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We are forever recommending Portugal to our friends who visit Europe and Porto is an absolute must. While writing this we are searching for the cost of flights to go back (maybe after 2020 we should look at a one-way). Porto is any travelers dream. From accommodation, transport to food it can suit any style of traveler from both luxury to budget. You do not need to search hard for a meal and a drink for under €8 per person and even cheaper again for a breakfast. If you enjoy a tipple in the evening Porto is home to the only authentic Port wine in the world, and the best bit is that it is affordable. The cost of all activities we did whilst in Porto are all included below (based on 2018). But we don't love Porto just because it is budget friendly, it is also beautiful. The city is so vibrant and full of color and just a stones throw away from the ocean. Unlike a lot of cities that are flat and sparse, Porto is condense and contains quite a number of stairs! Don't let this put off though as there are many routes to get up high, we just chose the quickest and most direct way. The elevation makes for many wonderful views points, most notable seeing the famous Douro River that snakes it way through the center of the city. best time to visit Porto Our first experience in Porto was a beautiful foggy morning. As the city was waking up we were wandering around orientating ourselves in the misty surroundings. The well known Portuguese vibrant and colorful buildings and red tiled roofs were popping their way out through the mist. It was a perfect start to our weekend in Porto.
We traveled to Porto in November. It was comfortably cool but not cold. Summer (June to September) can get quite warm (mid 20's to 30's) and is a perfect and quite popular European summer destination so be prepared for the tourist density and possibly more inflated prices for accommodation. Whether you are flocking to Porto for it's beaches or to experience the city can determine the time of year you plan to travel. If the city is what you are going for, then you are pretty safe to come here anytime between March - November and avoid the rain. Top things to do in Porto Visit the Ribeira The district of Ribeira is unsurprisingly the most sought after destination for accommodation because of it's views overlooking Douro river. Ribeira is the perfect location for a nice stroll, a bite to eat or sit with a coffee and to explore the many local craft shops. If you are lucky you may also stumble across an outdoor market to pick up local souvenirs. Visit Sé cathedral In our opinion, Sé is one of the most beautiful cathedral's we have ever seen. What is so unique is that you can go beyond the interior and wander the exterior. The fantastic blue and white azulejos tiles are simply stunning and is a key feature seen throughout the cathedral. This same azulejos artwork can also be found in Porto's Sao Bento station (train station). Admission is free, give yourselves at least 30 minutes to explore. Check out Livraria Lello This extraordinary bookshop was claimed to be inspiration for J.K Rowling when first beginning her writing of Harry Potter. Livraria Lello, located in Vitória district, certainly deserves it's popularity due to its wonderful architecture and unique staircase. Unfortunately in our opinion it is a shame that it has been turned into a tourist attraction due to it's link with Harry Potter. The building is far too small for the number of tourists who flock here daily and you lose the experience of what it is designed for - a bookstore. Nevertheless we were pleased to visit as the inner nerd inside us loved being surrounded by books, even if it were with hundreds of other people. Entry is €4 per person but if you choose to buy something from the bookstore this cost is deducted from your purchase. Spend a day tasting wine You surely came to Porto with the plan to taste what this region is most famous for - Port wine. When walking in the district of Ribeira and looking across the Douro river to the district of Vila Nova de Gaia, it is impossible to miss the big bold signs of each wine lodge scattered among the rooftops. They are a welcomed reminder trying to constantly coax you over. Did you know
The Douro Valley is the only existing location in the world who are able to produce and sell Port under it's existing name. Other produce that is made to taste like port is not actually allowed to be called 'Port' or 'Porto'. There are very strict guidelines on how Port must be made for it to deserve it's label.
The Douro Valley harvest the grapes in September and then get stomping. Yes, stomping. Grapes are crushed in big barrels from the bare feet of women and men. The stomping is an important process in starting the fermentation process. Once the grapes are satisfactorily crushed, they are left to continue fermenting for a further 3-4 days before it is fortified with a 77% alcohol of wine brandy. The difference between still wines and Port wine is that fortification starts much earlier than still wines. Still wine is left to ferment for a longer period of time allowing the sugars to convert to alcohol. This means that the alcohol content in Port wines are much higher whilst maintaining the natural sugars and flavors of the grapes.
Once fortified, the Port wine is distributed into barrels and left to settle. The wood of the barrel will also add different flavors to the wine over time giving each Port a different taste.
The following year the Port is transported to the lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia to either be bottled or left to mature. This is one reason among many that makes this city so special and a delicious experience you can not have anywhere else in the world. If you are not the worlds biggest wine enthusiast, I would recommend to at least try one Port wine..or a sip. We must confess that this was our first experience drinking Port because, well, why not start where it was actually produced. We pleasantly enjoyed the taste more than we anticipated and went back for seconds, and thirds. For those wine and Port enthusiasts out there, perhaps a day excursion to the Douro Valley to visit the wineries might be an enticing adventure and one for that bucket list. Visit the cellars of Porto's oldest wine producer - Croft Croft has been circulating it's goodness since 1588. It is the longest standing port wine producer of wood aged reserves and tawnies. While you obviously need to taste test some of the Port's on offer, we would recommend to take time for the cellar tour as well. This was a great way to understand first hand the process from harvest through to production and how the flavors are created. We were certainly shocked at some of the ages of the Port wine which were still being developed in the wooden barrel's. Cellar tour is €14 per person and includes 3 tasters. Take a ride on the vintage tram From Ribeira look out for tram #1 which follows the Douro river for a scenic 20 minute ride to Foz Do Douro. Dating back to 1895, Porto has one of the oldest tram systems still in use in Europe. The service, now only with three remaining lines, is not part of the cities metro transport system but instead served as a heritage service. This means that the cost is a little more expensive than other transport within Porto, however the trams maintain their character of wooden interiors and brass finishing. Keep an ear out for the noisy bell which is rung when approaching each stop. It is worth taking the journey at least one way for the experience. Foz Do Douro is a seaside region full of white sand beaches and seafront restaurants and bars. This is where the North Atlantic ocean meets the Douro river. The cost is €3 per journey. Cross the Ponte de Dom Luis I bridge This cleverly designed bridge is the gateway across the Douro river. The Ponte de Dom Luis I bridge has two levels; the bottom for local traffic and the top for metro services. You can walk across either level to reach the district of Vila Nova de Gaia which is home to the port wine lodges and many restaurants. Have a pastry filled breakfast By far one of the reasons we love Portugal the most. A breakfast full of sweet and savory filled goodness topped with a Portuguese coffee. It is safe to say it would be dangerous if we lived in Portugal as our stomachs would grow in double within weeks. We have done our fair share of damage to many cafe spots around Lisbon and Porto and I can't say we have had a bad one yet. Therefore, find a local cafe, go nuts and pick a selection of pastries and savory items and just indulge. It will not break the budget and you will thank us later. Cost of 5 items and 2 coffees comes to roughly €10. Get the scenic views from Torre Dos Clérigos Climb to the top of one of Porto's oldest buildings, Torre Dos Clérigos, built in 1763 for the spectacular skyline view of Porto. If you reach Torre Dos Clérigos by foot, you might want a quick rest before climbing the 200+ steps to reach the top of the 75m high building. Soak in some of that 250+ year history you are standing on whilst up there as well. traveling from porto Airport to the City Links between Porto's airport and the city are easy to access and you have a number of options. Taxi or Uber The airport is a 20-25 minute drive to the city and a taxi or Uber journey will cost you around €20-25. Make sure to have your accommodation address written down before getting into a car to help the drivers take you quickly and safely to where you need to go.
