Tag Archives: Europe

Eurotrip | My 24 hours in Amsterdam

14292456_10153770246632617_4868750785377706268_nDuring the summer I headed home to the UK for a short while but it wasn’t long until I started getting itchy feet, and I thought why not take advantage of Europe being right on my doorstep? Living in the UK, we are so lucky to have so many countries and cultures so close and accessible, it’s important to take advantage of that EU passport while we still have it eh! I’ve travelled quite a lot of Europe over the years but  there were still so many places I longed to visit and since making so many new international friends on the other side of the world, it seemed a perfect time to go and visit them all at home for the ultimate Eurotrip! One of the top places on my list was Amsterdam – I’ve wanted to visit for years and have planned trips several times but ended up never quite making it. I would only have about 48-72 hours in the city but it was the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time and to visit a good friend of mine at her home – from Australia to Amsterdam.14344242_10153770246852617_8477002503444430472_n14322737_10153770246727617_3952194705655828329_nI flew in from Budapest and after a fairly chilled few days spent in the stunning baths and exploring the city at a gentle pace, I was ready to take things up a gear to cram in sightseeing and partying into just a few hours. I was staying just outside the city with my friend, Lisa, and I have to give a huge shoutout to her for not only putting me up at her amazing apartment, but for helping me to make the absolute most of my Amsterdam experience. As soon as I arrived we cycled into the city in true Amsterdam fashion to check out the parks which were filled with the scent of barbecue and the chatter of friends. We sat in the sunshine at a little man-made beach along the river having drinks and pizza with friends, and spent the evening bar hopping along the canals. It was a perfect first evening there and gave me a chance to meet a lot of people, we even stumbled across a fashion festival happening in the streets with all of the high class shops hosting DJ sets and bars.14317358_10153770246982617_7699547149721011518_n14344708_10153770245602617_3898552608383686668_nThe next days, I headed into the city first thing to make the most of my sightseeing time by taking one of the brilliant free walking tours. I first heard about Sandeman’s free walking tours from a friend when I was in Berlin and after experiencing one there and another in ‘Dam, I would seriously recommend them to anyone visiting a European city. The tours are fantastic quality and are led by energetic, knowledgeable and passionate individuals who bring history and heritage to life through their delivery. The walks last just a few hours and take in the main sights of each city plus there are several specialised ones including tours of the Red Light District, beer tours, history tours, graffiti tours etc. The best thing about these tours? They’re technically free despite being such amazing quality. The people giving the tours make their money through tips – they just ask that you pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end – you can give nothing or you show how much you value the experience. It calls for the tour leader to really work hard to show you the city and it calls for you to give an honest and fair review of the services. I can’t fault the company or the system. The Amsterdam tour was fantastic and our guide was really friendly and knowledgeable.14355179_10153770245822617_6765741485707631537_n14238219_10153770245592617_5590145311600997742_nOnce we’d spent a few hours wandering through the busy streets and along the canals for the tour, I headed back to the apartment for a quick change and glam up. Then Lisa and I were straight out the door and off to Magneet Festival – a bit of a trip affair, the festival would feature some of Lisa’s friends who were DJing on the most amazing stage overlooking the whole festival. It was an incredible night, amazing music and a fantastic group of people made for a pretty special experience. We danced and partied our way around the festival, even checking out hardcore and rock tents and watching some entertaining karaoke. It was such a fun night and pretty epic to experience a festival in Amsterdam. After the gates closed, we headed into the city and ended up at De School – a converted school which has become a club where must-lovers can rave in a dark, smokey basement until the sun comes up. Such a good club, we had a fantastic night! The next day, dying of hangover, I packed up and headed out to catch my train up to the north where I was visiting another amazing friend for just one night before heading home.14322663_10153764176672617_3330531587880020450_n14212547_10153764176582617_1783270569474228189_nIt was such a flying visit but my goodness I crammed a LOT in, Amsterdam is a fantastic city which makes it hard not to want to cram everything into the quickest visit. Before even leaving I knew I already wanted to return for another visit – there is still so much I didn’t have time to do, like the Anne Frank House and the museums. And I would love a chance to spend more time exploring the city at a slower pace. I will definitely return in the future but I was so happy to not only get to experience the city for the first time but to share the experience with such amazing people. I’m a lucky girl and travelling the world definitely has opened me up to some incredible cross-continent friendships. Getting to reunite with friends in a completely new land is definitely one of my favourite things about travelling the world.14316794_10153764176542617_1276094821434236239_n

