Travel

Advice, Tips

Love Letter To Remarkable Women


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If your here, you know I love to travel. You know I love to write. And You know I love to give. What I love more than anything though, without a doubt, with absolute boundless certainty, and a totally undeniable fact.. is myself.

My full of flaws, stubborn, impatient and perfectionist self. This year, I’m not writing a love letter to a guy, nor have I ever in all fairness. Or maybe I have.

Love Letter To Remarkable Women

To start off my own tradition, here’s to all the women I’ve met and never will, who live life like every day is the perfect day to fall in love with the uniqueness they bring to the world. 🥂

To the mothers who raise kind, good-natured daughters.

To the protective sisters who have each other’s backs through the bullshit and the headaches they go through.

To the aunts who are mothers when they need to be and sisters when they’re expected to be.

To the grandmothers who give timeless advice combined with perpetual wisdom, for free, every damn day.

To the best friends who give a toss about each others emotional health and protect each others hearts with laughter and tears.

To the strangers who share moments of relief and count on each others strength time and time again.

We have no frikkin’ time for ordinary.

I’ve seen girls who wake up with a smile and open their window first thing in the morning like they’re living in a movie then make coffee like they’re making art.

Women who get ready for work like every day is their first day and the ones who give it all they have regardless of their paycheck. I’ve seen the same women degraded, devalued and dismissed and yet tomorrow, they’ll come in like its their first day… ready.

There are women who sing along to all their favourite songs without caring too much about the glass that shaking uncontrollably, or the deafening screech that’s hurting our eardrums (Yes, totally indirecting here, you know who you are) . Girls who are unapologetic, unphased and unabashed.

The ones who take their time putting on their make-up because they’re secretly appreciating what makes them uniquely them.

I’ve learned from women who know that someone else’s beauty is not a lack of theirs and someone else’s success is not a setback of theirs. Women who are defiant, and don’t let the day run them, and who define what their own status quo should mean.

Women who have a strong sense of who they are and those who have unshakeable confidence in their capabilities.

But also,

I’ve seen girls who endure life’s toughest complications and battle through like there’s no other choice or way. The one’s told its all in their head, and the ones who literally pushes a whole head out of her body in excruciating pain.

The girls who make storms look like drizzles.

Ones who find the time to pick themselves up, and thank themselves for their hard work even when they can’t see their own results.

I’ve learned from the girls who know when to hold on and when to release. The ones who hurt, and crawl, but know that walking away takes as much courage and tenacity as staying does. The ones who nurture and caress the emptiness in others, but never find the once chance to get filled.

Most of all, from the women who pick themselves up in silence. over and over again. The ones who are mindful, that their actions are never quite out of spite.

To the ones whose actions are enveloped in love even when love hasn’t been on their side.

We have no time for ordinary.

This is to the women who like the smell of new books and old ones alike. To the girls who write tiny, thoughtful notes on WhatsApp and Snapchat to cheer up the people they care about.

The ones who, despite the complexities of their depth, are so easy to fall in love with.

To the women who have wits so tempting of competition. To the women who have hearts so kind that you know if you hurt them, you’re actually hurting yourself.

The woman you want to be friends with because they always feel like the sun on a cold day.

The women that cover their bruises emotionally and physically, and conceal the disguise with smiles, and to the others who torture themselves with anger. The ones who give up their cloaks so easily, and wear their heart on their sleeve too often, too quickly and too soon.

To the ones you feel grateful for falling in love with because you know you’ve given your heart to gold.

This is to the women who have no time for ordinary because they’re made for remarkable.

You lot are legends.

 

The power in me, salutes, the power in You.

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Experiences, information, Reviews, Travel

The Worlds Longest Urban Zipline + Bonus Video!


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19 NOV 2018- 1PM

If like me, you’ve done the whole “fly for 6 hours, go to the mall, shop all day, sleep all night, go to the beach” thing and want some heart racing thrill and throat throbbing excitement in your life, listen I’m telling you… This. Is. IT. The crazy that is me, did a long-haul flight… landed and checked in by 11am, changed, and was at the XLINE booth in Dubai Marina Mall by 12.45pm.

As we step in, the signs are huge, so we wander around slowly, taking it in.

Men sit around in tailored suits, laughing richly over their latest lavish spends. Couples walk hand in hand, and small groups of Chinese tourists stand in the pathway, ignoring everyone having to walk around them.  There are white people, black people, Arabs, Asians, Hispanics and Europeans. Women in stilettos and high neck tops strutting along, looking too made up and plastic for so early in the day. Spa after spa, health centres and luxury hammams line the route. Ghost by Ella Henderson plays over the speaker. Is it normal to feel nostalgic already? Certainly feels like an upgraded version of Westfield, without all the Beckys and hoodrats that roam around day and night. Smells like warm melted chocolate, & it feels good… This aint London for sure.

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The booth is tucked under the escalator, and extremely easy to miss- so pay attention. We strolled up to the counter, still a little dazed, exhausted and jet-lagged. I’m not sure it had hit us yet that this was even Dubai. A lady approached us, weighed us in, took photos of our ID and paired us with a harness, helmet and trolley each. Quick safety briefing and were off to the point of no return…

 

 

A bus service chauffeured us to Amwaj Towers, a residential building 41 stories high and raises up a whole 170m off the ground and 558 feet away from civilization. For those in London, a good comparison is that it is a little under the BT Tower in Camden and 10m taller than the building with the Sky Garden. Imagine jumping off that?! Bloody hell, even that gives me chills.

I think it was much easier because I just didn’t know. I didn’t know how high up or which building until last minute. Then, the demons in your heads can’t play games with you. Murphy’s law can’t act up and whisper in your ear. You just don’t know. Legally Blind.