The cheapest option is taking the Metro for €2.45 for a one way journey which includes a €0.60 refundable travel card. It takes about 25 minutes into the city and leaves every 20-30 minutes. It may be slightly less convenient but will save you a day's worth of food. Bus
Various buses travel between the city and the airport and depending where you wish to be dropped off may depend on the bus you choose to take. Buses typically leave every 30 minutes and the 601, 602 and 604 will take you into the city as well as the 119 and 3M and 105N during the evenings. The cost is €2.40 one way which includes the €0.60 refundable travel card. The duration of the bus ride will be approximately 40 minutes if you are going into the city center.
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History. An often forgotten about little gem of a borough that sits right next to the Thames is a personal favorite for many reasons. Greenwich is full of history, perfect scenery, hearty food and interestingly once home to royalties. Much of the history in Greenwich is recognised by UNESCO, and rightfully so. Every time we visit we always say we must come more often. It is a fabulous part of London and not commonly overcrowded with tourists. Start your day at Greenwich Markets Greenwich Markets proudly presents as one of the best looking markets in London.
Established in 1737, Greenwich has had some time to perfect the market gig over the years and it is safe to say they have done a bloody great job. A brief history of Greenwich Markets.. The market as you would suspect has an interesting history of produce sold over the years. Back in 1737 when Greenwich market first opened 60 stalls stood with local butchers, bakers and grocers. The main produce sold at this time were general goods, meats and livestock. In the early 1800's a gradual implementation of fresh fruit and vegetables begun to also be sold from local farmers, which continued through to the 1900's. In 1944 during London's World War II bombings, the market's roof and interior was sadly damaged and sales diminished for many decades. In the 1980's after roof restorations (now glass) sales picked back up with a notable shift to the selling art and craft. This begun to increase traffic back through the market, and still continues to today. Now, the market is a combination of arts, crafts, fresh food, drinks, jewelry and clothing - no livestock. Grab a coffee or a fresh juice and take a wander. There are plenty of stools to catch your eye and a nice variety of street food options. Have a bite to eat here before taking on the history of Greenwich. Visit the Queens House, for free The Queens House was completed in 1636 and was occupied by Royal family members until 1805. It is now open to the public as a museum featuring a impressive art collection of Royal history and famous artists. You may also notice the Queen's house featured in many scenes of the new Netflix series, Bridgeton. *2020/2021 update Currently, in COVID times, you need to book a ticket online to visit the museum for tracking purposes and to avoid overcrowding. The building itself is pretty remarkable being nearly 600 years old, so spend some time outside as well. Take a walk around the Old Royal Naval College and be awed by the architecture. A short walk from the Queens House is the Old Royal Naval College. This is worth a visit purely for it's breathtaking buildings. You can visit the Painted Hall which includes a guided tour for £11 (book online), otherwise if you are interested but don't want to pay then you can check out the online virtual tour from your own home. The chapel is open for viewing most days if you fancy a visit, otherwise a walk through the grounds is just as spectacular. Take a pit stop at Goddard's Pie and Mash and fill your bellies. A very popular restaurant that knows how to stick to what it does best, pie and mash. For a very affordable price you can fill up on a pie (or two if you fancy) accompanied by mash and gravy or liquor. This liquor is a type of light gravy that is traditionally the left over sauce from stewed eels - how brave are you? Goddard's is a must when you are in Greenwich. Just make sure you have some space in your belly it is a generous portion. Go take a seat in Greenwich Park and enjoy the views I continually am amazed at how flat London is. Anytime you climb a small hill or incline in London you know you are likely to have a good view of something at the top. Greenwich is no exception. This fantastic spot is only a short walk from the Queen's House within Greenwich Park with a steady incline to reach the hill top where you will find the Royal Observatory and the viewpoint in front of the statue of General Wolfe. The views are totally worth the visit as you get a spectacular view of the city of London, the famous curve of the 215 mile long River Thames as well as the Royal Greenwich Museums and beyond that Canary Wharf. Have a picnic up here or spend some time taking in the scenery. Whichever it is, you won't be able to help but take a few snaps. How to get to Greenwich from central London Take the DLR East; 11 stops from Central London (Bank station) Take the South Eastern Overground train from London Bridge to Greenwich; 2 stops Multiple buses will take you to Greenwich from wherever you are. If in Central London look for the 453 or 188 bus. There is so much more to do and explore in Greenwich. Let us know your favorite thing to do is after spending a day in Greenwich.
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The start of this new decade has certainly been a hard one for travel enthusiasts. While 2020 has forced us all to stop in our tracks and enjoy time at home with family and friends, it has also allowed us to press the reset button on our bodies and minds. Us travel enthusiasts have had plenty of time to sit and reflect on the adventures we have been fortunate to experience whilst planning others we hope to someday be able to have. But if you are reading this blog you probably know that that has not been enough to curb that travel urge. Twelve months of not stepping one foot inside a plane has been more torturous than ever anticipated. So how can we get our fix whilst making sure we are keeping each other safe? Sitting in our tiny third floor flat in London that is 100% not designed to be in full time we were grateful when the first lock down restrictions started to ease (and very unhappy when they returned). With no backyard or outdoor space for almost five months we were itching to be outside, full time. Thankfully the beautiful 2020 summer turned up as restrictions were easing and we started to look for ideal staycations on our own soil. With Europe being just a stone’s throw away we have often overlooked the beauty that England has to offer and neglected the opportunity to travel to some of England’s most talked about destinations. Ensuring we spend the majority of our time outdoors we realized that we had never officially been on a camping holiday together. We hired a car for 4 days, packed our two-man tent and our camping gear and off we went. Camping grounds in ENGLAND England has hundred of camping grounds and green spaces that can be enjoyed by families, couples or solo. Campsites are currently (in 2021) taking about half of the usual amount of guests due to COVID social distancing rules. Due to this, look at booking a few weeks in advance, especially if camping during peak season* as the campsites do fill up pretty quickly. *Peak season = April-May and July-August, including bank holidays. If choosing to camp with a tent there is generally the choice of electric grass pitch or non-electric grass pitch. Unsurprisingly the electric grass pitch is most sought after and is best booked in advance. Amenities vary between each camping grounds. Some grounds come complete with a pool, sauna and onsite bar while others may offer only non-electric fields, next to a lake with horses. There is something out there for everyone and every experience. What to pack Do not let not having a car put you off camping. We comfortably carried all of the below to a car rental, so it is doable. We chose a non-electric pitch and the below is what we packed. You may wish to include a few other electrical items if you choose an electric pitch. The essentials: · Tent (inclusive with hammer and pegs) · Sleeping bags · Pillow (a blow up pillow saves space and is surprisingly comfortable) · Blow up mattress and pump · Portable light · Cutlery, plates, cups/mugs and bowls and spatula · Camping cooking pots/pan/kettle (you can purchase a kit from any camping shop for £20-25) · Picnic blanket · Portable gas stove + gas canister · Flip flops (useful for showers) · Towel · Sunscreen and bug spray · Cooler bag · Cleaning products; washing up liquid, sponges and towel · Bin bags · Personal cosmetics · Personal clothing · Portable chargers + cords The stigma of camping There can be an unfortunate stigma behind camping being an UN-luxurious holiday. What is sadly forgotten is the experience of what camping can give you. Traveling to new countries teaches you many life lessons that you can not always get on