I love arriving in a new place whether it’s a bustling city, a beachside resort or a mountain top town and feeling my senses tingling. I love that first sense you get of a new place, the first smells, sights and sounds that hit you, the warmth or the freshness of the air. It’s these moments that make a place real, that make it special to you, and that stay with you long after you have moved on to pastures new. I still remember the first time I set foot in Bangkok - the hot air pressed against my skin, the noise of the streets and the vendors, the smells of spices and street food mingled in the air. Ella in Sri Lanka was different, with fresh mountain air, fluffy clouds dotted along the skies and a sense of peace I had yet to find elsewhere in the country. Each place leaves a lasting impression, and those first few hours, or even first few days can really make or break how you feel about a place.
I was inspired to write this post because I’ve spent the last two days in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and it is the first place in a long time that I have felt an instant dislike to. After being high up in the mountains with fresh air and peace, Kandy has been an assault on the senses with too much traffic, too much noise and too much pollution. I’ve felt smothered here and can’t wait to leave today, to get back out into nature - back to exploring the jungle. However, I know that some of the reason I really don’t like Kandy is actually because I arrived here in a bad mood, exhausted and grumpy from travel, with a bad tummy and to a bad accommodation. The first few hours I spent here were feeling ill and wandering the streets trying to find somewhere to eat and giving up in the end. It just shows how much those first few hours or days can really shadow your impression of a place and that’s why I normally try to take control of the situation and to give myself the best opportunity to fall in love with every place I visit.
Well it’s all about making sure you throw yourself in at the deep end - whether you’re traveling by yourself or with friends or a partner, you have to get out exploring the first chance you get. By not sitting around feeling a bit lost, getting out and seeing the sights, meeting new people and really experiencing the city.
My favourite way, and one I use in every new place, is to spend the first day just walking. Especially in a new city, I love to just spend the day exploring on foot either with or without a map, this way I can get lost and find all the really cool stuff hidden away. Plus I end up learning my way around pretty quick from getting lost. I also find I talk to more random strangers and meet some great people along the way as well as getting to see the sights. I had a great day walking the length and breadth of Budapest - it was a great city for exploring on foot and I managed to see all the sights and make some new friends in a few hours.
Love running? Why not do like I sometimes do and explore a city in your running gear? I did this in Perth and had a fun day keeping fit and running around the city. Be creative with your sightseeing - I’ve spent a day exploring places on a bike or even on a segway - it’s a different way to see the city. I have a friend who really loves skateboarding and she always travels with her board, so she loves to explore every new city by skateboarding around and usually makes some friends along the way. Fancy trying it out? You can pick up skateboarding decks here.
Sometimes, especially if you are traveling solo or are pressed for time, it can be great to meet up with a traveling friend or even a new friend to be shown around a new place. When I visited Amsterdam and Berlin, I met up with old friends there from when I was living both in the UK and Australia - both friends took me under their wing and were excited to show me around their city. I had a place to stay and a tour guide, plus a great chance to catch up with friends and to see a new place. Don’t have a friend where you are going - why not try one of the many groups on Facebook to find someone who might want to host you? I’m part of a Girls Love Travel Facebook group which has almost forty thousand women from all over the world who live or are travelling all across the globe - they are always on hand for advice when travelling to a new place, keen to meet up for a drink, to show you round or even host you!
A good way to see the sights and explore a new city, if you don’t know where to begin why not join the professional tour guides? When travelling around Europe, I started using Sandemans NEW Europe Tours - they offer FREE walking tours around 18 European cities with fantastic guides who have endless knowledge and enthusiasm for their city. The tours are free but the guides work for tips and you are welcome to give as little or as much as you want - the tours were always so good that I happily 10-20 euros after my tours in Berlin and Amsterdam.
If you’re backpacking or staying in a hostel - why not take a look at the activities board and see what your hostel might be offering? Not only is it a great way to meet people and get to see the city, but it is often a lot cheaper or even free! When I was in Sydney, Australia, my hostel was fantastic for this and organised events daily including walking tours and wine and cheese nights, further down in Tasmania my hostel organised visits to the nearby mountain and museums for much cheaper than the usual price.
Not staying in hostels? Be smart about your accommodation and make it part of the experience! Renting out a house or apartment for your trip is a different way to experience the destination. Rental companies are making that option easier and safer, from AirBNB to CasaGo, you're sure to find somewhere that is perfect for you, and will give you a taste of the local culture.
How else do you like to explore a new city? Where will you be exploring next?
Whether it is because we are trying to look after the pennies or simply because you love exploring the land on your doorstep, exploring our own shores can truly open our eyes just how lucky we are to live in a land with such rich culture.
Although you won’t find the same weather as the Caribbean, nor will you come across mountain ranges such as those in the Alps, but what you will find is a lot packed into what is, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively small country. With this in mind, below is a list of five of our favourite places to visit in the UK and Ireland.
What a glorious city this is, oozing of Irish heritage mixed in with modern culture, Dublin arguably the greatest city on planet Earth. If you don’t agree with me you obviously have never been and, if not, why not?
The Temple Bar, located a stone’s throw away from the famous Ha’penny Bridge that sits over the River Liffey, is a social hotbed. At all hours of the day there is something going on, whether it is live music or stand-up comedy, this is the bar you want to drink in.
