I've always wanted to go to Berlin, maybe due to the fact that I never really heard a bad word about it. I heard it's cheap and fun and there's loads of stuff to do, so I decided to check it out for myself.
I enjoyed getting lost and finding cheap places to eat, drink and shop with the TV tower being the beacon to guide us home. The summer sun and blue skies made a stroll in Berlin even more pleasant. one thing I will say is that there's an abundance of Thai places with prices ranging from as little as €3.30 for full rice dishes to around €14 it largely depends on the area.
Highlight- Burgermiester with the standard hamburger coming in at just €3.50 Vegetarian options came in the guise of a Tofu burger and fries starting at €1.50 you're looking at paying mcdonalds prices for a prime burger. The restaurant quite quirky seeing as it's a converted men's toilet located just outside schlesisches tor station, the tables are place over bicycle railings with a cushion stuck around it which serves as the seating.
Things to do:
There's so much to do in Berlin from checking out the independent galleries or the more established state run ones on Museum island to vintage shopping, Madame Tussaud or finding bars with two for one deals on drinks.
Highlight- The zoo open from 9am till 5pm &only €13 euros for an adult ticket. The zoo's quite large and there's no pushy people explaining things or watching over you. The bird enclosure is rather big yet I ended up spending a large time ogling at a group of monkeys , I was enchanted by how much their actions were like humans from babies suckling their mother, to play fighting, sex and self pleasuring, a reality tv show of its own sorts. It was sad that I didn't get to see the lions as the enclosure closed early but I pretty much saw everything else from tigers, bears, elephants, giraffes. It's a fun and affordable outing worth checking out.
we stayed in a hotel for the first two days and as we extended our trip we opted for a cheap and cheerful hostel in the guise of Generator. I enjoyed the hostel experience over the hotel if I'm being honest, the downside of course is sharing space with people you don't know ( rooms start from a double & go up getting cheaper in price). We had a roomie as we stayed in a four bed dorm with only two of us, it's awkward at first but if you respect each other's privacy it's fine, our roomie was chilled and we swapped travelling experiences. I enjoyed the hostel experience as everyone there was from somewhere and quick cig breaks would turn to full on chats, it's the place to go to meet people and socialise and as you're on holiday your guard is down and it's the perfect place for communication. http://generatorhostels.com/
Travel- we traveled with National Express, Eurolines. The coach was fast and comfortable and allowed breaks to grab some hot food especially whilst on the ferry. It's not faster of course then plane or Eurostar but I would say it's a more relaxing way to travel. I actually enjoyed being in transit, seeing the beauty of some of the landscapes in Europe that you pass through in the process, it's also where I can relax, read watch all the programmes downloaded & stored on my Ipad with room and time to sleep, waking up relaxed and refreshed and at your destination.
Prices to a variety of locations across Europe starting at just £15 http://www.eurolines.co.uk/
We decided to extend our stay as never have I felt so calm and collected in a capital city, there's something about a place and space that offers so much to do but not too many people doing what you're doing or clogging up the systems needed to get around. It's the start of a love affair that I feel will continue for a long time
Seeing Brighton on Sugar Rush and with friends driving there every now and again, it's always served as the spot to go to that's away yet not too far away. This was the case on this occasion & with Liam being from Littlehampton it was like a home away from home for him.
We stayed at The Lime House, a really cute space, that essentially was like a studio apartment. Loud, colorful & quirky the environment was fun. The room overlooked gardens and the sea and beach was also in view. 3.5/5
Brighton has a pretty decent shopping center but it's not really H&M & Zara I was looking for. I wanted to find something more unique and pieces not available here, there and everywhere. We stumbled on a few charity shops and Thrift stores that are actually thrift stores not upmarket second hand boutiques like the likes of what greets you so often in London. There was a cute one a stones throw from where we was staying that offered an assortment of garments. Nothing hardly exceeded £10 and the 50p bargain bin had a few pieces that ended up in my wardrobe.
