Summer Road Trip to the Lake District and Scotland

So it’s the 22nd September which officially marks the first day of Autumn. I’m not going to lie but it’s made me miss summer already and it’s got me reminiscing about my summer road trip to the Lake District and Scotland, so I’d thought I’d share a few snaps from some of favourite moments of the trip.

From the beautiful lakes to the rolling hills and lush greenery, it’s quite easy to see why Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter were in love with this place. I’m honestly surprised I hadn’t visited the Lake District sooner.  One thing’s for sure though, I’ll definitely be back for another visit. There’s still so much more to explore and there are still many more mountains to climb.

Scotland was another first time trip for me and it did not disappoint. As with the Lake District the Scottish Highlands are filled with mindblowing landscapes and scenery. The pictures honestly do not do it the slightest bit of justice. It’s no wonder that Scotland was recently nominated as the most beautiful country in the world.

Being the massive Harry Potter fan that I am I was also super excited to visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct aka ‘the Harry Potter bridge’ and it was every bit as breathtaking as it is portrayed in the films. It’s honestly every superfan’s dream, so if you’re heading to Scotland any time soon make sure you book a trip to Glenfinnan.

 

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A Short Break in Prague

Without a doubt Prague has to be one of the most picturesque cities I’ve ever visited. The architecture is simply divine and every cobbled street you go down is a beautiful surprise. The city is very inspired by the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods and it is utterly exquisite.

Home to Kafka and cheap beer, Prague’s main attractions include Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, The Astronomical Clock and Old Town. There are also a host of wonderful museums, galleries and cathedrals that should fulfill all of your cultural needs, and yes the beer really is cheaper than water. If circumstances allow I would also recommend visiting the Klementinum Library, which is a beautiful Baroque designed library that first opened in 1722. Unfortunately, much to my disappointment, it was closed for reconstruction during my visit.

My personal highlights were definitely Old Town, Charles Bridge and Lesser Town, especially when walking from one side to the other in a day. Although slightly tiring, it actually felt quite peaceful to see the city by foot rather than taking public transport. Prague is quite a small and cosy city so it’s definitely possible to explore it all by foot if you enjoy walking and want to save money. Another highlight of the trip was definitely the food options. The city offers a variety of cuisines and surprisingly many vegan/vegetarian options that are both affordable and delicious, so there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone.

My least favourite feature of the city is probably the hype that surrounds The Astronomical Clock. It’s a mechanical clock that performs The Walk of the Apostles every hour on the hour. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice, but it’s nothing special. It attracts way too many tourists and in all honesty the show only lasts a minute so there isn’t much to actually see.

Overall, I’d say that Prague is definitely a must visit European city. It’s small, unique and charming and perfect for a weekend break or short getaway.

 

A Trip to Hogwarts

After years of wanting to visit the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios, and hearing so many things about it from other people, I finally took the plunge and booked my trip. I decided to build myself up for the excitement of the tour by re-watching as many of the films as I could over the Christmas period. I also wanted to remind myself of all the things that had happened so that I could identify everything on the tour, and I’m glad I did. It was honestly mesmerising as to how much detail and work went into the actual sets, costumes and props etc. and I could easily identify which parts of the tour belonged to which film. It definitely made me appreciate and admire all of the talent and hard work that must have gone into making the films; it truly was magical. The only downers to the day were A) the crowds, and B) desperately wishing that Hogwarts was real.

Hogwarts Castle

The Great Hall

Hogwarts Express

Gryffindor Common Room

Privet Drive

What I did in Malaysia and Singapore

Back in September I boarded a 13 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur. Was the flight comfortable? No, but was it worth it? Yes! When people thing of South East Asia most immediately jump to either Thailand or Bali, and whilst they’re great for their beautiful beaches and wild nightlife it’s important not to overlook the less touristy destinations which can offer you the same thing, if not more, with the added bonus of safety. That’s where Malaysia and Singapore come in.

Malaysia

Petronas Towers

My favourite thing about Malaysia is its cultural diversity and the acceptance of it. Although most of the population practices Islam, the country is very accepting of other religions and cultures, so you can expect to see Buddhists, Hindus and Christians all living and working alongside one another harmoniously. In one location, for example, there was a mosque, Hindu temple and Catholic church all within the same vicinity as one another. It was truly refreshing to see and is perhaps the way that all countries should handle multiculturalism. My tour guide also informed me that Malaysia has a low risk of natural disasters, unlike it’s other South East Asian counterparts.

Batu Caves

The nightlife is also wonderful and diverse and is sure to offer something for everyone. Changkat Bukit Bintang is where you want to go if you want a big night out filled with nightclubs and booze. However, if you want a more chilled night out they also have jazz bars such as No Black Tie.  One of my favourite nightlife spots was the Helipad Lounge Bar which is a rooftop bar on top of, yes, a helipad. It offers you unlimited panoramic views of the city which are simply breathtaking, especially at night. You can see the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower lit up all from the same spot.

Helipad Lounge Bar

Whilst I was in Malaysia it was absolutely mandatory that I go and see some wildlife, so when I’d heard that I could go and visit an elephant orphanage, I immediately jumped at the chance. A couple of hours outside the city in a state called Pahang lies the Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre. The centre does a fantastic job of taking in injured or homeless elephants whose habitats have been destroyed. They then nurture the elephants back to health and release them back into the wild once revitalised. Unlike some notorious parts of South East Asia, the orphanage does not advocate tourists riding the elephants, only the keepers can do that. You can, however, bathe a baby elephant in the river; this has to be one of the highlights of my trip, but be warned you will get soaked (totally worth it) so bring some spare clothes to change into.

Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary

Singapore

I immediately felt at home in Singapore. As great as Malaysia was, I did miss my Western comforts. So when I arrived in Singapore I was relieved to see flushing toilets and, well, how clean everything was. The country takes great pride in its cleanliness, what with its strict laws against chewing gum and littering, and rightly so.

Marina Bay Sands

One of the key attractions in Singapore is Gardens by the Bay.  I fell in love with the place and all the different gardens and conservatories that take you to different parts of the world. I also really admire their emphasis on the importance of climate change and looking after the environment. In fact the whole construction of the gardens reflects this. For example, the Supertrees collect rainwater, generate solar power and act as venting ducts for the conservatories. How amazing is that?

Gardends by the Bay

Now lets talk shopping. For your more high end luxury brands and shopping centres you can head to Orchard Road. However, if you’re looking for great deals and are on a tighter budget, you absolutely need to go to Bugis Street Market where you can pick up tonnes of great clothes starting at around $10 per piece. Remember you can always haggle your way down to a cheaper deal. The place can be a bit of a maze and it’s easy to spend forever getting sucked in to all the bargains, so be sure to leave plenty of room in your suitcase! Chinatown and Little India are also must dos for good bargains, especially for touristy souvenirs and interesting paraphernalia. They’re also fantastic places for delicious food at great prices.

Little India

There are a few more things that I wanted to do in the city but didn’t have time for, such as go the the top of Marina Bay Sands or take a ride on the Flyer. However, the little taster that I did get has definitely encouraged me to return for more.

Top 5 things to See and Do in Dublin

After enjoying a lovely a three day trip to the city back in August, I’ve finally decided to compile a short list of the top five things to see and do.

1. Temple Bar

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It may be rather touristy and overcrowded but I honestly fell in love with the place. The live Irish pub music is fantastic and the atmosphere is warm and cosy, making you feel right a home. One can also nab a drink with James Joyce!

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Temple Bar doesn’t just refer to the pub but an entire area which is filled with many other cosy pubs, bars and restaurants. Gogarty’s is the place to be for some traditional Irish folk music as well as some Irish dancing.

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2. St. Stephen’s Green

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In the centre of the city lies this beautiful green space known as St. Stephen’s Green Park. Head here for a peaceful stroll during the day or have a picnic by the pond and just watch the world go by.

3. Monument to Oscar Wilde

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Literature lovers everywhere will fall in love with Dublin and its rich literary history and will no doubt want to see their icons immortalised in concrete. Within close proximity to Trinity College lies a little park known as Merrion Square, and within the park you will find Wilde comfortably perched on top of a rock for all to see.

4. Trinity College and The Book of Kells

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A literature lovers dream wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the iconic Book of Kells and the prestigious Trinity College. The library of dreams is of course home to the actual Book of Kells (which contains the fours Gospels written in Latin and was completed in 384AD) and so many other writers’ works, where you can expect to see manuscripts and excerpts from the likes of Samuel Beckett to Seamus Heaney.

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5.  Grafton Street

After soaking up all of that culture and knowledge it’s time for some retail therapy. An entire street filled with all of your high street favourites and more.  Also, don’t forget to check out the city’s luxury department store Brown Thomas; think of it as the Selfridges of Dublin.

Some other interesting places you could explore are the Guinness Storehouse (as a teetotaler I thought it would be best to scratch this off the itinerary) the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin Castle and Kilmainham Gaol which tells the story of Ireland’s past.

A Day Trip to Oxford

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From its stunning architecture to its quaint streets filled with cafes, quirky shops and books stores, it’s so easy to fall in love with the city’s charm.

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Renowned for its prestigious university, history, culture and literature, Oxford is certainly an English city to put on top of your must visit list. Attracting many visitors from all over the world, both students and tourists alike,  the city possesses a wonderful multicultural atmosphere that makes you feel both at home and away somewhere new at the same time.

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Explore the gorgeous university colleges and libraries, and then make your way to the covered market for a little wander and a bite to eat before heading to Oxford Castle or a museum. On the way you can stop by one of the city’s many delightful book stores to fulfill all of your literary desires. You can expect to see lots of Harry Potter paraphernalia in the window displays, which will be sure to make you feel all nostalgic and warm inside. Then if time and weather allow, you can either pay a visit to the Botanical Garden for some natural beauty or go punting along the river.

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Oxford is a truly wonderful, relaxing city that will take you away from the hustle and bustle of larger city life. So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip now, you won’t regret it.

Buda or Pest?

Often dubbed as “Paris of the East”, Budapest is an East Central European gem that possesses Parisian elegance and charm with a relaxed and modest twist.

Budapest is divided into two parts by the Danube River. The west side is Buda and the east side is Pest. It wasn’t until 1873 that the two parts actually became considered as one city, hence “Buda-pest”. Buda is reminiscent of the past, whilst Pest reflects the buzz of the modern world.

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On the Buda side of the city you can expect to visit the notable Buda Castle, a Baroque style palace which is now predominately the Hungarian National Gallery. If you’re feeling adventurous you can even explore the Labyrinth of the castle where Dracula was once held prisoner! The Fisherman’s Bastion is another unmissable monument which gives you a breathtaking panoramic view of the Pest side of the city. Buda is remarkably nostalgic and replenishing.

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Contrarily, the Pest side of the city exudes an invigorating, youthfulness and vibrancy that is sure to attract those that have a zest for life. With its array of shopping streets, nightclubs, bars, restaurants and cafés, there are both many night time and daytime attractions. From the Grand Synagogue to the Hungarian State Opera House, there is plenty to do and plenty to see. Fancy some pampering? Try out one of the city’s thermal baths, you won’t be disappointed.

Budapest Chain Bridge, Hungary

Wherever you stay the opposite side is easily accessible via the glorious Chain Bridge; it’s simply magical by night.