travel

Day Trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Whilst on our latest holiday to Dubrvonik, we talked about tours and trips. I suggested looking on the Viator website, as I had used them twice before for a tour.

So on a lazy morning, we both used the apartment’s wifi and browsed. I was keen on Montenegro but the fiancé wanted Bosnia-Herzegovina, as I had chose the destination and the apartment, I thought I had better compromise somewhere! So we booked one up (also as I had a new email address I was registered as a new customer so got a 10% off promo code!).

The tour we chose was described as “Pair Bosnia-Herzegovina’s beautiful outdoor scenery with its historic monuments on this 10-hour excursion including a visit to Mostar and Kravice Waterfalls. Cross the Croatian border and stop to admire the splendor of these 80-foot (25-meter) cascades. Then head to Mostar for a guided walking tour of the Old Town, famous ‘Stari Most’ (bridge), and much more. Extra value for all our clients is free entrance ticket to Turkish house in Mostar, the most visited museum in this city.”

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We decided on this one as it was a small group rather than a huge bus.

It was a very early start, we got picked up outside a local hotel at 7.10am! The minibus did the usual of driving around hotels and picking people up. Once we was on our way, the friendly guide gave us facts about Croatia and the towns we passed. We seemed to drive along the main road which curved the coast, so it was very scenic.

In total we did six border crossings! You leave Croatia, then go into Bosnia-Herzegovina and then there is a strip of land 22km long which is then Croatia again, then back to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The tour guide takes your passports and gets off the bus to the little office. I was quite hoping for a stamp, but they didn’t do one!

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Once we was safely in Bosnia-Herzegovina, there was a short stop of 15 minutes then we was on our way to the Kravice waterfalls. I am going to admit here, you need more time allocated here then the town. This is a natural beauty and was so nice to sit and admire. I would have liked to have gone for a quick dip, but I felt so rushed! It was a long steep walk down, with lots of stairs and it was so hot already (and it was still the morning!).

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So we did have a walk round and down as far as we could go, so we sat there and cooled off in the shade, took a few photos. Then it was the hard slog back up! In total, I think we was off and on the bus for about an hour and fifteen. Then we was on our way to Mostar. Again passing towns and the tour guide giving us information and facts.

Once we was in Mostar, the bus parked in a car park and another tour guide collected us. She was local, and said was a walking tour about an hour, and would also include the trip to Turkish house. I was slightly concerned as she said people dress up as tourists but they are actually pickpockets! She said they wouldn’t do it whilst with her, but watch ourselves on the way back.

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We walked by the local church and down the streets, where some buildings still showed huge damage from the war in the 90’s. We then went to old town, where the streets were narrow, very busy and cobbled. There was restaurants, stalls and shops but we didn’t pause much as she was walking and talking along the way.

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We then got to the Stari Most bridge, Prince Charles re-opened it after some destruction and its now a UNESCO site. Lots of local men now jump from the top (they have to be physically fit and tested) and ask for money before jumping. It’s also now a stop on the Red bull cliff diving competition. We continued on, walking to the Turkish House – what they mean by this, is the house was a traditional Turkish family home and had been left to look around. We had to take our shoes off, as the carpets were old and hand sewn. So the tour guide talked again about tradition’s, and showed us a few things.

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There was a few minutes more walk, and then the tour was done – and we had our own free time, I think it was about an hour and a half. We had a fifteen minute walk back to the bus in that time. So me and my partner went to a restaurant, and had a sit down. We both had a iced coffee and a baklava (the slice was huge!). We then wondered back the same way we came, through the markets and over the bridge. It really was so hot that day, definitely hotter than Croatia! So we walked back to the car park and waited for the cool air conditioned bus.

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We then started the same drive back – with the three border crossings, and back to Croatia. As we was the third pick up, we was the third drop off. We didn’t get back into the room until about 6.50pm. I was so shattered!

I liked the tour, it wasn’t my favourite that I’ve done, it was definitely interesting to see another country whilst already visiting a new one! I didn’t think i would ever expect to tick that country off my list too! I wouldn’t return to Bosnia-Herzegovina, as it’s not my type of holiday. Have you done a day trip / tour on a holiday? Where did you go?

 

 

 

travel

My First AirBnB

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On my last trip which was to Dubrovnik, Croatia. I was looking on my usual – booking.com and found there wasn’t that many hotels. (and also as it got nearer to the holiday, prices increased a lot!)

