5 Reasons Why You Need To Travel Alone 

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetTaken in Lisbon, Portugal -blog post here

Ok so you’ve fallen in love with travelling, but have you tried doing it solo? Now has never been a better time and here are 5 reasons why…

 

1. You learn the need for others and therefore appreciate others. 

When I was travelling alone in South America (not the safest of continents) there were times where I needed someone to look after my bags or someone to borrow a jumper from. I didn’t have my best friend with me so I had to rely on complete strangers or people that I’d just met that night in the hostel.

To my surprise there was this kind of travelling culture where everyone is willing to help one another. Having worked in finance in London it can be quite a dog eat dog culture and I found it really refreshing travelling alone and in some parts it had restored my faith in humanity. We aren’t created and put on this earth to live for our own selfish lives. We’re programmed to want and need relationships and travelling really helps reinforce this.

 

2. You end up feeling comfortable in your own skin. 

Before my first solo backpacking trip I had never even been on holiday on my own – so this was a big step. I honestly can’t explain how comfortable I am within myself since coming back. You shed off a layer of self consciousness and insecurity. It’s that realisation of knowing not everyone is going to have the same opinion as you on things but who cares? Embrace your individuality!!

 

3. You improve your organisation and language skills. 

As I knew I had no one to rely on if I got lost or needed to ask for directions in a different language I had to organise everything myself. From budgeting to transport and accommodation there are so many things to think about and when you’re travelling alone it can be easy to forget. This is also a great point to add to your cv and mention in job interviews!

 


4. You meet way more different kinds of people you’d ever imagine to. 

So many more people approached me when I was travelling alone than if I was with another friend or even a boyfriend. Not saying that you shouldn’t travel with your boyfriend/best friend but generally speaking I found couples tended to keep themselves to themselves more and I don’t blame them but if you want to get to know more people from different backgrounds, cultures and paths of lives then make the first move. It will also increase your confidence by a mile too.

I remember one night meeting an American old lady at a yoga class in Peru and we ended up having dinner and chatting all evening and the next having drinks at rooftop bar with a group of Australians!

 

5. Your memories aren’t tainted and they’re yours to treasure forever. 

If you were to go travelling with a boyfriend and break up after, your memories would just be of him and not the good times you spend exploring new countries and living new experiences. You want the best stories you can past on to your children and grandchildren…

Lisbon, Portugal

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Pink streets and Pasteis de Belems in Lisbon

July 11th, 2017

Bom Dia Lisbon!

Lisbon has become one of the top European cities to visit in the last few years – and after spending a few days here I can see why. With culture, architecture, fresh seafood and close approximation to the beach all at cheap prices it ticks all the right boxes.

 
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Accommodation
I stayed at the BessaHotel Liberdade (£170 per night) this is at the higher end of the price scale but I’d say it was good value for money. The bedrooms are very modern with a high attention to detail in interior design and the bathrooms are extremely spacious and futuristic. The hotel is located right in the heart of Lisbon close to the Rossio Square. Oh and there’s also an indoor pool and outdoor lounge area.

Neighbourhoods
The city is split into different neighbourhoods and everything is walkable distance. I saw Alfama in one night and Baixa, Chiado and Bairro Alto all in another night. Belem is the only one where you’ll need to take a train to get to.

  • Alfamathis is the oldest district in Lisbon surviving the 1755 earthquake. It has a strong medieval atmosphere with tiny streets, winding high up into the hills (travel tip: wear comfortable shoes as Lisbon is pretty hilly). You’ll find the Cathedral, Pantheon and Castelo Sao Jorge here.

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  • Baixa –this is the shopping and banking district of the city, located right in the centre of the city it extends all the way down to the Tagus River. You’ll find Praca do Comercio* (Terreiro do Paco) and Rossio Square here. *Praca do Comercio is one of the biggest squares in Europe-it is the stylish area in downtown Lisbon showcasing beautiful art work and sculpture, perfect for a romantic stroll (or a lonely one with your camera if you’re single like me haha)! Check out TOPO rooftop bar which is in this area.

