Summertime in the Austrian alps

Monday 31 July 2017

Apart from ice skating, winter sports really aren't my kind of thing. I've never even been skiing and to be honest, being cold on holiday just isn't my style so the Alps wouldn't usually be my first choice when it comes to holiday destinations.

Saying that, I have been invited to visit Austria in July both this year (to Styria with Thomson Lakes & Mountains) and last (to Lech) and I have discovered that during the summer months, there's much more to the Alps than the snow topped mountains and skiing down them. Whilst I'm not the most outdoorsy person - you guys should know you this by now; Austria in the summer gives way to some gentle adventure. The opportunity to get out there and see the mountains without it being a stressful and exhausting expedition means I am able to take in the scenery and actually enjoy my experience of a place.
austria cow selfie
My recent trip was just a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed my time there! So what sort of things are there to do? Here were some of my favourites:

Take A Gentle, Guided Hike
Our hike was more of an enjoyable walk with beautiful scenery. We walked up to and around the Black Lake in Sölktäler Nature Park, before stopped off for tea and cake but more on that later. This was a great route for our group because there was a stony path for us to walk on for most of it so we were able to enjoy the scenery rather that spending the whole morning looking down at where we were stepping.

With no signal it's easy to disconnect from the rest of the world; and with such breathtaking scenery, I didn't even miss my twitter feed for a few hours. Just the seven of us, the sound of the waterfalls and lots of cows wandering around as they pleased.
Indulge In Alpine Treats
As I said, once we had finished our walk it was time for tea and cake. We had many tea breaks over the four day trip so I have come to the conclusion that this is a very popular pass time in Austria! Austrian food isn't something that I come across all to often in London but as always, I love to try local food so if it wasn't tea and krapfen (mountain doughnuts) for elevensies, then it was trout caught in the lake, Tiroler Kasspressknoedel (gooey, cheesy dumplings) and lots of Kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancakes with fruit compote and my number one).
Zip Line Down A Mountain
Ziplining was another one of those things that I hadn't done before and this one I was absolutely petrified of. When you pay, you are given a backpack thing which actually turns into your harness; we took these with us on the bus up to the top of the mountain and put them on ourselves when we got there. It was a little nerve wracking but the staff checked us over before attaching it to the line. Next thing I knew, I was speeding down the side of a mountain at 120 kilometers per hour. After I got past the fear of essentially jumping off the side of a mountain, what I thought was going to be an adrenaline inducing roller coaster turned out to be really peaceful, serene and calming experience.
 Normal bike riding is also an option and there were alot of people doing it but when you are riding said bike up the side of a mountain, then that little extra push from the e-bike is going to be much appreciated; and anyway, I said gentle exercise didn't I? I hadn't ridden a bike for years and I was a bit worried at the start but with a guide on hand, I was fine! There are lots of stunning views to see along the way and once you get started, there is the promise of lunch and hot chocolate when you get to the top.
alpine hot chocolate
The Ice Palace
After lunch at the top of that mountain, we caught the cable car right up to the glacier at the top. There was lots of adventurous stuff to do up there like walk along a wobbly wire bridge and standing at the bottom of the stairway to nothingness (very eeary ion the cloudy day that we were there) but I preferred The Ice Palace which we discovered once we had gotten inside the glacier itself. The floors were frozen so we were slipping and sliding everywhere but that all added to the fun. Inside, were intricate ice sculptures all lit up with different coloured lights!
smile austria
ice palace austria
*Big thanks to Thomson Mountains & Lakes for hosting me on this trip.

Other Austria Posts:

Town house 373 Hostel, Ho Chi Minh City

Wednesday 26 July 2017

I  did a hell of a lot of research for my recent trip to Vietnam. I've been to Asia before but always though a travel agent so booking this trip by myself was a big thing. I knew that I was going to be a long way from home, very hot and very tired so it was pretty important that I picked places that I could come back to relax after a long day. I didn't want the stress of being unhappy with where I was staying ruining my trip. 

