Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle during last summer's Europe road trip was definitely one of the highlights. I've always wanted to see the fairy tale castle with my own eyes and finally I made that a reality. Germany is a perfect country to travel to be inspired by the old folklore and children's stories we've all grown up with. Boasting majestic forests, spectacular landscapes and beautiful castles. It's no wonder it's inspired so many of our favourite tales of princes and princesses.

I normally try and avoid super touristy locations. But I knew that Neuschwanstein Castle – or Schloss Neuschwanstein as it is known in German – would be super busy. It's one of the most visited castles in Germany. Easily one of the most popular destinations for tourists in Europe, it's a good idea to plan ahead. As with many popular European tourist destinations, the challenge of travelling Europe in the summer is dodging the busloads of tourists. Just a few small, smart decisions can help you actually capture photos and enjoy the view peacefully.

Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany

When to visit Neuschwanstein Castle & where to stay

Choose carefully which time of year you wish to visit. The castle looks spectacular all year around but it depends whether you wish to see it in sunshine, snow or even the fall foliage. Once you've planned your trip, make sure that you can get to the castle early in the morning. The tour buses tend to arrive late morning, just before they break for lunch at the bottom. The best way to tackle the trip would be to either be staying very close by the castle the night before you visit. Or to hire a car so you can get an early start on the day.

How & when to get to the castle

We actually stayed in Munich the night before and drove there in the morning, arriving at around 9.30-10am. The drive took around 1 hour 40 minutes and the castle was easy to find. This was a perfect time to arrive as many people who wanted to book on to the guided tours were creating huge queues at the bottom, while we started hiking to the viewpoints. I really recommend doing the trip independently instead of with a tour. It's a completely different experience, much cheaper and with a lot more freedom. If you decide to hire a car, you'll find the route from Munich via this link.

Arriving at 9.30am gave us plenty of time to reach the bridge before the crowds and to enjoy plenty of time exploring and taking pics. It also meant we didn't waste an entire day queuing. Instead we could spend a few hours there and still make it to a lake for lunch and an afternoon swim.

Visiting the castle

Tickets – is it worth it?

You can only visit the inside of the castle by guided tour and with tickets for both Neuschwanstein and nearby Hohenschwangau Castle. These can be purchased in the Ticket Centre on the day of your visit. It costs €13 per person and per castle, or you can book in advance for €16.30 at the Neuschwanstein Castle website. On the day, the size of the queues plus the cost put me off paying to go inside. We had visited a lot of castles on our budget road trip and I didn't feel the inside was the attraction.

Neuschwanstein Castle is known for epic views and amazing nature. And of course, that beautiful fairy tale castle that inspired the Disney castles. For me, I felt the tickets would be a waste when we could spend the time hiking the trails and exploring the different viewpoints. Having spent a few hours there, and seeing the masses of people waiting at the castle for their tours – I'm glad we didn't go inside.

 neuschwanstein castle

Where to get the best FREE view – Hiking to Queen Mary Bridge

Out of all the viewpoints we visited, I would say Queen Mary Bridge is by far the best. It offers an incredible, undisturbed view of the castle plus stunning lakes and mountains. You'll also find that most of the best photos of the castle you have seen were taken from here. So it's a good place to head if you're keen to the get best views for free.

Arriving at Marienbrucke (Queen Mary Bridge) to find it empty apart from a couple of people was well worth the 30min uphill hike. We chose to take the rough track instead of the road which was great as we were the only people on the path. It was hard work but I managed in a skirt and flip flops.

Visiting Neuschwanstein Castle

Getting the perfect Instagram photos during your visit

I found it super easy to get the most amazing photos during my visit, but this was all because we planned well and made sure to get there early. We knew we weren't interested in going inside Neuschwanstein Castle, but would much rather explore the beautiful surroundings and take in the view from a distance. We chose a route that took us up to a bridge where we had spectacular views across the valley and continued to climb up higher to find the perfect spot to take photos without anyone to disturb us.

My best tip – when you reach the bridge, don't stop there. The path continues up through the rocks to a gorgeous and undisturbed outlook where you can take some epic pictures. If you're feeling brave – you can continue to climb up through the rocks and foliage to find amazing views across three lakes, mountains and the castle. This part was still open when I visited, I heard it had been blocked off since so it will totally depend on safety. I don't recommend taking unnecessary or dangerous risks for the sake of a photo – don't be that person.

neuschwanstein castle

Top tips for getting the perfect pic:

Read: Top tips on capturing Instagrammable locations when you travel

Have you visited Neuschwanstein Castle – what was your favourite part? What top tips would you share for the perfect pic?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

Never did I ever imagine that I would be celebrating my birthday cruising from Milan to Lake Como for a day of pizza, champagne and George Clooney-spotting. It turns out Milan is the perfect place to plan a European city break if you like exploring beyond just a city. With the beautiful Lake Como just a few hours away, it makes a perfect day-trip. Or you could choose to spend time in Venice, Saint Moritz, Bergamo, Lugarno or Genoa. With so much sitting right on your doorstep, it seems almost a crime to stick to exploring the city! It's one thing I've always loved about Europe – having so much so close, just makes it such a pleasure to travel.

The best thing about visiting Lake Como from Milan, is that it's a super easy trip to navigate. No stress, no confusion over trains or ferries. No waiting around or long travel times. It couldn't be easier, which means it leaves you with more time to enjoy yourself and eat pizza. Because we all know that's really why we want to explore Italy. So grab yourself an Aperol Spritz, sit comfortably and let me tell you exactly how to plan a day-trip from Milan to Lake Como...

Absolutely Lucy, Lake Como, Italy

How to get from Milan to Lake Como

It couldn't be easier to get to Lake Como which makes it perfect for a day trip. Starting from Milano Centrale Railway Station – the train takes around 40 minutes and is direct to Como. There are nearly 40 trains per day and each one varies in the time it takes to arrive – some take over an hour – so check before you go. Tickets start fro €4.80 one-way for a standard class ticket, but if you book on the day the average price is €7.30 each way.

Watch out in the central station for people who claim to work there. They stand by the ticket machines, insist on helping you then try to force you to tip them for using the ticket machine. We nearly got caught out by a very rude woman who was targeting any tourists who passed through. If in doubt about which train to catch, ask at the proper ticket office or book online. Make sure to get snacks before you arrive at the station – the cafes don't have a great selection.

Absolutely Lucy, Lake Como, Italy

Exploring Como – everything you need to know:

What to see and do?

Como is such a beautiful city, nestled at the base of the pre-alpine mountains and on the very southern tip of Lake Como. The train from Milan will bring you to the city and after a short walk into the heart of the city, you'll find all the classic Italian charm you've been looking for. Think gorgeous architecture, cute little piazzas, boutiques, winding streets and lots of cafes and bars by the water. Here are my top 5 things to do in Como:

  1. Take a boat ride or catch the ferry across Lake Como.
  2. Visit Como Cathedral for lavish Gothic 14th-18th century architecture.
  3. Take the Funicular up to Brunate – a cute train that scales the mountain for epic views.
  4. Visit the other towns around the lake including Bellagio, Cernobbio or Menaggio.
  5. Get active – there are lots of places to go canyoning or rock climbing around Lake Como.

Where to eat and drink

There are no end of gorgeous little cafes around the city of Como, hidden in the winding streets. If you arrive by train, I recommend wandering towards the lake which will take you to a series of piazzas with bars and restaurants. We stopped at the Piazza Alessandro Volta, where we found a little bar called Krudo with a few tables outside. A perfect spot for a pizza and an Aperol Spritz – delicious food and drink with a lovely view of the square.

Absolutely Lucy, Milan, Italy

Bellagio – getting there and exploring

What to see and do

If you take a day trip to Lake Como, you simply can't leave without visiting the famous town of Bellagio. It's one of the most idyllic towns in the area and a perfect way to spend an afternoon by the lake. Getting to the Pearl of Lake Como couldn't be easier, although it is quite expensive. It €29.75 one way for the Como-Bellagio ferry, which starts the route just at the tip of Como where the city meets the water. It is pricey for the 20-30 minute boat ride, but it is a lovely trip and you get to see all around the lake as you cruise across, also passing George Clooney's mansion.

Top things to do in Bellagio:

  1. Drink champagne overlooking Lake Como at Hotel Metrapole Bellagio
  2. Wander the streets and visit the gorgeous boutique shops
  3. Indulge your sweet tooth with gelato or visit the chocolate shops
  4. Discover the gardens of Villa Serbelloni & Villa Melzi
  5. Stroll along the promenades and explore Punta Spartivento & Pescallo

Where to eat and drink

As we ate in Como, we didn't stop for food in Bellagio but I really recommend Hotel Metrapole Bellagio for drinks overlooking the water. We were really lucky and ended up with the best table in the house with panoramic views of Lake Como. It was also fairly reasonably priced for a bottle of bubbles as we were celebrating. There were also several rooftop bars overlooking the water directly in the area where the ferry docks. Plus don't forget to explore the winding streets of the town centre where you'll find fab little gelato bars.

Absolutely Lucy, pizza and aperol spritzes for lunch in Italy

Spotting George Clooney's house on way home

George Clooneys Villa Oleandea, Italy


If you fancy some celeb spotting on the cruise across the water to Bellagio – check out George Clooney's villa. You can spot it on the journey back from Bellagio to Como, this route brings you close to the shore on the correct side of the lake.