 

 

We took a lift to the 40th floor and walked up 2 flights of stairs to get to the roof. One guy, Australian fella, had come alone, and you could see his heart pounding with evident sweat. A fat grin plastered through his ginger beard. He was perhaps no more than 26, travelling through Dubai for a day or two. He’d be going to Thailand next he told us, and we’d mentioned we’d be going too. He’d said he’d be near Phuket, staying at Phang Nga Bay. The conversation was short. The view on the rooftop of the 40th floor is breath-taking. The crystal, sapphire-blue sky is cloud-less for early afternoon. It was mesmerising, how simple it looked, yet it seemed to hold every one of our thoughts, dreams, our secrets. The space was a vast thing, stretching out for infinity over our heads. It was terrifying and yet so affectionate, daunting yet friendly. If you stared at it for a long time, watching everything come and go, you would think, maybe, it was all talking to you. It was communicating in a language you couldn’t begin to understand. I got lost in thought before they called for the first two volunteers.

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Of course, I volunteered. The worlds longest urban zipline- twice the distance and lasts twice the time at twice the speed as the last one. And I volunteered to go first.

My ginger beard friend volunteered to come with, and slowly, we made our way to get strapped into the superman harness. The guy high fives you, attaches you onto the cable that your trusting with your life, and makes you lie down horizontal onto a launch bed. Once you’re in, the bed is lowered and your hanging, mid-air, 40 floors up, A WHOLE 558 FEET AWAY FROM THE GROUND, ready to fly.

I nearly shat myself. I nearly cried and yelled right there to get me off. Whenever I get myself into moments like this, silence is my friend. Someone once said, “Feel the fear, and do it anyway.” Often, we think, “I’ll do it when I am not so afraid.” But in reality, it works the other way around. The ‘doing it’ comes before the fear goes away. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go and do it. So, we diiiiiiiiiiiiiiid it baby! We done flew through the sky, over land and water, at up to 80km/h and from 170m down to ground level. I FLEW, did the Michael Jackson moonwalk mid-air, imitated wonder woman, became a local super hero. I FLEW. And it was amazing. The marina water glistens, and yachts bob up and down below you. Everything is so saturated this time of day, full HD colour.

 

You supposed to be streamlined. like a bullet. They told us if you start turning to one side, pull your weight to the other. I nodded. Easy. I’m not sure what juice they drank to not tell us how strong those winds would be. Wind veered me right, my weight got pushed to the left. I almost flipped, slipped and tripped mid-air. You still move forward, and the helmet provides some sort of aerodynamic vacuum for you. But lard haffi mercy, I could’ve been a leaf in the wind the way I was twisting up in here. Lasted a few seconds though. So, prepare for it. You will be twisted.

If you go, maybe don’t pick the right rope out the two. As you draw closer to ground level, you come awfully close to the brick corner of the mall building. Its quite the scare at the speed your going at- an uncomfortable but safe distance. The whole thing is recorded, and photography is taken for you by the XLine team. The goPro strapped to your helmet gets the best shots of the experience, and so, feeling more alive than ever, we made our way to our lockers to update the world.

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The experience felt super safe, built and operated by highly qualified and globally certified teams. They carry out daily testing and regular maintenance of the line, making sure safety is always first. Id like to hope so anyway! The company have strict requirements for the experience; You need to be between 12 and 65 years of age, taller than 130cm, weigh 50 to 100kg and in good medical health. Loose clothing can’t be worn, and footwear is preferably sportwear or boots. Closed. They take off every single day from 9am till 5pm and are situated inside the Dubai Mall.  You can click here to book it or visit the booth at the Marina Mall or visit any of the Platinumlist partner merchants across the UAE.  The entire experience lasts for approximately 90 minutes, from registering at the XLine booth until you complete the zipline ride.

 

 

So, if your looking to go… get ready to hang tight and I’ll see you someday to applaud you. It isn’t for the weak hearted, that’s for sure.

Definitely going to do this again… perhaps this time in Ras Al-Khaimah for the entire world’s longest zip line. A whole 2.83 km long, the Jebel Jais flight is 1,680 meters above sea level and has a glass bottom suspended floor. Um… YES PLEASE.

Experiences, information, Reviews, Travel

Hot Air Balloon – 24th Birthday Gift


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21 NOV 2018.

BY far my favourite, and the one I was most excited for leading up to it. On the morning of my 24th Birthday, at 5.25AM, an Indian man dressed in dungarees, donning an overgrown moustache, picked us up. We drove 36-minute to the take-off site, where the largest Hot Air Balloons in the world are being inflated, glowing in the predawn darkness. Although still dark, the world of Dubai is still lit and roads still busy, we can see filtered bits of light looming in as birds awaken and stir. It’s just before sunrise, and we take off to meet the sun as it rises over the Arabian desert and the sky fills with light. Early morning provides the best flying conditions. The tent is filled up with hot air using a burner, which somehow manages to get bucket loads of sand all over us- so wear a hat. The shower of sand only lasts whilst you’re on the ground- don’t look up during lift off or your teeth take a grit bath and your eyelashes are coated in a blanket of fine granular rocks.

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(more…)

Experiences, Travel

24 hours in Santorini, Greece


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Already exhausted and feeling my bones about to give way, I just about made it to Athens International Airport for my connecting flight.

A much needed helping hand..

As I walked in, a Caucasian lady alone in a wheelchair crossed me, manoeuvring her way silently through the airport. My conscious mind wouldn’t normally register it. This was a lady, on her way somewhere and you, my darling, have someplace to be. so focus. Yet… her face troubled me.

I looked back and asked if she knew where she was going. Mainly for the sake of it. Worst thing in the world is being lost, and not asking for help. Perhaps its shyness, perhaps its pride. Either way, if I could do something, I’d do it. She turned. Smiled. She was heading to the same side of the airport, her battered fingers tired from manually turning her wheels. Kind of hurt me to see her like that, but with 30 minutes to get to my gate, I offered to push. I don’t even remember her name. I hope someday I bump into her again, her deep-set smile grateful for a little help.

Sometimes, in life, if you can lessen the burden of another, you might be able to change their world.  Nobody knows what anyone’s going through, emotionally, mentally or physically. We don’t know what wound a simple kind gesture can heal. I left her at her gate, and sped-walked to mine.

Last leg…

Aegean Airlines Airbus A320 arrived and the next hour and 25 minutes was filled with power naps and constantly questioning my choices in how I decide to spend my weekends. I mean, realistically, who does this? In the past 24 hours, this little hijabi had coffee in Vienna and lunch in Athens, dragging an entire suitcase, alone and insanely tired. I’m borderline regretting this already. It’s pretty dark outside; no lights, just sea. The only sound is from the deafening propeller engines constantly humming and dipping to their own tune. Soothing.

