Thursday, 30 May 2013

Exciting News Round Two!

Alas, I wish this post could be graced with Exciting News akin to a spontaneous trip to Rome but it's merely a wee whisper that my second guest blogging post has been published on and can be found here, here, here and here. The theme of my post

Of course it is.

In other news, while I calm down from this, my posting here may be sporadic until my next trip which commences in little over a week which sees me and my wonderful friend Helena jetting off to Barcelona for sun, sangrias, and Santa Maria del Mar. Ciao for a while readers!

Eep! In the mean time I may be found on instagram and tweeting pointless things on twitter :-)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Can I Have Some More?

Excuse me while I drool over my photos of food and drink from my trip; I am a terrible food-instragram-er as well as whacking out my actual big camera to photograph my dinner before I tuck in. But hey, it makes for great memories, photos, and blog posts so who's complaining.

Since returning home I have made an effort to get fit (ew), eat well (ew), and go to the gym (ew) and Rome was a well deserved three days off of carbs, three course dinners and ice cream on the way home - because where in England could you possibly find such a Geltaria on the way home? I often found myself sneaking into a coffee shop for a patented Italian coffee and pastry, or dashing into a darling Pizzeria 10 minutes from the Trevi fountain and ending up with four courses in front of was every foodie's dream.

On Via del Governo Vecchio on my way back from my ill-fated Vatican trip I discovered a wee coffee shop, 'Cantina & Cucina' from which the header image from this post is, where I can say - hand on heart - I had the best cappucino of my life and for just one Euro. The service was impeccable and wonderfully friendly. The shop is nestled in between vintage shops too, it is well worth a visit!

Spaghetti Carbonara just around the corner from the Pantheon.

Even the idea of going to Italy while sticking to a diet in foolish - the food is a dream come true. Carbs. Carbs. Carbs.

Veal in a gorgonzola sauce with roast potatoes. Just. Ugh.
My second recommendation is just a five minute walk from Plaza Del Popolo named 'Al Vantaggio' (their house wine is actually named after the house) where I found the best Panna Cotta of my life. Just the right amount of creamy, and enjoyed  with a glass of white. I don't care how middle aged I sound.

The best panna cotta in Rome. Bold claim. I will stick to it.

And finally, how could I not mention Giolitti? Recommended to me by my wonderful friends Lucy, Ella and Flo (thanks gals, I was told I had to cite you), Giolitti is heaving at peak meal times, and this is exactly how I found it, sitting in the backstreets of the Pantheon. It was mid-morning when I paid €3.50 for, yes, the best Gelato of all time. Pay in advance, join the queue, and smile horrendously. Ask any local and they will know where to point you - it's well worth the wait.
Giolitti; light of my life. G-i-o-l-i-t-t-i. The name rolls off the tongue, etc etc.
I said it about Copenhagen, perhaps I said it about both American and India too, but Rome really is the best place for food that I have travelled. Be it sweet or savoury, alcoholic or not (pah) the Italians have out done themselves. Regards price, be wary as the tourist areas naturally more expensive and set in place to trap the more naive of us travellers.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Do(n't) Do As The Romans Did.

However, maybe it was due to the Last Minute nature of my trip or the panic that in my two weeks of settling into life at home I'd lost my Travelling Knack, but when in Rome I made a few Pizza shaped faux pass, and so, despite my arrogant, borderline obnoxious, confidence when travelling, my list of Top Awesome Travel Tips: Rome Edition was born. Stay tuned for my Totally Unflawed Guide To Rome.*

*I accept no legal responsibility for the ridiculous situations my tips may get you in i.e. being chatted up by a Gladiator outside the Colleseum within two hours of being in Rome.

Top Travelling Tip #1) The Pope.

"A trip Tuesday to Thursday will be considerably cheaper!" she says to herself, booking Ryanair's cheapest last minute flights, "And what's better, is that I'm not going during a religious festival and my full day is a Wednesday - so I'll get up nice and early and beat the crowds to the Vatican to make sure I make the most of my short time in Rome." The Pope resides in the Vatican making it a place of pilgrimage, and does he patented address on Sunday and, wait for it, Wednesday so I, along with 10,000 other tourists and Catholics, pushed and swore under my breath to get into the Vatican only to be greeted by the Pope himself.

Oh hi Francis.

Now I'm not complaining, it was wonderful to see the Pope doing his thing, but given my time again I would do my research and save my trouble for Thursday. Unless you're willing to use your elbows, you will waste a lot of time in the Vatican! Furthermore, skip the museum (sorry Sistine Chapel) and join the queue to see the view over St Peter's Square - something I didn't do and regret it massively. But, eh, I'll just have to go back.

Top Travelling Tip #2) Old Beautiful Things i.e. The Colloseum.

Situated in the southern part of the city is one of Rome's most famous monuments: The Colloseum. To get my bearings, this was the first place I headed at lunchtime on Tuesday when it was beautiful blue skies and, thus, heaving with tourists. The entrance isn't clear, nor is the fact that your ticket, once bought, also gives entrance to the Palatino and the Forum for just €12. The Colloseum was heaving so, following the advice of my host Roberta, headed to the Palatino to buy my all inclusive ticket before heading around the grounds and the Forum and onto the Colloseum - skipping the queues and heading straight inside. Rent an audio guide for an inexpensive price and lose yourself in the history. (Too cheesy? Oof. Maybe. Sorry.) 

