Sunday, 6 April 2014

#NoRegrets


#NoRegrets.

Also prominently known as "what happens on Contiki, stays on Contiki"Unless that somethings a sexually transmitted disease, that hitches a ride home with you.

For some Contiki can be seen as a no consequences limbo in life, between having no responsibility and actual adulthood. A last hurrah of sorts. For others its one of many 'last hurrahs'.

It's their motto; hash tag no regrets. And if you live your Contiki experience by it, it'll serve you well.

Away from the prying eyes of you family members you are able to 'cut loose' and be your craziest self. No judgments. No regrets. And it's okay because whatever embarrassing antics you get up to will be in the coach's rear view mirror the very next day. 

Watch out for the dreaded camera phone however.

In life there are countless moments and experiences that we pass over because we're too scared or nervous, or think we're going to look like fools. It's after the opportunity is passed and gone that we realise how much we regret our decision.
Coniki is you moment. your opportunity to say yes to everything, lose out on nothing, make life long memories and never once say "i regret not..." 

It's a simple concept that should be experienced.

Just keep in mind however that these amazing places are not your own personal playgrounds, it's someones home.

#NOREGRETS

    

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Contiki


Running late for a very important date is never a good thing in a girl's scheduled.The date i was running late for? Contiki check-in.

Now for those who have been hiding under your beds this last decade Contiki is a tour company. Similar to the likes of Topdeck and BusABout. An organised chaotic adventure for those 18-35 operating all over the globe. A great way to get a taste of counties, make lasting friendships and drink until your liver disowns you.

Now when you compare Russell Square tube station with the myriad of others dotted around London its recognised as a rather small station. No length after length of escalators carrying you deeper into London'd underground. Just one, albeit large, elevator. Which descends down for who knows how long.

Standing at the back of a very claustrophobic crowd during peak hour with five minutes to spare before your sister goes spare can make a girl desperate. I'll testify to that.

It was a stupidly stressful moment as i felt myself start to panic at the thought of missing check-in. Worrying about the horrific consequences as if i was still in school late for a class. People were unreasonably impatient not allowing me to impatiently squeeze past them towards the elevator. 
Out the corner of my eye i saw the "emergency only stairs" that i had overlooked previous trips. I'm not one to break the rules. 
Emergency only is emergency only, however, through my own reasoning my situation could be construed as an emergency. If you squint. 

It was decided. 

The moment i (of course) saw somebody else run up past that stop sign i would follow...so i didn't look like  total asshole. 

I wasn't even a quarter of the way up that spiral emergency exit of doom when i began to regret my decision. Too late to turn back i continued up that never ending circle. Passing passengers that had the much easier job of descending the countless steps. 
Sweating, out of breath, heart pounding i finally heaved my legs up the last step. I then proceeded to run the rest of the way back to the hotel.

The London base for Contiki; the Royal National Hotel. 

There's nothing particularly 'Royal' about the hotel but it's cheap, relatively clean and where the Contiki tours start and finishes all it's tours.

Sitting in that big room, only knowing one other person, my sister, was rather nerve wracking. Unnecessarily so. We received all the information we required. when to meet the next morning, who our tour manager and driver were and a quick passport check-in. After i ran to the bag storage room to hastily get my passport and Contiki pack.

Organisation people!

With multiple tours piled into the same room it was difficult to tell who would be on the same tour. You found yourself staring at an attractive guy thinking "European Vista" "Be on European Vista". Jedi mind tricks at their best.

The next morning we had to be up before the sun. Though in a British winter that wasn't terribly hard to do.

In the courtyard by seven, bags in tow and standing in our designated corner with similarly nervously excited travelers. Waiting for the coach to pull up. It's always tentative. conversations with strangers. But after about ten minutes of solid small talk it can seem as if you've known them for an age.

Seeing that purple coach pull in with 'Contiki' splashed across the side was an intensely thrilling moment of my life.

Half an hour and bags under the coach later and we were on our way to see the White Cliffs of Dover with out very own eyes.


The White Cliffs of Dover
              

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Harry Potter London Studio Tour. A Life Completed.


The Harry Potter London Studio Tour was my ultimate destination while abroad. 

It must be number one on everyone's 'to-do' lists while traveling the UK. 

