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.

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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.

Three Favourite Memories from Dublin

Dublin 3

I finally went away over bank holiday weekend and as flights were cheap I decided to go to Dublin. I quickly realised this wasn’t the best weekend to go as it was full of stag and hen dos, and every tourist attraction was pretty busy. Accommodation prices were also through the roof meaning I had to stay in a hostel. To be fair the hostel was nice and had a great location but due to the great location there was a lot of street noise. That combined with the girl sleeping beneath me who kept snoring meant I didn’t get the best few nights sleep whilst I was away but I still had an amazing time. Here are my three favourite memories from Dublin!

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Ever since me and my friends visited Ghent Castle I’ve realised that I actually love going to castles. Luckily Becca’s also a fan of palaces so I imagine in our future group trips there will be a lot of castle and palace sight-seeing. On my first full day in Dublin I decided to tick off Dublin Castle straightaway so it was the first place I headed to.

You could either have a guided tour or go self-guided. I went for self-guided which was cheaper and also what I prefer. I don’t mind some guided tours but it can be nice to do things at your own pace. A lot of time I’m not even overly interested in the history as it’s usually all political stuff and I just want to have a good look around.

Dublin Castle 2

The castle had been furnished to show what it may have looked like years ago which I liked. I’d love Ghent Castle but the rooms were all relatively bare, Dublin Castle was like walking around a stately home. My only issue was that it wasn’t a bit bigger as I felt like I saw the whole thing way too quickly but I did enjoy having a look. It’s probably one of my favourite castles I’ve visited and I would definitely recommend going if you’re in Dublin.

War Horse

Dublin War Horse

Whilst looking for things to do on any holiday I tend to have a look to see if there are any shows on or anything. I don’t think I’ve seen a show abroad yet as most of them tend to be in a foreign language which of course puts me off and I’ve just never found anything to my taste yet. When I looked in Dublin though they were showing ‘War Horse’ at a theatre about a twenty minute walk away from my hostel. It wasn’t really a show I’d ever wanted to see badly but I knew Becca had seen it as a teenager and regularly told me how much she’d loved it.

I booked my ticket and when I arrived realised I’d actually been upgraded. I’d originally been in the Upper Circle right at the top of the theatre but I’d been moved down to the Stalls into Row R. I was nervous when I saw this as my experience with London theatres is that if you’re in Row R you’re probably not going to see much. However the theatre was quite modern and the seats were tiered well. I was right in the centre and the view was fantastic.

For the first twenty or so minutes I wasn’t particularly sure but before I knew it I’d been sucked into the story. I’d never seen the film or anything before so I hadn’t known what to expect but I ended up loving it. It did have me on edge with the gun shots and everything ‘cos they made me jump every time but it was a spectacular show. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone that hasn’t seen it.

National Leprechaun Museum

National Leprechaun Museum

Whilst having a look for stuff to do in Dublin I came across the ‘National Leprechaun Museum’ and knew that I had to go. I believe they only accept pre-bookings so about a month before I went I booked myself a place for the night tour. There are two different types, the day tours where they tell all the innocent stories of Irish folklore or the night version with the more dark and twisted versions. The rating was 18+ so I booked on to that one. I quite like anything horror related plus it meant there wouldn’t be any annoying kids there to ruin the visit.

The first thing you do on the tour is go through some ‘tunnels’ into a room with really large furniture. You’re encouraged to climb onto the furniture for pictures and just for generally playing about. I didn’t go on anything as I wouldn’t have been able to pull myself onto the giant chairs and didn’t want to embarrass myself. I could’ve maybe managed the giant sofa but a group of Americans plonked themselves onto it and when someone suggested they get down so other people could take pictures one of them replied “no, I’m comfy” – typical.

We moved from room to room and I was on edge in case they pulled any jump scares or anything but they didn’t, it was just a case of listening to stories in each room and it was really interesting. My favourites probably included the story about the woman who danced with the leprechauns for what seemed like hours but turned out to be years and years, or the woman who was accidentally killed by her husband as he believed she was a fairy imposter and his real wife had been taken. Our tour guide was really enthusiastic and a great story teller which made it even better.

I considered booking a place for the day time tour but didn’t in the end, I may do if I ever return to Dublin though as it was one of my favourite memories from the trip. The evening tour was fun though as our tour guide swore and didn’t hold back from any gory details which obviously I doubt would happen in the day tour.

BONUS: National Wax Museum

National Wax Museum

I had to include this one as I just really enjoyed it. I had time to kill before my Leprechaun Museum booking and as this was literally a two minute walk away from my hostel and I’d wanted to visit I decided to go in.

The only slight thing that ruined it for me was that I went in and caught up to a large family who had quite possibly some of the most annoying kids ever. There was a moving wax dinosaur in one of the rooms and one of the little kids grabbed it’s tongue and tried to pull it out whilst her parents just watched. I tried to go ahead but they caught up so I lagged behind so they could go ahead and then they started going really slowly. Very irritating.

When you go in you’re immediately greeted by Star Wars characters which doesn’t mean an awful lot to me but I took some photos anyway. As I was about to head up the stairs a group of girls came in and one of them screamed when they saw me which was quite funny. When you got up the stairs there was like a science section I want to say. You go through a mirror maze into the next room where there are pop stars. They have wax figures of Jedward so I snapped a picture to send to my friend Jess who’d told me to keep an eye out for them.

National Wax Museum Jedward

My favourite section though was the horror section. The family brushed past this part and I kept looking down wondering whether to go through. It was in the theme of a hotel and at the end of the corridor was a wax figure jerking around manically, it was quite creepy. I kept taking a look and in the end a group of girls went down so I followed them. However they couldn’t decide who should go first so they asked if I wanted to go first so I said I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down. They ran off ahead and I ended up with a Spanish family who I practically stuck to like glue throughout the rest of it. They kept looking at me and pointing at stuff and telling me what it was before I saw it, bless them.