And finally, Top Travelling Tip #3) Rome by Night.

Spanish Steps, as recommended by both lysanne and Jamie.

It has been repeated by many a lovely tourist, family member, or wise friend that Rome is at its best by night and while I must still have a bit of Delhi ingrained in me ("don't go out after dark!") I ventured out for dinner in the north of the city - Plaza Del Popolo - and home via the Spanish Steps which I had fallen in love with in the daylight. Rome by night is charming, lively, and safe for a female lone traveller which is not something I can say for a lot of places I have been. I received smiles and conversation, but little harassment  And with the beautiful architecture, yummy restaurants, it's perfect. Head over to Trastevere for a slightly more homely feel, but even the tourist areas are equi-charming at dusk.

Of course there is so much to do in Rome, and just as I fell for the city I had to leave but I would recommend it for any traveller. It has rekindled my love of Europe, just as Berlin did, and I am eager to return to Italy - and no longer just for the food.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

There's No Place Like Rome.

Less than two weeks ago (and embarrassingly less than  two weeks after I'd arrived home from Berlin) I had been lamenting my lack of spontaneity and life that was (is) becoming full of Adult responsibilities. And, being a grown up, I decided that the only way to submit to all these woes and overcome them was to do what I do best: Travel. 

Cracking out my world map, debit card, and travel guide books, I decided on a lovely little city called Rome to be the stage for my performance of Running Away For A Few Days to Regain My Positivity and Happiness, and I couldn't have picked better. 5 days later, at 6.20am, I was on the plane to Rome and just three hours later I was checked into my airbnb accommodation and jetting off on the Metro into the city. 

Rome captured my heart in a way that I was not anticipating; the mix of old and crumbling with narrow, cobbled, coffee shop lined streets. Be it the sheer abundance of tourists, the passion of the Italian language, I could honestly go on, but I just fell in love. I headed straight into the centre to get my bearings and ended up walking from the Colloseum to the National Museum, to the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Spanish and map in hand I blindly walked around for 5 hours before returning back to the B&B with pizza (of course, and only €6!) and uttering a quick, 'ciao' to a cute Italian boy whilst dripping pizza topping down my chin in the apartment hallway.

Well, I'd travelled 917 miles from home but that doesn't mean I suddenly need to be all sophisticated, does it?

Market in Forno Campo de' Fiori which is perfect for not only fresh fruits and cheeses, but for an authentic Italian experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Rome and this can be attributed to mainly the food (see my next two posts!), but also to the history - and the preservation of this - and the Romans themselves (the modern, but the older too I suppose). The Italians are in the running, competing against the Texans indefinitely, for being the most welcoming and kindest people I've encountered on my travels. While my Italian is broken, and the English I encountered was fractured too, we all got along just fine. I loved Rome and despite what I was told pre-leaving, I found it cheaper than other places I have travelled to this year. For either a city break as a lone traveller or perhaps a romantic weekend away, Rome really does suit it all. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Exciting News!

Hello, just a quick post to say that I have been published for the first time as a Guest Blogger on - a post I wrote about Copenhagen, which you can find here! Please have a read and maybe leave me some cheeky feedback if you fancy. I've got a second article coming out on the 27th so keep your eyes peeled on my little Author's Page. I'm so excited to be on this website, it's hopefully a way of bringing more traffic and lovely people to my blog!

My name on the front page! I'm rewarding myself with trashy tele and junk food. Yep.

I have two pieces of exciting news as a surprise...I am going to Rome next week, quite last minute and for two nights by myself. There is little more to say about it than that, I am very excited and it's a big surprise. I woke up this week, cracked on with job applications, and decided that it really was Now Or Never, so bonjourno Roma! And watch this space for more posting, eep!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Post-Travelling Blues: A Survival Guide.

So I am officially back home, in my little crevice of Essex, blogging from the comfort of my own bed. Coming home is often the best but, true to form, the hardest part of travelling. I love my home. I am a total homebird. But the thrills and constant adrenaline of travelling and falling in love with a new place and culture is so exciting - and, now that I have discovered that travelling is My Thing, home is tiny bit... anticlimactic.

After 8 months on my feet (with the exception of the odd couple of weeks here and there enjoying home) I am happy to be in my own bed and with my family. A few of my friends are home from university or their own travels and so I am keeping myself busy, but the nagging I Will Be Here For Five Months feeling is ever prevalent.

I know I'm not alone in this feeling, so I thought I'd give this post a 'How To Do With Coming Home After A Long-Ish Time' theme for all your equi-keen travellers out there with my four tips on how to not go crazy. Unless you keep travelling forever of course. (In which case, I am very, very jealous.)

1) Sleep. Duh.

I love my bed. I may be having a love affair with my bed; it's the person/inanimate object I spend the most time with, and truth be told I am currently typing this from my bed. But I am a firm believer that, especially as a cliched teen, your bed is your best friend, and coming home to your own bed after so long sleeping in hotel rooms, apartments you don't know, etc etc, there is no better feeling than sleeping in your own haven. 