In Dubrovnik, it was a lot of apartments, villas etc to rent/stay in. Once I thought about it, this trip I didn’t want to stay in a hotel. I didn’t want to be restricted with their breakfast times, and be fighting for a sunbed. I wanted to buy local food and drink, and be on our own time and our own space.

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In the end I did book one, but it was a bedroom/bathroom with a shared kitchen. In all honesty, I booked it for the view from the balcony!

But it kept bugging me that I didn’t like it, so I browsed AirBnB for a while. I’m sure I looked at what felt like hundreds of properties, but it got quite fun and addictive. But I already had my flight booked, so my dates were set, it was just 2 of us and I knew my budget, so I could easily filter through them.

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In the end, I booked one. I signed up to the website, and you have to make a small profile and upload a photo of yourself. There is a nightly fee plus a cleaning charge which is then added at the end, so make sure you check the final amount before booking!

I’m not going to lie, I was a little daunted at handing all my money over to a stranger for a room! The money went out quite quickly too, and I had visions of there being not an actual room! But I knew it was a big company, I had email confirmation and a profile with a confirmed booking, so I was going to create hell if it was fictional!

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I messaged the owner asking about how far it was from the airport, and she replied with the time and also an offer for someone to pick us up (for a fee). We discussed it, and as we had a late flight, we didn’t want a normal taxi to be driving around for ages getting lost, so we did go with her suggestion.

I also had my name on a sign for when we arrived (I’ve always wanted that for some reason! Anyone else?!). The driver (her friend?cousin? I don’t know!), was friendly and polite and had a nice clean Audi. When we got there, he let us in and that was it. There was a laminated sheet with her name and number and which bus to get.

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I would have liked to met the owner, as we didn’t know where the bus stop was, where everything was kept, what to do with bins etc, or leave keys on last day! She did text me on the last day saying sorry she didn’t get to meet us, so I’m not sure if other AirBnBs you do meet them at some point?

It was cute though, it was a studio apartment, with a kitchen, bathroom and a big balcony. The balcony has table and chairs, a swinging seat and some plants. You did have to walk up about 11 steps as she was on the first floor (this was mentioned in the advert for the place which is nice for future guests). She said it had recently been decorated, and it looked and felt clean and new. The photos was true to what it looked like.

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Once the holiday/stay was over, (I didn’t realise this), but she left me feedback as a guest on my profile, and then I left a review on her place. I guess its like eBay – everyone can learn from each other then!

I did really like the AirBnB, the process was easy and I would definitely use it again! How about you – have you used it? Found any amazing places to stay?

travel

Flashback Friday – Dubrovnik, Croatia

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I’ve just recently returned from a five night trip to Dubrovnik. Croatia has been on my list for several years now, and finally I can tick it off the list!

Its a small country, about four million people live there, and it lies all along a coast alongside the Adriatic Sea (for geography wise – on the world map, think of the sea to the right of Italy).

It’s a pretty place with lots of views, I also learnt its very hilly, steep and tons and tons of steps, I felt like I got a 5 day workout!!

Whilst there, we went to the Old Town Dubrovnik, this is really cool and no tourist should exclude this off the visit list. It’s a high walled town, so no cars, lots of narrow walkways, cobbled pathways, (more) millions of stairs, hotels, restaurants and people live there. At the back is the harbour, and it’s also a famous filming location. Game of Thrones films the Kings Landing and various other parts there, (there was plenty of walking tours you could do, but we opted not to). It felt so historic, and modern at the same time, and you could spend hours just walking and looking around.

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I am glad we didn’t book a stay there though – one for not having to carry a case around and finding it, but two the views probably wouldn’t be as good.

We also paid for the return trip on the cable cars, which (obviously!) gives you great views. You can see old town and Lokrum.

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Another day, after a lazy morning we took the boat to Lokrum, which is described as     a beautiful, forested island full of holm oaks, black ash, pines and olive trees, only a 10-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik’s Old Harbour”. I did learn whilst there it was inhabited by monks for years and they put a curse on it?! I’m not a very outdoorsy person, and I didn’t particularly want to hike in the baking hot sun for hours! But we did a little walk, found a nice spot to rest, saw the tame bunnies and peacocks, walked round the botanical gardens and had lunch etc.

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We also did a 12 hour day trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina – which I will do another blog post about.

