Category Archives: Eastern Europe

2016 – The end of another amazing year of travel

15747862_10154056897662617_3367207312712882158_nThere’s no doubt about it, 2016 has been a pretty incredible year for me. I’ve had some soaring highs and felt pretty low at times, but I’ve also had the chance to experience some thing I never could have dreamed I would. I crossed three continents and ticked off my 30th country, worked with hotels, spas and restaurants either side of the globe for this blog, I said goodbye to love so that I could travel Europe solo and I made some incredible friends along the way. I’ve worked as a sales manager, a cocktail waitress, a journalist along the way and all the while I’ve been working on creating amazing content for this blog. 2016 has been a year of working hard and playing harder, and as it draws to a close I can’t help but reminisce over the special times I’ve shared with amazing people. From the teary goodbyes at the airport, to the mates I’ve shared incredible road trips with this summer, to the incredible welcome home I got from some of my best friends when I arrived back in Melbourne. Getting the opportunity to celebrate a real Aussie Christmas surrounded by so many amazing friends was a perfect way to end the year. But what have the highlights been?

My top 5 travelling experiences of 2016:

Melbourne

Without a doubt, Melbourne is my number one for the year. Voted the Most Liveable City in the World six years running, it’s no wonder I’ve just moved back here for the second time. I lived in Melbourne at the start of the year and it was the first place in nearly two years that had felt like home. I had an amazing flat, a great job as a sales manager, the most incredible friends and I completely fell for a great guy. Now I’m back for round two and I’m already well on my way with a great job at a rooftop bar and my own brand new apartment. Melbourne, you are well and truly my second home.12742300_10153292964597617_7986843509108504989_n

Budapest

A city I had dreamed of visiting for years, Budapest was everything I had imagined and more. I loved the history, the beauty, the architecture and the people I met there. Part of my summer backpacking trip around Europe, it was a perfect opportunity to explore the city independently and to have some amazing experiences. One of my favourites was eating dinner in a traditional Hungarian restaurant with my newfound Aussie and Norwegian mates talking about the world under a blanket of stars. Visiting Budapest reminded me how much I love exploring a new city alone on foot, and it’s a city I can’t wait to revisit.image

Slovenia

Slovenia was an amazing experience – not only did I get to explore some of Eastern Europe, a dream of mine for several years, but I was invited along on my first blogging trip. It was an amazing privilege and a reminder of how hard I have worked to build up this travel blog over the last few years. Spending a week at a luxury glamping site on the Slovenian/Croatian border was a fantastic way to see the country – from woodland hikes to swimming in the rivers, to visiting locals and eating feasts of freshly caught local fish. The people, and the place, made it unforgettable.image

Bali

My second blogging trip of the year came about only as a last minute plan – I was at a low point and unsure of what my next move would be when one of my best travelling friends invited me to Bali. It was the best decision ever and led to my being invited along to review hotels, spas and restaurants on the island. What was supposed to be a week-long trip turned into a month and yet I still wasn’t ready to leave. I explored the Bali countryside on motorbike, visited temples, explored monkey forests, swam in the waves, spotted manatees and swam with sea turtles. It was the holiday I had needed – not just travelling, it was a holiday and one of which I appreciated every second.img_2178

Tasmania

Definitely the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have been yet, by far. Tasmania was somewhere I had longed to visit since arriving in Australia and “mini-New Zealand” definitely lived up to the hype. I spent three weeks there staying in the best hostel I have found yet in Australia, exploring Hobart and road tripping around 11 national parks in just 10 days. I hiked for days on end, camped wild under the stars and the full moon, I climbed several mountains and spotted countless whales, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies. It was a magical experience and one I’m so glad I made happen, it was just what I needed. A true breath of fresh air.img_2381

After such an incredible year, it’s hard to imagine just how 2017 could top 2016. I’ve travelled to eight different countries this year, I’ve lived in two of them long-term, I’ve gone from outback living to city slicker to beach babe and total mermaid. I’ve taken my clothes off on top of a mountain in the snow, I’ve changed my mind in 10 minutes and booked a spontaneous flight to the other side of the world. I’ve refused to stop living my dream for anyone other than myself and I’ve made a plan for the future. It’s an exciting time to be Absolutely Lucy and it all starts again when the clock strikes 12 on New Years. Another fresh start, another exciting adventure and another dream come true. I’m ready, are you?