Have you been to Amsterdam – what was your favourite experience? Can you recommend any other walking tours?

image7-1-1

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?

image7-1-1

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?

image7-1-1

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?

image7-1-1

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?

image7-1-1

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.

image7-1-1

Santorini | The magic of Oia by day & night | Greece

13895488_10153669362677617_7991328918100532344_nWe’ve had a short break from the Santorini dreaming but I had to return to it to share one of the most magical experiences of all. I don’t think there are many people out there – bloggers especially – who don’t have seeing the Santorini sunset on their bucket list. It had been firmly on my must-see list for several years and showed no signs of budging in the face of longer-haul trips. There’s something rather magical about those pictures of the windmills high on the hill surrounded by a sea of white buildings reflecting the pink glow of a fiery Greek sunset on the Caldera that just gets your heart racing. It’s one of, if not the, most romantic location in the world and I genuinely believe that everyone should experience the magic, and the romance of Oia at least once in their lives. Those who have say they are already desperate to return, which just shows you the power this beautiful place has in capturing your heart.13938527_10153682680427617_8365844026343663042_n13902637_10153669362142617_310879561199431658_nNow I’ll be honest and saw a tiny part of me was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype – I’m not usually a big fan of overly-touristy places and crowds – I much prefer to experience places like this with space to breathe. Now I will admit there are a lot of people in Santorini and usually you can avoid the crowds but Oia is different, especially in the evening. But at the same time, these crowds don’t spoil the beauty of the sunset, they don’t ruin the perfect romantic moment or the stunning photos you can capture. There’s actually a kind of magic of hearing everyone gasp and exclaim in hushed tones as the sun dips lower on the horizon, or as donkeys jingle their way down the mountain-side towards the ocean. That feeling that so many people there are witnessing this spectacle for the very first time, and that you’ll never have this “first time” again. It’s special and it does take your breath away, I’m sure it still does no matter how many times you visit.imageI visited Oia on two occasions both during the day and at night, I was actually staying on the other side of the island at Perissa which I would recommend a lot more than staying in Oia. My advice is – if you’re there for just a few days, stay in Oia as it has all you want to squeeze into your visit, but for any longer like my two-week holiday, head elsewhere. Oia doesn’t really have a proper beach so you are limited to the swimming pools and it is very touristy, it is great for a luxury stay but if you prefer self-catering like us, you’re better off elsewhere. Oia is beautiful both in the sunlight and sunset, and I would really recommend visiting at both times of day to really appreciate it. I was actually lucky and also went on a boat day trip that ended with a late afternoon cruise around the Caldera so I also got to see Oia from the ocean which is also a great experience.imageOia by day is an intense experience at high season, the sunlight reflects brightly off the white buildings and it does get hot so I would recommend aiming for morning or late afternoon for a visit and avoiding the heat of the day. Although as you’ll notice from my pics it’s very windy there which helps keep you cool! Make sure you walk all the way up to the village from where the buses stop, just follow the crowds up until you reach the village, then enjoy wandering the little alleyways and exploring the tiny shops. If you turn right as you enter the village and continue all the way along, it will take you to what is left of the tower structure. This is the spot where you will get THE Santorini pictures of the windmill on the hill surrounded by white buildings – THIS is where you want to try and get a spot to watch the sunset but you have to arrive EARLY to stand a hope. Our bus was late so we didn’t make it this far but has a much less crowded and spectacular view from lower down. It’s worth bringing along a picnic and some wine for the wait and securing your spot early. In the day-time you’ll get some amazing views across the Caldera that will also get you snap happy!13876593_10153682680092617_4997487180421780562_n13906730_10153682680102617_324564665984752274_nWalking back through the village, double back on yourself along the alleyways until you stumble across Aphrodite Books – a cute and tiny little bookstore I found that is worth a look.Then continue along the strip where you’ll find more glimpses of stunning views and quirky little stores including one filled with old-fashioned puppets that amazed me. Further along you’ll find no end of restaurants overlooking the ocean – perfect for drinks in the afternoon, dinner after sunset or even a relaxed breakfast. We had no problem getting a table for drinks in the afternoon, nor for dinner just after sunset with three of us. It may be worth booking ahead if you have your heart set on a table or restaurant but if you’re flexible you should be okay. Don’t be too intimidated by the price of these ocean-view restaurants – they were a tad more expensive than in Perissa but nowhere near as expensive as we expected so worth it for a treat. Whether you’re there during the day or at night, make sure you stop along the way to capture some of the most Instagram-worthy pics you’ll ever take – those gorgeous white buildings and dreamy ocean views ain’t gonna snap themselves!13902744_10153669362592617_515321982825774059_nJust one thing – for those arriving in Oia by boat or passing through the village – I ask that you do one thing and promise me not to ride the donkeys. The treatment I saw there of these poor creatures forces to work in the midday sun when sick and weak was terrible. I couldn’t bear the sight of them bowed under the weight of tourists as they carried them up endless steps and steep cliffs to the village in the burning heat. And for what? Because we’re too lazy to use our legs? For some stupid tourist trap that is probably overpriced anyway. Use your common sense and realise the pain and suffering these creatures go through, don’t support the trade and it will eventually die out much like elephant tourism in Thailand. You have the power to make a change by not going with the crowd, so do it, trust me it works. I stopped no end of people from riding elephants in Thailand just from explaining why – it doesn’t take much to wake people up to reality.13680637_10153669362982617_5886234302335479895_n13921104_10153669363292617_373082987621663186_n