When the sun goes down and night looms over the Irish capital, this is when you see Dublin in all its glory. Paint the town red and get to know the locals, who are some of the friendliest you can hope to meet.
If it is ease of travel mixed in with a plethora of tourist attractions you are looking for, then London is your destination of choice. The Underground system is unrivalled by anywhere else in the world, and takes you to the doorstep of London’s favourite hotspots without the need for driving.
Trafalgar Square is the place to go for a night out in London, with restaurants and bars along the streets, and even a casino and cinema for additional entertainment (and it is also here that you will find M&M World!).
If British culture and pop fiction are two of your favourite things to experience, then head to the home of Robin Hood. In Nottingham, you will find lots of historic landmarks, such as Nottingham Castle and the cathedral mixed in with a very modern city.
Located in the Midlands, Nottingham is one of the best-connected cities in England and is easily reachable by train or car. Neighbouring Derby, nearby hotels can be found in equal distance to the two cities’ city centres in case you want to broaden your horizons.
The Scottish capital is just as vibrant during the day as it is at night, and is the scene for one of the most famous New Year’s Eve celebration in the world, Hogmanay. In Edinburgh, you will find the perfect mixture of the gorgeous Scottish countryside and a modern city, packed with places to visit.
Fantastic seasonal markets line the streets of Edinburgh in the winter, making the city the perfect place to visit over the festive period going into the New Year. You have to be quick, though, as hotel rooms are booked fast at this time of year.
Famous for more than a song title and a reality television show, in Newcastle you will find a brimming city packed with events, culture and landmarks. See the Angel of the North in all its glory, visit St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United, and take in the sight of Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the world’s first and only tilting bridge.
Of course, the city is also well known for its nightlife, and is something that simply should be sampled if you ever have the fortune to visit the northern city.
If you have visited any of the above cities, or if you have been lucky to visit all five, then you will already know just how fantastic our shores are.
Perth is kind of like Vegemite - you either love it or you hate it.
The city is often the receiver of either rave reviews or disappointing memories for travelers and I know I have heard all opinions from friends over the years. Never letting a bad review stand in the way of me making up my own opinion about a place, I refused to make a judgement before seeing it with my own eyes. After a week in Adelaide - read my city guide here - I hopped on a quick flight over to experience my first taste of Western Australia and to finally start my West Coast adventure. I arrived at the airport and caught a bus straight to my new hostel which had come highly recommended by friends all across social media and was clearly the hot favourite.
Not the easiest hostel to get to, there was a real lack of information at the airport regarding shuttle buses, routes and schedules - eventually I managed to find a helpful bus driver who told me I would need two buses to reach the hostel. It turned into a bit of a mission but I made it finally. I was a bit disappointed by the "friendly" staff who barely acknowledged my presence and seemed very bored by their job - not the best welcome to a new city and hostel. I was sent up to my room which was pretty aged and a bit dirty. I'm definitely not a snob when it comes to hostels but this building felt less like a hostel with atmosphere and vibe, it felt more like an old building used for school trips. You could tell this was a city hostel with many people just passing through for a day or two or others who were working and had no time to meet travelers. I don't want to be totally negative about the hostel - I'm sure it must have been great at points for so many of my friends to rave about it - but I personally found the crowd staying there when I passed through to be quite antisocial and not very friendly to newcomers. It was not my kind of hostel. However, it is in a fantastic location for exploring the city by bus and on foot, Highgate is a great area for nightlife, food and entertainment.
King's Park is a highlight of visiting Perth and one not to be missed, these beautiful gardens are backed by the Botanic Gardens and sit high on a hill overlooking the city. Providing you with a spectacular panoramic view of the city, the park is best at sunset when you can really appreciate the beauty of Perth. You can access the park by bus or road, or you can take the more challenging way - Jacob's Ladder - a set of steep steps leading up to the park often full of fitness fanatics who run up and down for hours. Take a picnic, water and your camera for a lovely afternoon.
I stumbled across Hilary's Boat Harbour on my wanderings around the city and had the loveliest time down there enjoying a drink overlooking the water while I planned some of my travels. There are lots of places to eat and drink down there and also a range of attractions and entertainment for the whole family, including access to trips on charter/fishing boats or over to Rottnest Island. Fancy keeping it simple - why not take a stroll along the boardwalk in the sunshine?
Northbridge is just a short walk from Highgate - where I stayed - and the main city. It's a fabulous neighbourhood full of quirky places to eat and drink throughout the day and into the evening. I found a great little vegan restaurant called Flora and Fauna, which served the best range of brunches and juices I have found in a long time. Although I didn't get to go out while in the city - too much work on unfortunately - I've heard the nightlife is very good in this area as well.
Take in the views across the harbour and if the weather is good for you, why not grab a book and relax in the parks near Elizabeth Quay? It's a perfect place to take a time-out or grab some lunch to take down there and sit in the sunshine before going for a stroll among the amusements and across the bridge for great city views.
I like to keep fit and one of my favourite ways to explore a new city is on foot - whether by walking all day long or by heading out for a morning run. I discovered the absolutely beautiful Hyde Park not far from my hostel in just this way, think golden, brown, autumn leaves falling from the trees and benches overlooking a lake - heaven right in the middle of the city.
