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On safari in South Africa: a photo journey

On safari in South Africa: a photo journey

A South African safari is an experience on the bucket-list of many. And come on. It's not hard to see why. A South African game drive is one of the only ways to safely and, when done right, responsibly get up close to some of the world's most wondrous wild animals. Throw in raw and rugged landscapes, immense thunderstorms and burning sunsets, and a safari starts to present much more than a spot of animal watching. A safari experience is a rare opportunity to fully immerse yourself in life - glorious life - on planet earth. Pilanesberg National Park There are plenty of famous destinations to get a taste of a South Africa safari, but for those looking for a more intimate safari experience, head to Pilanesberg National park in South Africa's Northwest Province. The entire game reserve has an area of just 572 square km. To put that figure into perspective, the Kruger National Park - probably South Africa's most famous safari spot - has an area of almost 20,000 square km. While in the Kruger you may go days without encountering the local wildlife, Pilanesbergr's relatively cosy setting pretty much guarantees game drives packed with action.

And what action it is. Warthogs run aside the dirt roads with their tails pointed high in the air. Zebras, giraffes and various curly-horned boks graze peacefully in scattered herds. Elephants roam the mountains with calves trailing between the herd, eyeing up the silent game vehicle and its awe-struck passengers as they calmly thunder, unbothered, by. Safari Game Drive: What to expect A game drive is the name given to the actual act of going out in a game vehicle searching for animals. A typical safari experience in a South African lodge will include two game drives a day: one at the crack of dawn when the animals are waking up or slinking off to sleep. The next is usually at sunset, where the animals are most active. Each drive will last a couple of hours, with a knowledgeable safari guide tracking the animals before stopping at a safe distance to admire anything you come across. Though, of course, you want to see everything every time you jump into that dusty 4x4 and hit the road, the chances are that you won't see every single animal on the Big Five list every single game drive. Sometimes it's as much about patience as anything else, and you should expect a bunch of time spent sitting still and in complete silence, peering out into the bush to catch a glimpse of a prowling lioness. Cheetahs and leopards are notoriously difficult to spot, but chances vary on the time of day and the time of year. Whether you're down for a budget DIY self-tour of the Kruger camping out under the stars, or you're looking for a five-star luxury game drive experience to remember, South Africa is jam-packed with options for sustainable safari experiences throughout the country. From Pilanesberg to the Kruger National Park and beyond: a South African safari is a travel experience that delivers nature at its finest. GOOD STUFF TO KNOW Pilanesberg safari lodge: Ivory Tree Game Lodge Though game drives are very safe when led by an experienced ranger, accidents can happen. Wild animals are unpredictable. Always follow the rules laid out for you by your guide and add in a healthy dose of common sense. That extra close-up photo for the gram isn't worth anything if you get trampled to death. Want to do a self-tour of the national park? Luxury safari lodges are not the only way to experience a South Africa safari. Rent a 4x4 and read the information on the park's official website. Are you looking for a Serengeti safari experience in Tanzania? Head to www.tanzania-specialist.com for luxury safari experiences in Tanzania.

