The Things I Haven’t Missed About Travelling

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I talked travel, and considering the current circumstances in the UK, it’ll be a while before I dust off my suitcases. With that being said, we tend to glorify travel as this amazing experience, btu there are a lot of downsides to it.

So I’m going to go through the things that I don’t particularly miss about travelling.


Beggars and Street Sellers

This is one of my biggest pet peeves as a traveler. I don’t mind the people that go busking and do performances and sell CDs, but every time I’ve been in a larger city (like Nottingham or Birmingham), I have always been approached for change, or if I want to buy a product or service. It’s not like where in Scunthorpe, you’re rarely approached by people asking for money, but in the big cities, especially when I went to Manchester back in 2017, it was a huge problem. And because I get social anxiety, especially when I’m approached by others, it’s even more of a problem for me.

The scariest example was in Lisbon, on my way home from work. I’d been in the country for around three weeks at most, and was just getting to grips with the general everyday language. A guy comes up and (I presume, he was speaking Portuguese) asked for money. I explained (in English of course) that I didn’t understand what he was saying because I’m not fluent in Portuguese. He started shouting, I got scared, and I literally ran for the hills. It was pretty terrifying.


Flying

As much as I love travelling in general, I’m not the greatest flier. I don’t get to fly too often, and my first experience with flying was when I was 17. I mean, it was uneventful, but still. I hadn’t had the chance as a child to get used to the feeling of flying. I suppose having a more comfortable seating arrangement would make things easier, but at the same time that’s not going to help much. I usually prefer trains as a mode of transport anyway. And yeah, I don’t exactly like turbulence anyway, but who does?


The Expenses

Because of our living expenses, we actually haven’t had a night away from home since July 2019 (for Connor’s birthday), and that was because afterwards we looked for a place to move in together, and we wanted to sort out those expenses. I did also book a hotel for what would have been the Pokemon GO Safari Zone in Liverpool, but due to worrying about expenses, I decided to cancel, and then the pandemic happened anyway. But it’s been great that we’ve been able to get by without worrying about having extra money set aside to go on trips, whether it be a day trip or a mini-break. I love city breaks, and I miss having the reset, but I don’t miss how much it costs! I mean, we get a hotel, we pay for the transport, we always eat out, we shop in shops that we don’t have in Scunthorpe (which is a lot, actually), and sometimes we go out to the pub for a couple of drinks if it’s a special occasion, or we do different activities.


The Stress

I feel that, especially with international travel, there’s a lot of build-up and stress in the run-up to the event. I remember being stressed as hell for the Dublin trip, definitely the Berlin trip, and for Lisbon, because the latter I was actually figuring out moving stuff. I think that the more you travel, the less you worry about things because you’re more acclimated to it. But I always make sure to keep some form of checklist so that I can pin down what I need to do next.


Finding Time To Work

Let’s face it – because I’m doing a lot of work from home, it’s a bit clear that I’d be taking my work with me when I travel, especially when writing about my travels. It’s not something I’ve had to do recently, especially with lockdown making it so that I have to find a lot of things to do, and this is why I’ve managed to get a lot of projects lined up, as well as the strengths this blog and my literature writing has come.

I’d want to be spending all of my down time working, and I feel it’d be more along the lines of writing down the events of the day or the different places I’ve visited.

For the past year, it’s been hard for me to take breaks from writing, and it shows.


Okay, this list has made me want to travel all the more. In spite of the things I miss, I feel that the benefits far outweigh the negatives for me.

The Worst Travel Experiences

Hey guys! I wanted to give you a bit of a storytime, just to give you a bit of a laugh! Not every one of my travel experiences has been wholly positive, so it’s just a dose of reality of what can go wrong in your travels!


All Wrong in the ‘Wood

The first one was back in 2008, so I don’t quite know just what differences are there now. A then-friend’s mum had got in to audition for Deal or No Deal (this old British show where you opened boxes for prizes, to put it in short). The auditions were in this area in London called Cricklewood, and while I didn’t have to go, it was a means of having someone to keep my friend company while her mum was in the audition process.

I’ll set the scene of Cricklewood – the area that we were in consisted mostly of Halal eateries, among other eateries. I mean, that’s not a bad thing, at least we had a good lunch choice. But there was one huge issue – the lack of public toilets.

Normally you’d be able to go to a public toilet, pay 20p and nip to the loos. But in Cricklewood, there were none. I mean, fair, even in Scunthorpe we only have one set of them in the entire town, and I was always expecting to have to buy something from one of the eateries, so we went to a McDonalds for a McFlurry.

The worst thing about this experience was that the toilet door was actually locked, so you had to order, eat and then ask a staff member to unlock the door for you! And it wasn’t the only time we needed the loo . My friend ended up going down a secluded area just to go to the toilet in the end.


Doris is the Devil

This took place during mine and Connor’s trip to Dublin, Ireland back in 2017. Long story short, in the middle of February, you expect bad weather. We’d wanted to take a trip to Bull Island which would have been doable for us – it’s just under two hour’s walk, so that would have been perfect. But we had Storm Doris approaching.

I remember flights were being delayed for this day, and we wanted to wake up early to make an early morning trip to Bull Island. But we heard the horrible wind and rain, and we just went back to sleep.

It was a shame, because a lot of the outdoors stuff we wanted to do we simply couldn’t because of the storm. Phoenix Park was also a no-go for us at that point, and even if we’d booked the Skyline Tour at Croke Park, that would have been a no-go too.

Basically, the weather didn’t allow us to fully explore Dublin, but if we could do it in better weather, you bet your ass we’d do it!



Ich brauchte bessere Freunde

Where do I even begin with the trip to Berlin? This was my first trip abroad, with the college I was attending at the time. If it was just my class going, it wouldn’t have been as bad, but the issues came when they opened the invitation to the class below, of which I personally knew someone from there.

