Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Catching up

I'm not sure what happened with my blog, there was a time a couple of years ago where I'd devote hours of my evening to this little space on the internet but recently I just haven't been in the mindset to sit down and write. Last year was a busy one in all honesty; I attended countless gigs and festivals, went on a some brilliant holidays and ate at the most delicious restaurants. All of these things I'd love to share but alas time got the better of me and now it all seems a bit late. It's not that I'm lacking ideas, heck I have plenty of those but it's just sitting down and doing the damn thing that I find difficult. Steve and I moved in together last November and I suppose part of me feels guilty about sitting down with my laptop and ignoring him for a few hours which is silly because he is very encouraging of my blog. But with the new year brings new starts and here I am once again trying to reboot and refresh.




So let's start with something small, a little event I went to a couple of weeks ago to be exact. As a keen traveller with a strong addiction to her iPhone I am always interested to know about different phone contracts and the perks they offer. When Three invited me to their #ComeDineWithThree event to promote their Feel At Home tariff I was keen to hear all about it. Being able to use your phone abroad for no extra cost is something that 100% appeals to me as data roaming costs can sure add up after a week in the sun. I was also fortunate enough to play around with the new iPhone 6 Plus that evening. I'm a big fan of my DSLR but sometimes it's a pain to carry around therefore a phone equipped with a fancy camera is just a the thing I need. I was not disappointed. The camera captures colour nicely and deals with low light surprisingly well. It's the perfect little point and shoot. Tramotana Brindisa provided a delicious feast of tapas for us to snap away at and has made be very excited for a possible trip to the Basque Country later this year.

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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Gift Guide: for people who like to travel

Last year I did a nifty little gift guide for music related presents but this year I've gone for my number one passion in life, travelling!

The first part of the gift guide might as well be called, my favourite collection of travelling books!

travel 2

Travel books are my favourite thing, from extensive guides from Lonely Planet to design and photography orientated books such as Wallpaper City Guides. I love anything with pretty pictures hence my reason for including City Cycling and Herb Lester. Speaking of Herb Lester, I love his maps and already have a fair few to boot but that doesn't stop me lusting over the Everything Box, if £100 for a set of guides you might never get to put into practice then I highly recommend the European or USA box set. And if you're after something more focused then have a look at the London or NYC box set. On a side note the NYC Burger Map is my current favourite.

If you're after some luxury than Louis Vuitton do a cracking set of luxe travel guides and for a few hundred quid you can bag yourself a beautiful box with the complete collection. For a little less you can buy a beautiful box detailing the history of the LV trunk and for even less a single city guide. For more luxe guides check out one of the LUXE City Guides box sets of single issue guides. I already have the European one but I'll be adding the Asian and World Tour box set to my collection shortly. I've not included any on the guide but the Hg2 books are lovely as well, especially the Eat London and Eat NYC versions. I'm still trying to track down the elusive Eat Paris!

A new find to my travel book collection is the Go Unusual books and the new Go Unusual Overnight Directory is just fab, I bought it for myself a few ago and can't help looking at the crazy, unusual hotels.

Steve bought me the Maps book for my birthday and it's gorgeous, it's a kids book full of beautiful illustrations but it would honestly be perfect for anyone with an interest in maps, travel and wonderful drawings. 1000 Places... was a Christmas gift last year and I love it as it's full of tips for every country you could possibly imagine, definitely one for any travel lover.

For the second half I've focused more on travelling related bits and bobs for use of a better phrase. Everyone needs a beautiful passport holder and luggage tag and how gorgeous are these numbers from Aspinal and Liberty? I love the scratch globe (I already have the map) and these two globe baubles are stunning. I love anything from North Face and I've been after a bag and coat for a long time, this holdall come rucksack would be best for a future around the world travelling trip! On big trips I like to keep a diary and these Molekine and Smythson ones are really lovely, how great is this list keeper as well? I would definitely love a TfL art print poster calendar or jigsaw plus this stick on chalkboard map looks so much fun. The globe lamp is really fun and the matching globe necklace is adorable.

travel 1

I hope this gives you plenty of ideas for presents, a few of these I would definitely love myself (that's if I don't already have them).

Merry Christmas x

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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Vilnius - Lithuania

We arrived in Vilnius in the late afternoon having spent most of the day on buses to and from the Hill of Crosses. When I was researching accommodation I read about Domas Maria, a hotel in an old Monastery next to the Gates of Dawn and knew I had to stay there. The corridors had a Shining-esque quality about them but it was a lovely albeit simple hotel in a fantastic location. It has a great breakfast spread which is included in the room price and our 2 nights here were more than comfortable.



We didn't have time to do a lot of sight seeing on our first evening as it was getting dark quickly so we headed out to dinner to the restaurant Lokys. The place specialises in lots of meaty dishes including wild boar, beaver stew and game sausages. I had a delicious plate of venison roast, cheese stuffed potato croquettes and roasted courgette with a delicious wine and cranberry jam. Steve went for a meaty feast of venison and boar roasts plus game sausage. Both meals where beautiful and I highly recommend visiting. Not a place of vegetarians though!