Where has been your favourite place to travel to this year? Have you enjoyed following my adventures? What are your travel plans for 2017?

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If you’re making travel plans for 2017 already – look no further than Sunshine for cheap holidays that will bring your dream destination a little closer. With hotel deposits from just £1 and holiday deposits from just £50, they’ll help you make your dream trip a reality.

Hungary | How Budapest stole my heart and why you should visit

dscn4498For years I have longed to visit Budapest, it’s a city that seems to sparkle with beauty, history and culture, and one I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to explore. During the summer, I finally had the time and the money to jet off on a jaunt around Europe, taking in cities like Amsterdam and Berlin, road tripping around Bulgaria and I couldn’t resist taking the time to explore what has since become one of my favourite European cities. After spending just a few days exploring the sights and sounds of Budapest, I have spent the last few months telling everyone I know to go along and experience it for themselves. Whether you’re looking for a romantic city break for two, a weekend away with friends or, like me, you’re going it solo, it’s the perfect city for your next trip.image

Where to stay?

I stayed at Avenue Hostel which is right in the heart of Budapest on Oktogon, and I can’t recommend this hostel enough. I met amazing people there, had the comfiest bed and loved the creative, artsy vibe. Whether you’re there to sightsee or want to party and meet people, it’s a perfect hostel for you to use as your base. Plus everything within Budapest is walking distance so you can easily get to all of the sights, restaurants and bars on foot. It’s a great area and even if you don’t want to stay in a hostel, there are countless hotels, AirBnBs and B&Bs to choose from.image

What to do?

On my first day in the city, the weather was terrible but what better excuse to visit the famous baths? I went for the Gellert Baths to start with – these were mainly inside and offered great deals on massages which was just what I needed on this rainy day. It’s worth asking at your hostel/hotel for any deals available – my hostel gave me a great entrance/massage packages that saved me quite a bit of money. As the weather improved, I spent the next few days exploring the city on foot – there was no need for a tour guide as it was easy to navigate the city using the maps app on my phone and by chatting to the locals. The castle, parliament and Fisherman’s Bastion are incredible structures that are well worth a visit, as is St Stephen’s Basilica and City Park. Check out the views from the Liberty Bridge and as you wander along the winding streets look out for memorials of the history of this amazing city. Finally, wait for a sunny day to enjoy the incredible Szechenyi Thermal Baths, the jewel of Budapest, it’s a perfect place to top up your tan while bathing in the famous waters.img_2140

When should you visit?

Budapest is an amazing city to visit all year round – glorious in summertime when visitors can walk through the winding streets and eat outside in the restaurant-lined courtyards. Or, for those who prefer to time their visit around Christmas, it’s a perfect opportunity to get in the festive spirit by visiting the world famous markets. If you can time your visit in the summer – be sure to grab a ticket for Sziget Festival – music, arts and a lot of fun right in the heart of the city. No matter what time of year you visit, be sure to take the time to explore the city at night as well as during the day. A city of lights, Budapest comes alive at night when crowds all the streets to witness the city aglow and visit the ruin pubs of years gone by. If you’re travelling alone and want to meet some party pals, definitely try and do the Wombats Hostel pub crawl – it’s one of the best hostel pub crawls I’ve done in a long time.dscn4502

Has that whet your whistle for Budapest? If so, why not check out Liverpool John Lennon Airport’s new city guides for all the best tips on what to do and how to plan your Budapest trip. Read the Liverpool John Lennon Airport destination guide here. Or find another destination for your next trip – click here.image

Have you been to Budapest – what did you think of the city? What is your favourite European city and why?