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  • Bairro Alto – if you’re looking for nightlife, drinking spots and Lisbon’s best clubs here’s the place!
  • Chiado – the slightly “posher” part of Lisbon which sits between Baixa and Bairro Alto. With numerous boutiques and little restaurants here perfect for a more sophisticated evening (or at least the beginning of the night).

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  • Belemabout 10 minutes by train from the centre of Lisbon, Belem has lots to see and do but is far more relaxed. Set along the river you’ll find Torre de Belem, the Jeronimos Monastery and the Monument to the Discoveries. The Pasteis de Belem is also here, which is the birthplace of the famous custard tart.

Food
For food I would say the Time out market is obviously a must visit and secondly Palacio Chiado. Only read on if you’re looking to spend slightly more on good quality food with beautiful atmosphere.

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The Palacio Chiado is located in the Baixa neighbourhood (10 min walk from Time out market). It is basically an 18th century restored palace with 8 restaurants and bars inside to choose from. The architecture is beautiful, almost something like what you see in those Roman musuems. Spread over two floors there are plenty of nooks in which to chat or have a drink.

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I really recommend eating at Sushi Chiado (Prices range from 25-30 euros per person).

For cheaper options Maria Catita is perfect for steak and seafood. The octopus is a must order (not chewy)! For a more healthy option check out Organi Chiado.

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For yummy ice cream and good coffee Augusto Lisboa is the perfect place located in the Alfama area.

And of course dessert, when in Lisbon you must try the famous custard pastries (now for anyone who knows what Chinese ‘Dan Tarts’ are – they basically taste like these but better! Alcoa sell the best pastel de natas.

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Must dos
The Pantheon of the House of Braganza (Panteão da Casa de Bragança) is located in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon which is the final resting place for many of the members of the House of Braganza, including Portuguese monarchs and Infantes of Portugal.

For that mandatory sunset photo, which I believe every traveller should want to see I would 100% recommend going to the observatory decks in Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.

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Of course visiting the Rossio square (in Baixa neighbourhood) is a must. Here’s one for the keen photographers and Instagrammers. Lisbon’s famous pink street. If you type ‘Cais do Sodré’ google maps should take you there! Happy snapping!

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Located a 5 min walk from the pink street is the Time out market. With a range of fresh cuisines to choose from, you’re spoilt for choice. The market is beautifully located just off the Tagus river front (again perfect for those romantic walks and photography opportunities).  I think the fact that there isn’t one of these markets in London makes it all more special.

 

 

Athens, Greece

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The Acropolis in Athens

July 17th, 2017

Athens is known as the classical, marble-pillared cradle of Western civilization built upon ancient ruins and as a modern urban city of concrete and traffic. As the capital of Greece, it’s definitely worth visiting this city for at least a few days. Whether you want to be island hopping through Greece or spending a couple of days in the capital exploring.

Regardless of the financial crisis and as a result an increase in VAT prices tourism has actually picked up recently in Athens. Greece has always been among the first 15 travel destinations world and the second most visited country in Europe.

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Accommodation

We stayed at the Wyndham Grand Athens hotel (£140 per night) which is located by the ‘Metaxourghio’ metro station. The hotel is very grand as the name describes it and rooms are beautiful with a rooftop pool located on the same level as an exclusive restaurant and bar with a 360 view overlooking the whole of Athens.

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Districts

There are a number of beautiful Districts in Athens including the Monastiraki and Plaka which is always a top place for tourists due to it’s colourful buildings, green plants and classic architecuture. The main city centre is at the station Syntagma, which is where the Parliment is located. Most of the places are within walking distance but if you decide to stay where I stayed it’s advised to take the Metro to the centre. It should only take 10 minutes and a daily unlimited travel ticket costs 4.50 euros

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Must Dos

The number one thing to see in Athens is  the Acropolis aka the crown jewel of Greece (if not the whole of Europe). Crowned by the Parthenon it rises over Athens, visible from almost every where within the city. Also included in the Acropolis is the Erechtheion (the design unites separate temples to each of the two Gods) and the Templo de Atenea Niké. Alongside the actual building is the Acropolis museum which is also worth a visit.

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Entrance fee cost 12 euros for adults and it is best to go early to beat the crowds (first entry 8am). For the best view of Athens and the acropolis at sunset and sunrise go to the Philopappos Hill.

