Friday, 29 November 2013

On your doorstep

At a loss of what to do because of money?  Here are some ideas that cost slightly less than a slight to somewhere exotic...

Local pubs, this is in Wapping just around the corner from the station and overlooks the Thames

Mint Polo for the day - makes a nice change from Ascot

Day festivals - here I am at Love Box with my team from work

NFL game in London - look out for events and sign up for Groupon, where you can get some amazing discounts

Traditional events in your local area are always cause for celebration - here we are at Bonfire night

Exploring the West End, me at the base of Nelson's Column

Get in the festive spirit, there is always something happening in Covent Garden

Get lost and find somwhere new to explore
Find out key event dates, this is Trooping of the Colour in London this Summer

Check out any Royal Events, they are normally pretty good
Do you have any other ideas?

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Documenting your travels

Like most people who are travelling and seeing new things, I want to keep a memory of everything and show everyone what I have seen when I get home.  However, how much of what I am seeing am I only seeing through a lens?

Have you ever been to a concert, gig or festival where you feel like you are watching the majority of it through other peoples cameras or phones?  I have recently become an Instagram addict, however, if this new social media platform has taught me anything, its that you need to be selective about the images you are sharing and in turn taking pictures of.

It's been a long time since I went travelling, nearly seven years to be exact and in those months I was away I took over 1000 pictures.  Since coming home I a lot of these pictures, as they do, have made their way into the world of Facebook (luckily) as just over a year ago the laptop I had everything stored on was stolen. 

Yesterday I bought my very first DSLR - so I will no longer have to carry around my retro SLR, my crummy old digital camera or worry about my iPhone running out of battery.

I have now seen my fair share of places around the globe, but the one thing that I have never been able to photograph are the stars and there is something magical about them no matter where you are in the world.

I can remember the very first time that I saw real stars in the sky too (as I live in London you can never really see the stars).  It was on Rotnest Island, Perth and they were beautiful.  It was like someone had taken a cave full of diamonds and thrown them up in the sky.  The sparkled beautifully.

This time around, I want to learn how to photograph stars before I go so that I can put some of the learning's into practice when I am out in Australia and shortly after Thailand. So I am going to have to go on a bit of a road trip to find some with no light pollution. 

I have been having a look around the web at how I can do this, and have found this article, plus another here.  But any other tips are welcome (please), I am sure I will spend my first night in Australia suffering from jet lag, so I plan to use this to my advantage with a late night photographing the stars on the beach at Coogee.

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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Only two weeks to go...

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Apps of the moment

If like me you are addicted to your iPhone, your battery will run out pretty quickly... But one of my biggest addictions are these three new apps:

I think Twickets has to be my favourite by far though.  It is an app which uses Twitter to connect fans who need to sell last minute tickets to other fans for face value or less.

So far I have managed to safely secure two lots of tickets for sporting events via this app, and enjoyed my first ever NFL game and my first ever England Football match - both at Wembley.

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Monday, 25 November 2013

Traveler tip of the week: Explore where you live

Budgeting is hard and deciding if that new dress is worth it or if you would rather have a day exploring or putting that money towards a trip to Thailand (for example) is hard.

At the moment, I can only realistically afford one big trip a year, however, I don't let my budget restrict my passion for exploring and finding new places.  One of my favourite past times is jumping on a train and walking around London all day - finding new things or just popping along to the latest event to pop up in Trafalgar Square.

So if you are looking for something to keep your itchy feet ocupied for a little while, take yourself off to explore your local/nearest Town or City.
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Sunday, 24 November 2013

Next Stop: Thailand

In February, I am planning my first trip to Thailand with Holly.  So firstly, today we found our flights, which although we haven't booked yet, we are happy with and we are starting to shape when we want to be there.

The full moon party in March (when we are planning to be there) is on the 15th.  So we are aiming to arrive around then and spend two weeks exploring the Islands.