Whilst most of these things are a given when you book a nice hotel, it was especially important to me with my anxiety and OCD, that my accommodation was clean and safe; and good A/C was a bonus. Our hostel in Ho Chi Minh City was particularly important because it was going to be the first hostel we stayed at in Vietnam and the place we would go to having come off of a very long flight. I picked Town house 373 which was part of three town house hostels in HCMC.
With a 9.1 rating on hostel world, Town houses 373 seemed like a good choice. They helped with booking my airport transfer and we arrived at around 7.30am. Reception was bright, spacious and as soon as I entered, I felt totally at ease to leave my bags there in reception which is very odd for me. They continued to make us feel safe throughout - I was very pleased to see that they had a padlock on the door each night which they had to open for us to get in.
Although it is located down an alley way, a lot of places in HCMC were, it was the perfect location for me as it was close to the backpacker district but it was on a different street so it was very peaceful. Whilst at first I was a little worried about how far down the alleyway it was; after I walked down it on my own for the first time, I realised that alleys here are not like alleys in London and it was totally fine, there were other hostel and shops the whole way down.
The room was my biggest shock and that was in a good way. As we opened the door, we were hit with cool air. The photos on Hostelworld look a tad bit digitally created so I wasnt 100% sure whether to believe them but surprisingly, it looked exactly the same. Again it was very light with white walls and a blue stripe design behind the wall mounted TV. Yes, there was a TV; and a safe. Amazing. 

We paid $90 for three nights in a private twin en suite room ($15 / £11 per person per night) but were upgraded to a private triple room so there was loads of space. The beds themselves were quite hard but I actually prefer that when it's not my own bed - I'd also say that these were actually the cleanest of the trip with not a stain in sight.

The room came with a daily free bottle of water each, a complementary large and small towel and was cleaned daily - just like a hotel! The bathroom was also equipped with shower gel, shampoo and toothbrushes.
It was pretty perfect for what I wanted but I thought I better mentioned the bad points here. These things didn't bother us in the slightest but I guess it's worth mentioning. There wasn't a lift so we had to carry our stuff up two flights of stairs and the A/C was great but it was loud although that was nothing a pair of ear plugs couldn't fix - apart from that, it was actually very quiet at night time.

Lastly our shower leaked so the bathroom floor did get quite wet but as I said, it was cleaned daily and I brought shower flip flops so it didn't make a difference to me.

The wifi was fast and the breakfast was great with a selection of fruit including bananas, many of which we took out on with us for the day plus they did freshly cooked eggs. There was also a fridge with the cheapest water that we found in the whole of our stay; a small bottle there cost 5,000 VND which translates to 17p.

This hostel wasn't social at all but that was just what I was looking for. There was always someone to welcome you at reception but apart from that, there was hardly anyone around. For me, it was the perfect place to come back to after an exhausting day exploring the crazy city outside.

More Vietnam Posts: 
Two week Vietnam itinerary
Cruising Halong Bay 

Things to know for your first time shopping in Marrakech Souks

Wednesday 19 July 2017

The souks in Marrakech are unlike anywhere I've ever been to in my life. They were an absolutely incredible experience for me and something I can now tick off of my bucket list. Twisty roads and little alleys full of stalls with canopies hanging over the top; it was quite a culture shock but what an experience! I wrote about how magical it was (here) but there are also a few things that I think it is important to be aware of, just because it's magical doesn't mean it doesn't have its flaws. Here are some of my tips for your first visit! 
Hire an official guide
As soon as you go in, you'll see why; it's very overwhelming and a bit of a culture shock so I was so glad we had Sami with us otherwise we would have never found out way out of there! Apart from not getting lost, whilst he was guiding us though labyrinth of little alleys, he stopped off to show us a traditional clay oven hidden behind one of the souks and was able to answer all of our questions along the way. We also found that with him with us, we got hassled far less than when we went back to the square on our own a few days later.
Wear the right clothes
..Saying that I did get groped whilst we were all trailing behind him. I knew dressing appropriately in Morocco was more important than any where I have been to in the past, especially in the souks so I was prepared but I still couldn't believe how bold the men were. I had a culotte jumpsuit on, one that I wear for work sometimes but it was hot, obviously, so I took my jacket off and had my shoulders on show. On two separate occasions guys grabbed my butt as they walked past. The first time it was more of a brushed hand so I wasn't sure but after a full cheek grab the second time, I decided I'd better just put my jacket on. What a difference that made, the rest of our visit was absolutely fine.
You'll Need Cash
As with all markets, its helpful to have cash on you. We got ours outside of the market as there are no cash points once you enter the madness.
It Has A Particular Smell
Before I visited, I read that some of the leather goods can smell so you should sniff them before you purchase, what I didn't expect was to turn a corner and be able to tell that there was a leather stall before I could see it. The hide is soaked in animal excrement to help the dyes stick and even though it is all washed off, the end product is still seriously potent; all part of the experience though!
Shopkeepers Can Be Persistent
The souks in Marrakech aren't your relaxed day at the market, be prepared to be pestered at every stall you walk past. Either avoid eye contact and totally ignore them or say no thank you firmly and they should leave you alone. Once you show an interest in something it's a lot harder to get rid of them, I had one guy follow me quite a long way away from his stall trying to sell me scarf that I was looking at. If you do want to purchase something then haggle! They expect it and nothing has a set price so it is very easy to get what you want for less than half of the original asking price. 