Have you been to Oia – can you recommend any hotels/restaurants? What was your favourite part? Did the sunset live up to the hype?

image7-1-1

Travel | Absolutely Lucy turns 3 and the end of my Eurotrip!

imageI’ve been back in the country less than 24 hours and it’s safe to say after four weeks of mad, fast, exciting travelling around Europe, of dancing until the sun comes up and  sightseeing for days – I’m glad to be home. I’ve had the most incredible few weeks road tripping across Bulgaria, exploring Berlin, relaxing in the stunning surroundings of Slovenia, diving into the beautiful baths of Budapest and partying it up in Amsterdam. It’s been epic from start to finish and went better than I ever could have hoped, all thanks to all my amazing friends I met up with along the way. The trip was a fantastic excuse to visit some of my friends from trips to Asia and Australia back in their own homes and to catch up on old times, while picking up some awesome new friends along the way. It felt so good to be on the road and completely independent again, travelling solo really is my favourite way to travel, and I feel so refreshed after  a break from working so much. Also a big thanks to everyone who has been following me on Instagram and has offered countless suggestions of place to eat, things to see and do along the way!

So what next? You all know I’m never one to stand still for long so of course I’ve already got lots of plans for the next few weeks and if you’ve been following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you’ll already know that in just one month I’ll be heading back to Australia for another year! While I was away my second year visa was granted and after waiting months for it to be approved I was beyond ecstatic, I can’t wait to get back there to start a whole new adventure and to see all my loves I have missed so much. With just a month to prepare, you’d think I’d need to take a few days off working to get everything in order, but actually I’ve ended up signing up to full time freelance hours until the date I leave! Plus I’ll be covering a lot of extra blogging events and reviewing a huge range of restaurants and hotels for you guys with all my top tips for weekends away and how to make the most of your time off work. And I’ve got some exciting collaborations with travel brands and opportunities coming up that I can’t wait to share with you.

