4 free things you can do in every city

So, you have a holiday planned and your budget is pretty tight. Well don’t worry because the great thing about cities is the abundance of things to do – many of which don’t cost a penny. If you find yourself needing to stick to a strict budget, here are just 4 of the free things you can do in every city!free things you can do in every city

Just walk

There’s no denying that great public transport links in cities can be a godsend but if you have ample time to explore, taking the time to walk everywhere is one of the best things you can do. Firstly, you’ll instantly save money on taxi fares and the views are guaranteed to be better than the inside of a train tunnel. In many European cities in particular, the major tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other and who knows, you might just come across an unexpected hidden gem along the way.

Check out a museum

Come a rainy day, I fall in love with museums. While some charge admission, you should be able to find some in each city that are completely free of charge. Same goes for art galleries! Plus, many paid attractions have selected days where admission is free or discounted: for example, the Louvre in Paris is free to visit on the first Sunday of every month. Even better are the numerous attractions that give you free entry with an EU passport if you’re under 26 – make the most of it while you can fellow UK citizens….

Festivals

If you’re really organised, planning a trip to a city at the same time as a national holiday can be a fantastic way to see your chosen city at its very best. Thanksgiving in New York, Day of the Dead in Mexico and Mardi Gras in New Orleans instantly spring to mind as celebrations that I’d love to experience one day.

Take it in

Along the same lines of walking around each place getting to know it, spending time relaxing outdoors is free and incredibly fun – especially in the summer months! Most cities have beautiful public parks for you to walk, jog or just sit taking in the atmosphere and culture. I find that I instantly feel more at home when I visit a beautiful park in a new place. And if you’re lucky enough, hit the beach! Even on a breezy New Years break in Barcelona, wrapping up warm and sitting on the beach was brilliant and didn’t cost a penny.

Any other ideas to add? Leave them in the comments below!

Laura x

The Travelling Centurion | Guest Post

“Never truly believe the stories that have already been written. It’s your responsibility to write your own story.”

Travelling is in my blood. Ever since I took my first trip abroad to Spain as an anxious 12 year old in 1997, I fell in love with exploring the different cultures, traditions, cuisine and the history our planet has to offer.machu-picchumarrakechNow, 19 years later, I have travelled to 126 countries across 6 continents. 95% of these I have visited by myself. Solo travel has taught me so many life skills that I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered if I travelled with others. For example, I’ve learnt how to live independently. I’ve learnt how to cook. I’ve also learnt that everything you read about and listen to in the media isn’t necessarily correct.angkor-watI’ve seen the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I have navigated the train network of the Caucasus. I’ve tasted the delicious cuisine of the Middle East. I’ve survived the dangerous parts of Central America and I’ve enjoyed a mint tea whilst watching the sunset over “Jemaa el-Fnaa” in Marrakech.samarkandI am often asked about what I would recommend to those that are thinking about travelling, those that are currently aboard or those that are about to embark on their own adventure. Here are my top 10 tips:

  • Research your destination(s) – This is always a controversial topic amongst the travelling community. But I strongly believe reading up before your trip is essential. Make use of sites such as Wikipedia, Google Maps and Tripadvisor alongside the excellent Lonely Planet guidebooks.
  • Get cashback on pre-travel expenses – Websites such as Quidco offer cashback on purchases such as flights, accommodation and sightseeing tours. Handy for having that extra bit of cash in your account when you return from your trip.
  • Take adequate travel insurance – No brainer really. For the sake of a few pounds you’re covered for all medical emergencies. The EHIC card is good but doesn’t give you complete cover.

