The little things in life

Whilst travelling you come to realise just how valuable a kitchen is and you begin to think you’ll never leave yours when you return home. When cooking meals in your own kitchen you only see the preperation time and washing up but this compared to the price of meals out whilst travelling is nothing! We have definitely learned to only book hostels with a kitchen (or kitchen-like facilities) in future – something to bear in mind!

With ‘home-cooked meals’ mainly consisting of a pack of pasta,a jar of sauce and a pepper (to add some veg to the diet!) the little home comforts are the things that are missed the most,so it’s important to treat yourself now and then. It may be a magnet of a famous monument, a photograph with a guy dressed as a roman gladiator, or (in our case) something sweet to eat. Today, in Italy,the ice cream capital of the world,we found a palour that had over 150 flavours! To say I was a excited is an understatement and I’ve included the picture below as evidence.
Chocolate orange and meringue!

We also found a Lint shop where we spent €10 just on chocolate for presents!

Chocolate balls

Throw in the free pizza we get every night from our hostel (plus the free breakfast) and its safe to say we’ve had a really good day all in all. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Lauren x

Grandeur

As I travel from city to city one thing stays the same; the displays of wealth. On some occassions I am overwhelmed by the impressiveness of the collection, such as the dinning set below (which was one of many), but I am left wondering who needs so many knives and forks!

silver service

cutlery should be for life...

I do have issues with the churches, however. As places of worship I feel they should be humble and inviting but some of them I have seen on the trip have not felt that way at all. While I enjoy a stained glass window and a painted ceiling as much as the next person, you can only see so many before it gets repetitive. And yet, I’ve paid on average €2 to enter every church I’ve stumbled across! Maybe it’s their beauty and my christian upbringing, but I think it has more to do with my Catholic travel buddy!

Nevertheless, a bit of granduer never hurt anyone – except maybe Henry VIII – and I must admit,the Panthion (Rome) was spectacular.

The Panthion

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Lauren x

Safe as houses

Whilst walking up the most beautiful cathedral in Berlin (Berliner Dom) yesterday to get to the top of the dome my friend and I realised just how far up we were walking and began to question how safe it was. My reply? It’s fine, churches are built to last – just look at St Pauls, that was bombed and it’s still standing! That offered little comfort however, but it got me thinking about the saying ‘safe as houses’.

As we travel from hostel to hostel we are greatful for lockers that we can fit are whole rucksack in and I find myself cuddling my bumbag as I fall asleep, so these ‘houses’ aren’t initially as safe as you might think. But then you meet the people you’re sharing the room with and get chatting about where they’ve been and where they’re headding and you realise they’re in exactly the same position as you and they have no need to steal dirty underwear and a camera with someone else’s photos on.

With that in mind, we dont really need to lock away our bags that hold nothing but clothes, toilettries and shoes. Having said that, i’d never leave valuables lying around because you don’t know who will go into your dorm. But I think I started the trip too paranoid about losing things – if they’re that valuable you shouldn’t take them travelling with you. 

Hello to everyone I’ve left back home, i’m having a great time!

Lauren x

P.S photos of said cathedral will followe at some point (possibly only when I get home)

 

A very long day

Having been awake at 7am monday morning to do my final sorting before travelling to London, followed by a series of different transport methods which took us to to the continent and a full day in Amsterdam finished by the (awful on Brazil’s part) football game we were up for almost 48 hours, bar a few naps in between. I am shattered to say the least and 8 hours sleep has not done the trick but it is so worth it! Who needs sleep when there’s a new city to explore!

Snapchat-20140708020659

Amsterdam is everything I thought it would be and more. The streets are lined with amazing buildings, everyone cycles or gets the tram and the city has a distinct smell produced by the many coffe shops, but it also offers so much more – cute backstreets, cheep places to eat, LOADS of cheese and enough culture to fill our tgree days here, despite the whether.

 

cheese!

The sex museum followed by the Red Light District was interesting and deffinitely not for a family trip but as part of Amsterdam’s heritage it’s a must see. It did leave us wondering if some poor unaware tourists have stubled across it and wondered just what kind of a place Amsterdam is! – but with it so widely known I doubt that has ever happened.

The hostel we’re staying in is great – it’s clean, a brilliant location and offers a 20% discount in the Irish Pub downstairs. Having said that, it should be good the amout we’re paying but a good start to the trip nevertheless. Plus all the people we’ve met here seem to be on the last stage of interrailing so have some great stories to tell!