Take one or two days to sleep. Put on The Smiths, Lucy Rose, and Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon or whatever takes your fancy and just enjoy Being. You owe yourself a rest, a wind down.

2) Remember Why Your Home is Fabulous

Sunset on the edge of town. Cliched, existential, and absolutely flawless.
I have spent a few days here and there over my coming home period to just remind myself why I love this corner of Essex so much. I have walked through the village and gone to my favourite spots that I loved when I was younger; I took a cider and went and watched the sunset from the nature reserve just outside town, and I stopped rejecting where I was. I am learning to appreciate home as much as the next unknown city. I've been visiting my old haunts with friends, having drinks on the banks in Cambridge; indulging my inner Brit. Proudly.

3) Baking aka The Solution To All World Problems

Homemade jammy dodgers made on my first day back at home. I get stuff done.
For those who read my Tumblr, followed my old lifestyle blogspot, or even remotely know me in real life, will know just how obsessive I am about my cooking and baking. And while I have recently joined the gym (another tip on how to survive home, join a club, class, or local gym to give you structure!) I spend my two days off a week baking and cooking. Jammy dodgers, flowerpot cucpakes, chelsea buns, name it, I have/am planning to make it.

Of course this can be replaced with something just as productive but this is my number one tip for coping with coming home. Equi-yummy as a slice of cake in Berlin...

4) And Finally: Plan For The Next Trip.

Okay so maybe this isn't the best survival tip, but if you're as restless and wanderlust-ing as me, then this is the only way to really enjoy home. To know that you have another destination on the horizon, well, there is no nicer feeling (for me at least). Yesterday I booked a short break in just over a month to Barcelona and a surprise trip - which you will have to stay tuned for... - may be just around the corner.

Home is my favourite place and really is where my heart is, but coming home is the hardest. Maybe it's a Gap Year thing. Maybe it's because I'm in the midst of Responsible Things (driving, job applying, things that show c-c-c-c-commitment), but either way, the next adventure is only a click of a button away. You are never too far from adventure, home-based or otherwise. And that, for me, is the ultimate comfort.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

They See Me Rollin'.

Is this a sponsored post? I suppose not. I suppose it counts as a 'themed' post, which, due to my scattered brain and homecoming combined, I am writing nearly two weeks after my parent's visit in Berlin. In order for this post - the theme of which is accessibility - to make a more substantial amount of sense, a wee bit of context is needed. When at home, I am a young carer for my Dad who has Multiple Sclerosis - a condition affecting the Central Nervous System mainly, and which translates into simple terms as our house being marginally accessible and Dad using an electric 'Travel Scoot' as we continue galavanting the world as a family.

Together, we have travelled to New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Switzerland (just to name a few) and while we have encountered problems with accessibility, but largely have been impressed with the efficiency and availability of ramps and help on hand.  

The current scooter he uses is the lightweight 'Travel Scoot' which is been perfect (if you ignore the reverse gear, or rather, lack thereof). It fits perfectly inside even my tiny blue VW Polo, and can easily be lifted by one person. The battery life is substantial and really is perfect for  travelling. The link to the website can be found here.
Berlin is famous for its public transport, and having lived there for 3 weeks, I can testify that the S and U Bahns really are fantastic but it's only through the eyes of a family in need of accessibility, do you start to question the lifts, ramps, and aid that could make or break a short weekend trip. 

Well. I am happy to report that I am very happy with Berlin's access. While my parents experienced trouble with one or two broken lifts at Zoologischer Garten and a lack of lift at Eberswalder Strasse, I think that on the whole they were impressed. Lifts are present at most stations, and to make your choice easier hotels can provide maps that explicitly list where the lifts are situated and at which station. Coming from London, finding more than 5 lifts on the map was a shock. The BVG (the Berlin equivalent of TFL) also have an interactive map online that claims to show the most recent lifts and ramps, and their location. This can be found here.

FYI: Brandenburg Tor is a tricky station to navigate so make sure you take the right lift to the right platform. We ended up on a platform that was not the one we wanted - cue lots of map folding and unfolding. And arguing. Ah family holidays.
As a family, we also used the Tram and bus - both of which were also accessible. The drivers are all transport we've encountered have been more than happy to help. My main tip for accesibility in Berlin is be patient, and stand at the front of the train. Due to the speed and manually driven trains, the driver has a responsibility to halt the train and aid with a ramp. And I am eager to say, that most did so with a smile and a 'good day'.

The Travel Scoot has already been put through its paces in the Mountains of Switzerland last year when my parents travelled to the Lauterbrunnen Valley to celebrate my leave for America, and we, once again, got our money's worth in Berlin. For Sure. 

My parent's visit was a wonderful way to see Berlin through their eyes, but also through the eyes of accessibility. And I have to say, that I was very impressed, and can recommend it thoroughly (with the right amount of research for accessible hotels of course - we can recommend the SANA in Charlottenberg) for families who have similar needs.

Okay, just the one cheesy family shot.