Looking at all of the research I have been doing, I think we are looking at an itenary like this:

  • Climb Wat Arun
  • See the Grand Palace
  • Floating Market
Chang Mai
  • Erawan Falls
  • Cooking Classes
  • Jungle Trek
  • Elephant Trek (I am debating this, it's something that I would like to do but I feel kind of cruel doing it?!)
  • White water/bamboo rafting
 Koh Tao
  • Diving (second most popular place to dive, first being the Barrier Reef)
Koh Pha Ngan
  • Full Moon Party at Haad Rin
  • Beaches, there is a great article here of all the things you can see here.
  • Railay Beach, Ton Sai Beach
Koh Phi Phi
  • Maya Bay
  • See where the beach was filmed
  • Teeth Whitened
  • Stay in Rawai
  • Watch the sun set from Promthep Cape
  • Phang Nga Bay (canoe)
  • Old Phuket town
  • Similon Islands
Koh Samui
  • Big Buddah
  • Grandmother/father rock
  • Elephant Trek
  • Kayak Tour
  • Chinese Lantern
  • Dinner on the beach
  • Na Muang waterfall
Ang Thong National Marine Park
  • Boat tour of the Islands
In one of these places, I really want to do some Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP), which hopefully I will have mastered the art of in Australia this Christmas.

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Planning your next trip

So you know where you want to go, all you have to do now is:
  • Find some flights that suit your budget
  • Book your flights (when you have the money)
  • Sort out your Visa's
  • Map your journey
  • Research what there is to do in each of these places (Lonely Planet is always a great place to start), or if there are specific times you would be better off visiting these places (eg. Full moon Party)
  • Find recommended places to stay
  • Book all your hotels, hostels, beach bungalows, etc...
  • Book or plan how/when you will need to book your transport from place to place
I am currently going through this process now, so thought I would start documenting it all for you here...

Lists are my most favourite way to plan, so it's always back to the good old pen and paper.  I start by finding a rough route, then planning what kinds of things you can do there via some of my favourite bloggers like Pommie Travels or just by 'Googling' the places I have read about elsewhere.

Once I have filled this out, I look at all the activities on a map and pin the most realistic ones that I think I would be able to do on the trip.

Then when I have a rough date I look at when I need to be in each of these places and work my way out from there.  Not everything will be possible and I always try and leave myself room for things going wrong, or in case someone gives me a great tip of somewhere to visit along the way, that Google or my Lonely Planet hasn't already thrown up.

Now, I am off to bed - but here's something to think about tonight...

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Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dreaming of Thailand

It has been my dream for around 7 years now, to go and see Thailand and I feel like I am finally getting the chance to see it.

I have lots of friends from various walks of life, that I am sure you will see on here with me at some point and one of my friends from my university netball team, Holly, who I virtually used to live with is planning to visit her brother in Australia in February.

As spontaneous as I am with some of my trips (India), I said to Holly, well if you are off to Australia why don't you stop in Thailand on your way?  If I had the opportunity to, I definitely would, to which Holly replied - why don't you come with me for the week?

This is something that I cannot turn down, a trip that I have been waiting a lifetime to go on and I couldn't think of anyone better to see the Islands with.

So soon there will be a new count down, as tomorrow we are popping to see our friends at STA travel, to see if they can give us a quote for our next and upcoming trip to Thailand.  Watch this space people...

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Another year older... another year wiser?

On the 17th it was my birthday and honestly I am like a kid in a sweet shop when this time of year comes around.  This year I turned 26 and I had an amazing birthday, made very special by all my friends and family - who I can't thank enough.  But this little person makes everything so much more magical...

This has to be one of my favourite birthday presents of the year... I won't add the photo here which explains the mankini's either!  But the dollars will certainly be buying me a few bottles of goon when I arrive in Australia this year, or maybe a few shots of Jager too?!

I had an amazing night out with all of my friends at Walkabout in London, where we said hello to a few shots of Tequila and of course Jager, which no Australian themed night out would be complete without.... my head ache wasn't thanking me too much the next morning though, oooops. 

However, I wasn't the only person with a Birthday this week either.  My nan also turned 70 (well we pretended she only just turned 70, she likes to pretend that she is a year younger than my Grandad rather than a year older... But I am sure you can all keep a secret too), so we celebrated in true Irish style, with a carvery, lots of birthday cake and singing.