your home soil. This is what makes traveling so addictive and fascinating. The different cultures, food, smells and language is never ending. Camping however teaches you different life lessons. It teaches you how to survive, to assemble your home, cook your own meals and to create a fire to keep yourself warm. It teaches you an appreciation for the outdoors, nature and how to work as a team. There is nothing quite like sitting outside eating breakfast and drinking coffee watching a new day start. Tips and Costs · For the general amenities you can get a non-electric grass pitch for £15-22 during peak times and £10-18 during off peak times, per couple. · The electric pitches tend to be a few £ extra per night compared to non-electric. · The cost is generally the same whether you have a small or bigger tent. · Having more than one car will generally include an extra fee per night on top of your pitch costs. · If you have a two man tent, it is always worth asking campsites who are advertising as full as they may still have room for you - we got lucky with this. · Dogs are generally welcome but some sites may charge you extra per night. · If pitches allow you to have fires they will generally supply wood for a small fee and fire pits free to use. Camp site recommendations Devon We spent two nights at Hurst View Camping. This campsite had two large open spaces, one for families and the other for larger groups. Despite the footfall, the showers were fabulous and very clean all the time. There was also a handy small shop on site in case you ran out of the essentials. Taps could also be found in the fields which were signed as drinking water and to top it off it was within the New Forest (South) and only a 15 minute drive to the nearest beach. The second two nights we stayed at Giants Head Caravan & Camping Park. This campsite was much smaller but located quite high in the hills. The fog that came over the campsite at night was pretty spectacular and super eerie as it happened in seconds. The facilities at this site were once again amazing and the showers were better than a lot of hotels I have stayed at. The only issue with this property is the entrance is set on a main road and it can be a bit tricky to see from a distance. We found slowing down to approach the entrance quite dangerous as a lot of drivers traveling behind were not very forgiving to have to slow down for you. If you have a caravan or a big camper van, be cautious. Cotswold's Our first campsite in the Cotswold did not let us down. Pelerine campsite was so quiet and peaceful that we decided to stay an extra night. We stayed here in September, not typically peak camping time, which is why we may have hit the jackpot. There is a small village called Newent 3 miles away which has supermarkets, takeaway shops and bars if you fancy. Our second campsite, Greenacres campsite, was 30 minutes south was bigger but still personal. This campsite had a cafe, large bathroom facilities including hairdryers and a laundry, and the owners were very hospitable. It again was close to a small town, Coleford, for a quick bite to eat or to stock up on supplies. This campsite was set behind the owners house which made it feel highly secure. The Yorkshire Dale's Riverside campsite in Malham is set in the most beautiful location, probably one of the best we have been to so far. It consists of one small field partially divided by a small stream with bathrooms, showers*, washing up facilities and a designated car park (no parking on the grass). The owners are farmers and if you can get past their slight peculiar mannerisms you will no doubt have a nice time. We pitched our tent up next to the stream with cows and sheep as our neighbors for the night. It was nothing but peaceful. The campsite is a short walk way from Malham Cove which is popular for it's limestone wall and unique limestone pavement on top (featured in Harry Potter). If you fancy a longer walk, a loop continues through to Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss which both feature a waterfall. *Showers cost a pound; you can buy tokens on arrival. How to search for campsites in england Finding a hotel or hostel with all of the different websites and apps currently available is relatively easy, but what about campsites? Here are some of our favorite websites and apps that make searching the perfect campsite easy. > Pitchup - This site covers the UK, Europe and America. It is easy to follow with filter options to pinpoint your perfect campsite. > Campsites.co.uk - This site allows you to pick your region you wish to travel to and whether you want tent only campsites, caravan parks or glamping sites. > Airbnb - You can go for 'wild camping' by finding people who are happy to allow you to pitch your tent on in their backyards. Under the filter options you can find campsites under the heading 'unique stays'. Share with us your camping experiences or leave your favorite campsites in England below. We would love to check out your recommendations.
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London. You either love it, or you hate it. I have seen people thrive in the world of London and move heaven to Earth to be able to stay in this crazy city. I have also seen people move over and feel like they have lost a little bit of their soul or have possibly sold a kidney in order to pay their rent. In 2014 I moved to the UK from Australia. Before this, I had never travelled further than New Zealand from Australia (about a 4 hour flight) and had zero experience with travelling. Growing up my family would go on road trips for holidays, but we never travelled anywhere that required a flight. The first time I actually flew was the age of 12 from Adelaide to Sydney to play in a sports tournament. I grew up in a middle class family in the country and travelling was never hot on my parents list of things to spend money on. I remember my trip to New Zealand with a friend to celebrate finishing University. Here I met people who were from Europe living and working in New Zealand. Some were simply travelling and had been for 4-6 months. I literally did not even know this was a thing you could do, and I was immediately interested. I remember questioning to myself, ‘how do I do that’. Returning from my trip to New Zealand, I could not stop thinking about the possibility of living in a different country. I took to some research and realised that travelling and living in the UK was a relatively easy option for Aussies. I spoke about the plan to move to the UK for some time, until a ‘fed up’ moment at work and life made me submit for my visa and book my one way flight. I moved to the UK in January 2014, and now in November 2019 I can not believe it has almost been six years! It turned out my fathers Dutch roots meant I could apply and successfully received a Netherlands passport. This meant I could stay in the UK and Europe forever, if I wanted. ..... Throwing it forward to 2019, of those six years in the UK, I have been in London for at least five. There are parts of the city I still have yet to explore or visit, but for the most part...I think I am quite content with what I have experienced. So in case you are wondering why I am still booting about in London, I have put together my top 5 reasons why I will always love London. I probably could have done ten, but I think you will get the gist from the five I have mentioned. 1. The people. I would happily debate over this, but I think it is safe to say that you will not meet so many interesting people in your life in one place. There is such a mix of culture in London which I love. Everyone is welcome (for the most part, Brexit...urgh), and how people end up in London is always a fascinating story. It is a place where people come and go and because of this are always welcoming to new faces and are often very generous to help if you need it. Most will leave to go back to their native country, or move out of London to buy a house where life is cheaper and the pace is slower. I have never met so many people with jobs I did not even know existed, never mind are relocated to London to work. Most of my friends have Chandler (from Friends) jobs. I have no clue what they do, nor do I care because they are just amazing people. I officially have friends from all over the globe, and one day look forward to visiting them all back in their native home land. 2. The seasons. This is a love/hate relationship for me. Unlike Australia, most of Europe and especially the UK have distinct weather seasons. Summer you could say is a little short for my liking and certainly doesn’t get as hot as Australia, but you do get the lead up with a lengthy Spring. You will have the beautiful Autumn time with leaves everywhere and the progression into cooler mornings and evenings. Winter will soon approach and be cold enough that you need to wear multiple layers of clothing and invest in a beanie, gloves and appropriate footwear. It is nice to experience seasons as they are described. In the Southern Hemisphere it tends to be a rather extended summer and spring with a short and not ‘that’ cold winter. My downfall here is although there are seasons, with that comes the winter darkness. For a good 3-4 months it is waking up to darkness and leaving work in darkness. It gets old, quick. 