Travel Favourites: Memories from Extraordinary Places

Hello! I’ve been loving writing more travel-themed posts this summer (mainly because I really wish I could be traveling right now!!) and I think this is the direction I want my blog to head in, as well the odd post about studying or ramble about life. This time I thought I’d reminisce on some of my favourite memories from travelling and favourite places I’ve been to over the years. I haven’t travelled a lot or gone on a massive tour around multiple countries (I’d love to though!!), but I have been lucky enough to go to a few different places over the past few years, whether that be on family holidays, with school, friends or Scouts. I hope you enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Austrian Mountains

Sunset over a river with mountains in the background
This is one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken??? (I just wish 11 year old me knew how to focus a camera properly lol)

I went to Austria back in 2011 with Scouts and we stayed in a town called Stanzach in the Tyrol region. The scenery was breathtaking, particularly the mountains which you could see form anywhere within the valley. I remember going on many evening walks to the river in the photo and skimming stones and building dams whilst the sunset. We also took a ski lift to the top of a mountain then hiked down. I’d love to go back one day and explore the mountains more!

The Eden Project, Cornwall

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It’s been a fair few years since I visited the Eden Project, but I remember really enjoying my visit. There are some really interesting and exotic plants within the rain forest and tropical ‘biomes’. My family and I were obsessed with the mimosa which look like mini ferns but when you touch their leaves they close up! It was really cute haha.

Studland Bay, Dorset

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Studland is one of my favourite beaches! When I was younger, we went camping in Dorset quite often so we’d visit Studland a lot. It’s great for swimming as the water doesn’t get deep very quickly and great for sand castles too! One of the most amusing memories I have comes from this beach. My sister and I decided to partially bury my mum in the sand and turn her into a mermaid but we later discovered that we’d left the camera in the car park down the other end of the beach. Not wanting to miss this photo opportunity, my dad, my sister and I walked back to the car park, and on the way my dad was convinced he’d seen his brother and children playing in the sand, so he went over to say hello. My sister and I realised immediately it wasn’t them but my dad insisted and kept saying to the man “don’t lie, you are my brother!” (in a friendly way). He thought his brother was messing around haha (can you tell we don’t see our family often enough to recognise them haha??). Eventually my dad gave up (my sister and I were so embarrassed at this point) and we carried on walking to the car park. When we got there, the funniest coincidence happened – we bumped into his actual brother and his family ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ It was so funny! We told them about the mishap with the look-a-like and they said that that man was actually staying on the same campsite as them and that my cousins kept mistaking him for their dad, so at least it wasn’t just us!!! It was so weird though ๐Ÿ˜‚ I’ll never forget that haha.

Double-decker trains in Berlin!!

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I still get slightly excited by this but DOUBLE-DECKER TRAINS AHHHH. I didn’t know they existed until I went to Berlin???!!? We took one out of the city one day and it was a really cool experience even though I’m too tall to stand up on the top deck haha.

Kynance Cove, Cornwall

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This beach really is a hidden beauty. We only found out about it as we are National Trust members and they own the land, but it is definitely worth a visit!! You have to walk quite far from the car park before you can descend the headland to the beach. The water was so blue!! And there were lot’s of little caves to explore. The main thing I can remember though is getting my hiking boots soaked. My dad told me to stand in front of this big rock to take a better picture of the sea, not realising that the waves came in really fast so when a big wave came in, my dad was able to scramble up onto the rock whilst I couldn’t because I was holding my camera so I was submerged up to my knees! When the wave went back out again though I was fine but had very soggy feet for the rest of the day!

Branscombe Beach, Devon

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As you may be able to tell, I really like beaches. I think it comes from growing up in a seaside town – I just love being on the coast! Branscombe Beach is another sort of hidden gem. We had to walk for a few hours to get there from our campsite, descending through the lovely village (and stopping for cake). The beach itself was stunning with sloping red cliffs and red-tinted water. My family and I spend a long time on the beach walking around, paddling and posing on various rocks for photos (as you can see above haha).

Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille

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I visited Marseille last year and one of the highlights of the trip has to be going to the Notre Dame de la Garde cathedral, which is perched atop a hill overlooking the city. The views were incredible, especially looking out to sea, and we had to take a little train up the hill to the cathedral which I’ll always remember as it was one of the first times I had a proper conversation in French (in France) as I was volunteered by my classmates to ask if our tickets were valid for the train. (Still surprised that I actually managed to do that, though! Speaking to natives can be daunting sometimes!).

MuCEM, Marseille

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Another memory from Marseille was visiting the MuCEM – the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. The architecture of the building was?? INCREDIBLE?!! The outside is basically made to look like water ripples (I think??) so on the inside the light reflects through the gaps in the outer shell making it feel as if you were underwater! The actual exhibits themselves were really interesting too as I got to learn more about Mediterranean history and lifestyles. There’s a rooftop cafe with a bridge connecting you to Fort St. Jean, which used to guard the entrance to the port of Marseille. The Fort was full of things to explore and sadly we didn’t have enough time (or energy- it was so hot!!!) to do it all, so I’d definitely love to go back!