Google Maps search for Villa Oleandra (which you will find at Via Vecchia Regina, 20, 22010 Laglio CO, Italy) or even just search for George Clooney's house Lake Como and you will find it.

If you look at the images on Google you can easily spot it from the boat. Check out my Insta story left for the details. We gave him a wave just in case he was at the windows!

Gelato at a Bellagio ice cream store in Italy

Where else to visit at Lake Como?

There are several other beautiful towns to visit. But these are the most popular and those with key attractions you might want to visit. Be aware that if you are travelling from Milan, you probably will have time to visit only one town other than Como, or two if you rush and get there super early. The ferries take around 30 minutes from one side of the lake to another, and stick to a timetable. Don't plan too much for one day, focus on enjoying less places but spending more time exploring them. For more information on the other towns – read: 15 towns to visit on Lake Como.

Absolutely Lucy at Como with view over the lake, Italy

Have you been to Lake Como – would you like to take a day trip from Milan to Lake Como? What would you choose - pizza and Aperol Spritz? Or Champagne overlooking the water?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

Visiting Bran Castle this year was one of my absolute travel highlights. It's a place that has been on my bucket list for years and I couldn't wait to finally visit. There's nothing quite like the feeling of finally ticking off a place you've been dreaming of for as long as you can remember. Eastern Europe really has a gritty charm that has been lost in other, busier parts of the continent. While yes, Romania does get busy and Bran Castle is one of the most popular tourist spots, there's something about it that still manages to feel a bit off the beaten track. If you do it well – Bran Castle can be a fairytale experience. Just be sure to eat something garlicky the night before you visit to scare off any vampires!

Read: The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Bucharest

Absolutely Lucy at Bran Castle, Romania

How do I get from Bucharest to Bran Castle?

Romania's road systems are a bit slow travelling due to the lack of highways but the countryside is absolutely beautiful. Bran is located in the mountains a few hours from Bucharest, so if you're flying into the city, it's a lovely little trip out to the castle. There are two main options for travel:

Hire a car

This is something I've always wanted to do in Romania. My dream is to road trip across the countryside one day. Not only is it fairly cheap to hire a car over there, but the most magical sights are out in the rural areas. By hiring a car, you gain freedom to pick your route and build in several different stop-offs along the way. Google Maps says the journey is around 3 hours from Bucharest to Bran Castle – but this very much depends on what time of day you travel and the traffic. For us, it took over four hours on the way there, and nearly six hours on the way back. The roads are not great quality, so expect a slow journey but take it slow and enjoy a slow cruise through the mountains with beautiful views.

Take the train & bus

If you don't want to hire a car, you could also reach the castle by public transport. Taking the train is a great way to skip the traffic and take a relaxing ride. You can get the Brașov train route from North Railway Station (Gara de Nord) in Bucharest, which takes around 3.5 hours. Then, from Brașov, you can take a taxi to Bran Castle, or even the public bus which goes every 30 minutes/hourly from auto-station No. 2 Brașov.

Bran Castle, Romania

When should I visit the castle?

I really recommend thinking carefully about when you choose to visit. This part of the Romanian countryside will be beautiful all year round, no doubt, but you may have a very different experience. Perhaps you love the snow and magical feeling of seeing Bran Castle at Christmas, or maybe you prefer a sun-drenched visit. Remember these times of year may also bring big crowds to the area as it is a popular tourist attraction for both Romanians and tourists from abroad.

I visited at the end of September which was a great time of year to go. Not only was the weather still absolutely lovely, but the first signs of autumn were beginning to appear. It also meant I was there during the "shoulder season" so it was a lot less busy than during peak summer. But there was also still a lot happening – all the shops and markets were open plus there was even a sheep festival held while I visited. Do your research and plan your trip around either the perfect time of year for you, or avoiding the crowds.

Where should I stay?

There are two main options available when you visit Bran Castle. You can either stay in the nearby city of Brașov which offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. This includes hostels, B&Bs and everything up to luxury hotels which are just a 30 minute drive from the castle – perfect for a day trip. It also means you'll have time to explore Brașov and spend more time there, as I know there is so much more to see in this area.

If you would prefer to stay in Bran – there are a range of accommodations available. While a selection of luxury and mid-range hotels and even glamping close by the castle. Two days would be enough time to visit the castle and also to hike one of the trails, but there isn't really enough close by to stay for longer.

[Press trip] I stayed in Pensiunea Gentiana which was in a great location – just a 20 minute walk from the castle. Just outside the busiest part of Bran, it was surrounded by mountains and beautiful countryside. The hotel came equipped with a swimming pool, a tennis court and spa. Despite the facilities, I would say that this hotel was rather basic for the price – the rooms were a bit of a disappointment. I think this hotel was a bit over-priced for the level of service and for the slight distance to the castle, compared to other nearby accommodations. I also was rather disappointed that despite advertising itself as 400m from the castle, it was actually nearly a 2km walk alongside a very busy and quite dangerous road. Rooms were around £80 a night for two people.

Exploring Dracula's Castle, Romania

Costs and opening hours

The castle is open every day throughout the year, with longer opening hours during peak season. From April 1 to September 30 – the castle is open from 9am to 6pm daily, with last admission at 6pm. From October 1 to March 31, the castle is open daily from 9am to 4pm, with last admission at 4pm. On Mondays, the castle has shorter opening hours, open from 12pm throughout the year.

Entry to the grounds of the castle is free and there is a coffee shop and a gift shop as well as lovely gardens to walk around. If you wish to go inside the castle, you must pay 40 lei (around €8.5) at the gate. There are reduced entry rates for seniors, students and children.

For all the up-to-date information on Bran Castle - check the official website.

Do you need a tour guide for Bran Castle?

Tours are readily available for the castle. Whether you book with a company before arriving, or pay on the gate for a tour. These tours are great if you want to learn more about the history of the castle and its inhabitants. Normally I love learning about these things. However I found the tours I encountered there rather brash, loud and rather ruined the experience. I arrived at opening time and was the first through the gate as I wanted a chance to capture photos before the groups arrived. Later I wandered back through the rooms of the castle alongside the tours and it was a horrible experience. The rooms are small and if you get trapped with a tour guide booming at the top of his lungs, it's not much fun.

I would really recommend visiting the castle mid-week to avoid the crowds of the weekends. And, if you prefer a quieter experience to take in the rooms and the views, definitely consider arriving at opening or towards the end of the day. By the time I was finished at the castle – at around 11am – there were so many people everywhere as this is when most of the tour groups arrive. I would also recommend doing the castle first and the grounds after – as the grounds are more spread out, they're much more enjoyable and you can still get great views.

Castle, Romania

Camera equipment at the castle

A note for anyone who likes photography – you are not allowed to fly drones within the grounds of the castle. However, there doesn't seem to be any problem with flying them from nearby. There is a small park behind the castle – keep following the road through the village to find it.

For those who wish to take photos within the castle, there are a few rules for photography equipment. The website states: "The amateur photo / video pass are both included in the basic ticket.
Professional filming / photography requires a signed contract." When I visited the castle, I took my tripod and camera. I had no knowledge of the restrictions and no-one commented when I entered.

I was fine shooting photos all the way around the grounds. When I was nearly finished, a security guard came over to tell me I wasn't allowed to take photos with a tripod. Obviously I don't advise you to break the rules, but this is something I was not aware of. So if you have a friend who can take pics for you – perhaps this is a better option.

Hiking near Bran Castle

If you like getting active when you travel, this part of Romania is surrounded by beautiful countryside which is perfect for hiking. Why not check out the popular and challenging Bran Castle to Magura village walk? It takes around 3-4 hours and covers 8km, starting with a steep climb. The climb starts opposite the castle and soon levels out to offer panoramic views across the village and surrounding mountains. Find the beginning of the trail in front of Vama Medievala Bran Museum and follow the red bars. You can also continue the trail to explore the isolated villages of Magura and Pestera.

Romania, castle

What else is nearby the castle?

As it doesn't take long to see the castle, you may also wish to explore the local area. There is a little market at the entrance to the castle which sells lots of lovely gifts. You can find handmade pottery, art, food and drink, woodwork, clothing and much more here. Plus there is also a local life museum which is found just to the left of the entrance where you can find preserved traditional Romania housing. There is also a horror house in the market for the tourists – more aimed at children.

Have you been to Bran Castle – would you like to visit? Is Romania a country you would like to visit?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

I was invited by Angloville to attend their Romania teaching programme and cultural exchange to promote my experience, however, what I experience left me with nothing but cause for concern. The company's response to my formal complaint was to ignore me and then block me on social media. For over two months I was promised a response and received nothing, so I decided to share my honest experience here on the blog in the hopes that other young travellers who wish to join this teaching abroad programme can ensure their own safety. I'm very sad to share my experiences of the Angloville Romania programme. I was really excited to take part in the trip and to experience the programme. Not only was it in a country I have always wanted to visit, but I have always loved teaching English abroad.

Unfortunately the programme let both myself and several others down in many different ways. Worse than that, when I raised my concerns to my contacts at the company, my emails went unanswered. This is why I have decided to share my experiences. Because this high level of unprofessionalism in response to a complaint of inappropriate behaviour by a programme leader is unacceptable. I know that if I were signing on to a programme like this, I would expect to feel safe and supported in my work. But sadly that was not the experience for many of the volunteers who took part.

