Rainy day reading

rainy day reading

Crunching across frosted-tipped grass. Waking up to fluffy blankets of snow covering the ground, leaving the world clean and bright. That’s the picture-perfect vision of a UK winter. In reality, rather than skipping outside to build a snowman, I can bet that most of us have spent January wrapping up warm against the biting cold and even better, not leaving the house at all where possible. So, for those days where hibernating under a duvet feels more tempting than getting out to explore, I’ve collected a few of my favourite rainy day reading for when you’re in need of some travel inspiration.
water streams30 reasons you should take a year off and travel to Australia
Like I needed any more persuading, this blog post almost had me backing my bags straight away. Oz is calling me!

How do you afford to travel?
A fantastic article that breaks down the common question into three parts. Even as somebody who prioritises holidays over almost anything else in life, I’ve been guilty of saying this and this puts everything into great perspective.

The 10 biggest travel mistakes and how to avoid them
Christy and Scott from Ordinary Traveler collated a list of the most common travel mistakes and how to avoid them so you’re super organised for your trip before you get started!

12 secret beaches in Europe you should add to your bucket list
If you’re a lover of the sunny relaxing beach break, this article is heavenly reading. There’s a couple of stunners in Croatia that particularly caught my eye…any excuse to go back right?

15 quotes that will reignite your wanderlust fire
And finally, if you’re feeling a little uninspired, this article from Hostelworld will get you dreaming of your next trip all over again. Who else wants to fly away right now?

Laura x

Sleeping under the stars

sleeping under the stars

“Sleep under the stars”. It always felt like one of those generic bucket list items to me, something that reeled easily from the tongue without any meaning or reason. So, when it happened, it was accidental and not something to think twice about. Of course, it’s stuck in my mind ever since.
sleeping under the starsOn a night filled with laughter and a covert mission to return our stolen property (that’s a whole other story -> The Lilo Mission), I’d somehow ended up embroiled in a semi-drunken water fight. Appropriately soaked and triumphantly carrying our newly returned inflatables up to the top deck of the ship we called home that week, it was time to take it down a notch.

Looking back, I have a crystal clear memory of feeling on top of the world. My sailor hat falling off, revealing crazy, salt-crunchy curls, as I lay back and looked up at the sky full of stars. As the sky brightened, the cool air caressed my bare arms and face as I drifted to sleep.

Waking felt like moments later but completely at odds with this was the heat from the sun. Moving felt impossible but groggily, I propped my head up on my hands to watch our journey out of the port and across the water. Gently, gently, we sailed away from the cave we danced in for hours and towards our final destination.

As I made my way down the ladder to my cabin later on, contemplating my smudged eyeliner warily in the mirror, it never occurred to me that this evening, of all the wonderful evenings that summer, would stick out in my mind looking back.  And yet, sleeping under the moon and waking under the sun made me feel incredibly lucky to be really living. My night sleeping under the stars in a foreign land has become one of my favourite travelling memories.

Laura x

Barcelona Highlights

Spending a brief time in a city is a love affair of new sights and experiences, rushing by in such a whirlwind that you’re left craving more. Barcelona has so much to offer that lovers of art, food, nightlife and shopping alike fall in love with this city so Vicky and I couldn’t wait to explore the city together.
Barcelona gothic cathedralStraight off the bus from the airport, we got our priorities straight: ice cream and exploring. Spending almost a week in Italy together meant that we bonded over a shared love of gelato and tubs in hand, we wandered the streets leading from La Rambla through the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter).

Cute vintage shops and musty bookstores captured our hearts – at least, until we arrived at the Gothic Cathedral where the flea market was filled with the sound of a jazz band playing jauntily nearby. The sun burst through the clouds, stripping away the last dregs of tiredness from our 3am wake up call, and instant contentment came over us both.
Barcelona gelatoSpending New Years Eve in Barcelona was a pretty special experience as we brought in 2016 surrounded by people of all nationalities eating a dozen grapes for good luck.
Barcelona Wander with LauraNew Years Day was a late start but we started it well by discovering a beautiful place for lunch: Makamaka Beach Burger Cafe. Here we swatted away the last of our hangover to devour ‘The Dude’, a burger with walnut and goat’s cheese sauce, bacon and salad, all on a multi-grain bun. Oh, and a hefty side order of fries. The smoothie selection was incredibly tempting but in the end, we opted for a chai latte each to finish.