A’DAM Lookout, Amsterdam

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If you’ve read my Amsterdam series from back in July, you may remember me mentioning the A’DAM Lookout! It’s essentially a hotel with a restaurant and ‘lookout’ on top from which you can see across the city. It also has Europe’s highest swing which swings you over the edge of the tower!! I’m not the biggest fan of heights but I do LOVE being high enough up to see an amazing view, and the A’DAM Lookout definitely didn’t disappoint!! The whole experience of the Lookout was so fun, from getting stuck on a giant red horse, to battling the fierce wind and running for the ferry! Definitely one of the highlights of the holiday!

Porthor Beach, North Wales

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(Another beach oops!!). My family and I visited Porthor Beach on our most recent holiday to Snowdonia, North Wales. My dad is very good at planning holidays in that he picks out the less well-known places for us to visit, such as Porthor. It was very difficult to get to as we kept missing turnings, but after a longer than exepcted journey, it was definitely worth the hassle!! As far as beaches go, Porthor wsas fairly quiet which was nice because sometimes Studland Beach (which I mentioned earlier) is very busy and you don’t have much space. Porthor is also known as the Whistling Sands beach because!!! THE SAND WHISTLES WHEN YOU WALK AHHH! (I was probably way too excited by this but it was so fun!!! Although you can’t really sneak up on people haha). Due tot he type of sand at Porthor, when you walk the sand compresses and makes a sort of squeaky noise!! We spent the whole day at the beach, swimming in the sea which was clear blue and home to some jelly fish and also playing multiple matches of beach volley ball with our make-shift ‘net’ made of pebbles. It was great fun!

Aberglaslyn Gorge, North Wales

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Another memory from my holiday in Snowdonia was hiking through the Aberglaslyn Gorge. This was in the height of the heat wave in the UK so it’s safe to say we were VERY hot and possibly hiking in the heat wasn’t the BEST idea. However, the gorge was so beautiful!! The majority of the walk involved scrambling over rocks along the side of the river – some of which had metal handholds to help you across difficult sections. It reminded me of going canyoning in Austria! We had to stop halfway and cool off our feet in the river. When we reached Beddgeleret – a small village which is the river passes through – we stopped for an ice cream and looked around. It was sch a lovely little village, I could have seen myself living there, surrounded by the mountains. We sat on a wall by the river eating our ice creams and two tourists asked if they could photograph us sitting on the wall within the space of ten minutes which was STRANGE??

Snowdon Street, Porthmadog

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My final memory to share is from the same holiday again, this time of Snowdon Street in the town of Porthmadog. It may not seem the most interesting honestly it was so cool just walking through the town then at the bottom of a side street you can see Snowdon, perfectly framed between the rows of houses. I have so many memories of climbing Snowdon itself, which I shared here, and considering I couldn’t get any non-cloud covered photos whilst climbing it, I’m pretty pleased I had the opportunity to see Snowdon again, from the ground this time!!

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of my favourite memories from traveling and places I’ve been, I’ve certainly enjoyed reminiscing about them! There are so many beautiful and interesting places to see, whether that be in your own country or abroad. I’d love to hear your travel top picks below!

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London Bucket List: Places to Explore!!

Map of London and text reading 'London Bucket List!!'

In three weeks time, I’ll be moving to the other side of the country to London for university which has come around SCARILY fast – it feels like I was taking my A Level exams just the other day! At the moment, I’m excited to go and meet new people and study subjects that I love, but I know nearer the time I’ll probably be quite nervous, so I thought writing this post would hype me up a bit and also give me some inspiration for days out whilst I’m there. I haven’t really been to London a lot – although I did go twice last summer which ultimately convinced me to go to uni there, but before that I hadn’t been since I was very small! So it’s safe to say there are a lot of London landmarks that I haven’t been to yet – some of which I will be sharing in this bucket list.

Before I start, I apologise for the lack of relevant (??) photos in this post! I wanted to include some fancy photography but as I haven’t really been to these places, I didn’t really have any. Although!! I do have a tube map and colour-in map of London (which I need to finish colouring!!) which the amazing Eve sent to me in a swap box we did a few years ago! So I did have a few London-y props. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling and get onto the bucket list!!

(Also: do any Miranda fans remember Stevie Sutton’s bucket list because I was SO TEMPTED to start this post with that haha)

Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban book next to a pot plant

I couldn’t not include Harry potter in this could I??? When I was little, my dad took us on a tour of Harry Potter filming locations that he’d put together around London and it was SO MUCH FUN although Platform 9 3/4 wasn’t there then so I HAVE to visit it!!!! ( You never know, maybe I’ll get a Hogwarts letter soon too).

Warner Bros Studio Tour

More Harry Potter stuff but AHHHH I’D LOVE TO GOOOOOO!! I know my uni does an a annual trip so hopefully I can visit it then!!

London Eye

I have never been on the eye and I feel like it’s something you have in London?? I’m not a big fan of heights but I do love photographing amazing views so hopefully that’ll distract me from how high up it is haha.

Tate Modern

I remember going to the Tate when I was really young and I probably didn’t appreciate art much back then. I love going to galleries though – I find it so relaxing so hopefully I’ll find time to visit the Tate and other galleries in London!

See a West End musical

I LOVE MUSICALSSSS. And we don’t get many big musicals touring where I live ๐Ÿ˜ฆ There are so many I’d like to see though so it would take me forever to decide haha.

