20 October, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Somewhere over the rainbow

As the saying goes, you can't have a rainbow without a little rain! Don't you love it when clouds clear after a rainstorm and a beautiful rainbow appears? That happened to me on a recent trip - and I was lucky enough to capture it on camera.

Rainbows don't stay around for long, so I had to get my camera out quickly and snap away! Sadly I didn't find the pot of gold at the end of it, but rainbows always make me smile anyway, so it was a lovely moment. Have you ever managed to get a photo of something beautiful in nature? If so why not send it to me - details on my contact page.

13 October, 2017

The Roosevelt Island Tramway

New York can be an expensive place to visit, but there are plenty of things to do on a budget, and here is one you may not have heard of before. The Roosevelt Island Tramway is an aerial tramway that connects Roosevelt Island to the Upper East side of Manhattan and if you look closely at the photo below, you can see the tram approaching!   

This is a great thing for adults and kids alike. You get great views of the river and a totally different perspective of the streets from height. You can either have a wander round Roosevelt Island, or just right the tram over and straight back again. If you do that, you have to change trams at the other side. 

This is not an official attraction, but for visitors it is a fun thing to do. It is transportation for the locals, so you're best to avoid taking the tram in the morning and evening rush hour. 

If you keep your eyes peeled when crossing, you can spot the Empire State Building, and my own favourite in New York - the Chrysler Building - sightseeing from a different angle! 

So where do you catch the tram, and how much does it cost? Head to 2nd Avenue between 59th & 60th Street, and it's the same price as a subway ticket, so if you already have a subway pass, then use that and if feels like a free trip!

06 October, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: Fairytale castle in Scotland

Today I'm featuring one of the most iconic places in Scotland and one of the most visited attractions in the Scottish Highlands. Eilean Donan castle is on an island surrounded by majestic scenery, and I'm sure most of you have seen it before. So why would I feature it on my blog, which is all about going off the beaten track?

Well I decided to feature it, because you may not know about the possibility of staying in this stunning location. Not in the castle itself, but in Eilean Donan Cottage or Eilean Donan Apartments. Can you imagine waking up, and seeing this view first thing in the morning - simply stunning! If you want more information, click here. A very big thanks to Fiona Ritchie for the photo - what a great dramatic shot of one of the most beautiful places in the world!

29 September, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Nosey parkers!

I love a silly travel photo every now and then, and this one really tickles me! I was wandering around a beautiful area of Rome, with gorgeous gated houses when I spotted these two nosey parkers!

 They weren't barking, they were just sniffing around but they did make me chuckle. A travel photo with a difference - look up, look down, and keep your eyes peeled when travelling..you never know what you'll see!

22 September, 2017

The Colosseum: The best way to visit

I believe you can't go to Rome without visiting the Colosseum; and having visited earlier this year, I have some insider tips to help you plan your visit and make it the best it can be. For the first time in history you can take a tour of the underground level, and combine it with a trip to the highest third tier level, which is open for the first time since the 1970s.

This way, you get to learn about ancient Roman civilization, and you see it how the gladiators saw it, as you make your way through the tunnels where lions and tigers roared while the gladiators prepared to fight. 

As they're trying to protect the areas below ground; access is limited to one tour per slot, so rather than fighting the crowds you'll be with a maximum of 24 people. It is so unbelievably atmospheric down there, you can let your imagination run wild as your guide tells you about the history of the underground areas. When you're taken to the third tier, that is equally as mind blowing. The view from up there is sensational, and again, you'll be the only group there - just fabulous! 

I booked my tickets online (for the official website click here) and printed them off before going. That way, you avoid the queues, and are guaranteed entry with no hassle. The tickets give you access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill as well, and can be used for one entrance to each of the three sites over two consecutive days.

If you've never seen it before, you'll soon realise that you can't get enough of the Colosseum, and I highly recommend going to see it at night - it's a lovely walk from the main areas of the city, and the perfect thing to do after dinner to help you walk off that big bowl of pasta!