We landed in Thira on Saturday afternoon at exactly 19:13. First stop, hotel.  I picked the Rocabella Hotel Resort & Spa because of its room view, its location and its services. I completely underestimated the hospitality here. Every part of my body crying, I walked in. Maria met me, and sent someone to take my luggage to my room right away. How awfully sweet, and lord was it needed! A glass of still cold fresh juice was waiting for me in my room, I felt a little pampered before I’d even settled in. The next 4 hours were spent sleeping in my double bed, wearing off the exhaustion that had settled from the past few hours.

Unlike my  very calculated plan in Athens, it was an absolute fail for Santorini. I knew it the second I woke up. Its midnight, and my deluxe caldera view room was the most magnificent thing in the world. My private balcony overlooked the sea,  and at 12pm at night, it was glorious and captivating in its beauty. If you read my Barcelona story, you’ll know how crazy in love I am when it comes to the sea. This time, I had the luxury of seeing it so close but from the comfort of my room.  I switch off the light behind me, and take a seat.

Peace…

Lets a take a minute here, because you really need to see what I saw. Let me show you my view. Everything’s dark. Real dark. The sky is pitch-black, albeit specks of light dancing somewhere behind the haze of thin black clouds. Some stars are dull, merely flickering into existence now and then, but if you stare, some stars shimmer, glow and light up the night. The moon is oh so clear, directly ahead from where you’re sitting, its neon light bleaching the world into grey-scale silence.

The sky and sea meet somewhere in the distance, and infront of me, water sways and glistens, freckled with the reflection of glittering lights. The wind keeps brushing against the water’s surface, the ripples ruffling the stillness and disturbing the peace.

I sit with a thick blanket over me, on a hard wooden deck chair, donning two layers of hoodies. It’s cold. Goosebumps keep erupting through my skin. It’s not enough to make me get up, and in silence I observe something I’ll probably not get to do in again in a while.

Music plays in the distance, and in a remote space up ahead, neon lights reflect off the marina with echoes of laughter and drunk conversation. In the quiet stillness of my room, I feel relaxed and at peace. The night is beautiful.

Morning comes.

9am. Breakfast.

Fresh fruit, some softened nuts, beans on toast and a croissant serve as my breakfast. Gwitta, the breakfast chef, was attentive to every detail. I asked if there were any halal meat options to go with the beans on toast, and she profusely apologised. She later sent a platter of chocolates to my room, which, can’t lie, surprised me. It was awfully kind of her. The dining space was under renovation so I headed out onto a terrace with seats. Definitely a good way to start the day.

Rocabella Breakfast view

After breakfast, I opted for the complimentary spa treatment until noon. Spa tub, massage and full body treatment. Lovely stuff.

I’d spent nearly 12 hours in Santorini, and I hadn’t even explored it yet. I just wanted to stay indoors, sleep some more. Perhaps jet lag was catching up to me?

Imerovigli

A roughly 20 minute walk from the hotel, was the village of Imerovigli. My first stop in my little expedition. The little village is another level of picturesque- when you think Santorini, this village is what you picture. Houses and houses crammed onto the decline of a cliff, all painted white,  built amphitheatrically around the caldera and crossed by extremely narrow paved paths.

It was crammed for a Sunday afternoon, I kept having to slow down, stop or squeeze through narrow pathways as people came in both directions constantly.

I headed to Skaros Rock, which was cobbled with stones and a little distant from the village. I’d planned to go all the way down the beaten path, up to the rock head and take pictures… but things turn out a little different when you see it in real life.

Reality Check..

The rock was insanely huge- I don’t know if the rock was stable, I don’t know what I was thinking, heck I don’t even know if it was safe to climb it. This was something you did with someone. You slip, they have your back. I was not, I repeat, was not looking to fall off this cliff and have an unclaimed body in another country. Not siree’. Not today, Murphy. Not ‘appnin. Nope.

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I’ll conquer that rock someday, not today.

There’s a first time for everything…

Instead, I took the seaside path towards Kandakhor and stopped off at La Maison. I only wanted a quick bite but again, Santorini found a way to keep me occupied and in awe. La Maison is like a little haven of fine dining on the edge of a cliff- a literal glass box with 360° windows showing off Greece’s caldera, the sea, volcano, sunset and even nearby islands.

Thing is, it’s also a very romantic spot and for a late afternoon meal, the vibe and music made me totally out of place. At least I know where to come back to when I return with company.  There isn’t much choice, infact none at all, for the halal eaters… but seafood was an option. First time ordering mussels in my life, I looked at the waiter as if to say with my eyes… “I’m ordering this but I don’t want it” but he didn’t get it. It’s ok. I got distracted by the sea and the changing hues in the sky.

Yeah, Mussels. Never again.

By now it’s about 5pm. The sun sets in around 2 hours. I move quickly and down towards the Nomikou M right by the descending cable cars, connecting the town of Fira to the port. Here, for €5 each way, you get to go down to the town, Santorini’s capital, in literally 5 minutes tops. Another town of  whitewashed buildings, Fira is built on the edge of a 400 metre high caldera on the western edge of the island.

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The plan was to take a boat trip from here but given time limitations, it’ll have to go on my list for next time. You get a glimpse of what I saw in a short video on my instagram, but words or video could not accurately depict that moment.

Proud Gatecrasher

I got back to Rocabella Hotel with a full wedding procession in full swing. The groom was so well dressed, arms bulging in his tailored suit. I presume the man holding onto his shoulder was his dad, speaking softly to him, looking down. Maybe he was tearing up, maybe he saw something on his shoe, and maybe he was in the middle of a lie and couldn’t make eye contact. I don’t know.

The lift opened, and the doors closed on the chaos behind me.

Quick shower, change of clothes. I came back down to the same commotion, and without hesitation, I ordered some sparkling juice and strolled right over to the bride to congratulate her. She beamed, not really knowing what to say or how to react.  I guess you don’t fly out to Greece with the whole world for your wedding, it’s more a private function so you’d know everyone attending.