Loved the menu which gave the bios of those involved in the venture. Dish of the day: 'Indian Summer' was a favorite served with white rice and small separate dishes of chicken, Dahl and lamb, the baby potatoes were a nice addition with the skin seasoned with spring onions.Indian Summer has a different take on food that's exciting to see such as the black chicken and the crumbed tuna 2.5/5
A humble little place where you can dine in or outdoors. As it was a nice day we opted to sit outside in the sun. A simple and effective concept where you choose your base from tacos, burrito, quesadilla, tostadas or burrito bowl. we started off with the Calamari which was tender, juicy & crisply battered with a slight kick. For the mains I chose the Quesadilla very Cheesy and packed with succulent prawns the base was light & overall the dish was a balanced delight. To drink I selected. The passion fruit margarita Really fresh and fruity hardly a hint of the alcoholic taste. A superb place, fast service, polite staff and brilliant food. 4/5
Things to do-
We couldn't cram it all in but the few things we did do were rather enjoyable. Royal Pavilion- Once a royal residence, Liam truly enjoys going around castles and palaces and it's quite interesting to see how the royal & rich lived. Aquarium- Sea life is largely neglected and seldom seen. There's so many beautiful and magnificent creatures that inhabit the worlds oceans and its great to be reminded of that. Brighton Wheel- It was great to see the sea from up high and thankfully on such a nice day. 3.5/5
It's always great to go places where there's things to see and do and Brighton offers that easily as well as the option to relax and chill out. There's a variation of activities from a stroll/lounge on the beach, shopping or dining etc. An hour on train and two on the coach it's not too far from London, serving as a sunny seaside escape.
I've visited Paris every year at least once since 2012. Each trip has been different, offering a variation of views on the French capital. The first trip was quite rushed yet that added to the thrill and excitement, we had one hiccup, as of course things didn't run as smoothly as we had planned, due mainly to the fact that we didn't plan! Our main problem was finding a hotel/hostel with vacancies that fell within our limited budget. The main reason we left in a hurry was because we wanted to find an alternative to London; instead of resorting to dancing in the usual spaces and seeing the same faces. So we gathered what we had on us and left for Paris! By day we did all the usual things such as Eiffel Tower, Versailles & The Louvre, and by night we partied at Le Social and some other pop up party.
The 2nd was more planned and chilled, it was more to party and have fun, no agenda just enjoy being somewhere else. We visited galleries, mostly the smaller ones with newer art and younger artists on show. Needless to say not all of it was good; in fact, If I were to be brutally honest, most it wasn't. We ended up stumbling upon a Walter Pffiefer exhibit, with the artist present. It was great to talk to him about his work whilst being surrounded by it.
This time around (our 3rd) was a far more cultural experience. In the city renowned for its cultural institutions like The Louvre (home to the Mona Lisa) and Centre Pompidou, we wanted to experience Paris for this purpose. We'd all been to The Lourve more than once so decided not to visit on this occasion, we all wanted to do things we had neither seen, nor done before.
The Shows/ Galleries
Addict Gallerie – The Last Shooting Kurt Cobain.
Aside from the controversial title (The Last Shooting) the Kurt Cobain exhibit was a nice little treat. Compact yet concise. The exhbit largely focused on one of the bands last sittings. It was filled with polaroids, negatives & props worn on set for the shoot. Luke being a Nirvana fan, loved what he saw. The space was relaxed, and as an extra homage and mood setter the band’s music played softly through the speakers. Across the road was a cute little book store dedicated to books created both by, and for artists.
Wilhelm Von Gloeden- Photographs 1880-1915- Galerie Au Bonheur du Jour, Paris
This was a cute exhibition, if you can call it that!? Reminiscent of the times when galleries weren't the monstrous institutions that they are today, more intimate and one on one. The gallery assistant was a lady who had worked at the place for 25 years, telling us tales of the art system and how it’s changed, and the beauty of Wilhelm’s work. There was passion for the artist who's work decorated the walls, not just for money, but for people to see his work and both remember and appreciate him. Of course the art now is risqué with boys of questionable ages in various degrees of undress. Von Gloeden will always be a template for the photographers that came after and that's what makes his work so interesting it captures young men silently and subtlety without being overtly erotic or sexually stimulating.
