Laying with my cat, Nellie, and watching travel vlogs of China. That’s all I’ve been doing today. Once I get my head into something, I’m stuck – and I’m currently stuck on China. The magnificent Asian country has been on my mind for years now and as I enter my 20’s it is more prevalent than ever. I think my love of China spawned from when I was younger and I constantly played DK’s ‘Become A World Explorer‘ that I got free in a cereal box. The game gave you clues on where to find notes around the world by exploring landmarks and countries – China was always one of my favourites, marked by the Great Wall, Pagodas and of course, Pandas. Many aspects of Chinese culture have fascinated me, the gorgeous art (some of which I’ve seen in Prague’s National Gallery) and architecture, the eastern beliefs, and their traditions. Of course, I’m a huge fan of Chinese cuisine (give me all the crispy chilli beef any day of the week) but tasting it from a streetfood stand in downtown Beijing is something that I really have to do. Oh and did I mention, Pandas have been my favourite animal since I can remember.
I’ve been sat doing my normal organised planning (even though I’m going nowhere as of yet) looking at flights, trains and Airbnbs for the cities I’d be most interested in visiting: Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, Zhangjiajie and Shanghai. The Great Wall is obviously somewhere I dream of going, but I’ve always wanted to explore many other tourist attractions that the country has to offer: the Terracotta Warriors at the ancient capital of Xi’an, Chengdu Panda Research Base where you can pay extra to hold a Panda, the Tianzi Mountains at Zhangjiajie (which I can now spell without looking it up, look at me go) that inspired James Cameron’s movie Avatar. My favourite videos that I’ve been watching are the series of vlogs by Greenoid Adventure, a British lady named Sara who travels South East Asia with her son Ste. Their daily China vlogs give a refreshingly realistic look at what life’s like as a Westerner understanding Eastern cities (she nearly always tells the viewer the prices of everything which is incredibly helpful when you’re planning trips).
We’ll see if I get to China!
Wednesday 19th July 2017, 9:19am, I sit here in my disturbingly tidy room in my beloved first home in Sheffield, R3, where I’ve created so many memories with so many lifelong friends. Even though I am the last of the four of us to leave this flat, it still feels like our flat. Once I’ve gone, it isn’t our home anymore. Since the beginning of June, myself and Bex have had two Malaysian students live with us and fill the two bedrooms at the end of the hall left by our amazing boys – it’s never felt quite right (they never speak a word to us anyway). I’m the only one still left in Sheffield since Saturday and I’ve filled my days with packing and watching Death Note with no human contact; I’m going insane. Although I attach feelings of anxiety and sadness with my home town of Norwich, I can’t wait to go home as I’m getting a cat – Nelson – on Friday!
I will miss my little flat and living beside so many shops, bars, clubs and restaurants but it’ll be nice (for me and my bank account) to live a slight bit further out of the city centre where it’ll be quieter; we’re only moving from an S1 to an S2 postcode so we’re not too far away!
Things I won’t miss about living in this flat however are:
- The alley that my window looks over where the brewery insist on hurtling bins and emptying stupid amounts of glass bottles at unearthly hours (it kept me up at 3am then woke me up at 6:00am this morning…not happy).
- The pathetic management that we have here. They claim to give us the best security yet anyone can just walk in without ID, and the gates don’t even work half the time. We’ve also had 3 mice living in our kitchen since we moved in, 2 of them are dead but one is definitely alive…I look forward to having a long chat with pest control about this.
- Living beside clubs can be a negative as you get all of the screaming every night from midnight – 3am. Being beside the alley is more disturbing as I can often hear people having sex or peeing against my wall…
Bye R3! Thanks for putting up with the 4am banana fights, the ridiculous amount of Bucks Fizz that we spilt on the floor at Christmas, Matt throwing chicken everywhere when he was drunk, Ewan throwing up black in freshers, Bex launching Twinkies at the wall in rage, and myself for injuring every part of my body on every given surface. Good luck to its next tenants, who will love it nowhere as much as we did.
I’ve never been as happy to be in a stranger’s car before. Getting to Zagreb was a struggle to say the least. Our train from Budapest was scheduled at 5:45am meaning that we had to wake up at 3am…that didn’t happen – we overslept, massively. Thankfully there was another train at 3pm meaning that we’d get into Zagreb, exhausted, at 9pm; we just had a tedious morning of sitting in Mcdonalds to get through! We shared a cabin with 2 other English couples on our 6 hour journey, most of which Bex slept through, while I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (now one of my favourite films). The Airbnb owner (who I’d known to be an old man named Zeijko) said that he’d kindly pick us up from the station and take us to the apartment. When we arrived in Croatia, a young (very attractive) man named Filip said that he would be taking us…so we gingerly got into his car whilst I followed our route on Google Maps. Our apartment turned out to be the nicest Airbnb we had stayed in so far, Filip had laid us out free chocolates, sweets, coffee and extra towels so we were very happy.
