Well, a lot happened in the past year – neglecting my blog is one of them. I’m currently in my last 2 months in my final year of University and life is hard…very stressful. Everything seems to be happening all at once at a rapid pace, I have 4 weeks of teaching remaining, 3 assignments, an academic progression interview and to top it all off, my hefty dissertation. When I was in my first year of University, I decided to set myself a challenge: to visit 21 countries before I hit my 21st birthday…it didn’t happen (thanks uni budget). SO, I’ve decided to give myself the year of being 21 to complete my challenge. As I write this, I am sitting on 18 countries.
To get over the pain of Uni, I went to Rome with my mum for my birthday to kick off the year and count off another country. Although I’ve already been to Italy when I ventured to Milan in 2017 on my Interrail journey, the beautiful capital of Rome had been crying for my attention ever since I studied Roman architecture in A-Levels. While I was there, I managed to sneak in time to visit my 18th country out of 21 and visit the smallest country in the world – The Vatican City.
As shown above, the turquoise countries represent those that I have visited: UK, Ireland, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Vatican City Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Tunisia. The pink countries represent those that I’m hoping to visit this year: Bulgaria (which I have booked to go to in May!), Poland, Latvia and Estonia (hopefully visiting the Baltics this summer with my dad). While travelling on a student budget is proving difficult at the minute due to house deposits and employment struggles, I’m confident that I can make this work and make some memories that I’ll always treasure whilst having a sense of pride I completed (and maybe surpassed?!) my personal challenge.
Yes! I’m going to Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen (in case you can’t read the Norwegian title) after exam season this year! I sort of had an epiphany a few weeks ago about my 21 before 21 goal and that I had one year left to visit 4 more countries…so I booked a trip away encompassing 3 of those countries – Norway, Sweden and Denmark. I’m planning on spending 3 days in each country, trying to incorporate a day trip for each country to another city – Sandvika, Malmö and Helsingør. Once again, I am using interrail for my travel between each city and I cannot wait to get back on a foreign train watching the beautiful scenery flood past the windows – bliss!
I’ve been checking up on some blog posts for itineraries for each city as I don’t want to miss out on anything! My favourites so far have been City Cookie, Nomadic Matt, and On the Luce.
I’d be very appreciative of any hidden treasures anyone could clue me in about!! Drop me a comment below! ❤
As mentioned in my previous post, I moved out of my student halls flat and into my own house for the second year of uni. I’m living with Bex still, but also with 4 other boys who we were friends with last year (fun). Currently, only myself, Bex and Sam have moved in, Aidan is on holiday with his girlfriend, and Aaron and James are moving in some time this week (not sure when); it’s weird having a house this big just between the 3 of us at the minute but I’m sure that will change soon! My room is upstairs which means I get a good view over the road we live beside and the trees (we live next to a really big park so we get squirrels around the house) – it will look lush when it snows! As I did in my previous post, I gave the house its pros and cons, so I will do that again:
- We have a dishwasher (wow) and washer-dryer machine (double wow) included in our rent payments!
- Having an actual house is amazing since it feels like your own space and it’s so much more adult-y.
- We live down the road from the gym; which is opposite McDonalds, so that’s counter-productive.
- Living further away from clubs and shops saves me money :).
- We live up a massive hill…pain.
- Deliveroo now doesn’t deliver to our post-code :(.
- It’s a trek into town for shopping and nights out.
- I don’t live near my campus anymore so that’s also a trek.
- I really miss our other flatmates and friends from our previous flat :(.
An early rise in Ljubljana saw us walking to the station to catch a bus to the Italian city of Trieste, it turned out to be the most beautiful bus ride I’d ever been on. We passed many national parks on our hour journey and passed the peak of Nanos which called for some gorgeous pictures. We arrived in Trieste by driving down coastal roads and through windy little streets, we then knew that we were in Italy amongst the hustle and bustle. The train station was right beside the sea which was stunning! We boarded our train headed for Milan ahead of schedule so we had time to make ourselves comfortable. It was then that I realised we were in a more modern country than we’d been used to – each row of seats had a table, the seats were incredibly comfy, and there were overhead monitors that showed where the train was on a map, the temperature and how long it was going to take till the next stop, amazing. For the first half an hour of the journey, we drove along coastal tracks so the view was beautiful. After a while, we began stopping in major Italian cities such as Venice, Verona and Brescia and I was getting cold-feet since I couldn’t get out and explore. Hours had passed and we arrived in gorgeous Milan where we headed to our hostel off the beaten track in the Lambrate district. We’d only orginally planned to have one night in Milan so we had to buy an extra night in this hostel (Mio Hostel – had a really nice stay).
“How do we get to Bled?“, the question I found myself asking a ridiculous amount of times within our pathetic 8 minutes stop over in Jesenice; which is the most difficult train station to get around that I’ve ever had the displeasure of visiting. The lady at the front office spoke hardly any English so I had to show her the Interrail app in order for her to help us – and her help was just pointing out of the front doors towards a bus? Now, we didn’t want a bus, we were looking for a train, but we spoke to some fellow English travellers who were as confused as us and we all gingerly got onto the bus. The journey should have taken 20 minutes…it took around an hour. We finally arrived in Bled and realised that we were atop a massive hill, with a gorgeous view admittedly, but we know that we’d have to trek down and up it again (with our giant backpacks on) to catch the bus back. We slowly descended the steep slope and sat beside the lake eating our baguettes and it started to rain…crap. We only had half an hour in Bled and most of it was spent enduring a thunderstorm! The walk back up to the bus station was hell, that’s the only way I can put it, rain pouring down on us, aching backs and legs, and being out of breath for alot of it without water. We got back on the bus after even more confusion and made our way back to Ljubljana.
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.