headphones are on that means I don’t want to talk. Although she was lovely and I was glad to share with her because it was better than sharing with someone who’s miserable it did get a bit irritating when I just wanted some down time whereas she wanted to chat. In Dublin my downtime seemed to come easier as I watched stuff on my Amazon Fire Tablet and everyone pretty much left me alone – they were still nice, we’d smile at each other but none of us were keen to initiate a conversation. I much preferred this.

Find the accommodation that best suits you or your needs. It may be an Airbnb, a hostel, a hotel, whatever takes your fancy but don’t listen to anybody who thinks you should be doing it a certain way.

Public Transport is Good

Bruges

I’ve never understood people who touch down in a foreign country and immediately head outside to find a taxi. How do people afford that? It’s expensive enough getting a taxi from home to our local airport which is why I always catch the train if I can and I’d only get a taxi if I was desperate.

Although I hate the moments between getting from the airport to my accommodation due to the stress and anxiety, I also love it as hopping on the bus to get the city centre is your first glimpse of a new country! I suppose you get that in a taxi but the bus takes detours, allowing you to see things you might not have seen had you gone straight to your accommodation.

Personally I’ve always found public transport gives you a better feel for the country. My favourite form is trams as although we have some in parts of the UK I don’t really use them in this country. There’s nothing I love more than a country with a tram system – Amsterdam’s is probably my favourite so far.

Also public transport is a hell of a lot cheaper. In most countries you can get a card that gives you unlimited transport for a set amount of days in most forms, for example bus, tram and underground. Most of the time they’re not expensive and they’re cheaper than getting taxis everywhere. Equally walking is even better as that’s free but it depends on how big the town is. I probably could’ve walked everywhere in Dublin, and did on the first day, but on the second day when my legs were aching I decided to start making the most of public transport.

Not only is public transport cheaper it’s also a lot better for the environment. We’ll have already contributed enough pollution to the earth by catching a plane (unless you got abroad using a different method in which case good on you!) so why contribute more by getting cars everywhere?

Obviously in some places the choices are limited. In Crete we rented a car because they just didn’t seem to have a public transport system. But in most capital cities they have a perfectly good transport system already in place. Give it a go!

Take Appropriate Safety Precautions

Romania 6

Whenever I go abroad anywhere my Mom always makes me send her the name, address and telephone number of the accommodation I’m staying in. Not to be precious but just so she has someone to call to check up on me if I’m not responding to her texts or an address she can send the police or an ambulance too.

I would personally recommend you allocate someone to send this information to and keep in regular contact with someone. Usually people know I’m okay because I update my Instagram story throughout the day, send out tweets and respond to people relatively quickly if they message me. If you’re in a country where you can’t get data for whatever reason then just be sure to send that person a message when you go out in the morning and when you get back in the evening – assuming where you stay has Wi-Fi.

When booking your accommodation check the reviews. If most of the reviews are positive and the only bad things the negative ones are saying were ‘oh the bathroom was too small’ then go for it. If there are negative reviews of people saying they didn’t feel safe for whatever reason then it’s probably best to avoid this particular place. When booking Poland I panic booked the first hostel I found but once I checked the reviews people were saying all sorts of dodgy things had happened. I immediately cancelled the room, lost my money and booked a new hostel with better reviews. Safety always comes first!

In Romania my room had a safe where I could enter my own code and nobody else could get in so I kept my passport in there whilst I was out and about but if that’s not an option I always keep my passport on me. Make sure you either have a paper copy stored somewhere or an electronic version on your phone, in the unlikely event that you lose it – it’ll make life much easier.

Just basically use a bit of common sense while you’re away, it’s not too difficult to know which security measures to take.

Let your trip be YOUR trip

Bucharest 2

When me and my friends go away we tend to get up early and cram in as much as possible. And that’s fine, for some places where you want to experience everything that’s pretty much the only way you can do it. But sometimes by myself I like to have a lie-in and take the day a bit more easily. A great example of this was in Dublin. Being in a hostel I didn’t sleep great at night and also, Dublin’s not that far away from where I live so anything I didn’t tick off I was bound to go back and do eventually. So I slept in a bit, got ready slowly and made my way out.

Don’t get caught up in how other people have done their solo trips and think that you need to perfectly model theirs. For another example, I knew that after Dublin I was going to have a busy few days and there was a movie I wanted to see but I was worried it would go out of cinemas before I had the chance. In the end I realised I could just watch it in Dublin – I was worried as it felt like a waste to watch a movie abroad but at the end of the day I don’t do much in the evenings anyway, I wanted to see the movie and also weirdly I find doing ‘normal’ things in other countries fascinating. I like to see what their cinemas look like, their supermarkets, their theatres, all the normal stuff!

Plan your itinerary around YOU and what YOU’RE interested in doing, not the things you’ve seen everybody else doing. Even if everyone has recommend the Museum of Typewriting until they’re blue in the face, if you’re not interested in type writing then just don’t go! It’s YOUR trip, nobody else’s.

I hate those ridiculous posts that are likely ‘avoid all the big tourist spots, they’re traps!’ If you’re not a big fan of the big tourist spots then fine but I think you need to experience them at least once. Going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower would be bizarre. Tourist spots are popular for a reason but if they’re not for you then feel free to give them a miss.

That’s pretty much all of my advice other than have an amazing time. Also, double check the weather before you go. I never bother and always end up massively failing.