Country three – Hungary – and the popular tourist city of Budapest. The popularity of the city has grown since George Ezra (swoon) released his single of the same name, and I’m among the thousands who have become more curious about what the city holds. We boarded our fast train from Vienna and sat in a comfy carriage for only two and a half hours; passing some hilariously named towns, Mosonmagyaróvár was a personal fave and it was the first Hungarian stop! We arrived and headed straight to our Airbnb, the first where we had the whole place to ourselves, which was smaller than we thought but still manageable!
A few weeks earlier, I managed to book us tickets to watch the Snow White Ballet in Erkel Theatre on our first night. Beforehand, we stopped at a cafe/bar called Grand where we both had a hot dog, chips and a coke each and it totalled 1000ft (£2.68)!!! Budapest you have won on the cheap food front! We then headed to the ballet which was incredible! The bowing sequence ending the show was a little bit over-excessive….just a little…they did around 4 cast bows then another 3 individual ones. We got bored of them repeating the same thing so we left before the majority of people did – worked out well as we avoided the queues! Our first night ended with us drinking cocktails over happy hour in the Shot Bar terrace on the street. Watching the sun set over the gorgeous city was an amazing first look at what our Hungarian life held for us.
I can’t help thinking of the Ultravox classic when I think about Vienna, the gorgeous Austrian capital. For many, many years Vienna has been at the top of the ever-growing list of places I want to visit, and I finally got there! Our first full day began at St Stephen’s Cathedral which, once again, was covered in scaffolding (woo!). Upon finding out that the Archbishop of Vienna was seated in the Cathedral, we found it fitting to light a candle inside out of respect. A short walk around the corner saw us facing the Catholic Church of St Peter and its recognisable green dome. Many horses pulling carriages trundled past and I remember saying to Bex that ‘this is Vienna, this right here’ because it was so classically Viennese.
All day, I was so overwhelmed by all of the gorgeous architecture that I got so snap-happy exploring the Hofburg Palace, Austrian National Library and Maria-Theresien-Platz and my memories of the day all blur into one! Our short walk through the courtyard of the palace was particularly memorable as we passed the entrance to the infamous Spanish Riding School – the horses were stunning! We then began to walk around the Ringstrasse that encases the city centre of Vienna; you can easily see most of the landmarks by walking this road.
Our first Interrail venture led us to the capital of the Czech Republic – Prague. My parents visited Prague during the winter season 7 years ago and I’ve been dying to go ever since; but with better weather! After a very long day travelling from Sheffield to Manchester, flying to Prague and navigating the public transport (bus, metro then a tram), we finally arrived at our gorgeous Airbnb where we were greeted by a friendly purring of two gorgeous cats.
Waking up in Prague was blissfully quiet and only the whistling sound of birds could be heard out of our top floor window. A full day of exploring laid ahead so we slapped on the sun cream, grabbed the cameras and headed back onto the metro; buying some baguettes on the way.
Well! I’m glad you asked! I’d first heard of Interrailing 2 years ago when my friend Luke set off around the continent for a month or so, I fell in love with seeing his Instagram posts where he’d be in a different place every few days – goals or what!? At the age of 17, I knew it was something that I’d want to do but I didn’t have the money to do so nor the confidence, or someone to come with me. My first year at University changed both of these points. I was lucky enough to have spare money leftover from my Student Finance after paying my rent which could fund the majority of my trip, and I gained a budding travel companion in my flatmate, Bex. From here, we were set, and a lot of planning followed!
Image source: www.interrail.eu
Recently, Bex and I went to Dublin for 2 days so she could fly for the first time before we go Interrailing in June – this is what we got up to.
As my first year of University draws to a close (thank god), I thought I’d share my top tips from what I’ve learnt as being a newbie Student:
- Start looking as early as you can. Going on lots of open days and reading up about the variations of courses is the best way that I can advise choosing where to go. When you arrive somewhere, you’ll know straight away if you want to live there or not.
- Apply for accommodation early!
- When you know which flat you’ve been allocated, post it in the Facebook group for your accommodation and find your flatmates ASAP – talk to these people!! You’ll be living with them for a year, maybe more!
- Figure out who is bringing what for the kitchen, we ended up with 8 bottles of fairy liquid, 4 sets of pans and loads of tuppawares.
- Apply for student finance as soon as possible so you don’t forget it and you get it out of the way – another thing ticked.
This weekend, my parents came up from Norwich to visit me in Sheffield and we took the day-trip to Matlock Bath in Derbyshire to visit the Heights of Abraham (which were closed when my parents last came to visit). The guided tours around the underground caverns were amazing!! Our guides turned off all of the lights at certain points so we could get an idea of how dark it was for the miners when they were only guided by candlelight – it’s very hard to see, let me tell you that. Even though I only live an hour away from Matlock, it’s hard to believe that I’ve never been here or expected to see views like this (especially as I come from Norwich which is basically the flattest place in England). Word of warning, you get a leg and back ache after visiting here because you have to duck down in the caves and walk up a lot of hills!