Over the years I have fallen into the usual trap of visiting London, Amsterdam, Paris ect. They are all great cities in their own rights but my god are they big! They are big and busy and full of annoying tourists. 

Whilst larger cities definitely have their benefits, lately I have made more of an effort to visit some of the smaller underrated cities of Europe, and I've not looked back. I've been thoroughly enjoying exploring lesser known places over recently and I think you should give it a go too.


No hustle and bustle


How many times have you queued hours to see a major tourist attraction just for it to be brimming with others doing the same? I waited almost 2 hours to get into the Louvre one summer just to be squeezed into packed room to see the Mona Lisa for 5 minutes. Although I was thrilled to be metres from one of the most famous paintings of all time, I could have done so much more with my time. Smaller cities usually won't be rammed with tourists, which means not only will you have a more relaxed break, you'll probably have more time to do fun things by avoiding the queues.


Smaller city smaller prices


I'm sure it's not the case with all little towns but from my experience, you can make your holiday so much cheaper by visiting a less popular city. Not only can the flight prices be a lot lower, but the hotels will be too. I've also noticed that restaurants cater more to the locals so you won't find as many high priced tourist traps.

Be the hipster tourist


Everyone likes visiting unique places that none of their friends have seen before and by taking a small city break you are more likely to find the hidden gems that others won't. Instead of taking home a thousand photos of the Eiffel Tower or Barcelona's Magic Fountain, you'll have seen the more unusual sights that little towns have to offer.

Culture and History


Sometimes a countries true culture can be lost in a bigger city. The things that make somewhere so unique can often be overshadowed by touristy things you 'have to do'. Smaller places usually have less attractions and sometimes their historical buildings are still intact too. Lille for example has some beautiful Parisian style roads whilst also still having a labyrinth of winding medieval streets you could spend hours wandering around. Although Paris is undeniably beautiful, so much of its history has been knocked down and replaced by identical buildings.


Walking


You must know by now that I love a good free walking tour. They are a fab, budget friendly way to see a new city, but they don't tend to exist in the big cities. There are two reasons for this, one is that the tour companies that operate in major cities don't like it and other is that they are simply too big to walk around. Which brings me onto another point, no public transport. I dislike public transport at the best of times and when I'm in a new place it can all just get a bit confusing. However in small cities you can usually get away with just walking from place to place which means not only are you saving more money but you will get to see parts of the city that you would miss being stuck on a bus.


The people are great


I don't know about you but I find the people in smaller towns and cities to be a lot more friendly. I'm not sure why but I find the people in major cities just don't have the time of day for you, and some can even be quite rude. I'm not sure I've ever felt this way in a little town, maybe they are just happy to have your custom? I don't know, but the people I've met in smaller places are some of the friendliest I've come across. Sometimes there can be slight language barriers in less touristy areas but that just means you have to try harder to learn their language which I don't think is a bad thing at all!

So those are the reasons I think you should book a small city break soon! There are some great little places out there, you just need to find them.

Do you have a favourite city? Big or small I'm always looking for recommendations!

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WHY YOU NEED TO TAKE A SMALL CITY BREAK

I arrived to my appointment early. I guess I wanted a bit of time to calm my nerves. I wasn't really worried about my smear test, after all there's not much of my body a doctor hasn't seen before, but it was new to me so I was understandably apprehensive.


I'd heard horror stories of cervixes being scratched so severely they bled profusely and of speculums (the instrument inserted into the vagina to allow the nurse to see the cervix) being forced in with a great amount of pain. I'll admit I did think about worst case scenarios as I sat in the waiting room but I rationalised with myself that they must be incredibly rare. After what seemed an age, my name was called and off I walked towards the nurse who was about to give my bits a good poke. The thought made me laugh actually.

As I took a seat in the consultation room the nurse asked if this was my first smear test, I told her it was. I'm not sure if she could tell I was nervous but she began to explain exactly what a cervical screening was, what it would involve, and what she would be looking for. She asked me a few various questions and then proceed to whip around the room picking up every piece of equipment she would soon be using.

Some of the bits I'd seen before and others I hadn't, but that didn't matter because she explained exactly what every item was and how it would be used. She didn't rush through anything and made me feel incredibly calm the whole time. Once I was all clued up the nurse allowed me to ask any questions I had before moving on to the main event.

