Ullswater: tea withdrawal and millennial problems

The Lake District is fast becoming my favourite place in the UK – screen-saver-worthy scenery, innumerable country walks and hikes and the chance to go on boat trips without worrying about sharks… (just me?). So I was thrilled when my boyfriend announced my birthday present was a weekend in Dockray, near Ullswater in the Lakes.


We stayed at The Royal Hotel in Dockray, which was lovely, except for one thing. A thing I am going to call Tea Drinker Prejudice (TDP?). Who’s first thought in the morning is ‘time for a cuppa!’? I know that’s not just me. Far less of you would say your first thought is ‘time for a coffee.’ Tea is an English tradition and a fundamental part of my life, and no, I’m not being dramatic.

So imagine my dismay when we approached the breakfast buffet on our first morning to see a coffee urn without so much as a tea bag in sight. Deep breaths, I thought, they must serve it in pots. The waiter over to the table after I’d sat down with my somewhat less caffeinated orange juice to ask ‘white or brown toast?’ I must have looked perplexed but he didn’t notice and went off to get our toast before I had a chance to ask for tea. Meanwhile, I shot daggers at Dom happily sipping his black coffee (ew, I know). Rest assured, I got my tea before the caffeine withdrawal headaches set in (I have a problem, I know), but the same thing happened the next day. In future, I will take a flask with me.

Apart from the TDP, the hotel was perfect. We fell in love with Penrith, the small town nearby. An Aldi, a Booths, a Morrisons and a Spoons – what more could you want? It was also a lovely old market town with brick roads and a clock tower. I was quick to text my mum with my heart-wrenching dilemma that Dom and I want to move there in 10 years time – ‘but I don’t know how I would cope being 200 miles from home’ – expecting a very upset reply about her not knowing how she would cope either. Her reply was somewhat disappointing – ‘Nice x’. Thanks mum, miss you too x


Fresh air could not have come at a better time after exam and deadline season, but sadly, rain came with it. It didn’t stop us getting on the Ullswater steamer. We’d planned to get the steamer from Aira Force to Glenridding, but were put off by the FIVE POUND minimum car park charge for a minimum of two hours (come on National Trust, think of the students!). So we found some cheaper parking in Glenridding and were going to do the trip the other way round.50623442_295821997952160_6529770730094067712_n

I nearly refused to get on the boat when we were told the captain had decided he couldn’t dock at Aira Force because the winds were too strong. Reminding myself that there were no sharks in Ullswater and that I am a good swimmer, I got on board. We did the round trip instead.


Sorry babe! Yes, I was also quick to snap a photo – I am awful.

Gingerly, Dom and I made our way to the deck of the boat where we were met with rain and wind. At the front of the boat, disaster struck when a massive wave hit me from behind, soaking my phone. Without looking back, I ran back inside with thoughts of whether or not I had insurance for water damage running through my mind. It was only when I sat down to dry my darling iPhone that I looked up to see Dom, who had been stood next to me on the top deck, soaked from head to toe… millennials and technology ‘ey?!

On the second day we managed to see Aira Force waterfall. It was a little like going to see the Tegenungan waterfall in Bali, steep steps, panting. Similar, except I was weighed down by four layers and clutching a flask of tea instead of a bottle of water. It was incredible, though. We didn’t stop long before we had to hike back up to the road. After a massive breakfast of scrambled egg on toast, this was a challenge. I won’t lie, I had heart palpitations which were made worse when I saw children as young as four doing the same climb. Brilliant.


Aira Force (we climbed to the top of that bridge, hence the palpitations)

Food-wise, we added to our vast list of Wetherspoons we have visited by going to the one in Penrith twice. In other achievements, I tried haggis and bacon for the first time. One, a daring try, one that people are shocked I had never eaten. I didn’t like either, but the haggis was my favourite. I am also proud to say that, for the first time on a visit to the Lake District, I did not burn my clutch out once! I’d like to thank Charlie, my Citreon C1, for being so determined in third gear.


Ubud: very close calls and very few clothes

Though Ubud wasn’t the first place we visited, it has to be the first place I write about simply because it felt so much like home, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Day 1: Arrival in Ubud

We were driven to Ubud from Canggu, where we had been practically living in beach clubs, lazily passing each day promising to immerse ourselves in culture once we arrived in the jungle.

Our driver, Dolpin, promised to show us some Balinese dancing on the way up to Ubud. The dancing turned out to be some sort of traditional play, extremely oriental with lions and tigers made from the most intricate costumes. It was certainly not what we expected, especially due to the numerous phallic references and imagery which even the children in the audience would have understood. Each to their own, I suppose!

Our next stop was a coffee plantation where we were able to try 12 different coffees and teas for free. Unlike the touristy areas of Seminyak and Canggu, there was no feeling of being pushed to purchase, a feeling replaced by the knowledge that the locals were simply proud to show us their customs. The final coffee was Luwak coffee – the most expensive coffee in the world because each bean passes through a Luwak (civet cat) and comes out in their poo! The sexual references continued here, as numerous times our driver encouraged me to take an aphrodisiac tea home to my boyfriend! Sorry Dom, all you got was poo coffee…

Day 2: spa!

The next day, we convinced ourselves that what we really needed before climbing Mount Batur the following night was a spa day. We’d been recommended Jaens Spa, and apart from getting to know each other a little better than we intended (read on…), it didn’t disappoint! For just under £40, we were able to get a full body massage and scrub, rose petal bath, foot scrub, Indian head massage, hair crème bath and a lunch!

On arrival, the masseuse asked us “Miss Molly and Miss Katherine, is it okay if you share a ——“, “Yes!” we exclaimed before she finished, assuming she said share a room. It was all too late when we realised that what she’d asked us to share was actually the rose petal bath. Fabulous. Stripping down into only disposable underwear, we couldn’t stop laughing at the situation. The full body massage was incredible, except lets just say their boundaries are a little more ‘flexible’ than England.