I found two fairly young Asian ladies watching intently at the scene unfolding before them, from a corner. They looked hesitant, but smiled warmly.  Sealed their fate with that smile. I now found people to spend the evening with and kawaliss the wedding. The party went upstairs onto a large purpose built terrace and we followed.

Don’t ask me why, I have no idea.

Fairy lights everywhere, a make shift bonfire in the centre and speakers that were on full volume. Some sort of party began to commence.

I say this alot, but when I tell you that some moments are literally a blur and flash of excitement, adrenaline and insane laughter that you can’t recall in one single memory, only then do you know you’ve enjoyed yourself. I  have flashbacks of a cliff side party, the moon in the distance, the sky back to its jet-black canvas. People laughing, sweat glistening on everyone’s forehead and Marc Anthony’s voice hurting my eardrums. Perched on the ledge of a short wall, overlooking the sea, looking back at this madness, I laughed to myself. This was insane.

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Endings + Regrets

I left this madness at around 11pm and went to my room. Don’t be fooled though, nobody leaves a party empty handed- I had probably taken every single bit of chocolate ganache, 4 plastic bowls filled with big chunks of vanilla wedding cake, small vanilla things, and biscuits to last a lifetime. Nobody would miss it, and I was hungry. I sat in my bed, opened my balcony to let the salty sea breeze in and started answering emails on my iPad. Whatta night.

Morning came and I checked out. My flight back home to London wasn’t until 2pm so once breakfast was over, I grabbed some sun glasses and headed to try some golf nearby with my new Asian friends. Not sure if they would give me that title, but they sure as hell were my friends from now on.

I found out on the day that I’m leaving, Rocabella hosts a whole range of water activities including snorkelling, sailing, scuba diving and water skiing. I could’ve rented out a bicycle and jumped on one of the trails nearby. Parasailing was an option. Helicopter and airplane tours were available on site, even scooter and moped rentals. That’s alot of things on my bucket list that could’ve been ticked off.

But again, ain’t nobody claiming my body if I die in any of those situations. I’m definitely coming back here sometime in 2017.

Santorini, our time was fun. Rocabella, see you soon.

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I headed home with a 2 hour stop over at Athens, and a 5 hour stop in Frankfurt. It felt good, I’d be back home to mumma’s cooking real soon.

information, Travel

Discover Greece: Ultimate Guide to Visas, Getting Around, Safety and Local laws.


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Notorious for its dated and archaic classical Greek architecture, Greece is also prominent for yielding Olive Oil, Honey and Mastiha Chios- something I didn’t even know and learned as I typed out this very blog post. Like me, there are things people still don’t know about this little European country, and questions don’t come quicker than when you plan to take a little trip there yourself. Below are some useful answers to some much asked questions, which helped me before I headed out to visit the country myself. Feel free to add any other tips from your trip in the comments below!

Sea Routes

The Greek islands are a grouped in clusters, surrounded by both land and sea. To the east of the mainland is the Aegean Sea, to the south is the Mediterranean Sea and to the west is the Ionian Sea. For this reason, plenty of ports are available and a great many shipping companies provide their services to get in and around the country with a modern and luxurious fleet. All the islands are linked to the mainland with regular service, so island-hopping is a definite option during your vacation!

Check out timetable for ferries for Greece or the Greek islands here.

Passports and Visas

Greece is still a very active member-state of the European Union and consented to the Schengen Agreement  back in 1992. The agreement abolishes many of the EU’s internal borders, facilitating passport-free movement throughout the bloc. This means that citizens from EU countries can move around Greece with just their passport, or a police issued I.D card that is easily obtained with the help of respective embassies, consulates or even travel agencies. Visas are not required by citizens of countries within the Schengen Agreement and the following is a list, correct as of January 2015:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France and Monaco, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland.

Citizens from these EU countries that are not apart of the Schengen agreement may also visit Greece without a visa:

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and United Kingdom.

So if you’re like me and hold a British passport, you do not need a visa to enter Greece. As a British passport holder, you can stay as a visitor for 3 months. For longer stays, you will need to apply for a residence permit.

Getting Around

Getting to/from the Athens International Airport and the city center, located about 20 km (12 miles) east can be achieved via:

  • Metro: 

Metro Line 3 connects the Athens airport with the city centre. Trains run every 30 minutes, 7 days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. The trip from/to the Airport to Syntagma station (Athens centre) lasts 40 minutes.

  • 24-hour express buses: 

Express bus routes connect Athens (city centre & greater area) and Piraeus (port) directly with the Athens International Airport. Service is provided on a non-stop basis seven days a week including holidays (24/7 operation). Bus tickets are sold at the info/ticket-kiosk (located outside the Arrivals between Exits 4 and 5), or onboard (ask operator) at no extra cost.

There are four main routes, check them out here.

  • Proastiakos:

The Suburban railway (Proastiakos) connects the Athens airport with the Athens Central Railway Station (Larissis Station) and Acharnai Railway Centre, and through them to the National Railway network. The Suburban railway departs every 15-25 minutes from the Athens Airport railway station to Plakentias station, where you can change trains and continue to the city centre (Metro Line 3 to Egaleo), using the same ticket.

  •  Taxi: 

Taxis are available at the designated Taxi waiting area located at Exit 3 of the Arrivals Level. A taxi from the airport to the city centre (inner ring) costs a flat rate of €35 from 5:00 a.m. to midnight, and €50 from midnight to 5:00 a.m.

Note: The charge is determined by the time of arrival at the destination and includes all applicable surcharges and extras.

Health and Safety

For you to have access to necessary healthcare citizens from member-states of the EU must have the European Health Card (EHIC) or any form of legal community document issued by their competent social security agency. It’s free to acquire one in the UK and isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become urgent during your stay. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Greek nationals. Visit your health care professional at least 3 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need vaccinations or any other preventative measures. In case of any emergencies, have these following numbers close by:

Police: 100

Ambulance Service: 166

Tourist Police: 1571
SOS Doctors: 1016
Duty Hospitals and Clinics: 1434
Pharmacies: 1434
Open Line for alcohol drug Addiction: 210 3617089
Poisoning First Aid: 210 7793777

Local Laws and Customs

Greece has made it illegal to smoke in all indoor places, violating this could mean a penalty fine of up to €500.