Using the Tube

Tube map hidden behind leaves

This may seem not seem very interesting to people who are used to taking the tube, but I’ve only used it once (which was HECTIC AHH) and my goal is by the end of uni to actually be able to navigate the tube by myself and not look like a flustered tourist.

Houses of Parliament

I’m hoping as I’m studying politics that we will get to visit and watch some debates. I visited the Welsh Senedd last year and it was so interesting!! I’m low key sad that Big Ben won’t be fully functioning for the entire time I’m in London though due to it’s repair works ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Churchill War Rooms

We wanted to visit the War Rooms last time we were in London but the queue was so big and it was close to closing time so we had to give it a miss, but the history fanatic in me definitely needs to go back and visit.

French Film Festival

This isn’t like specific to London as such, but every year there is a French Film Festival in the UK where lots of independent cinemas around the UK show French films. I wanted to go last year because my favourite French film was showing but all the locations were too far away from home, but hopefully this year I can watch a film or two in London!

London Pride!! ๐ŸŒˆ

I’VE NEVER BEEN TO PRIDE AHHH but I really would love to go!!! Especially London Pride as it’d be much bigger than back home! Hopefully I can find people to go with ๐Ÿ™‚

Day trip

Various train tickets next to a cactus

Also not London specific but because London is technically better connected to the rest of the UK than Somerset, I’d love to take a day trip on the train and explore somewhere new in the UK.

Well that concludes my ‘London Bucket List’ so far! (It bothers me that there are only 11 things in this list because ODD NUMBERS AHHH). I know there are many things that I have probably missed out of this, so I’d love to hear your recommendations of places to go and things to see. I’m really looking forward to exploring London more, so hopefully this post will give me a few ideas and motivate me to go out and explore!

Climbing Snowdon the Hard Way

View of mountains. Title reads 'climbing Snowdon the hard way'

A few weeks ago, I ventured off on a camping holiday with my family to Snowdonia, North Wales. As the unorganised blogger I am, I’m only just getting round to sitting down and writing about the experience of climbing Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain. For me, this was one of the highlights of the trip as it proved to be quite an emotional experience, so I thought instead of doing a whole series of travel posts like with Amsterdam, I’d focus on climbing the mountain. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now it’s hard to imagine just how big a mountain is until you’ve seen one and even whilst driving through Snowdonia on the way to our campsite, I just couldn’t believe the sheer size of the mountains there, let alone get my head around the fact that I would be climbing one!

Snowdon itself is 1088 m high – or 3568 ft, if you prefer. This wasn’t my first experience of mountain climbing though. In 2011 I went to Austria with my Scout group and we descended a Tyrolean mountain (can’t remember which one) after taking the ski lift. However, the prospect of climbing up a mountain was more daunting as I wasn’t sure if I’d be physically fit enough to do it.

We chose to climb Snowdon on the third day of our holiday to give us time to settle in to life at the campsite and also give the drizzly weather a chance to pass us by. We didn’t want it to be swelteringly hot like back home (we did go away in the height of the heat wave but it was cooler in North Wales than at home in Somerset) but we also didn’t want to hike in the rain. Luckily, the weather on the day we went wasn’t too bad. It was very cloudy though, so much so that we couldn’t actually see the summit from the ground, but it was cool and dry so we were happy.

Lake in foreground with mountain in background, covered in cloud

I was a little apprehensive about hiking in the fog/mist/clouds (??) because I know how dangerous it can be if you get lost in the fog, however as we were walking one of the more moderate and well-traversed paths, my parents reassured me that we would be fine and wouldn’t lose our way.

One of the hardest parts of the climb turned out to be the very beginning when we were ascending the foothills before actually setting foot on the mountain. There was a very steep zig-zagging path through a sheep farm that was very hard going on your legs and lungs – I struggled to catch my breath and had to rest many times!

I did wonder at this point if I would be able to complete the 8 mile trip up and down the mountain if I was struggling on the first bit, but my determination to reach the summit made me persevere and I’m so glad I did.

The next part of the route was fairly flat as we walked along the foothills towards Snowdon. The mountain itself is sort of nestled between other, smaller mountains and hills so you have to cross these hills before you actually reach Snowdon.

Twisting path up a mountainside covered in cloud

Starting the ascent of Snowdon was required some climbing and scrambling the terrain was very rocky and the path zig-zagged between large rocks jutting from the mountainside. It actually felt like we were walking through the set of Doctor Who or something, it wasn’t like anyone I’ve ever walked before and the Austrian mountains were certainly very different! The looming cloud made it feel slightly eerie too.

Rocks pertruding from mountainside
The rocky mountainside surrounded by cloud.

The higher we ascended up this steep section of the mountain, the further into the cloud we plunged. At some points it seemed as if the clouds were moving up the mountain with us but then the wind would force the down again, surrounding us. Walking through clouds is a strange experience – in some places our field of vision was restricted to a two metre radius, and by the time we’d reached the top, we were quite wet as if we’d been in a rain shower due to the water vapour that forms the clouds and clings to your body.

Once we’d reached the top of the first ‘peak’, there was a flat area of ground where – if the cloud cleared – you could see the nearby town of Llanberis, where many walkers choose to start their ascent from. At this point, we had no idea how far we’d walk and even less idea of how far we had left to go. We still couldn’t see the summit and the path ahead disappeared into the cloud so it was sort of a guessing game really.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
The path ahead!