Everyone says "you HAVE to go to Cottosloe Beach" and so, I did. But I couldn't help being a little disappointed. Yes it was beautiful and yes it was bathed in sunshine when I went. But in my opinion, it didn't even compare to having the whole of City Beach to yourself, or walking the endless sands of Scarborough watching dogs and surfers frolic in the waves. Definitely get yourself out to the beaches - they are Perth's sparkling gem - but don't always listen to what everyone says.
Fremantle is the place that really stole my heart and I'll be posting in much more detail about life there, but even for those just visiting for a day there is lots to do. There are weekend markets for food and goodies, live music and entertainment in the streets, a brewery for beer and cider tastings, beaches, history and culture to explore. Just watch out - it's easy to get stuck here!
While I was staying in Fremantle, my hostel organised a day trip around the wineries and local producers of Swan Valley. It was a fantastic day of free tastings and luxury food and drink and is definitely worth a visit if youre staying in the area. It's a great day on a budget because so many of the tastings are either free or cost just a few dollars - perfect for budget-conscious travelers or backpackers.
My favourite day in Perth by far was the one I spent walking all over the city exploring - it's a good city to explore on foot and especially if you're into fitness like myself. I set myself the challenge of walking as far as possible and took on Jacob's Ladder - one for the fitness fanatics - as well as walking over 15km across the city and King's Park then back to my hostel. It was a lovely day to walk in the sunshine and I would recommend exploring the city this way. I also loved my time at the beaches near the city - these were really very beautiful and a strong reminder that Perth's real charm is outside of the city. Now while Perth may not be my favourite city by far - I really did love my time in Fremantle and traveling up the coast so don't worry if you're not a fan - there is a version of Perth to suit all of us.
Have you been to Perth? What was your favourite part? What else did you do when you visited?
I left Melbourne at the beginning of May, eager to be traveling again and exploring new places. I was sad to leave behind my amazing apartment on the banks of the Yarra, to say goodbye to my job and all my friends, but I was long overdue for a change of scenery. It was around this time when this blog started winding down, when I made an unconscious decision to travel and stop worrying about documenting it. It was just the break I needed but now I have so many traveling stories to share with you all, and where better to start than with my South Australian experiences. Now while I have already shared my less fortunate and fun experiences of Adelaide with you all - read the post here - this time I want to focus on the positive, because I really did love my time visiting the city. I was lucky enough to have a very good friend, Jack, living there - we first met back in Thailand and traveled through Laos at the same time, then over a year later he came to visit me in Melbourne, so I was long overdue for a visit. After he picked me up from the airport, we spent our first evening together drinking way too much red wine and catching up. Sadly Jack had to work the week I was there, but as a solo traveler that didn't bother me, I was more than happy to go off exploring by myself.
I really loved Adelaide, as a smaller city it was perfect for me - I could easily get lost in it without feeling the claustrophobia setting in. It was beautifully dated and had a history about it, which provided a great contrast to the shiny new buildings of Sydney and Melbourne. A peaceful city, it was quiet to walk around the streets and easy to navigate, with public transport making it a breeze to get out and explore the beaches. But there was still plenty going on - I was lucky enough to arrive when Tasting Australia had a huge event taking place right in the center - more on that later. While I had a whole week there, I know many might have just a few days to explore the city. So in this post I've made a list of the top things to do while visiting Adelaide, to make it easier to plan your trip.
You guys will all know by now, I'm always looking for the green spaces in every city. The botanic gardens were an absolute highlight for me in Adelaide, they are genuinely some of the most beautiful outdoor areas I have found in Australia slap bang in the middle of a city. A perfect place for a stroll and to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
If the weather is a bit hit and miss, there's no place better than the museum and art gallery to duck into for a wander around. Both are full of fascinating history and some really beautiful works from a huge range of artists from across the ages. Both are right next door to each other so you won't have far to walk if the rain and wind starts - South Australia's weather can be a bit hectic if you visit at certain times of the year. I was lucky and although it was cold and windy, it was brilliant sunshine every day I was there - perfect for exploring a new city.
If you love a market as much as I do, don't miss out on a visit to Adelaide Central Markets, South Australia's main food hub for over 140 years. With over 80 stalls under one roof offering the finest in tasty, fresh produce, unusual items and some freshly prepared meals including delicious seafood and paella. There are also fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, book stalls and much, much more in the Gouger Street building.
Visiting on a weekend and fancy a night out? Check out Rundle Street to get the party started - this vibrant and eclectic city boulevard combines historic charm with modern sophistication. Head to one of the many restaurants for alfresco dining under the stars, or stumble down hidden stairways to secret bars from another era. One night we started in Maybe Mae, a secret 1950's cocktail bar hidden under a stairwell and behind a secret door, for a few cocktails before moving upstairs to Bread and Bone for a fantastic meal. The burgers there are amazing and the service is fantastic at both venues. Another night we started out in the suburbs where we started with dinner and drinks, then moved on to the clubs and bars in the city for a night out - we had a great time until our night out ended rather abruptly.
Sadly this is something I didn't get to do - we had a whole day at the vineyards planned but after our eventful Saturday night we weren't really in the right state or mood to go out for the day. It was such a shame as it was all set to be a great day of wine tastings and enjoying the beautiful surroundings of Clare Valley. South Australia's wine tastings are supposed to be an absolute highlight of visiting the territory, so don't miss out on the opportunity if you visit.
