Catalan Bay Gibraltar

Can Travel Bloggers Have “Normal” Holidays?

Before I even started writing a travel blog, I always loved trips that involved jam-packed itineraries, fascinating tours and delicious foodie finds. I thrive on exploring new places, learning about different cultures and seeing new things, and writing this blog has only made me even more consumed when it comes to planning trips. But our recent break to Gibraltar included none of this. This was the first time I was going away with family since I started blogging, but this trip wasn’t going to be a blogging one; it was to celebrate my mum’s birthday and to unwind in a place that is close to all our hearts.

But, unable to shake my typical blogger ways, the obsessive trip planner in me started to panic a few days before we left. We had absolutely nothing planned and I really do mean nothing. I hadn’t organised a single tour because we’d pretty much seen all of Gibraltar already and I hadn’t even scouted out any new restaurants to try. What on earth were we going to do for 4 whole days?!

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48 hours in Dublin

48 Hours in Dublin

After a flight from London that was so quick I hardly had time for a power nap, we arrived in Dublin, somewhere we have lived so close to our whole lives but were only just getting around to visiting.  Knowing we only had 48 hours in this small but fascinating city we headed straight out to the main strip of Temple Bar to see what all the fuss was about.

As it was late evening by the time we set out, crowds of people already lined the street, spilling out the doors of every pub and restaurant, drinking and chatting away, listening to the street music that was being played on each corner.  For fear of being crushed in the stampede of whiskey induced tourists, we headed to Bad Bobs which was slightly less packed but still had a lively atmosphere.  We just about managed to find a seat, ordered some drinks and a huge plate of spicy chicken wings, sang along to the entertaining live band and giggled at the drunken groups of friends (and a policeman who looked suspiciously like a stripper) enjoying the weekend.

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Trying Guinness in Dublin

My First Taste of Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

Cocktails are always my drink of choice. A sweet and fruity concoction, filled with syrupy spirits and colourful juices. A classy daiquiri, an ice cold mojito, or a fun woo woo with umbrellas, straws and fruit perched on top.  But on our recent trip to Dublin cocktails were far from my mind.

Ireland is the home to Guinness but this dry stout, one of the world’s biggest beer brands, is nothing like the sugary cocktails I usually go for.  Unsurprisingly, a big part of the Irish culture is drinking and in every single pub we visited pints of Guinness were being sold like the city was about to run dry.  I had never tasted a single drop of the black stuff and, while I could easily have stuck to drinking Baileys all weekend, I just couldn’t visit Dublin without trying something that is such a huge part of the Irish culture.

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Hiking in the Cinque Terre

A Hiking Adventure in the Cinque Terre

I awoke with a start on our first day in the Cinque Terre to what sounded like thunder and torrential rain. This could not be happening. We had only arrived the afternoon before to a glorious sunny day, people relaxing on the rocks and eating gelato by the harbour, and we were all prepared to go off on a hike on our first morning to explore the villages. I jumped out of bed, threw open the Italian shutters of our cute little bed and breakfast, and stuck my head out the window to find that, yes, it was indeed raining. The pastel coloured rooftops were being hammered with water and people on the street below were hurriedly rushing by attempting to cover their soaking heads. Perfect. Our day of hiking suddenly looked rather bleak.

But despite the hiking paths being closed thanks to the stormy weather, we didn’t want to spend the day sat inside hiding from the rain, so we hopped on the train to explore instead and discovered that this part of the Italian Riviera is still a little piece of heaven even in the rain.

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Bluebells at Emmetts Garden

Adventures in Kent’s Bluebell Woods

Springtime is just too damn pretty for words, and this year I wanted to visit some of the colourful bluebell woods that bloom in abundance around this time.  We live just on the outskirts of London, in Kent, so the “Garden of England” and its National Trust properties and gardens was the perfect place to go exploring.

