Onwards and Upwards

This little blog has been my absolute baby over the past few years. But now I’ve decided it’s time to step it up a notch. I have bought my own domain in order to start having some of my articles published. Thanks to travelicious.world, this has already happened: my first article got published last week (you can read it here), and I’m feeling all the richer, and super excited for what is to come. So while I may no longer be posting articles here anymore, check out www.travelwithsmudge.com for a bigger and better version of this blog, and of me.

Look forward to seeing you again soon!

Smudge xx

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The Flying Scotsman

From London I caught an overnight bus to Edinburgh, Scotland. The bus was full, and I absolutely froze. To this day I’m still not sure if I was un-acclimatised, or Scotland was just downright cold – probably a mixture of both. I arrived in the rain at 7am – thankfully my hostel was just around the corner (Princes St East Backpackers: dream location, good facilities but only 2 hours of free Wifi). I was also lucky that there was a spare bed in my allocated room so I was able to check in early and go catch some sleep for a few hours. Later that afternoon Danielle arrived and we headed out for a celebratory birthday dinner at a traditional Scottish pub that went by the name of Dirty Dicks.

We had wondered why accommodation was so expensive, and we soon found out it was because the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was on. An incredible three weeks whereby Edinburgh just hums, the streets were alive and people come from all over the world to watch and partake in the festivities. We went to three different shows; “In the Pink” – it was advocated as being like Pitch Perfect, which had both Danielle and I sold from the get go. We also saw a comedy show put on by students from Oxford University, as well as a magician – which was spectacular! Most of the shows are free, and the ones that aren’t are usually only a few pounds.

Despite the extremely temperamental weather, we decided to do a walking tour which ended up being really interesting. We walked the Royal Mile to the Edinburgh Castle, saw the setup for the Tattoo (NZ got a special mention here because apparently last year the troops broke the march down and converted to Gangnam Style! We weren’t sure whether to cringe or be proud), spat on the heart as per tradition, visited the Grassmarket, the Elephant House (café where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter), and the famous cemetery; even nabbing a photo with Tom Riddle’s grave. I had no idea there was so much Harry Potter history here so I was pleasantly surprised. The following day we visited the Edinburgh Castle in depth. It was beautiful; we saw the prison, the Crown Jewels and also witnessed the gun firing at 1pm.

From there we caught a 1hour bus to Glasgow. We walked what felt like forever to our hostel (Bluesky Hostel – my good experience with hostels has probably resulted in high standards, but it was the most crammed hostel I have ever stayed in. The Wifi was good until they reset the modem (and then it didn’t work for the rest of our time there), and the facilities were average.) Upon our arrival we immediately scoped out the nearest Laundromat – my situation was so dire that I’d borrowed gypsy pants off Danielle, and had to pair these with a singlet, sports bra and a leather jacket! Once we had that situation sorted we headed out to Glasgow University – I was mind blown by how similar it was to Otago (photo below).  We walked through the park where we stumbled across my friend Tom and the rest of the Canterbury Caledonian Pipe Band who were practicing for the World Champs beginning in Glasgow the following day! The rest of the day was spent exploring Sauchimarket Street, Georges Square, Buchanan Street and then a night out at the movies.

Not used to having to take our raincoats wherever we go, we got up the next morning and headed along the river to Glasgow Green, where we paid £3 to watch Day 1 of the World Pipe Band Championships. We watched the first heats where we saw both the NZ Police and the Canterbury teams perform. After this we went and visited the Glasgow cathedral, People’s Palace and fountain before coming back for the next round of heats. We made it back to town in time to watch the Scottish Commonwealth Games Team doing a parade with all their medals. It was such a NZ thing to celebrate, yet we didn’t recognise anyone! The following morning we went our separate ways once again; Danielle was off to Wales, and I was off to party with the Irish!