3. Architecture. London is beautiful. I just love Westminster palace, Big Ben and Tower Bridge. Every time I see these three attractions I have a little smile to myself. For my 26th birthday, Kris brought me a London Pass and we went around to as many attractions and buildings as possible. I loved that day. Tower Bridge is my top recommendation for tourism in London. I could also stare at Big Ben for hours (except he’s currently getting a makeover for the next few years so does not look so pretty at the moment). 4. Entertainment. There is always.something.to.do. London is full of entertainment; from bottomless brunch, to concerts, to pop ups and weekend getaways. It is endless. I enjoy meeting people who have just moved to London. I forget how busy I kept myself when I first moved over trying to do everything every weekend. There are free things to do, some things cost money, but nevertheless there is something quite literally for everyone. The city is so big that it will take you years to visit every part of London and attend all the experiences possible. Speak to anyone who has lived in London, I am sure they will be able to reel off many of their favourite things to do and see during their time in this insane city. Ice-skaing at Somerset House between November-December. 5. Saved the best for last. Easy Travel. The reason that the thought of leaving London is most painful. The luxury of whipping off for the weekend to Europe and spending 7 days away and visiting numerous countries is the best. I love it. You can return time and time again to your favourite cities without digging a huge hole in your savings. Flight prices at times can be a steal (my best yet was £9 from Luxembourg to London), and sometimes less than a steal if you don’t plan in advance. I never envisioned visiting so many countries and having so many stories. Each place is different from it’s neighbor and I love the fun of understanding each city and countries little quirks and differences. The best experience from traveling is what you can take away from it. Understanding different culture behaviors, seeing poverty with your own eyes and realizing there is more in the world than just you. It makes you look at the bigger picture of life. Explore our blogs to understand more about our travel destinations and what we got up to. Living in London has certainly improved my ability to save money and realize that there is not just one way to travel. Anything is possible with however little or much money you have. Sure, you need some money, but the best and most memorable holidays are spent in hostels or Airbnb’s, where you get lost and have to figure out where you are. There is always something wonderful about being blown away by a country you never expected to as well. If you want to live in luxury, London probably is not for you. But, that all depends on how much money you earn or your ability to adapt. Share with us your top 5 things that you love about London. Whether you lived there or visited.
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Fairy-tale. I mean, where do you even start with Cappadocia? This is one of the most phenomenal places in the world. Not just because the skies fill with the magical image of colourful hot air balloons from the first sight of daylight in the morning, but the landscape, cave houses and terrain is just out of a fairy-tale. Getting to Cappadocia/Goreme Cappadocia is a region of Turkey which hosts the beautiful National Park and UNESCO site of Goreme. If you want to see the skies filled with hot air balloons each morning then make sure you look for your accommodation in Goreme. Getting to Cappadocia can take some planning so I suggest booking in advance rather than a last minute spontaneous flight (although could make for more of a spontaneous trip if you prefer that). There are two airports that you can fly into Cappadocia. Kayseri airport is roughly 70km from Goreme or Neveshir Airport which is 35km. We flew into Neveshir Airport which is a very small airport and only flies domestically. It is highly recommend that you organise for a driver to pick you up from the airport to take you to Goreme as the only other alternative is a taxi and they do not come cheaply. Most accommodations in Goreme offer a pick up service at airports so ensure you choose one in advance and check prices before booking. In September 2019 our transfer was 50TL (£6) per person which seems to be the going rate. We did have to wait a little while for the transport to collect more passengers from other incoming flights before we left, but this allowed us time to stretch our legs and grab some snacks. Once the mini-bus was full to the brim with luggage and people, off we set to Goreme. The bus ride was about one hour. As you are a few kilometers from Goreme you can start to see the unique rock formations appearing in the distance. This was the first time that the excitement of this bucket list destination started to kick in. Prepare to be blown away when you arrive. Accommodation Have you ever been able to say you've slept in a cave? Well pop it on the list and do it. We splurged a little more than usual to stay in a cave because, well, when would you have that opportunity again? Accommodation can be a little more pricey in Gerome in comparison to other locations in Turkey therefore we decided to spend a few extra pounds a night for the full experience. It is unlikely you will stay here for more than a few nights so the splurge feels a bit more justifiable. We stayed at Hazande Suites with a breakfast buffet included and a fabulous balcony that overlooks Gerome. It was worth every penny. Experiencing the Hot Air Balloons There is simply two ways to enjoy this phenomenal experience. From the skies, or from the ground. Now, a fact that is not widely known is that the hot air balloons may not fly everyday. It may seem obvious once pointed out but it can often mean a very disappointing trip if the plan is to stay for just 1 or 2 nights. In saying that, besides the risk of missing the hot air balloons, you do not need to spend any more than two days in Gerome as it is quite small. The two days prior to us arriving in Gerome the ballooning was cancelled due to poor weather. The one and only morning we were there (yes, we only booked for one night) we were so lucky that the weather held up and the balloons were given the go ahead. Because the previous two days were cancelled the cost of getting into a balloon was insane, so we happily decided to view from the ground. From the ground From the ground you have two options which will depend on where you are staying. If you have scored a lovely terrace that has view of the whole of Gerome, then you can get comfy with a hot drink and enjoy the skies. The other option and notably most popular is making your way to the highest point possible. A short walk in Gerome you can head to Sunset point (easily identifiable with the big Turkish flag). Due to it's convenience there will be a collection of other tourists enjoying the skies so be prepared to not have much space to yourself. You might even come across some locals blocking the road and requesting a small fee to continue to the top (it was not clear whether they were actually meant to be there or cashing in on the opportunity) but perhaps carry some small change with you so you do not miss out. Other options are hiking to Love Valley or Sword Valley (about 45 minutes) for a less crowded view. Do be careful if you choose to hike as the terrain can be a little unpredictable. From the skies If you want the full experience and to be able to look down at the view then get yourself in one of those baskets. It is recommended to book in advance, but it is possible to book the day before. Be prepared however that the price is not cheap. On a good day it can cost anything from £150 per person. On a bad day (like in our instance) you could be looking at £200/250+ per person. The experience generally lasts for a full hour up in the skies, but some can last for 90+ minutes. Depending where you stay, some hotels may have affiliated companies that they can reserve a place for you. You can also search the internet, however I found most would say that you have to reserve 7 days before staying. If you do plan to go up in the balloon make sure you try on your first morning in case of poor weather. If you are cancelled on the first morning then you will have the opportunity to try again the next day. You will normally be notified the evening before if your trip is cancelled to avoid a very early disappointing wake up. Do not miss out! Make sure you wake up early! Anywhere between 4-5am is ideal as the first sign of light the balloons will be on their way up. The show tends to be over by around 8am which is then perfect to head back to your hotel for some breakfast and get prepared for the activities that await in Gerome. Share your experience of visiting Goreme with us or even make us jealous with your Hot Air Balloon story and pictures!