It’s been lovely to take some time off from the blog over the last couple of weeks just to get some perspective and really appreciate how far I’ve come. This week my blog celebrated it’s third birthday and I actually cannot believe how much it has changed and grown in that time – from the very first blog post I published to the most recent collaborations and going on my first blogging press trip a week ago. I’m so proud of everything I have accomplished with this blog – from working with brands to helping readers plan their trips. I actually received an amazing message from a long-time reader this morning saying she was inspired by this blog post to quit her job and her relationship so she could buy a one-way ticket to Australia. It is just incredible to have any kind of influence on readers, but to have such a huge impact on her life is more than I could have dreamed of when I started Absolutely Lucy.14368820_10153777471112617_1681907711635110597_nWhen you love to write as much as I do, and you love to travel, getting to combine these passions in a way that helps others and helps you build a career is so precious, it is important to appreciate every second. Last week, the 10th edition of industry magazine Blogosphere published with the incredible In The Frow on the cover – one of the bloggers I have followed from the very beginning – and guess who was featured inside? One of my favourite travel bloggers, Vicky Flip Flop, chose to feature Absolutely Lucy among her favourite travel bloggers for the month. I haven’t yet had a chance to see it as I’ve been away, but I’ll be sharing it with you as soon as my copy arrives – I’m so excited to be a part of such a fabulous magazine, and such an incredible industry.14354903_10153777471157617_3487606775261715180_nThese last few weeks have been exactly the tonic I needed to come home feeling super inspired, with a brain and a camera packed full of amazing content that I just can’t wait to share with you. I’m planning on working my ass off at this laptop and bringing you a huge range of new posts on all my adventures and hope to inspire you to plan some of your own. I’m also on a serious health kick – after four weeks of drinking and eating all kinds of rubbish – I’m looking forward to getting in the gym again and eating healthily. It’s time to get this body in shape and to peak fitness before I get back to Australia and living in my bikini every day! I’m so pleased I finally found a gym in my small town that offers a huge range of classes, plus a well-stocked gym and a pool – actually, I’m going to wrap up this post now and head straight down there for a workout! So there you go guys, a little glimpse into a chaotic few weeks that have left me with a big smile on my face.

Have you traveled around Europe – what was your favourite place? Have you been in spired by my posts – tell me about it! What’s your workout regime – got any tips for me?

image7-1-1

Santorini | Volcano, hot springs & cruising the Caldera | Greece

13872705_10153669369437617_2574518093963893625_nThere’s nothing like a good day trip to break up a holiday, whether you go off to visit another nearby island or just another town, it’s a perfect way to experience something totally different during your trip. We were in Santorini for two weeks so we made sure to organise plenty of day trips and activities – like climbing the mountain – to break up our time sunbathing on the beach. One of my absolute highlights of the holiday was a bargain day trip we took from Perissa to explore the nearby active volcano, to swim in natural hot springs and mud baths, and finish the day with a cruise around the Caldera. You’ll see this trip on offer a lot when staying on the island in various different forms, but it can be difficult to ensure you don’t get ripped off when booking without doing a little research. Luckily for you, I’ve done the research for you so you can sit back and enjoy the trip!image

Booking the trip

We booked our trip at a Perissa travel agency after checking out several to compare prices, it’s always worth comparing at least three and seeing if they can offer you a discount for group bookings. A few euros doesn’t sound much, but it makes a huge difference to your pocket if you have a big group of people. We booked our trip with Star Travel, on the main street, who were great – they offered a full day trip with all three attractions for the same price other companies were charging for a half-day experience. At around 20 euros per person, we could be picked up from the agents in the morning and taken to hike up the active volcano, we would swim in the hot springs then break on the nearby island of Therissa where you can enjoy a peaceful lunch before heading home and cruising around Oia and the famous Caldera. A pretty busy day, but one worth experiencing. Not only do you get to tick some pretty amazing sights off your Santorini bucket list, but you also get to do it at a steady and enjoyable pace.13882417_10153669369852617_5295825705394534213_n13882417_10153669369712617_1683611288060951229_n

Climbing the active volcano

An amazing experience to see the volcanic, bare landscape set against a background of ocean and Santorini coastline. Just out in the bay from the island, it’s just a short 5-10 minute boat ride before you land here and prepare to climb the volcano. I wore running shoes but you can easily do it in sturdy sandals, I saw some in flip-flops but I wouldn’t recommend it. You have to pay a few euros each for entrance to the volcano, then it’s off up towards the crater. The hike takes less than half an hour and isn’t too strenuous but it is hot – make sure you have water and sunscreen – and be aware that it is at least five degrees hotter at the top. The walk up is incredible – take a second to appreciate the stark landscape – and when you reach the crater it’s amazing to walk around. Annoyingly you will be surrounded by boat-loads of tourists and plenty of selfie sticks, but it is still worth a visit and it is possible to find a quiet spot. Listen out for your tour guide talking about the history of the volcano, it has an interesting past, and then stroll around the crater taking in the 360 degree panoramic view of ocean and island. Watch out for our pal Walle who sits up there 24/7 monitoring volcanic activity and serving as an early warning for the island to be evacuated in case of emergency.13887038_10153669369867617_7050272482306377329_n