The day before, I snuck a peek at the rooming situation, and I would have been in the same hotel room as people that I generally got along with pretty well. But instead, I was swapped around so that I was in the same room as one person I generally got along with, someone else that I didn’t even know, and that bitch that bullied me back in school. I recall it well – her name was Megan and she was just a complete bitch.

Rumours from two years were brought up, and she tried (and succeeded) in ensuring that I’d have no friends by the end of the year.

Thanks Megan.


I’m not made of money…

It’s nothing major, but I’m always approached by beggars when I’m travelling. It’s scarier when you’re not great with the language and they’re shouting at you and shaking their cup (yeah that happened one time, I ran for the hills).

I think the worst, though, are the salespeople that won’t leave you alone. I’m there to have a good time, not to pay £5 for some mobile app that I’m never going to use.


Have you ever had any truly horrible travel experiences that just marr your enjoyment? Let me know in the comments!

What Makes or Breaks a Trip?

I asked myself this question before lockdown, and I was going to write this back in…probably January or February, and I never got around to it. But I still ask – what does make or break a trip?

This is where I decide to go all in and just give you my opinions.


The Company

Me and Jeanette at Parque das Nações, Lisbon
Me and Jeanette at Parque das Nações, Lisbon

I always find that company (or lack thereof) can determine how you feel about a trip. Take my trip to Berlin for example – it was such a lovely place, but at the same time, it was a college trip, and I had someone join us that used to bully me in school. Not only that, but I was also swapped around so that instead of rooming with my actual friends, I was rooming with her. Kinda makes it worse when she brought a boy she’d just met to our room and got it on with him the first night there. Let’s just say he didn’t have standards. That wasn’t the worst part – at that point, I’d really started falling for a guy who was also on the trip, but looking back, he was just a dick. It soured the experience, not gonna lie.

Compare that with my trip to Dublin with Connor – despite the rain, that was an amazing experience that I’d love to repeat (except for Aunt Flo arriving the day of departing on the holiday but we don’t talk about that).

Even travelling alone is so much better than travelling in bad company. Lisbon, for example, was a huge example of this. I was able to take things at my own pace, and see what I wanted to see. I do wish that I was able to take Connor with me on my adventures, but his work didn’t allow it when the opportunity came.

Of course, I’m not just talking about travelling companions here – I’m also talking about the people that you meet while you’re there. We only really got to meet German students from Munich during our Berlin trip, and I found the Irish folk in Dublin to be so, so friendly. The Portuguese experience was interesting – in Lisbon at least, they are pretty laid-back despite the bureaucracy of the day-to-day life (receipts to use public toilets, amirite?). Of course, meeting the locals in each instance has been generally really positive.

When living and working with fellow ex-pats, it’s also great to get to know them, too. I’ve met people from all sorts of walks of life – my friend Jeanette lived in Brazil and Japan before, while another friend, Cynthia, is also well-travelled and has found her calling in faith. But all of our differences made for a more enhanced experience. I still miss cake days with Jeanette though.


The Weather

Campo Grande, Lisbon, Portugal
Campo Grande, Lisbon, Portugal

Yep, the weather is a huge factor in the enjoyability of a trip. It snowed in Berlin, which was lovely, it rained in Dublin for most of the trip, with on-off light showers on the last day, and it was so freaking hot in Lisbon. I swear to God, I got to Lisbon when it wasn’t too hot – granted we were baking in the UK too. But then we the temperature doubled in the space of a week, and it was stifling. But it was an experience that I’ve come to appreciate.

Because of the rain in Dublin, which later became Storm Doris, we didn’t get to explore as much as we wanted. We wanted to cross Phoenix Park, Bull Island and the other parks off our list (in mid-February, I know), but we were relegated to staying mostly indoors. While we had an amazing time nonetheless, I feel it would have been far better if we had better weather. After all, we tried getting up at 5am for Bull Island on our third day, and the storm was horrendous so we just went back to sleep.


The Food & Dining Experience

Food from Baku Everyday Food in Lisbon, Portugal
Food from Baku Everyday Food in Lisbon, Portugal

I live for food, and while that’s probably the worst thing for me, you have to try some of the local food while you’re out and about. Some of my favourite places to go to that have now shut down are Hebe Gyros in Lisbon, Pizza Storm in Nottingham, Nuu in Hull and various other small cafes and restaurants.

However, you can always find small places in different towns and cities that will serve up delicious food. As pictured above, just look at how good the food was at Baku Everyday Food in Lisbon. Other places I would recommend elsewhere is the Ori Asian Food in Colombo Shopping Center, The Brazen Head in Dublin, or any 

Obviously, you don’t want an awful food experience when dining out – when I went to Doncaster one time, we went to a Shake n’ Burger, because I enjoy eating at retro burger places (like Ed’s Easy Diner). It was a horrible experience, the waitress we originally had was rude, and the food was just…meh at absolute best. It’s permanently closed now, which is good.

In our town, we have a farm which is a popular attraction. However, for those of us that either relies on public transport or walking to get places, it’s impossible to get to without it being unsafe. And considering that most of the farm has been turned into children’s’ play areas with no thought for the adults, it’s a bust from me – I even got a private message on Tripadvisor slandering me because I dared leave a bad review.

I also had a bad experience at Almost Famous in Manchester, where we went for a simple lunch mid-convention. They were busy, so we would be texted as to when a table would be available. And the text was really patronizing, treating us as though we were kids. Connor was constantly ignored by the barman while trying to get us drinks. We were sat in the dingiest little corner (which is saying something, as the entire place was dingy), and we were asked what we liked to drink right off the bat. The drinks were so expensive, and I was just about to let the waitress know what I wanted to drink when she just walked off. At this point I was suffering greatly from an anxiety attack at being shoved in a dark corner with loads of people, I felt so claustrophobic. So we just walked out, went next door to All-Star Lanes and that was a far better experience – brightly lit, not as crowded and the waiters were so attentive, not to mention the food was amazing.