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Unique. Pamukkale is a world UNESCO site in Western Turkey and is located 220km from the popular city of Izmir and 240km from beautiful Antalya. It is very much a day journey from wherever you are traveling from and is often a popular stop on the way to another city. Pamukkale means 'cotton castle' and is a series of thermal pools created from calcium carbonate giving it it's unique white appearance. As Pamukkale sits quite a distance from any major cities, there are many private or group tours that pass through Pamukkale en route to other destinations. We actually witnessed a few tour groups when we were here which I will go into more detail later. What I would say however is to avoid spending the money to get a guide to take you to Pamukkale, unless you can not avoid it or it is actually part of a trip you are taking. I am not suggesting you to skip Pamukkale (definitely do not do that) but instead take the adventure on your own. It will likely save you a bucket load of money and is much more fun. When we were staying in Antalya, we decided to take the day trip to Pamukkale. We purchased bus tickets the day before from the Turkish bus company, KamilKoc, for 45TL per person with the assistance from our Airbnb host. Without purchasing in store, the tickets can be also easily purchased online (there is an English option). We initially were going to book online before arriving to Antalya but were skeptical of the website. I can confirm the website is legit, but it is unlikely the buses will be sold out so you can easily book when you arrive if you prefer (maybe with some Turkish language challenges, hence our Airbnb host happily assisting us). As we purchased our tickets in store, KamilKoc arranged for a shuttle bus to pick us up from their office the following morning and take us to Antalya's main bus station (Otogar) to board onto the next bus journey. Without this option the other, and actually more time saving option, is taking the train to Antalya Otogar instead. We hadn't realised this was an option until we returned back to Antalya that evening. Just to note; The main bus station has an average selection of food and drinks. I would not particularly plan to get there very early as there is not a lot of entertainment or experience to shop. I would also only rely on the station for snacks rather than a full meal. Our day to visit Pamukkale begun at 6am being picked up by the shuttle bus and with a 4.5 hours journey ahead we were keen to get a jump start on the day. Our bus left the Otogar at 7:30am to Denzili. Denzili is the closest town to Pamukkale and is a popular overnight stop for tourists visiting the UNESCO site. It is worth considering staying the night in Denzili if you are passing through as the next big city is 4+ hours away. A benefit is that you can visit Pamukkale early before it gets too warm or too many people arrive however if you do plan your trip this way I would not recommend spending too much time in Denzili. Besides Pamukkale, there is not a lot else to do. The buses in Turkey lived up to what we had been advised; comfy with a reliable and safe service. The only down side was that in our experience we found the drivers would stop every 90 minutes or so for a 'smoko' break. I am unsure if this is the same across all services but the plus side is that it did give customers the opportunity to grab a snack or use the bathroom if required. Smoking in Turkey is very common among the males, even in young populations. It was so noticeable that I actually started to research lung cancer rates in Turkey (in case you were interested, Turkey has the third highest lung cancer diagnosis in men in the world). Following a few stops, we arrived at Denzili Otogar at 10:30. That bus trip was the only part of the day that we had pre-planned. The rest we figured would be easy. And it was. From Denzili bus station you need to catch another smaller bus to Pamukkale. To find this bus, follow these instructions: 1. In the main bus station, go down the escalators and then walk to your right. 2. Around bus station 75-76 are smaller buses that take you to Pamukkale, for 4.5TL (0.80 euro). Make sure you have change. The bus takes around 20 minutes from Denzili to Pamukkale. It will drop you down the bottom of a small hill, a 5 minute walk up gets you to Pamukkale entrance. This hill is lined with a few shops and restaurants. On arrival, tickets are 60TL per person. This also gets you into the Hierapolis ruins at the top of the hill which includes a theater, city ruins and archway gates. At Pamukkale you will need to remove your shoes when you walk on the limestone surface. With water running on the stones, it can look more slippery than it is (but don't get me wrong, I did slip once) so be careful. I was actually surprised how many pools there were and how many you could go into. The scenery from the bottom of the hill is absolutely spectacular. We spent the best part of two hours making our way up the hill and wading in each of the thermal pools. I was quite amazed at how white and well kept they were. Word of advice: Noticeably closer to the top the pools were either drained or no longer had water flowing into them. They were bare and from arriving at the top of the hill of the UNESCO site, it can look a little disappointing. Don't be fooled...if you arrive from the top entrance, make your way down the hill to the thermal pools with water. So why not a bus tour? My main feedback was there really is not a lot of direction at Pamukkale with information. Where the tour bus drops you is at the top of the site at the empty pools. Arriving independently, you enter at the bottom of the hill where the pools have water in them. I heard a lot of tourists on the bus trip say 'I paid 60TL to see this'? Simply questioning the dry pools. Sadly the majority of tourists at the top of the hill did not actually walk down to even halfway where the pools contained water. As a result the pools were less busy which meant we could enjoy relaxing in them for much longer. Some may have asked why they paid 60TL to see this UNESCO site. Where as, I said 'I can not believe we only paid 60TL for this'. It was purely stunning and I would recommend to anyone to take to opportunity to 'sacrifice' a day of traveling to make it to Pamukkale. If Pamukkale is not on your list of things to do, and you are someone who likes photography, unique experiences, water and seeing outdoor beauty at it's finest, then please do yourself a favor and go.