Read: The ultimate guide to planning a trip to Bucharest

Absolutely Lucy, Bucharest, park, Romania

My experiences of Angloville Romania

I want to stress that I think as a whole, the concept of the programme is valuable. Speaking to the other volunteers and to the participants, I could see the value in confidence building and language development. The amazing people who took part in the programme really bonded and became a little family. The volunteers provided huge amounts of support. We saw real progress by the time the participants delivered a presentation at the end of the week. For some I even had tears in my eyes because I was so proud of what they had accomplished. Everyone worked so hard during the week and it really showed.

However, I think that there are a lot of aspects that massively let the programme down. During my week there, I took the time to chat to the volunteers and the participants, and to get their feedback on the programme. This post is based on my own experiences and my findings from the other people taking part in the programme. Some felt able to share this on feedback forms but felt their feedback was ignored. Others said to me that because of the way feedback was collected, they felt unable to share their true opinions because they were still reliant on a reference. This is why I have chosen to share a collective of experiences from the week. Because honest feedback of the programme should be readily available for those looking to take part in future programmes.

Bucharest, Romania, teaching programme near Bran

Volunteer left feeling "worthless"

During the week we were paired up as mentors/mentees and one pairing wasn't quite working. The volunteer reported this to the programme leader straight away, asking for advice. She asked whether it would be better to pair the participant with someone else. There was no disagreement, merely different learning/teaching styles. Naturally she just wanted the participant to get the most out of the experience.

But the volunteer told me she was instantly shut down by the Angloville programme co-ordinator. She tried again the next day and was spoken to rudely in front of the whole room and was told she would no longer be a mentor. The volunteer later told me she was left feeling "absolutely worthless" and spent the next hour crying in her room. She also received notably cold treatment from the co-ordinator throughout the week. When I asked the programme co-ordinator about it, he said: "I had my own issues with... I couldn't be bothered to talk about it with her."

What could have been a really great experience was spoilt through a lack of support or any sort of understanding from the programme coordinator. Instead of feeling valued and appreciated, he handled the situation with indifference and a complete lack of professionalism. This upset me so much that I felt like leaving the programme after just one day. Luckily I had support from the other volunteers and I loved being with the local participants. Based on my own experience, and feedback from other volunteers, I feel that the programme co-ordinator is not the right person for this position. - volunteer

Bucharest, Romania, before Angloville

Inappropriate behaviour by Angloville programme leader

Sexist comments and inappropriate behaviour

My biggest concern of the week was the behaviour of the person in charge. Throughout the programme I noticed many occasions where he made inappropriate comments to volunteers, including myself. His comments included: "I prefer teaching women because they'll just do whatever you tell them to and they won't complain." One evening after I started the group playing a game when our evening entertainment was cancelled. He joined the game and made the same comment repeatedly about how he would "put me to bed after I've had too much wine."

His behaviour after drinking left many of the volunteers feeling uncomfortable. Myself included, after his inappropriate comments and sexist remarks. What concerned me the most was that there were several much younger women taking part in the programme. I have no doubt it attracts those fresh from school/university. As a man in a position of power, he should take far more responsibility and care over his behaviour towards women, and particularly young women.

Rude and unprofessional comments about volunteers and participants

During the week, I was also shocked at the programme co-ordinator repeatedly making rude and unprofessional comments. These were made to myself, and various volunteers about other volunteers and even the participants. Ranging from comments about people being "too stuck up to take part", to commenting on peoples' personal hygiene. His comments created a bad atmosphere and made several of us feel uncomfortable.

Having experienced several Angloville programs in multiple countries. I can safely say Romania was a world of its own. Unprofessional, rude, lacking in the educational supplies found on the other programs. Most of all a co-ordinator who from day one made it clear how little he cared to be there. The passion displayed so easily by every other coordinator I met, did not exist in him. He spoke badly of both volunteers and participants, making for an uncomfortable and overall negative experience. And that’s without considering the rest of his inappropriate behaviour. The amazing people of Romania, who worked so hard, deserve better. – volunteer

Bucharest park, Romania

Complete lack of organisation

No communication and lack of organisation

One thing that caused continual issues throughout the week was the sheer lack of organisation. Despite being given an initial schedule on arrival – we weren't told who would actually be taking part in which sessions. We had been told before arrival that we would have a balance of time teaching and time to explore the area. Actually the reality was we were told right before each session whether we were taking part or free. This meant we never really had much time to leave the hotel except for those of us who were not mentors.

There were several times when myself or others were told off for missing a meeting. But we had been told we were free so had no idea we were supposed to be in a meeting. The lack of communication filtered down and meant the volunteers never really knew what they were doing, and it showed. It was extremely frustrating for those who had been looking forward to exploring the local area. Sadly many people on the trip never had the chance and felt trapped at the hotel, where many of the facilities were not as advertised.

Weak resources and no preparation time

Another issue that bothered several of the volunteers was the terrible quality of the programme materials. Worksheets were provided before each session with various questions and activities. However, these sheets were riddled with spelling mistakes. They featured idioms and phrasings that are not used in day-to-day English and were irrelevant for our participants. I found sheets that were referring to Poland instead of Romania. It was as though the worksheets were created by someone with English as a second language, or they were created decades ago.

Even worse, we were provided with these materials at each session, so the volunteers wouldn't lose them. Not only were we treated like children incapable of keeping hold of a piece of paper. But we also had no time to prepare, so when the sheets were riddled with mistakes, we looked unprofessional. The participants were left confused by mistakes on the sheets and the volunteers left frustrated. It could have all been solved with a little trust and respect for the volunteers. If we had just 10 minutes prep time with the sheets to check for mistakes. Or, even better – if there weren't mistakes in the first place!

Cultural exchange programmes in Romania, pic in Bucharest park

Angloville – is it worth doing?

I'm a big believer in giving a balanced view. While yes, I was very disappointed in the Romania programme and I know I wasn't alone in this. I want to stress that several friends who have completed other programmes in different countries have offered much better feedback. They have spoken of how organised the Polish and Czech programmes are. They've said what a lovely environment they provide for language learning. So while I have it on good authority that some of the programmes are worth doing if you have a passion for teaching English abroad. I would advise you to do your research and read the reviews. But also take into account that many volunteers said to me they didn't dare share their real feelings because they needed a reference.

The behaviour and treatment I experienced and witnessed during my week on the teaching programme is unacceptable. But what is even worse is that despite my writing this nearly two months after taking part in the programme. I still have yet to receive a proper response regarding the formal complaint I submitted. This suggests to me that the programme isn't concerned with the welfare of its' volunteers. When you are trusting a company to provide a safe and supportive environment for you to teach English abroad, this is what you expect. But several of the volunteers on my programme were left feeling frustrated, upset and disappointed by the lack of either.

Read: Honest Review: Teaching English at Angloville

Cultural exchange programmes in Romania, pic in Bucharest park

What about the participants?

Another issue I found was that some of the local participants came to the programme expecting a more formal language teaching programme. They had expected more of a grammar and business English speaking experience. But this isn't what they received – the actual programme is more of a conversational style and confidence-boosting. I'm not certain exactly how it is advertised to the local participants. But I think if I had paid that amount of money for the course, I would be very disappointed.

While it does help with confidence boosting, of the promised 70 hours of instruction. Actually only around 30 hours are formal classes with a native English speaker. The rest of the hours include mealtimes (our co-ordinator spent most of these on his phone), free time, entertainment (several of these sessions were cancelled). I've heard that the participants pay around €1000-1500 for the week-long programme. This is a huge amount of money considering that most of the volunteers have little teaching experience. I just don't feel that the participants gain enough from the programme over the course of the week to justify the price-tag.

Read: A review of Angloville: one-on-one volunteer English teaching, anyone?

Bucharest park, Romania

The much wider issue with cultural exchanges

If you're planning to do a cultural exchange or teaching English programme, I want to stress that my research has shown a huge gap in the protection of volunteers. Whether you're doing this in the UK or abroad, there is not currently any regulation for this part of the tourism industry. While programmes aimed at children will require the standard CRB checks – there is a big gap when it comes to young adults. I've spent the last few weeks researching the industry and have been shocked at the sheer lack of regulation and reporting.

While programmes aimed at those under 18 would be covered by child protection laws. There is nothing to ensure the safety of the next age group. Those volunteers aged 18-25 who are away from home for the first time. Perhaps they're abroad and feel safe travelling as part of a programme, which gives their parents some comfort. But these volunteers might also be those most at risk. As a nearly 30-year-old woman, I felt comfortable to speak out on the behalf of others when I saw things that concerned me at Angloville. But what worries me is that an 18-year-old away from home for the first time might not feel as secure or confident to do the same.

Read: Volunteer travel – experts raise concerns over unregulated industry

Bucharest park, Romania

A final note

If you're planning on joining a teaching English (TEFL) programme abroad, please do not let this put you off. Let this blog post serve as a warning to do your research and only go into a situation where you feel safe. There are many great programmes which can help you get valuable teaching experience. Choose wisely and you could have an amazing time. I recommend checking out Year Out Group, an association of approved gap year providing organisations most of which are registered in the UK. These are actually moderated and follow a code of practice, plus they provide proper support and handling for complaints.