I’m still horrified to admit that next Katherine and I found ourselves stood side by side, naked except for the pants, having yoghurt, yes yoghurt, slathered all over our bodies. All over. All we could do was stare straight ahead and await what we knew must be next: the rose petal bath.

Night 2/Day 3: Mount Batur

1:30am the next morning I prayed for rain. You can’t climb Mount Batur in the rain. Of course, none came and by 1:45am we wished we were still being covered in yoghurt. We waited on a street corner to be picked up by a taxi driver Katherine found on the internet, who was supposedly taking us to climb the volcano. After collecting Issy, we drove and drove in the darkness for over an hour and a half. No GPS, no idea where we were going and, of course, no English speaking driver. Eventually, we turned down a dirt track that was so uneven I felt like we were dune bashing in Dubai again. From the dirt track we pulled into an empty car park – empty apart from about eight Balinese man who were stood waiting. Oh god, we all winced, what the hell were we doing?

Our driver got out of the car, instructing “you stay here” and went to speak to the men for what felt like an eternity. In this time, each of us accepted that this was most-likely the end, and were surprisingly cheery about the situation due to how ridiculous it was. No idea where we were or how we would get out of this. “If this is how it ends”, Issy said, “at least we don’t have to climb the volcano”. At long last, our driver opened the door and asked “toilet?” We all agreed: an excuse to get out of the car. We were led into a closed restaurant and sat on a bench, while the Balinese men spoke amongst themselves, apparently plotting our murder. It was then that we looked around the room and noticed that covering the walls, on the floor and stacked up against the walls, were abstract paintings of naked women.

At this point, we so didn’t want to climb the volcano that we decided that if being painted naked was our fate, we were fine with that.

Of course, we were proved once again that Balinese people are better than the British in every way when Seedy (incorrect spelling I’m sure, but an ironic name) approached us and introduced himself as our guide, handing us a torch each. In England I’m sure we’d have had a different fate! It turns out that Seedy climbs the 1717m volcano EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Can you imagine? An hour and a half later and 1717m up, he went straight to make us hot chocolate, without even a breather.

We felt doubly guilty for doubting the men when turned out that the reason we were there alone at the start was because our guide wanted us to have the best sunrise. We were the first to the top. Looking down at where we had come from, it was like looking at a string of fairy lights as torches made their way up the mountain. We had about an hour and a half to wait for sunrise and the higher the sun got, the more Dickheads With Drones (DWD) and girls requiring 4248359374 Instagram photos arrived. I can’t lie, we spent most of the time discreetly swearing at the DWD’s drones.

PSA: if you’re going to climb Mount Batur, despite and as a result of my previous anecdote, I would hugely recommend asking your driver and guide to be there to begin the hike at 2:30am. Any later and you’ll be surrounded by other tourists. The climb is extremely tough, but it was so much better doing it in a small group than constantly being over taken!

Day 4: Tegalalang Rice Fields, Tegenungan Waterfall and Pura Tirta Empul (Water Temple)

Our legs were in agony the next day, so we were thankful we’d booked a driver for the day to take us to various attractions. For just £5 each between 5 of us, our driver took us wherever we wanted to go, and waited as long as was needed.

Little did we know, climbing around Tegalalang rice fields at midday and on no breakfast would be twice as hard as Mount Batur. While Tegalalang is a hugely popular tourist attraction, it is also the place of farm work for many, so we tried to be as respectful as possible. The terraces are built into the hill to make the most out of the steep land, which meant a hell of a lot of steps. Sweat was pouring off us as we sang High School Musical as a means of getting us through. “I’d rather be climbing Mount Batur”.

Next was the Tegenungan waterfall and we were thrilled (note heavy sarcasm) on arrival to see a sign reading ‘Waterfall: 162 steps’. 162 STEEP STEPS. Trying to tell ourselves it was bum day yet again, we headed down. Though it was worth seeing, you couldn’t do more than stand in the water as it was so dangerous and a lot of people have died there.

Thankfully, the Pura Tirta Empul (Hindu Water Temple) had no steps. Locals and tourists alike donned bright green water saris with red belts and queued up to get into the water.

Each bath was carved from stone in ornate designs with faces. The water was freezing, but this was a relief from the heat. Dodging huge fish, we filed to each tap and dosed our face and hair in the holy water, about 12 times in 12 taps. It was truly special to see locals treasuring each drop of water they submerged themselves in, and made me wonder what they thought of tourists like me being there.

Ubud was my favourite area of Bali. I fell in love with the market, which was the best market we went to in Bali. We stayed there for four nights but I could have stayed a lot longer. Not that we missed out on doing anything, but Ubud lifesuited me. Early morning hikes on the Campuhan Ridge Walk; late night walks home stuffed with Mie Goreng and Bintang. Our homestay, the local library, was the icing on the cake of a fully Balinese experience.*

*For advice on places to stay in Ubud, read my accommodation blog here!

** For any driver recommendations, feel free to contact me!

Our Balinese Accommodation

From hostels of varying budget, to villas, to hotels and even a public library, we certainly experienced a range of accommodation in our 18 days in Bali. 5 different accommodations costing varying amounts, a staircase of quality up to the luxury of our final stop at the Jimbaran Bay Beach Resort and Spa. I know a lot of people who have been to Bali in the last year, and many that want to go in the future, so I thought I’d start my Bali blogs with a run down of our accommodation!

Accommodation 1: M Boutique Hostel, Seminyak (3 nights)

  • Cost: c. £8 per person per night
  • Breakfast included: yes, toast
  • Location: 7/10
  • Value for money: 10/10
  • Overall rating: 9/10

Seminyak is a popular place for tourists to begin their Bali adventures due to it’s close distance to the airport. I’m so thankful we started here, as it’s where we met our friends who we travelled with for the rest of the time!

Okay, so our first night may have been disrupted by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.1, but M Boutique was all we could have asked for. We stayed in a 6 bed female dorm, in wooden pods which were quite frankly adorable. Each pod had its own plug socket (incl. USB!) and a fold down table. Huge lockable boxes for our luggage made me feel extremely secure, as it’s only the second hostel I’ve ever stayed in.