My only complaint was that I’d been hoping it would be bigger and I felt like it was over too quickly. I might’ve killed more time if I’d been there with my friends as we would’ve spent time taking photos of each other with everything but as it was just me I didn’t really do that.

So there we go, there’s my three (four) favourite memories from Dublin! I hope you enjoyed this post, if you visited Dublin let me know which tourist attractions you liked the most!

Asia Haul (Japan and South Korea)

Japan Takeshita

I debated whether to make this most because I got so much stuff from Asia, including little tiny stuff, that it would be impossible for me to remember everything I bought but I thought I’d give it a go and list as much stuff as I can remember. There’s no way I’ll be able to do it in order so this post is going to be a bit of a mess!

1. Gacha Machine Prizes

Gacha Machine Prizes

Although we have gacha machines in the UK I don’t use them because they’re usually full of childish tat. The ones in Japan were a bit cuter and there’s so many to choose from that you just sort of go along with it. I went on quite a few both in Japan and South Korea but mostly in Japan. In South Korea there was a ‘mystery gacha machine’ which I did with great excitement and got a tacky Moana necklace so I don’t recommend the mystery ones but all the others were cute! I also got a squishy bunny, an orange cat pin, a squirrel/raccoon figure, a little white dog, two BTS keyrings and probably a ton of other stuff.

2. Sleeping Snorlax figure

Snorlax

I used to be a massive Pokémon fan as a kid but unfortunately sort of grew out of it so although I watched the show and movies religiously as a tiny kid I don’t remember an awful lot about them. But you have to take a trip to the Pokémon centre whilst in Tokyo don’t you really? I came across this little Snorlax figure and immediately related to him on a personal level so I just had to buy him!

3. Squirtle Plushie

Squirtle Plushie

Everyone raves about the sheer amount of Pokémon you can get at the centre but being the basic bitch that I am Squirtle is my favourite Pokémon. You could get different types of plushies like sleeping ones or furry ones but in the end I went for the basic type because I was worried about money. He’s really cute and I’m glad I got him!

4. Pikachu Plushie

Pikachu Plushie

I didn’t actually get Pikachu at the Pokémon centre; I won him in an arcade at Lotte World in South Korea. Becca and Jess were on the dance machine and my legs were getting sore at this point so to distract myself I had a couple of goes on the Pikachu crane machine and was successful! I probably should’ve toned it down with the crane machines but I did not.

5. Boo and Unicorn Plushie

Boo and Unicorn

I’ve put these two together because I won them on the same night along with a massive tube of Pringles. The tube of Pringles never made it home because I gave them to Becca who, as a vegetarian, hadn’t had tons to eat over the past couple of weeks so they disappeared quite quickly. I mentioned in a previous post that Becca won a Giant Winnie the Pooh bear and so my competitive streak was on then and by the end of the night I’d managed to win the Boo and Unicorn plushie. I’m proud of the Boo, I didn’t really want the Unicorn but I have it now. Luckily I managed to squash them both into my suitcase, Becca had to carry her Pooh bear through the airport with her to South Korea and then back to England again.

6. Winnie the Pooh plushie

Pooh Plushie

My favourite day in Tokyo was undoubtedly the day we went to Disneyland Tokyo and the ride I was desperate to go on was ‘Pooh’s Honey Hunt’ – I did get to go on it and thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminded me how much I love Winnie the Pooh so I couldn’t resist buying this fluffy Winnie the Pooh plushie. It’s so cute, I’m so glad I spent the extra for the fluffy one! I would’ve bought more at Disneyland but unfortunately by the time we got to the stores they were overflowing with people and we were all tired and hot so we couldn’t browse for as long as we would’ve liked to.

7. Mt Fuji Plushie

Mt Fuji Plushie

This post is making me realise just how many plushies I bought. Me and my friends were buying souvenirs at Mt Fuji’s fifth station and I must’ve panicked because I picked up a random box of biscuits that I didn’t particularly want and this Mt Fuji plushie. I gave the box of biscuits to my Dad for Christmas but I do quite like the plushie even though it’s a bit random and doesn’t actually say anything about Mt Fuji on it.

8. Lucky Mt Fuji Bell

Mt Fuji Bell

As part of our Mt Fuji day trip we were given a little bell for free that was apparently taken to the top of Mt Fuji and blessed so they should bring you luck. They probably never saw the summit of Mt Fuji but they did at least see the fifth station which is good enough for me. It’s a really cute souvenir either way!

9. Maidreamin Polaroid Photo

Maidreamin

(I dunno why the photo flipped but whatever)

I wrote a long post about the themed cafes we visited in Japan but Maidreamin had to be one of the most awkward café experiences we had but honestly I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Me and Jess bought the set menu which got you a dessert, a photo with the maid and a ‘gift’. For your photo you could either take it on your camera or have a Polaroid taken. Jess opted for a camera version whilst I got a Polaroid which is absolutely adorable because the maid writes on it for you. Becca was invited to also be in the photo but was having such a terrible time that she opted out.

10. Maidreamin Key ring

Maidreamin Keyring

This was the ‘gift’ I mentioned previously, I believe there was a choice between a key ring, animal ears or a file holder. Animal ears were unlikely to get worn by me and didn’t really have anything about Maidreamin on them. I was also unlikely to use a file holder so I went for the key ring. It’s cute and I’ve got it on my key chain at the moment so it can remind me of my trip to Japan!