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Travel | 15 reasons you should road trip across Bulgaria

imageSometimes you meet people and you get that feeling that this is just the start of a big adventure together that will span years. This summer, almost 18 months after we first met in Thailand, I was reunited with my favourite squad – The Pioneers – in Bulgaria. We were thousands of miles away from where we first broke all the rules, had all the fun and forged a lifelong friendship but nothing had changed. Amazingly with very little planning, a reunion came together and before we knew it, we were sitting in a bar in Sofia, Bulgaria, together ahead of a week-long road-trip around this amazing country. imageYou know those friendships where you don’t even need to speak for months on end, but when you finally see each other everything just slots back into place? Well that’s these guys, to the max. We all have such different lives that take us to opposite ends of the globe, but when we saw each other again it could have been just another day in Thailand. In true pioneer-style, we decided to go a little off the grid, all being true travelling souls we weren’t made to stay in a resort, we wanted to explore a new country together. It was actually my second time in Bulgaria, but eight years on I was looking forward to seeing how it had changed.imageSo what was our plan? We decided to spend one night in Sofia to give us time to catch up before picking up our hire car the next morning and starting the drive towards Plovdiv, stopping off at a few sights along the way including the Seven Rila Lakes, we then spent a few days exploring Plovdiv before finishing our trip with a night out in Sunny Beach. imageConsidering we only had five nights together, we crammed a heck of a lot in and saw a lot more than I managed to see eight years ago. Plus we got to have an amazing road trip experience along the way which has given me enough laughs to last a lifetime! Very unlike my first trip to the country, this one gave me an amazing opportunity to really see the beauty of Bulgaria set against it’s communist past, it was an interesting contrast and I’m so glad I had the chance to experience Bulgaria in this way.image

So why should you road trip Bulgaria?

  1. It’s cheap! If you’re looking for somewhere to explore on a low budget, Bulgaria is the one for you, its cheap to fly to, it’s cheap to hire a car (especially if there’s five of you – it was just £30 a day for us), food is cheap and it’s cheap for accommodation. I barely spent anything during our five-day trip and still had an amazing time.
  2. The roads are amazing – seriously, compared to the UK, the quality of the roads is fantastic and it’s pretty easy to navigate your way around. Most of the time the roads are empty so you’re free to enjoy driving through the countryside.
  3. The cities aren’t very busy so actually if you stayed in one place for a week you might find yourself a bit bored, it’s a great opportunity to see a few cities and the Black Sea.
  4. Who doesn’t love a road trip with their buddies? Old school tunes, too many snacks, laughing until your stomach aches…
  5. Something always goes wrong – we managed to get the car clamped within the first hour of having it – it was hilarious and made for a great story!
  6. There’s such a range of places to stay in – we used AirBnB which was fantastic for Plovdiv and Sunny Beach – we ended up with a lovely apartment in a resort with two pools for our last day and it was still cheap as chips.
  7. Plovdiv shouldn’t be missed and you have to road trip to get there from the airport – it’s a beautiful centre of culture, architecture and the food was great.
  8. The countryside is amazing – endless rolling hills and fields of green with the stark contrast of old abandoned communist buildings – it’s a sight worth seeing and one I haven’t seen anywhere else.
  9. Seven Rila Lakes – these glacial lakes are one of the biggest attractions on the Balkan Peninsula and one not to be missed. It’s a beautiful place but sadly when we went it was so foggy we could barely see the chair lift taking us up the mountain let alone the lakes. Still an incredible experience and one you need to road trip for.
  10. The people in Bulgaria are very guarded to begin with, but talking to them really shows you that once you make the first move they are filled with warmth and hospitality. Travelling around gives you the opportunity to meet Bulgarians from across the country and to really understand the culture.
  11. Random experiences – if we hadn’t road tripped to Plovdiv and decided to go to a club called “Pasha” one night, we wouldn’t have had the chance to watch rapper Ice Cream perform live – it was seriously one of the most hilarious nights out ever.
  12. Trying out Bulgarian culture, as you can see from the pictures, we decided to go full Bulgarian and dress up for a photoshoot! It was so much fun and gave us a chance to get into full character – I was a Bulgarian bride with a full headdress that probably weighed more than me.
  13. Gelato – you wouldn’t think it but Bulgaria is big into ice cream and we’re talking really good ice cream – head to Plovdiv and try ALL of the flavours. I was pretty obsessed with the mango, and couldn’t resist the Nutella!
  14. The road trip experience – there’s very few people in this world that I could spend 24/7 with but this gang is definitely one of the groups of people I can. You get such a different experience when you’re all in the same car, in the same beds, and living every second together. It takes a level of being comfortable together that you only get with travellers.
  15. Sunny Beach – it’s still as disgusting as it was when I went there eight years ago, a total resort party town, but you simply have to do it for one night when you’re in Bulgaria. If only for the laughs and the stories you’ll have to tell after. I can’t repeat most of what happened there but we definitely had an entertaining time.