I was then given time to undress my bottom half and cover myself with a large piece of paper towel. She didn't rush me during this time and waited patiently outside of the curtained off area around the bed I would soon be lying on. 

Once I told her I was ready she quickly showed me how best to position myself so that I would be comfortable and she could easily view my certix. She chatted away throughout the procedure and made me feel very at ease which I think helped the whole thing go a lot smoother. 

Inserting the speculum didn't hurt, having my cervix swabbed also didn't hurt (though it was a very strange feeling) and I didn't feel at all embarrassed about having my legs spread wide open either as my nurse was so calming and profesional. 

The whole procedure was over within about 3 minutes and I found myself on my way to work just 15 minutes after I initially stepped into the consultation room. 15 minutes was all it took to have a potentially life saving procedure, it's amazing really. 

Throughout the rest of the day I had some very light spotting, I would hardly even call it that but I've been told this was completely normal and nothing to worry about, after all I did just have my cervix scratched. Some doctors recommend keeping a panty liner handy however I didn't need one as the amount of blood was just so insignificant.

I'm still yet to have my results. I was told they can take anywhere from 2 - 6 weeks to come back but the time frame varies from area to area to its worth asking your nurse how long the wait is expected to be for you.

My first experience couldn't have been easier and I'm so glad I didn't put it off.


So what are my tips for your first smear?


  • Wear a dress or skirt, this means you can just pop off your knickers and lay on the bed with a bit of dignity. 


  • Relax as much as possible. I know it might be hard with a stranger looking at your fanny but the more relaxed you are the easier it will be for the nurse to insert the speculum meaning less chance of the procedure being painful.


  • Book an appointment for the middle of your cycle as this means a good sample of cervical cells can be taken. It's not recommended to have a smear test during your period.


  • Tell them its your first time. For me letting the nurse know this was my first smear test meant that she explained the whole procedure to me in depth which made me feel more comfortable with what was about to happen.


You can find more information about what happens during a cervical screening here.


Getting a smear test isn't the most fun thing you'll ever do but it is important.


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TIPS FOR YOUR FIRST SMEAR TEST & MY EXPERIENCE

"Another new restaurant, how long will this one last?!". It's a question that seems to cross my mind with every new opening at our snazzy new station, but I think it's pretty valid. Sometimes it feels like restaurants come and go quicker than the trains at Birmingham's Grand Central Station so when I saw Holy Moly Macaroni open and ready for business I just had to try it out.


The menu isn't massively extensive and features mostly Mac & Cheese dishes (funnily enough). I did find several things I liked the look of however which makes a nice change for me as I'm the fussiest eater on the planet. In the end I chose the Buttermilk Chicken with, you guessed it, Mac & Cheese. The Chicken was delicious, and so was the Mac & Cheese to my surprise! Believe it or not I'd never actually tried Mac & Cheese before but it's definitely something I'd have again. A lot of the dishes come with mini Mac sides but there is also a selection of larger Mac & Cheese dishes with various ingredients if you want it as a main. There's even a Mac & nocheese for Vegans and Gluten free options for the celiacs, so everyone is catered for. 


Despite the food being super tasty, the portion sizes just weren't that big in my opinion. Maybe (definitely) I'm a big eater but I did think there could have been a little more on my plate, Tori my dining partner also agreed. She went for exactly the same meal as me but added an extra side of Cajun chips, good call. 

Along with my dinner I also went for a Vimto, yeah yeah I know it's boring but I wasn't feeling anything alcoholic. Now I could have sworn the drinks were refillable, and I definitely refilled mine, but I can't seem to find anything online to suggest they are? So If they are, they're great value for money at £2.80, and if they're not well then I'm a thieving bastard. 


The service during our meal was fab, the staff were super friendly, and the place itself was kept really clean. I'll definitely go back and try out some of the other tasty meals if it does still exist in a few months time. As I said previously, restaurants in Grand Central don't tend to last too long however I really hope this one does as it's a little bit different and it's not just another chain.

Where's the best place you've eaten at recently?


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HOLY MOLY MACARONI - FAD OR FEAST?

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