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The Panathenaic Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium and one of the main historic attractions of Athens. Fun fact is that it is the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble.

Temple of Olympian Zeus is the Ancient Greece’s most colosal temple which stands beside the monumental arch that divided Athens between Greek hero Theseus and formidable Roman Emperor Hadrian.  Also right next door to the temple is the Hadrian’s Arch. Entry for both costs 6 euro and is free admission for students-so don’t forget to pack your student card!

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Located around the Monastiraki área is the Athens Flea Market open between 7am -2pm. This market sells a mixture of fruits, raw honey, meats, fresh fish and old antiques.

The Church of Kapnikarea is a tiny church and you’ll find this right in the centre of Athens close to Syntagma metro station. This is also the best place for shopping.

Slightly further out (30 minute drive from city centre) is the O.A.K.A Mapouol which is the Athens Olympic park. Worth a visit for those keen photographers.

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Food

Popular greek dishes include grilled octopus, moussaka, pittes, stifado, horiatiki (aka greek salad), souvlaki, gemista and kokkinisto. The top five Greek drinks are Ouzo, Tsipouro, Retsina, Hima and Mavrodaphne.

The entire Plaka area is filled with Greek restaurants to choose from. With many restaurant owners chasing you down the streets it’s sometimes difficult to choose the best ones so I’ve written a little post on my top four restaurants in Athens.

Estrella Athens
This is the perfect brunch place located right in the centre of Athens (by Syntagma metro station). They sell a variety of pancakes from red velvet and oreo to dulce de leche and eggs cooked in any way you like!

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A little Taste of Home
This place is voted as number 1 on trip advisor so I thought I’d check it out as it was located super close to our hotel.  It’s a local restaurant with only a few tables and has a very cosy ambience. They served the most amazing meatballs, baba ganoush, fresh pappardelle pasta served with hummus and falafel. Our meal for two came to 40 euros which I think is amazing value for the most efficient customer service and hospitality. The owner even offered us desserts and shots on the house. You’re certain to find a personable service if you choose to eat here.

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Balcony Restaurant and Bar
As the name suggests this is the perfect place for an intimidate balcony dining setting. The food was a refined and original twist to traditional Greek food. On the menu they have the most amazing fresh pasta with oxtail meat. I would also recommend the souvlaki chicken thigh skewers which comes with grilled aubergine, zucchini and roasted potatoes.

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(Souvla means spit roasted and this is Greek’s favourite way to serve meat). Our meal for two came to 40 euros including dessert and two mains. Most places tend to give you a famous Greek alcohol on the house with your meal. The restaurant is located right by the Acropolis metro station, the perfect place for dinner after a tourist day viewing the Acropolis.

 

Ellevoro
We had stumbled across this cute little restaurant on our way back from the Acropolis as it is located about a two minute walk from the Acropolis metro station. The restaurant had a real vintage flair to it and with only a few tables it had a real intimate homey feel to it with nostalgic music in the background. The decoration included a fireplace, frames on the wall, vintage bottles and lace tablecloths…

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The food was unbelievable too, we ordered the fried aubergine with tomato and feta cheese and fried zucchini balls with fresh yoghurt for starters and then shared the moussaka. Everything tasted homemade but I highly recommend the zucchini balls as these just melted in your mouth. For dessert we shared the praline chocolate halva with candy floss. The only downside would be that they could have a wider variety of main courses, however with the numerous cold and hot mezzes to choose from this wasn’t really a problem. A three course meal for two costs approximately 50 euros.

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Tips

Do not use local taxis as they will rip you off. Uber is super cheap in Athens but just be aware of the exchange rate fee charged.

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Madrid, Spain

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Spanish Tapas and Rooftop Bars

Madrid is the perfect city for a weekend get away. With beautiful architecture, sunny rooftop bars and Spanish tapas -what’s not to like about the city…

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Accommodation
We stayed at the Hotel Catalonia (£150 per night), purely because of the location being in the centre of the city. The rooftop pool is also a bonus and perfect for a those quick sun bathing session in between shopping and exploring. Other places I would also recommend staying at include Dear Hotel Madrid (a boutique hotel with beautiful modern all white rooms) and Iberostar Hotel (next door to Catalonia).