imageimageimageStill don’t know if Bulgaria is for you? Well neither did I, but I’ve visited twice now and and had the most amazing trips. It’s not the first place that comes to mind when you plan a trip to Europe, but that’s part of it’s charm – the fact that is isn’t as touristy as places like Amsterdam and Barcelona. Here you can still get a taste of European charm untainted by Starbucks and McDonald’s on every corner, you can still get lost in the winding streets, cultural sights and incredible countryside. I can’t recommend it enough for a budget road trip.

Have you been to Bulgaria – how was your trip? Which country has been your favourite to road trip?

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Slovenia | Exploring the Primostek countryside with Big Berry

imageOne of the highlights of visiting Big Berry is getting a real taste of the Slovenian lifestyle against the incredible backdrop of the untouched countryside that lies just beyond the camp gates. My week was spent there visiting several local producers of beer, gin, oil and chocolate amid visits to viewpoints, hidden lakes and abandoned mills. We took breaks for delicious meals made from local ingredients including some of the best trout and carp I have ever eaten, fresh from the river that runs through the camp itself. I even had the opportunity to take a peek into the past when I visited an old fashioned Slovenian home to see how the people of years gone by would have lived, and the crafts and memories that remain.imageimageIt hit me when I was there, just how hard it is these days to find a landscape that is actually untouched and undamaged by commercialisation. There are few places left in this world you can truly escape the modern world and step back in time into a completely natural landscape where green forests and clear rivers stretch as far as the eye can see, and eagles soar across the sky. It sounds like something out of a movie because we just don’t get a chance to see this very often without a fast food restaurant or some kind of brand getting in the way. But Eastern Europe is a very different matter, the Balkan countries just seem to have escaped the commercialisation that has dominated so many other places in Europe. There are still so many wide open areas you can get lost in and that makes them very precious to the modern day traveler.imageimageWhen it comes to local producers, Primostek and the nearby villages are a wealth of smaller companies that pack a punch with top quality products that kept me fed and watered throughout my stay. Everything from fruit, cheese and bread, to gin, wine and beer. There’s plenty to keep your stomach full and a smile on your face knowing your stay is supporting the local companies, plus you get a chance to see the process behind the products. All of the companies allow for tours to see how their food, drink and even body products are made during your stay, which is a great way to meet the local people and see another side to Slovenia.imageimageMy favourite tours had to be Berryshka – the liqueur and chocolate makers – and Vizir Pivovarna – the beer producers. The owners of both were so welcoming and took the time to talk us through the whole process of creating the products as they took us on a tour of the factory/brewery, before enjoying a tasting of the products. For me, the highlight of Berryshka was tasting the unusual lavender chocolate, a new product, and tasting their liqueurs served in a chocolate cup. Just delicious. Vizir Pivovarna had a great range of beers and were happy to explain the differences to a non-beer drinker, my favourite ones were definitely the dark beer and the stronger 10% beer they produce. Another huge highlight was getting to eat at the home of the delicious apple juice producers, Lamut, where we enjoyed a home cooked feast of fresh carp and trout washed down with apple juice, wine and a lot of Rakea.imageimageDuring the visit we also took the time to walk around local vineyards and taken some stunning views from the mills and local beauty spots. It was great being shown around by the team who knew all the best places to see and best things to do. If you’re staying at Big Berry, I would recommend getting out and exploring the local producers and seeing more than just the camp, get a real taste of this part of Slovenia and you’ll fall for the beautiful location just like I did. I mustn’t forget my favourite activity, on the last day we went rafting down the river and I don’t even have the words to describe how much fun and just how breathtaking the views were.imageimage