Working There

View from Teleperformance Portugal City Center
View from Teleperformance Portugal City Center

I feel that there’s a massive difference between going somewhere on a holiday and actually working there. There needs to be a solid work/life balance so that you’re able to experience everything that your new location needs to offer. I previously wrote about my experiences with my former company, but I still stress that everyone experiences things differently. For example, what one person doesn’t agree with, someone else will agree with it, or see reason behind it. I still maintain that working at Teleperformance was a huge learning experience, despite the struggles I had towards the end. It’s why I’ll always be grateful to them and the people at MGI Recruitment for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.

Would I work abroad again? Absolutely. Just not in Portugal. The main reason is that I’ve already experienced working over there, and I’d like to experience working in a different country.


Experiencing Tourist Attractions

Rua Augusta
Rua Augusta

A lot of people tend to gravitate towards tourist attractions, but sometimes that can be a bad thing. Maybe you don’t like crowds – I certainly don’t! Sometimes you wait for hours for one tiny, insignificant thing and it’s like ‘now what?’. I think of the Blarney Stone in Ireland when I think of strange tourist attractions.

I mean, I’ve done the touristy thing in Lisbon, but at least the attractions were interesting – people congregate around Praça do Comércio, which is a beautiful sight anyway, as well as the Cristo Rei. But when a lot of people talk about Alfama constantly in travel vlogs, I was spoilt by the north of Lisbon, which was just as charming as down south! I mean, nobody really discusses the beauty of Campo Grande (nor do they actually think about shopping in Colombo).

Then we move onto Temple Bar in Dublin. We didn’t get a chance to fully explore it, but we were told by a local that it’s best to avoid as it’s so touristy and that it was around 8€ per pint (back in 2017, that is). That…made us cringe a little.

My Post-COVID-19 Travel Wishlist

This is probably the worst time to have wanderlust.

While we have this whole COVID-19 stuff going on, I thought it’d be good to take a look at the places that are on my wishlist, and talk through them.


Lisbon, Portugal

I definitely want to return to Lisbon. I lived there for four months, and I know I didn’t get a whole lot of experiences that I wanted to, but I was spoilt rotten with what I experienced. I have to take Connor around and show him what I experienced, but also branch out and do literally everything else that I missed out on. Torre de Belem is one of them, as well as properly exploring Alfama, before heading up north to Telheiras, and then giving the zoo a try.

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin was another place that I always told myself that I wanted to return to, and I know I will.

  • Guinness Storehouse – this is a place that we decided against, as we went to the Irish Whiskey Museum instead. However, Guinness is a huge part of the culture over there, so we kinda should go there.
  • National Leprechaun Museum – this is just for the shits and giggles, really. It’s bizarre to me how there is a museum dedicated to leprechauns, but it’s real, and it’s there.
  • Bull Island – Bull Island was an area that we really wanted to walk towards when we were there the first time. However, Storm Doris stopped us in our tracks, and also because it was late February. We decided to wait until a summer trip to do this.
  • Phoenix Park – like the last point, we didn’t go to Phoenix Park because of the weather. Phoenix Park also hosts a zoo, so we’d go there while we’re at the park.
  • Ericsson Skyline at Croke Park – Croke Park boasts the Ericcson Skyline tour, which means you can see the stadium from above. Again, the weather prevented us from doing this, as we had a preference for doing this during the summer season.

Japan

Before living in Portugal, I’d always imagined I’d live in Japan or some other Asian country and teach English (as is the norm, it seems). However, things are just a bit different. I definitely imagined myself living over in Japan when I was, admittedly, a bit of a weeaboo back in the day. I would still like to visit Akihabara, as well as take a closer look at some of the weirder aspects of Japan.

USA

So I really want to go on a whole USA road trip, but with the way finances are, I may have to just visit one or two states at a time. So, literally, every state in the USA is on the list. And I probably will have to visit my aunt and cousin in Michigan, at least, not to mention visiting my good friend Tim while I’m across the Atlantic! And as I like my rollercoasters and rides, I’ll be making a visit to Cedar Point, which was talked about so much by my family when I was younger.

The rest of the UK

I haven’t actually been to any other part of the UK besides England. I’ve lived here for 27 years. I’ve only been in England during that time (not for a lack of desire, of course). So as it turns out, I should really make plans to visit Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland!

On top of that, a nice caravan holiday to finish things off wouldn’t go amiss. I haven’t been to Skegness and Ingoldmells for years, so that would be quite fun to do off-season!


So, what are your travel plans for after COVID-19 has blown over? Let me know!

 

Exploring Dublin – My Personal Picks!

I’m going to give a huge shout-out to Passport Overused, who has been writing up about their explorations in Dublin! I’ve been looking back over to when I was last in Dublin, and for some strange reason, I’ve never actually written about it, until now anyway! So thank you so much P.O. for coming over and enjoying the content!

Here are my top picks for going to Dublin that I experienced while I was over there. I may miss some things, but we did only have three days to explore, not to mention Storm Doris blew its way over as well.


The Hotel

20170222_174312

We actually went with the Staycity Aparthotels Millennium Walk for our trip, as we’d booked it as a package deal via Ryanair at the time, and it only cost us around £330 for the entire lot, including seat reservations and extra luggage (we’d booked eight months in advance). We went with a 1-bedroom apartment, which can sleep up to three adults. And it was so gorgeous! The hotel staff were amazing on check-in, and they gave us a map with all of their recommended activities and amenities highlighted, and that helped us a lot. They offer super-fast WiFi in all of the properties at no extra cost. I think the benefit was that the location was so central to everything else – it was so close to the River Liffey and close to Henry Street.

I don’t think I could have picked a better spot. Not even when some drunk dude was butchering I Will Always Love You right outside at night. That was some quality entertainment!

Getting To and From the Airport

I highly recommend using the Aircoach to get from Dublin Airport to your destination. It gets there so quick, and it’s really luxurious, too. We went to O’Connell Street, so you’re guaranteed to get very central. According to the online booking, you’re looking at €12 for two adults on a single trip. You can also buy tickets from the stall at the airport or any shop.