11. Universal Studios Key Ring

Universal Studios Key Ring

Another key ring that reminds me of my trip is my ‘Universal Studios Osaka’ one. It’s got a little Cookie Monster on it and it’s just really cute. At Disneyland Tokyo I’d tried to find merch that specified I’d got it from Disneyland TOKYO or JAPAN but hadn’t had much success so I was glad this one specified where I was. It’s so cute!

12. Jurassic Park Ride Professional Photo

Jurassic Park Ride

In my Universal Studios post I wrote about how I was tricked onto the Jurassic Park ride by the deceitful Jess. As I’d been stupid enough to go on the ride I thought I might as well get some photo evidence and to be fair the photo is hilarious, and reminds me of the amazing time we had that day.

13. Nara Deer Figure

Nara Deer Figure

I mentioned our day at Nara Deer Park in my ‘Asia Travel Fails’ blog post – although it was an amazing morning and I’d recommend it to anyone it was a bit of a frightening experience considering I got bitten the moment I entered the park and Becca got butted more times than I can count. But I still couldn’t resist buying a cute little deer figurine from the gift shops nearby. It reminds me of the hilarious morning we had!

14. Seoul Tower Snow Globe

Seoul Tower Snowglobe

When I started really getting into travelling I started collecting snow globes from all the different places I went. Unfortunately there weren’t really any tacky gift shops I could find in Japan and I didn’t buy one from there so I’ve ended up ordering one online when I came back – it’s massive compared to the others in my collection but I’ll just say it’s ‘cos I went to three parts of Japan so it needed to be bigger. The only one I’m missing is one from Amsterdam but I have no doubt I’ll go back one day.

Anyway, when we were up Seoul Tower we decided to buy some souvenirs and I spotted this snow globe. We were reaching the end of the trip so I decided I’d best buy it and I’m glad I did as I don’t think I found another snow globe whilst exploring Seoul. It’s cute and reminds me of an amazing trip.

15. Kyoto Tower Professional Photo

Kyoto Tower Photo

I love professional photos and the Kyoto tower one was cute so I decided to buy it. When we reached Kyoto we waited so long to be picked up to be taken to our apartment that we didn’t have much time to do anything in the evening so we only went up Kyoto Tower but it was a good start to our short stay in Kyoto. The views were amazing and they had telescopes that were free to look through that were amazing, you had close-ups of people walking around on the ground.

16. Seoul Tower Professional Photo

Seoul Tower Photo

(This one flipped too for some bloody reason)

Seoul Tower was extremely popular the night we went up, our ticket slot said we could join the queue 50 minutes after our arrival and when we did join the queue it took an awful long time to get up. First we queued for the photo, then we had to queue to get into the elevator, and then when we decided we were done it was another long queue to get back down to ground level. The photo was cool and I love professional photos so decided to keep it ‘cos why not?

17. Totoro plushie

Totoro Plushie

When planning our trip to Japan the Studio Ghibli Museum was always top of my list, as I knew it was Jess’. Becca hadn’t seen any Studio Ghibli movies (although did sit down and watch Spirited Away before we left which she wasn’t a fan of) but was happy to come along too. Buying the tickets was a pain because it was confusing and they went on sale at 2AM in the UK so we all had to set alarms to get up and get them. But it was worth it and I couldn’t leave without a souvenir. Totoro has always been my favourite so I couldn’t resist this cute plushie!

18. Japanese Fan

Fan

Whilst in Akihabara we’d visited most of the main shops and arcades but were still killing time until our Lock-up booking so we ended up going down the backstreets and came across a store that sold a variety of random items. We came across a display of Japanese fans and the three of us couldn’t resist so we each bought a different one. I haven’t found anywhere to display it properly yet but it’s cute and I love it!

19. Oh My Girl Banhana – Banana Allergy Monkey Album

Banana Allergy Monkey Album

It’s no secret that me and my friends are massive K-Pop fans so whilst in Seoul we wanted to stock up on K-Pop merch. In the underground station nearest our hotel that we used regularly there was a small underground shopping area which had a few K-Pop shops including one which was full from ceiling to floor of K-Pop albums. I debated a lot but bought two albums (I’ll mention the other in a second) but one was Oh My Girl’s subunit album, ‘Banana Allergy Monkey’. I loved the look of the album as it’s designed to look like a retro video game and it’s just super cute. I couldn’t resist!

20. G-Friend – Time For The Moon Night Album

Time For The Moon Night

I’m a massive G-Friend fan and although ‘Time for the Moon Night’ isn’t my favourite song the album just looked so pretty that I couldn’t resist. I got SinB and Eunha’s photo cards – I was hoping for either Umji or Yuju but I love SinB and Eunha as well so it’s okay. It’s such a cute album and I’m glad I got it.

21. TWICE bag tag

TWICE bag tag

I wasn’t sure what K-Pop merch to buy, in the UK we normally just get a t-shirt or a mug or something but in Asia there was all sorts of different merch. By the end of the trip me and Jess had both started putting little things on our bags to hang down ‘cos it looked cute so we both bought a K-Pop themed bag tag. Mine was TWICE and she chose a Black Pink one. I wish I’d bought more ‘cos I can’t find them on the internet and I think they look so cute. If I ever go back to Seoul I know what I’m buying.

22. MOMOLAND file holder

On my birthday in Tokyo we went to a K-Pop area and I knew I had to buy something. I came across what I thought was a small MOMOLAND poster. When Jess saw I was interested she bought it for me as a birthday present. It was only when I arrived back in the UK and took it out the cellophane I realised it was a file holder. I don’t really use them at home but I did have a plain file holder at work that I used regularly so I decided to replace it and use the MOMOLAND one at work. This quickly turned embarrassing when a colleague was covering my work and I told her the referrals she needed were in ‘the MOMOLAND file holder in my drawers’. Never mind, it’s still a cute file holder. I couldn’t get a photo as it’s currently still at work but trust me, it is cute!

