#BEDN Day 2: Travel

#BEDN Day 2: Travel

Travel is a big part of my life and I consider myself very lucky to have visited over 30 countries in my 30 years on this planet. One of the places I’ve visited the most over the years is Amman, Jordan. I’m half Arab and have a rather large family that resides there so every year I go to visit.

This year was a bit different. Topher was doing all the touristy things for the first time (his third trip to Amman itself) and also his sister Emma was coming for the very first time. We had a blast and I wrote about all our touristy travel adventures here:

The Dead Sea

Wadi Rum

Petra

So this is the final instalment of our general wanderings in the city of Amman itself. Jordan may not be at the top of your travel bucket list but it’s definitely somewhere you should consider visiting once in your life.

The Boulevard

Arabs love their shopping malls. So we tend to go to a lot of the ones Amman has to offer. I remember when the first one was built when I was a teen. My cousin and I loved shopping and used to go all the time when I visited. The Boulevard is an outdoor shopping street which is very pretty and always has something going on. Plus this time I noticed loads of street art has popped up since I was last here.

amman - the boulevard

Taj Mall

This is our local mall and has everything we need including a cinema. How cool is this back to school display?

amman - city mall

Amman Citadel

When you think of the Middle East, you don’t tend to think about the Romans but they were definitely here!

amman - citadel

amman - city view

Somewhere downtown

amman - street art

Definitely downtown

amman - greenery

I’m seeing more and more tourists in the past few years and it’s pretty cool to see. I don’t tend to venture downtown much as I spend a lot of time with my family but it was nice to have a wander this year.

amman - alley

amman - bunting

The instagrammer in me was very excited to see these colourful steps!

amman - steps

On our first night we went to a concert in the Roman amphitheatre which was really awesome. Literally sitting in history.

ampitheatre

concert

Next year will be the first year I won’t be able to go so bring on 2020!

Where’s your favourite place to travel?

Continue Reading

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Last stop on our tourist jaunt down south in Jordan; Petra. I’ve done a photo diary of Petra the last time I went which you can check out here. To be honest the quality of the photos is a hell of a lot better in that one. Probably because I wasn’t slowly melting in the August sunshine that time. I mean, I actually wore jeans back then. So top tip: go in April or at least avoid the summer unless you enjoy finding out the temperature when you start cooking.

If you can only go in the summer then at least go in the morning. We finished about lunchtime and to my horror I saw loads of American tour groups just starting their trek. Good luck guys.

So we arrived at Petra around midday where we took full advantage of the hotel. We stayed at the Petra Marriott and had a swim and a sleep before having a traditional bedouin dinner and watching the sunset.

Petra - dinner

Petra - sunset

So you may be thinking the evening was over but it was then time to head out again. Petra now offers a chance to see The treasury portion of this wonder of the world at night. It’s ticket only and they are limited. You gather at the entry gate and all then follow a guide to get to the treasury.

Petra - lanterns

We were advised to hang back and let the initial crowd go first by someone at the entrance but we disregarded it and stayed very near the front of it. And I’m glad we did because we got a chance to take photos before there were too many people. Plus large groups of tourists have an annoying habit of never turning the flash off on their cameras. So much flash photography!

Anyway, the photo above is before the swarms arrived and the ones below are when they ran out of room and had to seat people between the lanterns in front of us.

Petra - night time

We were waiting for awhile and I’m not sure exactly what we were waiting for – we thought a show? Turned out it wasn’t much of a show. A man played a flute and then told a very short story about the history of Petra. We did get some bedouin tea though. I think the whole thing could have been organised a lot better. And the £17 aprox price tag per person is pretty steep for what you got as it’s not included in your regular Petra ticket price. If you want to see the treasury at night then it’s worth it – just make sure you have a good camera and stay near the front of the crowd!

Petra - purple night

Anyway it was a fun little outing and we had to head to bed so we could wake up refreshed to see all of Petra in the daylight hours.

After a very filling hotel breakfast we checked out of our hotel and set off to the Petra welcome centre. As I said in my previous post about Petra, the main trail is about a 3 mile walk so we came prepared. Comfy shoes, giant obnoxious sunhats for Emma and I, while the others opted for something a little more local. If you buy a headscarf from one of the stalls in the welcome centre, they will help you put it on in the traditional way. It made spotting Topher and my family easy in a crowd.

Petra - headscarves

I didn’t take many photos in the canyon because my camera crapped out despite having charged it the night before. Lesson learned: always bring extra batteries! I just used my phone for the rest of the day.

Petra - almost there

I love getting that first glimpse of the treasury through the gorge walls – makes you feel like you’re on an adventure!