16 September, 2017

Flashback Friday: San Sebastian

The Concha beach in San Sebastian stands right in the centre of the city, and is considered to be one of the best city beaches in Europe. On one side, you'll find the Urgull mountain, and on the other is the Igueldo mountain. The beach is huge, and a great place for a lovely coastline walk. If you're going to visit, you'll need a place to stay....and why not make it a glamorous one?

The Astoria 7 is full of proper Hollywood glamour - why? Well why click here to flashback to to see my original post to find out!

15 September, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: San Francisco

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, when around 100,000 young people flocked to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in 1967. An underground alternative youth culture had been brewing in America and Europe for several year but for that summer, the focus was San Francisco.

Many events have been planned to mark the occasion, but it's such a fantastic city you'll have plenty to discover even if you don't make it to those events. While anyone can find the Golden Gate Bridge or Alcatraz, there are plenty of hidden gems to discover.

Sutro Baths is one of those hidden gems. Designed by self-made millionaire Adolph Sutro in 1894, this used to be the world's largest indoor swimming pool. During high tide, the ocean could fill the pools in just an hour! The pools closed during the Great Depression, but the structure still exists as ruins in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The ornate Victorian homes in San Fran will blow you away. They're painted in beautiful colours and are well worth a visit. There's no time like the present to take a Flower Power tour to find out more about the Summer of Love. If you visit, just make sure you wear a flower in your hair!

08 September, 2017

Flashback Friday: Sunny Seville

If you've never been to Seville, then what are you waiting for? You simply have to go! It's one of the most vibrant cities in the world, with so much to do you could easily spend two weeks there and not see everything. To help you plan any potential trip, I compiled a list of the top 3 things I like to do in the city. 

That's where I'm flashing back to today, so if you want to read my original post, then please click here.

01 September, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Turtles crossing

Regular readers of my blog will know I love taking photos of amusing road signs. On a recent trip to the Caribbean I saw one of the best signs I've ever seen. You've heard the one about the chicken crossing the road? Well what about the sea turtles?

If you've spotted an amusing road sign on your travels, why not get in touch and share it!

25 August, 2017

The cost of a day on the beach

Having spent most of the summer on the beach myself (yes, I'm a lucky girl!), I found some new research about the costs of beaches very interesting. TravelBird's Beach price index ranks over 300 beaches around the world on the cost of spending one day at each. 

After pricing five essentials (sun cream; water; beer; lunch, and an ice cream) they ranked them to give holidaymakers the information they may want before booking a holiday. The most affordable beaches in the world are in Vietnam, while the most expensive were found in Norway. 

The bit that interested me most about the research though, was the beaches in the UK. I sometimes feel for families who stay at home to holiday in the British Isles, but end up spending more money than if they'd gone out of the country to holiday. For instance, the research revealed that the UK's most expensive beach is Priory Bay on the Isle of Wight. 

Priory Bay, Isle of Wight
So where is the cheapest beach in the UK I hear you ask? It's Botany Bay in Kent. It's the northernmost of seven bays in Broadstairs, with safe swimming, and spectacular chalk cliffs and stacks. Not only is it beautiful, but it's relatively secluded too. 

Botany Bay, Kent
 For me, that seclusion can be the key to the perfect day at the beach. Some of the best beaches I've come across in the world are those that are hard to get to, and therefore more often that not, deserted. I often take a picnic with me, meaning costs are kept down anyway, and while it's nice to enjoy lunch at a beach bar, there's also something lovely about not moving from your spot on the beach and enjoying a little homemade snack!If you want to see the full list of beaches, then click here to see the research in full.

18 August, 2017

Friday's review: Don't be a tourist in Paris

I started my travel blog to bring some of the wonderful off the beaten track places I've discovered on my travels to other people, and I've recently found someone else who loves doing a similar thing! Vanessa Grail is a London girl who moved to Paris, and has written a book, 'Don't be a tourist in Paris'. The book gives readers some brilliant insider tips, and Vanessa shares her ideas of how to avoid the tourist traps and uncover the real Paris. Below are just a few of my favourite ideas from the book.