Teaching English abroad is something I've loved for years. It's a really rewarding experience and a great way of combining teaching with travel. If you do have a bad experience – please voice it. If everyone gives fake "good" reviews it means others could end up in a bad situation. Don't be afraid to use your voice, speak out and make a complaint.

Have you ever taken part in a teaching English abroad programme? Which companies would you recommend?

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A visit to Germany's Black Forest wouldn't be complete without exploring Triberg Waterfalls – one of the country's finest natural sights. It's famously known as Germany's highest waterfall. This isn't actually true, it is just the most accessible while Röthbach Waterfall is highest. But that doesn't take away from the charm of Triberg Wasserfall. A place of myths and legends that inspired fairy tales and folklore. The Black Forest is like the place time stood still. Expect thatched roofs, quaint little cottages, cuckoo clock shops and best of all, stunning waterfalls. Because let's be honest, who ever actually listened to advice by TLC?

I first remember seeing pics of Triberg Waterfalls on this post by the Travelista and knew I just had to find a way to squeeze it into my Europe road trip. We may have only had a day to drive through the Black Forest and stop at Triberg Waterfalls – but we made it count! Because no matter how much time you have, this magical part of Germany is well worth a visit. Just have a look at the photos in this post if you don't believe me!

Triberg, Black Forest

How to get there and where to stay?

I had spent the previous afternoon in nearby Basel, Switzerland, and that night over the border near Mulhouse in France, where we stayed at a campsite. This worked perfectly for us as it was around a 90 minute drive to Triberg through some of the most beautiful countryside. If you're flying in to Germany, it's easiest to arrive at Stuttgart and hire a car for the 90 minute drive. Or those traveling from Munich face a 3.5 hour journey. It's also easily accessed from Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The best way to travel to the Black Forest is to hire a car and explore independently, or there are also tours available. You can also access the area by train, with most journeys from Frankfurt or Stuttgart ranging from 3.5-5 hours.

Depending on what time of year you are visiting – it may affect where you stay. During summer, it's peak season for visitors and accommodation may become very expensive and booked up, so best to book in advance. You could also consider camping or hiring a motor-home to give you more flexibility. You can check out this Culture Trip article for tips on the best spots to visit, it's worth looking for accommodation in these areas, or nearby.

Triber Waterfalls and Absolutely Lucy

Tickets and planning your visit

Admission prices for Triberg Waterfalls varies depending on whether you visit in summer or winter. You can check the most up-to-date pricing on this website. When we visited in the €5 per adult and was worth the cost. You can buy the tickets when you arrive and despite it being busy when we arrived, there was no wait to get in.

It's worth planning the time you will arrive so that you are at the falls early or for the last hour before they close. There will be less tourists at these times if you like to avoid the crowds. However, the crowds here – even in peak season – were nothing compared to those at Neuschwanstein Castle – watch out for my upcoming blog post.

Absolutely Lucy at waterfalls

Exploring Triberg Waterfalls

Water cascading down the 163m high waterfalls creates an almighty roar as visitors are faced with a true natural beauty. The seven-level waterfall originates with the river Gutach and creates a dramatic sight. Even more so after heavy rainfall, or during the winter. Starting with a winding path, visitors make their way into the first section of the falls to find a beautiful sight. Lush green forest surrounding them at every turn. Crystal clear waters gushing down the falls and birdsong among the trees.

I do have to stress, this is one of the most touristy parts of Germany outside the cities. So do be prepared – especially if you visit in summer – there will be a lots of visitors. While it was busy and the town of Triberg was overrun by tourists – it wasn't as bad as I expected. It was still lovely to walk around and explore. Particularly as everyone was there to appreciate the stunning nature. I do recommend getting there early in the morning to avoid the busloads of tourists who come later in the day.

Fairytale forest

Hiking at Triberg Waterfalls

What I loved the most when visiting the falls was the hiking available there. Despite it being 30 degrees when we visited, it was cool and shady as we hiked up to the top of the falls and explored the woodlands barefoot. It was stunning and a fairly easy hike that anyone could manage unless seriously unfit. This hike also joins another path at the top which takes walkers on an easy 2.3km hike around the town, past the church and towards the lake. It's suitable for all ages and you can find full directions here, plus there are lots of other great hikes available for all abilities.

Absolutely Lucy at the waterfalls

Visiting the town of Triberg

The town of Triberg looks like something out of Disney – Gepetto could have lived in one of the cottages. It's magical and, while touristy, it has a certain charm about it. Don't miss a look around the famous cuckoo clock shop for more cuckoo clocks than you can imagine, of all shapes and sizes. And of course, it wouldn't be a visit to the Black Forest without stopping for some Black Forest cake!

Sunlight through the trees at waterfall

Have you been to the Black Forest? What did you think of Triberg Waterfalls?

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*This millennial travel post is a collaboration with Shepherds Friendly

Before we start, let me just say how much I hate the term "Millennial". But I love talking about both finance and travel – so saving for millennial travel is something I'm really passionate about. These have been hot topics for me lately and I was pretty excited when Shepherds Friendly contacted me with the results of their survey on the topic. It's well-timed and if you've been following me on social media – you'll already know why! This week I made two very exciting announcements. The first is that I'm going backpacking again! As of December, I will be flying to Mexico and starting an epic 6+ months of travel across Central and South America solo. It's the trip I've been wanting to do for the last five years but have never had the chance until now and I can't wait to share it with you.

My other bit of very exciting new is that I have launched a brand new FREE GUIDE to SAVING UP TO £10k FOR TRAVEL. It's designed to help you guys find realistic ways to save large amounts of money without becoming a hermit. It's focused on small lifestyle changes that can help you save for anything your heart desires. It doesn't have to be travel, it could be a wedding, a baby, a house, or even a new handbag. The point is – this will help you easily put away a potentially huge chunk of savings each year by making tiny changes. I have been using all of these tips to help me save enough to long-term travel and backpack all over the globe for five years. To download, click the banner above and subscribe, then check your emails.

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

Are we prioritising millennial travel? Why?

I remember when I first started travelling, how crazy and wild it seemed. My blog was providing inspiration to those who believed they could never do this for themselves. But over the last few years, there's been a real shift from those living vicariously through me, to those wanting to know how they can make this their reality. Whether it's long-term backpacking or just a short trip – millennials are clearly passionate about seeing the world. But it's not just holidays, there has been a real shift towards authentic travel experiences and adventure travel. It's a clear contrast to the package deals the previous generation favoured.

I was fascinated by the results of the survey by Shepherds Friendly, who spoke to 2,097 UK adults to find out more about millennial saving habits. It turns out 33% of millennials are currently saving for a holiday, with 30% of Generation X having the same short-term goal. Linking well with my previous blog post – perhaps we are a generation of people choosing experiences over things. In the UK, where most are struggling to save for their own home and wonder how they could ever afford to get married. It looks like our short-term savings are more travel-focused than ever. Is it possible that our values are shifting and we are starting to treasure making memories over material possessions?

Live within your means and travel becomes easily accessible:

Travel has been my raison d'être since I was a teenager. My entire life has been built around travel for many years. When I was younger I would work several jobs just to save up to get to the next destination. I barely owned anything much to the bemusement of my peers. They racked up possessions and I kept racking up the miles.

I am now 35, married and own a house and travel is still the most important thing to me. In order to make travel a priority we had a super budget wedding, we live in a very affordable house with a low mortgage and I have an old car that I own outright. Not chasing a luxury lifestyle or piling up debt trying to attain it, means that my husband and I can afford to travel. We are always saving for more travel. Unlike a lot of people our age, we aren't looking to endlessly upgrade our house/car/furniture. We just want to go on as many adventures together as possible.

The problem I sometimes see is that people say they want to travel but are already living far above their means. Cut back, budget and stop endlessly consuming unnecessary things. If you really want to chase those travel dreams, choose experiences and adventure over things.

Pip, 35, of Pip and the City, saving for a camping trip in Canada

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

What are we really like at saving for millennial travel?

The good thing for us is that apparently millennials are among the best savers in the UK with 59% saving at least once a month. The biggest difference is that millennials are more likely to be saving for a home. While generation X are more focused on saving for retirement in the longer term. But given the state of the world at the moment – is it any wonder that we're seeking stability? Sorry, that was a bit bleak. For generation X, housing was significantly cheaper and more attainable meaning they were able to focus on saving for retirement earlier. The housing market has changed drastically in the last few years and for those who want to own their own homes, it's now a real struggle.

Saving isn't as easy as it sounds:

I've been trying to save to move abroad with my partner for a couple of years, but we still haven't got anywhere with it! Both of us having periods of unemployment a few years back led to us getting quite behind on our bills. Now we're earning more between us but are still paying off bills from a couple of houses ago, and it still doesn't feel like the end is in sight.

It's not just us, either - my day job is to help young people into employment and it's scary just how many of them are barely scraping by. Often getting themselves into debt just to retain their rental property or feed themselves. Generally the issue seems to be around employment . A sudden lack of jobs, being made redundant, or jobs requiring qualifications and/or experience that is difficult to get.

Hannah, of Pages, Places and Plates, 26, saving to move abroad.

