Thursday, 20 July 2017

T R A V E L - / / TOP SIGHTS NOT TO MISS - BUDAPEST!

If you follow me over on INSTAGRAM, you've probably seen that I've not long come back from an amazing trip in Budapest. I headed to Budapest back in May to celebrate Michael's 23rd birthday - Budapest has a multitude of sights that need to be seen, and I think we saw them all! Every day we were up and out as soon as possible to make sure we took everything in. If you want to get around, there is a fantastic tram and metro system (I'm useless at navigating but Google helps ALOT)
You'll find the best views involve a long walk, so be prepared to be permanently exhausted - but it's 100% worth it!

Budapest is known for it's beautiful Turkish baths, outstanding architecture and delicious food. With a population of over 2 million people, it's rich history and culture shines through it's breathtaking architecture. The city is safe, locals are very friendly and the nightlife is filled with great clubs, bars and restaurants.  There are plenty of tourist destinations to visit, and every sight has a story.

I've put together a small list of places that you shouldn't miss on a short stay in Hungary's capitol.




Walk up Gellert Hill

Gellert Hill is named after an Italian Bishop who was martyred in this area in the 11th century. The Gellert statue can be found at the top of the hill over seeing the waterfalls below. There are many routes to reach the top of the hill, we chose the entrance via the park just shy of the Cave Church (in Sziklatemplom) on the Buda side. It's a long walk, 235m to be exact - but totally worth it once you reach the top - and a few of the nice view points along the way.



Soak in the Széchenyi Baths.

There are plenty of Geothermal baths in Budapest for you to enjoy. We chose the most famous bath of all - The Széchenyi Baths. This is the hottest tourist destination you will find in Budapest, but you'll also find a lot of the locals (mainly the men hogging the chess tables) around also so I don't mind it too much. The outdoor baths offer two different temperatures. The bigger pool, with includes a beautiful fountain and sculpture is headed to 37oC and it's advised you don't stay in the pool for longer than 15 minutes. Inside there are a number of steam rooms, wet rooms, a splash pool and a variety of pools with temperatures to meet everyone's needs. 



Hit the Ruin Pubs.




Following the Second World War, many buildings were left empty and abandoned. That until artists and the hipsters came along and turned them into the most unique and eccentric pubs I have ever seen. There's too many to list for you - but my favourite was Szimpla Kert. Each room had it's own genre of music, it was alive but still calm enough that you could talk to the person next to you. The drinks were super cheap - I'm talking £2.50/£3 for a large cocktail and pints at around £1.20. Each room had it's own quirky aesthetic, with something for everyone. Me and Michael loved the cocktail bar downstairs in the outdoors area, but also loved the cafe upstairs with their amazing home made burgers - and even enjoyed a few round of foosball across the hall. 
It was so good we went back every night. I recommend you stumble through the back alleys as much as possible, you never know what gem you might stumble across.  







Head to Fisherman's Bastion.



Fisherman's Bastion is without a shadow of doubt one of Budapests top attractions. The beautiful towers were built in the 19th century to serve as a lookout for the best panoramic views of Budapest you'll ever witness. These real castle walls now welcome 1000s of visitors from around the world to take in an outstanding view. Entrancde is free to the balconies, but a fee is payable to explore the top turrets. These turrents represent the 7 Hungarian tribes who founded the present day country in 895. 

         




Cross the bridges between Buda and Pest.



The Chain bridge joins Buda and the Pest together as one. There is more to the bridges than simply a convenient path between to two halves. Each bridge has an interesting history that you can read up on. What better way to appreciate their history than walking from the Buda to the Pest, or vice versa, until you can't do it any more?






Sit down for food at the New York Cafe.


Now, we were very lucky to be able to stay at the Boscolo Residence which is connected to this stunning dinner hall. We booked in for the all you can eat breakfast for the morning after we arrived. The area is beautiful, perfectly clean and the service was second to none. The breakfast was a hefty price - at 25 Euro each, not the biggest selection of food (specially if you're fussy like me and don't eat meat) But there's enough for everyone.
The food was great, I even helped myself to salmon - because I'm a terrible vegetarian. Our table was a little far away from the buffet but I loved being able to look around the whole area.
It's worth a visit even if you just pop in for a coffee. It feels first class! This cafe is just total perfection.










Sunday, 7 May 2017

E V E N T S - / / C O M M O N P E O P L E 2 0 1 7 !