Another day we popped to the local beach, which was Sunset Beach, I wanted to rent a cabana, but they was all gone! We didn’t stay long, as it was busy and it was super hot, and we don’t sunbathe. I also found a bar in a local hotel – which was very cool as it was a cave bar! They found the cave during the construction of the hotel and decided to keep it as a feature. So we had a cocktail and a look round.

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We also did the usual of buying some food, taking it back to the room, eating and drinking on the balcony. I managed to read a whole book. We sat out of an evening and listened to the bars from a few levels down by the beach and looked at the stars. It really was needed, and I could have done with another day!

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Overall, I really did enjoy Dubrovnik, it felt like a city break as there was the built up tourist area (old town) but also a proper summer holiday, as the weather was so nice, the vibe was chilled, I felt completely safe and unpressured. There was lots of tours to do, I was eyeing up a boat tour of the elafiti islands or a wine tour day!

Only thing is – it’s not as cheap as I think we think it is! Before I went, I spoke to someone and he said when he first went years ago it was mega cheap and great value, but now they’ve got wise and increased prices. We literally spent every penny we had (and used our cards for uber/tour!).

 

travel

Flashback Friday – Luxembourg

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A few weeks ago we went to Luxembourg for three nights. The flights were ridiculously cheap, it was £39 each! And for the first time ever, I did hand luggage only!

The first evening was the usual of walking around and just seeing near your hotel. I also had an awful cold and cough, so I had no energy and we didn’t explore too far.

The next day, we took a bus into the centre. We wondered around and saw a kind of look out point, so we walked over. This was good views of the Adolphe Bridge (see top picture).

Before going I had read about a hot chocolate shop that I wanted to visit, and it was in the area we was in! Its called Chocolate House by Nathalie Bonn, and it was amazing! In the shop was lots of chocolate’s, and cakes, and also a wall of chocolate spoons! The lady suggested having our hot chocolate in the shop. So you choose a spoon, took it upstairs, they offer you milk (they had everything – lacto free, soya etc.), you are then given the mug of hot milk, which you stir your chosen spoon into, with a little tub of cream and a marshmallow each. It was delicious!

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On my list of things to do was the Casemates du Bock – these are underground tunnel’s from years ago which was built under a castle. The castle is no longer there, but the passages couldn’t be destroyed as part of the city would have been lost! So they have been kept open for visitors as a UNESCO world heritage site. It was super cold down there!

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We wondered and walked all round the old part (which is also the centre), this was definitely the prettiest part. We ended up going to a supermarket on the way back to the hotel and having a chill night.

The next day, we went back to the centre and I wanted to go to the new observational lift. Pfaffenthal lift takes you down to ‘the grund’. We expected queue or something – but was quiet. So we did that, and there was nothing open on the bottom! You could walk back up the long and winding steep hill, but I refused! So used the lift back up.

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We saw the statue of Grand Duchess Charlotte, we went to Notre Damn, and had more food out.

Then it was the last day, we checked out of the hotel and went back into the centre, only to discover all the shops were shut! (it was a Sunday), so we stopped outside the Grand Ducal palace so I could take a few photos. They also do tours inside, but only in the summer. So we took a slow walk (about 20 minute’s or so) to the bus garage so we could get a bus to the airport (it cost 2 euros!).

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I’m going to be honest in this post… I wouldn’t recommend Luxembourg. The flight was lovely and short, 50 minutes! But the cab to the hotel was fifty two euros, just because we wasn’t in the centre of luxeumbourg city (which I hadn’t booked as wanted a cheap break). Everything was expensive, and we did most of the tourist stuff in 1 day. It was also strange that it was such a mash up of other countries, it didn’t feel like it had its own identity. There are much nicer cities in Europe with more to do.

 

travel

Flashback Friday – Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

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A few years ago, my fiancé and I went to Amsterdam for three nights. We had so many people that had already visited and wanted to see the city for ourselves.

One of the best parts was the short flight, from London Gatwick – it was 45 minutes!     We stayed in a hotel a little on the edge of the city, and chose a basement room for a cheaper price.

The first day we walked, and walked. Just all over the town, taking it all in. Its a very picturesque place with the towering town houses and endless canals. Plus I have never seen so many bikes in one place – everyone owns one!

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I wasn’t too keen on the food there, I know it would have been us as well – but felt like a lot of fast food restaurants and not many independent cute places.

On one of the days, we visited the Heineken Experience, a good brewery experience – but they don’t brew there anymore, so its more of a tour.