The next section felt like it lasted forever as if time had stood still. The path wasn’t particularly steep, more like a gradual slope, but it was at this point in the climb that we began to feel the temperature dropping and as we were even further into the cloud, the fog became much thicker, even distorting the sound of jet planes flying over the mountain. It was really quite disorientating not being able to see the planes over head. They felt a lot closer than they probably were.

Since we’d started climbing the mountain, we’d barely passed any other walkers. I don’t know if it was because the weather put people off, but we probably encountered only about 3 or 4 other groups of people. Their shadows would emerge in the fog, they’d pass us by and encourage us to keep going and then disappear back into the fog. At some points, we were very relieved when this happened as it really didn’t feel like we were anywhere on Earth.

The cloud also was disorientating in the sense that it distorted images too. I remember debating with my family many times whether a vague lump in the distance was a sheep (as there were many sheep on the mountain) or a rock. Some of the sheep just looked huge! I even mistook a seagull for a llama, which sounds rather stupid, but I saw a long neck emerging through the fog which looked much bigger than any seagull I’ve ever seen, so I just presumed it was a llama!

Even though passers-by kept reassuring us we were nearly at the top, it really didn’t mean anything when you can’t see where you’re heading anyway. The summit still felt miles away.

It wasn’t until we heard – and saw – the Snowdon mountain train emerge through the cloud, heading down the mountain, that we really felt we were almost there, as at this point the route we were following joined with another path so we encountered many more people, both going up and down the mountain.

Single carriage train in mist
The train surrounded by fog.

Although we still couldn’t see much, we knew we were walking along the top ‘edge’ of the mountain, on our way to it’s peak, as the path had flattened out and it was considerably colder. We were later informed that it was actually 10 degrees at the top, compared to 24 at the bottom. We were glad we’d brought extra layers with us as we’d walked the majority in just shorts and t-shirts!

This was one of my favourite parts of the climb as as we were heading towards the summit, the path was lined by large pointed rocks sticking vertically out of the ground, and as we couldn’t see much more than a metre either side of us, we had no idea how high up we were or how close we were to the edge. It was thrilling, in a way, knowing whether was a large descent but not knowing how close we were to danger. If it was a clear day, however, I probably wouldn’t have like it as much as I’m not a big fan of heights.

Eventually the rocky path gave way to steps heading upwards and we could see the vague shape of the summit itself in the distance, people swarming round to take photos.

Rocky path towards small mound of rocks (summit) in the distance
The summit, still shrouded by mist!

To reach the summit itself, you had to walk up some large spiral stone steps. At this point, our legs were so tired we ended up crawling up the steps. Also this was out of fear because we couldn’t see either side of the steps so we had no idea how close the land below was if we fell. (We probably looked like right idiots haha).

Spiral stone steps
The steps!

My mum almost didn’t make it to the summit as she has problems with her knees but we persuaded her to do it as she’d made it so far, she couldn’t let a few steps defeat her!

Me stood behind trig point wearing a blue rain coat and looking rather soggy
Hello, this is me at the summit, looking rather a mess but happy!!

The trig point on the summit itself told you how far it was to other places in Wales and around the world, but I didn’t want to hang around up there too long to read things because I was starting to feel a little be wary of how high we were!

It was an exhilarating feeling to reach the summit though, knowing that I’d overcome physical challenges in the three hours it took us to ascend, but also mental challenges in motivating myself to carry on. It sounds strange but I’ve never felt more alive than I did on that mountain. I was tired yet so energised and my mind felt so refreshed. In a funny way I couldn’t help feeling that the climb had been a bit of a metaphor for life because once I’d overcome the challenge of climbing the mountain, I felt like I could overcome any obstacle that life threw at me. I felt strong. And even though we were wading through fog for most of the hike, we knew we had to keep going and trust that our feet would lead us where we needed to go, even if we couldn’t see the path ahead. That made me feel that even when things feel foggy in life, I’ve got to keep going, keep fighting. I think I needed that revelation, more than anything else about the experience. It really helped me to regain my perspective on life again after a difficult few months mental health-wise.

Anyway, let me get back on track. After reaching the summit and taking a few photos, we went into the visitor centre. It felt strange that somewhere so natural and far from modern life had been commercialised – with train and now the visitor centre. Either way, I was happy to have somewhere warm to rest my feet, eat and buy a few souvenirs (now I can say I’ve been there, done that and (literally) got the t-shirt!).

I think people who had taken the train up that day were a little disappointed that they couldn’t admire the view from the top because the cloud was so thick but we were happy that we’d made it, and climbing the mountain proved to be more about completing the challenge rather than admiring the view for my family and I.

After about an hours rest, we headed back down the mountain with a new-found spring in our step. The paths that we had traversed earlier which felt like they were never-ending we now descended with ease and we walked down about twice as quickly as we’d gone up.

Railway track to the left, people descending in the centre and roc
Descending the mountain and disappearing into the clouds.

The cloud still hadn’t really cleared, but when we’d reached the sort of viewpoint again where you could look over Llanberis, the cloud did clear for a few minutes so we could get a glimpse of the view (from about a third of the way up the mountainside).

View of town with mountains either side
Looking out at the view of Llanberis.

We stopped again at the top of the second zig-zag section we’d walked up, where I took a few photos of the view across from Snowdon.