One of my absolute favourite places I found while in Adelaide, Henley Beach is absolutely beautiful and really showed me how the city is a hidden gem. So many travelers skip Adelaide and miss out on so much, it really is a city like no other in Australia and I'll be honest and say home of the beaches there easily rival Perth's famous beaches in my experience. A perfect place for a long beach walk, to take the dog for a run or just to enjoy some fish and chips by the shore.
Any time I visit any new place I always check to see what local events are on and I was lucky enough to randomly coincide my visit with Tasting Australia - a huge foodie's event that was touring the country with food provided by top chefs and cooked live in front of you. There was live music, a gin bar, entertainment, talks, dinner parties and a chance to try all of the food by the top chefs - a pretty awesome day out! I went a few times, once by myself during the day to soak up the festival atmosphere, and another time in the evening with my friend to enjoy a few drinks and the entertainment. A perfect event for the whole family.
Just passing through? Three days is a perfect amount of time to explore Adelaide and get a taste for the city. But if you do have more time to explore, South Australia has so much more to offer in the way of national parks, natural beauty and much more. Check out this website for more ideas.
Have you been to Adelaide - how was your experience? Can you recommend anything else to do, or places to eat/drink?
My parents always treat themselves to a city break in the spring - it's a perfect time to celebrate both of their birthdays by escaping to Europe to explore some amazing new place. The other year they decided to try out Venice for the first time and came back raving about the maze of canals, the gondola rides and the amazing architecture. They spent their days wandering the city in the sunshine, stopping off regularly to indulge in the local delicacies washed down with endless glasses of wine. Their glowing recommendations made sure it became a place I have to one day experience for myself to experience the culture and art of this timeless city. It's definitely on my bucket list, and if you're planning a trip look no further than this post for tips on the top experiences on offer – and where to book your tickets.
Doge's Palace & Secret Itineraries Tour
The Venetian Gothic style will captivate visitors to the city, but none quite so much as the Doge's Palace. One of the city's main landmarks, the Palace is the main symbol of Venice and although starting out as the home of the Doge, the supreme authority in Venice it was opened as a museum in 1923. Purchasing a ticket to the Doge's Palace also allows entry to the Correr Museum, the Biblioteca Marciana and the National Archaeological Museum. You can purchase tickets here.
While exploring the Palace, it is worth checking out the Secret Itineraries Tour which includes the visit of the old rooms where the Serenissima government carried out all important and secret issues related to the administration of the State over the centuries. The tour gives visitors a taste of the political history of the city, Venice organization and justice institutions. You can purchase tickets for this tour here.
Venice Museum Pass
If you're a museum fan, this pass is the one for you. The Venice Museums Pass gives you access to all Civic Venice Museums and the museums in San Marco Square. These include Doge's Palace, Correr museum, National Aercheological museum, Biblioteca Marciana, Ca’ Rezzonico, Museo del Settecento Veneziano, Carlo Goldoni Home, Palazzo Mocenigo and Centro Studi di Storia del Tessuto e del Costume, Ca’ Pesaro, International Gallery of Modern Art and Museo d'Arte Orientale, the Glass museum, Murano, the Lace museum, Burano, Museum of Natural History. You can purchase this ticket here and it remains valid for six months.
Venice Islands Boat Tour
Fancy getting outside and exploring the city? Why not try the Venice Islands Boat Tour - get to see the city from the canals and visit the most important and famous islands of Venice lagoon, Murano, Burano e il Torcello, by boat. This tour is available every day and at just 22 euros it's a great way to explore the city. Tickets available here.
Gondola Serenade Tour
Of course a trip to Venice would be nothing without experiencing the magic of a gondola tour, and how better to woo your love than by being serenaded during this beautiful cruise along the canals? This is a fascinating tour along Canl Grande and smaller, hidden channels which gives visitors a chance to experience this unique city from an unsual point of view with a background serenade. Pick up your tickets here.
Venice Walking Tour
For those who prefer to stay on dry land and explore on foot, the Venice Walking Tour could be the perfect way to explore the city. Last around 80 minutes, the tour takes in a wealth of sights and monuments with a guide to tell you all about them. The tour starts from St. Mark’s Square giving you a description of the history of the main monuments including St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace,the Campanile, the Clock Tower and the Procuratie. The tour will then head to one of the most popular squares in Venice, S. Maria Formosa, before exploring Marco Polo’s house and Malibran Theatre, where ancient and recent history meet Mercerie in this wonderful corner of Venice. Tickets available here.
If you're planning a trip to Venice, don't miss out on the amazing deals available online and don't forget to book in advance as many of these attractions will get booked out during peak season. Be a smart traveller and skip the queues buy purchasing your tickets ahead of time through Italy Travels. Check out their website here.
Tasmania is one of the most easily skipped parts of Australia for backpackers who are more often drawn to the commercialised party of the East Coast or the big city life of Melbourne and Sydney. Many know nothing about Tasmania, I certainly didn't realise it was a separate island until I actually arrived in Australia. But I knew almost straight away that the West Coast of Australia and Tasmania would be real highlights for me when exploring Australia. Don't get me wrong, there are some special sights to see along the East Coast but it is very much about partying and I think it is a shame so many never travel beyond it. When I returned on my second year visa, it was my absolutely priority to get myself to Tasmania as soon as possible, my tax back from the previous year was sitting in my account waiting to be spent and how better than on a month in Bali and a Tasmania road trip?