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Barcelona: Round One

They say that everyone has one thing that always happens to them, like sitting next to fat men on planes, or having that dreaded crying baby nearby; for me, that is my flights are always delayed. Numerous times it worked in my favour; James and I frequently found ourselves bolting to make a flight! Arriving in Barcelona an hour late, I was relieved to find James waiting for me; my Spanish speaking friend and I could then proceed to make our way into the city together. Slight problem though; everything was in the Catalan language rather than Spanish, meaning we had to rely on James’ ‘gut feeling’ for getting off the train (Central station = Estacio-Barcelona-Sants), rather than his ability to actually understand the language of the country we were in. We stayed at “Cool and Chic” hostel, which although about a 30min walk from town it was super modern, clean and functional air-conditioning.

My Australian friend Emma (who I’d met in Portugal) joined us, and together we indulged in some delicious Spanish tapas, paella and of course, sangria. (“Sensi” – highly recommended tapas bar near the Old Quarter, quite classy and relatively expensive – still cheaper than the rest of Europe though!). The next few days consisted of free walking tours (Introduction to Barcelona, in addition to the Gaudi Walking Tour, both of which began from the Travel Bar at 11am), beaching (Ciutadella-Villa Olimpica) and exploring the local sights; the Cathedral, Place de Catalunya, Las Ramblas (the main street), a closed-roof market off Las Ramblas that sold the cheapest fresh juices, as well as the National Palace and the Magic Fountain. We discovered a custom ice tea place “Refresca Tea” which became well-visited as it always went down a treat on those hot summer days.

On our last night we moved into the city centre and stayed at St Christophers Inn – a chain of hostels that is spread throughout Europe and was one of my favourite hostels that I stayed at. It had a perfect location, was huge and had an awesome bar and restaurant attached. We took advantage of the cheap drinks at the hostel; enjoying €1 tequila, Sambuca, Dr Pepper and Jagerbomb shots before catching a taxi to Razzmatazz – one of Barcelona’s biggest clubs with a capacity of 4000 and five different clubs inside. We accidentally stumbled into a foam party, and there was not much we could do except embrace the situation, so several hours later we stumbled back into our hostel rooms sopping wet but thrilled with our Barca night life experience.

Cool places, cool city – I couldn’t wait to go back.

PS. Definite laugh out loud moment when the pigeon pooped on James.

Lifestyles of the rich and the famous – Nice, France

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As the gateway to the French Riviera (Cote d’Azur) I knew Nice was going to stretch the budget. Straightaway going against the title of this blog my first night’s accommodation consisted of the floor at the Cote d’Azur Airport. The next three nights were at Villa Saint Exupery Hostel, of which I had high expectations due to internet recommendations and the fact it was the most expensive hostel I stayed in. I was slightly disappointed; the hostel was so far away that a regular shuttle had to run to the closest tram stop, the Wifi was terrible and the breakfast was overrated. However it was the cheapest place I could find and it did the job.

The main beach at Nice is cute, albeit slightly overcrowded, pebbly and with a steep drop into the water. I clocked up a few hours here, however I also visited Cap d’Ail (between Monaco and Nice), which was quite a steep walk down to the most beautiful, tiny beach, with two of the most expensive restaurants I’ve ever laid eyes on. The water was glistening clear and warm, and the backdrop was breath-taking.

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Despite my best intentions to visit Eze and Villefrance, logistics kept failing me, however I spent hours in the charming Old Town, the markets (Vieux Nice – one of the largest food and flower markets in France), and climbed Le Chateau for outstanding panoramic views of Nice. My salted caramel and Toblerone gelato from Azzurro was to die for, and the kind man serving me refused to give me my ice-cream until I’d put away my wallet, because pickpockets were known to frequent the area. A day trip to the world’s second smallest country, Monaco, saw me transported into a world of glamour, money and superficiality as I was surrounded by yachts, the Monte Carlo casino and not a glimpse of rubbish anywhere. The whole place screamed exclusivity, extravagance and excess. The price of food far exceeded my budget, so yet another supermarket trip was in order for a traditional French baguette, and €6 water!