Lake in the foreground, mountains in the background
We started our walk over the hill on the right.

It turns out walking down the very first zig-zag section through the sheep farm was just has hard as walking up had been. it really does take a toll on your knees, walking down a steep slope.

Eventually, we got back to the car and our time on the mountainside was over. It was a bit sad, in a way, as we had to go back to reality now, but I was still very proud that we’d all managed to it.

In an amusing turn of events, as we were driving away from the mountain, the cloud around the top completely cleared! It was so ironic we had to stop to take a photo of the whole mountain. If only the cloud had cleared just a few hours earlier when we were at the summit we would have been able to witness the stunning views!

Mountain through the trees
The summit is the pointy bit in the middle, we climbed up from the left hand side!

All in all though, climbing Snowdon the hard way was everything I expected it to be and more. I’m so grateful that my parents were willing to drive almost 6 hours to take us to the beautiful place that is Snowdonia. By the end of our long week away, I had grown quite attached to the scenery and didn’t want to leave.

I know someday I want to return and climb Snowdon again, to feel the emotions I felt up on the mountainside again. But for now all I can do is plan my next adventure and keep hold of these memories. ๐Ÿ™‚

Amsterdam Day 4|5am adventures and home :'(

Day 1|Day 2|Day 3

Our last day ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Due to our early flight, we had to check out from the hostel at 4am. Considering we’d only gotten to sleep at 2am due to noise in the hostel after the football game, we were pretty shattered.

However it was fun to navigate the streets of Amsterdam in the semi-dark when there weren’t so many cars, trams and bikes to avoid!

We walked through the Rijksmuseum tunnels into Museumplein before getting our bus so we could finally take photos by the i.amsterdam sign without hoards of tourists.

Rijksmuseum at night

We then discovered that the art installation Self-Portrait of a Dreamer by Joseph Klibansky in the water outside the Rijksmuseum was lit up at night! It looked so pretty and space-like with reflections of light in the water – I managed to get some good photos!

Astronaut statue lit up

Then it was time to get the bus and headed back to Schipol Airport. We saw a lovely sunrise that morning but it didn’t stop me from being sad about living such a wonderful city behind.

We spent our time at the airport getting breakfast – I had a cheese and ham croissant which was AMAZING – and doing some last souvenir shopping before boarding our flight and sadly heading off home.

The only good thing about the flight home was that we flew right above our local beaches and it was so cool to see them from the air!! When we landed on the runway at Bristol it was raining (surprise surprise) which just made me want to go back to Amsterdam more.

I was very tired for most of that day, as we’d had to get up at 4am and when I got home it was only 8:30am so my family were just waking up but it felt like lunch time for me ๐Ÿ˜‚.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay in Amsterdam and there is definitely more I want to come back and do!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series and if you’re heading out on your travels soon, have a lovely time. ๐Ÿ™‚

(P.S. I am writing this just before heading off on holiday to Wales so I don’t have time to upload all the photos that I’d like to from my laptop so it’s possible that I’ll add more when I get home!)

Amsterdam Day 3|Art, architecture and nature :)

Amsterdam Rijks

Day 1| Day 2

Day 3!!!!!!! We all managed to get a much better sleep, and as we were planning to have a more relaxing day today, we weren’t in a rush to have breakfast and go out. I actually really enjoyed breakfast at the hostel, as I mentioned before the food was really nice, but also the general atmosphere of the hostel was very friendly, despite the mixture of ages and nationalities. Also the restaurant area was really artsy with bright, colourful patterns and words relating to Amsterdam written over the walls in big letters (looked nicer than it sounds, trust me!!).

Our first stop of the day was again the nearby Albert Heijn to buy lunch for the day – I bought some honey stroopwafels which were delicious!!!!! I’ve been obsessed with stroopwafels since my swap box with Michelle a few years ago, so thanks to her for introducing me to them! I couldn’t leave the Netherlands without buying some!

Our plans for the day were to visit the Rijksmuseum which is a museum of Dutch art and history across the past few centuries. Since we are under 19, our tickets were free which was cool! The actual architecture of the Rijksmuseum building is so beautiful (I attempted to draw it in today’s header but lol it doesn’t do it justice!!) and HUGE. When we were inside, we somehow walked past the desk where you could collect a map, so we ended up wandering around the various floors and exhibitions not really knowing where we were??

Rijksmuseum

I think we managed to see most of the Renaissance exhibition, which had many religion-based paintings and artefacts from France, Italy and Spain from what I can remember! I particularly liked these mourning statues.

Row of metal mourning statues

We then went on a hunt for the library as I’d seen photos online beforehand it was definitely worth having a look!! I mean, wouldn’t it be amazing to have your own library like this with spiral stairs?!?!?

Library
Source

We then ended up upstairs where we saw an exhibition about the Napoleonic era and some Vincent van Gogh paintings!! I was really excited to see the van Gogh paintings – I think these are probably the most famous pieces of artwork I have seen (I went to the Tate Modern years ago but can’t actually remember what art I saw as smol Em wasn’t as into art). I’d love to see Starry Night one day.

Van Gogh self portrait and other paintings

Finally we made it to the Hall of Honour on the top floor where famous Dutch paintings (I think they were just Dutch but as I didn’t have the guide I could be wrong) are displayed. Here we saw Rembrandt’s The Night Watch and admiring the huge stained glass windows at the end of the hall.