Petra - first sight

Petra - treasury

People tend to think Petra is just the treasury section above but actually it’s massive. All the photos below are everything else you can find.

Petra - big rocks

You tend to also forget about all the Roman influence in the Middle East but here stands living proof that they were here so many years ago.

Petra - ampitheatre

It’s crazy to think that people used to live in these caves below up until the 1980s.

Petra - caves

It was so cool to walk along this Roman road.

Petra - roman road

We actually made it all the way to the end of the main trail this time. If you have more time on your hands (and less sunshine!) there are plenty of hikes you can do on this site.

Petra - temple

Absolutely shattered we made it back to the car and headed back to Amman.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in my Jordan blogs: Back in Amman: Downtown.

Continue Reading

An Anniversary Trip to Anglesey

An Anniversary Trip to Anglesey

If you read my last post then you’ll know that I recently had a weekend away to Anglesey with Topher for our 1 year wedding anniversary. We stayed in an awesome treehouse which you can read all about here and spent Saturday driving around the island. Here’s what we got up to.

Friday

Since Topher finished work at 3 and myself at 5, Topher would meet me at my work and we would drive over. It usually takes about 2 hours from Manchester but with the Friday rush hour traffic, it took us just under three. We arrived at 8pm and were greeted by our Airbnb hosts.

Anglesey - chinese

After getting a tour and dropping off our stuff, we headed to the Tesco Extra we’d seen back on the mainland to get supplies. We had planned to get fish and chips from the local but unfortunately discovered that they close early. No harm done as the local Chinese was still open. Beef chow mein please. We enjoyed our meal in the grounds that surround the treehouse, watching out for the local wildlife.

Saturday

Starting the day with pastries we’d got from Tesco, along with a big mug of coffee we set off to explore Anglesey.

South Stack was our first port of call as it was the furthest away from the treehouse. Only half an hour though! Everything is easily drivable on the island. South Stack is a lighthouse which is the furthest west you can go on Anglesey. If it was a clearer day maybe we could have even seen Ireland.

Anglesey - south stack

You can actually pay to go inside the lighthouse but we had plenty of other places to go. So we took a few selfies before hopping back in the car.

Anglesey - selfie

The next place we tried to visit was Borth Wen beach. Word of warning – not a place to just randomly show up to late in the morning on a sunny Saturday in the summer. It was rammed. There was nowhere to park and the single lane windy road to get to it almost left us trapped in the car park. If you’ve got your heart set on it, definitely get there early!

By this point we were hungry for some lunch. Fancying some afternoon tea, I’d read about Giddy Aunt Tea Room which is south east on the island.

Anglesey - giddy aunt's tearoom

A pretty cottage in the middle of nowhere which had another cat (yay!), Topher and I wandered inside to be greeted by the owners who were lovely. The afternoon tea was delicious but I had my usual problem of being finished off by the scone and unable to eat the cakes. Of course I’m not one to waste cake so the owners were kind enough to box them up for me. Treehouse snack!

Anglesey - afternoon tea

How cute is this tea cozy?

Anglesey - tea cosy

Our next stop was the point that I realised I had in fact been to Anglesey before. Around the time I started this blog actually! It was a flying visit but I remembered it well. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch definitely has the longest name I’ve ever seen. Just typing that was a challenge let alone trying to say it.

Anglesey - train station

We also managed to find a scenic spot to pull the car over and get some photos of the Menai bridge. How lucky were we with this weather?!

Anglesey - Menai Bridge

Finally we arrived at Beaumaris, a pretty village full of pastel houses and cute shops as well as a castle.

Anglesey - beaumaris

Anglesey - colourful houses

Though neither of us are beach people, Topher and I really enjoyed walking along the boardwalk and the pier. The weather definitely helped.

Anglesey - more beach

Anglesey - sea

Anglesey - pier

After our walk, we had a wander around the shops before heading back to the car and setting off to find dinner. We tried a place called Dylan’s but it’s definitely not a just show up kind of place. At least not on a Saturday. We ended up at the Anglesey Arms where Topher had fish and chips and I had a delicious haddock chowder. Nom.

Anglesey - beach

We finished the day playing Scrabble that we’d brought from home in the treehouse. Guess who won?

Anglesey - scrabble

Sunday

As this was our actual anniversary, we exchanged gifts and cards as well as watching our wedding video. After breakfast we packed up our stuff and headed home.

I had a great time in Anglesey and would definitely go again.

Have you ever been to Anglesey?

