Tag Archives: travel

Clowning Around in Booking.com’s New Ad: One Mission

On Friday I discovered that myself and my husband would be featured in Booking.com’s latest ad, One Mission, which celebrates all hotels and experiences around the world, through the eyes of its employees.

I’m excited that the footage of us was featured, as it showcases some of Iceland’s most breathtaking and otherworldly landscapes. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing on here all the destinations we explored and tips to make the most of your trip to Iceland, but for now, sit back and find some inspiration in the ad above!

 

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Travel Changes and the #Take12Trips Challenge

 

I am sure everyone reaches a travel rut at some stage. Whether it is visiting the same country every year, taking the same beach holiday or even booking at the same time each year, we’ve all been there. For me, I found myself spending all year saving towards a spectacular (but expensive) couple of weeks away to some far-flung destination, with barely any time off to explore other destinations in-between. While that might be an acceptable set-up for the average joe, for someone who gets itchy feet on a frequent basis, my feet weren’t so much scratching as frantically tap-dancing.

Combine that with the sudden talk of mortgages, savings and kids from surrounding family and friends, and my feet and head were suddenly dancing completely different steps. While I do enjoy travelling frequently, (and when it comes to the other stuff I say different strokes for different folks), but like the rest of the world I do have other goals, dreams and obligations to consider. Eventually my head and feet agreed I needed a balance between satisfying my wanderlust and ensuring my other goals were being achieved.

Which is why I have decided to do the #Take12Trips Challenge.

What is the #Take12Trips Challenge you ask? Each month, I must travel somewhere new, whether it is for one day, one week, whatever; I must do it once a month.

I must also go somewhere new once a month – even if it’s that random museum I always bypass on my way to work, or that little pocket of the English countryside I have wanted to visit but never found the time. It has to be new, be different.

In addition to this, I’ve decided to set myself the challenge of putting aside savings while travelling, which is why I aim to only spend £200 on as many trips as possible. So far, my research has shown me how to figure out ways to save money on the following:

  • Staycations: For such a small country, the United Kingdom packs some serious punch. I fully intend to explore the English countryside, Welsh coast and Scottish Highlands, and hopefully make my way over to Northern Ireland – its countryside looks stunning but undeservedly little-known.
  • Advanced transport booking: I honestly believe London is one of the best cities in the world, and not just because of its offering of culture and activities. It has the best transport links in the country, connecting us with the rest of Europe. With a bit of research and forward planning (about 60 days in advance), it is possible to buy train tickets at discounted rates.
  • Flights: As long as you don’t mind where you go, you can find some decent deals on flights if you either book well in advance or at the last minute. Websites like HolidayPirates give good updates on cheap flight deals.
  • Accommodation: Spend a little time exploring AirBnB, CanopyandStars and discount websites like SecretEscapes and you can find some unique little hideaways that provide a more personal stay than the clinical atmosphere of some hotel chains (and cheaper prices).
  • Experiences/Presents: Many travel tour companies offer gift cards, and there are countless ‘experience days’ websites out there that provide a range of activities. Instead of the usual request of alcohol or clothes this year, make mine a coasteering excursion on the Pembrokeshire coast!

However, the best tips I will get are from you, fellow readers. What do you do to save pennies when travelling? List below and help me share your pearls of wisdom!

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The Right Time and the Right Way to Visit Egypt

There is no denying that a visit to Egypt should be – if it isn’t already – on everybody’s bucket list.

The African country, which has been in great unrest for the past couple of years, has seen its number of tourists decline at an unprecedented pace. Although many will point out all the TV-news inspired reasons to avoid your visit, in reality Egypt is as safe as ever for tourists, unless you decide to start an armed rebellion, which would raise flags in any country!

The political turmoil has left many archaeological sites and museums understaffed and their services crippling, while the lack of tourists have closed many small-shops around the monuments and few people are left speaking English. At the same time traders don’t harass you any more into buying a tacky copy of the Sphinx or offer to take a picture of you for $5! This is a golden opportunity for anyone wanting to discover the secrets of the Pharaohs, without the hassle and the long lines of packed holiday trippers.