Magic. Purely and simply magical. My purple prose gets the better of me most of the time, however in this instance it is truly warranted. The website advertises it and the media promises it; 

A magical experience. 

An easy "Overground" tube trip away and you've found yourself at Leavesden studios, where all the magic of the Harry Potter films was artificially produced for our enjoyment. 
If you're a real Potterhead (like myself) then the moment you're standing in front of the studio entrance your pulse will pick up pace and you'll see this imaginary aura of brilliance surrounding the building...or maybe you'll just see a building.

I shudder at the thought of spoiling the incredible secrets revealed within, so i wont and you'll just have to trust my word surrounding its wonderfulness. 

I was one of hundreds, most likely thousands, that visited around Christmas. The Great Hall decked out exactly how we see it in the films at Christmas, the witch flying around the tree and fake snow outside.

     
BUTTERBEER. The most heavenly syrup on earth. Sold in only two places in the world. Harry Potter theme park in Orlando, America and the Harry Potter London Studio Tour. The flavour is almost indescribable. Sweet and cold. Sickly sweet, amazingly sickly sweet. Like golden liquid sliding down your throat with amazingly sweet whipped cream, that doesn't taste quite like cream on top. Just thinking about it is giving me nostalgic mouthwatering flashbacks.
    

Its calling you.



     

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Hostel Life


One word that incites a myriad of mixed emotions out of travelers. 


Dirty. Unsafe. A hot bed of bacteria.


Cheap.


Convenient. Sociable. Easy. 


Cheap.


The Hostel.


Hostels tend to get a bit of a bad wrap. And occasionally a good one. It's all rather ambiguous. 

However no young traveler, backpacking their way across Europe can complain about a warm bed, albeit a bunk bed, for less than twenty pounds a night. 
I certainly didn't.    

Across the UK I stayed in multiple hostels all with varying degrees of cleanliness. Some extremely clean and some...well.


But for those traveling alone the cleanliness of your accommodations doesn't always seem to matter when a lonely soul meets other lonely patrons. 


The bunk beds were always my pet hate with hostels. Some missing ladders, squeaking with every shift or turn and some just plain unstable. And for some reason I was, of course, always assigned the-you guessed it-top bunk. Every. Single. Time.

I would say you get used to it, But you don't.
I remember the excitement as a kid when the opportunity to sleep in bunk beds occurred. They were they greatest nights. Not anymore though. Don't be fooled. In a hostel it's just plain inconvenient.  


Bathrooms. A place to be alone. To unwind and a place of privacy. In a hostel? Not so much.

It does take some getting use to. Walking from your ten bed dorm down a couple of corridors to the communal bathroom. Toilet stalls and curtained off shower stalls. You need to get comfortable quickly. 
The term 'co-ed' can scare potential travelers when in conjunction with the word 'bathroom'. When you put it together you get 'the co-ed bathrooms' also known as heaven. I was lucky enough to stay in one hostel that was completely co-ed. Never mind the co-ed dorms, they are everywhere, its the co-ed bathroom you want. That's right. Boys and girls all using the same loos. The term co-ed bathroom means one important thing. Locks. Locks on the shower stalls. No flimsy, translucent-esque curtains. Actual wood and actual locks. It was paradise.      

Two of the best. In my humble opinion.


The Generator Hostel London. 


I loved it so much I stayed here on two separate occasions. Now yes, the entrance is rather creepy and foreboding. Located down a poorly lit alley, and the facade of the building doesn't look all the promising either. However as with most things in life, you shouldn't judge a book by it's alley ways. Inside it's bight, colourful and whimsically decorated. With a bar and live entertainment, movies and hot food made to order, the Generator is definitely a good choice. It won't rob your wallet either. And the selling point? Each floor allocated a whimsical theme. James Bond. Dr Who. I stayed on Mary Poppins. Twice.      



The Generator Hostel
Castle Rock Hostel Scotland, Edinburgh.

Nestled away, right behind Edinburgh castle, the Castle Rock Hostel was extremely pleasing. And contained those all important co-ed bathrooms. The hostel was decked out in a medieval theme to reflect the view that hits you as you step out it's doors while the old style layout and decor makes you feel warm and cosy. Comfortable. Welcomed. I slept in a ten bed dorm filled with a few American guys and men and women of a nationality that has still remained a mystery to me. (While hostels are a great way to socialise, people traveling in packs aren't always the chattiest.) 