Flights and job-hunting
Flying into Hobart, I was excited for the crisp, clear air and the stormy skies after the last month in humid Bali and sunny Cairns. Flights to Tasmania are some of the cheapest I have found in Australia, I actually paid less than $100 for my flight from Cairns via Sydney, and landed in Hobart which I used as my base for the next few weeks. I originally arrived with hopes of finding work and staying over Christmas before returning to Melbourne, but friends I made in the hostel assured me it would be harder than expected to find work and I was best off just travelling then working in Melbourne. The farming season had been delayed in Tasmania due to the weather so those hunting for raspberry/strawberry picking work or cherries, were hanging around in the hope something would turn up. Hospitality work was hard to come by as there just weren't enough jobs for those looking and it always helped to know someone who could get you in. I personally would really recommend just travelling Tasmania so you can get the most out of it as it actually costs very little to have an amazing experience compared to other parts of Australia.
Where to stay?
In my view there is only one hostel even worth mentioning in this section - The Pickled Frog. Within minutes of arriving it became one of my absolute favourite hostels ever, not just in Australia. It was full of the most friendly and relaxed travellers I have ever met and many of them were there long-term to work so they made the place feel like home. Some were just about to set off on road trips around the island, others had just come back, either way, they were a wealth of information about what to see and do. The hostel was a pretty old building with creaky floors and two huge dogs, it had charm and character and all centred around a huge living area with couches and tables to relax on and hang out with other travellers. The kitchen was huge and was a great place to meet new people and cook up a feast before sitting in the living room to play cards all night and drink beers from the bar in the reception.Situated at the top of Hobart city, you can't miss the hostel which has been painted bright green and it is easy to get the airport shuttle to right outside the door. A bed in the hostel came to between $26-30 a night depending on the size dorm you went for - I always stayed in six bed dorms which were perfect as I wasn't a fan of the bigger dorms downstairs. Even better, you get a lot of great freebies for your money as the hostel provides free trips to Mount Wellington, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where you can see Tasmanian devils. Trust me, staying in this hostel will make your Hobart experience!
Top 5 things to see and do:
Why I fell in love with Hobart
Hobart has a real charm that other parts of Australia lack, perhaps being English it was the quaint, older charm the city had that won me over. I loved the way everything had a real history and seemed from a time long before the modern skyscrapers of the cities. The solid wooden bars seemed like they had a story to tell, the musicians were quirky and brought unique talent to the table. The lifestyle was slower and more appreciative than the busy bustle of Melbourne or Sydney, less focused on partying and more on appreciating the great outdoors, and when it came to that, Tasmania had a lot to offer. Everyone knows from this blog that I am a total party animal, but there is another side to me, that country girl from the UK who loves getting outdoors and active. Tasmania was a perfect place to do this and so when I was in Hobart, I used my time to plan a road trip around the rest of the island - I'll be blogging about how I planned my trip at a later date.
Have you been to Hobart - what was your favourite part? Can you recommend any things to do/places to eat at?
I haven't posted in a while. I'll be honest and say I've just been working so much and haven't had time to sit and write, but it's not just that, I've lost my motivation a bit lately. While my life is almost full to bursting with exciting stories to tell, I'd kind of hit a wall with inspiration. It happens every now and again, life gets busy and gets in the way of writing, but when it happens I don't try and fight it because I know that I'll always regain my mojo in the end, it just takes time. You can't force yourself to be inspired and to write beautiful things, it comes naturally or not at all. While I was struggling to express the beautiful sides of life through this blog, something awful happened, something painful and sad and devastating. I may have been struggling with the words to express the happier situations in my life, but once I started typing my feelings of anger and hurt at the dangerous assault on my favourite city and it's people last week, the words just wouldn't stop.
For those who don't know what happened, on Friday five people including a baby boy died in a horrific incident in Melbourne's busiest shopping centre. A man went on a rampage around the city after allegedly stabbing his brother, mowing people down with his car and leaving 31 people in hospital. For those who were around the shopping centre at the time - including myself and several friends of mine - it was a scary, confusing and devastating experience. I was just about to start work and was walking past the incident as around 20-30 police cars went tearing along the tramlines in the pedestrianised areas to try and stop the man. Police helicopters were circling and police were screaming at onlookers to get away as quickly as possible. Luckily I worked nearby so I could find shelter in the hotel, at this point we had no idea what had happened with vague reports of a shooting/stabbing and a lot of misinformation. My first fear when I saw the police reaction was that it could be a bomb or some kind of terrorist attack, lack of information put this fear straight into my mind.