Continue Reading

Tales of a Treehouse

Tales of a Treehouse

I think sleeping in a treehouse must feature on a lot of people’s bucket lists, mine included. Last month I finally got to tick it off mine. Wanting to do something interesting for Topher and I’s first wedding anniversary, finding a treehouse to stay in popped into my head. I had just found out that I got my office job so thought why not; lets see what I can find.

After a browse on Airbnb, I found the majority of treehouses were in mainland Europe; at least the real ones. I consider a real treehouse to be somewhat off the ground. Luckily there were a handful in the UK and one was only a stones throw from Manchester. And the reviews were good so I booked it.

The main plus for this particular treehouse is that not only was it off the ground but it had indoor plumbing. Perfect for someone like me who prefers to avoid camping. Of course I forgot to get a photo of the bathroom but you can see it in the listing itself.

treehouse - outside

The Treehouse

Described as a children’s treehouse that got out of hand, this structure has three rooms. The kitchen is at the bottom; the bathroom up the second staircase and the bedroom/living room is at the top. You may have a bit of fun getting up the stairs if you’re on the larger side but it’s all part of the experience!

Outside the kitchen is a yard that is perfect for having your breakfast if the weather is on your side, which it was for us!

treehouse - yard

treehouse - kitchen entrance

The kitchen is small but perfectly functional with everything you need to keep yourself fed. We ate out mostly but the small fridge was ideal to keep some tasty treats for later.

treehouse - kitchen

The bathroom has a toilet and shower but no wash basin. Not the end of the world but I’d recommend either bringing some anti bacterial gel or just washing your hands in the kitchen. The shower was surprisingly good considering I’ve lived in apartments that had showers with barely any pressure at all.

treehouse - entrance

 

treehouse - window

The top floor has a balcony and a barn door that leads you into the living quarters of the treehouse. There’s plenty of seating, a dining table, coffee table as well as a pull out sofa bed. The large trunk contains all the bedding you’ll need for your stay. And if you’re staying in winter there’s a wood burning stove to keep you warm.

treehouse - barn doors

treehouse - sofa bed

treehouse - sitting area

treehouse - tree

The grounds

I was pleasantly surprised at how big the grounds were around the treehouse. As well as the treehouse, you can also stay in a static caravan and a small cottage if you have a bigger party with you. The hosts themselves live in a large house next to the treehouse and were very helpful our whole stay.

We were lucky enough to be the only guests on the Friday night and have the whole place to ourselves. And even though there were other guests on the Saturday night, it wasn’t an inconvenience at all. Though Topher may have given the ladies in the cottage celebrating a birthday a bit of a fright when he climbed down to the bathroom late at night. I don’t think they realised anyone was staying in the treehouse! Pretty funny.

treehouse - grounds

treehouse - toadstool garden

The Experience

We stayed in the treehouse two nights and had a great time. When we were alone on the Friday night, we saw the local wildlife; rabbits, the neighbor’s chickens, cows in the next field and the chatty house cat. It was lovely having a takeaway on the vast lawn and watching the world go by.

Coming in July was great as the weather was on our side and it really added to the atmosphere. Plus it really helped that it wasn’t cold when you had to nip out to the bathroom in the middle of the night! The treehouse had motion sensor lights outside so you could find your way, but I still managed to spook myself a little! I had to laugh when Topher asked why I practically ran up the stairs. No reason, just me convincing myself that there could be anything out there in the dark – when there was nothing but the cat.

treehouse - me in toadstool garden

My wimpyness aside, we had a perfect anniversary trip. I would definitely recommend this for someone who likes their basic creature comforts but still wants to have a bit of an adventure. It’s a thumbs up from both Topher and I. Now, how to top this next year?

Have you ever stayed in a treehouse?

Continue Reading

How I Plan a Multi-Destination Holiday

Topher & I’s honeymoon was a whirlwind of a two-week adventure that we spent in three American cities. There were four flights, six hotels and a two-day road trip in the middle. We travelled with hand luggage only and we were on a budget. That holiday was planned right down to the last detail.

I have a bit of anxiety with trips like this where I don’t like to be unsure. I don’t want to be wandering round for hours trying to find somewhere decent to eat, I don’t want to be getting lost and I certainly don’t want to miss out on really seeing a city.

Topher said this was the best trip he’d ever been on and I agree. We saw so much in so little time, we didn’t have a single bad meal, and we kept to our budget; even going home with money in our pockets and extra souvenirs.

We had a plan in place and adjusted it whenever we needed to.

 

This blog post is how I planned it and tips on how you can plan your own multi-destination holiday.

Put the kettle on because this is going to be a long one!

So a quick disclaimer when I say multi-destination; I mean multi city (usually in the same country) where there is so much to do and very little time. Not one of those relaxing beach holidays. Because with those, it’s super easy to go with the flow and relaxing is in the title for a reason.