There is also the Airlink Express, which does a similar thing but goes around a little bit more. It has a section on the bus dedicated to luggage, and it’s also very inexpensive, coming in at €6 per adult.

The Food

20170224_084758

The food is a highlight of any trip for me, and Dublin is no exception! The benefit of staying at Millennium Walk is that right below our apartment was the wonderful Lemon Jelly Cafe. It’s a small yet cosy cafe with an amazing selection of food and drinks, not to mention the opening times – 7.15am on weekdays, which I adore! When I’m on holiday, I love a good early morning. In the picture, I had a mini breakfast, while Connor had the brekkie crepe – and don’t worry, that crepe was apparently a lot more filling than it looks. If you’re looking for a later meal, they have you covered. They have so much on offer, you’re spoilt for choice!

And speaking of crepes, we keep raving about Gino’s Gelato, which also has branches in the UK. But Gino’s does amazing crepes and gelato which I was always giddy to try and enjoy.

Another must is Pitt Bros BBQ – there used to be a branch on Millennium Walk, but now you’re looking to go down to George’s Street Upper to try the beautiful BBQ offerings that they offer. And they provide free soft-serve ice cream with every meal. I remember having the brisket bun, which I still think about to this day if I’m completely honest.

If you really want to go to a touristy-like pub, go for The Brazen Head. It’s Ireland’s oldest pub and the atmosphere inside is great, like that warm, homely feeling (it kinda helped that I was sat next to the fireplace though). We both went for the Irish Stew with a pint of cider each, and I tell you something – the grub was amazing! It was genuinely hearty, and I could go back for more right now. And if you’re in the mood for live music and entertainment, they have that covered too!

Vicar Street

20170223_201032

If you want to go see a band or a comedian live, there’s no place quite like Vicar Street. It’s very unassuming from its exterior, but it has a seated capacity of 1,050 and a standing capacity of 1,500, making this venue rather intimate. The bar is really nice as well, and the bar people there were super-friendly. It’s the right kind of atmosphere to have a couple of drinks before the show, and meet some new people while you’re at it!

This was the venue where we went to see Russell Howard live for his Round The World tour. The tour was announced just over a year in advance, which gave us the perfect opportunity to plan everything. We’d reserved seats not quite at the front but at a good distance, and it turned out we were super-close to the stage.

Irish Whiskey Museum

20170222_155909

This is a must for anyone who loves a bit of whiskey. This one was pretty much for Connor, as he loves his whiskey – I’m not a huge drinker of whiskey, but it’s always worth having a look around and taking in the history of whiskey in Ireland. Before the tour, you can have a drink in the bar (the sign does say “Keep off the fecking ladder”), or have a look around the retail store.

There are three different tours you can take: the Classic, Premium and Blending Experience. The Classic takes you round the guided tour, and you can taste three perfectly crafted Irish whiskeys. For a typical adult, the price is €20. The Premium offers the same as the Classic, but an additional fourth whiskey and a unique souvenir whiskey glass, and this comes to €23 per adult. The Blending Experience is adults-only and comes at €30. This tour runs twice a day later on and offers the same as the Premium, but you also craft and blend a whiskey to your own taste, and you can take that sample home with you.

A newer option is the Whiskey and Brunch Experience, where on a weekday morning, you can have the same Classic experience, followed by a brunch which includes Irish smoked salmon (with a vegetarian option available on request).

For the kids and non-drinkers, there are soft drinks included with the Classic so you don’t feel left out!

We went for the Premium, just for that little bit extra. We still have the whiskey glasses, just for souvenir purposes, and the extra whiskey we tried was my personal favourite – it was a 12-year aged Tullamore Dew, and it’s probably the only whiskey that I can drink straight. We both really enjoyed the tour, and it is something I’d wholeheartedly recommend to others.

Trinity College

DSC00259

Across the road from the Irish Whiskey Museum, you have Trinity College, where you’re able to take a guided tour to see all four quarters of the campus, as well as taking a look at the Book of Kells and the Old Library Exhibition. Adults just need to pay €15 per person, but I find it cheaper to buy the Guided Tour Only option for €6 per person, and then the Visit Upgrade option for €4 each.

At the time we went, we were able just to explore the central grounds of the campus, as we still had quite a bit to do. My favourite picture with Connor was taken here, and one of the buildings is also today’s featured photo!

Temple Bar

I can’t talk about Dublin without talking about Temple Bar. Unfortunately, we’re not the kind of people that go out bar-hopping, but on the exterior, the area was lovely. But if I’m honest, we were either too exhausted from travel or busy with another activity that we just kinda bypassed it, except for in passing. But I’ll still talk about it.

The Temple Bar pub is iconic with its red exterior and is the go-to place to have a couple of rounds. Be aware of the prices, though, as I talked to a local who said that because of tourism, the prices can be around  €8 per pint (this was back in 2017).

Shopping

There is so much to shop for in Dublin, and I could have done this in separate categories, but this post is getting hella long! So I’ll take you down to Jervis Shopping Centre, which is a great place to shop for a variety of items – they have your typical name brands, as well as a great food court providing you with a great KFC.

A shop that was my favourite was Butler’s Chocolate Cafe – I still crave their white chocolate truffle bars to this day. They are so good, and it’s a shame I haven’t had one since I bought a few to take to Lisbon with me.

You want souvenirs right? Carrolls Irish Gifts has you covered, and more so. There are so many stores in Dublin, so you’re spoilt for choice to get something that may just be a bit silly. The sheep soft toys were my picks, but then I found novelty condoms.

Also to note that Primark there is called Penneys. It’s actually because Primark originated as Penneys in Ireland, but is called Primark everywhere else but.


There is so much to do in Dublin, I can’t even describe it all. But I hope that gives you a good idea of what to expect!

 

Favourite Things To Do In Lincoln

Lincoln was literally my second home (I went there briefly for university), and I still love this charming small city. It’s only a short drive away from my hometown, and so I tend to visit regularly. I met one of my close friends there while playing Pokemon Go, and I’m always amazed by what Lincoln has to offer.

