travel
It's no secret that spend a good chunk of my time travelling the world. Every chance I get I jet off somewhere new and exciting. I travel so much that I seem to get asked the same questions over and over again, so why not just do a Q&A I thought? I asked you guys to ask me anything about travelling and you delivered.

Disneyland Paris, France

So here are your questions answered...


What was your best holiday ever? - This is an impossible question. I've seen so many beautiful places and met so many incredible people that I can't possibly narrow it down to just one trip. I think the most memorable was when I went travelling for 3 weeks around Europe though. All I've ever wanted to do since I was young was see the world and that's as close to proper travelling as I've ever been before! In just under 3 weeks I visited 6 countries and 7 cities. It's a trip I will never forget.

Where will you be travelling next? - So I actually have a trip planned to Dublin in a few days! It's somewhere I've been a couple of times before but I don't think I could ever get bored of it. My plans for this break are; Jameson's Whiskey Distillery, Dublin Castle, and of course I'll be sinking a few pints around Temple Bar too! If anyone has some less touristy recommendations for the capital of the Emerald Isle, I'm all ears! 

Famous Grouse Experience, Glenturret, Scotland

Where is the best place for a female solo holiday? - Okay so I'm biased because it was my first solo holiday but Belfast is perfect for girls travelling from the UK. Its cheap, its close, and they speak English which is a bonus. If you're a bit nervous about your first solo trip I would definitely recommend travelling somewhere you can speak the local language. I've written a whole post on tips for solo female travellers which you guys might find helpful.

Where is good to go for a cheap city break? - As a general rule eastern Europe is always a good shout when it comes to affordable city breaks. Poland in particular is extremely reasonable for British tourists. If I had to pick one place though I would recommend Gdansk. Situated in the north of Poland its a beautiful little city, with lots to do, and can be visited at any time of year. Here are 10 things I would recommend doing in Gdansk.

Falls of Dochart, Killin, Scotland

Is Birmingham good for a holiday? - Ha I couldn't tell if this was a joke or not but I'm going to say yes. In case you didn't know Birmingham is my bustling home town which is only getting better with age. Shopping, drinking, sport, art, we have it all here. I reckon tourists could easily have a packed out weekend of fun in the second city.

What camera do you take travelling? - My photographs are generally a mix between my IPhone camera and my Canon G5X, more often than not they will be taken with this pocket sized point and shoot though.

Which is your favourite UK city? - This is really tricky because we have so many great cities across the UK but I would have to say Bristol. It's a city I'm still yet to really explore but I've been a good few times now and I always find something new to do. Bristol is a quirky little place with a great atmosphere and lots of history, I'd take a day trip here in a heartbeat!

Shrewsbury, England

Are you scared of flying? - Not at all. I've been a nervous flyer in the past but I'm honestly just more excited than anything when I board a plane. I could spend hours looking out of a plane window and I would probably even fight my own nan for the window seat.

Where is your number 1 recommended destination? - Another impossible question, so I'll split it into 3 parts. For a short city break I would recommend Amsterdam. Amsterdam has a great mix of history, nightlife, and culture, all whilst being around an hour away from most UK cities. For a beach holiday I would recommend Bodrum in Turkey. Again it's got the culture and nightlife as well as some cracking beaches and boat trips close by! For a first time girls/ lads holiday I would recommend Salou in Spain. Its where I had my first girls break and it was SO much fun. The bars were great, the beaches were gorgeous, and you have a lot of touristy things nearby. It's also pretty close to Barcelona so you can take a day trip in.

London Eye, London, England

Any tips for first time flyers? - Honestly? Just enjoy the experience, flying is the safest form of transport afterall. If you are really struggling with the thought of getting on a plan a little alcoholic beverage wont hurt but be warned, it's very easy to get drunk on a plane due to the high altitude. The last thing you want to do is be sick in the cabin, so take it easy. Talk to your doctor before you fly if needed as they might be able to recommend other medication that will ease your nerves. It's also a good idea to have a book or magazine to keep you occupied especially if you are going to be in the sky for a while. I also make myself a banging holiday playlist before each trip I take so I have some great tunes to listen to on the flight over! I actually have a whole blog post on keeping busy on long journeys which you can find here.