Also, this is just what I do. This isn’t for everyone. It can seem quite restricting to some people but I think it can be quite useful. Particularly for fellow anxious people who want to go on a holiday like this but are put off by all the uncertainty of being in a completely different country and not knowing what to do.

Hell, I got freaked out by having to use the New York subway for the first time so I looked on Youtube beforehand to see how it was done. It definitely saved me from holding up all the locals when I went through the barriers for the first time. Research is my friend. It gives me confidence.

Anyway, enough rambling, let’s dive in.

 

Set the dates

bullet journal setup - calendar & japan savings

Back in the days where my husband didn’t work in a school – I’d just pick these randomly. Decide on a month and then go with what’s the cheapest. Tuesdays are usually good days to fly but not everyone has that option. We certainly don’t anymore! You do you. Fit your dates into your schedule.

Remember to consider things like time of year and weather depending on the country you’re going to. Because who wants to mess that up? I certainly did when I booked Disneyland Paris in February on a whim. And then forgot my hat and gloves. So fricken cold! Will definitely be picking a milder time of year next time.

Also remember that weather is not always the same between the different cities you’ll be visiting too. I picked September for our honeymoon as I discovered that San Francisco is actually pretty cold in the summer months.

 

Get a spreadsheet

Or a notebook or bullet journal but trust me spreadsheets are awesome for this kind of planning as they are so easy to edit and they will be edited a lot!

I usually start with a spreadsheet early on where I dump all the information I find during my research so that everything is in one place.

 

Do a lot of research 

Activities

San Francisco - segway

I start by looking up what kind of things we want to do in each location. What are the major sites and do not miss experiences? Use travel guides, books, blogs, Google, Pinterest and also ask people who have been.

Make a list and then you’ll be able to see approximately how much time you need in each location. Decide on what your priorities are. What do you want to see on your holiday?

Do you love shopping? Museums? Sight-seeing? Food? Do your research and find cannot miss locations. I personally can’t recommend blogs enough for this. I spent some time making a list of activities that kept popping up on people’s recommendations along with stuff that Topher and I would be interested in. This led me to amazing things like The Color Factory in San Francisco. Thanks Instagram!

 

Food

This is the same technique I used for activities. Good food on a budget is very important to Topher and I did all the research for this too. I used Pinterest and blogs and took note of the same places that kept coming up.

It’s especially handy to get recommendations from locals (I bloody love the internet). Though Trip Advisor is great for reviews of hotels and activities, I’ve heard that using them for restaurants tend to lead you to places that are just full of fellow tourists. Not always bad, but it’s nice to get a mix of famous places and stuff the locals love.

 

Google Maps are a saviour

Google Maps allow you to save locations on your smart phone and it’s a great tool for holiday planning. So all the activities and food locations I’ve dumped into a spreadsheet, I save in Google Maps. It allows me to see where everything is and if we’ll be able to get there.

There was plenty of food places that I wouldn’t have minded visiting on our honeymoon but there were just too far out of the way. And I wouldn’t have realised if I hadn’t have used this tool.

Plus it saves so much time when you’re actually there. If you’re in a country where you have access to wifi or you’re on a “feel at home” type plan like I am then use it. It’s ideal for getting to places quickly and reducing your chances of getting lost.

 

Hotels

Los Angeles - hotel room
I tend to save hotels until after I know vaguely where we’re going to be going. Using Google maps, take a look at everything you’ve saved and where would be the best place for you to stay. Because as nice as that hotel you’ve found is, who wants to be schlepping back and forth to something that’s no where near anything you want to do?

Don’t forget to look into what kind of areas are good for staying in too otherwise you could end up somewhere that’s good logistically, but not so much in terms of atmosphere!

And of course, check the reviews. I actually forgot to do this for the last hotel of our honeymoon and it wasn’t the nicest. It’s something that we laugh about now but I’ve certainly learned my lesson. Trip Advisor is your destination for this, though take some reviews with a pinch of salt as some people just can’t be pleased.

 

Allow for travel time

It’s highly unlikely that the cities you’ll be visiting will be right next door to each other so allow for travel time. And how will you be traveling? For our USA adventure, Topher and I mainly had to rely on planes (NYC to California) but we also hired a car and drove between San Francisco and LA. That drive can be done in a day but we decided to stretch it out over two in order to pace ourselves and get an extra morning in at San Francisco.

Figure out what the best transportation option is for you. Next year when we visit Japan, we’ll be using trains. But people on a tighter budget may consider buses and people who have a much bigger budget can just fly between cities. It all depends on you.