Wadiel-Sebua

 

Egypt is more stunning than ever now that all the dust has settled. The unique monuments that show but a glimpse of the glory this country achieved millennia ago, are quietly waiting to reveal their secrets only to those who truly wish to discover them, instead of all the tourists who simply visit them from their all-inclusive resorts. The Pyramids, the Pharaoh’s island, Cairo, the Red Sea…. all those unique sights and experience you need to see and live for yourselves! What better way than a cruise that will let you live the most out of your vacation. Variety Cruises offers an amazing 7 day cruise rightfully called Kings and Pharaohs, where you’ll get to visit the Gulf of Aqaba, the locals’ favorite summer destination Taba and the Pharaoh’s Island, Sharm el Sheikh, visit St. Catherines Monastery, and also trip to Hurghada, go by bus to Luxor, splash around in Gubal Islands and finish of at the Suez canal and Cairo. All that onboard of a luxurious 21 cabin yacht called Harmony “G”.

In Cairo you have to spend at least a couple of hours to the National Museum where you’ll see the only evidence of the armed security forces that remain deployed in many parts of the city!

PyramidPanorama

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Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area: from Chomorong to Syaulibazaar to Nayapul and Pokhara

Wearily I rose, with my joints offering stiff resistance to my concerted efforts. With last night being the penultimate day of trekking, Narendra, the porters and our group all celebrated late into the night with dancing, drinks and cake. What had seemed like a good idea at the time I was severely paying for that morning.

Settling bleary-eyed at the long dining table, our breakfasts arrived just on time. Another thing most people forget to tell you about in Nepal, is that the higher up into the mountains you go, the more adventurous the breakfast choices become. Today’s menu consisted of boiled potatoes in a BBQ sauce, toast that tasted more like sweet pastry, eggs and porridge.

We all began the slow trek back towards Nayapul,  looking wistfully at the scenery that we would soon be leaving that day. The rainfall that had fallen for the past several nights caused an abundance of small waterfalls to drip onto our walkway, and on the heaps of silvery sheen rocks that littered the path and created a natural sort of sparkling fountain. The mountains were as green as we’d seen them, only now a rainbow arched across a smaller hill below.

Annapurna Nepal Rainbow

Suddenly, a large shape up ahead brought us to a standstill. Sprawled on the middle of our narrow path sat a cow, sunning herself on a bare patch of earth. One of our group attempted to shoo her away, but all he received in return was a flick of her ears and the back of her head.

Annapurna Nepal cow

“ She looks pretty comfortable there, “ I said, “it doesn’t look like she’s planning on leaving anytime soon.”

The cow continued to gaze off into the distance, unperturbed by the clicks of our cameras or the pleas and entreats to move aside. Accepting defeat, we tiptoed around her, careful not to give reason to provoke her. She remained impassive, and it wasn’t until we all had bypassed her and continued on the trail that we heard a loud “mooooo!” behind us in farewell.

The path narrowed along the ledge, until everyone was required to walk in single file. Up ahead we could hear a jumble of bleating sounds, and soon a herd of goats confronted us on the path, eager to cross without waiting. Well, all but one.

As we clutched at the rock face and trees to steady ourselves as the goats moved past, one small brown goat in the middle of the queue abruptly stopped, and turned towards us. With bleats of excitement he plunged his head into one of our member’s trouser pockets, eagerly anticipating whatever food he believed lay hidden. Laughter mixed with the angry sounds of the goats still in front of us, and our group member fumbled with his handkerchief as the goat tried to make a meal out of it. Victorious, he waved it  in front of the goat’s face, and, seeing an opportunity in their momentary delay, we all  quickly crossed it before the goat decided to investigate everyone’s pockets. Heads down, with a dejected look, the goats continued their walk across.

“Seriously, what is with these Nepalese animals?!” one from our group cried out between fits of laughter, “you’d think they’d have known how to share these paths by now!”

Nearing the stopping point of our trek, we came across a small, makeshift barn, and there stood quite possibly the most adorable animal we had seen on the trek. A baby kid, barely a few weeks old it seemed, stood feebly on its slim limbs, bleating pitifully at us. With caramel and white fur with a soft, downy texture, the kid nuzzled its head into each of our hands or chests each time someone went to pet it. Every time we made a move to depart, it would look up with large, tear-filled brown eyes, and let out such a small, pathetic cry that it melted even the sternest of hearts.