Time to carry on exploring, a bit more sophisticated than Amsterdam’s sex appeal but still as interesting.

Lauren x

 

1am starts

Cheap plane tickets mean arriving at the airport at 5 o’clock in the morning. Add onto that the fact we’re an hour national express journey away from the airport. AND it takes us over an hour to get to that bus stop because we’re in London and we have to use night buses because we leave so early – nightmare! At least we get a whole day in our first destination.

There’s something magical about travelling at night, especially with the added anticipation of a flight at the end of the trekk across the city. With the streets lit by lamplight and no one around you feel like a proper explorer, even on your own doorstep – it’s strange how different things look without the aid of sunlight.

The only problem with this travelling stuff is that my friend I’m exploring with gets stressed we’re going to miss connections etc so we have to be really early for everything! – this could be interesting!

Well this is possibly my last blog from England! Have a great time without me 😀

Lauren x

His own adventure

I have always felt protective of my brother. Not in a controlling way, but I worry if he’s enjoying life and being included. I suppose to a certain extent he feels the same about me and we’ve always been in each other’s corner when needed. My protectiveness made it hard to say goodbye to him today.

Two years ago I set off on my own adventure and was left in the sixth form centre by my parents just as my brother was today. While I was a little nervous I couldn’t imagine how the rest of my family felt and it was weird seeing the other side of things earlier.

I know he will have a fantastic time and whilst it was hard for me at the beginning to hand over the attention to my little brother I know this experience is going to be amazing and one he will never forget. One thing’s for sure, I am VERY jealous and it’s one of the reasons I’m setting off on my own adventure; I couldn’t just sit at home while he went off and explored!

So when you’re out and about on your own adventure spare a thought for those you’ve left behind – they might be having a hard time watching you go.

Lauren x

Sunday roast

 

“People who love to eat are always the best people”
– Julia Child

It is tradition in our household to sit down to a Sunday roast every week. It varies in time and type to fit around the commitments’ of all family members but it still happens nonetheless. Being a busy family who do loads during the week we rarely sit down for a meal together where the TV isn’t involved so Sunday lunch is away for my mum to catch up on all that has happened during the week.

Growing up I thought Sunday roasts were a universal thing, something everyone did, and it wasn’t until I was at senior school that it dawned on me we were one of the few left following the tradition. But this realisation didn’t make me feel sorry for other families, it made me jealous. I was envious of the free time they had – Sunday roasts in our house can last anywhere up to two hours. This, for me during exam period, was an extreme amount of time spent on an activity that didn’t include revision. You have to understand I allocated one hour in the day for eating on a normal day during study leave so Sunday lunch time was a stressful experience for me – nerd! But on reflection I can see the time out probably did me the world of good!

Going off to uni I knew I’d miss being cooked for but I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d long for a good old roast at the end of the week! It was strange not sitting down for a meal with three others and talking about everything that had happened since the last time we all sat down together – I had to make do with my weekly phone calls from mum which weren’t the same. So on returning home, Sunday lunch was made a big deal of and I’d have first pick on what to eat – you know it’s a special occasion for you if you get to pick which meat to eat!

We’re one of those families that only has Yorkshire puddings with beef, so knowing my brother’s love for the northern treat we tucked into a beautiful piece of roast beef veg with all the trimmings for his final meal before we wish him a safe trip to China (more on that later!). It’s strange how a ritual has turned into the main focus of the week for all members of the family. It is something we all look forward to; good food, good conversation, and occasionally me singing a long to a musical or two!

Lauren x

 

Currency

Going to travel agents to get Euros is a sign that an adventure is just around the corner. But it also means you have to find pounds to exchange in the first place. Today I completed this task, as well as transferring money from my savings into my current account to pay for summer rent, so a hell of a lot of money went out of my account. SCARY! – I’m trying not to think about it.

When I was younger foreign currency didn’t seem like a thing of value to me, it was like spending Monopoly money. I’m not sure if it was because I didn’t understand the money because it had a different name or if it was because I was on holiday and I’d been given spending money so I could buy all the things I wouldn’t at home – like pointless toys and loads of keyrings!  That feeling no longer exists.

Having saved and paid for this holiday all on my own (apart from spending money which has come out of a savings account my mum gave me when I turned 18) every time I spend money I have a sense of dread. It has cost a lot more than I thought – and hoped – it would be, leaving me and my bank account feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. Holidays just don’t seem to have the same appeal when you have to pay for EVERYTHING yourself! Having said that, I did have a great sense of achievement paying for my holiday last summer by myself without the help of a savings account, but a one-week package holiday does not cost the same amount as a two and a half week trip around Europe. In fact I’ve spent the same amount on booking fees, flights and the interrail pass as I did for my entire holiday to Corfu. How?!