Happy Birthday Nan, I hope you had a fabulous 70th (wink wink) Birthday and THANK YOU everyone for making my birthday this year so special!

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Sunday, 10 November 2013

A Love Story

This week I attended a funeral of a beautiful lady named Audrey.  When I say beautiful, I mean inside and out.  She was a caring and selfless person, who dedicated her life to looking after and caring for others.

As a teenager she met her husband Alex, however her Dad said she wasn't allowed to marry him and so he went off to do his national service and he met another lady and had 6 children.

Many years later, Audrey still hadn't married and Alex's wife had sadly passed away.  Alex decided that he would go back to his old home in Southend and look up some old friends, one of them being Audrey.  It took Alex 30 minutes sitting outside the house that Audrey grew up in, to pluck up the courage and knock on the door.  Audrey recognised him straight away and not so long after they did, finally, get married.  Audrey was 66 when she married Alex, a long time to wait for someone you love.

They lived together for a further 17 years and now share some amazing memories together.

Unfortunately this weeks event isn't a first for me, but it was the first time I have ever seen so many people at a funeral.  There were over 100 people at Audrey's funeral which I think is a true testament to the kind of person she was and how many people cared and loved her, even the Vicar became chocked throughout the service.

Audrey was my Nan's cousin, one of many, but she was a lady who as growing up I was close to and fascinated by.  I loved the stories that she and my Nan would tell me about growing up in Southend together after being evacuated there during the war, going on trips to London with me and generally spoiling me with her time.

I now have the best gift anyone could give to you in life, some amazing memories and an extraordinary story of her life, which I have just shared with you all.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Halloween, Football and Gin...

So far, so good.  I have managed to find something new to do again this week.  I have done so well in fact I found two new things.

On Thursday night I frequented one of my favourite bars, called the London Cocktail club. There are a few different venues that have popped up over the years, but my favourite is the one along Shaftsbury Avenue and looks like a tattoo parlor.   There is one rule that you have to abide by when you drink in here though and that is: 'you are only allowed to try a cocktail once, and then you have to chose something different' - which as you can imagine gets you suitably hammered in less than an hour.

Here is one of my favourite pictures from the evening:

This was Thursday night for Halloween, as we don't normally dress like this on a night out.

My first new thing of the week though, was to visit a gin bar near Fleet Street.  If you are visiting, I would dress up a little and bear in mind that this isnt the kind of place you could have as a stop on a rowdy game of pub golf.  It's a pretty intimate place and I think most of the people who were drinking there were on a date.  However, I was there with my (sophisticated) friends and we sat in the corner enjoying the different types of Gin being brought over to us with a cheese board to nibble on throughout the night.  Who would have thought we (or I) could do something so civilized?

This is the only evidence that I have of being here though, as a group photo wasnt the kind of thing I felt that I could do here.  But if you go, on a serious note I would suggest asking for a fruity gin and seeing what you are brought over (and checking out the loos - they are pretty awesome).

My less civilized event this weekend, was to Upton Park, to watch West Ham play Aston Villa.  Now for those of you who know me, last year I lived with three guys that I know from my travels around the world, all of whom are avid West Ham fans and hold season tickets 'in the naughty corner' of the stadium.

This weekend Harry called me and said that I was coming with them, as Martin is slightly under the thumb at the moment.  This I found highly hilarious and said OK to the ticket.  I got on the train a a few stops down from West Ham and listened to what was in the beginning some friendly banter between some West Ham and Villa fans.  This soon started to become less than friendly the closer we were to the game - so I was glad when we arrived at Upton Park and I met Tom to get into the stadium.  

Now I am an Arsenal fan, so was told to keep quiet throughout the game and behave myself. Which of course I was going to, the thought of rumbling any West Ham fans at this point was a less than appealing prospect.

West Ham payed a pretty good game and held the ball for the majority of the game, however, Villa were the team that came closer to scoring.
The weekend was rounded off nicely with dinner and DVD's at Kayleigh and Edwina's with a stormy drive home to Essex.

I wonder what next weekend has in store for me? Any suggestions are welcome...