Nepal Goat trekking

“I think I know why the Nepalese animals are so accustomed to getting their own way now, “ I thought to myself, stroking the kid’s head lightly.

After a long interval we were finally forced to leave, and the kid’s morose bleats were mixed with the outraged chirps of chicks that had received no attention from us. Finally making our way to the Jeeps that would take us back to Pokhara, we threw our bags on the roof, and after everything was strapped down, began making our way along the bumpy road.

About a mile down the road, we approached a rocky bump in the road at a moderate speed, and amid the tired sighs and calls of “bye Annapurna” a sickening crunch could be heard. The car slowed to a stop, but not before another clunking and rattling sound was heard. Getting out and ducking our heads under the car, a part was dragging on the floor. Gazing uneasily at each other, we asked the driver what options there were to remedy the situation.

“Wait for my friend to arrive, he’ll drop you off at the bus site. Meanwhile, let’s move this car off the road so others can get by,” our driver replied.

A feat that was easier said than done, considering the road was in an inclined position, with a sheer drop on one side. Time flew by as we struggled to push the jeep up the hill towards a small space in the

Looking nervously behind us at the distance below, we continued to strain against the Jeep as it crawled up the dirt path. Our trepidation grew as a queue of cars and a bus began to line up on both sides of the Jeep. “This couldn’t get any worse,” I thought to myself. Just then, a small boy jumped from the steps of the bus and designated himself as traffic warden. Shouting words of encouragement while telling the bus driver where to turn as well as sternly telling the cars opposite us to wait, our fears of the small boy being crushed by the Jeep gave us all renewed strength. We hurriedly pushed the dilapidated car into the small space while the boy zigzagged between us, and heaved big sighs of relief that he had narrowly avoided being crushed by the car.

Looking around and satisfied that his job was done, the little boy clambered back up the side of the bus and began ordering the driver to continue. We all stood and watched the boy in astonishment waving his arms and hollering orders as the bus peeled down the road and to the rest of the villages. Shaking our heads and giggling in disbelief at the boy’s audacity, we were rescued from our stranded state by the arrival of our driver’s friend.

Dragging our bags onto the new vehicle and realising that it was much smaller than the previous one, we all squeezed in together and anxiously hoped this car would prove more resilient than the last. Looking around us, I thought to myself that there were possibly worse places to be stranded, and as a the vehicle grumbled to life we all wished, that despite the afternoon’s troubles, we had a little more time to spend in Annapurna.

Annapurna Nepal River

 

 

IMG_2737 (2)

 

 

Nepal trekking donkey

 

Nepal bridge

 

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I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

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A Weekend Guide to Historic Edinburgh

 

Dramatic landscapes, countrysides littered with castles, literary heavyweights, and world-famous whiskey. Despite its small size, Scotland packs a big punch, and it is easy to see why Lonely Planet nominated them as one of the top countries to visit in 2014. The cultural and historical hub of Scotland is none other than Edinburgh, and with its renowned Fringe festival and historic sites like Edinburgh Castle, and only a short distance to the Highlands, it is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Beat the crowds before they flock to this city and see historic Edinburgh with this weekend guide.

Saturday

8:00AM – Start the day with a Hula. This popular stop serves hearty portions of Scottish smoked salmon and eggs, but make sure you save space for their smoothies and desserts, which are the real reason to go here. Organic foodies and diners need speciality dietary requirements will particularly enjoy this brunch bar, and make sure you spend some time appreciating the original artwork and photography they exhibit. For more information, opening times and prices please check http://www.hulajuicebar.co.uk/.

10:00AM – Take a tour around Scottish Parliament. In terms of history, the Scottish Parliament building is modern, but it is filled with motifs that evoke the country’s past and people. Make sure you book ahead of time for tickets to Parliament, as school groups and tour companies converge on the weekend. For more information and to book tickets, check their website at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/visitandlearn/24228.aspx.

 

Scottish Parliament

 

12:00AM – Explore Edinburgh Castle. Arguably the city’s most popular attraction, make sure you book your tickets in advance to skip the long queues. Besides the castle formations the National War Museum, Scottish crown jewels and military prison are also housed within its walls. Complimentary guided tours around the grounds are provided, but visitors are also welcome to see the castle on their own time. For more information and to book advance tickets, visit http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/plan/getting-around.aspx.