Where was the first place you went on a plane? - The first place I went on a plane was actually Lanzarote in the Canary Islands but I was 4 and I don't remember it at all. After that I didn't get on a plane again until I was 15 when I went to Crete for 2 weeks with my Aunt and Uncle. I will remember that trip forever and actually believe it's partially where my love for travel comes from! You can read more about that here!

Thank you to everyone who submitted questions over on Twitter and Instagram! I absolutely love answering questions about my travels and I'll be happy to give anyone recommendations about any of the places I've visited.

So now that I've answered all of my travel questions I have one for you. If you could recommend one destination, anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

 Thanks for reading!


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ASK ME ANYTHING - TRAVEL Q&A

Solo travel, scary right? Well it doesn't have to be. It's understandable that travellers, female travellers in particular, might be a bit wary jetting off alone, after all doing anything on your own can be a little nerve wracking.


With this handy guide hopefully you can reduce the risk of coming across any problems on your trips and put your mind at ease. So here are my top tips for female solo travellers...



Be aware of your surroundings - A pretty obvious one really but one that's easily forgotten when the holiday mood takes over. Always be aware of where you are, who you are with, and who might me lurking. Along the same sort of lines, you should never let on that you are lost or unsure of where you are, don't make yourself look vulnerable. I've always been told to walk with purpose and confidence when alone and it's served me well so far.

Share your location - Always keep your friends and family in the loop about your plans. When I travel alone I always ring or text my mom in the morning to let her know what I'll be up to. Having a chat keeps the loneliness at bay and also gives her an idea of my location. I also share my exact location with my friends using my phone, a feature I think most modern mobiles now have. I would highly recommend leaving this switched on continuously if you're in a country where you can use your data, and if not, switch it on whenever you connect to wifi. Now I know what you're thinking 'but that with zap the life out of my battery!' which brings me on to my next point.

Take a battery pack - I know they can be bulky, and heavy, and just a little annoying when travelling but believe me nothing is worse than being alone, needing your phone, and realising its dead. Chances are you won't need it for an emergency but it's nice to have even if you're feeling a little lonely at the dinner table.


Take a small tripod - Not a safety tip! Well unless you use it as a weapon to protect yourself from potential attackers but that's not something I would recommend. I would recommend however, using it to take cute photos of yourself when you don't feel like asking people/ there's no-one around. I've taken my little gorrillapod on all of my solo trips so far and it's come in very bloody handy!

Don't drink excessively - I know I know, everyone likes a little bev on their holidays and there is nothing wrong with having a couple of drinks, but when you're travelling alone you don't want to make yourself vulnerable and excessive drinking will do just that. Thinking along the same sort of lines, never leave your drink or accept a drink from someone if you didn't see it being made. 

Dress appropriately - I'm not one for telling women to cover up ever, but in certain countries, showing excess skin or wearing inappropriate clothing could get you in big trouble. You would think that by now women shouldn't have to second guess their clothing choices but unfortunately in some places that's still the reality. 


Join free walking tours - More of a general travel tip than one targeted specifically and solo female travellers but one I live by. Joining a free walking tour at the star of your trip is a great way to see the sights on a budget, get to grips with your surroundings, and make friends! I'll often go on to have food or drinks with people I've met on these tours and we will probably be lifelong facebook friends too ha!

Do your research - Have a rough itinerary planned before you go. It would be unreasonable to plan every minute of your trip but it's a good idea to have a list of things planned so you don't get bored. It's also worth getting an idea of the routes you might have to take to on your solo trip. 

Trust your gut - It sounds cliche but if something doesn't feel right pay attention. If you're in a dodgy area, or someone's looking at you a little off, leave. You're instinct is usually right. 