23. Lucky Cat Figure

Lucky Cat Figure

At Osaka airport we all decided to snap up some last minute souvenirs. I came across this cat and figured ‘sure why not’. It wasn’t until I got home that it also had a little fortune inside. I can’t remember where I put it but I’m pretty sure it was positive. It’s a cute figurine, I’m thinking of taking it to work to display on my desk but we’ll see.

24. Squirtle Head Band

Squirtle Head Band

At Lotte World me and Jess both decided that we needed something to wear – I’m not sure why, it was quite late in the day at this point but she chose an Eevee one and I chose a Squirtle one. They looked cute and I kept saying we needed a picture together but unfortunately time ran away from us and we didn’t get one but the headband was still cute. I don’t really have anywhere to wear it in the UK but I am considering wearing it in Hong Kong when I visit Ocean Park. We’ll have to see!

25. Pokémon Ball

Pokemon Ball

I’m not sure how to describe this but at Lotte World there were boxes where you could get a surprise figurine inside if that makes sense? So I picked a Pokémon themed one where a figure would come inside a ball but it was up in the air which one it would be. I got this one and although it’s cute it’s pretty much impossible to get Pikachu to stay stood up. I did manage to get him up at one point but when I dusted the shelf he fell over and I never got him back up. Never mind, the ball still looks cute!

26. Girls’ Generation Photo

Girls Generation Photo

When visiting SM Town I was ready to stock up on tons of merch from my favourite artists but unfortunately I wasn’t a fan of much of the merchandise. They had K-Pop albums that I would’ve happily bought but none of them had the price on and I wasn’t willing to take one up to the till only for it to be about £100 – the one I wanted was Girls’ Generation’s debut album which I’m pretty sure I hadn’t been able to find online for a reasonable price so I let it go. However on the top floor there was a photo booth where you could pick your favourite K-Pop artists and get a picture with them. As a massive Girls’ Generation fan I chose them but you could only have two members in the picture and they were already in pairs. As Sunny’s my bias I chose her, and Tiffany was also in the picture which is cool ‘cos I love Tiffany too.

On the other floors they had more areas where you could take a photo with the whole group which was fun as they’d designed it so two members saunter onto the screen and act like they’re preparing to take a photo with you and then the other members just appear on the screen as photos. You could also purchase a video version of it and I begged Becca to get her Super Junior photo because it was ‘Mamacita’ themed and she’d made me laugh so much with the two fake guns but she didn’t. None of us got our photos from the other rooms ‘cos we already had ours from the top floor but it was still a lot of fun doing the different rooms – upon reflection Jess may have got another one but I can’t remember. Either way the photo booths were a lot of fun and definitely the best part of SM Town!

27. Chocolate Frog

Chocolate Frog

When we visited Universal Studios our first stop was Harry Potter World – the three of us are massive Harry Potter fans and we’d heard that area just gets busier and busier as the day goes on so we decided to go there first. When we visited Honey Dukes one of us had the idea that we should each get a chocolate frog and see whose card we get – we got one to bring back to the UK for Hirst as well. Hirst got Rowena Ravenclaw which was awesome as that’s which house she’s in, Jess got ‘Bertie Bott’ and Becca got ‘Godric Gryffindor’. When I opened mine I’d got ‘Albus Dumbledore’ which is pretty sick, that’s the one Harry gets when he has his first chocolate frog. The chocolate frog itself was massive and well worth the money, I love chocolate but even I didn’t finish it in one sitting.

That’s pretty much all I can remember at the moment although I’m sure there was a lot of little extra stuff that I bought and this doesn’t even include the presents I bought for other people. Basically, Asia was an amazing trip and I got some sick souvenirs!

Five Favourite Places I’ve Visited (So Far!)

Umbrellas

It’s no secret that travelling is my favourite thing to do. At any given time I normally have a trip coming up to forward to. It’s become a bit of a running joke at work that the moment I’m back from a trip everyone starts asking “Go on then, when’s the next one?” It’s a reputation that I quite enjoy having.

I decided to write a list of the five top places I’ve visited so far. I have no doubt within the next few years this will change as I tick off more places on my travel bucket list but as of right now, in April 2019, these are my five favourite places I’ve visited.

5. Crete, Greece

Crete 2

It’s rare for me and my three best friends to hit lucky with the weather when we travel. On our first trip abroad to Paris I don’t think it stopped raining all week. We booked Greece for the end of April 2018 and everyone warned us it wouldn’t be as warm as we thought and we should just pack our normal clothes. Turns out they were wrong, it was boiling in Crete for the entirety of our visit which definitely helped the overall experience of the holiday.

I’ve written a bit about Crete in other posts but for this holiday we realised there was no public transport so we hired a car and once Jess got the hang of driving on the other side of the car and road we were cruising through Crete without a care in the world. Everything was perfect – the weather, the scenery, and the absolute bangers we were listening to.

Crete 3

The country itself was just beautiful and the people were so lovely. Every time we went out for dinner we were given something for free at the end of it which although was a bit hit and miss was still an added bonus. My favourite was when we had dinner at the place overlooking the lake because we got a plate of fruit afterwards which was lush.

I wish we’d had a bit longer to spend there exploring the island but we had to face reality and come home after three nights but overall, I wouldn’t have changed anything about our trip to Crete. It was pretty much perfect, even the little squabbles with my friends and the plain bizarre moments – even when the car started rolling backwards down that steep hill! I had an amazing trip and would love to return to either Crete or any part of Greece one day.

4. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam 12

The first time me and my friends ever caught a flight together was for Amsterdam. It’s crazy now ‘cos we’ve caught so many flights together that I don’t even think twice now, I’m like ‘yep we’re back at the airport again’ but at the time it was crazy! I mentioned Paris was our first trip but due to money we’d had to catch a coach. Now we’d all sort of settled into full-time work we could finally afford to fly and it was so much better than a 12 hour bus journey.

The trip itself wasn’t perfect although it did have a lot of fun moments, what I loved was just the city. It had such a calm vibe, you always seemed to be near water and it definitely helped that for once the sun was shining during our trip. Amsterdam was beautiful and I’ve love to explore more parts of the Netherlands.

Amsterdam 13

There were some things we didn’t get to see like ‘Anne Frank’s House’ and other stuff which make me want to return. Even revisiting parts we already saw would be interesting. I do need to go back to Amsterdam one day because I’ve started collecting snow globes for every country I visit and Amsterdam is currently the only one I’m missing. Obviously that’s not the only reason I’d go back, I just loved the place so much!

3. Seoul, South Korea

SM Town

When I was about seventeen or eighteen I started listening to more K-Pop which admittedly is what got me interested in South Korea. I remember when I was nineteen I received a message off Becca saying ‘Hollie if you ever go to South Korea I want to go too’. At the time I thought it was impossible and assumed we never would. Last year we went.

We were going to Japan and spending the majority of our time there but decided to slot in a few nights in South Korea before we came home. I’m so glad we did because it was such an amazing experience and we packed in a lot for the few days we were there.

I’ve said this for everywhere so far but I’d love to go back and explore more of South Korea, especially Busan but I don’t think I’d have the confidence to go on my own. As I mentioned in my ‘Asia Travel Fails’ post, Google Maps doesn’t work properly in South Korea – instead of giving you precise directions it will show the distance in a straight line ignoring things like roads and buildings. This meant South Korea was difficult to navigate but Jess managed it and we got to see a lot of amazing things.

I’d love to go back and do a ton more stuff so we’ll see if that ever happens!

2. New York, USA

Grand Central

For my 21st birthday I had originally asked my Mom to fund my flights to Japan but then realised I could probably do that myself with my tax return money so I decided to ask for something else instead. My Mom had previously visited New York with her uni friend Sue and had loved it. When I asked her she initially said it would be wasted on me since I’m scared of lifts so suggested we went somewhere else instead. I was so desperate to go that I finally worked up the nerve to get in the lift at my work and overcame my fear – in the long run it has really helped and made life 1000 times more convenient.

Anyway, about ten days after my birthday the two of us jetted off to New York together. It was my first time in America and also my first time going on holiday outside of Europe. I was excited but to be honest when I first arrived I felt very overwhelmed and wasn’t sure if I liked it. We left our hotel to find somewhere for dinner at about 5:30PM so of course the streets were packed with people as it was the rush hour and I was exhausted from the flight so I wasn’t sure. However the next day, after an early night, was a lot better.

New York 4

The only downside I can think of is that I ended up getting really bad blisters so by the last day of the trip I was limping everywhere but other than that it was amazing. We did all the typical tourist things like going up the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Centre, our hotel was literally right round the corner from Times Square. When my Mom had been she hadn’t found time to see a Broadway show but as a massive theatre fan I insisted we had to. I chose Anastasia as that’s not performing in the UK at the moment and I couldn’t have asked for a better first Broadway show experience. We had our own box and the show itself was amazing.

It’s on my bucket list to visit America with my friends one day and it’d be cool for us to go to New York but it was very expensive! I think I only had the amazing experience I had because my Mom was with me. Our hotel was literally perfect, there was a view of the empire state building from our window. One of my favourite places I’ve visited!

1. Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo

I could’ve also put Osaka and Kyoto on this list as I loved them as well but decided to stick with Tokyo so that the list wasn’t just full of my one trip to Asia! To be honest I don’t think I’ll ever love somewhere as much as I loved Tokyo, it was the perfect city for me as it had a bit of everything – the traditional side with museums, shrines and temples whilst also having the fun side with Disneyland, arcades and whacky themed cafes.

I can’t remember when I first realised I wanted to visit Japan but it had been several years. I remember talking about it with Jess in college, watching Dan and Phil’s vlog with such jealousy and thinking about how I’d most likely never be able to afford to go. Thankfully due to tax returns and two other friends who wanted to go/could afford to, the flights were booked and before we knew it we were off!

If I could return to any trip I’ve ever been on it would definitely be Japan, any moment would be fine with me but my favourite to return to would definitely be watching the electric parade at Disneyland at the end of a fun day. I think that’s probably the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life.

Tokyo 2

I’ve made up my mind that I want to return to Japan in 2022 but we’ll have to see as there are lots of places in the world I want to tick off but I did really love Japan. I’d like to return to Tokyo, see a new part of Japan and then maybe catch a plane to somewhere nearby? I’m not sure, we’ll have to see!

So there we go, that’s my list of my five favourite places I’ve visited so far. Feel free to leave a comment with your favourites!

Travel Fails: Belgium Edition

Belgium 4.jpg

Recently I got back from a trip with my friends where we visited Belgium. We spent most of our visit in Brussels but did have a day trip to Ghent and Bruges. Of course whenever I go away with my friends there’s always some kind of disaster and this trip was no exception so I’ve decided to write a post of fails that occurred in Belgium!

