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!

17 February, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Rome in Winter

When I think of Rome, it conjures up images of sightseeing on warm sunny days, and sitting at cafes watching the world go by. I have decided to visit the city in the winter time, to see it without the huge crowds and long queues at the main sights.


The reason for my trip? Well pop back to my blog next week and you'll find out! Arrivederci!

10 February, 2017

Valentine's Day ideas in London

I am a big romantic, but sometimes find the idea of going out on Valentine's day a bit cheesy! So I've come up with a few ideas for things to do in London on the big day, which are more about getting out and enjoying the company of your loved one, rather than spending a fortune on a meal where you might feel forced to have a good time!


Why not head to Kew Gardens? From the 4th of February - 5th March, their Orchids Festival returns. It's inspired by the vibrant colours of India, and this year's festival will feature giant floral displays created using exotic orchids, rickshaws and Indian sounds.


If you're an old romantic, then there's always Keat's House, said to be the most romantic house in London. This is where John Keats fell in love with Fanny Brawne, the lady who inspired his most passionate poetry. They're holding an evening viewing, where you can listen to Keats's romantic poems and love-letters, and enjoy live jazz at a pop-up bar. Booking is essential and includes a complimentary glass of fizz!


And finally, you could head to the UK Magic Lantern Festival. It runs from the 19th of January until the 26th of February, and is part of the UK wide celebration of Chinese New Year. Visitors will discover incredible life-sized and oversized lantern scenes at this stunning outdoor event. 
Whatever you do for valentine's day, enjoy yourself.....and feel the love!

03 February, 2017

Friday's lightbulb: Kotor, Montenegro

The coastal town of Kotor is situated along one of the world's most beautiful bays on the Montenegro coast. It's an old Mediterranean port and with huge limestone cliffs, the town and its surrounding area form an impressive and very picturesque landscape.


Kotor is a very atmospheric place. The town is a maze of museums; churches, and cafe filled squares and is a great place for people watching!


 The daily market is well worth a visit. Locals come to stock up on fish, fresh vegetables ad local cheeses. It runs along the city walls, and is open every morning. The prosciutto and smoked cheese are worth buying. 


Top tip: The bay of Kotor looks incredible from sea level, but is even more impressive from above. For the best view, head to the medieval citadel (the main entrance is near the river gate) to get your entrance ticket, and begin the ascent up the stone staircase. It takes you all the way up to the old walls to the Castle of St John, a fort dating back to the sixteenth century.

27 January, 2017

Flashback Friday: Rosslyn Chapel

Rosslyn Chapel was built in 1446, and is one of Scotland's most remarkable buildings. It's just seven miles south of Edinburgh's city centre, and is still used as a place of worship. It's always been a popular visitor destination, but it's profile increased when it was mentioned in Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code in 2003. 



Almost every surface of Rosslyn Chapel is carved featured incredible carvings - there are hundreds of figures and scenes carved in the Chapel, and the Apprentice Pillar is the most elaborately decorated with an incredible story behind it. Read more about it in my original post on Rosslyn here.

20 January, 2017

Travel Photo Friday: Beautiful Barbados

Crane beach is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Barbados. It is so called because it was a small commercial port in the mid-18th century, and they raised and lowered cargo by crane. It has been rated as one of the ten best beaches in the world - and I have to agree with that tag! It's not just the wild waves; wonderful sea breeze, or the beautifully warm turquoise water but also the incredible pink sand....yes pink! 


My first step on the sand on this beach always has to be done barefoot, because it's the most powdery sand I have ever walked on. The pink colour comes from pink coral that has been pulverized and washed up over time. This beach is on the south east side of the island, but is well worth a trip from the west coast if that's where you're staying.
Top tip: Park at the Crane Beach hotel and enjoy the view while having lunch or a drink in the bar before heading down to the sea.

13 January, 2017

Friday's lightbulb: Venice on a budget

Venice is a city with a reputation for being beautiful but expensive, so I'm going to give you a few tips to make it a bit more affordable. Some of the city's most stunning sights don't cost anything. Entry to the Basilica di San Marco is free of charge, and there are also free guided tours between April and October. 


Wandering around the city costs nothing of course, and you can easily spend a lot of time wandering around the winding lanes lined with antique dealers and glass merchants - just make sure you take a map, it's easy to get lost! 


Venice's bustling Rialto Market is where people have been shopping since 1097, and there's no better show in town! The produce is unloaded from barges which start arriving at dawn, and by 8am the vendors are bargaining with customers! It's best to arrive early, and you can buy wonderful ingredients here for a cheap and healthy picnic - another way to save money.


A visit to Venice wouldn't be complete without taking to the water, but it doesn't have to cost you a fortune. The vapporetto, or waterbus, is a budget way to get a tour of the city. You pass palaces, churches, and Bond film backdrops all for the bargain price of just seven euros.
Top tip: Venice is so popular that there are days when tourists outnumber locals by two to one, but it's  also a stunning place to visit in the winter, when visitors are few and far between.

06 January, 2017

Friday's lightbulb: Porto

I took a long time to decide where to feature for my first post of 2017. A new year, a new start....so how about a new destination for a city break, and one that's perfect for those who love their food and their culture.


For some reason, Porto is still a bit under the radar when it comes to European destinations, which surprises me because it's both affordable and fun. It's Portugal's second-largest city behind Lisbon, known for it's beautiful bridges and the production of port wine, which is still stored in vast cellars that stretch along the Douro river.


 The medieval Ribeira district is the oldest district of the city - a beautiful warren of narrow cobbled streets and plenty of wonderful family owned restaurants and bars.


Top tip: If you're looking for a belly busting dish to try, the francesinha sandwich is a Porto institution.  It's a huge doorstep layered with pork, bacon, smoked sausage, beefsteak all topped off with a fried egg and cheese. Loosen your belts people!