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Lifestyle, travel

Why All-Inclusives Just Aren’t My Thing

2017 has been a bit of a year for me for many reasons. I’ve worked my butt off for exams, I’ve lost some really important people in my life and lost a lot of sleep over things which in retrospect, were not worth losing sleep over. Therefore a week in the sun, being waited on hand and foot honestly sounded like a dream come true. And it was! But, in all honesty it just wasn’t for me – and that’s okay!

Whilst I got the rest and relaxation that I so desperately needed, I didn’t get that sense of adventure that I usually get when I visit somewhere new. This got me thinking, in the past I have hailed the all-inclusive as the pinnacle of all holidays, but what if some people are just not made for them.

What if some of us need to explore to our hearts content, get lost and find the wonder in a new place.

See below for my all-inclusive pros and cons:

Pros

  • There is always something going on – Whether it is a poolside fitness class, to a cookery workshop to evening entertainment all-inclusives tend to have a jam packed activity schedule to keep you amused 24 hours a day!

    Whether it’s a cerviche workshop to a Carribean themed evening, most places have you covered.

  • So good if you are sticking to a budget – as the name suggests, if you aren’t planning to head out of your resort you will probably struggle to spend a lot of money!
  • Great if there is a group of you – this way there’s no arguing over how to split the bill, who had an extra glass of wine or who had a starter and who didn’t.
  • You can make new friends extra quickly – The way I see it, all inclusive resorts are like a grown ups holiday camp. A bunch of you arrive at the same time, sit around the same pool in roughly the same seats so you become familiar with everyone really quickly!
  • The experience is seamless – from booking your flight to arriving at the hotel and all those steps in between. Everything is taken care of, meaning more time for you to relax and know that everything is under control

Cons

  • You will never see as much of a place as you would if you were self catered – As everything is literally on your doorstep you don’t have to think about where you are heading the next day or later that afternoon. This is fantastic, apart from you will never stumble upon the magical places you find when you’ve taken the third wrong turn and no map nor sat nav can send you in the right direction.
  • You can get stuck in bad habits really quickly – I promised myself that I would hit my 10,000 steps everyday as I didn’t have an excuse not to. By Day 2 that had gone to pot with the allure of happy hour cocktails.
  • Excursions can be really expensive – when you are having to book through the hotel. Often they will sell these to you as a great deal, however when you factor in that if you were to do it solo you can negotiate on price as well as arrive and depart at your own leisure.
  • Cabin Fever is REAL! – by about Day 3 I was DYING to see something else other than our pools or small bit of beach we had. We managed to combat this with a beach side walk up past the other hotels, but it didn’t quite satisfy my craving for a change of scenery.
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Amazing blue skies and hot sand, but dying for a change of scenery

What do you think? Are you an all-inclusive addict or a self-catered wanderer like me? Or are you a bit of both? I’m very much of the opinion if you come back from somewhere and you have had a chance to relax your body and mind then its a job well done!

Love always

Amy

 

travel

A long weekend escape to Barcelona

It became a habit of mine during exams, to book holidays. Not long holidays which needed a load of planning, but short escapes that I could dream of whilst sitting in the dreary, dark first floor of the library.

January 2017, was one of those times. Drenched in revision and battered by the winds of the East Midlands my best gal pal Jen and I were longing for an escape and after roughly 5 minutes of Skyscanning, Barcelona was the destination of choice! We celebrated with flamenco dancing around my bedroom and Jen proudly proclaimed she couldn’t wait to go to Italy! I had to inform her that Barcelona was in fact in Spain, seriously what could go wrong on this trip?!

8 weeks later and we were boarding our plane armed with euros and full of excitement. After grabbing a taxi from the airport to Las Ramblas (about 30 euros, discovered later it is much easier and cheaper to take the metro. Link here for the most up to date metro information!), we arrived at our hostel ‘ Hostal Benidorm‘.

Whilst I had heard nightmare about staying on Las Ramblas from stories of being kept up all night because of street fights, to muggings to euro-pop blasting from 7am I can safely say that I felt none of that. The hostel is hidden on the third and forth floor of a building, giving it a safe feel. Staff are on 24 hour duty, meaning that any issues can be resolved as soon as possible and from what I encountered they could not be more hospitable.