The hostel was small but very social. Each evening we’d sit around the outdoor table by the pool with Bintangs sold cheap by the hostel, and share experiences of the day with fellow travellers, before heading out to La Favela – an incredible four-story club a 15 minute walk away.

We chose not to take up the hostels offering of toast for breakfast and went in search of eggs and (of course) avocado on toast each morning. We didn’t have to look far as just across the road was Kynd Community and Toolbox. Both offered a similar menu but with a difference – Kynd was pink-walled and full of hipsters getting photo after photo of their smoothie bowls, but Toolbox was far more relaxed, except for the extremely repetitive music.

Overall, M Boutique gave us the perfect start to Bali – meeting wonderful friends and beginning to feel at home in a more touristy area before moving to more traditional areas such as Ubud. The location was decent – a 15 minute downhill walk from the beach, but it would have been nice to be nearer to the markets and central Seminyak.

Accommodation 2: The Farm Hostel, Canggu (3 nights)

  • Cost: £13 per person per night
  • Breakfast included: yes
  • Location: 7/10 (fair walk from centre)
  • Value for money: 7/10
  • Overall rating: 7/10

Being named the best hostel in Indonesia, we had high hopes for The Farm. Welcomed with fresh towels (they had been dirty in M Boutique), we got off to a great start. A dorm of 8 girls, but this time the other guests were far less approachable. Katherine actually had a stand off with a girl at the air con who, in her jumper and shorts, was complaining of the cold.

The main thing I’d say about The Farm is that it is FULL of insta-models and surfers. I’m not surprised, the place is a perfect instagram aesthetic, but it was almost as bad for self-esteem as the beach bars!

I’m complaining too much – I did love The Farm. Our dorm’s ensuite was OUTDOORS – private of course. It was beautiful to shower under a full moon with the sound of crickets and an Aussie in the distance playing guitar.

We did try breakfast at The Farm, which was a huge bowl of ‘fresh’ fruit which, after perhaps being left out for god knows how long, gave me Bali belly. That was enough of that, back onto the avocado on toast. And there were plenty of places for that! We couldn’t get a seat at Crate so went for the less hipster version, the Loft. Far more chilled and absolutely perfect food.

Accommodation 3: Pondok Pekak Library and guest house (4 nights)

  • Cost: £9 per person per night
  • Breakfast included: no
  • Location: 10/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall rating: 9/10

Yes, we stayed in Ubud’s public library. A hidden gem, the library offers a guest house which is a two minute walk from Ubud’s main market. Pondok Pekak allowed us to feel that we actually lived in Ubud, I felt so at home. Walking through the library each morning the staff greeted us warmly (not a rare thing in Bali!!) and we even got hugs when we left. The best part of the stay was having our own space after a week of hostels, and god we spread out!

A near private pool, westerners were a rare sight at the library. Walking through each morning we would see traditional Balinese dance being practiced, or individual movement classes. The library was also across the road from a football field, where children of school age were constantly playing on teams, watched by many crowds.

I would return to Pondok Pekak again and again. Though no breakfast was provided, there wasn’t a day we managed to eat breakfast as, in Ubud, the majority of activities involve early mornings, such as the 2am hike up Mount Batur. *PSA: Belvita breakfast biscuits in Bali are SO much better than in the UK!*

For those looking for a hostel in Ubud, I 100% recommend the one my friend stayed in, Puri Garden Hostel. 10/10 location, includes it’s own restaurant/cafe and has movie nights and morning Yoga!

Accommodation 4: D’Puncak Villas, Nusa Lembongan (4 nights)

  • Cost: c. £20 per person per night
  • Breakfast included: yes
  • Location: 5/10
  • Value for money: 8/10
  • Overall rating: 8/10

Like all our friends, we were meant to be going to the Gilis for four days, and as it was Katherine’s birthday, we had splashed out on lovely villas. Heartbreakingly, the earthquakes destroyed our accommodation, and it was of course a no-go. It was bittersweet to see that Nusa Lembongan has done so well this summer as a result.

We booked D’Puncak last minute – a brand new complex. Here we finally found a decent included breakfast – you could choose from continental, American and Asian! Each villa was immaculate, square and identical, surrounding a pool.

The owner, couldn’t have done more for us if he’d tried. As soon as we arrived we were given his WhatsApp number (seemingly the only way people communicate in Nusa L) and given a tour around our rooms. Robes and slippers, this would be the perfect honeymoon destination!

I think the owner regretted giving me his WhatsApp number as I must have messaged him with questions 5 times a day. The complex offers transport to any part of the island for 100,000 rupees (£5), but it’s not like Bali where you can hire a driver for the whole day – mainly because there are no cars on the island! Eventually I relented and hired a scooter (sorry Dad), and I would only recommend going to Nusa L if you’re willing to ride a scooter.

Accommodation 5 and final: Jimbaran Bay Beach Resort and Spa, Jimbaran (2 nights)

Cost: Dream Room c. £29 per person per night

Breakfast included: yes (BUFFET!)

Location: 8/10

Value for money: 10/10 (a free upgrade helps!)

Overall rating: 9/10

Our last stop was a little luxury before the long-haul flight home. Hands down the nicest place I’ve ever stayed, but we could have been anywhere in the world. I would not recommend coming here expecting a true Bali experience. But for what we wanted – a rest and a little treat – it was perfect.

Originally we’d payed extra for the ‘Dream Room’ which featured a bath on the balcony (neither of us like baths, but if you can get one on the balcony, why wouldn’t you?), but on arrival we were upgraded to The Suite, with a sea view! The first sea view of our trip, the hotel is literally across the road from an idyllic beach.

Another perfect honeymoon destination, Katherine and I convinced ourselves that what we were doing was research for if we got married one day. Utterly pointlessly for us, the bathroom wall was a floor to ceiling glass window into the bedroom. Romantic, I’m sure, but for us, we were thankful to find a blind!

