A weekend in Paris

Some holidays are meant for sightseeing, but last weekend was all about seeing friends and just switching off from the outside world for a little bit.  Myself, Izzy and Cat have been friends for a good 6 years or so, but amazingly the three of us have never all been in the same place at the same time – until last weekend, that is!

We may have stayed in the most basic of hostels, but oh how we made up for the money we saved on our room with our trips to Sephora, the Disney Store and many a café or bistro.

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Three idiots in the tiniest of lifts.

Top pick of the weekend was The Tea Caddy – a tiny little tea shop that has firmly cemented itself as my-favourite-place-to-go-and-drink-tea-that-I’ll-never-be-able-to-visit-because-it’s-in-bloody-Paris.  It had a tea menu to rival YumChaa’s, and an aubergine and parmesan tart that was to die for. Seriously. I have had dreams about that tart.

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To offset the carbs on carbs that seemed to take over our diets for the weekend (I mean, can you imagine ordering bread and jam with a croissant for breakfast in London!?), we walked. And walked. And then walked a bit more, just for good measure…

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Took this before I noticed the “No Photos” sign. Oops?

I also discovered my new favourite bookshop – Shakespeare And Company (seriously, I need to stop discovering favourite places in Paris. It’s going to become a problem…) – and yes, I did snap a picture before I realised there were no photos signs everywhere. Not pictured: the gorgeously cosy reading rooms with old style typewriters upstairs, and the ridiculously cramped, seemingly endless shelves full of books.

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All things considered, we didn’t do anything particularly touristy – other than the obligatory trip to see the Eiffel Tower by night, and a walk along by the Seine. I didn’t fall in love with Paris in the same way I did with Copenhagen, that’s for sure – but I’d like to revisit properly and do the tourist thing a little more.  But you know what? I’ll make do with a weekend of laughter and just walking around with my friends, because something that’s just what life needs.

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Disconnecting

I’m writing this from my seat on a flight to Copenhagen just as we are preparing for take off. It’s that “turn your flight safe mode on” time – and the start of an hour and a half of enforced disconnection from the outside world. And this always gets me thinking of how peaceful it can be to just disconnect yourself from everyone turn off your wifi, your 4G…the whole lot.

We live in a world where we’re constantly online; updating Instagram needs Twitter, looking at old friends’ Facebook timelines and living vicariously through others. But sometimes it’s nice to get a bit of peace and quiet. When I was in Italy, I ran ou of data and was totally reliant on wifi at hotels to check in and update my social media- and it ended up being more for myself so I could remember what was where than anything else. I began to enjoy the fact that I couldn’t check Twitter every hour, or flick through Instagram to see who had posted something new since the last time I checked.

Don’t get me wrong – I love social media – it can be so useful. I’ve spent time browsing travel hashtags on Twitter for inspiration for my next trips (hell, it’s the main reason I’m on this flight!) and I’ve even given some great tips, but now I think it’s time to switch off for a bit.

I want to try and navigate my way round the old fashioned way – clutching a map and some hastily scribbled directions. I want to wander round the streets of the city, and follow my (questionable) sense of direction to my next cup of coffee, or back to my hostel. I want to walk round without google maps talking in my ear telling me to head south west as I curse it and try to work out which way it means.

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Obviously, as I post this, I’m connected to some wifi in the lobby of my hostel, and yes – I’ve posted some photos along the way from fleeting moments in cafes. But you know what? I’ve been here for 30 hours, and I’m already wondering how much longer after this holiday I can keep my 4G switched off, and just enjoy my surroundings…

Until next time,

L x

On Solo Travel  – A Trip to Berlin

I’ve spent the past couple of years talking about how I should travel more – see the world a little bit (other than my annual trip to Cyprus with my parents). The problem has always been who to travel with – I’ve always been slightly nervous of travelling alone.  Travelling with friends always creates it’s own problems too – diaries and budgets don’t always coordinate, and it can be hard to agree on what you want to get out of a holiday.  I have the added complication of having lots of friends scattered around the country, rather than one core group.

However, earlier this year I was lucky enough to go to Berlin for a couple of days with work – I spent the first couple of days at VideoDays Berlin –  a huge concert featuring some of Germany’s biggest YouTube stars, and I was quite impressed with how much I could understand,  proving to myself that my work bushing up on my A Level German had paid off! (even if I didn’t manage to speak as much as I had hoped.  Still, baby steps!)

After my two days at VideoDays, I switched hotels to somewhere slightly more central and cheaper (the Aletto Ku’Damm Hotel & Hostel – would definitely recommend!) and gave myself two and a half days to do a bit of exploring. And so, armed with my Lonely Planet guide book, I did a bit of exploring.

With relatively little time, I wanted to cover as much ground as quickly as I could – and there is far too much to fit into one blog post without boring anyone reading to tears! But it has to be said, I did enjoy the freedom of being on my own whilst exploring and walking round museums. I could whizz through things I wasn’t so interested in and linger a bit more elsewhere.

My favourite outing was to the DDR Museum.  It was tiny and very busy which made it a little tricky to see everything, but it was jam packed with informtion about life in East Germany after World War 2. I am fascinated by that “real life” side of history, so it was amazing to see how people actually lived and what life was really like for people living there, and the interactive nature of the museum definitely kept my inner child happy!

My other top recommendation, abeit for very  different reasons, is the Holocaust Memorial.  On paper the concrete design sounds unappealing, but in reality it provides a very moving experience indeed. The bleak concrete blocks that get increasingly higher as you walk through are eerily claustrophobic, and the  underground Holouocaust museum is a harrowing experience, but one I felt I couldn’t miss.  I definitely shed quite a few tears walking around.

For a first time solo traveller, I found Berlin to be perfect.  Public transport was easy to understand, everything was very reasonably priced and there was plenty to do without getting bored.  The free wifi in my hotel helpled too – Netflix kept me amused in the evenings once I was back in my room after a long day of exploring!

I’ve posted a couple of pictures of my trip below, and there are a few more over on my instagram.  I would love to hear your tips for the best solo travel cities – so please leave your recommendations.

 

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