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

Despite this, it turns out the majority of you guys are budgeting bunnies and actively focus on your finances which is great. However, there are still a whopping 35% who are not doing this and are probably scrabbling towards payday each month. Another big difference between millennials and generation X is where we choose to save our money – with 58% of millennials choosing to use an ordinary savings account. While the older generation were also likely to choose the same, they were also a whopping 75% more likely to use an investment ISA which is better suited to long-term saving goals. Is it harder for millennials to commit to long-term savings having grown up through the recession and housing market shifts? Or are we just not properly educated about what options are available?

Lack of financial education could be causing problems:

I honestly think that millennials aren't taught about what kinds of savings we can have. Although we have the internet now to research, there is so much info out there that it can make making the right decision so tough! Often, I wonder if it was easier for Generation X to walk into a high street bank. They could get proper information rather than wading through all the info online.

I put my first £1,000 into premium bonds but recently withdrew because I could earn more interest with it in my savings as I'd only won £50 over about 20 years! I do think that if more information was out there, or types of savings were taught at school far more millennials would have ISAs.

Haydy, of SquibbVicious, 29, saving for a house and has just saved for a new car

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

But how do these results apply to real people?

It was really interesting to hear from you guys about your own saving habits. It seems that even within the millennial bracket, there are vast chasms between the 22-28's and the 29-37's. Perhaps even within these results there are differing priorities depending on what stage we are at in our lives. I know that I have several friends who are just starting to get engaged and talk about weddings. While others are settled with children. Some others are entirely focused on their careers or buying a house.

All these people are the same "generation", and yet we've all chosen different paths and priorities. It doesn't mean that anyone has made the wrong choice – it just means that we're all different. Just as I know my life of millennial travel wouldn't work for my friends who love their lives as parents and homeowners – their lives wouldn't work for me.

I'm 28 now and think I would have given very different answers 5 years ago. I still travel, but much slower and more focused. I've always been saving, but now I am trying to save towards somewhere to live (or at least keep a few books).

Katie Featherstone, of Feathery Travels, 28, saving for a house

Check out my blog posts on saving money & budgeting:

Absolutely Lucy, Street art, Bucharest, Romania

But what does it all mean?

I don't pretend to have all the answers. When it comes to finance and choosing your priorities – it's something only you can do. But it's something we all have to take responsibility for. If you don't make any effort to get your finances in order – you can't expect your bank balance to increase. While I've always been good at saving money, I'll be honest and say it was only this year that I really started to educate myself and make the most of my money. But in just a few months I've managed to save a small fortune, have completely reorganised my finances and feel confident making banking decisions. If you set your mind to it, you could easily do the same.

The most important thing I want to stress – is that no-one has it all figured out. We're all doing the best we can and we need to stop being intimidated by financial conversations. If you want to stop being scared of money – start making an effort to learn. It's amazing how much less scary things are when you have a tiny bit of knowledge and know what questions to ask. Start talking among your friends – talk about savings accounts, credit cards, ISAs and tax – discuss your working rates openly. I don't know where this British thing of "do not discuss money" came from but it's ridiculous! Talk about money, ask questions, read articles, listen to podcasts. Take charge and don't feel bad if you're not yet saving, or don't have it all figured out. Instead, see it as an opportunity to learn.

Want to learn more about finance? Check out these great resources:

What do you think about Millennial travel and saving? Do you find it hard to save money? What are your long and short-term savings goals?

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*This experience gifts blog post is a collaboration with Tinggly

There's no denying 2019 has been a tough year for all. But I've decided, 2020 is going to be the year for all of us. No more sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves. It's time to start living! After all – it's just a few months until I turn 30 and while I'm pretty excited for the next decade of my life. (I've got a new passport with extra pages ready!) I'm also very aware that there are some bucket list items that I'm keen to tick off before my birthday rolls around. I've always been a big advocate for sharing experiences with the people you love, rather than just giving things. Whenever I'm back in the UK, I value quality time with people over missed presents for birthdays and Christmas.

I've got some exciting news coming up soon about where I'll be spending my 30th birthday. But for now, let's talk about why experience gifts are the way to go in 2020. Why bother with those crappy Lynx bath sets this Christmas? Instead save the money and put it towards creating beautiful memories with the people who mean the most to you. I'm so over stocking fillers and bath products, for me, that's not the true spirit of Christmas. Instead of focusing on the giving and receiving, why not take a step back and just appreciate the people we are lucky to have. I've never been more appreciative of my people, and I've loved spending this summer making memories with all of them. These memories I will hold close to my heart the next time I'm far from home.

Tinggly experience gifts pumpkins

Leave fast fashion & frivolous gifts behind

Give stories, not stuff. That's the motto of Tinggly and I have to say, I agree. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with advertising, fast fashion and disposable products. Perhaps it's time we all stopped placing so much importance on the clothes in your wardrobe, or the latest gadgets. After all, when I'm old and grey, I can't imagine sitting there reminiscing about the time I wore the red dress with the black boots. I'll be thinking about the day I went pumpkin picking and how much I loved exploring my home in Norfolk. 

With Black Friday and the festive season approaching, why not think about what you really value in life? For me, it's travel, home, friends and family. So those are the things I prioritise. When it comes to buying gifts for people, I don't see the point in giving stuff that will live in the back of the cupboard. What's the point in another pair of shoes, or yet another bubble bath set? When you've lived out of a backpack for years – you realise what's really important to you. It's not frivolous gifts, but rather the memories you make with people. They're what we truly treasure as the years go by.

Pumpkin picking, Norfolk

The travel experiences I'll never forget

We've all got those standout experiences from our lives that will stay with us forever. I count myself very lucky to have so many amazing travel memories that it makes it hard to choose. But here I want to share five travel experiences that I will never forget:

Tinggly pumpkin picking for gift experiences

Experience gifts from Tinggly

There's nothing like finding a brand that aligns with your values and I was super excited to work with Tinggly. They're a global gift solution company who offer the world's best experiences in one collection. Most importantly, Tinggly is on a mission to change the culture of gifting from material things to experiences. After studying the science behind happiness, they see the long-term value of gifting experiences for memories that last a lifetime. Their range of inspiring and meaningful Tinggly gifts mean that long after the excitement of the experience has been lived, the memory, and the stories, live on. If you're anything like me, and you have a passion for storytelling, reliving these memories time and time again, is priceless.

Best of all – these gift experiences are tailored to suit all tastes. For the adrenaline junkies, there's opportunities to go diving with sharks or risk a stomach churning bungee jump. And for those who prefer something a bit more relaxing, why not indulge in a trip to the spa? While you purchase the collection or pack, it is up to the recipient to choose which experience they would like, so there's no chance of getting it wrong! Each recipient also has a full five years in which to book their experience which makes it a much more sustainable option. Instead of booking a trip especially for your experience, why not make the experience fit with your trip? There's so many to choose from all over the world, that it's easy to find the perfect experience gifts.

Why is Tinggly so special?

  • Freedom to choose from hundreds of experiences in countries around the world.
  • Simple – just choose a collection and let the recipient choose the experience for them.
  • Global – the brand has sold gift vouchers to 72 countries with experiences in 114 different countries.

Absolutely Lucy pumpkin patch, Norfolk

Five bucket list experiences for 2020

With my 30th (yes that's right!) swiftly approaching, I've been thinking a lot about what experiences I really want to tick off my bucket list before the big day. I've never been one for worrying about getting older, but what really strikes me is how fast the time goes. It seems like yesterday I turned 18 and had university and my whole life ahead of me. Barely a moment later I was going on my first big solo trip and now here we are, five years on and still going strong.

What I love about travelling is that it gives you the opportunity to live multiple lives at once. I don't mind so much if the time goes quickly, if I really feel that I've lived every second to the max. While life felt like it was put on hold a bit in 2019 for a focus on healing and recuperating. In 2020, I'm back to travelling with a bang and ticking some of the biggest items yet off my bucket list. Here are my top 5 bucket list experiences for 2020:

  1. A skydive in New Zealand
  2. Travelling New Zealand by van
  3. A festival in Costa Rica
  4. Hitting 40 countries before I turn 30
  5. Sailing the San Blas Islands in Panama

What are your bucket list experiences for 2020?

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Within just a few hours of arriving, Bucharest was already one of my favourite European cities. I'm excited to share this post with you guys because so many of my followers and friends have said Romania is not a country they would have thought of visiting. But after I had such an amazing time there, I couldn't wait to share this post with you to encourage you to travel to this beautiful city. I spent a few days solo exploring Bucharest and it was one of my favourite solo trips to date. It's a perfect city for exploring whether you're alone, with friends or on a romantic weekend away. If you've visited Prague or Budapest, Bucharest is like their arty, colourful, quirky little sister. The city has so many different sides to it, from the history and vibrant culture, to the great party and food scene.

Absolutely Lucy at Arthur Strada Verona, street art in Bucharest

How long do you need in Bucharest?

Bucharest is such a lovely small city, it's perfect for a weekend trip. You could easily just spend 1-2 nights and manage to fit in most of the sights. I had a full two days in the city, plus two extra chilled evenings, and I managed to see pretty much everything! If you stay in the Old Town, you'll be walking distance from most of the main sights, plus lots of lovely bars, restaurants, parks and markets. I found I never even needed to use public transport because it was so easy to walk everywhere.