Disaster struck before we even got to Belgium. The first was when I woke up to a text message saying a payment had failed to come out of my bank account and an email from booking.com saying the hotel had tried to take out the full payment for our stay and it had failed. Of course it had, I didn’t have enough money to cover the entire cost. I sent a frantic message to the hotel to assure them we were still planning on arriving, paying in cash and asking them not to cancel our booking. They were very vague about why they’d tried to take out the money and what they could or couldn’t do but after many messages I assured them we would arrive at the hotel the moment check-in opened and they agreed they would still honour our booking.

The trip started to arrive and all of us were looking forward to going until I received a message off Jess at 3:20PM the day before we flew to say our flight had been cancelled. All of us were at work but luckily when I told my colleagues the flight had been cancelled they were very understanding and allowed me some time to ring the airline. After going through a ton of questions I got us rebooked onto a flight for around the same time but this flight was no longer direct, we would have to change in Frankfurt.

As compensation the airline offered to let us check in a bag on the way there so I said “Great! Can we also do that on the way back?” to be told no we couldn’t. Well then what’s the point in checking in a bag on the way bloody there if we can’t bring it home? At this point I was so fed up though that I hung up and asked my friend to confirm we were definitely booked onto the new flights and she said she’d received a confirmation email. I was so annoyed that I messaged the airline on Facebook to ask if there was anything else they could offer us and they replied to say we couldn’t even check in a bag on the way there and then got quite arsey with me when I pushed the matter and said there was nothing they could do.

Mostly I was just relieved we were still travelling on the same day meaning we wouldn’t have to rush to rearrange a new hotel booking or anything so I went to bed trying to feel optimistic. Four hours later I was up at 2:20AM to finish getting ready and my friend and her boyfriend pulled up outside the house at 3AM to take all of us to the airport.

Airport.jpg

The first flight went without a hitch, we got through security okay, had a calm breakfast and boarded our flight to Frankfurt with no problems. It was the moment we got to Frankfurt that problems occurred. I’d been sceptical that 50 minutes wouldn’t be enough time for a change over but the plane landed in Frankfurt at the time it was meant to and I didn’t feel too stressed. Until we hit security.

I find changeovers confusing, do you need to go through security every time? On the way to Japan we changed at Istanbul and we were let straight off the plane into the airport whereas on the way back from South Korea we changed at Istanbul again and had to go through security this time. For some reason the security in Frankfurt was going at snail’s pace – I’ve gone through longer queues at Birmingham quicker than I got through that one. There weren’t even many people ahead of us but they were going SO slowly.

We were stood waiting when a man came up behind us and said “I have a flight at 9:30AM so I need to go ahead” and we told him our flight was at 9:25AM so he’d have to wait his turn. The people behind him didn’t hear us so started getting arsey with us for not moving out of his way. He kept tutting and shaking his head which was irritating because yeah it was stressful but it wasn’t our fault.

Becca and Hirst went through security first and when they were done they sprinted to find the gate whilst me and Jess waited for our stuff. That took forever to come through and once we had it we ran the direction Becca and Hirst had gone. I feel bad as I’m not the most athletic person ever so I had to keep slowing down as typically our gate was on the other side of the airport.

We finally spotted the gate at the bottom of a ramp where Becca was stood frantically making gestures at us to hurry up so we sprinted down to the gate and just as we got there the doors slammed closed. We’d missed our connecting flight. The woman at the desk came back out and kept looking at us and I was starting to get annoyed as she wasn’t saying anything but eventually she said “Your flight from Birmingham was cancelled wasn’t it? I’ll book you onto a new flight.”

Apparently she’d been quite arsy with Becca and Hirst as they’d asked them to hold the gate as me and Jess were literally running through the airport and she’d told them it wasn’t possible and then snapped “So are you getting on or not?” – funnily enough they didn’t want to get on without us. However she was nice as pie now that me and Jess were there. A few other people had missed the connection and they started complaining to the woman but we all felt bad ‘cos although it was irritating it wasn’t this specific woman’s fault.

It could’ve been a lot worse as we were booked onto a flight for two hours’ time, it just meant having to sit around Frankfurt airport which was irritating as we hadn’t even wanted to come to Frankfurt. Luckily our next flight left on time and we were finally in Brussels.

We’d been worried the hotel would be arsey with us but once we found it they actually didn’t mind that we were later than anticipated and we checked in relatively quickly. The room wasn’t the best we’ve ever stayed in but it wasn’t as bad as some of the TripAdvisor reviews had made it out to be. The main issues were just uncomfortable beds and the bathroom kept flooding, most other things were fine.

Hotel

Well, there was one other particular issue on the first night. When the lift opened to our floor the lights were off and all we could hear was somebody playing a violin which sounds innocent enough but was honestly like something out of a horror movie. It was about midday at this point so we checked into our room then went out to do a tiny bit of exploring and get dinner before heading back for an early night after our 2AM start.

Everything was fine at first when we got back, Becca hopped in the shower first and then the violin started up again. Very loudly. It was still quite early but as mentioned we needed an early night after our early start that morning. We each took it in turns to have a shower and by the time I came out (I go last ‘cos I take the longest) the violin was still playing loudly away next door. It was such a specific issue that it was both hilarious and really irritating at the same time.

Eventually it turned 8:30PM and we were all ready to go to bed so Jess headed outside to say something to them whilst I lurked in the doorway of my room in case they tried to do anything to her. She knocked on the door and it turned out to be a little kid playing the violin (very well, to be 100% fair) whilst her Mom was sat in the corner watching. Jess asked them to keep it down and luckily we didn’t hear the violin again for the rest of our trip.