It's that time of year again, Festival season is among us! 
I'm starting my festival fill at Southampton Common with the lovely guys over at Common People.
I attended this event last year - just for the Sunday due to my working schedual and it blew my socks off. 
You can read about my experience of last years festival here - COMMON PEOPLE 2016.



If you're looking for the perfect way to spend your May Bank Holiday weekend then look no further. The guys at Common People have two great locations and a diverse line up to cater to everyones taste.
We're heading back to Southampton this year for the two day spectacular, for good friends, good music and a good time!  


Here's what you can exspect from this years festival at both locations
Oxford -South Park and Southampton Common.





At just £30 for an adult day ticket - You've be crazy to miss it. 
Hope to catch you all there! If you spot me come and say hello!


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

T R A V E L - / / HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF A SHORT STAY IN PARIS.

I was fortunate enough to head over to beautiful Paris for the April Bank holiday weekend with the other half. You'll be able to find a whole blog post about what we got up to *HERE* - It includes everything we got up to over the 3 day trip with photos of all the AMAZING views and places we were able to visit.

This blog post will describe how we managed to get the most out of our short stay - and offer some tips and recommendations to how you could too!



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So you're thinking of heading to Paris for a few days, but want to fit in as many sightseeing stops and visit the best attractions without breaking the bank? Fear not; although Paris can be expensive, you can get the most of it if you just scratch beneath the surface.

Firstly, shop around for the best flights and accommodation deals! The less money you spend getting to Paris, the more you have to spend in Paris. Browse comparison websites such as Kayak or Icelolly. We booked ours using Expedia.
Expedia did everything for us! It found the cheapest flights to Paris, and offered us a fantastic list of hotels that we could filter out.
We flew from LHR to ORY. LHR is easy to get to using any of the bus services such as Megabus or National Express. Megabus can be booked in advance for £5 a seat! We opted to drive and used PurpleParking for only £42 - and I used Quidco so also received 10% cashback.

We chose our flights for April 28th-May 1st, and stayed in the 4* Hotel Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacre Coeur for a total price of £215 each. Meaning our trip cost £572 over all for the both of us.
You can find hotel's starting from £40 a night based on 2 sharing on Tripadvisor - It's easy to get the price lower than £500.

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Now, on to the main event. What can you do in Paris on a tight budget?
Paris, as a whole is an expensive place - but there are so many things you can do to make your money last!

There are a number of famous attractions you can visit completely free for all ages!

1. 
Basilica Sacré-Coeur 



 One of Paris' most captivating sights, many people like to view the elegant and prominent architecture from the foot of the 300 steps beneath. The building itself is located on the highest point of Paris - which offers a breathtaking panorama view of the city.
We entered the attraction walking from Montmartre itself rather than getting the metro, by doing this we were able to wonder through the quaint village and visit a lovely artist area full of wonderful paintings. If you would like to visit from the Metro station, please be aware of the sellers as you approach - Keep everything close!

2. The Cathedral of Notre Dame.



Many of us know about The Cathedral of Notre Dame from the well known Disney movie we all loved as a child (I know I did).
It's a fantastic piece of French History boasting remarkable Gothic architecture. The towers of the cathedral stand tall and proud over the ever-changing bustling city landscape. The beautifully crafted figures on the entrance to the building will transport you back in time, not to mention the stunning artwork and detailing inside. You'll also find a number of facts about the Cathedral inside, such as the building timeline - starting from 1163! It was a long project!
As it's one of Paris' main tourist attractions, be prepared to queue. To avoid the line simply turn up early in the morning, or later in the evening. It's definitely worth the wait though!

3. Montmartre Cemetery

 
Now I understand this can sound pretty morbid, but if you find yourself in the Montmartre area, head to the Cemetery. I promise you would have never seen anything like it. It may look like a scene to the world’s scariest horror film, but it really was a great experience. It's home to a number of celebrities including Alexandre Dumas (The writer of The Three Musketeers) and world famous actress Dalida (her grave/tribute was beautiful).
The cemetery was home to thousands of graves, including the super elaborate tombs with up to 16 family members buried inside.
Honestly, it's not as weird and spooky as it seems. It also makes a for a peaceful retreat from the crowded tourist areas and it's something different to do in your spare time.