But I don't want to dwell too much on what happened, instead I want to focus on what really horrified me that day. While the man's actions were terrifying and have left the whole city unnerved, it was the actions of the onlookers that really showed me a dark side of humanity. As I ran up the street towards work I was dodging between people who preferred to stand on their phones recording every second of the incident, ignoring police advice to move to safety and choosing instead to share it on social media. A friend of mine was right in the middle of the incident and dived straight into help the injured people - he was brave and selfless in that moment, ending up covered in blood and just grateful he could help stop the bleeding from a man's head injury. He was kind and patient despite his fears for his own safety and I find that incredibly inspiring. As with all the people who stepped up and helped save lives or to protect their fellow man that day - the ones who stopped and cared. My friend has since received word that the man he helped is safe and recovering in hospital.But less inspiring was the man who stood right behind my friend and videoed the whole thing - instead of helping to stop the bleeding and to tend to those who were seriously injured he preferred to stand there and capture what was happening. I know we live in a modern age where camera phones open up the world to all of us to be the journalists and to share every bit of news at a flick of a button. But just as I always felt uncomfortable reporting the news from a desperate situation when I felt I could be helping to ease the pain and suffering of others, I find it disgusting that people would prioritise social media sharing and Snapchatting attacks on mankind over helping to save lives. Have we really reached a point where sharing an experience is more important that protecting a human life? While this experience may have inspired me to write about my anger and pain, I still don't see how sharing it could ever be more important than protecting lives. Since Friday, countless people have flocked to Bourke Street Mall to lay flowers and messages of strength, love and compassion. This really makes you see the other side of humanity - the warmth that helps the world to move on and heal after such an incident.
It's times like these when people need to put down their smart phones and to come together, because that's what is really important. The love you feel from the other side of the world when friends and family message to check you are okay, the love you share when your best friend's safety is your first thought as an incident happens, the love you feel from co-workers who rant and cry and understand the pain of others. It's so easy to get caught up in the modern world we live in and to forget to break it down to the most basic and most important things - those around us who make our lives worth living, those individuals whose lives and presence we treasure more than anything. After hearing about the death of a Lynn legend - Juggling Jim - back at home, it shows more than ever the love for this character. The outpourings of sadness on social media at his death, he brought light into the lives of others and will be sadly missed. His spot on Lynn High Street will never be filled and his memory will be treasured.
You could never run out of things to see and explore in London, it's a city that is buzzing with nightlife, entertainment and fun. Every weekend there is something happening and you can easily understand why so many flock to live there. Next time you're planning a weekend in the Big Smoke and you're at a loss for something to do, why not check out some of the best attractions in the city:
One of the most popular places to enjoy London's iconic skyline, The Shard's observation deck sits 800ft (244m) up Western Europe's tallest building. A perfect place to enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the view.
Take to the skies with Coca Cola in one of the 32 pods, in just 30 minutes you can see more than 55 of London's famous landmarks set against that famous skyline. At £22.50 for tickets, it's a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets and to get to know the city from a different angle.
Tower of London
Discover the building's 900 year old history as a royal palace, prison and place of execution, arsenal, jewel house and even a zoo. Take a tour and explore the walls of history from years gone by, even marvel at the Crown Jewels!
Sea Life London Aquarium
Home to over 500 species of aquatic life, the Aquarium is the perfect place to retreat to when the British weather hits. Enjoy an afternoon of talks and special feeding sessions with the experts and take your time spotting everything from sharks to Nemo!
Afternoon Tea at Harrods
Tired from all the walking around the London streets? Take the weight off and relax as you enjoy the famous Harrod's afternoon tea. Delicious treats await for those with a sweet tooth.
This 90-minute experience throws you headfirst into a time of years gone by, with live experience actors, amazing special effects that will send a chill down your spine and exciting rides.
Still can't decide on what trip you want to try out first? Head to Attractiontix for all the latest in special deals and discounts for a whole range of trips to London.
I'm not much of a city girl, being born and raised out in the English countryside seems to swing you one way or the other. My sister is the ultimate city girl living in London and working in the fashion industry, but while I've loved the crazy hustle and bustle of visiting cities like Bangkok, Siem Reap and Hanoi, I'm always glad to escape again to the coast, countryside or mountains. I crave space, open fields, endless ocean or the fresh mountain air, too long spent breathing in the fumes of the city, dealing with traffic and so many people drives me crazy. Living in Melbourne was the longest I have ever lived in the middle of a city other than Sydney, and I know the old rivalry between the two is still strong for good reason. Both are amazing cities but Melbourne is where my heart is, even before I left the UK I knew it would be and everything I experienced while I lived there for four months only further cemented my love for the city. Melbourne is a fantastic city to live in if you don't really like cities - despite my apartment being in the most central part of the city I never felt trapped the way I do in London. The beach was just a short tram ride away and on either side of my apartment you would find beautiful Albert Park and the Botanic Gardens with running tracks, endless open space and huge lakes. It was perfect for me, but even with all of this natural beauty surrounding me, it did sometimes get a bit too much living directly in the city. I'd still feel the need to escape and get away.
Now I hadn't even heard of Lysterfield Park, nor had many of my friends who had lived in Melbourne for a lot longer than I had, but it turned out to be the perfect pace to cycle away a hangover one Sunday. Around 30km out of the city, the park was created following the decommissioning of the reservoir that sits behind us in the photo above, which has left a beautiful woodland set against the banks of the lake. It was the venue for mountain biking events of the 2006 Commonwealth Games and features a wide array of trails suitable for beginners like myself or the more experienced rider. I was definitely feeling a little less enthusiastic at the thought of mountain biking on a hangover than Evan, but it turned out to be a really lovely day and perfect weather for escaping the city. We rode around the park and I attempted the mountain bike trails while he showed off. Wandering around the lake the banks were filled with families who had come well prepared with barbecues and all sorts of goodies. It was beautiful standing there as the sun was setting. We headed back into the woods to find the car and spotted some of the biggest kangaroos I've seen in the whole of Australia as we rode along the path towards the car park.