 

edinburghcannon

 

2:00PM – Dine at Maison Bleue. This opulently-decorated French restaurant gives off an atmosphere of antiquated elegance, but its prices are surprisingly cheap. The menu provides classic French and Scottish dishes, so even if you decide to forego tasting haggis, there are a number of delectable options on the menu. For more information, visit their website at http://www.maisonbleuerestaurant.com/.

4:00PM – Go on a tour with The Real Free Edinburgh tours. See some of Edinburgh’s astounding architecture and learn about its glorious and somewhat gritty history with energetic and knowledgeable tour guide Justin. Funny, interesting and completely unique, the tour will make you see Edinburgh in a different light. Tours are run several times a day and although they are free, a tip of £5 is advised. Fore more information, check their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/realfreetoursedinburgh?fref=ts.

6:00PM – Watch a show at one of Edinburgh’s many theatres. Being the host to one of the biggest annual celebrations of theatre, comedy and performance, obviously a trip to the theatre is a must on anyone’s list. With more than 18 venues to choose from, there is bound to be something to anyone’s preference. For performance times and purchasing tickets, check http://www.edinburghtheatreguide.com/.

Sunday

6:00AM – Hike up Arthur’s Seat. Rise before the sun and hike to the top of this hill for the best panoramic sunrise views of the city. Arthur’s Seat is a part of Holyrood Park, and is a popular destination for locals to exercise. After reaching the top it is worth exploring the hillside to search for archaeological remains that dot the landscape. For those wanting a less arduous climb, there are stairs to the summit around the back. Otherwise, bring comfortable shoes and a windbreaker. Take the scenic route back along the Royal Mile, stopping at the Fudge Kitchen and Cranachan & Crowdie to stock up on brunch.

 

arthur seat

 

1:00PM – Have a picnic on Carlton Hill. It is easy to see why Edinburgh was once dubbed the ‘Athens of the North’ upon seeing the monuments sitting atop the summit. Like Arthur’s Seat, Carlton Hill offers panoramic views of the city, and provides lots of green space to spread out and enjoy a picnic lunch on sunny days. The hill is the centre for the Scottish Government and as a result many of the monuments are a celebration of this country’s heritage; keep an eye out for the Burns Monument and Dugald Monument.

 

carlton hill

 

3:00PM – Sample some of Scotland’s signature spirit at the Scotch Whiskey Experience. The initial video and barrel ride might seem a bit twee, but the tasting session afterwards and a walk around the world’s largest whiskey collection more than makes up for it. Afterwards, head to their bar and taste more regional variations of scotch, and enjoy the rooftop views of some of Edinburgh’s iconic buildings and landscapes. http://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/

 

whiskey collection

 

4:30PM – Learn about Scotland’s literary history. The Writer’s Museum may be small, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in character and information. Artefacts ranging from letters to furniture from Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson are on display here, and offer an insight into the inspiration for their literary works. Check their website http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/Venues/The-Writers–Museum for more information.

 

writer's museum

 

5:00PM – Have a nightcap at the Grassmarket. Once the venue for the city’s gallows and a 15th century cattle market, today the Grassmarket is Edinburgh’s centre for pubs and nightlife. Literary patrons should head to The White Hart Inn, which was frequented by Robert Burns, while many pubs have live music in the evenings. Whichever you choose, there are more than two dozen pubs and clubs only a five minute walk from each other, leaving many spoiled for choice.

What are your recommendations?

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Tips for Protecting Your Luggage at Go! Girl Guides

parmiter-antiques-southsea-luggage

From time to time I contribute blog articles to Go! Girl Guides, a creator of travel guidebooks specifically tailored for women. One of the most frequently asked questions I received when I worked in outdoors stores was how to protect your luggage when travelling. As women, we can be easy targets for thieves and if my past experience and others have shown, insurance companies can be very reluctant to pay out when the worst happens. However I’ve compiled a list of proactive tips and advice to help ensure that your luggage arrives home as safely as you. Just follow the link below….