Whilst that is the case for alot, some were totally chilled out; I spotted one guy alseep on the floor in this shop. It was all very strange. 
Take Hand Sanitizer
I've never really been a germophobe but after an afternoon in the market, I wanted to wash my hands. This is especially important if you plan to visit the food stalls in Jemaa El Fna where there will be nowhere to wash your hands before you eat. 
Stay Alert
Kids on the street get suspiciously close and when you are not watching out for them; bikes carts and who knows what else are whizzing past. It also seemed that bikes don't have horns - all of the kids just made weird noses as they passed us. 

With so much to take in and like all markets, it's important to take a bag that fastens properly and try hold on to your stuff. I was pleased to have my Longchamp under my arm where I could see the zip and kept my camera around my neck with my hand on it at all times. 
Take It Slow
And one last thing to know before visiting the souks; they're absolutely amazing but very overwhelming. Remember to go slowly so you can take in all the sights and smells and get a proper experience! 

*Big thanks to Visit Morocco for inviting me along on this trip

How To wear Gingham without looking like a little school girl

Monday 10 July 2017

Gingham is everywhere lately but when I initially started to look online for some pieces for myself, my gingham dress search brought up photos of those horrible summer dresses that we had to wear back in primary school. I moved on from my dress idea pretty quickly deciding that it was too much material for such a bold print anyway but I still wanted to give gingham a go so that's what inspired me to put together this post. As someone who doesn't really do 'putting together an outfit' very well I wanted to find some simple ways to work gingham into an outfit.

The Bikini
If you follow my insta stories, you might have seen I went a little bit mad with the shopping last week. I hardly buy anything all year around but there's always one week in the summer where I unintentionally go crazy and buy everything. I spotted both the top and bottoms of this cute little bikini on the sale rail in my size (?!) and I had to have it - I get all of my favourite bikinis from River Island so it was bound to happen at some point - I actually ended up getting another one the day after! I lived in my other crochet bikini last year because it was so comfy - all that elastic makes a difference!

The Shoes
A pair of gingham shoes wasn't something I thought I was going to come across but lo and behold, Ego shoes always have something fun going on. These Lizzie lace ups come in black, blue or red gingham and I think they are pretty cool. I was drawn to the red ones and when they got here, I realised why - they make me feel like some kind of modern day Dorothy. The ribbons have been doubled over so when you tie them in a bow, you actually get four loops instead of two, I thought it was worth mentioning because I really like the effect its give!

I wore these with a simple black t-shirt dress, again from Primark that has become one of my favourite pieces. I had a bit of a panic when I put it in the washing after my Menorca trip and didn't see it again for a month but my mum put it back in my room last week so I put it on straight away for a trip to Westfield where I shot this picture - not that any of that back story matter because you cant even see the dress in this photo anyway! I love it when I find a totally black outfit because it means I can make my shoes a little bit more of the focus point. I also wore the same dress with my new furry sliders.
gingham shoes

The Ruffle Top
When it comes to tops, I usually stick to very simple cropped t-shirt or vest top shapes - I have been known to buy the same top in seven quite a few different colours. Big ruffley tops like these are really popular right now but completely out of my comfort zone so when Quiz invited me to the #LostInSummer party to launch their new range of occasion dresses and let me pick a piece; I wasnt feeling a bodycon dress so I went for this top. Turns out I really like it on. 