We ended up having a rather entertaining drive home as the car decided to pack in and leave us stranded until we could get a lift, but it didn't take the shine off what was a rather perfect day. It was just the death of fresh air I needed before heading back to work the following day - when you're working 12 hour days six days a week, it becomes even more important to really make the most of your days off. It was really nice to have the opportunity to see another part of the city that I hadn't yet explored. For anyone who hasn't heard of Lysterfield, I would really recommend you head out there one weekend - whether you like biking, running or just fancy a nice stroll around beautiful park, it's a lovely day out and well worth a visit. While you're at it, why not check to some of the other stunning walks and parks scattered around Melbourne - check out my blog posts on Great Ocean Road, Cape Otway National Park and Grampians National Park. I can't wait to visit the Wilson's Promontory, Dandenong Ranges National Park and Philip Island when I return to Melbourne in a few months.
Do you crave city life, or you prefer a country escape? Where are your favourite places to go to escape the hustle and bustle of the city?
The most liveable city in the world has been my home for the past four months and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier living in a city than I have been since I moved here. From the second you get off the plane you can feel the city is alive and buzzing with excitement at the arrival of yet another new face eager to unlock its hidden treasures. From bars hidden behind bookcases and acoustic performers lining the streets, to the regular festival takeovers and the incredible street art that lines alleyways across the city. Melbourne is a city of life and excitement with amazing discoveries hiding around every corner - even after four months I still have so much to learn about this city and feel like I have barely scratched the surface.With just three weeks left here I guess I’m getting a bit emotional at the thought of leaving the place that has become home to me, the first home I’ve had in 18 months. I’ve loved every second of my life here and that’s exactly what it has been. I have built a life here over the past four months, more than just meeting friends before hitting the road again, this is a place where I have friends, family, a career and a home. I’ve met so many amazing people who have set my soul alight and I know that even when I fly to the other side of the globe, I’ll be leaving a big piece of my heart here. You all know who you are, every single one of you amazing people have made this one of the best experiences of my life and it’s you that makes the thought of leaving seem incomprehensible.But if you know anything about me by now, you’ll know that I’m never one to dwell on the sad times, instead I have a series of posts lined up to celebrate Melbourne and all that has made this city incredible for me. All the reasons I’ll be returning in just a few short months, all the things that have made me live every single day with a smile on my face. And what better to start with than the amazing graffiti that lines the streets of Melbourne? I love art - walking around the city to see bold, colourful statements that reflect the consciousness of a passionate, exciting and creative city is one of my favourite parts of Melbourne. From the political and the poignant, to the current and the comic - there’s a piece for all tastes and the constant fluctuation of work is what keeps it exciting. You never know what will spring up next and what will disappear, this change is what keeps the walls of Melbourne alive in a way that other cities just cannot keep up with.Much as you often find you stumble across incredibly relatable and poignant posts across social media that seem to be written especially for you and your emotions at that moment. Melbourne city walks are like a live feed of passion and emotion spread right across your eyes - it’s amazing what you will stumble across if you just take a second to look up from your phone as you wander the cobbled walkways. Of course, if you’re planning on exploring the city anytime soon you’ll need to know the best places to start so here’s the best places to venture if you fancy seeing some of the most awe-inspiring pieces on show. Start out at the famous Hosier and Rutledge Lanes, just off Federation Square, before heading to Caledonian Lane, off Little Bourke Street, then check out Union Lane, off Bourke Street Mall.If that’s not enough for you, head for the rear of 280 Queen Street in Finlay Avenue, 21 Degraves Street, or the corner of Flinders Lane and Cocker Alley. Over towards Carlton there’s some amazing artwork at 122 Palmerston Street, and don’t forget Centre Place between Collins Street and Flinders Lane. All of these areas feature some of the best street art I have seen, and it’s so wonderful to see them displayed in a place where it is valued and considered art - Melbourne is such a modern city and I love the attitude that appreciates the art instead of squashing these amazing talents like in many cities. Another great area for checking out the art is Brunswick Street and the rest of Fitzroy where you’ll find some pretty spectacular scenes hidden amongst the streets.
What do you think about street art in cities - is it just graffiti or something much more? Where are your favourite places in Melbourne to spot the latest and best street art?
