Despite having had my blog for almost a year now, I have very much neglected it and focused only on my trip to Costa Rica so far (my New Years resolution is to spend much more time on my blog in 2017 so expect a lot more soon!), so I was thrilled to find out that Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels enjoyed my blog so much that she felt it was worthy of a nomination to the Liebster Awards.
I actually had to google what the award was – it exists only on the internet (so no glitzy red carpet events just yet) and is given to bloggers from other bloggers. It is a sort of chain of nominations and a way of gaining exposure and learning about other blog styles in the process. The word Liebster has German origins and is akin to ‘valued’, ‘endearing’, ‘welcome’ and many other nice things.
There are certain rules which need to be followed upon accepting the award. These are:
- Say a little about the person who nominated you
- Nominate other people
- Answer a set of questions given by the person who nominated you
- Provide ten random facts about yourself.
So, let’s start with the lovely Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels. Thrifty Family Travels is made up by Melissa, her partner Andy and their mini explorer Myla. As you would expect, the blog focuses on travelling as a family on a budget and stretching your purse strings as far as you can.
My favourite blogger is Alyssa Ramos from My Life’s A Movie. She is a super successful, self-made travel blogger – her stories are interesting, her photos are beautiful and she is so inspirational. Also probably every question I have ever needed answering is right there on her blog.
Ten facts about me:
- I enjoy street art – particularly Bristol’s own Banksy.
- I am a vehicle paint sprayer.
- I have performed in several musicals.
- I had a travel themed wedding in April 2016.
- I love ice skating.
- I volunteer with homeless and vulnerable people.
- My favourite drink is cider (good old West Country Happy juice!)
- I had a collie dog called Millie.
- I got engaged in NYC atop the Rockefeller Centre.
- I love adrenaline filled activities!
And finally my answers:
First ever overseas destination you travelled to?
The first time I went abroad, was to France with my parents and brother, when I was about six. We drove from Bristol to Poole, then got the ferry to St Malo and drove to our home for the next week. We stayed in a beautiful medieval town called Dinan, it had small winding cobbled streets, timber fronted buildings with colourful hanging baskets and cute little shops and eateries. My brother and I were encouraged to try and speak French, so we would walk down to the bakery each morning and order every bodies croissants for breakfast, I felt very grown up! We spent the week exploring the local area, enjoying the French cuisine in little cafes and having a few BBQs on the terrace of our holiday home. I would love to go back to Dinan one day; I am a bit better at taking photos than I was then!
Hotels, hostels or tents?
It is bad to identify as a travel blogger and have not yet slept in a hostel? Probably, but there we go – I have confessed! I have only been on two hotel trips – one to Costa Rica and another to Tunisia. Both were the usual all -inclusive dreariness of watered down alcohol, ridiculous games in the swimming pool and somewhat interesting evening entertainment. They were both trips that I look back on with very fond memories, but none of those are because of the hotels, in fact on both trips we took long coach trips to more interesting destinations. So I guess what I am saying is the whole hotel ‘all you can eat’ vibe isn’t really my thing.
I prefer a guest house or Air BnB – you get the privacy of a room or even an entire apartment to yourself, but the intimacy of meeting your host and being given locals tips. My favourite guest house was in Paris – we stopped there overnight whilst making our way to DisneyLand. The host was so kind and generous and despite her not speaking very much English and us not speaking good French, we managed to enjoy a couple of beers together on the terrace whilst watching what I can only assume was France’s answer to Britain’s Got Talent. A thoroughly enjoyable evening and proof that laughter is a language which we can all understand.
How do you pass the time on a long flight?
I am such a sleeper that even on short fights I’ll be fairly likely to fall asleep at some point! However, when I am awake I always read the magazines they have in the back pocket of the seats, they always have a few interesting articles from around the world. I’ll also have my little notebook with me, in case I get some inspiration for a blog post, alternatively if the creative juices don’t flow my husband and I will play hangman instead.
I really enjoy flying, I know a lot of people get tired of it but I like that you have nothing to do apart from sit there and relax. That can be very welcome after a busy trip! The best way to pass the time is definitely to just go to sleep though, so make sure you have a pillow of some description, an eye mask and ear plugs can be handy too.
Your top two most essential travel items (excluding your passports)?
Being fair skinned – some would say an ‘English Rose’ my thoughts are more pasty complexion – I cannot go anywhere without sun-cream. I have to be really careful with re-applying regularly so I often need plenty. I have also noticed than in some countries where sun-cream is so much of a necessity for locals, they tend to put the prices up – clever business skills, but not great for my purse if I don’t pack enough!
Something more useful to everybody else perhaps would be a translation book. Most of my attempts at speaking another language are so bad, that even I can’t understand what I am trying to say. However, the gratitude you get from locals makes it slightly more bearable (for me, not them!) I recently discovered a new found love for Google Translate. I hadn’t really used it before, but it paid dividends on my recent trip to Portugal for New Year’s Eve.
My Husband and I had a few hours to kill, so sat on the rooftop terrace of our guest house listening to music and drinking some vodka. We were soon joined by a lovely German man (Maurice) , who spoke much better English than my husband and I could speak German between us. We were more than able to hold a conversation because he had taken the time to learn another language properly (something I have been attempting but to no avail as yet!) We were then joined by Carlos, who was Portuguese and his wife Beatrice, who was French. Maurice could speak English and German, Carlos could speak Portuguese and some French, Beatrice could speak French, Portuguese and some English and I could speak English and broken French. Yet here we were, celebrating together on a rooftop in Faro – using a lot of improvisation based sign language, attempting to translate single words to each other until one of us caught the gist of the sentence, laughing our bloomin’ heads off – and so Google Translate helped us to organise a meeting later in the day and to connect on social media for future trips.
