THE 5-MINUTE TRIP PLANNER: A sunny day out in Brighton

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Brighton gets really busy on sunny weekends, when half of London seems to get on the train to enjoy the sunshine. And it’s really worth it!

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There are lots of nice shops, bars and, of course, the beach!

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Go: Trains from London are frequent and cheap, so there’s no need to book in advance.
  • Do: Walk around the Lanes, a pedestrianised shopping area full of quirky and cool shops.
  • Eat: Terre a Terre is a famous veggie restaurant that is on the top of my wishlist – it’s highly recommended and everything on the menu looks amazing!

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The 5-minute trip planner: Planning a short trip in no time.

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TRAVEL READING: A few books on my wishlist

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I always take a book with me when I travel. Most of the times, it stays nicely in my backpack for the whole trip and it comes back without even being touched. But that doesn’t stop me from constantly selecting new books to take with me on my travels – here are a few currently on my wishlist:

Under An African Sky: Journey to the Climate Frontline, by Peter Hudson

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I know nothing about Mauritania. But after reading an article by Peter Hudson on National Geographic Traveller I decided I wanted to learn more. Peter has been visiting the same village in Mauritania for decades, and this is his most recent book about it. I know that reading it will make me want to go there too!

The Last Train to Zona Verde: Overland from Cape Town to Angola, by Paul Theroux

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I’ve never read anything by Paul Theroux (shame!), but for a long time I’ve been meaning to. On the top of my list is The Last Train to Zona Verde, which is supposed to be really dark and not particularly nice to read. I have a fascination with Angola, so I’m keen to see what his experience was.

Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth, by Albert Podell

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I love learning about others’ travel habits and adventures. This book is about how Albert Podell visited all countries on earth – how cool is that? I don’t necessarily want to go to every country on earth (I’m lying, I do, but I’m not planning to do it just yet), but I really want to learn how others do it!

Happy reading!

WHERE TO STAY IN LONDON: Insider tips on finding a good deal

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If you’re never been to London, deciding where to stay can be quite difficult. There are lots and lots of options, but prices are way too high, and there are many bad hotels around. Here are my tips for getting a good deal:

Money matters:

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Accommodation in London is really expensive (it’s really expensive to rent here too, so there’s no escaping it!).

If your only concern is about money, then Easyhotel is as cheap as it gets. With double rooms start at £30, it really doesn’t get cheaper than that. Of course there’s a trade off: this place is tiny, and you even have to pay extra for a room with a window!

Other usual budget options include Ibis and hostels – although in London even a bunk bed in a shared room can cost over £40! Tripadvisor had good mid-range options from £80, although really it’s unusual to pay less than £100 per night (yikes!).

I’ve stayed at the Royal National the first time I visited London. It’s a good option: a massive and boring hotel, but good value and good location.

And of course there’s Airbnb, with lots of options for around £80 for two. This is probably the best choice of all.

I’m sure there are absolutely tons of high-end places, but this blog doesn’t really know anything about that.

Location, location, location

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London is a big city, but public transportation is very good, so as long as you’re inside zones 1-2 of the tube you can’t go very wrong. But these some good areas to consider:

  • Victoria is a good area to stay, as it’s very central and there’s lots to see and do.
  • King’s Cross is another good option, as it’s a transportation hub and it’s close to Islington – a nice region to explore with a great nightlife.
  • Around London Bridge, especially near the river, there are some of the main sights, and it’s not as full of tourists as other areas.
  • Soho is at the heart of the action, but I imagine would be quite expensive to stay around there.
  • And for those who want a more authentic experience, staying a bit further from the centre should be considered.

But the best way to have a great time in London is staying with a local, as I’m sure my friends would tell everyone!

TRAVELLING ON FILM: 3 movies to watch again this summer

Summer in England is not always as sunny as one might hope, which is probably why everyone here seems obsessed with sunlight! These are some films to inspire summer trips:

1. Easy Rider

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Easy Rider is a classic road trip across America: motorcycles, loud music and so much attitude! This film shaped a whole genre, and the acting is great – Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson are all amazing as ever. One to make you reminisce of long road trips!

2. Grease

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Grease is the perfect film to watch during the summer: The over-saturated look, the over the top fashion, and of course, the amazing music all make this as fun as it gets. And don’t forget to sing along to Summer Nights!

3. Vicky Cristina Barcelona

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona is another great Woody Allen film about a city. Vicky and Cristina are American friends who decide to spend a summer break in Spain. Unlike other Woody Allen films, this is not as neurotic as you might expect. To watch sipping white wine!

A WEEKEND IN VILNIUS, LITHUANIA: Craft beer and sunny days

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When I got off the plane after midnight in Vilnius, I had no idea what to expect. I ended up there because it was easy to go for a weekend, and when I boarded the plane I really had no expectations. But a weekend away in a new city never disappoints!