Iceland Ring Road 10-day road trip itinerary

Iceland Ring Road 10-day road trip itinerary

Iceland travel has exploded in popularity over the past few years. As I discovered on a 10-day winter road trip, Iceland is a beautiful, raw and wild country that is screaming to be explored. Here's how to enjoy the best of your Iceland road trip. The best of an Iceland winter road trip Usually saturated with travellers in the summer months, winter in Iceland is a completely different story. The sun stays in the sky for all but a handful of hours per day. The hotels, hostels and B&B's are empty. The roads are empty. And it is absolutely bloody freezing. We got lost on winding mountain roads and stopped to feed Icelandic horses big, fat apples. We stayed in little wooden chalets and stood mesmerised at the Northern Lights as Arctic winds blew furiously around us. We almost froze our limbs off checking out frozen waterfalls and got up close and personal with giant icy-blue glaciers. With an area of 100,000 km² and a population of just 350,000, road tripping is by far the easiest way to get around the Iceland Ring Road. You can do it by coach tour - many people choose this option. It's safe, it's easy and you're guided by experts. For me, there are fewer things less attractive than organised fun with a bunch of strangers for an extended period of time. Plus, road trips are all about the freedom of the open road. Planning your journey along the way, stopping whenever you want to and listening to awesome music along the way. So, we chose the self-drive option. Only slightly less expensive than an Iceland group tour, we rented a car straight from Reykjavik airport, we set our first destination into the satnav and headed out onto the famous Ring Road. Iceland Ring Road
10 days, 2,000km, 8 hotels DAY 1
REYKJAVIK – SELFOSS Pick up the car on arrival to Keflavik Intl. Airport and drive to Selfoss. You’ll absolutely need a 4×4 in the winter and be prepared to spend more on car insurance than the rental itself. DAY 2
SELFOSS – VIK Depart early and head to the famous abandoned plane wreck (here’s how to find it), before wandering on Reynisfjara beach. Spend the night in Vik for a decent dinner and a sleep – there really isn’t much else to do here. DAY 3
VIK – HOFN Beautiful stop at the Hoffellsjökull glacier, where you can pay a million euros (*€150) to go ice caving and glacier walking for a couple of hours. We trekked to the glacier ourselves and flew the drone over the top. Rounded off with an awesome bowl of goulash at the mountain centre before driving to Hofn for a windy stay near the sea. DAY 5
HOFN – SEYDISFJORDUR With the guesthouse already deserted by 0800, we had an indulgent beautiful morning watching the sunrise at 10 am over the mountains and marshlands, then set off for a day of the most scenic driving on the whole trip. We had an hour to spare before the supermarket closed at 1700, and with it already pitch black, we cooked ourselves food in the – also, very empty – hostel and binge-watched Game of Thrones. (omgggg 2 months 2 months). DAY 6 + 7
SEYDISFJORDU – AKUREYRI Akureyri is the second-largest city in Iceland… and it has a population of 18,000. We stopped here for Christmas, and although yes, it was a beautiful place and we had a very white Christmas, there was nothing to do in the holidays. Everything was closed. When it’s not closed… you can go whale watching and skiing and hiking. Which all sound very fun. But, for the two main days of Christmas, it was wandering around in the snow and drinking expensive wine out of the mini-bar. DAY 7
AKUREYRI – HVAMMASTANGI Our first and only spot of the Northern Lights was camped out in the middle of nowhere in the Hvammastangi Cottages. Super basic wooden structures with little more than a bed, a sofa and a small washroom inside, it was the perfect, cosy little stop to take in the beauty of the Aurora. DAY 8
HVAMMASTANGI – GRUNDARFJORDUR First taking a little drive around the Vatsnes Peninsula, we ended the day at Kirkjufell Mountain in Grundarfjordu. As with most Icelandic towns, the town itself is very quiet and a little lacklustre in the winter months. We did at least find a great pizza place (Laki Cafe) and our hotel had a sauna, so… that was a plus. DAY 9
GRUNDARFJORDU – REYKJAVIK Pulling up at our final destination on our 10-day Ring Road adventure, we roamed shivered around Reykjavik, visiting a couple of museums, shops and restaurants. We took some nice photos and sidled on back to our hotel to look forward to basking in the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon the next morning… DAY 10
REYKJAVIK The number one tourist attraction in Iceland, which we had planned into our schedule. We happily arrived there early in the morning and queued for half an hour to be told it was full and that pre-booking is very necessary. WHAAAAT. The absolute fail. Awful. We couldn’t go in! What was supposed to be the cherry on the cake of our road trip! Curse this life. We ended up having a nice drive around the Golden Circle instead. But STILL. I am still bitterly disappointed about that one. ICELAND BUDGET - WINTER RING ROAD €340 RETURN FLIGHTS €1000 CAR RENTAL €100 P/N ACCOMMODATION €400 ACTIVITIES P/P €50 P/D EXPENSES €350 GAS* For two people, this exact 10-day trip cost around €2250 each – a low/middle-of-the-road price for Iceland. You can, of course, make your Iceland Ring Road adventure as expensive as you want – Iceland is home to some seriously luxury stays. But you can also do it a bit cheaper. When travelling in a larger group of three, four or five, you can expect to take at least a few hundred euros from the total price per person. I found Iceland totally worth the cost. And if you’re really on a budget, there’s a ton of ways to save money if you want to. We opted to stay in guesthouses and B&Bs, but you can bring costs down with hostels and – in the summer – camping. Booking flights a month earlier could have also saved us another €100 – but hey. I didn’t have this blog to read. USEFUL STUFF TO KNOW FOR YOUR RING ROAD TRIP Check out where you can expect to see the Northern Lights on this weather map from the Iceland MET office. (trust me - this reduces 95% of pointless staring at the sky.) Blue Lagoon tickets - www.bluelagoon.com