Split your money - I know most people are moving on to using travel cards now but if you're like me and take cold hard cash on your travels it's always worth splitting. Leave half in your safe at the hotel and take the other out with you. If the worst was to happen and your purse was lost or stolen at least you would have something to survive on. 


Stick to crowded areas especially at night - They say there is safety in numbers and my biggest tip for solo travellers, female or not, would be to stay with the crowds, especially at night. If you've read my solo travel nightmare you'll know that I ended up in a rather uncomfortable situation on an empty street late at night and although nothing happened, it's an experience I'll never forget.

Chat to locals - Now I don't want all my tips to be doom and gloom because that's not what travel is about! Make the most of your trip and meet new people. Talk to the locals, pick their brains about where to eat and what to see. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at this by now and I can safely say that I've got friends and acquaintances all over Europe!

Get your Bumble on - Not quite confident enough to strike up a convo with a stranger in the pub? Well there's always Bumble. Bumble started as a dating app but also has a bbf section (for making friends) and a business section (for networking). Whilst I'm quite happy to chat to away to people I've only just met I have used Bumble a couple of times on my solo trips to go for drinks with locals. As you should when meeting people in your own city, always tell a friend where you're going, and don't be afraid to leave if you feel uncomfortable at any point.

Learn key phrases - Going somewhere english isn't the official language? Don't panic. Learning a few phrases will really benefit you when solo travelling, and there is no excuse when you can literally google everything on your phone now days. Knowing the basics like, please, thank you, good morning etc. will help your trip go so much smoother and the locals usually appreciate the effort too.

So those were my top tips for female solo travellers, now get out there, have an amazing time, and most importantly stay safe!



Thanks for reading!


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TOP TIPS FOR FEMALE SOLO TRAVELERS

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!

Thanks for reading!


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WHY YOU NEED TO TAKE A SMALL CITY BREAK

I've said it before and I'll say it again, taking a solo trip was the best thing I have ever done for myself. If you've been here for a while, you'll know I've had my struggles with anxiety and going places alone, so to hop on a plane and head to a new country on my own really was an achievement for me. That being said, my trip didn't go as smoothly as it could have...

The Duke of York Pub

I chose to visit Belfast. A few months previously I had be convinced to visit the city by a very charming Irishman (a trait I would soon discover most Irish males possess) and my trip was booked before I'd even had time to think about it.

On my second night in the beautiful city I was feeling confident. I survived my first night alone and even went to the pub on my tod, I was doing well. So why not venture a little further I thought? I really wanted to have a drink in 'the most famous pub in Belfast', the Duke of York, and I wouldn't be disappointed when I got there. But it was a half an hour walk from my hotel.

Back home in Birmingham I would never have walked it, a 30 minute walk? No thanks! But when I'm on holiday a half hour walk is nothing. I was happy to see the city along the way and so I left the comfort of my hotel to walk the streets of Belfast on a chilly January evening. 

Following the map on my phone closely I quickly walked through the city centre. Maybe it was the time of year or maybe Belfast is just a quiet town, I'm not really sure, but the streets were empty. This was a little unnerving to say the least.

During my walk I was mindful not to look lost or give away the fact that I was following directions. I walked with purpose and confidence and was always aware of my surroundings. That's when I spotted him. A man maybe 10/15 foot ahead of me walking along the empty city centre road. I had noticed him looking back at me a couple of times and then he slowed down. No worries I thought, I'll take a quick look at the map and then walk past him.

With a solid plan in my mind and my phone now firmly away in my pocket I picked up the pace, overtook the man, and turned off the main road. What could go wrong? 

"Excuse me", a voice from just behind me called. The man had taken the same turn as me. "Excuse me" he said again, "Do you know where the Berliner is?" By this time he had caught up to me and I could see that he was fairly attractive and not much older than myself. He was Irish but maybe he was visiting Belfast himself and needed directions to the pub? I was trying to make sense of the situation. Naively I slowed my walking and told him that I was sorry but I had not heard of it. This was a mistake. 