The Night Watch, Rembrandt

Somewhere in the museum, we also came across this Studio Drift exhibition which I believe is called Shylight. I think they’re meant to represent flowers opening and closing – they were really relaxing to watch and almost kind of hypnotic??

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Overall, I really enjoyed visiting the Rijksmuseum – my inner art-lover was happy although wishing we had more time to explore the whole museum and other art galleries in Amsterdam!

We ate lunch in Museumplein, watching the hustle and bustle of people around the i.amsterdam sign and desperately trying to shoo away pigeons that kept trying to eat our stroopwafels and fruit!! We did walk around Museumplein as well and almost went into the Moco Museum as there was a big Banksy exhibition there and Banksy is from Bristol (near home!!). However we didn’t have enough time to go in as we had other things planned for the afternoon. We also saw Stedelijk and the Van Gogh Museum, which I definitely want to come back and visit!

Our next plan was to try to find the bus stop that we would have to take the airport express from the following morning. The stop was by the Rijksmuseum but it took us ages to find it because for some reason, when we got off the bus there a few days ago, the bus didn’t actually stop near the bus stop so we weren’t sure if it was the correct one, but after checking timetables and signs we figured it out eventually.

As the sun had come out and it was getting warmer, we headed over to Vondelpark to walk around and explore. My friend showed us the hostel she stayed in last year that was in the entrance to Vondelpark, then we walked around a few of the lake areas and ended up just sitting down and chilling for a bit in the sunshine. I love parks and nature, so it was really relaxing to be out of the busy streets into a more peaceful area of the city!

Flower bed and statue

After a few hours, we headed back to our hostel as we wanted to head out for dinner earlier as it was our last night. We chose to go the De Carrousel Pannenkoeken for dinner, which was a really cool pancake house on an old carousel. It was in an area of Amsterdam that we hadn’t explored yet, so it was nice to see a different area of the city! (Plus pancakes are delicious!!!!!!!!). I had a ham and cheese pancake and then poffertjes (which are a Dutch speciality, kind of like mini-pancakes???) with cherries and cream – it was sooo nice!!

Finally we went back to the hostel and packed our things as we had to check out early for our flight the next day. We spent the evening in the hostel bar watching the England/Croatia game, which was possibly a bad idea as most of the guests were supporting Croatia so we just hid in a corner haha.

I was kind of sad it was our last day, because I was really enjoying the trip and the freedom of being able to do what we wanted to do that I hadn’t experienced before on family holidays or school trips – I actually felt like a responsible adult for once! However as I loved Amsterdam so much, I knew I would be coming back some day! ๐Ÿ™‚

Amsterdam Day 2|Canal adventures!

Amsterdam canals

(Read Day 1 here!)

The second day of our Dutch adventure began in a rather unexpected way. We woke up to find that we had no electricity in our room and our phones that we’d left to charge overnight were completely dead! We had to go to reception and report what happened and they called an electrician to come and sort out the electrics whilst we were eating breakfast (which was delicious!). It turns out we’d accidentally left the mirror light on in the bathroom and it had blown a fuse overnight, but it was soon fixed which was a relief (although slightly embarrassing that we hadn’t even been at the hostel 24 hours and already had an incident…).

Anyway, the breakfast we had was surprisingly nice – there was a choice of cereals, toast, cold meats, fruit and even pancakes so we definitely had enough energy for a busy day of sightseeing (and it really was busy) after eating!

As it was our first full day in the city, we’d planned to take a canal tour and get our bearings, as well as seeing the sights and learning more about Amsterdam’s history. Although before we got on the boat, we managed to locate our nearest supermarket, an Albert Heijn on the main street at the end of our road. There I got a second breakfast (I’m sorry I can’t resist croissants!!!!!) and we bought our lunch for the day incase we weren’t near a supermarket around lunchtime. I think we also looked in some of the tourist shops but I can’t quite remember as we walked down that street so many times throughout the trip!

It was actually raining quite heavily so we had to wear our rain coats (which I almost forgot to pack) and when we did get to the boat – which was a hop-on, hop-off tour so we could get on and off multiple times and explore the city – the roof was on, which made it a bit difficult to see out of the windows due to the raindrops but at least we were dry.

The boat had an audio tour guide which you could plug headphones in. I started off listening in French because I need to keep practising but eventually I switched to English as I was worried I was missing important information. It was actually really relaxing seeing the city from the water. I think we spent about 2 hours going round the whole route just to listen to the audio tour before we actually got off. So relaxing that one of my friends fell asleep for part of it!

Canals

Church next to canal

The first place we got off was at the Gassan Diamond Factory as we found out we could have a free tour of the factory included with our boat ticket. It was actually really interesting – we saw people polishing and cutting the diamonds and then learnt about how they were valued. We also stopped off at the shop to get a few souvenirs before finding somewhere to sit and eat lunch. My family and I collect patches on our camp blankets from places we’ve travelled and Scout camps so I bought some for us all. ๐Ÿ™‚

Embroidered patches

We wanted to go to the Waterlooplein market next but we discovered it was quicker to walk there than wait for the boat to arrive to take us so we (successfully this time) navigated ourselves to the market. I love looking around markets – we have some at home in Bristol but they’re all fairly small. What I like about markets is that there are a lot of handmade gifts and small businesses so you often find more unique products than you would in more tourist-y areas. My friend and I both bought some little Delftware animals for our families as gifts. I got my nan an elephant as she has a small herd of elephants in her living room, so I thought it would be a nice addition!