Paris: 5 tips to actually enjoy the Louvre Museum

Paris: 5 tips to actually enjoy the Louvre Museum

On a whirlwind 24-hour trip to Paris from home here in Amsterdam, I had one goal in mind. Well, two. One: to drink an endless supply of French wine on a Parisian boulevard with a menthol cigarette hanging out of one hand- maybe some kind of delicious French pastry hanging out on the table to complete the Paris fantasy. Two: to finally see the Louvre. WHY EVERYONE SHOULD VISIT THE LOUVRE The Louvre is incredible. Vast, glorious and saturated with history, a beloved Parisian landmark and the world’s largest art gallery. As one of the most important cultural institutions in the world, unsurprisingly, the Louvre is constantly packed with visitors. From local Parisians to crowds of school children, from large groups of international tourists to bedraggled backpackers, 10.2 million people paid the Louvre museum a visit in 2018. With all those people spread across more than 72,000 square metres of exhibition space, a visit to the Louvre can turn out to be one hot, frustrating mess. Here's five tips to make sure your trip to the Louvre isn't. 5 TIPS TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE LOUVRE 1. BOOK AHEAD & GO EARLY It’s the most basic trick in the book. Sometimes it can work out a hell of a lot cheaper to book with a local operator upon arrival (I was mortified that I paid $600 for a Machu Picchu trek ahead of time when the local prices were around $400 cheaper), but the Louvre is not one of them. Book ahead, get a specific time slot, jump the queue and et voila! An easy, stress-free beginning to the Louvre experience. We used Head Out and was very happy to stroll past the growing queues at the ticket line when we got there. To further avoid any long queues and crowds, use the Lion’s Gate entrance. Most visitors enter past the famous pyramid, but if you opt to check out the pyramid after the museum itself, you can save yourself a looot of time. Lion’s Gate entrance is located on the east of the Pont Royal on the Quai des Tuileries. 2. GET AN AUDIO TOUR We didn’t get an audio tour because, you know, we can read. Little did we know, however, that the vast majority of the information in the Louvre is in French, and French only. In a few halls, a selection of large, plastic sheets are available to international visitors in a variety of languages, but it’s pretty sub-standard. So, to avoid disappointment – the audio tour is worth it. Unless, of course, you speak French. 3. BE SELECTIVE It’s literally impossible to see everything in the Louvre in one visit – or even 10 visits. You will never get through everything – so pick one or two exhibitions that you really want to see, and spend a couple of hours ingesting it all. We chose the ancient Egyptians and it was glorious. 4. TAKE WATER Again, this is not a groundbreaking tip, but one that so many forget to adhere to. With so many people trampling the marble floors of every single exhibition space, the Louvre can get hot and stuffy. There’s nothing worse than trying to muster excitement at these magnifiq artefacts and collections while dying a slow death of thirst and heat. Take water with you and make use of the lockers. An annoying additional cost to an already costly excursion, but if you’re going to be spending some time roaming the exhibition spaces, it’s worth the investment. 5. PRICE HACK A lot of visitors do not know it, but the Louvre really is an institution that is accessible to everyone – whatever the budget. For those on a shoestring, entrance is free every first Saturday of the month between October and March, as well as on the 14th of July. Entry to the museum is free from 6:00 PM – 9:45 PM on a regular weekday, as well as free to those under the age of 18 and EU citizens under the age of 25. USEFUL STUFF TO KNOW FOR THE LOUVRE, PARIS Official website the Louvre: www.louvre.fr French public holidays: the Louvre is closed on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December. It remains open on all other public holidays unless they fall on a Tuesday, the museum’s day of closure. Address: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris

