Gap Yah

My gap year was completely unexpected and didn’t include the usual finding yourself in India, getting a tattoo after a full moon party in Thailand or skydiving over Bondi Beach. After finishing my A-Levels, I was meant to be heading of to uni to study veterinary medicine – which didn’t quite go to plan. During my first year of sixth form, I conveniently decided to break my leg and missed all of my first exams, which lead to 2 years of playing catch up and ultimately not getting the grades I needed for my dream career. At the time I thought it was the end of the world – turns out it wasn’t (shocking, I know). So instead of jumping into a course for the sake of it (my backup was French at Leeds – slightly different I know), I decided to work full time and travel as much as possible.

I started off travelling solo and spent the first two weeks with my best friend in Nova Scotia, Canada, before heading to New Zealand to spend a month with family in Wellington and Auckland. I then came home, worked like crazy and went on my first, proper holiday with my then boyfriend to…

Tenerife

Hardly a Caribbean cruise but I’d never been before, we stayed in Playa de la Arena and Siam Park was definitely the highlight of the trip.

Our next holiday was slightly more worthwhile…

Riviera Maya, Mexico

The east coast of Mexico around Cancun has the perfect mix of Caribbean and American influence for a luxury holiday. We went during American Spring Break which added to the party atmosphere in Cancun at night. During the two weeks spent in the holiday resort of Riviera Maya we went on the Captain Hook pirate ship which included dinner and a show, visited the Mayan temple Chichen Itza, drove a speed boat around lagoons, went parasailing and swam with dolphins!

Rome, Italy

I’d been to Rome as a teenager for a day when on holiday in Catollica, so to see more of the city and spend longer at different attractions was amazing. We went in the Colosseum, saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and visited Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the Roman Forum, along with eating enough gelato to fill the Vatican (which you can get a great view of from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo)

London, UK

Again, not the most exciting of trips but we spent a week around the capital seeing the usual tourist attractions, and then visited Thorpe Park, LegoLand, Chessington World of Adventures and the Harry Potter Studios which were obviously the highlight of my trip!

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Top 5 Holiday Destinations

I love to travel just as much as the next person these days so thought I would put together a list of my favourite places that I’ve been lucky enough to visit. Some of them seem pretty obvious but others are a little off the beaten track.

New York, USA

New York will forever be my favourite place in the world. I’ve been lucky enough to visit six times now and the city holds so many amazing memories for me. I first went just before Christmas in 2004 with my Mum and Dad, and have since spent New Year’s Eve in Times Square and the 4th of July upstate in Hancock when I was at camp. The best time to visit in my opinion is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the weather is perfectly cold and everyone is excited and feeling festive. In the summer Central Park is the perfect place to chill, however for me the city just lacked the magic of all the Christmas window displays. Walking the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan gives the best views at night, whilst during the day the free Staten Island ferry gives the best shots of Lady Liberty.

Auckland, New Zealand

For my 18th birthday I was given flight tickets to Wellington to see family, some of whom I’d never met before as living 12,000 miles apart has a fair few disadvantages! As I’d just finished my A-Levels, I was heading out in the middle of their winter (July) as I was meant to be starting university when I returned. Had I have known things wouldn’t have turned out as planned (see my gap year post), I would have liked to have gone in summer (January) but you can’t have everything! I spent the majority of my month long trip in Wellington where my family are based, but managed to fit in a week in Auckland, which quickly became my favourite city (outside of New York). From the beautiful peaceful harbour to the heights of Sky Tower, Auckland has everything.. including the best Mexican I’ve been to outside of Mexico!

Halifax – Nova Scotia, Canada

When I was 16 my best friend moved to Halifax, on the east coast of Canada in the provence of Nova Scotia. For two summers running (2011 and 2012) I went over to visit her and immediately fell in love with the country (and poutine). My favourite place there is Peggy’s Cove, on St Margaret’s Bay which is famous for Peggy’s Point Lighthouse and has the most stunning view at sunset!

Khao Lak, Thailand

Thailand is probably the most obvious destination on anyone’s travel list these days. I went in 2014, just before its popularity really took off. We flew into Phuket and stayed in the beach resort of Khao Lak, which was hit hardest during the 2004 Tsunami, and has a museum dedicated to the disaster which displayed a washed up boat almost 2 miles inland that had not been moved since that day. From Khao Lak we visited James Bond Island, went scuba diving around the Similan Islands and visited an elephant sanctuary in the Khao Sok jungle. Thailand is without a doubt the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen, from the friendliness of the locals to the incredible food its a place I can’t wait to revisit.

Barcelona, Spain

I’d wanted to visit Barcelona ever since spending countless nights trying to recreate Gaudi’s masterpieces during GCSE art. We spent 3 nights in a hostel near Paral-El (they sold pitchers of Sangria for €2) and managed to cram in visits to the Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, tapas down La Rambla, Camp Nou, Font Magica and Palau Guell. I’d definitely recommend heading to the top of Les Arenes shopping centre for an amazing view of the fountains with the National Museum in the background – and it’s free!

One night in Amsterdam

Every year I try to visit somewhere new.. this year I’ll be ticking two off in a surprise trip for my friend’s 21st in April. 2016 was the year of poor planning, following a dislocated knee which brought my Interrail dreams to an abrupt end, resulting in a one night stint in Amsterdam (I was high on morphine at the time of booking).

Day 1

We flew very early from Liverpool – Schiphol and got the train to the centre of Amsterdam and dumped our bags at our hotel – The Times Hotel, Herengracht Canal. We then headed off to Bodyworks Museum and the Heineken Experience. We tried to walk as much as possible to see as much of Amsterdam on the way but – typically – the weather was against us so we (disastrously) had to navigate the Dutch trams – not the easiest task in the world after a few free pints!

Night 1

I’d booked my friend tickets to the Ice Bar for her birthday so we headed out for dinner to Rib’s Factory and then to the bar. I’d been to ice bars before in Liverpool, Chester, London and Berlin and had to say this was the best value for money. Tickets get you two free shots each and two free drinks – and if you’re sneaky enough they leave the bottle of vodka out which you can easily swipe. We then headed along to the Red Light District before trying out a few of the infamous coffee shops, which resulted in me sitting on the edge of the canal outside our hotel trying to convince my friend that I was definitely not Jesus…

Day 2

Keen to make the most of our limited time left, we headed out early to the Sex Museum before Rijksmuseum to see the Amsterdam sign before a walk around Vondelpark. Had we have had longer we would have loved to hire a bike to cycle round but we wanted to make it back to Anne Frank House in time to join the ridiculously long queue. Tickets for this book up months in advance and they only let non-ticket holders in after 3.30pm, resulting in a queue snaking around Westerkerk from 2pm onwards. Luckily we were towards the front as we had to leave by 5pm to catch our flight home but I would definitely recommend visiting if you can – and even more to book tickets first! The museum has so many readings playing from Anne Frank’s diary it’s hard to leave without feeling like you have a whole new perspective on things. To end the trip we headed back to the canal by the hotel and drank our Heineken’s after we realised we couldn’t take them back on the plane with us!

 

Top Tips for Amsterdam:

  1. Get tickets for Anne Frank House as soon as you book your trip
  2. Heineken Experience is definitely worth the visit
  3. Hire a bike if the weather allows but be prepared to not have a clue where you should be going
  4. If you don’t hire a bike.. be prepared to come close to colliding with one at some point
  5. Make time to just sit in Vondelpark
  6. Try poffertjes at least once (a day)
  7. Go for more than one night…