I also bought myself some clog slippers – which I had been wanting to get ever since my friend brought some home from Amsterdam last year. Plus my slippers at home were broken so I did actually need new ones!!! I got yellow and red ones with a windmill and tulips on the top – they’re actually the comfiest pair of slippers I’ve ever had and I’ve been living in them since I got home!!

We then walked to the next boat stop which was over the Skinny Bridge, which I didn’t realise we’d walked over until about ten minutes later! We tried to run for the boat as we had the app which told us the boat was just at the stop but when we got there it was just pulling away so we ended up having to wait half an hour sat in front of the Hermitage Museum. But as it had stopped raining by this point, it was a good opportunity to take photos of the canals!

Canal

We needed to take the canal boat to the other side of the River IJ to northern Amsterdam as we’d booked tickets for the A’DAM Lookout, which is basically a hotel with a viewing platform on the top where you can see across the whole of Amsterdam. It is also home to Europe’s highest swing as well (fun fact for you) which actually swings you over the edge of the tower! When you arrive at the tower, you get a free photo shoot in front of a green screen with various views of Amsterdam in the background and then you take a very cool lift ride to the top floor (no spoilers!!).

Modern tower
The A’DAM Lookout ๐Ÿ™‚

The views from the roof were just??? AMAZING??? I think we spent a couple of hours up there just admiring the view and taking photos and trying not to get blown off the roof by the wind. We could see the whole extent of the city and surrounding land, it was so beautiful and kind of a surreal feeling thinking about how many people were going about their everyday lives within the radius we could see. The sun actually decided to come out too which was a bonus!

View over city

View across the city and river

My friends went on the swing over the edge, but I’m not great with heights so I was quite happy looking out over the city and trying to pick out landmarks.

The A’DAM Lookout is possibly home to Europe’s highest red horse??? I mean, there can’t be many red metal horses 100m high! We had a bit of an incident with this horse too. I tried to climb up first but it couldn’t make it so I gave up (to be honest I didn’t want to get stuck!). My friend successfully climbed up second but then couldn’t get down so my other friend and I spent ages trying to help her down before a French guy came over and helped to lift her off. Then my other friend managed to climb up and down within a space of 5 minutes. It was quite an interesting experience…

We also went to the floor below the roof which was a bar and had a mini exhibition about Amsterdam, including a model map of the city. We managed to find the street our hostel was on the map so we can’t have been that bad at navigating!! There was also a glass floor, so an obligatory feet photo had to be taken of course.

Model of Amsterdam

Glass floorAfter leaving the tower, we went for a stroll along by the river. It was nice to be in a part of Amsterdam that wasn’t busy with tourists and residents and that we could walk around the grassy paths peacefully in the sunshine. We thought we’d missed the last canal boat so resigned ourselves to the fact that we’d have to take the ferry and walk 40 minutes back to the hostel in the south of the city, but then my friend spotted the canal boat at the jetty so we sprinted all the way along the waterside to see if we could catch the boat. The boat started pulling away so two of us gave up running but my friend carried on and the boat driver actually came back to the jetty to pick us up which was so kind of her (although a bit embarrassing for us!). One thing I noticed whilst in Amsterdam was how friendly Dutch people are – in Britain that never would have happened – and on other occasions too I was surprised at how friendly everyone was, like at some of the restaurants we visited where staff would have a proper conversation with you about where you were from and what you’d been up to – Amsterdam felt like such a friendly place.

View across river

Anyway, so we managed to get on the canal boat which would have taken us all the way back to the hostel but as the sun was out still, we decided to get off at the Anne Frank House and walk the rest of the way. I really wanted to go inside the Anne Frank House but we didn’t have time unfortunately, but I am definitely going to go back again!!!

We took a detour to walk through Dam Square and see the palace. It was very busy in Dam Square and pigeons (and my friend) kept photo-bombing my photos haha but it was good to see the palace! After that, we carried on walking back to the hostel which was surprisingly straightforward and we passed the Bloemenmarkt – or floating flower market – as well and had a look around because you can’t go to Holland without seeing tulips!! (These photos were taken on my phone because I somehow forgot I had my camera with me??? So excuse the poor quality).

Busy square
Dam Square
Palace with pigeons in foreground
Dam pigeons!!
Array of flower bouqet
Sunflowers = van Gogh vibes!

It really was an action-packed day, and we were exhausted by the time we got back to the hostel so ended up going out for dinner quite late. Especially as one of my friends got locked in the bathroom in our room so it took like half an hour for various hostel staff to unlock the door and let her out! Thankfully the staff saw the funny side of it – we thought they might be fed up of us after having to call in an electrician earlier that day – but we were all relieved when she finally got out!

We went to Leidseplein again and this time had pizza. The pubs and bars were really busy as it was the France/Belgium game so when we went to the Hard Rock bar for cocktails after dinner, we had to wait for the football to finish before we were served haha.

It was so pretty walking back along the canals at night, and this time I took my camera so I could get some decent shots. It felt really safe walking around too, even thought it was nearly 11pm when we left the bar, because the streets were still busy and a lot of shops were still open, whereas at home its dead at that time so I usually don’t like staying out that late.