How to get to Bucharest & is it safe to travel solo?

It's really easy to get to Bucharest from the UK and very cheap if you regularly check for flights. I flew from Stansted Airport late on the Friday night and arrived back in the UK around dinner time on the Monday. The flight takes around 3 hours and with the time difference it can mean arriving late in the city. However, I arrived at 11pm and found it really easy to navigate my way to my apartment by Uber. It took around 20 minutes to drive from the airport to where I was staying and it felt very safe. This is what I want to stress the most – Bucharest was a very safe city for a solo female traveller. Even walking alone at night, I always felt very safe and confident.

Absolutely Lucy, streets of Bucharest, Romania

Where to stay in Bucharest?

I knew most of what I wanted to see and do during my time in the city was based around the Old Town so I made sure to book accommodation around this area. There are lots of great hostels, hotels, Airbnbs and apartments around to choose from. On my first stay there, I chose to stay two nights in an apartment which I found super reduced on Booking.com and turned out to be absolutely lovely! Then for my final night, I stayed in a private room in a hostel which also gave me my own window-ledge over looking the city. Both were fantastic places to stay and I was very impressed at how far my money went in Romania.

Top 8 places to eat & drink:

There are so many great bars and restaurants to check out – I wish I had been there for longer so I could visit more of them. If you're planning a Bucharest stag do or hen do, you'll be spoilt for choice for places to go out and celebrate. My top 10 are based on the places I loved and some top recommendations from my Romanian pals that I will definitely be visiting next time!

  1. Aubergine Restaurant, Old Town – amazing healthy food with fantastic vegan and veggie options
  2. Nomad Skybar, Old Town – rooftop bar, super Instagrammable inside and great food
  3. Lacrimi și Sfinți, Old Town – authentic Romanian food with recipes dating back 100 years
  4. Care' cu bere, Old Town – the most well known restaurant in the city, beautiful and traditional food (pricier)
  5. The Urbanist, Old Town – fancy coffees and cocktails in a cute leafy bar, or outside in the sunshine
  6. Upstairs Rooftop, Bucharest – bright and colourful rooftop bar with an a la carte and full menu
  7. Bistro Acuarela, Bucharest – an artist's café with burgers & cocktails, plus you can create your own art!
  8. Gradina EDEN, Bucharest – huge outdoor leafy terrace, cheap drinks & food plus great live music

Absolutely Lucy at Pasajul Victoria, Bucharest, Romania

The top 5 most Instagrammable locations:

Bucharest is a hugely Instagrammable city – that's not why I visited, but it's a nice by-product of the trip when you can get some awesome pics! The mix of different styles of architecture, modern touches and vibrant colours make it a perfect place to jazz up your Insta-feed. Now while I'm a big believer in putting your own unique spin on photography and trying to find lesser known locations. If you only have a short trip and want to hit the highlights, these are the top 5 most Instagrammable locations in Bucharest:

  1. Pasajul Victoria – the Umbrella Alley! A riot of colour down a cute little side street.
  2. Cărturești Carusel – the famous bookshop. One of the most beautiful bookstores I have ever seen.
  3. Stavropoleos Monastery Church – a stunning Eastern Orthodox Church dating back to 1724.
  4. Nomad Skybar – the most Instagrammable bar in the city and even has rooftop views!
  5. Strada Arthur Verona – while the street art was a little disappointing. It's colourful and surrounded by cute little streets.

Top tip: If you want to have any of these places to yourself, I recommend going early. I went early in the morning and had each place entirely to myself. I also saved the most popular spots such as the bookstore for Monday morning and it was a lot quieter.

Absolutely Lucy in Bucharest

Check out these other hidden gems across the city:

Vintage & Markets

Bucharest was an absolute gem for vintage shops and antique markets dotted around the city. Keep your eyes open when you walk around, I just stumbled across all of these great little finds.

Architecture & Art

The architecture was one of my favourite things about the city. But I loved the contrast of all the more classic styles alongside some of the most vibrant and colourful street art. A great place to see local art work is the Art Walk Street where several local artists display their works which are also for sale.

For key architectural sights – don't miss the Palace of the Deposits and Consignments – it's truly spectacular. And also check out Cantocuzino Palace and Hala Traian (which also houses a food market) for some very impressive buildings. I also really recommend visiting Biserica Rusă din București (Bucharest's Russian Church) which is incredibly beautiful. I was staying nearby and watched as a wedding procession arrived to the church bells – just beautiful.

Absolutely Lucy at Carturesti Carusel, bookstore


It's always lovely to have green spaces in a city so you can escape when the sun is shining. I had a lovely time exploring Cismigiu Gardens and ended up walking around the whole thing. As well as a boating lake, there is also a section filled with huge swans and birds, plus a café and a food & gifts market. Really recommend for a great place to enjoy a different side to the city.

I also heard fantastic things about Carol Park – one friend said it was her highlight of the whole city – but sadly I didn't have time to go. It has a huge lake and monument in the centre. If you have time, Văcărești Lake and Lake Dâmbovița also look amazing for serious nature views – I'll definitely be visiting both on my next trip.

Have you been to Bucharest? Would you like to explore more of Eastern Europe?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

*This libraries post is a collaboration with Holidu

I've always been a bit of a bookworm and my love of literature has followed me round the world from bookshops, to libraries, to book swaps in hostels. I'll admit I've never gone tech and swapped up my paperbacks for a Kindle because I just love the feeling of slamming a book closed when I finish. It's a satisfaction that can't be beaten. Those of you who have been following my trip to Romania on Instagram will have seen I visited the rather beautiful Cărturești Carusel bookshop. It was even more incredible in real life than from the pictures in this post. Wherever I travel, I love to visit bookshops and libraries – one of my faves I've seen was the New York Library – and lose myself in the stacks. This post is for all my fellow bookworms who just love to lose themselves in the pages of a good novel.

10 unmissable libraries for the literary traveller

Europe has such a fantastic selection of libraries to offer the literary traveller, from the old school to the more modern styles. When travelling is all about discovering different cultures and traditions, what better place is there to truly indulge than its libraries? From the second you walk in the door, you can smell the history and the creativity immersed in these countless volumes. Rare books and architectural masterpieces await the literary traveller, ready to envelop the senses. If you're a true book lover, then Holidu – the search engine for holiday rentals – has the perfect list for you. From the classic to the sleek and chic, these are the must-see libraries to plan into your next European getaways.

Libraries around the world, Carturesti Carusel bookshop in Bucharest, Romania

Top 5 modern libraries

1. Wirtschaftsuniversität Bibliothek - Vienna, Austria

Go against the classic Baroque style and majestic rooms of Vienna's beautiful national library. Instead, seek a more modern vibe when you visit the library at the University of Economics. Just a short walk from the Danube lies this futuristic six storey building which houses 745,797 books, 59,009 e-books and 1,014 newspapers. The original library dates back to 1898, but was destroyed by arson in 2005. Renovated with a modern twist, now the innovative interiors use bright lighting and sinuous movements are like something from another planet. Open daily 8am to 8pm.

2. Warsaw University Library - Warsaw, Poland

Modern and colourful, head to Warsaw University Library in Poland where over 350,000 volumes await the avid reader among us. Located in the city centre and founded in 1816, the new building was opened in 1999 and features a terrace with four different gardens. Don't miss the entrance where there are several writings in various languages including Plato's in Ancient Greek and another in Ancient Polish. Receiving multiple accolades for its beauty, the entire outside of the building is in patinated copper and the greenhouse-like building blends with the vegetation which climbs up the exterior towards the roof garden. Open all week, 9am to 9pm.

3. Royal Library - Copenhagen, Denmark

Dive into 200,000 volumes at Copenhagen's Royal Library – a true neo-modern jewel known as the "black diamond". Overlooking the Strait of Øresund in the historic district, the black cube was built as an extension of the old library in 1999. It bewitches on the outside with its curated lines and glossy black granite and glass surface, while on the inside it seduces with its twisting lines, wide spaces and escalators. In addition to its seven floors, the terrace can accommodate as many as 600 people for events such as concerts and plays. Open daily from 9am to 7pm.

Follow me to libraries around the world, Carturesti Carusel bookshop in Bucharest, Romania

4. Central Library Oodi - Helsinki, Finland

Of course, Helsinki's brand new Central Library Oodi had to be included in this list, only inaugurated at the end of 2018. Home to 100,000 books in 17 languages. The futuristic building has an imposing three-story structure made entirely of glass and wood. A masterpiece of Finnish architecture, the building is also eco-sustainable and looks from some angles like a ship, and from other angles, like the waves. Close by the city centre, it's worth visiting to study, work or even express your own art. Open midweek 8am-10pm / weekend 10am-8pm.

5. Stadtbibliothek am Mailänder Platz - Stuttgart, Germany

Think minimalist style for the final modern offering on this list – the new civic library in Stuttgart. Opened in 2011 and designed by Korean architect Eun Young Yi, this architectural gem spans eight floors. A "big white cube" like no other, the symmetrical entrance and spiral staircases offer a view of the interior from all angles. Holding 500,000 volumes within the external cubic structure and a wash of white colour that pervades the interiors. Open Monday to Saturday 9am-6pm.