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Adventure or Relax. Antalya is a welcoming city for both a short or a week-long getaway. The weather in Antalya rarely gets below 10 degrees in winter and will get as high as mid-30's in summer. With tropical-like weather, it is a desirable location for holiday-goers and adventure enthusiasts. This stunning city has the most beautiful backdrop of mountain's, ocean and palm trees. With an extensive history awaiting to be explored, Antalya really has so much to offer to anyone lucky enough to spend time here. I am pleased to be able to write this post as I feel like there is a slight negative wrap on Antalya from reading other people's reviews on staying here. I had little expectations and assumed that sitting on the beach would be our main activity. In fact, we were absolutely blown away on the number of activities that we could do in Antalya, and as a result, we are desperate to go back to do the things we did not get to do. Below, in no particular order, are our top recommendations when visiting Antalya. 1. Snorkeling or Scuba diving There is plenty of tours that can take you to the luscious beaches of Antalya and surrounding areas to allow you to paddle in their crystal clear waters. It comes highly recommended as one of the top things to do in Antalya. It would be recommended to book a couple of days in advance, or if you are staying at a hotel or Airbnb, your hosts may be able to assist you. We were offered by our host to book snorkeling for us, but sadly we had already made plans for the days we were in Antalya. This is something we would love to return to do. 2. White water rafting Calling adrenaline junkies! For a quite reasonable price of 25 euros you can experience white water rafting just outside of Antalya at the stunning Koprulu Canyon National Park. Most trips leave early in the morning so again, book a day or two in advance. The activity will take at least a half day so make sure you leave sufficient time. Our Airbnb host offered to book for us but sadly we did not have the time. Our host was able to offer us a price that was reduced from the tour guide websites so again I would recommend getting in contact with your hotel/host before booking anything. 3. Visit the Ancient Ruin City of Aspendos This amazing Ancient theater is just under 50km from Antalya; 40km from Antalya airport. It was founded in 1000 BC and is still occasionally used for theaters and shows today, which is quite incredible. You can climb up the stairs of the theater and sit in awe of its view. It is said to be able to seat 7,000 people. We shared a taxi with another couple to Aspendos before heading to the airport. The taxi waited for a hour while we spent time at Aspendos and in total paid approx £25 (£13ish per couple). Our host did speak with our taxi driver to ask for a reasonable price and to wait for us. This was quite an incredible experience and one that we were pleased to do last minute. 4. Chill out on the beach A must do in Antalya and hopefully part of the reason you've chosen to visit. In the town there is not a lot of opportunity to sit and relax on the beach itself unless you take public transport West to Konyaalti or South East to Lara beach. If you do wish to enjoy some relaxing sunshine and seaside in Antalya visit Plaj beach which is situated within Kaleici in Antalya's old town. They charge a small price per person to use their reclining beach chairs and have access to the refreshing cool sea. Food and drink is served here, and we spent a good 5+ hours soaking in the sun and forgetting all of life's stressors. 5. Get lost exploring Kaleici - and its Historic sites Kaleici is the city center of Antalya and contains the souks, historic sites and absolutely stunning buildings and streets. It is a must to spend time walking around Kaleici whether you want to shop, dine or just explore...you could not be disappointed. Historic sites include Hadrian's gate, Yivli Minare (and it's mosque), Clock tower and the old city marina. There are many sites that sit beyond Kaleici's city walls (ancient theaters) and museums loaded with interesting information. I would encourage you to stop and eat at least one of the restaurants in Kaleici to enjoy the buzz of the old town in the evening. Personally we can highly recommend Kaleici Meyhanesi were we enjoyed delicious fresh seafood. 6. Take a day trip to Pamukkale Pamukkale, 400km from Antalya, is certainly an unforgettable day trip that was at the top of our list of things to do. This UNESCO site is relatively cheap day out if you do not mind sitting on a bus for some time. If you want to know how to get to Pamukkale from Antalya (or surrounding regions), have a look at our do-it-yourself guide. 7. Take a boat trip to view waterfalls
When walking around the marina you will be offered with trips to visit the nearby waterfalls, springs and sinkholes. You can choose to take a boat to one or two of the waterfalls, however as there are so many you can visit it might be worth considering hiring a car. Turkey truly has some of the most beautiful natural landscapes that we have seen. Antalya certainly is home to so much natural beauty it is surprising that it is such a hidden tourist destination. Just outside Antalya is one of Turkey's most popular waterfalls, The Duden. Following this you also have the luxury of visiting the spectacular Ucansu, Kusunulu and Manavgat Waterfall's. Hire a car for a day, pack a picnic and enjoy nature’s beauty. 8. Visit the cat village Something we certainly was not expecting, but was a unforgettable experience in a 'different' kind of way was Antalya's cat village. Yes, it is quite literally a thing. There are sadly a lot of stray cats and dogs that wander the streets of Antalya. The cat village was set up by locals to house over 100 stray cats to provide sheltered homes and a cat playground. If you notice that the cat village is empty when you visit, take a stroll through Tophane park where you will undoubtedly see hundreds of cats and their kittens. They are friendly, but keep caution of getting too close. 9. Experience a Hammam (Turkish bath) Not something you necessarily have to do in Antalya, but more so at some point during your Turkish experience. If Antalya is your only Turkish destination, then either book into a hammam or many do offer walk in treatment. 10. Enjoy the nightlife Antalya is the city that never sleeps. Surprisingly to us, the people in Antalya are up at all hours of the night and appear to be some of the most relaxed people we have come across (which is saying something as an Australian). Locals sit at shisha bars, kebab restaurants, pubs or just wandering the old town. It is safe, it is bizarrely quiet and the weather is just perfect.
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There is nothing quite like experiencing a surprise around every corner you turn. We were fortunate to spend three days in Antalya which we are beyond grateful for. Antalya was a destination we planned purely because it was close to the sea and knowingly nearby popular beach destination Bodrum. We anticipated Antalya being similar but we had completely underestimated the amazing three days that were in store for us. Antalya is located on the South-Western(ish) border right off of the Mediterranean sea and is the biggest city on the Turkish Mediterranean coastline. This fascinating city is divided into old and new; both equally as interesting to explore. Not only is the history within Antalya fascinating, there is so much to do and see outside of the city itself. Transport The transport system in Antalya is pretty easy to follow and costs 2.40 lira (£0.30 or €0.34) per use. The easiest way to get around Antalya is by using the tram, however buses are also an option. For a visual the tram map is below. The red line takes you directly from the airport into the main part of Antalya passing the bus station (Otogar) and historical sites such as Hadrian's Gate. The green line is the 'Historical' route which takes you into Antalya's old town and along the coast. The old town is not particularly flat so taking this tram can be an option for exhausted legs. In saying that, be careful of riding the tram too much though as it bypasses many of the beautiful sections in the old town and will miss a lot of the wonderful souks, shops and streets if you do not explore by foot at some time during your stay. Tip: make sure you have Turkish money (known as Lira) and small change to get a tram ticket as the machine does not accept notes. When seeking transport to get you places out of Antalya I would recommend to look online at KamelKoc or to head straight to the Otogar and book a bus. Workers at the bus station are helpful and speak good English. You may find asking locals complex questions around Antalya difficult so I would recommend asking your accommodation host for advice. If you choose to travel by taxi be ready to pay more than the locals, unless again you can ask a local to negotiate for you (as our host did on our trip to Aspendos). The Roman theater, Aspendos, still used for special events today. Aspendos is located 50km from Antalya city center. What to pack There is so much you can do in Antalya. After reading this blog, visit Top 10 things to do in Antalya and this will help you decide from the list below what is essential for you to pack. If you are up for a bit of everything, then consider all of the below: - Bathers, towel, goggles; the swimming essentials. - Good footwear to walk in that can suffice a nice walk from the city center along the coast and can withstand Antalya's old town which is quite hilly. - A few pair of shorts and t-shirts, 1 x pair of trousers/pants, one jumper & ladies a dress or skirt if that is your thing. - A nice outfit for a fancy dinner - hopefully you plan to treat yourself at least once. Heels are not a necessity, a nice pair of flats should do the job. - Sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat. - A small backpack that you can take on day trips, perhaps consider a waterproof bag if you plan to do a lot of sea based activities. - All the travel necessities; personal hygiene, under garments, passports, small lock, water bottles, credit card, etc. Nightlife The nightlife in Antalya is not what I had expected. There were outdoor bars