Mapplethrope- Grand Palais
The blockbuster of the trip was the Mapplethope exhibit, housed in the Grand Palais (a juggernaut in its own right) and a well-deserved accomplishment for the artist. I've desperately wanted to see a Robert Mapplethrope exhibit in the same way I've wanted to see a Haring or Basquait one. Pawing through their books is all well and good but nothing beats seeing the art in a gallery and in the flesh. Robert has long been a favourite of mine and to see him honoured in such a grand way was amazing. The exhibit was a comprehensive insight into the artist's mind. Bodies and flowers blurred to become sculptures. Yet my favourite part of it all wasn't seeing the glistening black bodies of men and people not often seen in art, and furthermore adorning the walls of galleries! To me it was his portraits and the personalities he captured effortlessly from his friends, lovers and other contemporaries. It felt like a complete separate body of work from his most prominent art. His sexual work was behind a curtain protecting those not of age and it felt like entering a boudoir, explicit whilst exploring and documenting the sexual appetite of men for men. That's why I love Mapplethope, he was who he was and was unashamed to show that, whether it be through his racy self-portraits, men kissing men or the beautiful image of two crowned men dancing.. Here was equality for men loving men, and equality for ethnic minorities. He spoke, in fact screamed about a life that was all but in the shadows, and it was such a shame his death was caused by the silence that surrounded aids.
I had long heard tales of those who traveled to Paris to pay homage to the great, witty wordsmith that was Oscar Wilde, and I thought since I was there on a cultural visit, who better to go and visit?! Oscar was a man who has contributed so much and inspired so many (myself included). So we (well I) wanted to track down Oscar Wilde’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
It was sad that you could no longer adorn his grave with a kiss, none the less I wanted to see the place where the great man was laid to rest. It was quite hard to find but worth it in the end.
It was sad that you could no longer adorn his grave with a kiss, none the less I wanted to see the place where the great man was laid to rest. It was quite hard to find but worth it in the end.
Luke wanted to visit the love lock bridge with Jacob and after securing locks onto the Bridge, we took a stroll along the Seine. It was on our last night and we planned to walk from our apartment to the Eiffel tower. Overall it took an hour or more, but was an interesting adventure, taking in the cities sights and sounds and it turned out to be a fun little stroll! The bank was littered with activities and things to do. Climbing frames, mazes and Ikea kitchens in shipping containers.
It was a great way to bring out the inner kid in a city that’s sometimes really uptight. We never intended to go up the tower especially as by the time we arrived it was around 3am, we just wanted to marvel at it, sit underneath it and talk as we took in one of the cities most iconic monuments. To me it seemed like a great way to acknowledge where we were and bid our farewells.
Even if it's once a year, from now on I must make it a mission to see the art on offer in Paris more often! And also the city which is rich in architectural beauties and open spaces allowing for quiet contemplation. Couple that with 'it galleries' and the shows on offer and you're pretty much in for a treat, an escape from reality! There was also so much more to see and do but with so little time, such as a visit Versailles, The Catacombs, The Dries Von Noten exhibit at Les Arts Decoratifs & Musee d’Orsay.
We travelled on ID bus from London Victoria to Paris Bercy. The journey was smooth and comfortable clocking in at just under nine hours, although depending on the time you travel you could be savvy and get a coach that takes less time. None the less with the EU charger plugs and wifi, the time will fly by just as my trip did! Of course, it helped to have an iPad loaded with downloads from BBC iplayer and 4OD, along with books and the general downtime time awarded by travelling between the two places.
I've always been intrigued by Bath, it's beauty and character are well known especially in the other Somerset regions such as where I grew up ( Weston-Super-Mare). I visited as a child but always wanted to see it as an adult and appreciate it's allure in full.
The hotel was beautiful, with a range of services on offer from ordering magazines and papers to shoe shining. The room also dazzled, Spacious and modern without being too modern and detracting from it's dated exterior. Queensberry is a beautiful reminder in a dazzling city that a hotel isn't just a place to sleep in its a place to escape to and truly relax.