Don’t become involved or even try to bring Class C drugs of any kind into the country. Possession of even the smallest amount will lead to arrest and could mean lengthy prison sentences- visitor or not.

Any indecent behaviour is not tolerated by the Greek, including mooning. The courts will most likely impose a heavy fine or prison sentences on people who behave indecently.

Lastly, keep any receipts of purchases you make! Arrests have been known to be made for purchasing/acquiring/handling pirate CDs and DVDs and have led to imprisonment in some cases. Keep any and all receipts! Dont say I didnt warn you.

Climate

Greece has a Mediterranean climate with ample amounts of sunshine, meek temperatures and a limited amount of rainfall. In the summer, the warmer and dryer days and cooled with seasonal winds called the Meltemi, whilst the more rocky regions have commonly lower temperatures. In the winter, mild temperatures in the lowland areas attract low amounts of snow and ice, whilst the more mountainous area is completely covered in snow.

Experiences, Travel

Tarriance in Athens, Greece: My 6 Hours


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Arriving in Athens this morning, my last flight into Thira wasn’t for another six hours. In my world, instead of booking a hotel, dropping my bags and staying in close vicinity to the airport… I went straight into the city to explore. Time not on my side, this is my 6 hours in the ancient city of Αθήνα (Athens).

It begins…

After arriving at the International Airport at roughly 11:40am, the taxi service from Exit 3 took me directly to the city’s centre for a mere €35. From there, first stop was the famed Ancient Agora. The marble structure still standing provided shade from the punishing sun, and the site was oddly heaving with people for a midday Saturday. Tourists and their children and their grandchildren walked around aimlessly in shades and shorts, in stark contrast to me who lugged a carry-on suitcase and donned a heavy black jacket. The sun wasn’t proving kind to me at all.

A flock of what looked like American tourists, around 18 of them by eye count, were taking a tour around the ruins. I joined them, smiling. The American voice on the microphone told us about how every ancient city has a place called an ‘agora’, the word defined as an assembly of people and by extension, means the ‘gathering place’. She told us that the site had gone through countless deconstruction and rebuilding cycles, and had served as an Iron Age cemetery, library of Pantainos, a Basilica, gymnasium for the Herules and a roman Stoa. Quite the history.

A little history…

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Fisheye view of the Hephaisteion

Today, the pillars of Hephaisteion stand intact without its arched ceiling, and its columns riddled with holes that appear to be from bullets. The round large foundations of Tholos are still visible, and the voice on the microphone tells us it served as the headquarters for the 70 executives of the Boule- “The council of Citizens”. It also served as the dining place for the Prytaneis who were fed here at the public’s expense.

I’m imagining a scene from Game of Thrones of the Bloody Wedding- long tables unnecessarily crammed with food, and live folk bands playing wildly. Women in long woolen peplos adorned in gold jewellery, entertaining drunken men. And a professed king at the high table, looking down at his intoxicated nation. It’s just all crazy.  Tholos must’ve been one heck of a place.

Veiled observations…

I’d grew tired of being in the sun at this point, so 45 minutes into this trek, I left the crowd. Close by was the Acropolis of Athens, my next stop. I could’ve taken the walk in hindsight, but the 18 minute taxi journey was BY FAR the best few minutes I’d had the whole day. It wasn’t until I’d actually sat down in the taxi that I realized just how exhausted I was.

We arrived and I asked Pablos, my aged driver, to stay for another 5 minutes. He kept the meter running and I sat back. I had a habit of going to Trafalgar square in London, and simply sitting back to observe scurrying people hurriedly live their lives. Here, now, I was doing the same. Young, old, busy people in their own heads living their own little lives, so laissez-faire. It was quite refreshing in a way.

I took a deep breath, grabbed my suitcase and made my way out.

An hour and 30 minutes into Athens and I was at the Acropolis. The term Acropolis literally means hilltop, and is the most significant one in all of Greece. It housed many ancient buildings of great architectural significance, the most famous being the Parthenon. I didn’t know any of this stuff myself so I won’t pretend like I’m an expert – the Greeks have kindly placed boards of information all around the entrance from the main road. Saved me quite some time having to go through my little Smiths tour guide book.

“Not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes….” ♫

Taking out my trusted camera, I walked to the rocky outcrop and found a perch to view the city. You know the moments that simply take your breath away- no words to illustrate them; no emotion to express… this was one of those. I was quite literally, ontop of the world.

I sat still. In that moment, an absurd feeling washed over me. I’ll never forget it. I almost shivered as goosebumps ran down my spine. Almost whispering, I broke out into a familiar hymn Mr Thompson once taught us in Primary school. Quite fitting really.

The Carpenters- Ontop of the world.

Gratitude

In that moment alone- sitting on the highest point of Athens, looking at the city basked in a gorgeous afternoon glow, I felt grateful. The horizon was so far out, everything between us packed with silhouettes and shapes of buildings, structures and busy roads.  The city was buzzing with life, and the entire thing felt surreal.

In all honestly, I did pick this place for the views. I took a few more pictures and made the long walk down the hill towards the main road again.

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Panoramic from Acropolis Hil

From here, another short taxi ride away was the Monastiraki flea market neighbourhood with traditional souvenir shops, retail boutiques and customary stalls to please any heart’s desire.

I walked around, not really looking to purchase anything and instead, went to check out the Tsisdarakis Masjid. Legend has it, the governor that built this mosque back in 1759, used one of the pillars from the Temple of Zeus to make lime for the building… but I mean, who knows for sure? I couldn’t get inside as it was closed for some reason, or perhaps I didn’t find the right door. The mosque by definition was definitely of Turkish influence with its architectural style and design. I loved it- majestic in its stature yet gentle and welcoming in its presence.

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Tsisdarakis Mosque inside Monastiraki Square

Times up!