packed with people on every night of the week. And I mean every! Palm trees line the main roads reminding you of the tropical heaven of a location you have stumbled across. Late night kebab bars sit on every corner street with scatters of people seated at the front enjoying their meals. The old town gives a spectacular backdrop of the city especially with it's lit up mosques and heritage sites so they could stand out against the ocean backdrop. As soon as dusk sets in, bars and restaurants appear every where you look. The smells of seafood lifts into the air and within minutes your stomach is grumbling for a delicious fresh meal. Make sure you take advantage and splurge on a nice meal or two whilst in Antalya. Plenty of restaurants let you hand pick the fish or seafood you want to eat first and then off they go and cook it how you want it. If seafood is not your thing, then settle for a traditional Turkish meal such as pide, baklava, doner or kofte. Following dinner, settle down in an outdoor pub or bar and enjoy a beer or cocktail. Shesha is popular in Turkey and available in most outdoor bars (there are smoking and non smoking areas if you have kids or prefer to be away from that area). The selection of shesha flavors is a whole new ball game; from traditional flavors to all types of ice cream, fruit or candy imaginable. Side note: Although busy outside, it is not loud. We stayed very central and had no issues falling asleep or being kept awake from outside noise. Religion Turkey is an Islamic country and with Islamic religions comes the daily prayers. Five times a day the Azan (call to prayer) is lead on load speaker by the muezzin of the mosque. The muezzin is a specially appointed individual by the mosque to recite all prayers daily. Each mosque has their own muezzin and you will soon become acquainted with multiple Azan's being recited at the same time. With the first daily prayer taking place before the sun rises (just after 5am) you will have a wonderful alarm to wake you up early or, for those non-early risers, a reminder that you still have a few hours left to sleep. The last Azan takes place after the final light (usually between 9-10pm). Accommodation Antalya is where we met our favorite Airbnb hosts to date. Robin and Feriha are the most wonderful couple. Robin is from England and loves a beer (obviously) and Feriha cooks you the most delicious breakfast (included in the price) every morning while you sit on the balcony overlooking this view. Feriha also speaks fluent Turkish and can do any translating/deals for you to make sure you get trips, taxis and National buses for the correct price. They are happy to pre-book white water rafting for you as well (for a great price). If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Antalya, you could not find a better host and view for a steal of a price. We will definitely come back and stay here when we return to Antalya. Antalya was probably one of the biggest surprise locations we had come across and was just so 'us'. Interestingly I read a few reviews and blogs about Antalya being 'boring'. I truly have no idea how this is possible. I can not wait for the day we return to Antalya and get to spend more wonderful days here. I am interested to hear of other peoples experience in Antalya and whether you have been back.
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Looe is another worthy stop enroute south. I would certainly have had no problem with residing in Looe for a weekend get away. The pace was slow, everyone looked relaxed, locals were crabbing off of the edge of the walkway into the river and to top it of there fantastic little swimming spots in the center of the town in the most magnificent blue water. For our annual Easter road trip this year (2019) we decided to hire a car and drive from London to Cornwall. Cornwall is at the most southern part of the United Kingdom and is only separated from France by a small channel of water. It is a popular holiday destination for Brit's across the country and a known English surfing hub. I must say, I could not believe that weather could ever get warm enough to surf in England, but Cornwall happily proved me wrong when we visited. This was the first time we had both visited Cornwall. Below is a map of all the locations we stopped which we decided were worth mentioning. Sadly we only had three full days to get in as much as we could so I am sure we are missing some other absolutely gorgeous parts of Cornwall, but I think we did a pretty good job considering! Day 1 We started our journey on Thursday evening after work to beat the Easter traffic. We drove from London to Torquay for our first night where we stayed in a lovely country cottage found on Airbnb. The following morning with a early start we made our way into Torquay for some breakfast and then progressed to our first destination, Brixham. Brixham was a lovely first stop. As a girl from a small country town in South Australia, it felt nice being out of the city and in a place that felt loved. I noticed already that the shops were mostly local and were free from all the fast food chains. We took advantage of a very popular local fish and chip shop for lunch and sat on the edge of the water to eat. Our next stop was Looe. Looe is another worthy stop enroute south. I would certainly have had no problem with residing in Looe for a weekend get away. The pace was slow, everyone looked relaxed, locals were crabbing off of the edge of the walkway into the river and to top it of there fantastic little swimming spots in the centre of the town in the most magnificent blue water. If I needed a mental break from life, this would easily be a top contender. After all, look at the perfect scenery below. Our next stop was Fowey. I wished we had more time in this town. By the time we arrived, dusk was setting and most of the shops were closed. We reached Fowey by driving to Bodinnick and crossing by ferry to the town. Fowey had a small town 'English' vibe to it. The houses looked cozy and the streets more narrower than the last. We spent some time walking down the narrow lanes, finding staircases that led to balcony's overlooking the river and finally ate dinner at the local pub. I noticed as we got lower down Cornwall the towns kept getting prettier with an increasing vibe of feeling homely. The towns were all built around the water, which you will find is where I gravitate to most. We drove to Redruth for our second night stop. Day 2 The second day we made our way straight to Marazion. This was by far our favourite place that we visited. For starters, we begun our day buying a Cornish pasty for breakfast at the local and popular Philps Bakery which we then ate overlooking St Michael's Mount. Not a bad start! St Michael's Mount is an island just off of Marazion with a medieval castle dominating the land. In low tide you can walk across a man made causeway to reach the island. In high tide you have no choice but to swim or catch a boat. In the 1900's over 200 people use to reside on this tiny island, now in the 21st century there is less than 50. Today most of the locals work on the island gaining a living by the tourists (cafe's, restaurants and craft shops). They close down on a Sunday as a way to 'detract' the tourists and enjoy the tiny island to themselves. We however did not know this and came on a Sunday. Luckily the island is still accessible and we had a quick wander around, however I can confirm nothing was open. We spent quite a bit of time in Marazion. We loved it there. Our next stop was Lands End. This we knew would be the ultimate Tourist trap, but we could not, not go! We avoided lining up and paying for a 'Land's End' picture and instead climbed across the rocks to the furthest point we could reach and what we classified as 'The End'. Now being a long weekend the place was drowning in tourists...however I am sure we fit in with the crowd as we stopped for a few too many pictures and purchased a small piece of memorabilia in the local tourist shop. Besides looking out at Lands End, there is not a lot else to do except buy souvenirs or eat ice-cream. So it was a short but sweet visit. St Ives was our last visit for the day. It 100% did not disappoint. St Ives definitely had the best beaches of all the towns that we visited which I think was a shared thought among hundreds of other people. It is very much a family destination with a lot of holiday homes overlooking the beach. We spent quite a few hours here, soaking in the rays and enjoying a few cold beverages with our new found tan. Day 3 As we had a long journey back to London and wanted to beat the crowds, we set off North up the coast with the privilege to stop at a few seaside towns and beaches as we went. We did end up a little off-road driving along one way country road that felt as if they were never going to end. Although the one way roads look pretty, the stop start in a manual is definitely taxing on anybody's nerves and patience. Consider carefully before you make this drive. Our main stop on our final day was Croyde Bay. This was another town that was quite popular for a weekend away for Brit's. There were a lot of caravan parks near the seafront which were accompanied by large fields to park in (for a small charge). We took a little walk around the town before making our way onto the beach. We took a little stop at Ilfracombe which apparently comes with raving reviews. I am not sure if we just did not search hard enough here, but neither of us had great vibes about the place. We spent a couple of hours walking around to break up our drive back to London, but nothing jumped out at us which caught our eye. Except for a strange half mermaid, half lady statue which you can not miss. During our weekend in Cornwall we were extremely lucky. The weather had absoultely showed up at an unusual high 20's/low 30's in mid April. It was so unusual in fact that this weather dissapeared after this weekend and did not show up again in England for a further month or two. If you are visiting the UK or England and wish to visit Cornwall, the best time of year would be during the summer months of June - August. However you may just get lucky like us if you show up earlier or later. Share with us your favourite places or photos from Cornwall whether you live or travel here.