The buffet breakfast was a thing of dreams, though sadly lacking avocado. The hotels rooftop is a place to sunbath by day and drink cocktails by night. As the lift opened I audibly ‘WOW’d. 360° views across the bay, but also across building developments which have sadly run out of money and been left in pieces.

As I lie here now, on a double sun bed, on the rooftop of Jimbaran Bay Beach Hotel & Spa, I realise it’s the perfect place to end the holiday of a lifetime. A winding down to help us appreciate the more authentic, traditional places we have stayed. A wind down I need, being off to Poland just two days after landing in England tomorrow.

It’s obvious we haven’t done the whole travel on a budget very well, but the holiday has been everything we intended it to be. A treat after a year saving up in the working world. We experienced a range of accommodation and I can happily say I would return to all of them!

Stay tuned for the next Bali blog, coming as soon as I have a chance between flying, unpacking and repacking for Poland!

A sweaty exploration of Dubai

It was June 2017, another sunny afternoon uni of Leeds students were spending cooped up inside various libraries making desperate attempts to revise. My friend Katherine and I were among these students, looking wistfully out at the sun and wishing exams were over. A process of 10 minute revision, 30 minutes procrastination led us to desperately decide that summer 2018 would be more exciting. We’d have finished our placements and will go on a huge, blow out holiday somewhere as far away from Leeds as possible.

August 2018. The trip didn’t get off to the best start, with our 15:37 train to Stansted being changed last minute to the 15:37 train to Cambridge, leading to us hopping on and off trains to get to the airport. But we were off. 3 days in Dubai before 18 in Bali.

Dubai is golden. Mad, insane. But most of all, Dubai is hot. People had warned me about the heat, and raised their eyebrows when I said I was going in August, but I was not prepared for the inferno temperatures we found there. 40 degrees by 11am with a wind chill of 52 degrees. It was like being trapped in a sauna. At one point we had to stand outside to wait for a bus for 20 minutes and I was beginning to feel like this was the end. No matter how much water you drank, it was never enough to make up for the amount we sweated out.

As well as heat, Dubai brought many ‘in the world’ moments. We flew into the third biggest airport in the world. We went to the biggest shopping Mall in the world. We went up the tallest building in the world.

As a result of the heat, we spend a lot of time in shopping malls, particularly Dubai Mall, the biggest in the world. Who knew how much a 51 metre tall, 20 metre wide aquarium wall could enrich your shopping experience? Not only that, you can pop out of Zara and go for a quick ice skate, all without going outside! I’ve never been to America before, so I had the chance to see American shops and restaurants like Bath & Body Works and the Cheesecake Factory. Being the biggest mall in the world, the amount of shops, cafes and restaurants seem endless. What was most shocking was when we came across Morelli’s Ice Cream Parlour – somewhere Katherine has been going all her life and a Northern Irish institution. Until she saw it, she thought it only existed in Northern Ireland – Dubai really does have everything.

Driving through Dubai was actually one of my favourite activities, just because of the absurdity of our surroundings. Dusty eight lane motorways were surrounded by glass fronted mansions in uniform design. Colossal billboards advertising new housing developments read ‘THIS WILL BE WHERE YOU HOLD YOUR BABY SHOWER’, which we thought was rather specific. Other billboards advertised Western schools that were moving to Dubai. What was most surreal was seeing road signs for Abu Dhabi and Oman. Both are places I’d love to visit, and it was a tease to have them so close but not have time to visit!

Without a doubt, the desert safari was the best experience I had in Dubai. We were picked up from our hotel in a 4×4 and driven until the tarmac roads turned to desert tracks, which turned into sand dunes. I wasn’t sure how scary dune bashing would be, until I noticed the 4×4 featured steel frames to keep it in place should we flip, discreetly wrapped in beige cushioned leather. God knows how fast we went, but I felt like I was on an episode of Top Gear as the driver flew up and down the sand dunes, desert sand looking like water as it splashed against the window screen.

After an hour of dune bashing, we arrived at what felt like an oasis, a Bedouin style camp. Welcomed by dates and rose water, we sat on cushions on the desert floor eating BBQ food and drinking as much of the free soft drinks as we physically could. The belly dancer succeeded in hypnotising us with her blue jewelled bralet and skirt, however her spell was a little broken by the sign next to the stage saying ‘IT IS AGAINST UAE LAW TO DANCE WITH THE BELLY DANCER’. We all held our breath when a 10 year old boy, not knowing any better, got into the flat stage to dance with this princess. She stopped dancing immediately until he got off and we all breathed a sigh of relief.

Our final morning was spent in the Jumeirah mosque – the only mosque in Dubai that admits tourists. We were presented to by an English lady who had become a Muslim and moved to Dubai, and it was so interesting to hear about why she and others of her faith choose to cover themselves. A clear message of peace was given, and it was obvious how much today’s terrorism is affecting Muslims all over the world.

During the trip, we used the Go Dubai City Card – something I hugely recommend to anyone going there! For only around £120 we were able to pick three attractions/activities – the desert safari, a dinner cruise and a hop-on hop-off bus tour.

We used the bus tour to take us to Atlantis The Palm Jumeriah, the place I had been most excited to see. Driving up the palm was surreal – luxury housing gathered on each literal branch. Like all of Dubai, the Palm was spotless, but with a certain extra glow that desert dust prevented in the suburbs. Atlantis appeared as a distant silhouette, towering over the rest of the Palm with a powerful aura. As we got closer, I realised why people describe it as the eighth wonder of the world.

A pink palace. It was beautiful. From the outside, at least. To be honest I was a little disappointed on the inside, it was almost tacky! *disclaimer* we were obviously only in the area non-guests were allowed – who knows what hidden wonders were on the other side!! Making the most of the air-con, we walked towards Nobu, a luxury restaurant the likes of Kim Kardashian frequent, but were quickly told we needed a reservation. It wasn’t till afterwards I wondered how the doorman knew we didn’t have a reservation? What was it about our awe-struck faces and carrier bags full of water that gave us away?