The next day went well. It did rain a bit but we saw a few museums, went on a waffle making workshop and generally had a good time. Then in the evening we decided to go and see if a room was available at a karaoke place near the hotel. It was around 7 – 8PM and we set off to a bar first so we could get a couple of drinks in. The bar Jess had found on her phone turned out to be closed so we went walking off and found the nearest one that served cocktails. Prices were through the roof so we only had one drink each.

Cocktails

Jess looked up the karaoke place on her phone and realised that actually it was closed. None of us were thrilled but she booked us a slot for the following evening instead. In the end we did a bit of souvenir shopping before heading back to the hotel and having another relatively early night.

The next morning we did more outdoor stuff as the weather was better – we went to Mini Europe and the Atomium before heading off to do a spy experience. This wasn’t cheap as it was advertised as being two hours long but we all decided to give it a go. I was a bit nervous because I’d heard there was a bit with heights and as a massive wimp I didn’t want to do this but as the others were doing it and I didn’t want to sit alone for two hours I paid my money and followed them in.

This was a ton of fun but also a bit of a disaster. In the first room you have to put on your ‘spy uniform’ which is basically just a jump suit and there was a guide on the wall to advise you if you were a certain height which suit you should grab. We’re all around the same height so I grabbed a 4, same one as Becca without regarding the fact that Becca is literally less than half the size of me. It didn’t fit and I couldn’t figure out how to get back into the room with the jumpsuits. Luckily Hirst’s didn’t fit either and Jess found a way for us both to get back in. For some reason this room was timed so the pressure was on to grab a jump suit that fitted and then get through into the next room.

Most of it went okay and it was a lot of fun. There was one small dampener when we had to crawl into a ball pit and as I went to follow the others I got kicked in the face by Jess accidentally (who didn’t even notice). When we got to the high ropes bit I asked the woman if I could opt out and she said I could if I really wanted to. I watched my friends doing that bit feeling a bit salty that I’m such a wimp.

When we got to the end we had to walk to the top of the arena and there was a slide to go down to complete the course. I told my friends it was too steep for me and I didn’t want to so they told me to find the high ropes woman and tell her I couldn’t go down. I watched them slide off and went to find the woman – who’d vanished. Her stuff was there but she was nowhere to be seen. I was in this massive spy room by myself. I went back up to the slide, telling myself not to be a wimp and just do it but I chickened out at the last second. I went back down to look for the woman but again, nowhere to be seen. I went back up to the slide and this time just pushed myself down without overthinking it. I kept my eyes closed the entire time but hey, I did it! I was just in a foul mood after that as I didn’t get to complete the course with my friends but I still had to do the bloody slide anyway.

I went back into the changing room, stomping around angrily whilst my poor friends looked on and tactfully let me get on with my bad mood. We went to get dinner afterwards at McDonalds and I managed to calm myself down. I’m not sure why it irritated me so much, I just knew that it had.

The rest of the evening went well, karaoke was fun and after a late night we were all up and ready for our day trip to Ghent and Bruges. A friendly guy at the train station told us we only needed to get a ticket to Bruges, we could hop off at Ghent if we wanted to, and soon we’d arrived in Ghent.

Belgium 5.jpg

Ghent went well, we had some breakfast at Starbucks, visited Ghent Castle and then went off to Psychology Museum. I didn’t find it that interesting but I think my friends enjoyed it. The only fail in there is that me and Hirst went on ahead whilst Becca and Jess lagged behind and then decided to play a prank on us. Becca hid under a hospital bed and Jess came round saying she had no idea where Becca was, with the intention of waiting a few minutes and saying we should go find her – then Becca would jump out and scare us.

This didn’t happen for a few reasons. For some reason Jess sat down to do a DNA test that me and Hirst had just done which took quite a while. Also, I’d seen both Jess and Becca’s shadows walk into the room and knew for a fact they were trying to prank us. Eventually Jess suggested we go look for Becca who came round the corner looking livid and said “You just left me there!” She’d been hiding under the bed for probably a good ten minutes.

After the Psychology Museum it was getting quite late so we decided to head to Bruges to grab some dinner and explore there a bit. We were all starving so we ticked dinner off straightaway and then headed to the main centre of Bruges where we went into a church. We were in there for AGES as Jess likes to take photos and videos of every inch of wherever we visit so me, Hirst and Becca started up a game where we tried to predict what Jess would do next. We ended up laughing so hard that we got told off by a woman working in the church so we decided to leave.

We meandered down the high street and just as we reached a cute square it started to throw it down. It had been raining on and off for the past few days but this was a whole new level of rain. Not sure what to do we decided to get some cake for dinner so we went on an epic quest to find some as most places were beginning to close. We finally found a dessert shop, sat in there for about an hour eating overpriced desserts before heading back outside. It was still throwing it down so drenched and exhausted we decided to call it a day and head back to the train station. Unfortunately the train station was quite a walk away so we only got more drenched.

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I wish we’d had more time to visit Bruges but my Mom’s been on about visiting for ages so I may have to take her there one day so we can both have a good look around.

I think that was about it for fails in Belgium! The next day we checked out of the hotel, went to the airport and our flight home went without a problem. This post was a lot longer than I thought it would be – but I should’ve known that when all four of us go we never have a trip without a few fails!

The Travel Tag

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Regular readers of this blog know that I love a good tag so I decided to combine that with my love of travelling and complete ‘The Travel Tag’. I found this tag at this blog so be sure to check theirs out – and now for my answers!

Which countries of the world have you already visited?

UK (because that’s where I’m from!), Spain, Cyprus, Tenerife, New York, France, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Poland, Greece, The Netherlands, Japan, South Korea,  Romania and Belgium – I don’t think I’ve missed any! I’ve done layovers in Turkey and Germany but since I never saw anything of the countries I wouldn’t count them.