Old artist studio in Musée de Montmartre
 Montmartre is one of my favourite places to visit in Paris, but I had never heard of the Musée de Montmartre. It's inside the oldest building in the area and one of the old artists studios as been restored so you can imagine how it felt for the likes of Renoir to sit and paint in the French capital. 

Le Refuge de Fondues, restaurant 
So what about eating off the beaten track? Vanessa writes about Le Refuge des Fondues - a dining experience which involves drinking wine from a baby bottle. It's not just a gimmick - it's the owners way to avoid French tax on wine glasses!

The book doesn't just focus on the centre of Paris - and has several ideas for those of you who want to explore a little further afield. Less than an hour's drive from Paris, Barbizon is on the edge of the Fontainebleau Forest. If you're into art, then you'll be interested to know that this picturesque quaint French village is where Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir came as young Parisian art students in the 1800s. 

Port des Champs-Élysées on the banks of the Seine
Sometimes the best things in Paris are not the expensive touristy sights, but taking time to enjoy a bit of wine and cheese with a great view of the Eiffel Tower, as Vanessa did in the photo above!
I've visited Paris many times over the years, but this book has so many wonderful tips and ideas for places I've never heard of that I am already thinking about when I can head back to the French city again. Well done Vanessa - your book is a delight for those of us who want to find those hidden gems!

All images courtesy of Vanessa Grall, ‘Don’t Be A Tourist In Paris’, 2017

11 August, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: Charming Cefalù

I know plenty of people who love Italy with its stunning scenery and delicious food, but many of them have never ventured to Sicily, and that's the place I'm featuring on my blog today. Cefalù is a charming fishing town on the northern coast of Sicily, just a forty five minute drive from the island's capital, Palermo. 

It's set against a dramatic backdrop of craggy mountains, and is the perfect size to wander round for a week or two and not get bored. If you're looking for the glamour of the Amalfi Coast, then this might not be for you, as it's wonderfully rustic. However if you fancy a change from that glamour, which almost always comes at a cost, then I can't recommend Cefalù highly enough.

As well as having a fabulous beach (a great place to watch the fabulous sunsets); the town has lovely little winding medieval streets, a beautiful cathedral and some superb restaurants. The cathedral has some lovely little cafes around it and it's a great place to end your evening, sitting outside enjoying the last of the day's heat.

If you like all things Italy, but want to avoid the crowds, then give this wonderful little town a go - it's so good I've been twice, and can't wait to return one day!

04 August, 2017

Edinburgh - Get the festivities underway!

As a proud Edinburgher, it wouldn't be right to blog today without mentioning the fabulous festivals that get underway in Scotland's capital city. The Edinburgh International Festival celebrates its 70th birthday in 2017, and was founded to foster a "flowering of the human spirit" after the second world war.  I don't think anyone realised just how successful it would go on to become.

To mark the anniversary, this year's events are expected to be bigger and better than ever, with a grand opening party, and ending with the usual fireworks spectacular over the castle. It's not just the International Festival that runs this month, the hugely popular festival fringe is also on during August, as is the book festival.

While you need tickets for the main events, the city is awash with entertainment during August, and you can watch plenty of fantastic street acts running the length of the Royal Mile, and by the city's art galleries on The Mound. 
Top tip: Accommodation can be hugely expensive during August, so if you haven't already booked, consider staying on the outskirts, and travelling into the city each day. 

28 July, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: American attitude

I think New Yorkers would forgive me for saying they don't mess with their words - I mean that in the nicest possible way, and it's sometimes a refreshing attitude that they say what they mean rather than skirting around things as many British people do! This attitude even extends to their street signs. 

In the UK, it would probably say "No Parking"....but in New York, it's "Don't even think of parking here"! I love it!

21 July, 2017

Brexit making Brits more adventurous

It was perhaps inevitable that the UK's Brexit negotiations would have an impact on the way British people would change the way they travel. With so much uncertainty over how the talks will play out, and with the pound still weak, a new poll has revealed that more than half of Brits are looking to travel long-haul, rather than to European destinations.