Anyway, everyone tells me not to worry and go and enjoy it – it’s not every day you get to go on an adventure – and with a new camera in tow I hope to make loads of new memories. It is hard to appreciate the money spent as I haven’t left my living room yet but we’ll see. I bet I’ll come back without a care in the world, lots of souviners and bad sunburn (the Irish in me always comes out as the sun appears!).

And on reflection, I think the reason it always felt like I wasn’t spending a peny when abroad was proably because 90% of my money was just given to me. Oh how times have changed!

Lauren x

Sibling rivalry

As my brother is packed off to a UCAS event with £5 to pay for the train I wonder if I was given the same. Now I know I wasn’t but that was only because I didn’t go to the same event two years ago because I wasn’t in the country but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of hand outs over the years.

Coming home from uni to see my brother with his pocket-money makes me VERY jealous until I remember how much my mum gives me a month just so I can survive away from home (Student Finance is a bitch and hardly gives me any money!). And then I think back to my time at home and how jealous my brother must have been of me. I’m the first-born and without been spoilt I got, and continue to get, way more than my brother ever does on the wardrobe front. My mum and I embark on bit shopping trips about 2/3 times a year and spend probably more than we can afford. My brother has started to get more though as he too becomes a beautiful butterfly as he sheds his puppy fat (through hard work, I might add) and discovers fashion but I would bet he’s never going to catch up to me.

Christmas is an example of one time where there is no competition. My mum works hard all year to ensure that both of us have a similar budget; even if one pile looks like it has more they cost basically the same thing. This must be really difficult, especially since we don’t write Christmas lists as such anymore – I voice my wants and my brother is the quiet one meaning it’s probably a hell of a lot easier to buy for me than it is for him.

But with jealousy in mind it’s worth thinking about how much my parents have actually spent on me over the years, especially when I was getting pocket-money AND shopping trips AND money for travel and food – it all mounts up. Maybe we should thank our parents more, or spend that little bit more on Christmas presents, which can be hard when you have no money of your own (!!), but there’s always a way – you know when you were little and parents thought home-made gifts were cute? I think that could still work.

Lauren x

Exploring on a budget

After spending 32 days in Peru during the summer of 2012 I caught the travelling bug. The sense of adventure as I visited all the sites was great and I wasn’t ready to give it up but my nerves and badly paid zero-hours contract at work restricted me to a package holiday last year. My friend and I had a lovely week in Corfu at the end of A level exams but it just wasn’t the same. With this in mind I began university looking for a travelling buddy.

 

The girls at the bottom of Machu Picchu, Peru

The girls at the bottom of Machu Picchu, Peru

 

By the time we’d finished for Christmas and everyone was getting ready to go home for a month my travelling buddy and I had decided a trip around Europe on an interrail ticket was exactly what we wanted so along with house hunting we began to research the types of places we wanted to visit. Apart from Amsterdam and Rome there was no common ground but we quickly discovered a route which took us through the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Czech Republic ending in Italy – perfect for both of us. We bought our interrail pass and chose our starting date only to discover there were no overnight trains between the stops we wanted and panic arose. All was fine though as we chose a different route based on the available trains rather than just the places we wanted to visit.

As we carried on planning we discovered the interrail pass isn’t as flexible as it used to be and at £163 each I began to wonder if it was just a good idea as it originally seemed. The choice to travel 5 out of 10 days proved problematic as it restricts us to only two nights per stop if spread equally between them all. This, however, did work in our favour as we started to book hostels and realised how expensive they were! We were hoping to spend £10-15 pppn but it started to look more like £20-25. I would like to give a shout out to Hostel Elf in Prague though which charges just £10 a night on average with a buffet breakfast and free BBQ thrown in – we’ll see if it lives up to expectation!

http://www.hostelelf.com/

With the price of hostels in mind I’ve budgeted £300 per week with accommodation on top – definitely not exploration on a budget which means I’m sticking to a family holiday next year (which is amazing because you don’t have to pay for ANYTHING!).

I’ll keep you posted on the expenses on my holiday but for now consider the other options out there, interrailing isn’t all there is. It was a brilliant concept 30/40 years ago when you could get unlimited travel in  a month for around £130, but now I feel it’s perhaps not as useful if you’re wanting to travel within more than one country.

Lauren x