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!

Barbizon
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!

05 May, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Engineering masterpiece

Close to home for me for this one, and today's pick is an incredible feat of engineering. The Forth Bridge towers over the turbulent waters of the Firth of Forth is a wonder of the modern world. The bridge, which carries 200 trains each day, links Fife with the Lothians. 


In 1964 the rail crossing was joined by the Forth Road Bridge, and this month a third bridge, the Queensferry Crossing will open - a real reason to visit this iconic Scottish landmark. 

28 April, 2017

Flashback Friday: The wonder of Warsaw

Today I'm flashing back to a few years ago, and my blog post on a wonderful hotel in Poland's capital city, Warsaw. This city has arguably the best restaurant scene in Poland. It has a superb collection of neighbourhoods to wander around, and the Stare Miasto, or old town, is one of the best. 


It was left in ruins after WWII but was painstakingly rebuilt using pre-war sketches. This historic quarter is a tribute to the city's survival instinct and is now a Unesco World Heritage site.
To go to my original post, and a fabulous choice of hotel in Warsaw, please click here.

21 April, 2017

Friday's lightbulb: Wyoming

If you've still not decided where to go this summer, why not head to Jackson Hole in Wyoming? Why Wyoming? Well there will be a total solar eclipse on August the 21st, and it's the first time in almost 40 years that it will be visible from the continental U.S. 


Jackson Hole would be a great place to get a great view of the eclipse. It's a valley between the Teton mountain range, and the Gros Ventre range. Not only is the scenery in these low-lying valleys spectacular, but it's the perfect vantage point because of the lack of light pollution. 


So what is there to do when the main event is over? There are great hiking trails in this area and the Yellowstone national parks, or you could head to Jackson itself - described by the tourist guides as both 'cowboy and cosmopolitan'.....sounds perfect!

14 April, 2017

The perfect base in Rome - Hotel Abruzzi

On my recent trip to Rome, I wanted to be right in the middle of the action. A friend who is a regular visitor to the city suggested it was more economical to stay near the sights than on the outskirts simply because I'd spend the money I'd saved on cheaper accommodation on public transport. I have found a gem that I'm going to share with you - and before I tell you where it is - how about this for a room with a view?


As you may have guessed, Hotel Abruzzi is right opposite the fabulous Pantheon in the beautiful Piazza de la Rotunda. Despite the square being filled with tourists day and night, there is no problem with noise here. I'm a light sleeper, but never had a problem - the double glazing is superb!


The hotel has just 26 rooms which have all been recently renovated, and are decorated with images of ancient Rome. They're well appointed and come equipped with a hairdryer; tea and coffee making facilities, and free wifi. 


Breakfast is served at a little restaurant across the square and as well as the usual continental options, they also have eggs and bacon.....and the most amazing chocolate pastries - well....when in Rome! The staff were always very helpful, and to be honest, I can't recommend this fabulous little hotel highly enough. Top tip: visit the Pantheon every day....just because you can...visit before breakfast just as they're opening up...and be the first visitors of the day - superb! 

07 April, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Flying high

I absolutely love flying - for me it's when my travels begin, and my holiday starts. On a recent trip, I flew over the Mont Blanc range of mountains, which straddle across France and Italy. Mont Blanc is the highest point of the Alps; the highest peak in Western Europe, and is nicknamed the roof of Europe!


There are small planes that take you over this incredibly beautiful mountain range, but I was lucky enough to fly on a beautiful clear day and experience it while making my journey to Italy. This is just one of the reasons I love flying - the window seat gives us a view to a world we'd never otherwise see so if you're flying this year, lift the window blind, and enjoy the view!

31 March, 2017

Flashback Friday: The Highlands of Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most iconic images of Scotland. It's situated on an island where three sea lochs meet, and is surrounded my some majestic scenery. It's one of the most visited attractions in the Scottish highlands.   


I found an incredible hotel which is just an hour from the Castle, and a great place to base yourself to explore the wonders that the highlands have to offer. To go to my original post, and read more about the hotel, just click here.

24 March, 2017

Friday's Lightbulb: Dreaming of Debrecen

Debrecen is Hungary's second-largest city, and in the heart of the country. Budget airlines now connect it to several countries, making it a great option for international visitors looking for something different. 


Debrecen is full of wonderful markets. The flower market certainly awakens the senses, and the annual flower carnival which takes place in mid-August brightens up the city with incredible floral compositions. 


The food market is also a wonderful place to wander round. Stallholders start at 6am, and ply their trade until early afternoon. Try the peppers stuffed with cabbage, ground meat and spices. 


Top tip: A hot spring was discovered on the outskirts of the city in the late 1820s, and since then spa culture has been a hugely important part of life in Debrecen. Head north of the town centre to a complex of adventure baths. There are waterfalls; grottoes, and both indoor and outdoor pools with water flowing at steamy 34-38 degrees. 

17 March, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Bellissima Roma

I'm just back from an absolutely wonderful trip to the Eternal City of Rome. Why is it called that? Well the ancient Romans believed that no matter what happened to the world, Rome would go on forever. I like to think that's true because it's one of my favourite places in the world!


I have so much to share with you from my trip - places to visit; top tips, and wonderful restaurants to try out. Watch this space over the coming weeks and months as I share them with you!


10 March, 2017

Flashback Friday: Trekking through the Sahara

I'm flashing back to one of the most memorable trips I've ever been on today - a trek through the Sahara desert. I did this a few years ago for charity, and not only did it prove to be very worthwhile in raising crucial funds for several charities...it was a real life changing experience.


Watching the sun set after a long day of trekking, and spending a night sleeping under the stars were just two of the highlights of this wonderful experience. I can't recommend it highly enough.
If you want to view my original post on my incredible trek through the Sahara, then click here.

03 March, 2017

Chasing the northern lights

The stunning aurora borealis, or northern lights, have always fascinated me. It's a naturally occurring phenomenon making it notoriously difficult to predict any further in advance than about two hours before it happens. 


So you can see why people feel blessed when they are lucky enough to witness the lights. Auroras occur throughout the year, but they're invisible to the eye during the light summer months, so if you want to plan a trip to try to see them, then doing that in the winter is your best bet. 


With long dark nights, January to March are the three most popular months for Aurora hunting. I decided to feature the lights in March, as the daylight hours start to stretch out by them, and it can be a very rewarding time of year. As the Aurora is so unpredictable, you stand as much chance of seeing them in Norway as you do in Finland, so it's a real gamble, but if it pays off, you're in for a once in a lifetime experience. Isn't Mother Nature wonderful?

24 February, 2017

Milestones

Travel is my passion, and one of the main reasons I work so hard is to be able to go on amazing trips to all sorts of places around the world. 


I'm very excited about 2017, because this year I'll be marking a milestone birthday and I plan to do it in style! 


I'm planning various trips throughout the year to all sorts of places, and can't wait to tell you all about them! I'm hoping to discover lots of things to feature on Travel Lightbulb, so watch this space!


Some people are terrified of milestones, but I'll never understand why - as someone once said to me "it's better than the alternative"! It's time to embrace a new decade, and I plan to do it with passion...bring it on!