cape-town

  • Organise your spending money – Try to avoid taking large amounts of cash. I would recommend signing up for currency cards such as Supercard or Revolut which give you excellent rates on purchases and cash withdrawals whilst away and they’re much safer than cash too.
  • Pack light – Do you really need that extra shirt? Packing light means it’s easier to navigate planes & busses and it means you’ll have more room for souvenirs.
  • Use Google maps & GPS to avoid getting lost – Most smartphones & tablets nowadays have GPS installed. Using this along with Google maps means you greatly reduce the chances of being lost. In areas with Wi-Fi, you can save the map to your device so you know where everything is instantly.
  • Local food is king – What are you doing eating generic fast-food rubbish?! Local cuisine is (mostly) fresh, good for the local environment, often cheaper and most importantly very tasty. If the locals eat there than it must be a good place.
  • EC261 is your friend – If you are on a severely delayed or cancelled flight from Europe or on an EU carrier than you may be entitled to compensation through a European Union directive called EC261. I have a €600 cheque for a delayed flight to Canada last month on its way as we speak.
  • Don’t believe everything you hear/see/read in the media – The world isn’t a big scary place full of people that want to hurt you. Most people are incredibly friendly and love to show you the best parts of their homeland.
  • Enjoy yourself! – The most important tip. Travelling is a life-changing experience for the better, so embrace every moment of it!travelling uganda

My name is James Merriman. Despite only being 31 years old and born & bred in North Devon, I’ve travelled to 126 countries. Most of my trips have been by myself and include places such as Central America, All though the Middle East (Israel, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia for example) and all through Eastern Africa. This is my Lonely Planet profile which shows where I have visited so far: https://auth.lonelyplanet.com/profiles/mezzarino/trips. Get in touch on Twitter – @mezzarino or on my webpage.

Exploring the Coliseum Leisure Park

Can one place really have all your food, entertainment and shopping needs? The Coliseum Leisure Park certainly has a ton of activities on offer and earlier this week, I was invited along to sample some of them! It’s conveniently located just off the M53 in the North West so Louise and I stopped off on our way home from work to hopefully discover some new things. Starting in Chiquitos for cocktails, we were greeted by the incredibly friendly bartender Andy who set about creating cocktails based on our favourite drinks.
chiquitos cocktailsLouise tried the summery looking ‘Mex on the Beach’ – peach schnapps, orange and guava juice with a hint of grenadine – while mine was a slight twist on a gin martini. This definitely isn’t one for if you’re driving as it’s pretty damn strong!cocktail shakingchiquitos hatWe also tried out their tasty nachos and one of their new cocktail offerings ‘Frozen Fuego’ which was perfect for the heat outside. The combination of honeycomb ice cream and Patron Incendio Chilli Chocolate Tequila was deliciously creamy with a slight kick that really worked.chiquitos frozen fuegochiquitos nachosThe service we received was fabulous in Chiquitos and I’ll definitely be back for happy hour! It was time to move on however and we headed across the road to Nandos for our next course. With a recently refurbished interior, the restaurant was beautifully airy thanks to the front windows opening out to an outdoor seating area.
nandos cheshire oaksHaving only ever eaten a main course in Nandos, I was excited to try the ‘appeteasers’ selection and they didn’t disappoint! It’s a pretty simple selection of food – think olives, nuts, pitta and hummus alongside the famous chicken wing roulette – but all served with the distinctive Nandos spice.
nandos wing roulette nandos starters nandos hoummus and pittaUnexpectedly, I really enjoyed the mixed almonds, cashews and macadamias with added spice! Already feeling pretty full, it was time to find adventure at Paradise Island Adventure Golf.paradise island adventure golf cheshire oaksOur course took us through a mysterious bazaar spice market, an eastern-style Maharaka’s ruined palace and a desert island beach with sound effects and smoke effects that made us all jump!adventure golf cheshire oaksFeeling peckish again after our expedition, it was time for another food stop! Coal Grill and Bar is somewhere I’ve eaten at once before (and really enjoyed) so I was excited to see what else they had to offer. Louise and I picked a few smaller plates to share including the Trio of Sliders, Panko-Crumb Chicken Strips, Sweet Potato Fries and Cheesy Chilli Chips.
coal cheshire oaksWe were expecting mini burger buns to turn up with the sliders but instead the BBQ pulled pork, slow braised pulled brisket and pulled spicy chicken was served in soft buns. This makes it a good starter dish but it definitely won’t fill you up! The chicken strips were particularly tasty and the Chilli Fries were absolutely loaded with gooey melted cheese.
coal small plateUnfortunately, it was time for us to bid goodbye to the group as they went to enjoy dessert from the new menu at Frankie and Benny’s. We had an absolutely fantastic night at the Coliseum Leisure Park and I’m already planning to return for food and another round of adventure golf!