All in all, I think we were both thankful to escape Dubai. The people were lovely and the city was inspiring, but the heat was just too much. Heat, and the fact that to truly experience the place, we’d have needed a hell of a lot more money. My last straw with the heat came when I walked out of the hotel in my glasses, and they steamed up, as they would when opening an oven. I’ll definitely never complain about English heat again!

Next stop – Bali!

Happy campers

Spare annual leave led my boyfriend and I to plan a spontaneous camping trip to the Lake District this weekend – three nights in the National Trust’s Wasdale campsite next to Scafell Pike.

My boyfriend is an experienced camper and usually goes to *shudders* fields without toilets or showers. Madness, I know. He was horrified when we got to my car after work and he saw the amount I’d packed, including a literal kitchen sink (what else were we going to wash up in?) and an air bed.

If the trip taught me one thing it’s that my little Citroen C1, Charlie, is not made for the Lake District roads. The poor thing wheezed up the steepest of slopes leading the clutch to burn (totally not the driver’s fault…!)

Without a doubt, Wasdale is the most beautiful part of England I’ve ever been to, if the most difficult to drive around. The Lake our campsite was next to was at least three miles long, surrounded by mountains that looked three miles high! Each morning we would unzip the tent to blue sky and the towering Scafell Pike looking down on us.

Of course we had to climb it. Weighed down with backpacks full of cheese cobs, chewits and as much water as we could carry, we set off on the 978m assent. I’d describe myself as fit, I run and go to the gym a few times a week, so I, naively, thought Scafell would be manageable. Oh how wrong I was. I honestly think it was harder than the half marathon I ran last year. I found myself gasping for breath in a way I would after a long run, and I was only walking. Never have I been in so much pain after a leg day as I was when I woke up the morning after.

Agonisingly, I mistook a point of the mountain for the top, not once but three times. Three times I thought I’d summited. Three times my heart was broken. Towards the top the cloud had thickened to the extent that anything over the edge of the mountain was a thick white fog. It felt almost dream-like. The rocks beneath our feet had also paled in colour, making other walkers stand out more in their fluorescent windbreakers.


Smiling through Scafell suffering.

Getting to the top was great, but to be honest I was more interested in when I was going to eat my cheese cob, so we headed straight for some shelter.

We took a different route on the way down, and though I have since been told I hugely exaggerate the difficulty of the climb the way I remember it, I’m going to write it anyway.

We took a somewhat off piste route down, and ended up climbing down rock faces that led me to begin composing my interview for when we were featured on Mountain Rescue. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like Bear Grills as I watched myself heroically scaling the falling rocks. We scrambled down about 80 metres of crumbling rock, but our dare was overshadowed by two men who followed us, practically skating down the rocky slope using their walking sticks like ski poles. Meanwhile, my hands were covered in red dust from clutching so tightly onto the rocks as I descended – dust I wanted to smear on my cheeks in lines to feel like a proper explorer. Maybe it wasn’t as hard as I thought…3dac9f8b-e69d-4c02-a937-e2e8eba9fd21

What made this trip particularly different was the fact that on our campsite there was absolutely no signal, no WiFi, nothing. At first, I did keep checking my phone and sighing at the words ‘No Service’, but within just a few hours I didn’t miss the mind-numbing Instagram scrolling and the memes I’ve seen a million times. It was annoying not being able to even text my mum to say we’d arrived safely, but it felt special to be so far from home, in the middle of no-where with no contact with the outside world, with Dom. All that said, I did spend an embarrassing amount of time on my phone catching up with posts I’d so tragically missed during the trip…

All in all, a perfect weekend. Horrifyingly, I must admit I am now considering going camping with Dom in a… field without a toilet or a shower. It was so liberating living without the handcuffs of social media, though I did seem to post photos of every single sunset and sheep…d8ae13cd-04ab-41d7-ba78-ae6945415c9c

Berlin Exploration.

As a history student, Berlin has always been near the top of the list of cities I want to visit, and for my 21stbirthday I was lucky enough to be whisked away to the city on a Groupon voucher and RyanAir flight with my mum.

Mum and I have more of a sisterly relationship and where anything to do with travel is involved, I am the adult. I’d been so busy in the run up to the trip that I hadn’t managed to do any research on things to do or how to get around. As a result, my first thought upon exiting the Schönefeld airport was ‘oh crap’. I had no idea how to get to the hotel, or what we were going to do during the weekend.

It truly baffles me to think that people used to travel without mobile phones, let alone data roaming. Had our trip been 10 years ago, I think mum and I would have had to sit in the airport and wait for our plane home, as we would have had no idea how to get around. While I attempted to turn on my data roaming, we followed a crowd and hoped for the best.
Walking into the airport train station felt like going back in time. We joined one of about 15 queues for rusty looking ticket machines and purchased weekend passes for the train, tram and bus. This turned out to be incredibly worth the money! However, unlike London, where it is impossible to travel without some sort of ticket, we probably could have gotten around all weekend without one. There were no barriers at any stations, no ticket collectors, and when you tried to show your ticket to the man on the bus, he often glanced away. Perhaps it says something about German culture and a feeling of duty to pay, unlike us Brits who are always looking for a freebie.
Of all the Groupon hotels we have stayed in, this was the most basic and furthest out from the city, at a forty minute commute. When we arrived, we were horrified to find there was no kettle. ‘Generously’, they had provided us with a glass bottle of water which was clearly labelled ‘€2.50’. Needless to say, it was left unopened.

The ultimate highlight for me was visiting the Reichstag and going to the top of the dome. I’ve always wanted to see the Reichstag and it was actually a little surreal. One of the places you learn about at school and always seems a distant reality. I remember uttering ‘wow’ in awe when we turned the corner from the Brandenburg Gate and saw the intimidating, powerful structure. I was shocked to find you could go inside for free. For this sort of attraction in London, you would pay £30 each and wait in line for up to three hours. The ticket for the Reichstag said to arrive fifteen minutes early, and when we did, there was no queue. We showed our passports, went through an airport-like security scanner and that was that!