 

http://gogirlguides.com/travel-packing/tips-for-protecting-your-luggage/

Photo credit: geishaboy500 / Foter / CC BY

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Qatar’s Own Hollywood: Film City

Film city

With my recent trip to Qatar fast-approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous travels to the region. About how they will look now, whether they are even still there, and anticipation of the new sites I will visit soon. One of the sites that stuck out for me than others was my trip to Film City; it had all the elements of an adventure. Crossing a beautiful but barren canyon, archaeological remnants, rare animals, and a beautiful city that lay hidden in the desert- what more could you ask for?  Find out more about my trip below, an excerpt from a feature I wrote for Vagabondish magazine:

California is not the only place to see film stars and movie sets these days. Qatar has its own piece of Hollywood set in the most unlikely of places. Deep in the desert of the Zekreet peninsula, hidden behind a canyon, lays Film City, one of Qatar’s truly bizarre sites!

As we travelled along a dirt path through a national park housing those elusive ostrich and oryx, the environment gently morphed into something altogether different. The brown pebbly surface of the desert transformed into a pale cream sand, with the waves of the Zekreet Peninsula shoreline twinkling in the backdrop. What was most remarkable however, were the series of ridges we now drove through, forming a miniature canyon.
Read more at http://www.vagabondish.com/qatars-own-hollywood-film-city/#15mY4lr5KjetbVpv.99

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From Amman to Wadi Feynan- Digging in Jordan

 

Awhile back I wrote a feature for inTravel magazine about my time working on an archaeological excavation in Jordan, an excerpt of which is included below:

Admittedly, it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I initially accepted a position as a volunteer archaeologist in Jordan. Stories of grotesque camel spiders and venomous snakes were a source of apprehension, but the thought of working with the local Bedouin people on ancient sites in Jordan’s picturesque Dana Biosphere Reserve quenched any initial misgivings.

Soon after arriving in Amman we were all whisked off on a long journey south to Jordan’s remote Dana Biosphere Reserve. As Jordan’s largest nature reserve, it is home to a variety of endangered species and a series of mountain ridges, not to mention the ancient Ata’ta tribe. Moonlight and stars were the only source of light as they shone on the enormous canyons and small villages we passed through, with the van bringing us closer to the Wadi Feynan Ecolodge, which was to be our home for the next month.

To read the entire feature, head to inTravel’s website here.

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Your Period and Travelling: What to Do

Whether it is going on a surfari, travelling for several hours on a bus or overland, or hiking through the mountains, it is Sod’s Law that your period will surprise you right at the beginning of one of these holidays. Or any holiday, really. Between fine-tuning all the details of packing and organising a trip, it is easy for something like your period to be forgotten somewhere between visa paperwork and ensuring your vaccinations are up to date. Yet the unexpected arrival of your period is enough to cause serious predicaments whilst on the road, or the mountains, or the sea…you get the idea.

Stock up….

Whilst we might be used to every convenience store in the West offering a decent supply of tampons and pads, not all parts of the world are as readily-equipped. If you plan on travelling to remote villages or spending your time sparingly in cities, prepare ahead and pack several boxes of tampons and pads. You might begrudge using up so much precious bag space, but when faced with the dilemma of a four-hour drive to the nearest store, packing those extra necessities won’t seem so inconsequential. Even if you plan on spending most of your travels in metropolitan areas, be prepared to find that tampons won’t be as readily available as pads in some parts of the world. That said, remember to pack a few pairs of pants that are compatible with pads.

If you would rather not bother with the hassle of packing or searching for hygiene products, the ‘mooncup’ is also a good option. Whilst some might balk at the idea of inserting a silicon cup to collect their menstrual blood, it has several benefits over conventional hygiene products. The reusable silicone means it is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, and is even compatible with sports like swimming.

Or not….

For those that, put simply, cannot be bothered with the hassle of packing and searching for female hygiene products, the contraceptive pill is the method of choice for avoiding their period. However this approach should be used with caution, as taking multiple pills in a row can cause multiple illnesses like kidney infection. Seek advice from your doctor beforehand, as some pills cannot be used several times in a row. Strictly speaking, only monophasic pills can be used in a row; these pills are taken once a day for twenty-one days, with a seven-day break between starting the next packet. There are other contraceptive treatments available that do not have a break for menstrual bleeding, but these should be discussed with your doctor before taking them.

What have you done about your period whilst on the road?

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon / Foter / CC BY-SA

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