Laura x

Pie and Cheesecake at Paradox, Heswall

There’s a little place causing a stir on my home turf and after a couple of visits, I’ve definitely become a member of the virtual fan club. After hearing brilliant reviews of Paradox – and seeing their frequent offers on Prosecco pop up onto my Facebook timeline – I tootled down to Heswall to meet my friend Siobhan for non stop talking and some really tasty treats.
heswall paradoxOn a quiet Wednesday evening, Paradox was a relaxed and comfortable place to settle in for a good catch up but on weekends, it transforms into a busy bar with a buzzing atmosphere and delicious cocktail menu. I’d have loved a Chase the Rainbow (served with a shot of Skittles – amazing) but sticking with a soft drink, we got down to the important business of checking out the food menu.
paradox steak burgerAfter much deliberation, Siobhan chose the steak burger which arrived looking so juicy that my mouth instantly started watering. Served with skinny sweet potato fries, she gave the meal a resounding thumbs up after just a few bites.

The first time I visited Paradox, I shared their meat platter with friends and remembered us all fighting for scraps of a particularly delicious pie. Now, unable to see a pie on the menu, I asked our friendly waiter who told me that the kitchen had just made a fresh chicken and gammon pie and could create this into a main for me. Without any deliberation, I gratefully agreed and was thrilled when it arrived steaming and enticing, complete with chunky chips. It was just as great as my memory, with the beautiful sauce complimenting the meat flavours and I immediately wanted to ask for the recipe.
paradox heswall pieDespite our huge meals, we were still drawn to the dessert menu and decided to share a strawberry cheesecake. Not sure what to expect, we were delighted to be greeted with this stunning chalkboard of goodness.
paradox dessert heswallWe instantly dived for the melt-in-mouth chocolate straw before getting stuck in. The vanilla ice cream was really tasty – and that’s coming from a die hard chocolate girl – while the cheesecake struck a beautiful balance between the light fluffy texture and crumbly flavoursome base.

Honestly, I couldn’t have enjoyed my meal much more until the bill arrived. Paradox do 50% off food on Wednesdays (and also offer at 50% discount to Taste Card holders on other days) so our entire bill came to a total of £17.50. Yep, you read that correctly. So reserve that table in the corner for me Paradox, I’m becoming your newest regular.

Laura x

Discover Liverpool’s First Gin Garden

botanical garden liverpool

There’s an oasis in the middle of Liverpool that is most definitely my happy place. Nestled in the heart of the Baltic Triangle on New Bird Street, the Botanical Garden is marked by a sign that simply reads ‘Gin’. Yep, you’ll even struggle to find this baby on Google maps. Wander inside and you’re in a rough and ready outdoor bar, complete with deck chairs, fake grass and – new for 2016 – an indoor conservatory area for those cooler evenings.
Gin Garden LiverpoolThe graffiti-covered walls mimic the skate park next door with the vivid colours somehow working perfectly with delicate flowers scattered around the space. But the chilled atmosphere will welcome you in even more than the relaxed beauty of the place. Last summer I whiled away whole days here, sipping on a gin listening to the ‘Into the Wild’ soundtrack and soaking up the sun with friends here.
gin garden liverpoolThe extensive menu doesn’t stop at gin but even if you aren’t a fan, their delicious cocktails have been game changers for friends of mine! The bar staff are always incredibly friendly and willing to help, providing blankets on cooler days and even table service when it’s quiet. Peckish? There’s a different street food pop up there every year. From Cuban street food at Finca in 2016, 2017 brings all things falafel goodness!
botanical garden liverpoolThe fun doesn’t stop at relaxing sunny days though. More and more events are happening at the gin garden this summer – including two incredibly successful outdoor cinema screenings this week! Grease, gin and dancing? Sign me up please. To keep updated on the latest news, the Botanical Garden Facebook page has all the information you’ll need – beware though, you’ll experience a particularly strong wish for the weekend to be here right now.

If you’re looking for a fun place to spend a day (and night) in Liverpool, the Botanical Garden definitely doesn’t disappoint. It’s worth the walk and once you go down the rabbit hole, you’ll never want to leave.

Laura x