Swimming in hot springs

Back on the boat and we cruise round the volcano and off towards the hot springs which sit in the shadow of a nearby island. As you approach, you’ll see further in where the water changes colour to a deep rusty, brown colour, where the mud carries no end of minerals. The boat stops around 15-20 metres away from where you will be able to touch the ground but you do have to jump off and swim for it – if you’re not a confident swimmer stay on the boat. A short swim across and you can swim/walk across the rocks to enter the hot springs, feeling the water warming your skin. It’s only just above body temperature but you can feel the difference and it’s lovely to sit there in the water. I recommend rubbing the mud all over your skin – everyone thought Mum and I were mad for doing this but it makes your skin incredible soft. I was aiming for five years younger but I don’t know if I quite reached it. We have just half an hour to enjoy the mud baths before heading back to the boat, but it’s the perfect amount of time as we were starving by this point. Swimming back you definitely feel the cold hit you as you leave the hot springs but luckily the clear sea water washes off any remaining mud before you climb back on board.13876508_10153669370047617_6032899850155312868_n

A relaxing lunch on Therissa Island

Next our journey took to to the island of Therissa, a step back in time to the Greece of years ago. You can walk up to the main village but it is a very steep climb and we weren’t sure we would have time to squeeze that in with lunch. Instead we pottered along the shoreline to one of the restaurants and sampled the stuffed vegetables and freshly caught calamari – I’ve become addicted to calamari over the last few weeks. It was a perfect relaxed lunch with a beautiful view of all the boats and the crystal clear waters. All of the restaurants serve the freshest of fish and for roughly the same prices so choose any and enjoy the setting. After we ate, we decided to wander along the shore to the windmill at the other end of the beach so we could check out the views and shops along the way. It was a lovely little walk and with two hours there we had just enough time to see everything we wanted to see before heading back to the boat to get a good spot at the front for our Caldera cruise.13934590_10153669370202617_1448667652268613479_n13880203_10153669370217617_7472480666856025732_n

Oia and Caldera Cruise

How better to finish the day than with a peaceful cruise around Oia – a chance to finally view it from the ocean in all its splendour before making our way along the Caldera by boat. I’ll be posting about my day spent in Oia at a later date – but you must without a doubt experience Oia from the ocean, within the town during the day and of course, at sunset, to get a real feel for the town. It’s spectacular in all its forms and not at all overrated, every time I was in awe of the beauty and the magic of this stunning location. And of course, a boat cruise around the island in the afternoon sunshine is a perfect way to experience Santorini. There’s something so peaceful about being out at sea, perhaps it’s the mermaid in me but it just soothes my soul every time. Clear, endless waters, overlooked by centuries old white windmills – that’s what Santorini is all about and that’s what this trip will give you. All those dreamy island views you’ve been stalking on Instagram in the months leading up to your trip.13934741_10153682680522617_1083166504792679114_n13903378_10153669370362617_1717106529558893240_nI can’t recommend the trip we went on enough – it gave us everything we wanted and more. You get to see a whole different side to the island, a natural and raw side to the landscape that often isn’t associated with the more manicured beauty of Santorini. It’s a perfect way to spend a day during your holiday to the island.

Have you been on this trip – what was your highlight? Do you love boat trips, where was your favourite one?