As you might have seen, I wore it for Taste of London a couple of weeks ago with my favourite Primark shorts, Primark sunglasses and another first, my first pair of Teva sandals aka the most comfortable sandals I've ever worn - trainer level comfort guys. 
gingham top

How are you wearing gingham this season?

Think Menorca is Boring? Think again

Tuesday 4 July 2017

When I mentioned that I was going to Menorca, a lot of people asked me why? Whilst Menorca is the lesser known of the Balearic islands and has a completely different feel to its party sibling, it's still got that typical island vibe with palm trees and white houses; it's a much more chilled out place to be. The island is quite and it's relaxing but that certainly doesn't make it boring; I was visiting with Traverse and a big group of influences who made sure of that!
Menorca sunset
If you want to relax then Menorca is perfect, but if you like to explore a little bit more, then there is loads to do! Here are some of the things we got up to in between lazy days by the pool:

Visit The Cave Bar
This is one of the most incredible bars that I've ever been to so if your looking for something really impressive, I would really recommend that you visit Cova d'en Xoroi. So what makes this bar so impressive? Well, it's built into the side of a cliff. It's not a party bar (because it was still bright with sunshine until about 9pm) although they were playing some pretty good music. Don't expect a nightclub; instead you'll want to be outside on one of the terraces watching the sunset with a glass of fizz.
Cova d'en Xoroi
Cova d'en Xoroi

Explore The Beaches
With the Mercury hitting 30 degrees in May, the sea is the place to be and with over 100 beaches you're never too far from the clean blue, water that surrounds the island. We didn't get any time to visit a beach in our busy itinerary but it was something we were all very sad to miss. We saw quite a few of them on our journeys around and each one was different; some big touristy, some small hidden cove types, most not very busy at all. One afternoon, whilst the photographers were doing their thing up on a rock, a few of the others and I spent 20 minutes walking in the clear waters of a rocky red beach and it was one of the highlights of the trip. Be sure to give yourself at least one beach day if you visit Menorca.

Glass Bottom Boats
With the clear water and the wonderful weather in Menorca, a boat ride is a really enjoyable thing to do in the afternoon. You can catch a yellow catamaran from Mahon harbour and for €12.50 you get an hour on board with an explanation played over the speakers as you sail by. As lovely as it is sitting on the top deck with the wind in your hair, the middle deck has shade and a shop to buy an ice cream or a drink and below the water, there is also a glass bottom so we spent some time downstairs too watching the fish swim by.

Go kayaking
This blog is turning me into a little advernturere - I've experienced so many new things since I took up travel and I did another one whilst I was in Menorca! It was my first time ever kayaking and although I was a little nervous having never done it before, it was loads of fun and I can totally see why people enjoy it. With two guides and a boat following along too, we spent an hour in the turquoise waters exploring caves, stopping off for a little bit of snorkeling and eating crisps that the guides had brought for us! I returned back to land feeling really exhausted good about myself - I had had a fun morning, done something completely new and come away feeling like I had done a little bit of exercise as well.
Thanks for the photo Steve!

Experience The Gin Culture
We made a visit to a gin distillery which involved seeing the way they process the alcohol and lots of free samples - obviously we had to try all of the different flavours so this place is a must for a gin lover! Whilst I am not actually that into my gin I did love the Granizado de pomada (aka a lemon gin slushie) which we got from a ice cream shop in Mahon; delicious and very refreshing on a hot day!
Granizado de pomada
Granizado de pomada

Like I said, there is lots of stuff to do but as someone who usually gets dreads the through of spending the whole day by the pool, Menorca was pretty enticing. It is a wonderful place to just chill out and I really enjoyed doing so there. One of my favourite days of the trip was a lazy one by the pool. We popped out for lunch but it was mostly spent floating around on a giant blow up ice cream. There was some of real ice cream involved too.
menorca Ice cream
Menorca Paella

*Big thanks to Traverse & Visit Spain for hosting me on my trip
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