I’m hungry at this point, the rumbling in my stomach a constant reminder. Since I haven’t sorted out my mobile data for this country just yet and wifi isn’t an option, I don’t know where to find Halal food. My options are fruit and fries. I don’t mind. I need something hot though, and walking past stalls and stalls of lamb, poultry and pork, I found a ragged, aged greek woman frying fish and potatoes- for tourists less inclined to meat or greek cuisine I guess. I purchased my lunch and two cans of Orange Juice and looked at the time. 4:10pm.

The last leg of my flight was in 1 hour 30 minutes. I stopped a taxi new-york style and proceeded to the airport to catch my flight. It began to rain, I was relieved.

Athens, you were kind to me.

Santorini, here I come.

 

 

Experiences, Travel

LHR-VIE-ATH: My journey so far


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I’ve wanted to see Greece since I first studied its vast history and Greek mythology with Ms Wilkinson back in secondary school of 08. Something attracted me to the still shots of the once strong, erect structures of the Parthenon- dedicated, in Greek mythology, to the goddess Athena- and the ancient temple of Erechtheum that once stood tall, proud and buzzing with life.

Although I have absolutely no interest in the details of history, it fascinates me that time can literally float right past you. That a whole generation of people existed and fought and ruled their land, only for time to claim them, and we stand here looking at what remains. Time and life fascinate me.  It’s the most precious commodity we have, and humbles you to see how far common humanity has come.

I left my place at 3am, and began the long journey to LHR. Roads were quiet, the airport was just as eerie and calm. I like it like that- fast, productive and efficient. I booked a 2-stop flight to Thira (Santorini) because let’s face it, whose bucket list is Santorini NOT on?! Booking a layover in Frankfurt, Vienna and Athens saved me quite a pretty penny- layover flights are not the best thing in the world, but when you can visit four cities for the price of one and you actually want to see them, then you’ve just manoeuvred the biggest and oldest secret to cheaper deals in the book.

I only had 6 people on my flight, I’m not sure why that surprised me given the length of the journey we were about to undertake. 6am came, gate A8 was called. I handed my KLM boarding pass to the young Caucasian man who looked way too hyper for 6am, and we boarded.

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If there’s anything I love more than chicken (and Somali’s love their chicken), it’s the window seat. The seat that has a clear parallel view of a window with no disruptions, bent angles or horrible positioning. My pre-selected seat on this flight was 19A- perfect view of the wing, yet within 5 rows of the nearest exit. I pulled out “How to Win Friends and Influence People” By Dale Carnegie and my first 2 hours and 10 minutes were filled with casual glances at fluffy candyfloss clouds and some orange juice. There is no feeling in the world better, in my opinion, than being ontop of the world. The sun was at full beam by this point, and a shard of light pierced silently through the cabin. Felt good to just sit back and appreciate the beauty that is life.

Flight AF1738 arrived at Flughafen Wein (VIE) at 8:15am.

Vienna.

You’re beautiful. You rained on me but I still love you.

The layover was only one hour, so leaving the airport wasn’t an option. The plummeting rain further solidified that choice for me. The shuttle service took the 6 of us to Terminal 3 for our departing flight at gate F13 to Athens. My connecting 9.15am 0S801 flight with Austrian Airlines arrived, we boarded. They’d sat us closer together this time, guess it saved the crew having to parade up and down the aisles a hundred times for the next 2 hours. 1 hour in, the pilot came out of the cabin whilst airborne and asked each of us how the flight was. It added a nice touch to the dullness of the flight.

2 hours and 20 minutes of Greys Anatomy and Hawaii Five-0 later, we arrived at the Athens International airport. 11:35am and I was in Greece. 6 hours and 25 minutes to go till my flight to Thira. I better get exploring.

 

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Food, Travel

Buen Provecho! : My Top 6 Restaurant picks in Barcelona


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The people of Barcelona take food very seriously. I mean, more than anyone. They have breakfast, and think about where to eat for lunch. Midday shopping trips are not complete without a quick Café au laitat or Tortilla Española to round off the excursion. Food is not a joke in this city, and with the rich succulent variety of Spanish Catalonian cuisine available, this is a look at the city’s top 6 halal joints to indulge in Spanish traditions or to simply eat well for the practicing Muslim.

Tandoori Nights – Indian

This casual Indian restaurant in the heart of Barcelona serves an assortment of Indian food as well as a variety of breakfast and sandwiches throughout the day. Meals range from €9.50 to €12.50 per plate, with intense delectable platters of Chicken Korma, Tikka and Sheesh Kebabs served on a special menu. The restaurant provides a shaded terrace out front for taking in this very diverse city and you can enjoy a quick bite under a canopy, glimpsing at locals and travellers alike. The Indian kitchen according to the website, opens at 12:00 (midday) until 16:00 (4pm) and then from 20:00 (8pm) until 11:00am. Sandwich bars are open all day from 12:00 midday until 1:00am- nonstop.

tandoori-nights

If you’re looking to visit- the details for the restaurant are as follows. T +34 676 432 564. E tandoori.nights.bcn@gmail.com or plug the following address into google- Carrer Carretes, 44 Barcelona, España 08001.

Fenicia Restaurant – Lebanese

Rated ‘Best Lebanese Food in Town!’ by one TripAdvisor reviewer, this joint serves an extensive mixture of Mediterranean, Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s in an optimal location- very local to Sants station so if you’re close by, definitely pop in. The quality of the food here is amazing and the rich chicken shawarma’s and appetizing falafel’s are given in extremely generous portions. This restaurant is open most days from 12:30 midday till around 00:30 every night.

fenicia-restaurant

The address for your peruse is Psg Antoni, 9, 08014 Barcelona, Spain and the T +34 933 30 01 46

Rincón Persa Restaurant – Persian

In true ancient Persian cultural entertainment, this restaurant offers the services of professional belly dancers to go with your meal every Friday and Saturday at 22:30hr. Influenced by their vast ancestral culinary tradition stretching from China to the East and all the Mediterranean villages in the west, Persian food is bathed with delicate fragrances and exquisite flavours that you simply must try at this property.  With platters of Mast-Û-khiar (cucumber and mint, mixed with yoghurt), Kufteh (Meatballs with chickpeas, barberries and aromic herbs) and Mirza GhasemÍ (char-grilled eggplant, tomatoes and garlic blended with egg) starters to kick-start the flavour fest, you’re bound to keep asking for more. Meals cost around €12.50 and vegetarians are also well catered for. Desserts are also an option, strating at €3.90 with Persian, fresh mint and lime ice cream,  traditional Persian baglava delights, lemon and basil mousse and the standard tiramisu dessert.

rincon-persa

Close by to the Sant Antoni metro station, the address for this property is Carrer de Floridablanca, 85, 08015 and the T is +34 934 255 996. You can also email them at rinconpersa85@gmail.com

The restaurant tends to get full pretty quick, make sure you call ahead and grab a reservation before you head in to avoid disappointment! They open from Tuesday to Sunday at 12:30 until 23.30 and do not close at midday. Not open Mondays! Reservation required!