Carturesti Carusel bookshop in Bucharest, Romania

Top 5 old school libraries

1. John Rylands Library - Manchester, United Kingdom

Seizing the top spot on my list is a stunning neo-Gothic building housing 1.4million items. John Rylands Library in Manchester took 10 years to build and was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her late husband. Designed in 1889 by architect Basil Champneys, the library is in Deansgate, in the heart of the city. Don't miss The Reading Room, with its high columns and vaulted ceiling complete with intricate decorations. It will provide the perfect photo backdrop when visiting this truly iconic building. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm / Monday to Sunday 12-5pm.

2. Stiftsbibliothek Admont - Admont, Austria

Explore the largest monastery library in the world in central Austria, an enchanting building designed by Austrian architect Josef Hueber. A man who firmly believed in the ideals of the Enlightenment and thought that the spaces should also be "enlightened". Completed in 1776 and in a beautiful Baroque style, the building features statues and frescoes. There are four bronze statues in the corners of the main hall, representing death, the resurrection, Hell and paradise. The entrance to this enchanting building costs €11.50. Open all week 10am to 5pm.

3. Kloster Wiblingen - Ulm, Germany

Head to the south of Germany, to Kloster Wiblingen to find a breathtaking 72m long library filled with frescoes, statues and extravagant coloured marble columns throughout. Dating from 1903, this Baroque Benedictine monastery is one of the best examples of Rococo art. The architects idea was to preserve the treasures of wisdom and science and to visit it will only cost you 5€. Holds 9,000 volumes and open Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm.

Carturesti Carusel bookshop in Bucharest, Romania

4. Biblitoeca Marciana - Venice, Italy

Home to 622,804 volumees, 13,113 manuscripts and 24,069 16th century manuscripts. The Marciana Library contains one of the most important collections of Greek, Latin and Oriental manuscripts in the world. Located in San Marco Square, Venice, it's one of the largest and most prestigious libraries in Italy. The building, which was designed by Sansovino, was built in 1588 and has an unusually elegant style for the time. Many contributed to the beauty of its interior, including painters of the calibre of Titian and Tintoretto, among others. Open during the week 8:20am - 7pm / weekend 8:20am - 1:30pm.

5. Sainte-Geneviève Library - Paris, France

And last, but by no means least, a stunning Parisian library is a must for this list – especially when it's one dating back to 1850. Home to 1.5million volumes, 85,000 manuscripts, 15,000 periodicals and 87 databases. This library is located in the 5th arrondissement and was completed in 1850. A mixture of architectural styles, the main façade is in Neo-Renaissance style and its shape is long and rectangular. The body of the reading room is divided into two large naves, decorated with cast iron columns. Engraved on the walls are the names of the most important authors. Open Monday to Saturday, 2pm to 6pm.

Have you been to any of these libraries? Or have you visited Cărturești Carusel bookshop in Bucharest? 
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*This Vietnam e-visa post is a collaboration.

Vietnam remains one of my favourite countries I have travelled and it is a place I would recommend anyone visit if they want a taste of authentic Asia. It's rough around the edges in a way that Thailand has lost, and at times a challenge to travel in the more rural areas. But it still retains the charm, luxury and vibrant culture that we all love about Asia. I dived headfirst into travelling Asia solo, and while Thailand stole my heart, Vietnam touched my soul. It was the people, the history, the culture and the food. Despite spending a much shorter time travelling Vietnam, it really connected with me in a completely different way. The countryside and stunning nature blew me away, as did the kind and welcoming people who made every day an adventure.

Read my previous blog posts from Vietnam:

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Travelling Vietnam – what visa do you need?

One thing that has changed hugely since I travelled Vietnam five years ago, is the visa. When I visited Vietnam in 2015, I had to have a visa before arrival which meant sorting it from the UK and getting a company to visit the embassy on my behalf. The only other option was getting it on arrival and potentially facing big queues. It was not too complicated because I used a company to help, but it certainly wasn't as easy as it is now! The rules have changed with the times and as of 2018, now it's possible to get a Vietnam e-visa online before you travel and avoid the costs and long queues when you arrive in the country.

Applying for the Vietnam e-visa

It couldn't be easier to get your Vietnam visa with E-Visa! It takes just a few minutes to fill out the online forms and a one-off payment of £39.99. It's this payment that means you avoid the stamping fee of up to $50 and waiting in line when you reach the border. You can pay for the visa safely and easily through Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal. Within a few days you will receive the visa documentation for you to print and take with you, show this on arrival and you're in! It's much quicker, easier and cheaper than previous visa applications and will help you avoid getting your visa on arrival.

The Vietnam embassy are currently advising travellers to get their visa before arrival as they can no longer guarantee travellers will get past the passport check without trouble. Many travel bureaus will also offer this service, but be careful to check whether you actually get the visa. Some actually only get you the approval letter which means you still have to get the visa on arrival and face further costs.

If you're looking for accommodation for Vietnam – try these areas to find some great deals:

Hanoi, Vietnam

Visa requirements for Vietnam

If you are planning on travelling to Vietnam and come from the UK, you must meet certain Vietnam visa requirements. This is subject to change and will differ between countries of citizenship. Always double check the embassy's website and government advice for the most up-to-date information. Currently in 2019, the regulations state that all travellers including children require their own Vietnam e-visa to travel. However, citizens of some countries including the UK may stay for up to 15 days in Vietnam without a visa.

You can get the Vietnam e-visa before you even book your flight to Vietnam. But your entire stay, when booked, must fall within 30 days. You must also have at least one address in Vietnam to list on the application (this could be your first night's accommodation). You can only travel in and out of Vietnam once on this visa, you must apply for a different visa for multiple entry. Also, you must adhere to the following:

Hoan Temple, Hanoi, Vietnam

Don't forget when you apply:

Applications can be made 24/7 via the website. You will need a passport photo and a scan of your passport ready to upload to your application. If you submit your application with e-visa, the team will check for any of the common mistakes that can cause an Vietnam e-visa to be declined. They will contact you directly with any issues before submitting your application.

If you wish to stay longer than 30 days in Vietnam. You will need to contact the Vietnam embassy to submit an application for a different visa. We all just want to get on with the fun part of travelling. So finding great ways to minimise the paperwork and admin of travelling is so important. Skip the queues and get on with enjoying your trip – travelling Vietnam has never been easier!

*all images by cloud.shepherd

Have you been to Vietnam? Would you like to visit? Does applying for visas stress you out?

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Bangkok is one of the most popular destinations in the world. There are plenty of things to see — from beautifully serene temples to the colourful hustle and bustle of the city. While the city can be touristy with all the comforts of home and more, there is so much more to see. If you’re looking for a different experience, you’ve come to the right place. Here's 5 ways you can experience the land of smiles like a local and immerse yourself in the breathtaking charms of the Thai capital.

Eat on the Bangkok streets

One of the best ways to experience any culture is through their food – and Bangkok is a world-renowned street food haven. Eat like a local, as it will only cost you a few baht to gorge at the various markets. Delicious satays along with custardy khanom krok tarts are just some of the many treats the street market have in store for foodies.

Choosing the best markets to eat in can be hard, but a general rule of thumb is to check out if locals, especially the elderly, are buying from the shops you’re eyeing up. Additionally, the best stalls to check out are those that specialise in a single dish, as they have likely cultivated that recipe over the years. Try heading out to Silom Road in the central business district and follow the hoards of office workers during lunch hours to authentic cafeterias and stalls.

Temple views, Bangkok, Thailand, 2019

Visit a floating market

Floating markets are a unique shopping experience. Take a long-tail boat down winding waterways and take a look at the wares surrounding you. Don't forget to keep your eyes on both the boats and at the market stalls! These floating markets sell everything, from souvenirs and handmade products, to fresh seafood and locally harvested fruit. Visit the largest and oldest floating market, Damnoen Saduak, or choose Klong Lat Mayom to avoid the crowds.

See live horse racing

Live horse racing is popular among Thais as they get to watch exciting races, socialise, and make bets. It’s both a serious enterprise and a favourite pastime for Thais with 188bet pointing out that while most players place a few bets on their favourite horses for fun, others will really take the time to scope out the competition and research the horses’ competing and their form. But don’t think you need to understand the intricacies of betting to enjoy live events. On a casual afternoon, head on over to one of the two horse racing courses in the city, the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, and the Royal Turf Club.

Watch (or join) a Muay Thai class

Muay Thai, or Thai kickboxing, is the national sport. You can even find it practiced on more remote islands such as Koh Lanta, Koh Yao Noi, and Koh Pha Ngan — that’s how popular it is. There are plenty of places in Bangkok where you can take classes. Check out classes at the gym frequented by Thai royalty, the Siam Hotel. Or learn from a master at the Muay Thai Academy, run by Grand Master Toddy. He has a long history of training the very best kickboxing champions.

Temple views, Bangkok, Thailand, 2019

Ride a motorbike taxi across Bangkok

Often referred to as motorsai, one of the best ways to get around Bangkok is through riding a motorbike taxi. Of course, there are still the tourist-y tuktuks that you can take. But if you’re aiming to get to your destination quickly, then motorsais are the way to go.

There are commonly lined up near tourist spots and malls and the drivers wear numbered orange vests. Motorbike taxis around Bangkok don’t cost that much, as the Bangkok Post states that for the first 2 kilometres, you don’t need to pay more than 25 baht. You’ll only have to pay an extra 5 baht for the next 3-5 kilometres. Then 10 baht for the next 6 to 10.