A poll of 2000 Brits carried out by Holiday Hypermarket suggests that Brexit is encouraging Brits to be more adventurous in their choice of holiday destinations. Searches to destinations such as Goa and Phuket are up, while bookings to the Dominican Republic and Mexico have also seen an increase.

I am totally against Brexit and love being part of the EU, but perhaps the uncertain future is encouraging people to get out there and explore a little more when they go on their travels. Maybe it's one positive to take from a situation many Brits I know feel is a very depressing one!

14 July, 2017

Bikes in Rome

This week you get three photos instead of the usual one, because when I got back from my trip to Rome a few months ago, and started looking through some of my photos, here seemed to be a bit of a theme going on....bikes!

On every street here seemed to be one chained up, ready to be ridden home from work, or even used as part of a pretty display outside a clothing shop with flowers in the basket. 

It didn't seem right to choose one and leave the others out, so I decided to extend my post this week to feature them all! 

I remember a few years ago after coming back from Sicily, I had taken a huge amount of photos of the cute little Fiat 500's, and framed them all together in my house...I might have to do the same this time with the Roman bikes!

07 July, 2017

Flashback Friday: Decadence in Edinburgh

If you're into your history, and are looking for somewhere decadent to stay, then The Witchery in Edinburgh is a great choice. This boutique Gothic hotel is at the top of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, and is a fabulous place to stay for a special occasion.

I featured The Witchery on my blog after spending a night here and absolutely loving it, so I can't recommend it highly enough. If you want to see my original post on one of the best places to stay in Edinburgh, click here.

30 June, 2017

Travel Photo Friday - Seated Ballerina

If you're going to be in New York in the next few days, get yourself along to the Rockefeller Center quick smart! There's a large-scale public art installation but it's only there until the 5th of July. Seated ballerina, by Jeff Koons, is an inflatable nylon sculpture which is hugely eye-catching - no surprise given it's 45 feet high!

One of the things I love about New York is the amount of things you just happen to come across when walking around the city, and there were crowds of people, locals and tourists alike, taking photos when I was there. So if you're in the city, pop along and take a look - and bear in mind that during inclement weather she has to be deflated for safety reasons, so check the Rockefeller Center's official twitter account here for the latest update before going. 

23 June, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: Mérida, Mexico

I decided to feature Mérida because it's the American Capital of Culture in 2017, and while there are a series of large scale events taking place throughout the year, I didn't know too much about it, so decided to do some research! While it's not one of those undiscovered places, it's certainly not a tourist trap, so if you want to escape the crowds in places like Cancun, then this might be a part of Mexico you'll love.

Mérida is the cultural capital of the Yucatán Peninsula, and ranks among the safest places in Mexico. The town is steeped in colonial history, and is a great place to start an adventure around the rest of the state. As well as taking in plenty of culture, the bonus is that the cost of food and hotels are very reasonable too. 

Once you've had your fill of culture, then a day trip to the caves of the Yucatán is not to be missed. This peninsula is made of porous limestone, so there are no rivers or lakes above ground...instead they're underground! These were sacred places for the Mayas, and are hugely impressive. 

When the sun goes down in Merida, head to Plaza Grande - a beautiful tree-shaded square where you'll find folk dancing and music performances.
 Top tip: Another great day trip to take from Mérida is to the ruins at Chichén Itzá

16 June, 2017

Visiting St Peter's Basilica

One of the highlights of a trip to Rome is the view from the top of St Peter's Basilica. Now if any of you are going to skip reading further because you suffer from vertigo, then don't.....I do too! You do have to be reasonably fit to do this - there are 551 steps to get to the top, although my top tip is to take the elevator to roof level, which saves you 320 steps!

When you come out of the elevator you're inside the dome, designed by Michelangelo, looking down on the basilica - and this was the one bit where my vertigo did kick in a bit! The climb to the top is done by narrow sloping stairs, and if you are claustrophobic then this could be the difficult bit for you. The stairs are so narrow that you end up leaning to the right over the dome as you near the very top! Stick in there though, because this is your reward at the end......