By responding I invited him to strike up a conversation as we both walked down the narrowing road. Thinking back now I can't even recall what he was talking about, but I do remember him telling me he was a local. That was the red flag I needed to get myself out of there. He was not a lost tourist, he more than likely knew where he was. Alarm bells were ringing, but then as if by some miracle, I noticed a pub just beside us - The Berliner. 

I thanked whatever guardian angel was looking over me and notified the man, who was walking ever closer to myself, that the pub he was looking for was there! "Oh" he responded 'Thanks". And off he went towards the doorway of the bar. 

Murals Square (next to the Duke of York)

My heart still pounding I walked on. Problem solved, I thought. Then I turned back only to see him standing in the doorway. He hadn't gone in. I turned back and carried on walking. It was by this time that I noticed the road narrowing even further. Was this a dead end?! How could this be I thought? I was following my map so carefully!

I turned back around looking for an exit to the dimly lit road to realise that the man was now walking straight towards me. What did he want? Maybe he was going to mug me? Or maybe worse. My heart sank at this point. 

I took one last look at my phone. I needed to get off this street. In my previous panic I hadn't noticed that the road did indeed finish here but there was a small alleyway that continued on through to another main road. The alleyway had no lights but it was my only escape. 

I powered through that ally quicker than I think I have ever walked in my life. I didn't want to overreact by running which seems silly thinking back now. Once I was out the other side I just kept going until I turned another corner. It was only then that I looked back to be sure I was alone, which I now thankfully was. You never really notice just how empty streets are until you think you might need to call for help. 

Continuing on my way I was even more aware of my surroundings than before. My senses were heightened and even little noises set me on edge. I was still determined to get to the bar, after all where else would I go from here? 

I did eventually arrive at the pub (which is well worth the trip) and swiftly ordered a vodka coke to calm my nerves which were just about shot at this point. For the rest of the evening I chatted to other tourists and enjoyed a spot of live music before choosing a very different route home. 

Thinking back to that night my memory is beyond fuzzy. The details are warped at best and I would never be able to identify the man if I ever saw him again. I've since looked at maps of Belfast and I can only assume that I must have taken several wrong turns on that night because the route I originally walked doesn't make any sense. 

Would I have done anything differently if I was to relive that night again? Honestly I would have never responded the the lad when he originally spoke to me. I was so scared of coming off rude or a bitch that I put myself in a very scary situation. 

I've since been called a bitch on several occasions when I've told men in bars that I'm not interested and while it's not nice, it's so much better than accidently inviting unwanted attention. 

That night could have easily ended up very differently. I'm very lucky that I spent the evening enjoying a few drinks and not at the police station, or worse. 

Spending a long weekend completely alone has done wonders for my confidence and I would recommend it to anyone, but please please just be careful. 

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I WAS FOLLOWED ON MY SOLO TRIP

The Hotel Heritage sits just streets away from the world famous Belfry of Bruges, in fact you can see the landmark from the sundeck (yes you heard right) and even some of the rooms. Are you looking for a budget stay? You're in the wrong place. But if you're after a plush boutique hotel in the heart of beautiful Bruges read on...

Hotel entrance

The hotel, which is part of the Relais & Chateux group, has the luxurious look and feel of an old victorian mansion house whilst having all the comforts travellers like myself have become accustomed to.

On entering the hotel reception we could have be forgiven for thinking we'd stepped onto the set of Downton Abbey. The vintage style furniture and continuous playlist of classical music are a complete contrast from the busy streets of modern day Bruges. Here we found the most helpful receptionists and unlimited ice water, flavoured with either oranges or lemons - a welcome refreshment after a long day of sightseeing. Also on the ground floor is the breakfast/ dining room, a small bar, a cosy drawing room complete with a piano and an open fire, and even a secret garden tucked away in the centre of the hotel. Whilst these areas are breathtaking, the luxury continues up into the rooms too.