Enjoy Thai culture

With something new around every corner, Bangkok can offer you a trip that surprises you every time. Be a local, practice your Thai, and immerse yourself in a rich culture. Enjoy a holiday filled with exciting activities, beautiful markets, and delicious food. Don't forget to go to an evening show of the local dances – it gives a fascinating insight into the culture.

Have you been to Bangkok? What was your favourite Thai cultural experience?

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A Norfolk holidays post is long overdue from the gal who was born and raised on the North Norfolk Coast. I'm super excited to share this post with you guys because it celebrates all that I love about my home county. For those who don't know, I grew up in a beautiful part of the UK – rural Norfolk. But there is so much more to Norfolk than just tractors and – if you haven't visited – you have no idea what you're missing! It is easily one of the most diverse and nature-rich areas of the UK. It boasts everything from stunning coastline to forests, wetlands, vast open fields and even the city. Maybe I'm biased, but I've always been so grateful that I had the chance to grow up here. It made for an epic outdoor childhood that probably led me to loving the adventurous lifestyle that inspired this blog.

Something that put me off writing this post for a long time was that I actually didn't want to bring attention to the area. One thing I really love about Norfolk is the way it has remained relatively untouched by tourism and the crowds of holiday-makers. The towns and villages still retain a quaint and quiet charm, and you can still easily find empty beaches even during the summer school holidays. I don't want that to change, and I know many other Norfolk locals really treasure that the county is one of the UK's best kept secrets. So my plea to you guys, is that if you do love the sound of Norfolk. Please visit respectfully and help maintain and protect this beautiful part of the world.

Absolutely Lucy in poppy field, Norfolk

How to get to Norfolk and where to stay?

Norfolk is easily accessible from London – taking just 1 hour 45 to reach King's Lynn by train, or two hours to Norwich. You can also reach Great Yarmouth by train in just three hours. If you're driving – even better! Driving to Norfolk or hiring a car is a great choice because it will give you so much more freedom to explore the different villages and beaches at your leisure. Norfolk is rural and there are so many beautiful places to explore, but it can be costly if you have to pay for taxis, or slow if you have to rely on buses and trains. It's definitely an area where you will relish the independence and freedom that comes with having your own wheels. Read more details of how to reach Norfolk from your area.

How long should I visit for my Norfolk holidays?

If you're visiting Norfolk – you can easily squeeze a lot into a weekend. If you're staying at a lovely hotel on the coast and fancy a few days of beach-hopping, it's perfect for a weekend break. However, Norfolk is also ideal for a week, or two-week stay if you fancy it as a summer holiday with the family. There are so many beautiful places to explore – you could either choose a base for the whole holiday and take day trips out around the county. Or, you could move around, spending a few days based in Norwich and visiting the city, before heading to the North-Norfolk coast.

Hotel recommendations for Norfolk

Norfolk has a huge selection of beautiful boutique hotels to choose from, so if you're looking for a place to stay you'll be spoiled for choice. There are also a huge number of caravan parks, holiday homes and B&Bs which you can easily find if you search online. Here are some of the hotels that come highly recommended for the area:

Norfolk coast at Cromer, Absolutely Lucy on beach at pier, Norfolk holidays

Top beaches to visit on the North-Norfolk coast

Best for old-fashioned Norfolk charm

If you just love the idea of old fashioned seaside villages and a good dose of Norfolk charm, then head to the likes of Cromer and Sheringham. Full of quaint little seaside shops full of knick-knacks and gifts, cosy and traditional Norfolk pubs and of course, all the fish & chips and ice cream your family can eat!

I had a little staycation in Cromer a few weeks ago, check out my blog post to read about my experiences.

Best for beach huts and kids – pack your bucket and spade

Now I'm a bit beach hut obsessed as my family actually owns one at Old Hunstanton and I've lovingly painted and helped decorate it with all the seaside charm. But I know I'm not the only one who loves checking out the beach huts and keeping the kids entertained with buckets and spades. If this is more your scene, head straight for Old Hunstanton or Wells-next-the-Sea which both have a gorgeous array of wooden huts along the seafront with plenty of space for the kids to play.

Best for huge deserted beaches and dog walks

If you love Norfolk for it's wide open skies and huge empty beaches, then Holkham and Brancaster are the beaches for you. Perfect for getting away from the crowds, and with plenty of space for the dog (or the kids) to run off some of that energy before heading back to the hotel.

For those bringing the dog on their Norfolk holidays, you can check out a full list of dog-friendly beaches and the best locations in the county for a walk. These include some of my closest beaches including Old Hunstanton and Brancaster, plus those further afield including Holkham and Mundesley.

Best for fish & chips on your Norfolk holidays

If you follow your tastebuds when you travel, then the classic fish & chips will be top of your Norfolk bucket list when you visit. One of the UK's finest traditions has to be chippy chips by the sea with mushy peas and I always make sure to get it when I come home. Every town and village along the coast will have several fish & chip takeaways and restaurants – the difficult part is choosing one! Here are some of the top choices along the Norfolk coast:

Norfolk holidays take you to the countryside, Absolutely Lucy posing by hay bale

What else to do during your Norfolk holidays?

Get active

Norfolk holidays are a perfect opportunity to get out and get active. Why stay in when there are so many amazing places to explore? Whether you prefer beaches or woodlands – there's plenty of places to get moving. Why not hire bikes and go cycling or hike some of the great nature trails or coastal routes? If you're a fan of horse-riding, there are lots of stables and places to take lessons around the area. Check out this full guide for Norfolk walking, cycling and horse riding routes.

For those who love watersports, or have always wanted to try, head to the beaches! Hunstanton Beach is home to a Watersports School where people of all ages can get specialist instruction in kitesurfing, windsurfing, stand-up paddle boarding and power kiting. You can also try Hunstanton Sailing Club for a host of water-based activities including canoeing and kayaking. They have in the past hosted the British Kitesurfing Championships and regularly have summer events with taster sessions for the whole family.

Culture & Heritage

The county is an absolute hive of culture, heritage and history so prepare to dive in when you visit. From the Hanseatic heritage of King's Lynn to the vast fishing history that surrounds the Norfolk coastline, to the Royal traditions of the Queen's winter residence, Sandringham House. You'll be spoilt for choice of places to visit, but perhaps it's worth organising your Norfolk holidays to fit in with some of the many events happening in the area. Why not plan to visit the King's Lynn Hanse Festival or the Sandringham Flower Show?

If these don't tickle your fancy, you could plan a visit to one of the many historic National Trust properties across the county for a look at our local history. The combination of magnificently preserved buildings, stunning gardens and wide-open skies is always a winner. Personal favourites include Oxburgh Hall, Felbrigg Hall & Gardens, and the Blickling Estate – find out more on Norfolk National Trust properties here. There are also a great range of stately homes that aren't managed by the National Trust, including Houghton Hall and Holkham Hall which both have beautiful gardens, host festivals and events, and regular exhibitions of the arts.


Norfolk holidays can be about more than just beaches. Why not stray from the coastline and head inland to discover the amazing woodlands we have right on our doorstep? From Sandringham Park and Sheringham Park, to Holt Country Park and even parts of Thetford Forest. There are also Burlingham Woods and Foxley Woods which is famous for the annual bluebells in May. Plus enjoy Wayland Wood, Bacton Wood and Mousehold Heath which are all stunning in autumn.

If you just fancy a good walk but don't mind where you go - choose from this great list of walking routes across Norfolk.

Norfolk Lavender, Absolutely Lucy in field of lavender

Festivals and events

Despite being such a sleepy, quiet part of the UK, Norfolk still manages to smash it when it comes to festivals and events. Every year you can expect a packed calendar of music, arts, sports and much more taking place across the county. King's Lynn and Norwich provide busy hubs with various festivals taking place throughout the year including:

Elsewhere around the county, you'll also find a range of events taking place including the following:

Find a full list of events here. And a short drive into Suffolk, you will find:

Norfolk Broads

I've lived in Norfolk all my life but it was only this year when I finally visited the Norfolk Broads. It's a huge draw of tourism for the area and after spending an evening cruising around the waterways, I can understand why. This national park is made up of 125 miles of man-made waterways set against beautiful countryside. Visitors can hire cottages on the water, or boats during their stay. Find out more about visiting the Broads in this article. You can also read my article on booking a cruise as your next trip!

Attractions & Kids

Whatever the weather during your Norfolk holidays, there's plenty to keep the whole family entertained. With lots of great attractions and plenty of fun activities for the little ones, it's a perfect holiday destination. Top attractions include:

Absolutely Lucy in the forest, Norfolk

As someone who has grown up in North Norfolk and started her career at the local newspaper. I have always been a cheerleader for the area. I'm so proud to share this Norfolk guide with you, which I hope will help you plan your dream holidays. And for those who have never thought of visiting before. I hope I've helped to show you a whole new side to the county that will inspire you to visit.

While I have tried to feature a huge range of events, locations and things to do in this post. I was also very aware that it had hit the 2000 word mark. So if I've left out anything you would like featured, please do feel free to contact me at hello@absolutelylucy.com

Have you been to Norfolk? Has my guide helped place it on your UK bucket list?

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