On the same day, we also took a boat ride on the canals over a lot of the city, was nice to see the views from a different prospective, and a few interesting facts on the recorded audio guide.

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We did visit the Red light district of an evening too – everyone does – its the tourist thing to do! Felt very surreal to see – just lots of girls in their windows and you just walk past!

On one of the other days, I had pre booked a tour – it was a half day. the tour was to see Zaanse Schans windmills and a traditional clog maker, and then to Volendam – a little village where you also saw cheese making. The time on the tour, you was transported by bus (with commentary) and also for a small part – a boat.

 

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We visited a working windmill – we actually went inside and the owner let us walk all around. The whole village was very pretty and smelled amazing, as there was a nearby chocolate factory!

Out of all the city breaks I have taken the last few years, Amsterdam is a place I wouldn’t return to. I just think there is too much hype, and there is other new places to explore. Of course, most people are shocked when I say this – but hey everyone has their own favourite’s!

 

 

 

travel

Flashback Friday – Reykjavik, Iceland

 

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A few years ago, I had a strong desire to see the Northern Lights, so some research and a trip was booked! We booked Iceland for four nights in mid November.

I don’t normally book package type holidays, but I ended up booking the tours with the flight. I used Wowair,and the process was so easy, and we got a really good price. Hotel was through trusty old Booking.com.

Reykjavik is not cheap which we found out whilst there! Unfortunately I don’t have many photos for this blog post, as they are all stored elsewhere.

Anyway, whilst we was there – we completed three tours, visited the Blue Lagoon and explored Reykjavik on foot.

Two of our tours were unsuccessful! One was the Northern Lights chasing one – there was the tiniest glimmer, but not enough for me to say confidently I had seen them! It was still an experience, being driven miles and miles to where there is no light pollution, and standing in the middle of a road, on a hill looking up at the sky in Iceland!

The other tour was a whale watching one – two hours on a boat in very bad weather! As we got on the boat, the captain was offering everyone another date to come back (we couldn’t as only a short stay), or a sea sickness tablet! We didn’t take the tablet, as neither of us suffer from motion sickness. It was a very rough two hours with not a whale in sight!

The tour that was amazing was The Golden Circle tour, its a long day, over six hours – but you get driven around in a coach to see a lot of natural beauty sites. Such as Strokkur geyser, Gullfoss waterfall, Thingvellir National Park, (where the American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart at a rate of a few centimetres per year.), so you see actual craters in the ground!, you also visit a greenhouse where they grow tomatoes. Everyone else had hot tomato soup, my fiancé and I had a bloody mary! During this tour, there is a stop for lunch, but it is not included in the price, same as the tomato drinks.

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As I mentioned, the Blue Lagoon was amazing – its a must do if you visit Iceland. Such a surreal experience, in a pool which is lovely and warm, but its freezing out and you can mountains and snow! There is Silica Mud all round the outside, so you can even give yourself a facial! In all honesty, I wish we had stayed here longer but we had to rush back for the Northern Lights tour!

So the only disappointing thing about the trip, was the lack of Northern Lights – which is all weather based, and never guaranteed wherever you go! And as you now know, I saw them a few years later in Norway.

Iceland was one of those places I didn’t think I would ever go to, and definitely wasn’t on my list! I was really surprised but how pretty and scenic it all was. Even some of the houses were so cute! I would recommend Iceland, and suggest you put on your travel plans for the future!

travel

Flashback Friday – Prague, Czech Republic

 

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A few years ago a friend and I went to Prague for three nights.

We stayed in a hotel outside of the city for cheaper rates and either got the tram or walked everywhere.

During the three days we walked all over the city, had an afternoon on the hop on/hop off tour bus, had meals out and visited a very cool cocktail bar.

I was disappointed in the well known Wenceslas Square, but the Old Town Square – where the famous astronomical clock is located made up for it! This was by far the prettiest part of town, and we ended up here several times.

 

 

 

 

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The bar we visited was called Hemingway Bar, my friend had found on a website and we booked a reservation. As you can guess it was inspired by  Ernest Hemingway.  The drinks were made lovingly and carefully by the bartenders, and we had front row seats – as we was sat at the bar! I loved it in here, and definitely worth a visit!

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As happens with a quick city break, you only see the tourist parts that are well known, but I like to think you can decide from those few days if you would return or not.

From my visit to Prague, I will not be going back. But hey, I experienced it and its another tick off the countries visited list!

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