Our room was basic, but clean and all we needed for us seeing as we only planned to sleep there! My only comment would be that the walls were quite thin, meaning that I could hear the conversation the family next door were having, so maybe take some earplugs if you are a light sleeper! To check out their website and book a room click here!

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Basic but clean, all you need for a long weekend!

With accommodation covered, it’s time to hit my must do list for Barcelona!

  1. Jump on a free bike/ walking tour!

There are LOADS of free tours, and why pay for a tour when you can get it for free. I recommend doing this on your first full day in Barcelona, it will help you get your bearings of the city, as well as eliminate any places you may not want to go to again. We went with Free Bike Tours who took us to hotspots such as The Sagrada Familia (dancing round like Ed is encouraged) and the Citudel and also kept us entertained with local legends and stories.

NB: Tips are not expected but are encouraged, and really for a 3 hour guided tour and thoroughly entertaining tour guide I would say leaving a 10 euro tip is super cheap!

 

2) Explore the streets of El Born by night for quaint restaurants and bars

While most people will tell you that the Gothic Quarter cannot be beaten for its wide range of bars and restaurants, I’m going to make a case for the neighbouring district of ‘El Born’.

We stumbled across this completely by accident on our first night and returned again on our second because we felt there was much more to explore. El Born is a labyrinth of alleyways and restaurant lined streets with a wide variety of traditional Spanish cuisine.

Not only is this more of a locals area, but the restaurants are grateful to tourists who have ventured this far at night, often rewarding you with a free side and/ or drink!

Make sure you head down Carrer de l’Argenteria which leads to a beautiful square and home to Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. I believe the best time to see the Basilica in all its glory is at night as the lighting means it is your soul focus, but that’s just my preference. Be sure to stop at Giovanni’s and try their Kinder Bueno and Nutella gelato’s if you aren’t full after dinner (Nutella ice cream is a MUST for all Nutella fans!).

3) Hit up the rooftop bar at the W for a spectacular sunset

To get a great view of the city and a great drink to go with that head up to the W Hotel rooftop bar ‘Eclipse’. Notoriously busy due to its fantastic views of the city, especially at sunset, I would aim to get there approximately 35-45 minutes before the sun goes down.

 

Drinks are obviously more expensive due to the hotel’s reputation but if you’re only heading up there for one or two I think its a reasonable price to pay and compares to that of London prices.

4) Parc Guell (obviously) 

Most people who come to Barcelona will tell you their favourite place in the city is Parc Guell, and it’s not hard to see why! The views of the city from the Plaça de la Natura are hard to rival and the beauty of Gaudi’s work is simply stunning.

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Token tourist photo overlooking this beautiful city

What no-one tells you is how they booked entry to the Monumental zone in advance, which is an absolute must! I would personally try and book 2-3 weeks before your trip to ensure you get the right time slot to suit you. We missed the memo and ended up having a stroll around the park grounds and had to book the only time slot available for late evening the next day! It was still a magnificent view but I would have liked to visit in the day and taken our time to admire Gaudi’s work! To book your visit click here

 

5) Eat like a local in Carmel

Our late visit to Parc Guell meant that we were craving some Spanish tapas by the time we left. A quick search on TripAdvisor told us that Las Delicias was a real locals spot, not too far from the park and was largely unspoilt by tourists. Eager to practise some Spanish and fulfil my cravings for Patatas Bravas we set off.

20 minutes, and 2 wrong turns later we arrived and we were certainly not disappointed! The food was delicious and a fraction of the price we had been paying eating out in the Gothic Quarter and El Born. I can whole heartedly recommend their croquetta’s if you head out that way.

6) Visit the ducks in Barcelona cathedral

 

 

Did I miss anything out?!? What are your favourite spots in Barcelona? I’d love to hear!

Adventuring always, Amy xxxx

 

Lifestyle, Uncategorized

You can find adventure on your own back doorstep

Call this whole post cheesy, and it’s probably not the ‘coolest’ post to start with but today I have felt inspired, I have felt uplifted and I’ve felt what only can be described as whole. It could be that Easter break has FINALLY arrived, it could be because I have had a chance to relax and sun myself in Barcelona over the past few days or it could be the fact the weather today was simply so beautiful.