Reflections of light in canals at night

Again we stayed up and played cards for a bit and then we swapped my mattress because I’d hardly slept the previous night as it was rock hard and I woke up aching, but luckily we had a four person room between the three of us so I could swap to a comfier mattress!

Hope you’re enjoying reading about my Amsterdam adventure and it will continue with Day 3 soon (when I get around to writing it!!) ๐Ÿ™‚

Amsterdam Day 1|Don’t trust Em to give directions (I got us lost oops)

amsterdam (1)

Hello! Or should I say hallo as I’m writing about my trip to Amsterdam last week. ๐Ÿ™‚

A couple of months ago, two of my friends and I spontaneously decided to book a holiday in Amsterdam. Well, it wasn’t quite like that – we didn’t just rock up at the travel agency and book a holiday on a whim. In fact, we almost didn’t make it to our appointment at the agency as we got the times muddled up and got carried away eating pizza (and our parents still trusted us to go abroad by ourselves?!?). We were hoping to go on holiday in the UK and stay in a caravan or something, but we actually discovered that it would be cheaper to go on a European city break than holiday here, especially as not many places in the UK will allow groups of teenagers to stay, so going abroad was sort of a last minute decision. As one of my friends went to a Scout and Guide jamboree in the Netherlands last year, we thought Amsterdam would be a good option as at least one of us was (kind of) familiar with the city already.

I’ve wanted to go to Amsterdam for a while now – not only because I’d have a greater chance of bumping into my bae Douwe Bob ๐Ÿ˜‰ – but also to explore Dutch culture too. I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to go so soon though!! To be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve actually been, haha, but I’m looking forward to documenting the trip here to look back on in the future.

Anyway, we left the UK last Monday to head off on our adventure. I was actually quite stressed beforehand as airport security really stresses me out and I was worried I’d packed something that I wasn’t allowed to take (like my Harry Potter pin badges on my denim jacket – I would have been so sad if they had confiscated them, but luckily they didn’t). Funnily enough, I actually had to be patted down both times we went through security as I apparently had something metal on me which set of the scanners?? But it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be and we were soon through security and waiting for our gate to open, so it worked out okay in the end.

The actual flight only took 55 minutes from Bristol to Amsterdam, which is mad because that’s shorter than the amount of time it used to take me to get to college everyday on the bus!!? I clearly should have just gone to college in the Netherlands instead ๐Ÿ˜‚ As we were flying with KLM, we did get free sandwiches and drinks which was cool as I’ve only ever flown with EasyJet before where you don’t get any refreshments, also the packaging was really cute!

Clouds outside airplane window

We’d tried to organise the holiday as much as possible beforehand, so we’d already bought our tickets for the bus that would take us from Schipol to the city centre. However, it took us a good 30 mins to actually find the stand that the bus was leaving from because the departure board kept sending us to different bus stands – one of which didn’t exist??? We had to get on at stand B17 but we couldn’t find any bus stops past B14 which resulted in us running around like headless chickens along with two other travellers, who were also looking for the same bus, until the bus we needed happened to pull up next to us, so I guess we’d found the invisible B17 stand without realising? It was confusing.

The chaos continued when we got off outside the Rijksmuseum 40 minutes later. I’d printed out a map and attempted to lead my friends to our hostel but everything looked different in real life and we ended up walking around in circles before we actually found the street we were staying on. I think we must of arrived in rush hour or something as well because the roads were so busy with cars, trams and bikes so it was a nightmare trying to walk through the city with all our luggage. So what should have been a 10 minute walk ended up taking over 30 mins due to my bad map reading. Oops. We landed in Amsterdam at about 4pm I think but it was past 6pm by the time we arrived at the hostel.

Looking down a street
Our hostel on Kerkstraat

We were lucky enough to be staying within the canal belt near to Museumplein and although our hostel branded itself “the worst hostel in the world”, it actually turned out to be rather good compared to other hostels I’ve stayed in! We were on the 4th floor so the view we had from the window was amazing. I spent so much time with my head stuck out the window looking at all the different buildings whenever we came back to the hostel. It really was a great view though.

Dutch houses
View from the window

After unpacking and having a rest, we headed out for dinner. Unsurprisingly, we again ended up walking around in circles trying to get to the Leidseplein area to find somewhere to eat, but we managed to find a shortcut on the way back which we remembered for the following days. We strolled along the canals after dinner and it was beautiful – I really wish I hadn’t left my camera in the hostel but I did manage to get a few (bad quality) photos on my phone!

Canals with flowers in foreground

Yellow car beside canal

Fountain

Multi-coloured Dutch houses

Canals with street lamp in foreground

Hard Rock Cafรฉ sign

I think we ended the day by playing UNO and Irish Snap in the hostel, and of course I kept looking out of the window trying to get photos of the street at nighttime (I was obsessed with this window ahh I miss the view!).

Most of day 1 was spent travelling to Amsterdam, as you can tell, as we had an afternoon flight. However it was really relaxing to have the evening to settle in before our busy second day of the trip!

Hope you enjoyed reading about our first day in the city, stay tuned if you want to see what else we got up to. ๐Ÿ™‚

(p.s. I drew all the featured images for this mini-series myself so apologies if the drawings aren’t great haha)