Restaurant Bali – Malaysian

This Indonesian and Malay cuisine establishment, located in Laforja street, will uncover typical Indonesian specialties elaborated with traditional recipes and made with the best raw ingredients on the market. Extensive and exotic meals include Pedegil (Fried potato empanada, chopped cilandro, onions and fried shallots), Sate Ayam (grilled chicken skewers mariandos with peanut sauce) or Assam Pedas Udang (Spicy and sour prawns cooked in coconut milk and tamarind), amoungst a variety of other traditional dishes. The Rijstafel, the Crispy Duck and Honey Chicken are rounded off with homemade deserts that will invite you to stay and then leave with the desire to return. This restaurant presents private rooms and long round tables that facilitate good talks among large families or friend groups. Average spend here is from €20 to €30 and wi-fi is also available.

bali

The Bali lunches are presented from 13:00 till 16:00 every day and then dinner is served when doors reopen from 20:00 till 23:30. Doors to this restaurant open from 8am, so feel free to drop in from then! The hotel address is Laforja, 8 Sarriá – Sant Gervasi 08006 Barcelona and T +34 934 61 40 52. Reservation required!

Wild Beef – American

An extension of the ever popular Original PFC in the heart of London, Wild Beef Gourmet Burgers thrives on creating “fast food masterpieces” with their dedication, highly skilled chefs and combined experience. Gaining much popularity over in Britain, the brand moved out to Barcelona and brought along with them their halal-certified, mouth-watering beef burgers, made from the freshest beef to secret recipes with their delectable veggie, manchego and gourmet burgers, poultry, barbacoa, XXL burgers and a “crazy” assortment of delectable chicken Empanada with crispy fries.

burger

If you craving for some 50s-inspired American/British style ambiance in this Spanish municipality, look no further. Rated 5* for their food hygiene, you’re bound to have an unforgettable, unbeatable and mind-blowing experience at this establishment. Average spend here is around €10 per person, with opening hours Monday-Sunday 12:00 midday till 01:00am. The address to get here is Carrer de la Diputació, 214, 08011, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain and to book via T +34 932 69 42 02

Ouzoud Cous Cous Restaurante – Moroccan

With the upbeat vibes and traditional Moroccan interior, you are no longer in Barcelona and are transported into the buzzing cultural setting of Morocco the minute you walk in. True to its roots, colourful textiles, from upholstery to wall hangings, adorn every inch of this property and offers typical Moroccan cuisine from tender chicken chops, minced meat, couscous- a national delicacy- and the Harira. Ofcourse do not miss out on their magnificent Briwat or the Masman served in delicate tagines and there is no lack of rich succulent homemade desserts or tea service. If you’re in the mood, grab some shisha here too and enjoy the ambient mood and good company.

Average spend here is around €20 based on a two-course meal excluding drinks. Food is served from 13:00 till 15:30 every day and dinner is served 21:00 until 23:00 every day. The address to get here is Carrer de Salvà, 5, 08004 Barcelona, Espanja and T +34 931 64 59 37

Helpful? Check out my previous post of my experiences in Barcelona or perhaps you’ve got your own experiences? I want to know! Drop me a comment below.

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Have anyone tried any other restaurants in Barcelona?

Experiences, Travel

Barcelona, Spain: Through my Specs


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If the title Sun City wasn’t taken by its friendly neighbour across the pond, Barcelona would definitely have that title. Instead, dubbed ‘The City of Counts’ owing to its history as the seat of the Count of Barcelona between 9th and 15th century Catalan, it is now a hotbed for tourists, trade fair, fashion and avid socialites. Located on the northeast coast of the mountainous Iberian Peninsula region, facing the Mediterranean Sea, the 101.4km² city inhibits around 1.6million people and is the 2nd most populous municipality of the Kingdom that is Spain.

Attracting trekkers from all walks of life all times of the year, it was a refreshing site to see empty beaches and less crowded markets during my stay there earlier in the year. I wanted to live like a local for a week, experience the Catalonian lifestyle as well as be surrounded by the native people and the best place to stay I determined, was near the beach. Set a block from the Nova Icaria seafront, SB Icaria Hotel encapsulated the entire definition of the perfect Barcelonan stay with a 12 minute walk to the Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica metro station and a 25 minute stroll to the architecturally imposing grand Sagrada Família church.

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I stayed with 2 girl friends, bubbly and a bag of laughter throughout the trip. We stayed in a 3-bedroom suite on the 3rd floor of the building which was just as well since I actually couldn’t get a room in the hotel a week before. I’d been so sold out on the idea of staying at the beachfront luxury W Hotel that by the time I’d saved up enough the hotel had booked out everywhere. Infact, Id left it so late that no hotels in the entire Ciutat Vella District had vacancies. Flights booked, bags packed and nowhere to stay was quite the conundrum to face. Safe to say I’ve never made the mistake of saving up for a hotel ever again.  The girls flew out a day before me, so arriving and checking in wasn’t much of a problem. My Ryanair (Yeah, we cheap like that) flight FR9044 from LDN STN arrived at BCN El-Prat on Thurs 03 March at exactly 16:00. A quick taxi ride had me so lost staring at the beautiful city; I’d arrived at my destination long before my mind had. I paid and exited, still lost in the towering buildings and the soaring sun rays that pierced through them.