Camping in the Karoo: a South African road trip

Camping in the Karoo: a South African road trip

A far cry from the typical South Africa tourist hubs of Cape Town and the Kruger National Park, camping out in the Karoo Desert is about as off-the-beaten-track as it gets. Miles and miles of rolling wilderness, dotted with an antiquated desert town here and there. In the midst of a record 5-year-long drought, the arid plains of the Karoo desert unexpectedly turned out to be the ultimate highlight of a 3-week South Africa road trip. Where is the Karoo? The Karoo is an ancient desert region of South Africa, stretching across the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape provinces. Vast empty plains, big open skies and a backdrop of dusty mountains await those making their way to or from Johannesburg and Cape Town. Though the long, open roads provide 10/10 road trip conditions, the best thing about travelling a long, long way through the Karoo is getting to stay there along the way. Currently even more desertified than ever, the Karoo is suffering through a years-long drought. The plants are dead; the remaining vegetation is barely hanging in there, animals are struggling to find enough water, farmers are facing bankruptcy... A great place to head as a stopover from Johannesburg to Cape Town, right? Actually... yes. Despite the hot and dusty conditions, the Karoo has an undeniable draw and is, surprisingly, so much more than a convenient stopover. Maybe I was swayed by the romantic pictures my South African boyfriend had already painted of the African bush... but as the landscapes slowly changed from green to red, I understood. The Karoo is wild. It's unforgiving, it's isolated, it's terrifying, it's enchanting. A quick search on the road lead us to Ko-Ka Tsara Bush Camp on Booking.com - a fairly last minute booking. It wasn't the first choice. Or the second. I'll be honest: I was living for a rustic farmhouse - something unique, isolated, beautiful, romantic... Instagram-worthy. But we lucked out and the budget bush camp was available. Located a few kilometres from Beaufort West - the largest town in Great Karro region - the camp was perfectly on our way to Cape Town, cheap and it looked… well you know. Alright. Nestled in the middle of nowhere, it wasn't all so bad. The private bush chalet came with a big private braai and a promise of giraffes, warthogs and impalas on your doorstep. Sold. Life in the Karoo: Sunrise, Savannah & Silence Driving next to the border of the Karoo National Park in the late afternoon, we pulled up to the wooden gates to what looked like nowhere. As promised, I guess... Driving into the camp, we uncertainly trundled along at 20kph down a dirt road into the mountains, stopping to watch the giraffes and impalas running around the bush. The silence was deafening... a little unsettling, but exciting. After six years of living in the middle of the city of Amsterdam, the opportunities to hear sweet, sweet nothing were few and far between. Finally, we turned the corner, and there it was. Ko-Ka Tsara Bush Camp: a handful of thatched-roof chalets, a modest reception house, an honesty bar (god, don't you LOVE an honesty bar) and – lo and behold – a pretty decent pool. Spending a few minutes eyeing the baboons roaming around the place and checking in with the eccentric Afrikaans owner and his very large, very strange talking parrots (seriously.), we pulled alongside our wooden chalet, slid open the doors and fell in love. It was bright, cosy, bush-camp-luxury on the inside, with a shaded seating area, fire pit and a private space for the perfect braai on the outside – my dream, dream, dream accommodation. Honestly, this is all I wanted out of our Karoo desert stay: a cosy place to stay and bask in the glory of the great African wilderness. (I was reading Karen Blixen's Out of Africa at the time. I think these romantic ideas of my Karoo stay were also heavily influenced by Blixen's love letters to Kenya!). Cracking open an icy cold Savannah Dry within 30 minutes of touch down, bush life was an easy state to sink into. I spent the first evening eating BBQ under the stars, watching the bush animals edge closer as darkness crept in. Watching the brightest moon emerge behind the mountain towering in front of us, we tipsily determined to catch the sunrise and made our way to bed. Catching the sunrise over the African desert That contented bliss was nowhere to be seen when our alarms started ringing at 0400. Dragging ourselves out of the comfort of the enormous bed, we tumbled into the car armed with rusks and a quick cup of coffee and drove to the top of the mountain to take in moon-set and sunrise. Haphazardly chugging up the rocky, dusty hillside in the inky black night, honestly? I was scared. With a steep drop to the side of us and the eery sounds of unknown animals around us, I began to wonder if it was all worth it. After many shrieks and screeching halts, we pulled the backie to a flat spot. The moon was hanging low, just touching the tips of the rocky mountains in the distance. I was taken aback by the space: I could see every inch of the starry sky and every drop of sleepy sunshine edging its way in from the east. This was going to be worth it. We climbed out of the backie and roamed around, kicking aside the straw-like grass and crumbling rock. Standing at the top, we watched as the sun slowly rose up and chased the darkness away. The sky was everything; the silence was everything, the sweet morning air was everything. This whole delicious moment was e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Heading back down to the camp for a nap and a day of lounging in the oasis that was the swimming pool, I couldn’t believe the luck of this South African bush camp stopover. The next couple of days were spent in complete desert bliss - if not an icy Savannah-induced stupor. We took ourselves on a self-drive safari and spotted more giraffes, kudu and impala. We took a visit to the dried-up dam. We had a stroll around the underwhelming town of Beaufort West... and let go of life's endless worries, to-do lists, obligations. We took a wild stab in the dark of the Karoo and ended up finding the gem of the desert: the very best of South Africa.