Have you been to Slovenia – what was your favourite part? Does the wide open landscape appeal to you? Have you visited local producers on other trips?

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Slovenia | Luxury living at Big Berry lifestyle camp

imageEastern Europe has been on my must-see list for several years, there’s something about it’s wild, untouched beauty that really appeals to me especially when so many places in Europe are so overcrowded with tourists. I’ve long since wanted to travel to Romania but haven’t yet had the opportunity after travel plans changed this summer and I found myself meeting friends in Bulgaria instead – more to come on that in a later post! But when I was invited to Slovenia on my first travel blogger press trip, I was beyond excited to experience the country for myself and at the hands of those who know the local area best. I was invited to stay at Big Berry, a new luxury glamping lifestyle camp on the banks of the river Kolpa in Primostek and the first of its kind in the country. Big Berry embraces the concept of enjoying total luxury for the whole family while getting back to grass roots and really experiencing the Slovenian countryside.imageimageI was lucky enough to be staying in a gorgeous mobile home which has been specially designed to satisfy every need and want – the design was sleek and absolutely beautiful offering complete luxury and the opportunity to enjoy self-catering if wanted. Sleeping six, the cabin gave me plenty of room to myself and I even had my own private jacuzzi – total luxury after staying in hostels for the week beforehand. Waking up in the morning, I could step into a stunning rain shower before heading to the terrace for breakfast which was hand-delivered each morning. Filled with local produce, from fruit and yoghurt to eggs, milk and bread, it was a perfect way to start the day as the sun shone over the Kolpa river. Just across the water was the Croatian border, giving you ample opportunity to swim between the two in the cleanest, purest water you can imagine. If you’re after a complete digital detox, this is the perfect place for you and I relished the chance to get away from a screen and to really experience life in the Slovenian town, but it also provides great communal areas perfect for working online which could be well suited for the digital nomads among us.imageimageMornings would start with a workout to get the blood racing – a former Slovenian boxer led the classes out on the grass overlooking the river, a perfect setting. Then later there was plenty of time to explore and relax in the grounds by swimming in the river or reading a book on the comfy sunbeds scattered around. There’s also volleyball, bikes and canoes available if you fancy something a bit more active. The team behind Big Berry hope to give visitors an authentic experience of the Bela Krajina region by showing them how the locals live, giving them an insight into the Slovenian past and present with visits to historical houses, beauty spots and local producers to try everything from cheese and wine, to oils, beer and chocolates. There’s a packed schedule available to visitors who want to get to know the area and to fully experience local life, or for those who want to just relax and take it in at their own pace, there is total freedom to dine and explore independently.imageimageThe camp, which will be open from May to September from next year, is perfect suited to families who want to get outside with the kids and explore somewhere new – the camp is very safe for young children with plenty of space for them to run around. It would also be perfect for couples who fancy a romantic weekend away in the countryside – trust me there’s nothing more romantic than watching the stars sparkle over the river from the comfort of your own hot tub. At 200 euros a night, it provides you with all the luxury you want while allowing you to get back to basics and to enjoy a simple few days enjoying Slovenia in its purest and most beautiful form. Plus being right on the Croatian border, it gives you a good opportunity to explore two countries in one trip if you’re flying into Zagreb like I did. Check out my upcoming posts for more information about the trips available while staying at Big Berry. You can find more information about Big Berry and planning your trip to Slovenia here.imageimage

Have you been to Slovenia – what did you think? Does the Big Berry concept appeal to you? Tell me about your favourite luxury getaways.

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