So I’ll give you some of what the city has to offer!


The Hotel

As always, I’m starting off with the hotel, and this time, I’m choosing the Premier Inn Lincoln City Centre. The benefit of this hotel is that it is in a very central location, and it’s only a short walk away from the Usher Gallery and the shops. Across the road is a lovely cafe, but I’ll get to that shortly!

If you want to be a bit further away from city life, but still within walking distance, I recommend the Holiday Inn Express at Brayford Park. It’s really close to the university campus, and it’s easy to see from a distance. It is located close to other fast-food chains such as Pizza Hut and McDonald’s.

The Food

There are plenty of amazing places to eat in Lincoln. There are chain restaurants such as Nando’s, Toby Carvery, Wetherspoons and Wagamama to name a few, and you can find a lot of them along the walk down the Brayford Pool. There are some other places where you can eat that do a fantastic job – I’m a sucker for an all-you-can-eat, and so I love going to The Taste, which is one of those Chinese buffet places, and I’ve never had a bad experience yet (touch wood). I’ve also heard the Wig & Mitre Restaurant is really good. If you’re looking for something a little different, I recommend Madame Waffle, which does really amazing waffle meals, both sweet and savoury.

Steep Hill

_MG_1404

Steep Hill is that one huge hurdle you have to climb to get to (what I believe) Lincoln’s best attractions. All you need to do is head up through the High Street and away you go! Steep Hill is murderous if you take it all in one go, but if you stop to take a look at the variety of local shops and tearooms, it’s worth the trip up (or down). Steep Hill is part of the very old area of Lincoln, and it’s always worth heading up through there.

If you pass by Bunty’s Tea Room, there is a very charming poem about cake!

Perhaps once you’ve made it down the hill, head over to The Strait and Narrow!

Usher Gallery/The Collection

The Usher Gallery and The Collection are both worthwhile pit-stops on your journey up the hill. The Collection is an archaeology museum that was more recently opened and adjoins the Usher Gallery, which is dedicated to artwork. The main exhibition at The Collection features information and items from Lincoln’s vast history, dating back to the Stone Age.

It is open daily from 10am until 4pm and is free to enter.

Lincoln Castle/Cathedral

_MG_0171

The Castle and Cathedral are the two main reasons why you climbed all the way to the top of Steep Hill – am I right? To the left is the Castle, so let’s talk about that first! The castle itself is an attraction where you can walk around and experience the sights, or take part in one of the various events. The castle has undergone maintenance work over the years, to ensure it’s up to standard.

You can buy different tickets, and these can be listed here. Also, don’t miss out on the gift shop!

You can also get a joint ticket to go with the Cathedral so that you can visit both in one fell swoop! The Cathedral prices can be found here. The Cathedral is an amazing piece of architecture and is also home to several events. The entire space is utilised amazingly, and my favourite part of the Cathedral is the courtyard. The Cathedral is also the host of graduation ceremonies for the University of Lincoln, and the Castle is the host of the celebrations before and after the event.

Lincoln Arboretum

The Arboretum is a gorgeous area to be in for Lincoln. There is easy access via car, as there is parking nearby. The Arboretum isn’t too far from the city centre either, so you won’t be spending any longer than ten minutes getting there.

As with other arboretums, it boasts a Victorian bandstand, as well as a children’s play area and beautiful gardens, fountains and a lovely scenic view in general.

Red Panda Gaming Cafe

Here’s a hidden gem. Right next to Tesco Express on the High Street, you’ll find Red Panda Gaming Cafe, and it’s exactly as you’d expect. Head through the orange door and up the stairs, and you’ll find plenty of games to play for a small fee, or if you just want a coffee, there’s no gaming charge. They have different events taking place as well, and you can keep updated via their Facebook page!

Markets

Lincoln hosts a wide variety of markets throughout the year. Farmer’s Markets take place on both the High Street and Castle Hill, and you can find out the dates of these markets here.

Lincoln also hosts the four-day Christmas Market in early December. This market, in particular, has a wide variety of stalls, ranging from handmade gifts to Christmas ornaments and decorations, alcohol and so much food! There are also amusements and fairground rides, as well as live music and entertainment. My personal recommendation is that if you prefer not to be in a large crowd, go on a Friday if you can. It’s nowhere near as busy as if you were there on a Saturday.

The Brayford

_MG_1475

This picture is five years old, but nonetheless, it’s one of the remaining features of Lincoln that I thoroughly enjoy. It can be viewed from the many restaurants, as well as the university campus across the water. You’ll find boats being driven (is that the right word?) and plenty of swans in the water. You’ll either walk across or under the bridge that I call the ‘overly-attached bridge’, because it says “Where are you going?” and “Where have you been” on either side. From there, you’ll find what is called the Glory Hole at High Bridge (yes, it really is called the Glory Hole).

Places to Visit in Hull

Hull gets a pretty bad reputation, despite it having been the UK’s City of Culture in 2017. However, this title started changing the way that Hull was perceived, as well as its renovation of the centre.

It also helps that I have immediate family that came from Hull, so I’ve had to make frequent trips to Hull in my youth (I do it now because I want to).

I’ve been to Hull a few times for Community Days past, and it can be a fun place to explore. So why don’t we do that? I’ll take you around the best places to visit in Hull.


The Hotel

If you want to be in the middle of everything, I recommend the Holiday Inn Express Hull City Centre. All stays include breakfast in the price and in general, it is very inexpensive. While it may be considered a budget hotel in terms of the price, there is nothing budget about this hotel. It’s very close to the Paragon Interchange, as well as St. Stephen’s Shopping Centre and the city centre itself. While I’m sure you get free WiFi anyway, if you sign up to be an IHG Rewards Club member, you get guaranteed free WiFi in other IHG properties, and you can build up points with your stays – and if you earn enough, you can spend a Rewards Night in any IHG hotel.