A morning on safari in South Africa

A morning on safari in South Africa

COFFEE. An essential part of the last couple of days spent on safari in South Africa. But I’m not complaining. Despite being the absolute opposite of a morning person (it takes me a good hour or two and an unhealthy amount of caffeine to shake off the antisocial vibes I seem to drink in while unconscious), when the alarm went off at 04:50, I was surprisingly spritely. Why? Because I knew what lay ahead of me. A sunrise safari through the Pilanesberg National Park in the North-West of South Africa. It’s my very first experience of a game reserve, and it lived up to all of my wildest expectations. Pilanesberg is one of the more understated national parks in South Africa and, as a result, relatively quiet regarding visitors. With an area of 572 km/s, the park is often overlooked for it’s more well-known neighbours (for comparison, the Addo Elephant National Park is 1,640 km/s, and the famous Kruger National Park is a mindblowing 19,485 km/s). But, being relatively small and still teeming with animals means that spotting wildlife is guaranteed. Whereas in the Kruger park you may drive for an hour or two without spotting a thing, in Pilanesberg you never drive more than 15 minutes without seeing animals – and we saw multiple sightings of 4/5 of the Big Five in just two days (check out the photo gallery for the full experience!). We were treated to up-close sightings of rhinos, elephants, zebras, lions, wildebeest, warthogs, impala, all with a breathtaking backdrop of the rolling hills of Southern Africa. On this particular morning, we also welcomed a rumbling thunderstorm, with thunderclaps so loud that they reverberated through my entire body and caused me to let out an embarrassingly loud and completely involuntary scream. Twice. So, despite looking more than a little grumpy in this photo, was I happy for a stop at 0700 for my third cup of coffee of the day? Yes, I was. But would I drag myself out of my plush, luxury game lodge bed before the sun-bleached the sky to do it all again? Absolutely. Again and again and again and again. Check out the b-e-a-utiful Ivory Tree Game Lodge for your South African adventure! #Nature #RoadTrip #Wildlife #SouthAfrica #GameReserve #Animals #Africa #GameDrive #Pilanesberg

Exploring a 1973 plane wreck on Iceland’s black beaches

Exploring a 1973 plane wreck on Iceland’s black beaches

Iceland, 1973. A USA Navy plane with five passengers on board ran into problems and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, on the southeastern coast of the country. All passengers escaped unhurt, and now, 46 years later, the corpse of the wrecked plane still remains on the black sands of Iceland’s shore. Laying desolate in the middle of a vast, monochromatic winter landscape, visiting the Sólheimasandur plane wreck is like stepping onto a sci-fi movie set. The star of many an influencer’s Instagram feed, climbing into the eery plane wreck without bumping into hoards of tourists is an extreeeemely cool, but increasingly tricky affair. Visiting in winter definitely helped, with crowds all but diminishing all along the well-worn stops on Iceland’s Ring Road route. Freezing cold and sharing the experience with just two other travellers, it was one of the absolute highlights of a 10-day road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road. If you do a bit of research on the plane beforehand, you’re bound to come up with a million blog posts that, honestly, make it look like a cryptic maze to get to this plane. But, it’s not. At least not anymore. You can search on Google Maps ‘Sólheimasandur plane’, and the exact location comes right up. And, if you have a European phone contract, you can use your data to load the map wherever you are. I guess it kind of saps a bit of the mystery and adventure around the whole thing, but whatever. Long gone are the days of following sketchy directions, peering out of the windscreen at tiny signs written in jibberish, angrily scrambling about with oversized maps. Oh! Welcome to the 21st Century, people. Despite the ease of Google Maps, it is also recommendable to follow at least some of the lesser-exaggerated tips from the internet. For example: don’t expect any kind of indication you are there. Once you see the dirt car park, you’re there. Expect a good 45 minutes to an hour’s walk to the wreck – and make sure you keep to the vaguely marked path. If you venture towards the absolutely ferocious waves – don’t go too close. Don’t try and drive to the wreck as you will most likely get stuck, with no one in the vicinity to help you escape. Beware, Iceland! The land of doom and wilderness and death at every miscalculated step!
GEmma Fottles – the art of overcautiousness Okay, so it’s not that bad. If you’re not a reckless idiot, you’ll be fine. Photo – as always – by Charl van Rooy

Skiing in France: Memories of a working winter ski season

Skiing in France: Memories of a working winter ski season

Graduating from university at 21-years-old, I decided that the real world could wait for a bit longer. Not one bit of me was interested in spending hours applying to graduate schemes or scouring job sites for an elusive career prospect that sparked a slight interest. I craved freedom. I craved something more exciting than the norm. I craved unlimited adventure time. So, following a dreamy once-in-a-lifetime stint as a travel reporter immediately following my departure from the British education system, it felt only natural to continue my year of roaming with another 6-months working in the French Alps. When looking for accomodation in the French Alps, it’s always worth checking in with an experienced travel agent like Tempston Luxury. They have catered and non-catered luxury chalets in every French ski resort and plan every detail of your holiday. For me, however, a broke student with no budget for a mere holiday, working in a ski resort was the next best thing. Skiing in France for the whole of the winter ski season was a dream come true – on the surface. There was a LOT of adventure time afforded me 6 days out of 7. The tasks were pretty easy, the people were awesome and the setting was incredible. But, man, despite all of the juicy perks, working a ski season is hard. The hours are kind of sucky (I ended up working 50 – 70 hour weeks) and the pay is abysmal (for those monstrous hours, I was compensated 50 pounds a week…). Employers generally treat season staff as completely dispensable and, as such, each day can turn into a nightmarish guessing game of whether or not that room you cleaned last week that wasn’t quite up to scratch is going to send you falling headfirst into the Alpine unemployment scene.