image7-1-1

Santorini | That day I climbed a mountain and visited an ancient city | Greece

13962682_10153682687712617_3327037275195795263_nHaving two weeks in a place is such a luxury when you travel. Holidays can be so expensive and I know so many who have had to sacrifice a second week this year due to costs. We’re all familiar with that feeling that we never have enough time to squeeze everything in, well I’m definitely guilty of trying to squeeze too much into a break. I can’t help myself, I just want to do, see, eat and experience everything a country has to offer, which doesn’t often leave much time for relaxing! You’ll know from my previous posts that I love keeping fit and active, even when I travel and so I’m sure you’ll know that I’m game for trying any new ways of getting out there and pushing my body. So when I realised the amazing opportunity to try something a bit different that lay waiting in Santorini, I jumped at the chance. If you like to exercise this one is a great way to combine history and working out while taking in a spectacular view of the island.13882088_10153682679712617_2088484874682698811_nIn the south-west of the island lies the biggest mountain of the island, Mesa Vouna. This stunning peak has the town of Perissa nestled against one side, while the town of Kamari can be found on the opposite side. At just 369m, it’s only a baby in the mountain world, but it’s still a worthy climb and well worth it for the experience. We set off at sunrise to try and find the path, which was just a few fields behind my apartments, along the way stumbling across some donkeys preparing for their huge climb over the peak. It was around 5.30am and barely touched by the light, we began our journey – why so early you ask? Well I quite enjoy an early start to the day anyway, and quite frankly it gets so damn hot there that you definitely wouldn’t want to attempt this climb beyond 9am or you would be standing up there in 30 degree heat! With the incredible excavations and discovered ruins of Ancient Thira sitting at the top and just waiting to be explored, I wanted time to appreciate it.13912644_10153682679362617_482515594261268932_nThe walk is around 8km and if you’re relatively fit it’ll be a breeze, you can complete it in an hour or two – more or less depending on whether you stop along the way. We actually saw a couple of guys who were running up and down the mountain several times – so if you fancy a really grueling workout it’s right there waiting for you. I wore running shoes when I took on the climb but my mum and dad managed it fine in sturdy sandals. We took breakfast and plenty of water along with us, you’ll need both as the shop at the top is sometimes closed and you might not be able to buy anything for the climb down. I would really recommend hiking up the mountain from Perissa as you actually get the experience of walking up the rock face rather than a man-made path like the one waiting on the other side. It also means that in the morning you will walk in the shade which is a blessing when you’re faced with bright, burning heat down the other side. Along the way look out for signs marking graves on the hillside and plaques explaining the history, these are worth a read if you’re interested.13892056_10153682679527617_5446372040536266128_nWhen you finally reach the top – just stop and breathe it all in. The view is incredible across Kamari and Perissa with the ocean on either side and the volcano within view. It’s definitely time to stop for a few photos before climbing the next short hill to Ancient Thira – the ruins cost 2 euros to enter and are more than worth it for the stunning views waiting from the top and a glimpse into a city of the past. The site is not open on Mondays and only opens unil 2.30pm on some days so be sure to check ahead of walking. The hilltop was first inhabited by the Dorians, whose leader was Theras, in the 9th century BC. Thira was later occupied in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras, with most buildings surviving today from the Hellenistic era (around 4th century BC). If you like history and visiting ancient ruins, you’ll be in for a treat with remnants of the ancient houses, cemeteries and even a theatre overlooking the ocean waiting for you. It was amazing to what was found by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902, and then later by N. Zapheiropoulos in 1961-1982. I personally love experiences like this, I love delving into the past and imagining the whole communities that might have lived in ruins such as Pompeii, Angkor Wat and Sukothai.13934695_10153682679652617_4820893897813726839_nWhen you’re walking around it’s worth checking out the boards that are placed around, they’re all written in English and give you lots of information about the different buildings and what once would have laid there. Buildings from different periods are mixed together throughout the site along one main street, which is intersected by smaller streets. Sights worth checking out include the two agoras where you can see the ruins of several Greek temples, and don’t miss out on seeing the Roman baths and stone church of Agios Stefanos. The arc of the theatre was one of my highlights with a panoramic view of the Aegean – to think Greeks long ago sat there watching theatre much like I watched movies at the open-air cinema later in the week was crazy. For a cheeky look into the past, you should check out the view over the site from the large Terrace of Festivals – in times gone by boys would have danced naked there to honour Apollo, and you can still find some nearby phallic graffiti.13935150_10153682687782617_2971241929701860738_nThe climb is a great experience and was one of my highlights of the holiday, all three of us enjoyed it and the early start even meant that by the time we reached Kamari, we still had a whole day to top up our tans on the beach. The ocean at Perissa hides quite a strong current at times so be careful when swimming, Kamari on the other hand is much more sheltered and perfect for a swim or a snorkel. We spent a couple of days on the beach there, exploring the town and eating out at the many restaurants. And after such an early start and the steep walk up the mountain, I can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than napping in the sun and swimming out to the nearby rocks. Just what the doctor ordered.13879253_10153682679887617_3364172225929287717_n

Have you climbed a mountain – where? What are your favourite ways to stay active when on holiday? Have you been to Santorini?

image7-1-1