The Deep

The Deep is one of the main attractions of Hull, boasting a pretty large aquarium. It’s not the biggest I’ve ever seen, nor the most innovative, but it’s a great day out. You can also take a sort-of mini-train to the city centre, where a tour takes place regarding the history of the city.

All standard tickets include free return visits for 12 months with the Daily Plus Pass. So when you arrive, the reception team will help to set this up. The tickets, in general, are really inexpensive. At most, you’ll be paying £15 per adult on the door. However, group tickets of 20+ people do not include free return visits.

It’s worth going here if you’re into that kind of thing.

Dining Recommendations

Whenever I come to Hull, I know there’s a good variety of food to be had. My top picks for a traditional fish and chips are usually Goldenfry and Bob Carvers – the former has a restaurant attached, so you can choose whether you want to have your food at the restaurant or outside, sat watching the floor fountain feature.

While I don’t recommend it for food, at least try the bubble tea from Kaspas, and take it to go. Trust me on that one!

I tend to like going to Handmade Burger Co, although I haven’t actually stepped foot inside since its relocation to Paragon Street from St. Stephen’s.

I have heard good things about Dope Burger and will endeavour to go there on my next trip.

Prospect Centre

Prospect Centre is one of three shopping centres in Hull, located a stone’s throw away from the Paragon Interchange. It has a lot of the necessary staples, such as Iceland and Wilko, but also shops such as Game, Clintons and Bodycare.

The strEAT foodcourt is okay, but the last time I went there, they took away the awesome soda machines, and Roosters wasn’t as nice as it usually was. Back in its heyday, it was popular and busy. The last time I saw, it was pretty much dead on the weekend.

Princes Quay

Princes Quay features amusements, along with bowling and a pub attached at the lower floor. It’s usually at Princes Quay where I go to get either a cheeky Nando’s or Millie’s Cookies. And obviously, there’s Primark, for your cheap shopping needs!

St. Stephen’s Shopping Centre

A stone’s throw away from the Paragon Interchange, the newest of the shopping centres adds a lot more activities, such as Laser Station, Rock Up and Fun Station – so whether you’re by yourself or in a party, rest assured there is plenty for you to do.

In terms of food, there are plenty of brand names, from Prezzo, Wok & Go and Burger King, as well as The Real China, which is all-you-can-eat.

Bad Wolf Gaming

Bad Wolf Gaming is a very new business that launched late last year. I got the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes at what the vision was going forward, and I was so impressed. As an avid gamer in most aspects, it was amazing to see that they’d had this huge vision for a gaming section, for people to take part in some casual board gaming/roleplaying. They will also be hosting numerous in-store events, which will include live music and performances. Obviously, they sell all kinds of board games and accessories and even rent out their shelving for indie brands to sell their merch.

Parks

There are a couple of nice parks around Hull. If you want to venture out of the way, head to Victoria Park. While quite minimal, it had a very nice atmosphere to it when I visited that neck of the woods.

I’d also recommend going to Queen’s Gardens if you don’t fancy heading too far out of the city, as you will still be close to everything. It has a beautiful scenery with a lovely fountain, and you can see the headquarters for BBC Radio Humberside nearby.


So that’s what I have for now for recommendations for Hull. I do endeavour to spend a lot more time over there, so will probably try out some new stuff in the future!

A Journey As A Football Supporter

The life of a football supporter in the UK means a lot of travel to away games. I was reflecting on the adventures I had in my teen years, being a football supporter. I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and discuss all of the different experiences I’ve had while

Sadly I’ve been unable to attend football matches since life has gotten in the way, but it’s really nice to reminisce about having travelled to different locations to watch football.

I’ve attended several different matches, most of them were in the local area, but others were a bit further away, for special matches.


Worst stadiums

I’ve seen my fair share of poor quality stadiums, ours included. The Sands Venue Stadium (formerly known as Glanford Park until 2019) has a capacity of 9,088, of which the Britcon Stand (more commonly known to supporters as the Donny Road End) is a fully-standing area. It hasn’t really seen any drastic improvements to the stadium itself since its opening in 1988, and plans for a new stadium have fallen. However, planning permission has been granted in order to redevelop the stadium, so I’m waiting to see if it’ll actually happen.

I also want to talk about a stadium that no longer exists. Saltergate, the former home of Chesterfield, was my first lower-league away match I’d ever been to, so it does have a fond place in my heart. But the stadium itself was awful. The away stand was an open-roof standing stand, so we had to be careful just in case it rained (it was mid-March, it was likely). One of the stadiums, even long after the Valley Parade fire in 1985, still had wooden seating. Chesterfield moved stadiums for the 2010/11 season, and Saltergate was not long afterwards knocked down for housing.

Finally, due to financial constraints, I want to discuss Rotherham back in the day. When I first went to a match against Rotherham, it was at Millmoor. Rotherham was facing financial difficulties which threatened liquidation, and some of the seats in the stadium had been ripped up, I assume to pay for the costs – that wasn’t really the worst of it. The second time, they had temporarily relocated to the Don Valley Stadium, which is basically a multi-purpose stadium, and it was quite hard to see the action as the seating was quite far away from the action. This stadium also no longer exists, as it was demolished in 2014.

Best Stadiums

The first away match also featured one of the best stadiums that I’d been to. The Etihad Stadium (formerly known as the City of Manchester Stadium) is the host of Manchester City. We faced them in the FA Cup in 2006, and compared to Glanford Park, it was a stark contrast, and it showed just what the Premier League was capable of, in terms of architectural design of its stadiums as well as the capabilities of the players – not that we couldn’t get a leg-up in the match, of course. The stadium reached much higher than I was used to, and the facilities were amazing.

I can’t talk about the best stadiums without highlighting the new Wembley Stadium. It opened in 2007 on the site of the original Wembley Stadium and incorporates an arch running over it, and serves as a landmark. Fun fact: the stadium contains 2,618 toilets – the most in any venue in the world. Wembley is also used as a music venue for large-scale performances, and other sporting events such as NFL and rugby matches.