I did actually fall off that precarious little ledge and into the season bum category for a while when I was abruptly fired almost halfway through my contract as a chalet chef. First off, to get this straight, I was expecting to be a chalet maid. Cleaning rooms, serving dinner… you know. Basic maid duties. Instead, me, a 21-year-old vegetarian with questionable cooking skills, was politely forced to change my role. I spent three months working with a crazy, Irish head chef, serving 60 demanding people three-course meals twice a day.. Honestly, it’s a wonder I lasted as long as I did.

After my firing (wah!), it took a week or two before I managed to find a new job in a hotel in Tignes Le Lac, just up the mountain from my first home in Tignes Les Breviere. I rode out the rest of my season on a bit of a bummer, not quite gelling properly with my new colleagues, and constantly craving trips down the mountain back to my old friends. Despite some lonely moments, nothing failed to get me back on track more than catching the first lift up the mountain. Plugging my headphones into my helmet, the blinding sun just playing beneath the jagged peaks of the glorious Alps, I would fly down my favourite slopes on untouched snow, completely on my own, at every given opportunity. Those moments made up for all the not-so-great realities of working a ski season and, without a doubt, I’d happily endure a week of cleaning bedrooms at 2am for new guests, exhausted nights working in the restaurant, and a bit of bummed-out-loneliness, for just one of those solo-ski mornings. #Skibum #Europe #ski #Winter #SkiSeason #Mountain #FrenchSkiSeason #France #alps #Snowboard

2018: A Year in travel

2018: A Year in travel

2018 was another year of travel. From the Caribbean to Munich, from Tuscany to London, my passport was well exercised throughout the year. 54 days, 13 trips, 9 countries. Boom. Despite usually striving for a big, epic trip at least once a year (It was New Zealand in 2017, Japan the year before, and three months in South America in 2015!), in 2018 I dialled it back a bit and spent a lot of time travelling around Europe on shorter breaks. The beauty of living here is the ease of travel. It truly is an absolute wonder to be able to get to Schiphol Airport in under 30 minutes from my tiny studio in the centre of Amsterdam, and catch a short haul flight for under €100 to most destinations in the continent. But I didn’t do all this travelling completely out of my own pocket. Before I left my job as Editor of a yachting magazine, travel was a big part of my work, and a lot of my 2018 trips were squeezed in either side of work travel. Which, seriously, everybody who has to travel for work should do. Yes, it gets exhausting and of course, you have to spend a bit of time figuring everything out. But managing to fully make the most of all of my work trips, and factor in a cool trip either side meant that I got to do a lot of things my bruised and abused bank account probably wouldn’t be able to handle otherwise. Tuscany was a great example of that, where I spent a weekend in the Tuscan hills following shipyard visits in Viareggio, or a short but sweet historical tour of Cambridge to catch up with a friend following a visit to interview a naval architecture firm in Southampton. But it hasn’t all been jammy little add-ons through work. Travel in Europe is cheap and easy, so making the most of exploring somewhere no every once in a while is a no-brainer. It’s so easy to hire a car or jump on a train, with inexpensive accommodation and incredible sights and tastes and smells to explore at every turn. Here’s where I headed to in 2018! JANUARY
ST LUCIA 5 DAYS
ST LUCIA TOP 3:
– Exploring the sea with the coolest water toy EV.ER. The Seabob! AHH!
– Basking in the superyacht swimming pool sipping Corona’s
– Hiking at sunrise in Marigot Bay FEBRUARY
MUNICH 3 DAYS
Munich TOP 3:
– Walking in the snow through the old town
– Visiting the Munich Residenz
– Eating as much German food as possible APRIL
MILAN 2 DAYS
Milan TOP 3:
– Magical candlelit dinner at LuBar
– Awesome interview in the penthouse apartment of one of the cities wealthiest couples (interview here if you’re interested!)
– Sunset city walks MAY
AMSTERDAM May is my favourite time of year in Amsterdam. It’s bright and sunny and all of the canals come alive again. And, finally – FINALLY – after months of wind, rain and bitter, bitter cold, riding your bike is once again an absolute joy. JUNE
TUSCANY 4 DAYS
VIAREGGIO – METATO – PISA TOP 3:
– Waking up in the Tuscan hills
– Italian dinners galore
– Osteria Candalla – a perfect gem of a restaurant hidden in Camaiore JUNE
SARDINIA 4 DAYS
PORTO CERVO JUNE
ENGLAND 2 DAYS
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE JULY
PORTUGAL 8 DAYS
Porto – Duoro – Albufeira – Lisbon – Porto TOP 3:
– Wine and cheese by the port of Porto
– Relaxing in the hills of Duomo
– Sunshine and euro-trash in Albufeira JULY
LONDON 3 DAYS Kinki Boots, West End
Dinner: Covent Garden, Brown’s Restaurant
Brunch: Soho, Jackson Rye AUGUST
NORWAY 4 DAYS
BERGEN – LOFTUS – GUDVANGEN – FLAM – LAERDAL – BEKKJARVIK, BERGEN TOP 3:
– Candlelit dinner in the fjords in Laerdal
– Viking Village overnight stay
– Flam Railway SEPTEMBER
FRANCE 4 DAYS
LES HOUCHES – CHAMONIX CHALET: Les Chalets de Bonheur
AIRPORT TRANSFER: Easybus
HIKING: Tramway du Montblanc SEPTEMBER
ENGLAND 4 DAYS
SOUTHAMPTON – CAMBRIDGE –
NOTTINGHAM – BIRMINGHAM SEPTEMBER
MONACO 7 DAYS
MONACO Monaco Yacht Show 2018 OCTOBER
AMSTERDAM Also one of my favourite times of the year, with Indian summers providing lots of last late nights of sitting in the park sipping beers and snacking in the grass. DECEMBER
ENGLAND 4 DAYS
LONDON – NOTTINGHAMSHIRE So, with 2018 well and truly over, where to in 2019? As expected, it’s another year full of trying to bankrupt myself in the pursuit of adventure – this time without the support of a full-time, travel saturated job. One year was too long without a big trip, so soon I’ll be heading to South Africa for a 3-week road trip around the entire country, as well as indulging in a weekend in Paris in Spring, midsummer in Finland, Monaco in September, and somewhere along the way, Jordan, the USA, Hungary and a handful of visits to the UK. And, of course, the majority of my time will be spent soaking in my favourite city in the world: Amsterdam. Happy New Year and have an awesome 2019! #BusinessTrips #Happiness #RoadTrip #Businesstrip #Europe #Worktravel #EuroTrip #WeekendBreak #Adventure #Travel