Which destination is number one on your bucket list?

This is so difficult because I’ve always said Japan but now that I’ve ticked that off I’m struggling to pick one and stick with it. At the moment I’d say probably Taipei in Taiwan but it also flits between Bangkok in Thailand and Vancouver in Canada.

What is your most ideal holiday?

I’m not really fond of going places just to sit in the sun – I wouldn’t mind for like a weekend or something but a week would be way too long. I don’t really have an ideal temperature for a holiday – my supervisor recently asked me why I always go cold places but it’s because I don’t really mind the temperature.

I love going to a city and having enough things to explore. Tokyo was ideal for me because I feel like we did so much (we were up at around 6AM and back late pretty much every day) and there was just a bit of everything. There was the traditional history side of things, mixed with modern things to do and then a couple of theme parks. I love being able to slot in a theme park day on trips even though I hate big rides – it’s just nice to have a more relaxed day.

I guess my ideal holiday is a big city with plenty of variety of things to do. I couldn’t just do museums and historic sites; I like to have something ‘fun’ to do as well!

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Which place did you think was so special that you would love to go back there someday?

A bit obvious because I talk about it so much but Tokyo is definitely my favourite place I’ve ever been but as I’ve already mentioned that I’ll pick somewhere else. Oh gosh, there are a few places I’d love to go back to. With my friends I’d love to go back to New York and I’d do all the typical tourist things with them all over again. By myself I wouldn’t mind going back to Vilnius in Lithuania because I was actually surprised by how much there was to do and it was such a pretty city.

Show us your nicest holiday photo!

I feel like this means ‘prettiest’ holiday photo but I’d be trawling through tons of photos for that so I’ll post my favourite one from my recent trip to Belgium, not necessarily a beautiful/scenic photo but one that makes me happy!

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Did you have to travel for work sometime? If so, where?

Although I love my job I’m primarily based at an office with occasional visits to schools or hotels for meetings/training. I doubt I’d ever have to leave my home town for something work related which is something I don’t love about my job. Especially since my step-sister has been to Dubai and China for work. She gets to fly business class on the plane and everything. If I could change anything about my job it’d be that I get to travel more but realistically there’s no way that would ever happen.

Equally though I think what I love about travelling is that I can leave all my responsibilities behind and just do what I want. I thought about working abroad but would that just ruin the experience, not having much time to explore? Probably. So maybe it’s just as well.

Who are you most likely to go on holiday with?

I don’t mind going by myself but if I was going with anyone my first choice would always be my best friends Becca, Hirst and Jess. After that probably my Mom. I don’t think I’ve ever been away with anyone else before. My Dad took me and my siblings to Cyprus when we were kids but has refused to take us since because of how much it cost which is fair enough I suppose.

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Who would you like to go on vacation with sometime?

I assume this means someone I haven’t been away with before? I’ve thrown around the idea of going away with my friends Emma and Sorcha but Emma’s always broke and I’m worried Sorcha would panic on the plane. I don’t really think there’s anyone else I’d go away with.

Who or what would you take with you to an uninhabited island?

Am I trapped on the island or just going to explore? If I was trapped I’d take my three best friends because we’ve often discussed this scenario before so I’m sure we’d get rescued eventually and if not we could probably build a civilisation. If I was just going to explore then I’d take a camera and plenty of water.

Have you been on vacation to the Netherlands? If so, where?

Yes in 2017 me, Becca, Hirst and Jess went to Amsterdam. Primarily so me and Becca could see 24K live but we also love an opportunity to look around a new city. We had amazing weather and Amsterdam was beautiful. I’d love to go back someday because there were some things we didn’t get to see – for example the Anne Frank House was sold out and I’ve heard that’s amazing. It’s just a beautiful city.

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Would you rather go to an amusement park or a zoo?

I have been to a couple of zoos whilst on holiday but I think I’d always pick an amusement park over a zoo. If I’m travelling with friends I wouldn’t be able to visit a zoo or aquarium anyway because Becca despises them and I can see why. I went to a zoo in Poland and although I like seeing animals many of them did seem quite sad. At least you can enjoy an amusement park guilt-free. I don’t like big rides but I just love the atmosphere of theme parks – especially the Disney parks!

Would you rather go on a ski or sun vacation?

I think I’d be at risk of breaking a leg on a ski vacation! I’ll take the sun vacation so I’m not risking my health.

What is your nicest holiday memory?

Watching the electric parade at Tokyo Disneyland after an amazing day of going round the park. The parade was amazing and I just felt really good. Plus knowing I had almost two full weeks of exploring Asia left was good. If I could return to a holiday moment it would probably be that one.

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What is your least nice holiday memory?

When my friends got back in Amsterdam after eating a space cake (I’d opted out) – one of them told me to go to bed so I did and laid in bed listening to the three of them laugh in the living room. It’s not a feeling I would’ve wished upon anyone.

To which country (countries) are you going this year?

So far this year I went to Romania by myself and then this month I went to Belgium with Hirst, Becca and Jess. In April I’m off to Dublin by myself and then in May I’m going with my Mom to San Francisco. I’d been wanting to go away for my birthday so I’ve booked to go to Hong Kong for a week which will be my first solo out of continent trip and I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve been thinking about booking something for July but with everything else I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford it. I still have plenty of trips to look forward to though!

Where would you never go on holiday?

A country where I wouldn’t feel safe. I think people think that I just book places on a whim but I do actually research whether the country I’m visiting is relatively safe. Nowhere in the world is going to be 100% safe but you know the kind of places I’m likely to avoid.

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I hope you enjoyed my answers, feel free to leave a link in the comments if you decide to do this tag –I’d love to read your answers!