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Food
My sister and I discovered the cutest little restaurant called Dray Martina. This hidden gem is located not too far a walk from Hotel Catalonia. We went on a Monday so it wasn’t too busy but the place is quite small so make sure you book in advance. Must orders include the aubergine tempera, lemon fish soaked in orange zest and red velvet cake for dessert!

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As I was in Madrid with my sister we ate mostly at Vegan restaurants and I was surprised at the amount of choses for vegans in Madrid. Vega had the most delicious affordable vegan food! The smoked cheese on Rosemary focaccia bread and tofu spaghetti meatballs were heavenly.

If you fancy sushi, Sumo Restauarante is also delicious and not too pricey, other places to try include Fit food and Mox.

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Must Dos

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When in Madrid and the sun is shining, it is mandatory to go to a rooftop bar. We went to Circulo de Bellas Artes but other recommendations include Oscar hotel, ME Hotel and Gymnasm.

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Must see museums include the museo Nacional Del Prado Paseo del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

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For parks, the Buen Retiro Park and Casa de Camp are great spots. and for shopping Gran Vía is my favourite.

Buy an ice cream and have a stroll around the Plaza Mayor admiring the architecture.

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The San Miguel Market contains 33 stalls and features a wide range of delicacies and raw ingredients. It is the centre of culinary culture and definitely worth a visit for those foodies.

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Another must see is the Temple of Debod which is an ancient Egyptian temple rebuilt in Madrid. It is an authentic Egyptian temple built in the 2nd century BC, at the village of Debod. Worth going for sunset for the best views.

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Vienna, Austria

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Viennese Waltzing & Architecture Dreams

Vienna is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. There is a very long history of Vienna beginning when the Roman Empire created a military camp in the area covered by Vienna’s city centre. From that beginning, Vienna grew from the Roman settlement known as Vindobona to be an important trading site in the 11th century.

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Accommodation
We stayed in the Starlight suite hotels (£127 per night) which is located about 5 minutes’ walk from the Schwedenplatz area -very central and close to everything. The rooms were spacious and modern with a gym and spa area included.

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Food
Veggiezz
which is located right opposite the Starlight hotel specialise in Vegan food. I’m not vegan myself but the food is extremely tasty. I recommend the homemade fries with mushroom and leek tagliatelle and chocolate and walnut brownie. They also sell these drinks served in the biggest bottles including matcha iced lattes and ginger and rose juices.

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Shoyo ramen do the best ramen and dumplings in town (order the black tea and orange iced tea)! Other restaurants with the most adorable outdoor seating and located in the middle of the Viennese centre include Ofenloch and Ellas.

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For an incredible view of the garden I recommend having drinks in the Palmenhaus by the Burggarten.

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If you want vegan fast food, Swing kitchen is delicious and affordable.

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Castelletto serve a wide selection of porridges, omelettes and pastries for breakfast (the fresh carrot and orange juice is great)! For acai bowls, great smoothies and juices try Lilette’s.

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Aida Café in the Stephansplatz has the best homemade ice cream and you can try the famous Sachertorte here.

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Must Sees
I suggest walking around without a plan as everything is so close to one another and within minutes you’ll stumble upon beautiful buildings after buildings.

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Stephansplatz is the main centre of the city of Vienna where the famous cathedral is and all the other shops and restaurants. Watch the sunset from the cathedral and then walk down south towards the Burggarten and further south to the Robert Stolz-Platz.

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The opera house and the Karlskirche Cathedral are also iconic photo spots!

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Visit the Kunst Haus Wien, then walk a few blocks to take photos of the Hundertwasserhaus and the Hundertwasser Village.

Vienna is popular for music and you can learn all about the famous Viennese composers at The House of Music.

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If you’re there on a Saturday go to the Naschmarkt and hunt for treasures at the adjacent fleamarket.

Hike through the vineyards on the Wien Weinwandertag.

If you know a thing or two about Psychology, then you’ll want to visit the father of psychoanalysis at the Sigmund Freud Museum, and hike to the Freud monument at Bellevuehöhe in the 19th district.

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Walk through the 1st district, finding all of the hidden courtyards and the Ringstrasse to admire some of Vienna’s most beautiful buildings.

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