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The Atlas Mountains was one of the most magnificant day trips that we have ever experienced. We were three days into our trip in Marrakesh and after spending 12+ hour days exploring the city, things were all starting to gradually look the same. The souk's had exhausted us and the polluted air from the hundreds of buzzing motorbikes were becoming a little over bearing on our lungs and nostrils. We needed a rest from this fast paced city and slightly over bearingly in-your-face Moroccan's within the Medina walls. We wondered what life in Morocco was like outside of Marrakesh so explored our options. The Atlas Mountains and the Sahara desert were the two most popular recommended day trips from Marrakesh. We decided the Atlas Mountains would truly give us the experience we were after as we would cover a lot of ground in a full day trip. I am not particuarly brave at driving in foregin countries and therefore we sourced a private tour to gain the full experience. We were SO excited to be treated to a full day of travel. Our guide picked us up early from our accommodation. He firstly drove us from Marrakesh through to Imlil Valley stopping for many opportunities to take pictures of the beautiful landscape. Our guide was very proud that his country was recently home to the newly released (then, in 2015) James Bond movie. We drove past a very large house which we were told is one of Sir Richard Branson's many homes (or more so resort), situated in the open spaces of the mountains. He spoke so highly of Morocco and how he is dissapointed by the ongoing negative media behind Morocco being an unsafe place for tourists to visit. Although I think there is a much better understanding now (in 2018), I can safely say that I felt very comfortable in Morocco and Marrakesh that I ongoingly recommend friends and family to visit. Camel Riding Following many stops to take wonderful photos, we then were guided to the much anticipated ride on two lovely camels. Camel riding in the Moroccan landscape was truly memorable. The ride lasted 20 minutes max (roughly 8 minutes of that was stopping to take pictures of us on the camels), but it was a nice bucketlist 'tick' moment. Berber Village After this, we made our way to the Berber Village to visit the weekday markets and the local produce on offer. This was probably the part of the trip which made us realise how real the living conditions are in rural Morocco in comparison to the Western World, or at the very least the United Kingdom. While exploring the markets we heard a young boy screaming his lungs out. Our guide took us towards the boy who was in a small room with kids and adults all crowded around. The young boy, we were told, had broken his arm and as there is limited medical aid in the Berber villages his father was trying to manipulate his broken bone back into place. If not manipulated back into place, the boys arm would remain broken and heal incorrectly. To be exposed to such pain from a young boy, over a simple medical fix back home, was quite upsetting and frankly overhelming. We were quickly moved on by our guide to have a look at the produce on sale around the market. We however could not help but think, what if something more serious had happened to that little boy? Argan Oil Following the village our next stop was at the women's Argan Oil Co-operative. Personally we enjoyed this quick stop as it was an opportunity to find out how Argan Oil is made from scratch. The women are so strong to work in this job day in and out. There is a store at the end of the tour where you can buy Argan Oil for almost anything you can possibly think of. Yes, most of it is overpriced. So if you do not want to buy a product, maybe spare some change for the ladies working. I can only imagine how little these women get paid. High Atlas Mountains Our last stop, and most favourite of all, was in the High Atlas mountains. Here we enjoyed a lunch prepared by a Berber family with this stunning view. We started with a mint tea. Followed by a large lunch for the two of us and our tour guide. We were barely able to finish it there was so much food. With bellies full and a few more pictures, we reluctantly returned to Marrakesh. The tour costs as as little as £30-35 each for the entire day.
Has anyone else done a similar tour and recommend any other tours or places we missed?
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The High Atlas Mountains is just a few hours from the city of Marrakesh. You can hire a car and independently travel, or from personal experience, with a guide you will be taken to parts of the village you'll otherwise not find and be educated about the Berber's as you travel. To inspire you to spend a day on a similar journey, here are a few pictures to steal your heart. Just a short journey outside of Marrakesh we were confronted with this beautiful landscape. We visited a Berber village and its weekday markets where the Berber's purchase their produce. As you climb higher into the mountains, the scenery quickly changes. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the High Atlas Mountain. Next up, a camel ride was mandatory as we did not have time to reach the Sahara desert. So we had our dose in the Atlas Mountains. Lastly, we saw how Argan Oil is made. Here are the kernals ready for grinding to produce the oil. Morocco, you are amazing. I am excited to someday return and experience other cities we have not yet had the opportunity to explore.
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This beautiful blue seaside city in North-Western Morocco was a perfect day trip for us out of Marrakesh. Like the Atlas Mountains, this city gave us another opportunity to see a different side of Morocco that we had yet to experience. The first thing you will probably notice is the blue boats on the coastline and the smell of fish. Essaouira was once a trading Port but is now a fishermans haven. Just outside of the UNESCO Medina walls of Essaouira, you can walk along the coastline and pass men selling fish from their own stalls. This once Port, is now a fish market. There is a very noticeable theme here in Essaouria. The rich blue that overpowers the backdrop of the white and beige buildings makes this city a truly a stunning place. Even more special is that the Medina is a UNESCO heritage site due to being well preserved since the 18th-century as a typical seaport town which once traded between Europe and other parts of the world. To add to the criteria for being a heritage site, is that the well known French architect, Vauban, designed the wall that surrounds Essaouria. This wall however is probably now most popular because of it's role within the tv series, Games of Thrones. Within the Medina is a less-intense, and smaller version of the souks that you will experience in Marrakesh. There is also a more relaxed vibe to Essaouria than we had experienced anywhere else in Morocco. This was definitely the perfect place to just stop, sit, have a mint tea and people watch. We were able to wander around this city and get lost and marvel at the wonderful white and blue walls. Sadly we only spent a day in Essaouria. I could have easily stayed for a day or two longer and I think it is a vital stop if you are travelling through Morocco to recharge the batteries. If you stayed in Essaouria for longer than us, we would love to hear about other experiences that you would recommend in this wonderful city.