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A shower was first call. We all had our Aluminé skin care range decked out like a showroom floor in the bathroom. My go-to is the Soy & Baobab Shampoo and Conditioner- everywhere I go, it’s a must. Ofcourse anything over 100ml doesn’t get through security so in the spirit of making things happen, I got 4 x 25ml bottles straight from Amazon and took my trusted toiletries on their first little adventure. Unpacked, passport silently sealed away, clothes neatly on pegs in the walk-in wardrobe and heels attentively stood in a line, Barcelona was about to get a taste of an excited british Somalian.

The hotel offered breakfast buffet every morning which was delishhhhh, a quaint outdoor swimming pool with an enticing hot tub – the ultimate instagram backdrop we later learned– and a gym and sauna that in hindsight, I wish I used more of. Whilst we spent our morning nonchalantly by the pool every day, our evenings were a cultural excavation of restaurants and diners and beaches. Close by, we had our midnight €1 fries spot at Parc de Mar’s very own McDonalds.  Walk down the beach from there towards the wharf with luxe-grade yachts and fleets of Bugatti’s and Bentleys of very wealthy high rollers, you’ll see a two-storey food and dining destination below ground level. A lively area with a great buzzing atmosphere, we had tons of food concepts and seating options available. Most nights we found ourselves in Jerusalem, a Mediterranean Restaurant and bar with added Shisha/Hookah lounge. They stayed open until about 3am every night, and we’d just eat and enjoy each other’s company with locals all around us, and fellow foreigners making conversation. Felt surreal to be honest, to be in such a calm state in a completely unknown environment with strangers and unfamiliar territory. Yet so tranquil, and so peaceful.

The sounds of the ocean and waves lapping at the beach will forever remain in my conscious mind. Looking out, you could see nothing. The moon played hide and seek during my whole stay, and so not much natural light was available to illuminate the sea. You’d look out, and it would be pitch black. And yet, so thunderously loud, as if it was right beside your ear, the rhythmic pulse of the sea and its steady, throbbing heartbeat ruptured your thoughts and demanded your attention. It was unmatched by anything else in nature. I don’t even think I can put in a nutshell how my skin would erupt in goosebumps at every wave or how humbled it made me to hear it. Amazing, and quite simply hypnotic. An empty beach at 4am, with nothing but pitch black in front of you. I sat down on the sand once or twice, the waves could’ve towered over me and I wouldn’t have known. The experience was surreal.

I made some lifelong friends during that stay- people from other cities in the UK that to this day, still hit me up on social media to ask about the next rendezvous. I appreciate them all.

The girls had rented out the room for 4 nights. I was staying for 5. They checked out and I was left in another predicament. Never will I forget this leg of the trip. On my journey, I’d seen only one other Somali pair on my flight into BCN. I’d smiled, we had shared conversation and by the end of the flight… we were in my head, friends. They were staying in the same hotel so naturally, I’d see them more and more during my stay. For the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t go downstairs that night and just book the room we had to check out, for myself. Instead, I went to the first floor and knocked on their door and left my things in there. I don’t know whose handbook I got this from, or what the plan was… just acted. To this day, I could never forget that I knocked on someone’s door who I’d met on a flight and just stayed in their room for the night.

2 things to be thankful for. 1 is that they were a mother and daughter pair; otherwise it would’ve been totally awks. Not that it would’ve mattered. I mean… would it have? Hmm. 2nd is that their flight was at 3am and the room would be unoccupied for the remainder of the night. The room was still checked in, I mean… could God be looking out for me any further?! Lovely pair, great and truly self-effacing people. The mother took a nap at around 11pm and like the crazy insane person I am, I lead my new friend away at 11:30pm and we took a stroll to the beach.

Listen, the ocean at night is hypnotic. You’ll crave for more. I’m a “reflector”, I like sitting back and just meditating and reflecting on what I have and finding inner peace. Quiet places appeal to me. It was perfect. We strolled around, made some Jamaican friends who we probably – by their drunken state- should not have spoken to. We grabbed food, took some pictures and leisurely laughed way into the night. 1am came. They left. I had the room to myself.

I remember just as I shut the room door, my Whatsapp dinging. I’d reconnected with someone I’d met years before, and they happened to be in Barcelona same time as me. My flight out of Barcelona El-Prat was at 18:05 so I’d have a few more hours to indulge in some sunshine before heading to London. He came to my hotel that morning, and after some breakfast and checking-out, we left. The sun was beautiful. The air felt cleaner for some reason. It was such a beautiful day. In those last few hours, in that last stroll out of the hotel, I realised just how beautiful and peaceful the morning was. I missed every sunrise because I’d been out so late and needed to sleep. This was the first time I was out this early, and boy was it just gorgeous. A street peddler I’d grown familiar with near the restaurants approached us. He was selling fresh roses. He signalled to me and said to my new friend “Why not a rose for the lady?” My friend smiled. I got red and white roses to call mine that day, and still have them somewhere in my trip treasures, stored in a box deep in my room. My first ever set of roses. Sometimes, I find them and sometimes I smile- recalling memories long gone of laughter and sunshine.

If ever any of my readers find themselves in Barcelona, make sure you take a bus from Plaça d’Espanya towards Palau Saint Jordi. From the PSJ website, the buses you want are 55, 13 and 150. The winding hills give you the most breathtaking panoramic views of Barcelona city, the ports with boats and yachts, and glistening crystal clear water as far as the eye can see. Cross the road and you get a ‘Great Wall of China’ vibe with a huge wall and a city of chimneys and fresh clothes hanging out to dry beneath you. Take the bus back down to Plaça d’Espanya and explore the square, Valetian Towers, the shopping mall of Arenas de Barcelona and a whole host of cultural entertainment it offers. Make sure you take the first Montjuïc Cable Car station taking you 750m above ground and connecting you to the Montjuïc mountain and castle, if you’re a stickler for a good view.

I absolutely loved Barcelona. Next time, I’m vlogging it.

Do you have stories from your time in Barcelona? Perhaps a tale from another city? I want to hear about it. Drop a comment below… I love hearing back from my readers!