4. Jardin de Tuileries


Please take full advantage of this beautiful garden! If you walk from Place de la Concorde through the garden you'll arrive at the entrance for the Louvre Museum. It's a stunning 20 minute walk with plenty of cafes to enjoy some food.
But it's also the perfect location to take full advantage of a homemade picnic in the sun! The park has plenty of seats and benches to use for free during the good weather and the fountain is a lovely spot to settle down before you visit the huge museum!
We went to our local shop to buy our picnic in order to save money for our big night ahead - Ham and Brie Baguettes with crisps, tomatoes, chocolate and a bottle of wine. Small but just enough for us, and can easily be purchased for less than 10 euro. We had enough Brie for 3 days!
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In addition to the free attractions I spoke about above, Paris are very giving to their under 'younger' generation. With a number of places offering discounted (or even free!) entrance fees for those under 25.

5. The Louvre Museum.




After your walk through Jardin de Tuileries - you'll arrive at the Louvre! The most visited art museum in the world! You'll spot the famous glass pyramid entrance straight away. It's a pretty impressive and memorable building and has some truly remarkable exhibits. We went on the Saturday, so the queue looked intimidating but it was something we both really wanted to do so we stuck it out - and were surprised at how soon we actually got into the building. Due to recent events, Paris is on high alert so security is of course top priority, so everyone entering the building is security checked which results in waiting. However it took hardly any time at all.
Even better, when we went to buy our tickets we were informed that because we were under 25 we were allowed into the exhibits completely free of charge! (YAY! More free things!). It really is as easy as showing your driving license/passport and voila!
The Louvre was one of my favourite attractions in Paris and I'd recommend it to everybody. I fell in love with Napoleon III apartments. #Housegoals.

 

6. Eiffel Tower


Of course, the biggy couldn't be missed off my little list of things to do. It's kind of hard to forget about and for good reason! The Eiffel Tower's structure is amazing as it stands alone - but the views from the top are spectacular and show just how enormous Paris actually is!
Now if you're brave and fancy a cheap challenge, you can walk up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower for free. (It's a lot of steps, you've been warned)
But again, Thanks to Frances under 25 discount, you are offered a lower entrance price if you'd like to take the lift. Now we got the lift to the very top, at 14 Euros each it may seem a bit steep but I assure you it's worth it.


I'd suggest going in the evening, due to it being so popular the queue is something else. You have to queue for security, queue to collect your tickets and then queue to get onto a lift. It takes a life time. We went in the rain on a Sunday at around 8pm and I think our waiting time was only around 15 minutes to get onto the lifts. Much better than what we would have experienced in the sunshine on Saturday.
We managed to get up while it was still light enough to see everything, but by the time we reached the bottom the Eiffel Tower was lit up. A site we'll never forget! 

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7. Jazz Clubs

In addition to all of this, Michael and I are huge fans of live music, and Jazz specifically for Michael. Both of us agreed that our Jazz Club night out was our favorite part of the whole trip.

Now, we started splashing the cash a bit here compared to our other outings. We were able to buy the cheaper rate tickets again as we're under 25 to view a show at Duc De Lombards. One of Paris' best jazz clubs, if not the best. Located only a 2 minute walk from Chatelet's metro it's easily accessible.


We paid 23 euro each, for our front row seats to see Manchester based Jazz musician Matthew Halsall and his band, along with LA Jazz singer Dwight Trible. *give them a Youtube*
The atmosphere was electric, and the good vibes were contagious, everyone loved the music and the band connected with the crowd all night. Drinks were pretty expensive, at 29 euro for the cheapest bottle of time.
You can always pre drink before you leave, we picked up bottles of rose for 2.75 euro at our local super market.
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8. Restaurant Dinner Cruise


And last on my list of things to do! This was the big spender for us, but we did go all out. We had our last supper on the Paris en Scene. A three course meal with a bottle of wine on a boat travelling down the Seine. We paid 104 euro over all, which sounds like a lot - it works out around £88.

For a boat trip, three course meal and a bottle of wine I'd consider it to be a very good price! We booked the more expensive seats so that increased our price by 10 euro, and included the bottle of red wine that also upped our bill - It can be done for less!
If I remember rightly it was 39 Euro for just the meals, your best bet is to book online before hand as it fills up quickly.


The boat took you up and down The Seine, meaning you were able to see all the sites on both sides of the river. Including the Eiffel Tower and the original Statue of Liberty!
The service was amazing, they could cater for any additional dietary needs (I'm a vegetarian and nothing was too much hassle for them). The staff were polite and informative and the boat played some beautiful music that worked as a romantic soundtrack to the evening. The cruise itself lasts just under an hour and a half and I personally think it's totally worth the money!