 Entering the Reichstag was, however, a little anticlimactic. Walking up the many steps towards the colossal pillared building evoked thoughts of all the history that had gone on in this very place. Getting to the top of the steps I immediately noticed an almost clinical feel. Everything was very modern and immaculate. On the inside, you would never suspect the building has been there since 1884. The organisation of the visitor’s area was very precise. There was no chance a visitor could see anything they didn’t want you to.

It had been raining all day until we got to the Reichstag. Somehow, luck was on our side and the sun came out just as we got to the rooftop. It was beautiful. The sun shone over Berlin and we even felt a tiny bit of its warmth, under our many layers.

A friend of mine had recommended seeing the city by boat so, powered by the fact she’d also mentioned the tour boats have bars, we hopped on. Sailing down the river, we got close up views of the Reichstag and the Chancellery building – two buildings that could not be more different. The Chancellery building is one of the largest government headquarter buildings in the world, and ten times the size of the White House (thanks Wikipedia!). It was only opened in 2001, so is very different to other government buildings like Westminster. The building is slick and cold looking, serious and intimidating, and clearly built with German precision. A world away from the historical beauty of the Reichstag.

Something we did not expect was to find it so hard to communicate with the locals. Not that either of us speak a word of German except for ‘guten tag’, ‘auf weidersehen’ and ‘danke’… Our first embarrassment came whilst trying to use a public toilet in a museum. We pushed and pushed at the door of the women’s toilets but it would not open. A cleaner came up to us and we signaled that we could not get in. We were bewildered when her response was to start tapping the picture of the stick woman, in a way that seemed to suggest she thought we did not fit the category! We awkwardly nodded, and she gave the door a gentle pull… Yes, apparently in Germany, doors open and close differently.

I’m not a big meat-eater, so perhaps that’s why I was unimpressed by German cuisine. We mostly ate in Italian and Asian restaurants, especially after our attempt to go authentic failed miserably. On the first night, we swanned into a candlelit restaurant near Alexanderplatz, where we were greeted by an aproned waiter who took our coats. Mum and I gave each other the ‘we can’t afford this but let’s go along with it’ eyes, and sat down at the seats that had been pulled out for us. One look at the menu and we knew we’d made a mistake. Surprisingly, ‘Boiled beef’ and ‘stewed veal’ didn’t appeal.

Oh, what would a mother-daughter city break be without plenty of shopping trips? The Mall of Berlin (what a name, ey?) did not disappoint. Like magnets, we were pulled to the delicate, unmissable fairy lights, and especially the golden glow of the Lindt shop. We made various purchases from Lindt, mainly because with each purchase you got a free Lindt ball! I blame it on the cold that I struggled to shut my suitcase for the flight home – it forced us to shop more – whoops!

History, architecture and shops aside, the first thing I think of when I remember Berlin is the cold. Another European city off the check-list, thanks mum!

A Veronan Love Affair

‘Buona notte, bella’, Alissio smiled, shyly. Picking up my empty limoncello shot glass, he opened the dishwasher. I looked at his deep, brown eyes and wished I could have got to know them better. Thanks Groupon Mini-Breaks, I blame you for my failed romance. Alissio, a drummer from Rome, working as a bartender here in Verona. How very cliché. The city, the food, the people. Verona is truly the city of love, and I was trapped.

I should note that I was visiting the city with my nan, who is age 69. This, however, does not mean the trip was any different to if I’d visited with a friend my own age. We shopped, we drank, we ate. We visited Dublin together last year, and it was a weekend of Prosecco-fuelled shopping trips and 2pm cocktails. A lot had changed in the year for us both, and though we still enjoyed our limoncello nightcaps, we were more conscious of making the most of every second of the trip. 
I spent the first thirteen years of my life a vegetarian, living on pizza and pasta, so travelling to Italy for the first time felt a little like returning to my mother-land. Desperate to get a taste for authentic Italian food, we sought advice from the hotel receptionist, Francesco. He recommended a little restaurant in the centre of the city called Ristorante Greppia, and it didn’t disappoint. As we couldn’t decide what to have, the waiter gave us half of our top choices on one plate. Buttery pasta topped with truffle was a delicate accomplice to pumpkin and red wine risotto, washed down with a bottle of rosé. The waiters were impeccable. It felt like they made it their mission to help us taste their best dishes, and I never wanted to leave.

