A Walking Tour of Amsterdam | The Netherlands

2013 saw me headed to Amsterdam for 2 days. That’s it. 2 days. I was tagging along on a work trip, and we stayed in a youth hostel quite centrally. One of the things that the good people of the hostel offered was a free walking tour of the city. This was probably the highlight of trip.

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Not only did it mean I got to hang out with about 20 of the other people from all over the world, but it meant that I saw a lot of things off the main roads, and things that I wouldn’t have seen had I done an official tour, or took myself off wandering. It was the best part of my trip, and I got to see a lot of things that not everyone would have seen. We went down alley ways into big garden squares, we wandered through a book street, and learnt about the quirky things of the city.

If you ever get to go on a walking tour, I highly recommend it. It’s definitely worth it.

5 Things to do on a Short Stay in London | England 

London is a city of nearly 9 million people. More people live in London than in my entire country. It’s big. And that means that even if you’ve lived there your entire life and you’re about to retire, there’s no way that you’re going to see everything there is to see. Even more so if you’re just there on a short visit.

During my time in England, I was able to go to London several times, sometimes just for the day, sometimes for a couple of days. Each time I managed to do different things, so as to best get as much in as possible. If you’re one to cut up your time into morning and afternoon segments, then there are a few things that don’t take more than that time. I’ve narrowed that list of places down to 5 that I really enjoyed.

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Sea Life Aquarium

There’s just something about an aquarium that’s almost other-wordly. The London aquarium is truly of superb quality, and can be done easily in a morning or afternoon.

How to get there: Get off the Underground at Westminster and cross the brdige. It’s on your left. Or get off at Waterloo, and make your way towards the River.

camden market

Camden Market

Easily accessible from the Underground train line, Camden Market is a rabbit warren of wonders, a sprawling market with everything from delicious food stalls, clothing shops and jewellery stands. Whether you go for lunch and the wander around, or you arrive early afternoon and stay on for dinner, there’s always something happening, always something to see and do.

How to get there: Get off the Underground at either Camden Town station or Chalk Farm station.

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The Victoria and Albert Museum

If you’re a museum or history lover, then the Victoria and Albert is definitely worth a visit. 8 miles of corridors full of history, art and sculptures, you could spend hours and hours wandering their beautiful halls. But if there are specific things you’d like to see, you can easily head to that floor and just see the things that really interest you.

How to get there: Get off the Underground at South Kensington station and walk to Cromwell Road.

abbey road

Abbey Road

Fans of the 60’s band The Beatles will be sure to head to iconic Abbey Road anyway, but if you’re interested, it is a fun expedition, and you’ll forever remember trying to get the ultimate Beatles-style photo across the zebra crossing. If this sin’t something that you’d like to spend your afternoon doing, but you’re still intrigued, you can check out Inside Abbey Road by Google for a virtual tour.

How to get there: Get off the Underground at St John’s Wood, or Maida Vale.

st james park

St James Park

If Hyde Park’s vastness doesn’t do it for you, St James park, which runs between Buckingham Palace and the Parliament buildings, is a beautiful walk. With a river running through the park, it’s full of wildlife, cyclists, picnic-ers, and, well you.

How to get there: Get off the Underground at St James’ Park or Westminster


Obviously there are so so many more things to do in a half day, but that’s a start for you, and some of the things that I’ve done in a short space of time that I really enjoyed. Feel free to drop other suggestions into the comments!

3 Cotswold Villages to Visit | England

South Central England. The home of the Cotswolds. In among the winding roads of the far reaching hills, are tiny villages full of personality and quirk. All are worth a visit, but there are 3 in particular that I recommend having a wander around, or near.

painswick

Painswick

Just outside the city of Gloucester there is the little town of Painswick. Little paths a few feet wide and stone walls lead you around this little town, and the cafes are well worth popping in to. In particular, Olivia’s Café, which not only sells delicious food, but has great décor, complete with bicycle out the front.