With the promise of the little tea and cake shop that is always bound to be found at a National Trust property, I managed to persuade Mr Ayla to come along on this flowery outing of mine.  We headed to Emmett’s Garden where a cute little cottage (obviously Snow White’s home) greeted us.

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A Street Food Extravaganza at Deptford’s Job Centre

An employment job centre isn’t usually somewhere I’d consider spending an evening, but Deptford’s Job Centre isn’t exactly what you’d expect. Having been turned into a quirky relaxed bar, it now attracts a whole host of people, not just those who are on benefits or looking for a job. Every Thursday to Saturday evenings, Kitchen Hijack takes over with a mouth-watering selection of street foods from some of London’s best pop-up vendors.

As soon as I heard about this place from Kasha I knew it was somewhere I just had to try out. Street food and cocktails in a quirky bar? It sounded like my perfect place to spend an evening!

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View of Vernazza Cinque Terre

A Little Piece of Heaven in The Cinque Terre

After spending time away in a new destination no one ever wants to return home to the daily slog of work, responsibilities and the general drudgery of routine life. At the end of every trip I long to hear that our return flight has been cancelled or that work has given me an extra day off (extremely wishful thinking), just so we can spend a little bit more time away.

This was exactly how I felt when our adventures in Italy came to an end; we just did not want to leave. But it was more than that. We didn’t want to leave the Cinque Terre because it was so completely magical that it had swept us up and carried us onto a cloud of colourful pastel buildings, cute cafes filled with smiling locals, food and wine we would have been happy to dine on for the rest of our lives, all along the edge of a rugged coastline and turquoise sea so utterly gorgeous that I wanted to move there straight away.

I wasn’t expecting to love this place quite as much as I did, but we can both now say that the Cinque Terre is one of our favourite places in the world.

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Duomo Florence

The Best of Florence with Walks of Italy

The smaller and cuter version of me used to be a bit of a history and art buff, always eager to visit museums and learn as much as I could, devotedly listening to my nan’s history lessons whenever we explored anywhere new. Now, when I explore somewhere new, I prefer getting to know the place I’m in by trying the local food and meeting people, sitting and watching the city come to life and getting lost off the beaten track. Museums don’t interest me as much and there’s a limit to the amount of history, facts and figures my brain can take before my eyes start to droop with boredom.

But our trip to Florence threw us headfirst into a city bursting with a rich history, some of the world’s greatest art, more churches and cathedrals than we could possibly visit in 2 days, and all at the centre of the Italian Renaissance. Even though simply eating our way around Florence would have sufficed for the whole trip (seriously, the food is amazing), I didn’t want to leave without learning more about this beautiful city.

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Wine in the Cinque Terre

Becoming a Wino in Italy

The one and only time I’ve ever been a fan of wine was when I was in my early 20s, when it was too teenager-like to still be drinking Archers and lemonade or WKD, but wine gave you that more sophisticated grown up feeling.  But no matter how hard I tried (and I did try really hard) I never particularly enjoyed drinking wine so I very quickly reverted back to the sweet and fruity spirits and cocktails that I’ve always loved.

On the odd occasions when I do drink wine now, I end up embarrassingly tipsy after just one glass which kind of defeats the point of a grown up drink out with friends and rapidly turns into a drunken night reminiscent of my late teens.  The next morning is not kind to me either, leaving me with a horrid headache and the promise that I will never ever drink wine again.

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Pink mini orchid

Post-Holiday Blues

Today, I am feeling rather sorry for myself.  I’m sat at home, having a sick day off work, thinking of all the things I should be doing but not having the energy to actually get up and do them all.

I don’t know whether it’s post-holidays blues after our amazing time in Cuba that’s making me feel so rubbish or just my body not wanting to cooperate with my head.  I can imagine it screaming at me now “STOP DOING STUFF!! I can’t keep up!! No, not listening?  Fine then, I’ll make you ill instead”.  Cue evil laugh from my weary body.

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