Best Experiences

I think the atmosphere was the best when I was at The Valley, the home of Charlton. The announcer had a massive personality and was ready to ring in the start of the season. I can never forget the first time I was in Nottingham, at the City Ground and watched as Scunthorpe beat Nottingham Forest 4-0 back when we were at our best.

Although I mentioned the Don Valley Stadium being the worst in terms of the stadium, the hot dogs were lovely, and I really enjoyed the chanting we all engaged in on the way back to the coach. We had progressed to the final of the (then) Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (now the EFL Trophy).

A lot of people talk about football hooliganism and violence between teams at heated and critical moments. However, meeting Luton Town at Wembley Stadium for the JPT Final back in 2009 was fun. They had been having financial issues, much like Rotherham before, and were set to be relegated to the non-FA leagues. There was a collection going around to raise money for the club, and even as the opposing team, we chipped in – I don’t like seeing any club collapse due to financial issues. The supporters were lovely too, engaging in a bit of friendly banter. We lost though, but I think Luton wanted the victory more.


So I’d like to know if you’ve had any great stories to tell about your sporting support, whatever the team or sport.

Tips For Living Abroad

Living abroad can be very frightening for a lot of people, especially if you’re not used to uprooting yourself and moving from your home country. But I hope these tips will help you to get acclimatised, as they worked for me. A lot of sites list out the paperwork-based tips for getting situated abroad, whereas my tips are just a little bit more practical – it doesn’t mean that the paperwork is less important, I just wanted to give my two cents!

My featured photo today is of Centro Colombo in Lisbon, Portugal!

Here are my personal tips for living abroad!


Manage your expectations

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of videos about Lisbon, but it’s a lot different from going there on holiday to actually living there. You’re not guaranteed to be living in the main tourist areas of the place you’re living, but that means you can explore hidden gems. It’s also usually the best way to immerse yourself in the culture.

Figure out the logistics

This involves all of the documentation and legal hoops you need to go over before being able to be classed as a citizen – whether it’s a visa, a home to rent or buy, bank accounts, social security numbers – these are all especially important to help you get your international stay on the right track.

Learn the language

I get that it’s hard to learn the language of the country you’re moving to, and I had the same problem, don’t worry! There are apps such as Duolingo and Memrise, as well as textbooks. If you work somewhere that facilitated your move abroad, they may also have a course to learn the language.

Know the laws & respect the culture

You can easily find the laws on your local government page, as they gear the information towards tourists, but is especially valid for ex-pats. For example, in Portugal, it’s apparently illegal to urinate in the sea, whereas in Singapore, chewing gum is banned.

These laws are important so that you can enjoy yourself while abroad.

In terms of respecting the culture, it’s pretty straight-forward. In Ireland, they hate it when you compare them to your home country, whereas in Japan, most onsen will not allow you in if you have a tattoo – the latter harkens back to when tattoos were (and still are for some) associated with the yakuza.

Know where your Embassy is

This is really important, especially for your legal needs. The most important piece of information I needed was where the British Embassy was located, and even just mentioning them helps to ensure that you are listened to and that the other side will comply without question. If you need emergency travel documents or advice on services that can speak in your language.

Join an ex-pat group

I joined an ex-pat group on Facebook when I was preparing to move to Portugal, and there were so many hints and tips about life over there and they will assist you if you post a general question (such as ‘What would you recommend for _______ and __________?’).

Be minimalist

You don’t know if and when you’ll return, so I felt that my biggest saving grace was to be as minimalist as possible. I had a capsule wardrobe, my technology and not a whole lot else, but I was happy with not buying material goods when I had all of the experiences to share and do. I think it’s up to the individual, but I didn’t want to have to rely on having a lot shipped out. Actually, most of my possessions I kept in the UK, as shipping would have been expensive. And when I left Portugal, I gave a few bits to my friend Jeanette, and some of the household stuff to my flatmates, Junior and Cynthia.

Know the healthcare system

It is important to know the healthcare system in the case that you may need medical attention while over in the other country. If you’re lucky, the company that you work for may provide you with private insurance. It is also wise to register for a European Health Insurance Card if you are going from EU country to EU country (although after Brexit, we can’t use these as British citizens after 31st December 2020).

Explore the less touristy areas

I was spoiled when living in Lisbon because I got to live in the northern areas of Lisbon. This meant that my priority wasn’t exploring the likes of Almada and Belem, and instead heading towards Quinta das Conchas and also seeking Campo Grande and José Alvalade Stadium, the home of Sporting CP. A lot of tourist videos highlight the southern areas of Lisbon as opposed to the northern, which I feel has a lot more authentic culture to it, and a lot less tourism. They are so easy to get to from the Metro lines too.

What is my point, you ask. Well, my point is that it’s so easy to explore different areas of the place you’re living in, just so that you can find some hidden gems that you didn’t realise existed until you stumbled upon them. It’s not so difficult to go off the beaten track once every so often.

How to use the ATMs and your bank card

Some banks now don’t require you telling them when you’re going abroad, and they can easily check spending patterns. However, you’ll often find an international charge whenever you use your bank card to pay for goods and services. Instead, I recommend withdrawing money and using cash.

Again, I suggest asking fellow ex-pats about what you can do to prevent getting ripped off, and generally, be more money-savvy. It also helps to keep an eye on the current exchange rate between your current currency and home currency.

My best suggestion is to find a new bank in your current country and open an account once you have your social security number.

Manage your budget

It is always recommended by employers and visa eligibility that you have a certain amount of money saved so that you can survive the first few weeks abroad before your first paycheck. I had to do this, and it was quite an easy feat. I think I went over with about 400€ to last me about a month, and that was for food, transport and toiletries, as well as different clothes and other homely items.

I was unfortunately rejected from a job because I wasn’t able to have £1,000 in the bank to be able to stay abroad until the first paycheck. I probably would have had that job if money wasn’t an issue. Think about it, I could be writing about Milan or Rome right about now, as well as a quick post about Malta.