Lake Garda was an interesting experience, if not a failure. The lake is about 52km in length, and is surrounded by small towns. Verona is about twenty minutes from the two towns at the south of the lake, so we headed there eagerly. My nan had memories of a beautiful town called Sirmione and we became determined to find it. We travelled by train, which was a fantastic way to see the rustic Italian countryside. Wooden mills, dilapidated farmyards and picturesque cottages flew by. Our first stop was Peschiera del Garda. After a lot of walking in the direction of the town centre, I asked a restaurateur where the centre was. ‘You’re in it!’ He said. I asked him how we could get to Sirmione, to which he pointed down a little street and said we would be there in five minutes. This answer was proved questionable when I used my Google Maps, which told us it would take us more like five hours to walk there! Had it been a hot summers day, we might not have minded. However, it was only mid-March, and we couldn’t even see across the lake for low clouds. 
Nevertheless, we proceeded. We had lunch on the side of the lake and pretended the day was going to plan. After admitting we could not spend another minute in Peschiera, we retreated to the train station and got a train to Santa Maria di Lugana, the next town. This town was actually even less successful than Peschiera. Though this town had the benefit of shops, it was not quite as pretty, and the weather was getting worse. After popping into numerous shops, we finally purchased two bus tickets to Sirmione, which by this point felt like tickets to the promised land. We sat at the bus stop for what felt like a millennium, and befriended a German couple with rather limited English. At long last, the bus came. We were off to Sirmione. 
Sirmione sits on a peninsular about three miles long, and driving up it I was expecting big things. Getting off the bus, I wrapped my stiff leather jacket further around myself and glared at the clouds. It was getting colder. ‘This way’, my nan instructed, pointing towards a large archway over a moat. The main town of Sirmione sits on its own island. We headed straight to the nearest café as the cold was unbearable, and sat outside under an electric heater. I ordered a hot chocolate and was amazed when a cup of what appeared to be literally melted chocolate was placed in front of me. The rest of the town was pretty much deserted. Gift shops were closed, as were many restaurants. It appeared Sirmione is only in full action during the main summer months. I admit, it was a little difficult not to get frustrated at this, as our whole day had been spent searching for this place.
Frozen and moody, we returned to the hotel and took a shot of lemoncello each. Tonight would be better, we told ourselves as we plastered matching lipstick to our lemony lips. I googled restaurants and chose the one with the highest rating. Ristorante il Canacolo. A wave to Francesco and we were off. 
The moment we walked through the door of Ristorante il Canacolo we knew we were in for a treat, a very expensive treat. A glass of Prosecco was thrust into our hands before we even sat down, let alone asked for one. Walking to our table gave us a sense of what we had to come. A chef in whites with a stereotypical, curly, white moustache stood in the centre of the restaurant thinly slicing an array of antipasti. An older waiter in a tux wheeled a tray of deluxe desserts under our noses.
We were shown to our table and the next five minutes was spent trying to keep up with the waiter reading out the menu for us. It was difficult to concentrate as large table of Italians was seated next to us. They appeared not to have ordered from the basic menu, but instead were being constantly supplied with aperitifs of cold meats and bread as they guzzled endless amounts of wine. The table was set for twelve people, however when we arrived there were only five seated. Throughout our meal we watched more arrive. What surprised me was that the seated people were already eating, whereas in England we would wait for the whole table to arrive before even ordering. 
Eventually, I ordered a pine nut and artichoke pasta, and my nan a T-bone steak. Despite this meal being almost double the price of the one we had the night before, we were a little disappointed. The waiters prioritised the large table of Italians, and didn’t seem to care as much about the two British tourists. A totally different experience to the night before, where we had felt every waiter in the restaurant was there to serve our every whim. 
Rest assured, the service did not stop us from drinking. I am a sweet rosé drinker, and am slowly trying to wean myself onto more sophisticated whites and reds. However, I asked the waiter for the sweetest wine they had, and was shocked (and admittedly, thrilled) when he returned with a healthy glass of dessert wine! I love dessert wine. It conjures up the happiest memories of my fourteen-year-old self and my best friend sneaking into my nans wine store between courses and downing a few mouthfuls of the stuff before returning, giggling, to the table. And now here I was, at twenty, in Italy getting drunk with the woman I used to hide my alcohol intake from! 
Walking back from the restaurant was wonderful. We stumbled tipsily down the main high-street of Verona, giggling and ogling at the brightly lit store fronts of Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. My wine-stained mind delighted in the stars above, my nan talked of wanting a cigarette. ‘We need an Italian dictionary!’ I declared, and strutted powerfully into the news agent. ‘Un dictionnaire, s’il vous plaît’ was met with confused head shaking by the two Italians behind the counter. 
Heavy heads did not stop us enjoying our final day, especially as the sun had finally come out! Our first stop, stalling ourselves from shopping for as long as we could, was the Verona Arena, or amphitheatre. A view over the whole of the city was worth climbing the steps for. The views were delicious, and it was here I made up my mind that Italy was perfect. Disorganised streets were hidden by higgledy-piggledy rooftops of different tones of orange. Old Italian ladies hung their washing from their balconies. I wished to know what their greatest troubles in life were, and what made them happiest in this beautiful city. How could you find a problem in the world when you looked out your bedroom window at where blue sky meeting the boundless, snow-capped alps?
Thanks for reading X

Malta’s Haven Overtaken

In 2002 my family and I were in Malta and boarded a rickety, untrustworthy looking boat, captained by an old Maltese man with a flat cap and cigarette. He couldn’t speak a word of English. We sailed from between Malta’s mainland and Gozo, and docked at an area called the Blue Lagoon. It was exactly that. The only colours there were blue and white sand. At the age of 6, I remember seeing my dad snorkel in the clear water, and my mum telling me if I was as tall as her I would be able to walk from one island to the other, as the water was so shallow. The island was deserted, except for a handful of men at the small dock. Complete privacy and complete solitude. My brother, who was three at the time, and I paddled and made sand castles with the bucket and spade we had brought with us from the mainland. The rocks sticking out of the sea were like enormous sand castles. Looking back, perhaps they were made of sandstone. We lounged on the beach for hours. We returned to Malta three times, every other year, until 2006, and each time we visited our private haven, and it remained unchanged. 
Life got in the way after that. In 2009, my mum gave birth to my baby brother, Oscar, and money was too tight to go abroad. I never forgot Malta. I longed to return more than anything. In 2014, my family finally decided to do just that. I was overjoyed and couldn’t wait to show the new addition to the family our special place. 
Malta had not changed. The roads were the same, the weather and the colour of the ocean the same. What had changed was the level of tourism. We went back to the hotel we used to stay in each year to find it almost desolate. A place I made friends with, the place my brother and I learnt to swim, the kids club I used to go to, it had all changed. The hotel used to be full of families with young children. Now, it was more of cheap hotel for older people. It was dark. 
At least the Blue Lagoon would still be there, I promised myself. It was still there, of course, but it too had changed. My first suspicion arose when we boarded a shiny, white speed boat along with five other families. The boat was driven by a young man with a t-shirt that said ‘Blue Lagoon Tours’ on the front. On the ride to the Lagoon, he sped us along, trying to impress us with his spins and speed. It was great, but not like the nervous excitement provided by the old man and his cigarette. 
When we docked I was shocked. About five other boats were in the dock. Peddle boats in the sea. We were greeted by a man telling us it was ten euros to hire a sun bed for the day. As we climbed the hill before descending to the lagoon, I noticed a row of stalls selling rubber-rings, ice creams, buckets and spades; everything needed for a beach day. We’d brought our lunch with us as we were not expecting any chance to buy food. 
Down on the beach, it really hit me. There was no place to sit as the tiny beach was covered in sun beds, most of them with people on. Kids screamed, parents smoked. Where was my haven? The beauty was still there alright, but it was hidden by these new, touristic additions. I know we were tourists ourselves, but there was something in the fact that this was my special place – how dare they come here? 
The saving grace was the ocean. My two brothers and I played around and went snorkeling. It was our first family holiday with Oscar, so that was special. I also tried walking to the other island, and could do so without my head going under the water. It was strange to think that last time I was here I was the age of my baby brother. I wonder what his memories of it will be when he is my age. I hope he remembers the beauty, and not the tourists. 
Written for my Travel and Journalistic Writing module at uni 