Wanting to get out of the city centre for a while, we took the metro to Vallcarca where the most ridiculous hill dauntingly rose up in front of us. Walk a little further and you’ll find outdoor escalators that will save your legs from certain collapse. At the top, the beauty of Park Guell awaits. We were there for the golden hour, where the setting sun touches everything with an extra hint of beauty, and how wonderful it was.
barcelona park sunsetWe decided to spend that evening embracing another local speciality; sangria. While I’d encourage you to avoid La Baguetina Catalana like the plague, we spent a brilliant few hours chatting and people-watching. At least until we were presented with two roses, bought by the men sitting alongside us, and swiftly had to leave the area out of sheer awkwardness.
barcelona sangriaThe next morning, we set our alarms to start the day in my favourite building in the world: the Sagrada Familia. So there aren’t words to express how disappointment when we arrived to find that the tickets were completely sold out for the day. Instead, we had to perk ourselves up with a simple breakfast alongside the cathedral. The cafe we chose, Arlequino, was reasonably priced (considering the area) and also stocks my favourite Portuguese cakes alongside ice cream and sandwiches!
barcelona breakfast cafeAs if sensing our sadness that we had to leave Barcelona, the sun put on an appearance for us on our final afternoon.
Barcelona beachWe stretched out on the sand and took a nap with the gentle warmth of the sun on our faces for a blissful ending to our break in Barcelona.
barcelona beach sun Barcelona highlights

Laura x

New Year in Barcelona

Spending New Year in Barcelona, the beautiful capital city of Catalonia, wasn’t something I ever thought I’d be doing at the start of the year. I’ve always thought of New Years Eve as a huge anticlimax so instead of staying cynical for 2015, it was time to take action. Vicky, one of my Contiki loves, suggested spending the New Year together and after looking at a lot of different city venues, we went ahead and booked a couple of days in Barcelona starting on New Years Eve.
New Year in BarcelonaThe official New Year celebration in Barcelona takes place at the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc where there is music, a light show as the fountain sways and music, all finished off with a spectacular fireworks display! It’s completely free to attend so we decided to go along and experience a truly Spanish new year.
Barcelona New Year 2015We arrived early to find crowds of people all enjoying the music, spending time with friends and generally being excited to welcome 2016 in style. The entertainment was…a little odd at times, it has to be said. Talking and dancing cartoon helmets on the screens were one of the stranger parts – we later realised these were modelled on the rooftop sculptures of Gaudi’s La Pedrera – but there was dancing, drumming and a beautiful fountain display.
Barcelona Wander with LauraWhen the countdown to midnight began, everybody around us began eating the twelve grapes that are said to bring good luck and 2016 began watching a firework display with one of my best friends. Perfect! Then, we fought our way through the crowds towards Plaça d’Espanya where we quickly realised we didn’t know the way to our next destination. After much searching for the address and asking a few locals for help, we finally found the venue to one of the best New Year parties, Poble Espanyol, at 1am.
poble espanyol new yearA brilliant outdoor venue and marquee, Poble Espanyol was packed with locals and tourists of all ages. The combination of dance and pop music alongside local songs worked to keep everybody happy and we got straight down to the serious business of dancing. The only thing we disliked? The sheer amount of guys approaching us in quite a forceful way. Anybody else instantly resort to the pretending to be a couple in this situation?

Finally, after more than 24 hours awake from catching our super early flight, we stumbled (quite literally with crazily painful feet) back to our hostel tucked away on La Rambla where a cheesy hot dog was waiting as a pre-bed snack…

New Year 2015? A roaring success. If you’re thinking of spending New Year in Barcelona, I’d highly recommend checking out Poble Espanyol as a much more exciting alternative to a standard club night.

How did you spend New Years Eve?

Laura x

Looking Back on 2015

2015 and travel goals

Like a lot of people in the blogging community, I wrote a ‘2015 Goals‘ blog post. It’s a positive, cathartic way to start the year but I expected to look back now without much having really changed. But reading back some of the things I wrote almost a year ago now, it’s like I had a weird sense of what was coming…

“It’s going to be a year of change and while the prospect of the unknown is scary, I’m determined to be focused on making myself the happiest that I can be.”

While I’ve had some of my lowest moments in 2015, these downs helped to make the following months some of the happiest of my life.

When heartbreak came, I was devastated. More completely than I ever could have imagined hurting. But looking back at my entry from January 3rd 2015, maybe…just maybe…I knew deep down that things weren’t right in how I was living my life:

“The worst thing that I can imagine would be looking back on my life, wishing to get back that wasted time where I wasn’t fully loved, happy or fulfilled: settling for being loved halfheartedly isn’t something I’m willing to do.”

My two aspirations for the year were predictable but well thought out. Firstly, “make my body happy“. For the first five months of the year, this was a priority of mine and at one point, I was going to super fun classes at the gym four times a week. I’d wake up on a Saturday and choose to do a 9.30am Metafit class. I know, I can’t believe it either. However, when shit hit the fan and my routine got completely thrown out of whack, I totally lost all the progress I’d made. Finishing the year back at where I started is disappointing but knowing that I can do it renews my enthusiasm for getting back into that healthy routine.

My second goal for the year was “Be confident in myself and my hopes for the future”. Probably the most important thing that you can do for your confidence is believe in yourself. And, in the end, being knocked down was the thing that made me realise that I can do so much more than I believed. Say whaaaaat!

Something unexpected that came out of this year was travel. I saw nine new countries and gave myself a travel goal to hit before I turn 25. Amazing memories and friends in distant places are something I’ll take from this year that I never imagined.

I ended my 2015 goals blog post with these words:

“I’m sincerely hoping that I will bring in 2016 as a more rounded, confident individual.”

And amazingly this, my most important resolution of the year, actually came true. Now, let’s tackle 2016…

What were your plans for 2015? And did you get there?
Laura x