Sally Lunns- known for the buns which truly are delightful, soft and light in both texture and taste. a highlight for me had to be the prawn cocktail, fresh zesty with the red onions giving the kick. The buns were the main factor here but the food just didn't have that vitality needed, it felt like a pub lunch or some grub you get from an aunt kindly offering Sunday leftovers. 2/5
Abbey hotel restaurant- it's nice to dine sometimes where you're not staying for the experience away from the main experience, especially as some hotel bars and restaurants are gems in their own right., The restaurant was relaxed and calm with domed doors and large walls with art sitting on them. The music was mellow and soothing.I enjoyed the starter of pressed chicken terrine served with leek potato and mustard salad, the mustard remained on the right side and helped balance the dish. I also enjoyed the refreshing Baked Apple cocktail light and fruity apple juice with a slight zest owing to the lime. Light, slight yet delightful dishes that after three courses will have you largely satisfied. 3/5
The Mint Room (pictured)
Tucked away but judging by how busy it was it's clearly not a secret. My favourite dish had to be the Curry Rabbit. The Rabbit was delicious, tender and greatly flavoured, spicy yet delicately spiced with a slow build up it had to be one of my favourite curried dishes to date.Using meat and fish not too traditional with Indian food such as the flavoursome rabbit and the smoky sword fish and by doing so uniquely crafting dishes that exceed expectations and make mint room a must visit
A few of the favourite Things to do
Roman baths- starting off in the most significant in terms if Bath's ancient history, strolling round the Roman baths and hearing via the in ear audio guide Bath's history and rich heritage
Tour bus- actually quite cute to relax and see and hear the history of this historic city full of fun details and facts that drops you off at most of the destination points from The Royal Crescent to The Jane Austen Centre
Jane Austen centre- Fun for all ages interesting to hear About one of Britons most loved authors, her life and connection to Bath
Fashion museum- The building itself is grand it features beautiful designs from the likes of Ossie Clark to Versace, I arrived just before the change over of the new dress of the year but was excited to see Raf Simons piece for Dior and truly understand his vision with the deconstructed and highly modern ball gown
It's always fun to escape London to smaller parts of England that have managed to thrive and create their own identity. Bath manages to mix history and heritage but not be trapped in it and become a relic. It's a beautiful place with quite a lot going on yet not too much going on. Bath allows for the distance and space that a trip away should give and has enough to do and see to not allow boredom to set in.
We travelled on National Express with fares starting at just £5
the beach, the warmth, the easy transport that's cheap and cheerful with ten rides on train or tram hitting the ten euro mark.
My favorite shop overall was a charity/ thift store called Humana that had a cute selection of garments from old school Adidas and Nike sweaters to throw back 80's patterned jackets. Surprisingly there was a large range of clothes for men from sportswear to Lyle & Scott, Fred Perry & Lacoste, they were in mostly small to medium sizes. It was refreshing to see a charity store that was aware of it's second hand/vintage status yet didn't reflect that in the price. Many of the clothes were €4 with tailored and leather jackets also on hand for around €15.
There was a few places around us from the ever present McDonald's if you're into food that you know. For me it was more about quality eats nice places and low prices, There was a few shops to be cautious of serving bland and tasteless food, they even went so far to cook a Ristorante pizza and serve it doing nothing but taking it out of the box and placing it in the oven. There was also good experiences with variety of restaurants serving Spanish cuisine to Chinese and Thai and even a Wok to Walk. I highly enjoyed Macchina Pasta bar, that stayed open till late, it allowed you to choose the pasta of your choice and then add toppings and sauce, prices were cheap and cheerful and you could watch as it was made. I also enjoyed some of the many bakeries that even had the NYC started 2013 craze the Cronut.
Things to do
The Aquarium is a nice escape for a few hours and next to the beach front, so you can go for a stroll before or after and soak up the sun. I also found trawling the La Boqueria food market. The market stocks a wide range of food from meats to fresh fruit, sweets and smoothies. I found it fun trying the fresh fruits and vegetables and conversing with the stall keepers.
We traveled with Easy Jet, which was a first for me, fast, cheap and reliable it won't be the last. Its great to have budget airlines that don't feel to budget and that's where Easy Jet excels.This is my second time in Barcelona, I've always found that it's a city but a calm one. There's not much to sight see in truth beyond Gaudi's buildings and park but that's not what I expect from Barcelona. With cheap drinks and a slower and more relaxed pace, I escape to the city to party at night usually at Arena, the poly sexual club with the latest pop and r&b music with sprinkling of Spanish hits. It's cheap and cheerful and always brings in a Jolly crowd. and relax in the day on the beach by soaking up the sun.
We traveled on ID bus, the coaches were clean, smell and look new and were spacious enough to chill out and sleep with reclining chairs, curtains, night lights, air con and two very important factors that some of the rivals are missing, plugs & wifi, allowing for you to remain connected and entertained. Prices start at just £35 and I have to say I haven't traveled so easily on a coach ever and comfort is an important factor when you're spending 8-9 hours on board. ID bus is a much recommended service and source of Transport.