All the houses and buildings are really old, as you expect in England, and are all made from a light, yellowy coloured brick, called Cotswold Stone. They all have names like ‘The Weavers House’, ‘Coomb House’, and ‘Daisy Corner’. The Catholic Church graveyard in its centre has huge trees which are kept in large oval shapes, rather than left to grow how they may.

bourton on the water

Bourton-on-the-Water

With an incredibly British name, Bourton-on-the-Water is exactly what you’d think it would be – a small town with water at its centre. The Cotswold town’s claim to fame (or at least acknowledgement) is the High Street that runs next to the River Windrush. With large, wide greens on either side, it’s a place for picnics, walks and general relaxing.

The river has arching bridges so pedestrians can move from one side to the other with ease, and the shops that line the streets open out onto the green. If you happen to be around at Christmas time, it’s well worth a visit, as the town becomes very festive, and lights up the streets. Something worth mentioning is the Model Village, which is a 1:9 replica of the town, and was built by craftsmen in the 30s. Definitely a sweet little set up.

winchcombe

Winchcombe

Perhaps not a main-stream Cotswold village, but Winchcombe’s streets are narrower than a lot of the others, and homes’ front doors step straight out onto the footpath. It’s what’s around Winchcombe that is perhaps of more interest.

Belas Knap is up on Cleeve Hill, and is a Neolithic long barrow. There is also Sudeley Castle, which is known for being the ‘only private castle to have a queen buried in its grounds’(source). It’s a beautiful building, which many gardens, and sweet cottages. The remains of Hailes Abbey are also within a short distance of Winchcombe, and is owned by the National Trust. Outside the remains still sits Hailes Church, which is older than the ruined Abbey, but well worth a stop at.

How I Only Took my Handbag for 2 days in Amsterdam

 

One of the reasons I went and lived in England for two years was because of Europe.

There it was, right on my doorstep, and I made as much use of it as I could afford. Granted, it never felt like enough and I need to go back. However, for the little time I did spend there it was grand, and mostly fabulous experience.

One of the trips I made was to Amsterdam, tagging along for the ride when my dad went on a business trip. It was going to be a short one – two days – but I was definitely looking forward to it. We didn’t have checked in luggage, only carry on, and so the only thing I took was my handbag.

How? Easy.

It was a decent sized handbag to begin with, but it all came down to what I took and how I packed it. I knew that both days I would be taking my bag with me around as we explored, so I needed as little as possible. The largest, heaviest thing I took (and which I would not leave behind even if I had to sacrifice pajamas) was my camera.

Besides my camera, I took my pajamas and a change of underwear, all which were rolled up and stuff right at the bottom, snug next to my small make up bag, which had only my essentials in – deodorant, foundation, mascara. I also took my phone charger, wallet and, obviously, passport. My outfit consisted of comfortable leggings, canvas shoes, a skirt with pockets, a top and cardigan, which I wore both days. It was spring when we went, so the need for jackets and extra layers was moot.

On top of all this sat my camera, while we were on the plane, but it was around my neck as I wandered the beautiful city.

While most people would have probably opted for a backpack for a two-day trip, for those of us who don’t really like them, a large over the shoulder handbag does the trick nicely. The other advantage of this was that we didn’t have to arrive at our hostel until late on Friday night, and when we checked out the next day, we didn’t have to go back for any suitcases or packs.

If you’re planning a short stop-over-like trip like this, and the thought of carrying around a backpack doesn’t float your boat, then a handbag like this was an excellent solution, and I’ve also been quite proud of this trip because of how little I took.

What I’m saying is that packing light for such a short trip is 100% doable, and I never regretted not being able to take an extra set of clothes or more than I absolutely had to.

Let me know if you’ve taken this amount (or less!) on an overseas trip before!

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5 Reasons Hop On – Hop Off Buses are Worth Trying

Although the more common practice for travelling around Europe is on a budget, my time there was luckily accompanied with a home base in England. From there I was able to pop over to European countries for even the weekend, and not have to spend too much, and not have to worry too much about how I was getting back, or where I was going to be sleeping. It worked really well.