It's a real iconic view, but nothing beats seeing it for yourself. One thing to note - there is a strict dress code - no shorts, no skirts and no bare shoulders - dress appropriately and enjoy the view. Once the whole experience is over - reward yourself with a cold drink at one of the many cafes on the backstreets nearby - you'll have earned it! 

09 June, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Positive vibes

While my photos usually feature a fabulous scene that I've captured on my travels, today's photo is a little message that suits me down to the ground. I'm a very positive person, who tries to see the good in everyone, and when I saw this sign in a shop window, I knew I had to feature it on here!

So whatever your plans are for the weekend, try to be optimistic and see the glass as half full! 

02 June, 2017

Flashback Friday: Underwater wonders

The city of Västerås is the sixth largest city in Sweden, and is also one of the county's oldest. There are many good reasons to visit in 2017, as this year the city will mark it's Jubilee. The city has a vibrant nightlife, and an exciting history, but one of the main reasons I featured it on my blog is that this is a place where you can spend a night underwater. 

I love featuring unique places on my blog, and I certainly found one that's not to be missed in this great city. So if you'd like to read my original post on Staying under the water in Sweden, click here.

26 May, 2017

Let the summer commence!

This is the time of year when I get very excited! I'm lucky enough to be able to take a few months off each summer and travel the world....and it all starts next week with a trip to New York City.
This will be my third trip to the Big Apple, and having done most of the major sights, I'm determined to seek out some new cool places to feature on my blog.

I'm not only going to New York this year though, so there will be plenty of awesome tips for you on Travel Lightbulb in the weeks and months to come. For those of you not travelling this year, I'll attempt to cheer you up with some lovely pics of my jaunts across the world!

19 May, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: Pula, Croatia

If you took a quick glance at the photo below you could be forgiven for thinking I'm featuring Rome on this post, but you'd be wrong! This is the Roman amphitheatre in Pula, which is at the southern tip of the Croatian province of Istria. It's the sixth largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire, and one of the best preserved in the world.

The amphitheatre hosts events all summer, but that's not the only reason to visit this lively city. Pula combines the atmosphere of ancient Rome with the buzz of modern Croatia. The original Roman Forum (below) is a very popular meeting point, with plenty of cafes with outdoor tables where you can sit and enjoy the view. 

There is also a working port in Pula, and they hold celebrations there every summer, and have been doing so since 2014. It's called 'Lighting Giants', and they illuminate the sea of cranes that line the port's shipyards. The port handles almost one million tons of cargo every year, but there is also a marina, and a forested stretch of beach with a promenade.

Top tip: Just a short bus ride away, there are some superb beaches to the south, and there's also a spectacular nature park to visit on the protected cape of Kamenjak. 

12 May, 2017

Delicious street food in Rome

One of my main aims when I visited Rome was to find some fabulous 'cibo di strada' (street food) to share with you on here, and wow I found a gem! Supplizio is a little shop specialising in 'suppli' - Italian snacks that are native to Rome. They're normally eaten as starters before pizza, but I find they're a cheap and delicious replacement for lunch.

The menu is written on a chalkboard on the wall behind the bar, and as you can see suppli dominates here, but why would you want anything else when they're so delicious! So what are they I hear you ask? Fried balls of rice with several varieties of yummy fillings such as ragu, and cheese & pepper - it's hard to decide what to go for! 

I tried the classico and the carbonara and they were both just yummy! I also had a generously poured glass of beautiful Lazio wine and it was one of my favourite meals in Rome...sometimes the simple things can be the most delicious!

There isn't table service at Supplizio, instead you order at the counter and the food is served on paper plates. Don't let this put you off....your suppli won't be around long enough for you to care - they're SO delicious!

Top tip: The shop is on Via dei Banchi Vecchi, 143 - a picturesque cobbled street that's well worth visiting. It's home to local and organic shops, restaurants, boutiques and art galleries. There's also a great wine shop (Vino Olio) at No. 14!