Like Kaunas, Vilnius has a quaint medieval old town made up of winding cobbled streets. Now, no holiday would be complete with some sort of disaster happening and this was the first of a few. When we left Kaunas and well on our way to the Hill of Crosses we realised we'd left our jackets in the Kaunas hotel. I emailed the hotel and asked if there was any way they could get them to Vilnius or London (I'd pay for postage of course) but they refused outright to help us! In order to save time we decided to rent a car in Vilnius and drive the 200km round trip to get them back instead of taking the train. In the end it turned out having a car for the day was a bit of a blessing and thanks to the local rental company Autobanga it cost about £25 for 24 hours rental in a Ford Fiesta (excluding petrol which was about £15 for nearly 3/4 of a tank).

Anyway, after our morning on the road we had the rest of the day to explore the city. We started at the Museum of Genocide Victims which was a sobering yet insightful experience. Situated in a former KGB building complete with a basement prison it's an extraordinary account of the sufferings the Lithuanian had to deal under Nazi and Soviet rule. Towards the end of the exhibition (before entering the horrendous basement prison) there's a neat little section about Soviet spying techniques, complimented with hidden cameras throughout the museum. Entry was less than £3 per person and somewhere I'd recommend visiting if you have even the slightest interest in 20th Century European history.

After the museum we spent the rest of the day wondering around town checking out sites including the cathedral, Vilnius castle and St Anne's gothic church.


 

We stopped here for delicious afternoon crepes.

Many of the trees were covered in knitted blankets











The three crosses on the hill

Dress - Beacons Closet




I'd read that there was a funicular at the castle but as we walked around the base of the hill we couldn't find it. Of course once we were at the top we spotted it so decide to ride it down the hill.



The Three Sisters





As I mentioned before we had a car for the day so we were able to drive out to the TV tower to catch some fantastic views over the city. There was no queue and even though the revolving restaurant was completely cheesy the views were fantastic.






After the TV tower he hopped back in the car and drove to the Radisson Blu hotel to watch sunset from the SkyBar. When I'm on holiday I love searching out places with a good view so doing three in one day was fantastic. Watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand (Happy Driver mocktail for Steve) was a great way to finish the day.









Once we dropped the car back at the rental place we realised we needed dinner but it was getting late and options were limited. We ended up popping into Amatininku Uzeiga for potato pancakes, a Lithuanian speciality. These were a bit grim to be honest, dripping in oil and covered in sour cream (the Baltics favourite condiment) but they had to do. This was probably the most disappointing meal of the trip but to be honest it could have been worse. In the future, don't leave dinner too late in Vilnius on a Sunday evening.



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Saturday, 4 October 2014

Hill of Crosses - Lithuania

On our second day in Lithuania we went on a day trip to Šiauliai to visit the Hill of Crosses. I'm not a religious person but I was fascinated by this small hill in the middle of the Lithuanian countryside where over 100,000 crosses have been planted. Whilst the site was originally used to signify Catholicism in the country it has more recently became a tribute to hope when the country was occupied by the Soviets at the end of last century. Walking around the area you can feel the sense of love and respect the Lithuanian people had for each other during these hard times. If you ever visit the Lithuania I highly recommend taking a day trip to this area, it doesn't take long to walk around and for a country that was ravaged by the Nazi and Soviet regimes (it was destroyed in 1961 and 1975) it is an incredible testament to the people's beliefs that it is still standing today, stronger than ever.


Useful Tips:

We caught the bus from Kaunas to Šiauliai which took about 3 hours. We pre-booked our tickets online and it cost about €9 per person for a single journey. You can book from the Lithuania national bus service website. The bus leaves from Kaunas bus station which is just around the corner from the train station and drops off at the main bus station in Šiauliai which is also next to the train station.

The Hill of Crosses is 10km north of the city so once in Šiauliai we walked up to the tourist office and asked them to book us a taxi to the Hill of Crosses and back including a 30min stop. This cost a total of 50 Lt and for us half an hour was plenty of time but you can pay 60 Lt to spend an hour.

The taxi dropped us off at the bus station where we caught a bus to Vilnius. We had to pay on board this time which cost about €14 per person and took around 3.5 hours. The bus stopped at the main bus station which is a few minutes walk from the Southern gate of the old town.

The buses were never full so you don't have to pre-book but if you want to save a little money it's definitely worth doing. Student tickets are available but drivers can be fussy about what they think is acceptable or not. Steve has his NUS card declined at one stage because it didn't look exactly the same as the pictures in the Driver's student card book.













Before catching the bus to Vilnius we popped into the Finnish burger chain Hesburger to grab a quick bite before our 3 hour journey. It wouldn't be me to try out this Baltic burger chain and I'm glad I did because the double cheese burger, despite being incredibly small albeit cheap, was pretty tasty. We saw the chain in every city we visited on this trip but I'm glad to say we only tried it the once.


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