One of the things I discovered on these short adventures to the continent was the Hop On – Hop Off Buses. Perhaps they have them in your home city. The premise of these buses is exactly what it sounds like: a bus service that allows you to hop-on and hop-off at designated stops, however much you’d like, for the entire day.

In 2013 I was able to travel quite a bit, and in a few different countries I bought a ticket for a Hop On – Hop Off Bus.  I had seen them driving around the streets of London, and while I never used them there – opting for the underground experience and simply walking – I recognised them straight away when I stepped off the plane in Amsterdam. My friend and I also used one when we were in Athens, and these two experiences that I thought I’d draw from, and give you 5 reasons that theses Hop-On Hop-Off buses are worth trying.

1. Very decent prices

My bus in Amsterdam was about 19€, which is about $10USD/$15NZD. This was my first experience with a Hop-On Hop-Off bus, and I decided tog ive it ago because I had a day to myself in Amsterdam and wasn’t confident enough to wander around in a city I didn’t know. In the end, it would have been completely fine to do so, but the bus was a fantastic way to seeing the city. For an entire day’s pass, it was an incredibly good deal. 19€ meant I could spend the entire day jumping on and off the bus at various sight-seeing attractions, museums, famous houses (Anne Frank’s house), and gardens. If you’re not sure about the public transport in a city, then a Hop On – Hop Off Bus could just be the way to go, at least while you find your feet.

2. Takes you to the main sites, and tells you about them

The route of the bus depends on what the tourists want to see, and the tourists want to see the main buildings, sites, and historical places of the city. Not only does this allow for maximum city viewing during the day, but it means you can be sure you’re seeing the main parts of the city. What I love about these buses is that they have earphones that they give you (or simply bring your own), and you can plug them into the seat, choose your language, and you can listen to someone telling you all about not only the places that the bus goes, but about the city and history of it. The bus is not only your transport, but it’s your tour guide.

3. Make friends with the other people

While you may not be on the same bus all day, dependent on how long you stay at each site, or if you get off at all of them, you may find the same people are hopping on and hopping off with you for the duration of the day. What I loved about these buses, too, is the amount of people they attract, and the amount of different countries and nations that are represented on any one bus. I believe this is partly due to the fact that the automated voice-over tour-guide you can plug into is offered in about 11 languages. On my solo-trip around Amsterdam, I spoke to several people and learnt where they were from, what they were doing in Amsterdam. It was a great way to explore the city.

4. Safe

Because it’s a public service, it’s well recognised by the locals and the tourists. It’s an incredibly safe way to wander the cities. As my friend and I wandered the streets of Athens, there were only a few moments when we felt slightly on edge, but none of those moments were on the bus or in the places that we got off the bus at. The conductors were friendly and helpful, some even giving us tips to avoid people in the streets who tried to sell us things. Even though I was alone in Amsterdam, knowing that there was a bus in a few moments at any of the designated stops was a great comfort, and while I never felt unsafe once in Amsterdam, it was still good to know that getting on the bus was a good move.

5. It’s great fun

And quite simply, it’s fun. You can either plan your route on the bus, getting off at places at certain times in time for lunch or a show, or just get on and go, see what happens. If you’re lucky, you may get a free day with your ticket, as we did in Athens. It meant we could take the day slowly, staying longer at the places we really wanted to explore, and then follow up on the ones we hadn’t seen the following day. While it is a lot of fun doing it with a friend, so you can share the experience, it’s just as good one your own.


So whether you’re in a city by yourself, or you’re with your friends, the Hop On – Hop Off Busses are definitely worth a go, especially if you’re nervous about just wandering the streets. What I found is that the bus was a useful thing to do on day 1 or 2. That way you can get a good layout of the city and familiarise yourself with it. Then the rest of your trip you feel more comfortable on foot, or using public transport. You recognise the places you’ve been, and can use them as reference points.

Both times I used the bus, I used the Hop On – Hop Off Buses, but there are many other tour busses that do similar, if not the same sort of deals. It depends where you are, but I found that most of the European cities I went to had the same Hop-On Hop-Off bus service that I used. If you keep you brochure and ticket from one city, you can also get 10% off your next city bus tour. Bonus.

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