Where’s your hometown and what’s the best thing about it?
Bristol, England. I absolutely LOVE Bristol, it is a really diverse and vibrant city. There are a a ton of free events over the summer, including St Pauls Carnival – which is similar to Notting Hill, but on a much smaller scale, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta – which is the second largest in the world, behind Albuquerque and The Bristol Harbour Festival where the harbour is filled with beautiful tall ships and the streets are lined with market stalls, where you can try local cheeses, breads, meats, alcohol and any things else you can think of! Every weekend in the summer, there will be something going on somewhere in the city that you can enjoy for free- I think that is fantastic!
Where’s somewhere you have always wanted to travel but haven’t?
Oh my, this is a hard one. My places to go seems endless – I often have my head in a travel book looking for new places to add! If I had to choose one, I would say India. The country is so diverse and mesmerising – it looks chaotic, but brilliant. Whenever I see a documentary about India it looks so unbelievably busy, cars all over the place, people rushing up and down the streets, throw in a few cows and tuk-tuks and the entire place looks like bedlam to me – yet everybody knows where they are going; it is organised chaos. Did you know that the rush hour trains are so busy in India that office workers don’t take their lunches to work, Dabbawalas will deliver thousands of meals to hungry workers every day – they really make navigation across the cities look easy!
The manic cities, flavoursome cuisine, beautiful beaches and the magnificence of the Taj Mahal make India stark difference to what I am used to an England and my goodness it is enticing!
What is one of the best travel lessons you’ve learnt so far?
Definitely bartering. My husband and I learned a valuable and expensive lesson on our first trip abroad to Tunisia. We arrived in atrocious rain – it wasn’t the sunny weather we were expecting at all. Our hotel had a
market within the grounds, we had to navigate through the bazaar from the reception to our rooms, laden down with suitcases and looking like drowned rats. Every stall holder was waving umbrellas in our faces, but it was a little too late for that. We settled into our room, dried off and got changed and headed out to explore when the rains had passed. Now the stall holders had put down their umbrellas and were enticing us with beautiful ornaments, glass shisha pipes and jewellery.
We started talking to a man selling jewellery and he picked up a silver bangle and said he would inscribe them with names in Arabic. ‘Brilliant!’ we thought, a handmade token to take home to our Mothers, we also asked for two of the leather male equivalents for friends. After writing the names in English, he wrote them for us in Arabic and it looked beautiful. Things were looking good, that was until he picked up a screw and a hammer and started to ‘etch’ the names in a somewhat chiselling like fashion. We were too polite and naive to say just the one would be enough, so we paid for all four. It was only when we got back to the hotel room and worked out the exchange rate, that we realised that we had been well and truly swindled.
The following week, we actually made friends with the man who sold us the bracelets – he was called Amin. Every time we passed him he offered us free necklaces, key rings and Turkish tea. He may have felt guilty, but I am glad that he taught us that lesson and yes, the bracelets are still in my drawer.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?
I have this dream that one day my husband and I will live on a beautiful island – maybe in the South Pacific, or the Caribbean. We’d spend our days relaxing and working in stress free jobs, say in an ice cream parlour or on a tour boat, the days would be filled with endless sunshine. A place where even bad days are good because of the people, the beach and the waves. We have also spoken about retiring to a little home in Costa Rica surrounded by monkeys, lizards and parrots. Either of those would be good!
What was one of the most unusual experiences you’ve encountered?
I went to a place called Stredoveka Krcma in Prague. It is an underground ‘medieval’ tavern. There were big wooden tables finished in a dark varnish, the walls and ceilings were made from cobbled stones, there were chains hanging down from the roof, creepy little statues of witches and gargoyles and a very strong smell of sawdust. The atmosphere was so strong that it was easy to forget where I really was. After a 3 course meal and plenty of Czech beer it felt even more surreal. There were belly dancers, fire performers, jesters, tarot readers and one dancer had a real snake wrapped around her torso – it was positively bonkers, but then again I love things like that. My favourite part was when a sort of medieval conga of men paraded through the dining area with bag pipes and drums – it sounded phenomenal in such a small place.
So whilst my unusual experience was just that, I actually really enjoyed it. So much so that I sent my Mum and Dad there, they loved it as well!
Suitcase or backpack?
Suitcases for short trips (love the wheels!) backpack for long trips. I was ‘umming’ and ‘aahhing’ about taking a suitcase or a backpack on my recent trip to Lapland – we opted for suitcases as we figured most people would take them. They were a lot bigger for all of those winter clothes and I have to say it was quite fun pushing your case around on a little wooden sled!
What’s your next travel destination?
I am going on a 30-day trip to Southern Africa. We begin in Cape Town, then make our way through South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and finish in Zambia. It is a lot of visiting national parks hoping to spot the ‘Big 5’, we will camp in the Namib desert and we will see the magnificent Victoria Falls. Zambia is where the travel bug bit me and Victoria Falls stole my heart about 15 years ago, so I cannot wait to be reunited!
My Nominations (in no particular order):