One of the things I love the most about Melbourne is that there is always something going on. It’s a lively city full of hidden gems and quirky, unusual events and I’ve already lost track of how many unexpected treats I’ve found since exploring the city. From the tiniest little food festivals to the Mardi Gras-esque street parties, there is always something new to discover and where better than to prime your taste in Australian music than by attending St Kilda Festival? Australia’s largest free music festival, the event showcases a range of the country’s national and local talent on huge stages set against the natural beauty of St Kilda’s beach. The event attracts over 400,000 people each year and this year took place on Valentine’s Day, which also just happened to be right in the middle of three of my friends’ birthdays. A perfect time to celebrate.Getting the whole gang together, we headed to St Kilda in the afternoon where we couldn’t wait to check out the huge range of performances set to take place across ten stages that day. Now we all know by now how much I love my festivals - whether they’re free or expensive, dance or reggae, camping or day events. I love them all and can always find something special at each of them. St Kilda Festival was great - a huge event that has obviously proven a great success by the crowds that poured through the streets. The performances I saw were great and the crowd were clearly enjoying themselves, who couldn’t with a main stage set against the backdrop of the ocean as the sun was setting? My favourite part of the event definitely had to be when I went down to the beach to sit and watch the sun set while listening to the performers on the main stage.But much as we did all enjoy ourselves that day, I couldn’t help but feel the event could have done with being better organised for the of us who aren’t from the area. Being new to Melbourne, and especially to St Kilda, I found it very difficult to navigate between and even locate some of the stages and actually only ended up getting to watch performances on two of the ten stages because it took so long to find our way through the crowds. I saw little to no signs around to direct us and whenever I stopped to ask stewards they seemed to have even less idea what was going on than I did. Very late on we finally found a map of the area, but we had missed most of the things we had really wanted to see. After speaking to a few friends who went along to the event separately to us, it seems they shared some of our experiences and felt the event was a bit over-crowded. Regardless, we still made sure we had a good time, a few ciders in the sunshine and a lot of laughs.Just a few days later, it was White Night and the whole city was abuzz again as Melbourne CBD prepared to put on the biggest show of colour, light and music. Bigger and better than ever the radio and TV stations promised us, so after a quick drink with a friend in St Kilda, I couldn’t resist heading into the city to meet friends for a good look around at the projections. Despite spending six hours wandering around the city, I never actually saw a single one! But don’t worry, we had the time of our lives walking around and discovering the huge range of musical talents hidden around every street corner.We actually ended up sticking around Flinders and Melbourne Central areas as every time we walked down the street we got sucked into watching another epic performance turn into a huge street party with people of all ages dancing in the streets. It was amazing and the atmosphere was electric, it kept me dancing my heart out until 6am despite being completely sober and starving hungry. I was so impressed with the quality of the performances and how diverse they were, on one corner we watched as an incredibly talented acoustic performer mixed DJ skills with guitar and even a touch of saxophone while talking to the crowd throughout. Then just down the road, a DJ had the whole street dancing and further along a fabulous group started a fiesta in the shopping mall with their Mardi Gras vibes. It was a fantastic night and even though I didn’t see what I set out to see, I found some fantastic performers along the way.
Have you been to either of these events - what did you think? Does your city have great local music events like these?
Now it wouldn’t be Absolutely Lucy without some raving and staying up past bedtime would it? I’d been such a good girl and barely partied for three months - giving my liver and my wallet a rest after Darwin - but now I was ready to make up for lost time. The weekend after I arrived, a group of us headed to Piknik Electronik - a weekly summer series that celebrates electronic music in beautiful summer settings. First starting out in Montreal, now the event has expanded as far as Barcelona and Melbourne, where it runs every Sunday over around eight weeks. If you’re craving serious festivals vibes but can’t afford a weekend escape from the city, or can’t spare the time off work, this is the perfect answer! I went along to the fourth edition of the event which was featuring South London Ordnance, Secret Cinema, Dean Benson and Andy Hart, on Sunday, February 7, at The Paddock, off Federation Square.All of us were in the party mood and couldn’t wait to hit the event, it started at 1pm and was due to run until 9pm, so we headed there about 3pm. We are glad to arrive then because the day was baking hot and there was very little shade at the event - I ended up with the worst sunglasses tan line on my nose! The tickets were really reasonably priced with the top price at $30 but plenty of first, second and third release tickets starting from $15. Also - it’s worth hanging out near Flinders Backpackers and other hostels in the area because Piknic staff were handing out flyers that gave reduced price entry so getting in turned out to be a bargain! Once you’re in, they have a cash-card system for the bars which definitely helps make them less crowded - you just top up a card when you arrive and anything that is left on it at the end of the day, you can claim back. This was great because I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had money left on cards like these because the bars have been so crowded at festivals and haven’t been able to claim the money back - such a waste!The crowds were already there and we could tell we were in for a good afternoon from the moment we walked in the gates, people were already dancing and having a great time. The event had brought a complete range of people together; from businessmen to backpackers, from teenagers to parents, and the atmosphere was electric. It was fantastic to see such a varied crowd and to see how friendly everyone was, I lost count of the new friends I made that afternoon because everyone was so keen to make new friends and know your story. We had a great day spent dancing, chatting and laughing, a lot, it was a perfect event for the Dingo’s. And the mark of a good mini-festival in the city? When it really does feel like you’re a million miles away from the skyscrapers and bustling streets - with the park nestled against the Yarra riverbank it could’t have felt father away from the tourist trap that is Federation Square. It was great to be somewhere surrounded by all the colour and fun of festivals, but barely any distance from our home and without needing to take the day off work.Piknic caters for all tastes - so whether you’re there for the music, the drinks, the food or the fun, you’ll leave satisfied. Instead of stocking the usual rubbish drinks you get at festivals you can get craft beers and summer cocktails, although they were a touch expensive. Every week the event offers a new selection of Melbourne’s own delicious food trucks. And who can forget the little ones? Creating a fun, family environment, the organisers host Little Piknic - a designated children’s area with plenty of activities for them to take part in. I read that last year there were complaints over the lack of toilets and facilities but this year there must have been a big improvement as I didn’t find myself queueing for a toilet all day - a marked improvement on most festivals or music events! Running until 9pm, its the perfect place to see the sunset and to get you ready to rave all night - just a hop, skip and a jump from the CBD clubs - there’s plenty of places to head after to keep the party going.
Can you recommend any other great city events in Melbourne? Have you been to any other great city festivals around the world?