A Lonely Planet Guide to Buckingham Mount

For my Travel and Journalistic Writing module at uni, we have been encouraged to write our own version of Jonathan Stern’s ‘Lonely Planet Guide to My Apartment’.

Buckingham Mount sits atop, unsurprisingly, the Mount, one of the steepest inclines in Leeds. The Mount’s vast incline can be daunting, if not terrifying, at first. First-time visitors are encouraged to seek medical advice before ascending the Mount, as first aid is not on hand for the breathless. After reaching the top you will be greeted at customs by a twenty-something in pajamas.
The inhabitants of Buckingham Mount are surprisingly generous, will welcome you with copious supplies of tea and biscuits. Customs will check with you how you like your tea, and it shall be provided for you. It is, however, advisable to bring a packet of biscuits as a gesture of your good intentions to the locals.


The best time to travel to Buckingham Mount is a weekend. Do not visit during the first two weeks of January or for first two weeks of May, as the locals are undergoing exams and will be distinctly unwelcoming.
The population of Buckingham Mount enjoy anything that includes wine and garlic bread. It is a custom that once a week, an inhabitant will have what is called a Break Down, where the other inhabitants will comfort her with tea and biscuits. Do not be alarmed if this happens during your visit. In this situation, bring said inhabitant some ice cream, and fill in gaps of conversation with ‘I can’t believe that’ and ‘you poor thing’. Do not be afraid to hug the locals.


Due to a 100% female population, male travelers are encouraged to smile and be polite to the locals, so not to be banned from the country. Male travelers must always expect to have curious eyes follow them until the local women have worked out why you are there, and if they like your presence or not.

New Zealand, New Me?

New Zealand was undoubtedly the most implausible, ridiculously far-fetched experience of my life. How was I on the other side of the world? How was Shasta standing right in front of me, after I hadn’t seen her for three years? How was I getting a ski-lift up a 2797 metre mountain? I still have no idea.

The flight there was certainly a challenge, especially for someone who hates flying. Before this trip, I had never been on a plane for more than four hours. I flew from Gatwick to Dubai, Dubai to Bangkok, Bangkok to Sydney, and finally, Sydney to Christchurch. Phew. It took around 29 hours, plus the four-hour drive from where I live to Gatwick. The three-hour flight from Sydney to Christchurch was surreal. I had dreamt of The Meet ever since Shasta left; seeing her through a crowd in the airport, her unmistakable red hair. I used the three hours to mentally prepare myself, and by the time I landed in Christchurch, I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

The moment I saw her it was like the past three years never happened. I was sixteen again and happy. I had my best friend back. It was exactly as I had imagined, and our relationship had not changed a bit. Somehow, after moving to the other side of the world and starting a new life, Shasta had remained the exact same person I said goodbye to at St Margaret’s Bus Station three years ago.

First stop: Christchurch. The city was hit by a 7.1 earthquake in 2010, and six years later the evidence still envelopes the city. There is street art everywhere – apparently to take the attention away from the crumbling buildings and masses of building works. A Kiwi Brick Lane. An area of shops has been created out of shipping containers that have had one side ripped off to create glass fronts. Musicians play. Frankly the most unique idea and environment I have ever come across. 
I quickly discovered the Kiwi way of life revolves around exercise. The regular hikes we undertook made me question if I was in training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. We climbed to heights where the air became almost too thin for my asthmatic lungs to catch. Mums ran past us on steep hills with babies strapped to their fronts, and many OAP’s sped past me. It was a wakeup call, but it was liberating. At home I exercise at the gym to burn calories and build muscle. In NZ, I was exercising for the experience; the calorie burning and muscle building was a happy extra. 

In true American-self-discovery-movie style, we hired a car and drove three hours to Lake Tekapo. The drive in itself was awe-inspiring. We literally got on one road and drove the whole way without a single turn. Seeing the mountains in the distance for the first time was one of those movie moments when the little kid sees piles of glistening presents waiting for him on Christmas morning and rubs his tired eyes, thinking he must be dreaming. A crystal clear green screen, but this was real.
Yes, those are snow capped mountains, and yes, this was a regular sight.

The walks we took were utterly bewildering. We walked along hill-side cliffs, the billowing ocean to our left, rolling hills as far as the eye could see to our right. It made me feel insignificant in a beautiful way. We walked for hours without seeing a soul. It felt like we were the only people on the planet. Explorers discovering an untouched continent. There was something special about knowing that our footsteps would be washed away by the sea breeze and it would be like we were never there. 

As cheesy, corny and cliché as it sounds, New Zealand taught me that there is so much more to life than material things. Previously, I would roll my eyes at ‘Gap Yah’ students that travel the world to ‘discover themselves’ and find some inner meaning of life, and perhaps I still do. I didn’t discover myself, I discovered possibilities. I did something I never thought I could or would do and travelled to the other side of the world on my own. Though my anxiety hung over me along the way, I overcame it in order to have new experiences.

I planned to throw myself into exercise and adventure on my return, but the irony is that the extreme hiking and running has led to me injuring my knee, so I’m having to take things easier. The trip has shown me that I sometimes prefer long hikes to shopping days, new sports gear to new dresses. But as I sit here on the bus to London, my boyfriend asleep next to me, I am secretly looking forward to hitting Oxford Street!

Thanks for reading X