Hotel Reception and Bar

After check in was complete we were invited the join our luggage upstairs, but this isn't when the service stops. A member of staff then gave us a tour of our temporary home, explaining how all of the technology works and pointing out any important features. We were then left to unpack, unwind, and enjoy the treats left by house keeping.

In the room we found modern comforts such as USB plug sockets, a mini bar, bottled water which would be topped up daily, miniature grooming items, fresh fruit, dressing gowns, slippers, a coffee machine, an Ipad, and a digital heating system.

Slip into a fluffy white dressing gown and feast on the complimentary fruit or get out and take advantage of the free walking tour provided by the hotel, the choice was ours and we of course chose to do a bit of both.

Bedroom in the Deluxe Room

On our first night we were given an invitation to join the owners of the hotel in the reception area for drinks. Whilst we didn't get chance to chat with them, we did enjoy the complimentary champagne, a treat we would get used to over the following days.

After guzzling down a glass of fizz in the hotel, and having several drinks in central Bruges, we headed back to our room to find it had been turned down for the night and each of us had been left a small box of chocolates. Accompanying the treats was a personalised goodnight message from the hotel, something I'd not come across before but would happily receive each night of our stay. 

The following morning, eager to get down to breakfast, we almost missed the small card which had been slid under our door at some point during the night. The slip informed us of the weather for the day ahead and this again was not something I had seen before, but a lovely touch I looked forward to each morning.

Sitting room and sofa bed in the Deluxe Room

On entering the breakfast room we were greeted by our waiter, a very attentive member of staff who served us each morning. He gave us our drinks options for the morning which were a hot drink and a selection of fresh fruit juices. I chose the strawberry and apple juice everyday as it was just delicious.

After bringing our drinks over and serving them to us our waiter would bring a small starter to us each day. The miniature appetizers seemed to be delicacies from that region as I'd never come across any of them before. The first day we were given a small salad with seeds, nuts and a tasty dressing, on the second day we were given cured meat and melon, and on the last day it was a pot of yoghurt and granola. We were then given the choice of how we would like our eggs cooked, during my stay I had both poached and fried, both were equally tasty.

Sitting room and bathroom in the Deluxe Room

Whilst some of the dishes were cooked fresh and served to us,  the majority of the breakfast items could be found on the buffet. Here we had the choice of; bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, several types of cold meats, several types of cheese, cereals, a variety of milk, yoghurts, fresh and dried fruits, a selection of bread, chocolates, cakes, pastries, and my favourite - unlimited champagne.

Once we were finished with our buffet plates sweet treats were brought over to ourselves by our waiter, followed by fresh cooked waffles if we chose. The waffles were unlike any I had tried before and my mouth is watering right now just thinking about that delicious batter melting in my mouth.

Breakfast

During our stay the receptionist was on hand to help with any questions we had. They also provided us with a city map which they happily marked up with points of interest, and a discount card for many of the cities museums.

On check out of the hotel we were given the option to store our bags for the day which we did. We were also given a bag of complimentary water to take away which I thought was a very nice touch.

Hotel highlights:
  • Unlimited champagne breakfast
  • Complimentary chocolates each night
  • View from the sundeck at the top of the hotel
  • A separate bath and shower in the room

The only faults I could find in the hotel were the lack of a plug socket near a mirror which seems to be a common occurrence in hotel rooms and the coffee machine which seemed to stay broken throughout our stay even though we mentioned it to the hotel reception. 

Hotel Reception

All in all we thoroughly enjoyed our stay in the high end Hotel Heritage. It made a once in a lifetime trip to Bruges just a little more special and the small touches, such as the goodnight chocolates, really left a lasting impression on all of us. Next time I stay at an Etap or Premier Inn I will remember this luxury Belgian hotel fondly.

Thanks for reading!

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Looking for more hotel reviews?

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REVIEW | HOTEL HERITAGE - LUXURY IN THE HEART OF BRUGES

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