Just a moments walk from countless pubs and the Royal Mile, this hostel is in the perfect location.        


Castle Rock Hostel

You can find hostels located in the most convenient places all across the UK, right in the thick of it or a simple five minute walk to the nearest tube station. Some with bars and live entertainment downstairs or common rooms to socialise and cheap breakfasts and other meals. Hostels especially save you a chunk of money better spent on the essentials: clothes and nick-knacks. Good food, good people and a good time.


The towels aren't free though.    
   

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Little Town Called Bedford


Bedford.

Never heard of it?

Neither had I until my sister decided it was high time she moved to the other side of the world and live their.

Having heard in long, laborious details about the extensive nothingness of Bedford I still visited. For a couple days at that.

She lied to me. My sister that is. Bedford may be a very small town but it was picturesque as all hell. A beautiful embankment with a plush pub (The Embankment) right on the water front. Cobbled streets and ancient buildings, night clubs and fast food open at three am. What more could a person ask for? 

And it was Christmas, which in England means decorations. Everywhere. That's one thing they do right, their Christmas decorations. 

Sitting, drinking in a beautiful pub surrounded with people you don't know all that well is surprisingly enjoyable. Especially when you're waiting for fireworks. Fireworks to celebrate the turning on of the Christmas lights. Nothing more then in the honour of flipping a switch. Or a button. Or leaver, depending on their turning on methods. It was a beautifully loud sight while shivering in the beyond brisk air.    

 Magic.

Everything in England seems to be tainted wonderfully with Magic. But maybe That's my Rose tinted glasses talking.

One thing I know about small towns, they do their clubs right. Good booze and good music are always the combination for a memorable night, that is if you do indeed remember it. It's not the scale of the club that's important. Though admittedly it does help. 

I had a good night in a town called Bedford. Drink. Dance. And cheesy chips at three in the morning. Drinking games back at the apartment only to see the sun rise and break through the drawn curtains that morning.

Fuzzy Duck. Ducky Fuzz. Fuzzy Duck. Duck Fuzzy...Drink.  

Sunday, 2 February 2014

A Town Called York


A good train trip will consist of good music, good company, hot tea and tickets sticking haphazardly out of the backs of the seats.

And a really excellent train trip will end at the town of York.

Everyone at some stage in their existence has wanted to live in a castle. I have. And what a better way of grasping at this childhood fantasy then tasting just a touch of the medieval town of York.

The outskirts are rather deceiving with their unimpressive buildings and monotonous streets. Completely misguiding.

When you hit the walls you'll understand what I mean. The moment i saw the large medieval walls encircling the entire inner city of York I was enchanted. When I hear people describing things they 'love' I tend to listen out for the embellishments, for signs of those rose tinted glasses, but while donning my own pair of metaphorical rose glasses I cannot critique this city.

Within the entirety of my trip, and I do say this a lot and it will be said in the future, York was one of the most magically enchanting places I visited.    

The York Minster itself was on a scale too large to be wholly captured by camera.

Navigating York can send you 'round the twist though, every which way we turned we somehow ended back in the same place and not where we were hoping to be spat out. Makes for an entertaining adventure however frustrating.  

Wandering around a place like York makes you perpetually happy and suddenly through this happiness logic is seen where insanity was previously. Like the logic of eating ice cream during an English winter. It's so cold it won't melt and therefore you are able to savor the taste much, much longer...while your fingers slowly become frostbitten. Logic at its finest.  
Medieval walls surrounding York
 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

the Pretension of the Theater

The way I see it, a little Pretension never hurt anyone. And what a better way to dabble in a bit of pretension then to get all dolled up and head to the London theater.

Musicals make life fun. And live Broadway musicals are an extravagant luxury that not everyone experiences in their lifetime. Which is a shame. And a musical centered around The Wizard of Oz? Well that's just the most wonderful production I can personally think of.  

Wicked was my first ever Broadway musical. And it most certainly lived up to all the hype surrounding the musical. It was an experience like none other. The stage design, music, the actors, all incredible down to the last tiny detail. 

I always did like the Wicked Witch.  

Ironically a week after i experienced Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theater the balcony collapsed onto the audience below.

During my limited stint within the Pretension circles I also added Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my theater repertoire. Brilliant. Simply, utterly brilliant. The sets made the show.