Winter is Coming: The real Game of Thrones in Iceland

Winter is Coming: The real Game of Thrones in Iceland

Iceland. This time last year, I was just about recovered from an incredible 10-day road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road. Choosing to travel the 1,300km Ring Road in the depths of Scandinavian winter was an… interesting choice. It was freezing. Some days we jumped out of the car to set our eyes on another mind-bogglingly wild, icy landmark, and could only stand 10 minutes before we violently shivered back to the warmth of the car to fight off frostbite. Kirkjufell Mountain was one of those landmarks. Used in a handful of scenes in Game of Thrones, it’s apparently the most photographed mountain in the whole of Iceland. Located in the north of the country, close to the tiny town of Grundarfjörður, it’s one stop on a long list of spectacular sights along the Ring Road – geysers and waterfalls and rugged beaches galore. Even though we couldn’t spend more than a few minutes soaking in the view, the cold also meant that the usually tourist-saturated spot is relatively empty… save a few brave 20-strong tourist groups. But still, relatively quiet. Hurrah! The silence got louder and louder the further around the Ring Road we travelled. Surrounded by nothing but miles and miles of complete wilderness, the odd house or Icelandic horse scattered here and there, the emptiness of the roads were nothing less than perfect. Absssolutelllly perfect. So would I recommend a winter road trip to Iceland? In a word: yes. It’s cheaper in winter, you can easily find B&B’s on the night (we just used our mobile data to book through booking.com when we had decided where we would stop somewhere in the late afternoon), and you get to see Iceland fully live up to its name. You just have to be down with very, very cold temperatures, 4-5 hours of daylight, icy roads and a little bit of isolation. #Nature #GameofThrones #RingRoad #RoadTrip #Iceland #Europe #Winter #Wild #Waterfall #Mountain #Kirkjufell #Scandinavia #MovieSet