Entertainment & Activities
Strolling across the Siene after a terrific display of talent from a troupe that played with fire and glass balls, watched from the steps outside Nortre Dame and looking onto the fabled church. Afterwards we met several interesting characters socializing and watching as see through moth like creatures danced to the lights illuminating the river bank and then it was on to Rue des arquebusiers to the opening of several small galleries show's. A personal favorite was the Walter Pffiefer exhibit at Sultana gallery.
We also went to the Lourve taking advantage of the free entry for EU members under 26 and seeing the majority of the painted collections with the Lourve being so big it's worth multiple trips to not exhaust yourself and take in the art and surroundings slowly and surely.
La Java was interesting to say the least a little too packed yet fun could be had and there was a performance from a band and enough room to dance, drink and get merry and on the Second night we went to a little bar called Mimi's which was great for a catch up with friends with a very chilled laid back vibe.
It seems on every visit to the city I feel there's more to see and do and that I'm yet to truly experience the Parisian experience yet on this trip I saw more and felt more then I did on my last. Paris is a great city for culture and art with beautiful architecture, spacious streets and loads of underground art and music activities to go see and do. Both hotel and travel were more comfortable and experiences I would gladly do again
We stayed at the 'perfect hotel' in Anvel on the Rue Rodier not too far from the centre but still able to escape the hustle and bustle €28 per person per night for a triple room with shared showers or the option to have an ensuite for two euro's more was also on the cards, Anvel is full of hotels as is Paris on a whole but its advised to book in advance as finding a vacancy was quite hard visting no less than 15 before we finally came across a free space. Perfect Hotel was a relaxed and calm with the option for breakfast included for the price I cannot complain or find fault, the staff were helpful and must say I had an enjoyable stay and would gladly return.
The city is fairly easy to get around once you've got a grasp of the metro and travel comes in relatively cheap with a single on tube at just 1.70, bus is a great way to see the sights as is the zipper carts which we got from Palai de grande an overwhelming sight in itself and a grand introduction to the city beauty is never far from the eye from buildings to the Effiel tower. Ques seemed to snake for miles so we opted out on going in & up leaving it to another visit although we did get to witness its splendour and grandeur with the sheer size of it reminding of how small you're.
The city it seems is best at night with an interesting night Life we partied at The Social club one night (electro music and a mixed crowd of all sorts) we danced to electro beats to the early hours and then flagged down a cab to take us home (minimum spend or so we was told was €6.80 no matter how short the ride ). On the second night we drank at a cute little bar Acte 3 on Rue Qincampoix , Acte is neatly tucked away with no sign on the door, more of those who know just know where it is. Serving a range of cocktails and mixtures Acte is a nice place to escape to for quiet & cosy drinks. The beauty of Paris seems most evident at night with the dazzling and I mean literally dazzling & shimmering Eiffel tower a pretty sight as it is also sends out & beams of light across the Parisian sky.
The louvre's Egyptian collection puts the British museum to shame although in one room it may seem you're looking at bricks and get tiresome the other rooms extensive collection of artefacts from scrolls, jewellery, clothing, busts etc make up for it. There's a lot to take in and it feels as though you've visited Northern Africa after leaving the glass pyramids and reflecting on the greatness seen of a civilisation that always ceases to amaze. Not to overshadow the main attraction here which of course is the Mona Lisa surprised at first by its size its an attraction and something to see and do. Not too far from Anvel was The Sacre-coeur a multi domed and arched church that's dazzling to look at, to get to the church involves climbing many steps yet once at the top you can see a flat plan view of the capital and there's distractions on the way such as an entertainer covering a spectrum of songs from Take That to Bob Marley. Drink and food stalls clutter the courtyard from alcohol to pop inside is a feat stained glass windows and extensive art work
Paris is a great city to escape to at an affordable price the eight hour journey isn't too bad as isn't the £58 price and with so much heritage and history allowing for so much to do experience, see and take in.. Although one of Europe's most expensive cities a good time can be had especially for under 25's on a budget, seeing and doing as many visitors to the city do. Overall an enjoyable experience with an endless list of things to do and others left for a revisit