And then make sure to factor in how long your chosen transport will take. Will this eat into some of the activities you planned on doing? This is where the spreadsheet can really come in handy because you can lay it all out.

Madonna Inn - rental car

Flights

I leave this until last to plan as you might have dates set in stone or you might just see what kind of deal you get when you book. But it’s usually one of the first things I book. Since I plan big holidays more than a year in advance, it’s too early for flights. Plus you can’t know what flights you need until you know how long you’re staying in each place.

So once it’s less than a year, I tend to use Skyscanner to search for flights. Use an incognito window to search each time as not doing so can affect prices. Damn cookies. Anyway, I also set up an email alert, check back often and when the price is right – jump!

Another tip, if you’re ok flying indirect do it, as it’s usually cheaper.

 

Set the itinerary

Once you know everywhere you want to go, eat and where you’re staying. It’s time to slot everything into place.

Remember to be realistic. Set one activity for each portion of the day – figure out how long things will take including travel time. Don’t book yourselves a lunch reservation across town when you’re doing something that takes all day.

Also find out things like opening times. Sometimes tourist attractions are closed on random days of the week and it’s so disappointing to find out when you arrive. And some things you need to book in advance. For example, if you want to go up the Statue of Liberty you need to book at least a month in advance. Sometimes more depending on the season. Otherwise you can only go to the island and look at it from the outside.

But then I’ve also messed this up as we tried to visit a specific food market and I got the day wrong. Oops! It would have been funny if we hadn’t walked miles to get there. Don’t do this.

Once again, this is where your saved locations in Google maps is super useful. Link up things that are close to each other to do and eat on the same day so that you’re not zigzagging across the city. A waste of time, money on travel and on your energy.

 

Budget Baby

Budgets are sexy!….but they really aren’t. Still, I always set the budget after I’ve done my research. Definitely before I book anything though. As our household doesn’t have a lot of disposable income, I like to make sure we can book the holiday far enough in advance that we’re able to save up for it.

This is where the spreadsheet gets edited a lot. Hotels are switched out for cheaper alternatives and I keep a note of everything that will cost money including travel and activities.

To make a food budget I had a quick look at my chosen restaurant’s menus online for prices so I could gage how much we would spend. In every instance I would over budget so we would never be short on cash. And it definitely worked! This was the main reason why we ended up coming home with spare money. Also you find out things like portion sizes. But remember that you can’t know everything before you go. If I’d known how big these pancakes in LA were going to be then Topher and I would definitely saved money and shared a stack.Spoiler alert – I didn’t finish mine. Neither did Topher.

Los Angeles Food - diane vs pancakes

Know what you can afford and plan your holiday accordingly. Because who wants to be stuck with a load of credit card debt, right? And please don’t try the YOLO argument with me because my credit score is flawless baby.

 

Adjust the plan

Plans are there to be adjusted on the fly. I’m not saying that you must stick rigidly to your plan. It’s just there so you can have an understanding of what you’re doing and not waste your time on getting lost. Shit happens and that’s ok.

For example, when Topher and I were exhausted in San Francisco (and kinda sunburnt), we changed our plan. We’d hiked to this amazing pie shop to find that they didn’t have any air-conditioning and it was hotter than hell inside. We skipped it. I love pie, but not that much.

In fact, we were so tired that we skipped our stroll through the Mission District afterwards and headed back to our hotel. We bought snacks along the way and stayed in bed the rest of the afternoon watching Family Fortunes and Princess and the Frog. Perfect!

If you’re tired and want a break, you just have to ask yourself – will I be sorry I missed this? We’d already been on a bus through Mission District earlier that day so we kinda saw it anyway. It was definitely worth the break for us.

So if you need to adjust the plan, just adjust it. The world won’t end.

 

Extra crazy planning steps

For our honeymoon I looked up directions to everywhere ahead of time and wrote them in a little notebook. Right down to bus numbers and walking paths. Very weird but in my defense we never got lost and I didn’t have to think about anything because it was already sorted out. This may be a step too far for some people but it really helped me out and made me feel calm.

I actually see myself doing this for Japan too as we don’t speak the language and apparently not all the streets have names. Can someone confirm this for me?

I also kept track of what we spent each day while we were there. Some days we went over, some under. This helped a lot as we knew that we had extra money we could spend. Hello Yoda backpack for Topher.

disneyland californai - yoda bag

 

How do you plan a multi-destination holiday? Let me know your tips in the comments.

And please tell me if you’re as much of a planning freak as I am. Let me know I’m not alone! But it’s ok if I am – I’m happy in my weird planning bubble. 

Continue Reading
1 2 3 10