Vilnius is a small and quiet city, but in many ways it has a modern and vibrant atmosphere. You need to look in the right places, but there are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants that are very cool.

Old Town

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Vilnius’ Old Town is a Unesco Heritage site, with winding roads and historical buildings as you’d expect. There are lots of churches around, and when we visited it seemed like every single one of them had a wedding on. It’s a nice area to spend a few hours exploring, especially if it’s a nice day.

The main street is called Pilies and it cuts through the Old Town starting from the Gate of Dawn, the only remaining gate into the city.

Gediminas Tower and Castle

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After exploring the Old Town, we hiked up Gediminas Castle for a view over the city. It was a glorious sunny day, so we could see all the nice buildings in the Old Town as well as the newer areas of Vilnius.

Uzupis

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We started our second day walking to the Genocide Museum, which unfortunately was closed. So we crossed the city centre and headed to Uzupis, a neighbourhood home to artists which declared the area an independent republic in the 1990s.

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There’s even a local constitution on display. It’s a nice area by the river, so we stopped for a quick beer.

Food:

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Lithuanian food, as most Eastern European food, isn’t really veggie-friendly, so we did some research in advance to find good options. We had lunch at Namai, a very nice but hard to find vegetarian cafe which served great pasta. Lunch for two including tip cost 17.50€.

We also visited Gyvas, a vegetarian restaurant and bar which had lots of vegan options. It was alright but not great. Dinner and snacks including tip cost 18€. Another place we visited was Radharane, a hare krishna restaurant. Food was good, and the place was nice and a good option for a break. Lunch for two including tip cost 13€.

Bars:

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There were lots of nice bars in the Old Town, many with outside seating which was ideal. I sipped white wine in the nice Franki, watching wedding parties go by. We found the great Manu Kiemas Terasa, reminiscent of Budapest ruin bars, which was lively and pretty cool.

A great find was Bambalyne, a bar with an impressive selection of over 80 local beers. Like other good finds in Vilnius, this place is easy to miss if you’re not looking for it.

Lithuania is very cheap by British standards, with beers for £2 and a large glass of wine for less than £3.

HOW TO DO IT:

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  • Go: Wizzair has direct flights from Luton and it’s the cheapest option. It takes about 2.5h. A taxi from the airport should cost about 10€ but they often charge tourists more (not cool).
  • Stay: We stayed at Eloft Hotel which was good and cheap. Vilnius is small so most things are within walking distance.
  • When to go: We went in June, when it was amazingly sunny. Summers can get quite hot, but winters are really too cold – although there are Christmas markets around.

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AN ASTRONAUT’S GUIDE TO LIFE ON EARTH, BY CHRIS HADFIELD: The perfect book to read on a plane

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Chris’s Hadfield book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, was on my wishlist for a long time, and I finally bought it when I had a long wait at the airport. This is a great book to read on a plane: you can look out the window and understand why people are obsessed with space exploration.

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When Chris was at the ISS for 6 months, his twitter account became really popular for the great photos he was sharing, showing the intricate details of deserts, oceans, hurricanes… I love looking out the window from a plane, seeing little villages above the clouds in Slovenia, the Andes cutting through Chile, the dryness of Morocco.

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His book tells the amazing story of how he went from dreaming of being an astronaut when he was 9, to actually going to space many years later. It includes lots of fun tales about the ins and outs of being an astronaut, but it is also a book about achieving goals and being focussed (which is exactly my kind of thing). It is the perfect read for a holiday – you’ll come back wanting to do more and more!

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Listen: Chris Hadfield’s rendition of Space Oddity has millions of hits of youtube and is just great!

SUNNY BREAKS IN EUROPE: 3 places to visit this summer

I’m mostly done with my summer holiday planning, but there’s still one weekend in August to go somewhere. Here are three ideas for summer breaks:

1. The beach holiday: Sicily, Italy

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Sicily is one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever visited. Deep blue seas and sunny days make it the perfect summer scape. Plus there are lots of historical sites to visit, from Erice to Taormina, where you can see old walled cities and Roman ruins.

Go: Fly into Palermo and explore the region by car, bus or ferry.

The perfect beach holiday without the crowds!

2. The city break: Stockholm, Sweden

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Stockholm is amazing in the summer. Walk around the Old Town (Gamla Stan) and take a ferry around the many islands. There’s lots to explore on foot and the temperatures are mild – perfect for walking around.

Go: Get a cheap flight with Norwegian and book a flat around the city centre.

The perfect time to discover a great city!

3. The hidden gems: Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia

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Ideally located by the Julian Alps, Ljubljana is not very touristic and is really pretty. Nearby is the amazing Bled, a scenic town with a famous church in an island in the middle of a lake.

Go: Flights from the UK take around 2.5 hours and are cheapest with Wizzair. Book in advance for the summer months to get the best prices. Buses between Bled and Ljubljana are frequent and take around 1.5 hours.

A sunny break in a new place!