So inspired, that I have to take pen to paper, or in fact fingers to buttons and recall what a day it was.

Having just returned from 5 days in sunny, stunning Barcelona I was readily prepped for a day of hard work doing final preparations for the project I am running next week when it struck me that I hadn’t called in on an old lady I’ve been popping by to visit over the last month. I felt as if today I really couldn’t manage it; I was really pressed for time. There were risk assessments to go through, files to print off, confirmation emails to be sent, parents to ring, but something told me that today, today it was important I go and visit Mrs Q.

With my pal Lien, we headed over to Mrs Q’s who was ready and waiting at the door when we arrived, with her wheelchair all set up and was over the moon to see us. It’s a hobby of hers that she likes to keep an eye on the neighbourhood bins, making sure the bin men are taking them away and that locals aren’t stealing students bins for their own. Today we wandered a few streets, rearranged a few binbags and dropped off some bric-a-brac before we turned to go back towards her home. It was then, she gingerly asked if we would mind if we wheeled her through the park for a bit, she hadn’t been able to go in years because she had injured her spine, couldn’t walk very far, and doesn’t have very much family so only managed to see her daughter once or twice a week. It was her favourite place in town and she would so very much love to see it.

As I said earlier, it was a beautiful day, the perfect temperature and whilst I knew I had a pile of work that needed doing, there was actually nothing I would love more than to wander through the park with her.

We made our way through the park and as she pointed things out along the way, I could see Loughborough town in a completely new light. The office buildings to our right were once a hosiery factory, the now paved car park was once a cattle market and where now parked Vauxhall Corsa’s and Ford Fiesta’s was where cows broke loose from their pens and ran amok. I had never believed there had been too much history to the town, but now it had a story, it had characters and I was invested in their tales.

We headed to the park café where she insisted that she buy us all an ice cream whilst we talked about where we all dreamed of travelling to, where we had all grown up (a real range, myself in the South East and France, Lien in Hungary, and Mrs Q in Loughborough) and our experiences of the town we all now called home. We spoke of how we’d met, why we got into voluntary work in the first place (to make friends, distract ourselves from the boredom of 10 hours a week learning, because we just loved to help others), our family’s and I felt that I wasn’t just talking to an elderly person for an hour, I was talking to a friend. The café began to close and we slipped off back towards Mrs Q’s with ice cream mouths, sun-kissed skin and belly’s full of laugher.

We dropped her off, bid her a thank you for the ice cream and wished her a very happy Easter. She laughed at how we could be so thankful for something trivial, and that our company had been truly priceless. We promised we’d be back again once Easter break was over.

Rounding the corner onto the main road where I had parked I realised that I had definitely exceeded the one hour parking slot I had parked in. I’d definitely seen a traffic officer walk along the street when we had set out well over 2 hours ago and I could feel I would definitely have a £25 fine. Great, that’s all I need, especially with the final term rent coming up soon, I thought. To my surprise and delight there wasn’t a ticket in sight. Some may call it coincidence, some may call it lazy police work, I would like to think it was karma.

As we drove the short journey home, I thought about the 2 hours we had just spent. Throughout all our conversations and differences, it was clear to me we all had one thing in common, a sheer love for life and the people we had the pleasure of meeting along the way. It really hit me quite hard that our one small act of kindness, the decision that it was important for me to go and see her today, that had a real impact on someone and (hopefully) made her day a whole lot brighter.

So with this I’m kick-starting my own #KindnessChallenge and I challenge anyone who has made it to the end of this post to do so to. One act of kindness for whatever community you may find yourself in, and it doesn’t have to be huge. Say hi to your elderly neighbour, play a five-minute game of catch with your mum’s best friends kid, buy that homeless person a coffee or a doughnut from McDonald’s. I can assure you it will brighten both yours and their day because, no act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted. I’ll keep you up to date with mine, and I’d love to hear what you get up to too!

 

All my Love

Amy x