Working environment

You’re likely going to be working with a lot of people who are in the same boat as you – freshly moved abroad, with no idea how to do your job. And that’s fine, and you can take solace in that. The nicest people I’ve ever come across have all been from my training group at Teleperformance, as well as the project teams that I was with afterwards.

Embrace the differences

It’s important to embrace the differences and culture shock as a positive thing. I posted earlier about the things that gave me culture shock when I was in Portugal, and it was fun to immerse myself in a different culture – and that’s the whole point of travelling for me. Embrace the differences and see where they may fit in your own life – for example, I’d definitely have a bidet in a future house build.

Have fun

The best thing about living abroad is having fun, and as long as it’s in a good environment, you should be fine.

Favourite Attractions in Nottingham

Nottingham has to be one of my favourite cities in the UK. I enjoy its atmosphere and history, and there is always something for us to do. Oftentimes we don’t get to do everything in one fell swoop, but we try our very best!

I want to give you the run-down of the best things to do in Nottingham (in my opinion).


18671744_10203590427636697_7047775060987613880_o

The Hotel

I usually go to Nottingham for a few days at a time, and I normally stay at the Premier Inn Goldsmith Street, right on the Nottingham Trent University campus. I’ve never had a bad experience here, and it’s only a ten-minute walk away from Intu Victoria, which I will get to shortly. Plus you also have access to the trams from just up the road. Gawk at the stunning architecture on your way down to Intu Victoria while you’re at it! It’s worth it!

Arboretum

I love the Arboretum, personally. The layout of the Arboretum is beautiful, and it also a stone’s throw away from the Premier Inn I mentioned earlier, so it’s a great chance for a nature walk in the city. It’s Nottingham’s oldest public park, and also the closest to the city centre. It opens from 8am on weekdays, and 9am on weekends and bank holidays.

It has a beautiful mixture of nature and architecture, with its bandstand and the duck ponds. I remember watching the ducks fall into a freezing pond that had a layer of ice on top.

The Arboretum hosts a variety of entertainment throughout the year.

Nottingham Corner House

The Corner House has a variety of things to do and eat. Here, you have Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays and Nando’s, and you can have all of this before venturing towards the cinema, or head over to the Theatre Royal or the Royal Concert Hall, both of which are just a short distance away to walk.

I personally love the Corner House because of its Lost City Adventure Golf, which is located on the lowest floor and is home to two separate 18-hole indoor golf courses. It’s a great destination for all ages, and if you are playing with less than 10 people, just turn up and play! The courses are wheelchair and pushchair friendly, and packed with so much fun! After the game, try out the Tiki Bar within the golf course for drinks – this is where I had the one and only taste of maple syrup flavour Jim Beam, and I recommend trying a couple of the cocktails out! It has to be one of my favourite things to do in Nottingham.

Old Market Square

The Old Market Square is a big focal point for everyone – it’s at the centre of everything to do with Nottingham, and is said to be the largest public space in the UK after Trafalgar Square in London – who knew?

There is usually something happening every time we come to Nottingham, whether it’s the Lights Festival when we visited last February, or the Riviera Beach set-up when we came in July 2018. There is always something to do here, no matter the size, and I was brave enough to get on the Ferris wheel last year.

Intu Victoria

Intu Victoria is one of the great places to go shopping in Nottingham. There is an Intu Broadmarsh, but I find Victoria to be the superior of the two here in Nottingham. It includes its own market area on the first floor, as well as shops such as Yankee Candle, Disney, Build-a-Bear, Flying Tiger and Morphe. There is literally something for everyone, and I haven’t got to the food yet!

Ed’s Easy Diner is a must for those who love the traditional American diner experience (without being in the States), and The Shake Lab is amazing for its milkshakes.


Did0y8rW4AQjqwW

Food

Let’s talk about food, shall we?

Kitty Cafe

Kitty Cafe is always my go-to for when we go to Nottingham. Ordinarily, you do have to book a table in advance, as they do need to bear in mind the number of people that will be in the cafe at any one time. There is a £6 welfare charge per adult, and £4 per child and these costs go towards looking after the cats (I personally think that’s fair). You pay this welfare charge on arrival, and you are shown to your table, but you are more than free to move around the cafe and interact with the cats. It is imperative that you follow the house rules, as they are for the cats’ protection.

The mocktails are delightful, as is the food. I recommend the Cat-titude mocktail, as well as the tangy lemon cheesecake.

Kitty Cafe has branches in Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham and a new one opening in Leicester. In Nottingham as of writing this, you’ll get to meet the famous Heathcliff, as well as Baloo (my personal favourite), Toffee (Connor’s favourite), Charlotte, Jet and Rosie.

The Kitty Cafe also has an adoption programme, and many of its cats that are featured in the cafes are available for rehoming. The cafe system also brings in new cats and kittens and makes sure that they are ready for the floor, and the fans on Facebook get to vote for their names.

Cosmo

Cosmo is a world buffet restaurant with many branches, one of those happens to be in Nottingham – and is the flagship. We found this seemingly unassuming place just when we were trying to find somewhere to eat, and I found a brightly-lit sign with ‘Cosmo’ written on it. I was curious but then decided to head in because we were taken in by it being a world buffet. Needless to say, we were astounded with how much there was to it. My favourite dish to this day is still the Kathmandu fish curry. We always leave this place stuffed from food.

Prices vary between lunch and dinner, and then throughout the week. You always find the cheapest prices at lunchtime on a weekday.

Red’s True Barbecue

Located on Queen Street, this is the place to come to for a good BBQ. You may recognise the name from their branded sauces that are in the supermarkets, and they provide you with those when you take your seat. I love the atmosphere for this place, and it’s truly a great place to get some good grub.

Secret Bars

There is an assortment of secret bars in Nottingham. That’ll be covered in another post once we’ve been to Nottingham again and found some, but we know of the Boiler Room. That’s all I’m saying for now!