At home in the English countryside: Christmas in Nottinghamshire

At home in the English countryside: Christmas in Nottinghamshire

Nottinghamshire. The county of my hometown is – regardless of being the county of my hometown – pretty beautiful. Get out of the small, dilapidated and Wetherspoon-saturated town of Mansfield (located in the middle of England and once voted 4th worst place to live in the UK… ahem.), and you’ll find awesome country pubs, gorgeous ancient forests and cosy country estates. I spend a lot of time complaining about the general crappiness of the town I grew up, and I often neglect the stories of the countless weekends I spent scrambling around the hills of the Derbyshire Dales, camping in the fresh air of the Peak District. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Not all of those mandatory trips to the countryside were welcomed with open arms by my younger self, and there were also COUNTLESS miserable weekends of my parents dragging three extremely walking-resistant children up and down rainy, muddy grey landscapes – my sisters and I reeling at the INJUSTICE of being forced to endure the hardships of the great outdoors. The outrage. This is an estate near Farnsfield, close to the home of Robin Hood. Growing up in Robin Hood Country meant a childhood visiting the Major Oak and Sherwood Pines, and dressing up in little Robin Hood hats with tiny wooden bow and arrows. Okay, probably by the age of 11 your connection with the hero of English folklore dwindles, but the legend is alive in this area. We spent Christmas Eve walking around the 1112-year-old Major Oak, and I was happy to be home and be reconnected with a bit of my own history. It’s been over 5 years since I left England for life in Amsterdam, and with each year I feel further and further away from my home country and the feeling of well… actually being English. It’s a weird thing to experience, but something that I guess eventually comes with the life of an expat. It’s not all sunshine, roses and the adventure of starting a life that is completely different from anything you’ve ever done before. There’s also the constant missing of your friends and family back at home, the lack of deep-rooted familiarity with the culture that surrounds you, and an eventual battle with your very identity. Oh, the melodrama. Regardless of an impending identity crisis, a few days back at home in the English countryside was a perfect way to round off another year living life in the Dutch capital. #ExpatLife #Britain #Countryside #Home #RuralEngland #Midlands #Winter #UK #Christmas #Travel #England #Nottinghamshire

Finding my Happy Place Road Tripping in New Zealand

Finding my Happy Place Road Tripping in New Zealand

This beautiful bay in the Tasman area of New Zealand’s South Island is – without a doubt – my happy place. Escaping winter in Amsterdam to embark on a 3-week road trip from north to south, this was our first port-of-call jumping off the Interislander ferry across the Cook Strait. Warm, summer weather awaited with not a rain cloud in sight. We drove a few hours in our banged up camper – getting turned away from our fully-booked campsite of choice in the meantime –  before we stumbled across this. Less than $10 a night, running water and clean toilets (yaaaay), and just a few grassy steps to the most picturesque bay I have ever seen in my life. Most campsites in New Zealand have very strict rules on campfires. Like, very. We lit a fire near a river in the middle of nowhere and, I shit you not, a fire engine came roaring to the scene within a couple of hours to stamp out the horrific flames of doom that were absolutely posing an imminent and alarming threat to the fragile surrounding ecosystem… Ahem. Our unexpected home for three days, however, was a rare campsite where you are actually allowed to light a fire – permitted it’s on the shoreline. With a trunk full of tin foil and assorted foods deemed appropriate for campfire cooking, we set up camp, roasted our dinner in the embers and watched a heavy, dark storm as it rumbled across the mountaintops. It was glorious. Nature in all her wild and powerful self, angry and calm, dangerous and peaceful. allatthesametime. I half expected the voice of Sir David to rise up behind us and start narrating the scene. The pure natural revelry of this moment cannot be overemphasised. It was Planet Earth IRL. After the storm cleared, the show continued. The swirling pastels melted away and left a crystal clear view of the planets and stars. This. THIS is what road tripping is all about. (note: our campfire cooking was a solid 6/10. We ate a lot of potatoes and onions. A lot. VERY basic campfire cooking with vegetarian companions can require… imagination.) #Nature #Backpacking #RoadTrip #Water #Sunset #NewZealand #Camping #Happy #Beach #Kiwi #SouthIsland

Expat life: Christmas in Amsterdam

Expat life: Christmas in Amsterdam

Christmas. That time of year when everything is sparkly, people are merry, and bank accounts are empty. Since moving to Amsterdam 6 years ago, I have never put up a tree. Why? I don’t know… Christmas feels like something for England, in the home of my parents. Christmas in Amsterdam just always felt a bit strange and why-am-I-doing-this… The Dutch definitely do not celebrate Christmas the same way the British do. The absolutely absurd holiday of Sinterklaas is more of a big deal in the Netherlands, taking place on the 5th December every year. (Google the ongoing controversies of the Zwarte Piet… the, ahem, ”soot” faced helpers of Mr Sinterklaas himself.) But, regardless of being surrounded by the low-key version of Christmas in Amsterdam, this year, I did it. I got a tree. Maybe it’s because my studio in the Jordaan is a place that I finally feel is my own, and after six years in Amsterdam, everything really feels like home? Or, again, maybe it’s just because my 20s are slowly slipping away and cushy Sundays stringing up Christmas trees are now going to be my thing… Who knows. But we got a tiny little fake tree, tiny little glass baubles, and a loooong, long string of fairy lights and spent Sunday afternoon stringing up the petit pois of a tree.

Okay, we spent 10 minutes of the afternoon doing it. It’s a tiny tree, after all. #Amsterdam #Europe #Sinterklaas #Home #Tradition #Sunday #Happy #Christmas #Expat #TheNetherlands #ChristmasTree