Feeling Happy

Letter 126

Happiness isn’t talked about enough, and right now I’m feeling really happy, so I wanted to write about it. I want to write about finding the happiness in the stressful times, or finding the rainbow in a cloudy day.

Something crazy seems to be happening to me. Only a couple of days ago I was sat in the studio, working until 2am getting everything done before my review. This is typically the most stressful day in an architecture students life, but for this particular review, I didn’t feel stressed at all. I don’t know whether this is due to my good time management, confidence in my work or enjoyment in my project, but I felt really happy. My happiness was further elevated by the review going incredibly well and being personally praised by my tutors for my work, which of course feels great.

In the last 2 and a half years of university my emotions have been all over the place. I’ve had some unfortunate things happen in my life which have effected my happiness dramatically but I’ve also had very mixed feelings about my course. Sometimes I’ve completely hated it and felt like I could drop out. The stress has had me on the brink of tears more times than I can remember. I’ve been frustrated with people I’ve worked with and suffered bad reviews from tutors and felt like all the work was a waste. This semester everything seems different. I’ve now technically ‘stepped up’ a year as most of my year are on placement and I’m now in the year above. I was so nervous about this at the beginning of the semester, but 5 weeks on and I feel it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. The year is full of lovely, talented students and the atmosphere among everyone feels different somehow. I like it. I find myself enjoying my work and striving to do more just because I want to.

I feel happy.

I’ve just taken a 2 day break from work to give myself a rest after the review and I feel like I’ve recuperated and I’m ready to get back to it. I’ve spent some lovely quality time with my boyfriend, enjoying the beautiful wintery weather in Edinburgh, relaxing watching films and eating good food. Even the little things like doing washing and cleaning have made me feel happier and like my life is together. I’ve organised the week ahead in my diary which includes going home to see my mum and best friend which I’ve been very excited for. I plan to get lots of work done this week (which is a week off from university) and get ahead with everything.

The thought makes me even happier.

With every day I get closer to the end of my degree which is now just 11 weeks and 3 days away. Just 80 days until it’s over and I intend to work as hard as humanly possible to ensure I am happy with myself by the end of it. I want to leave university knowing I’ve done my absolute best and have a portfolio that I’m proud of.

Then I get to jet off and do the thing that makes me happiest which is travelling, and in about 5 weeks I intend to book some flights. That will definitely give me something to look forward to. I will definitely book a flight to Germany, probably making Berlin my first stop to see my friend, and then one back from either southern Germany or Austria. I’m then going to Greece with mum, which thankfully is already booked, and then heading off somewhere for a few days with my best friend (wherever we can find that’s cheap). It’s going to be a good summer, I can feel it (and that will literally just be May and June).

I just wanted to share my current state of happiness because I feel like people are quick to notice and write about when they are sad or stressed, but neglect to celebrate when they’re happy, even about small things.

Hope you’re all having a happy Monday and a good February.

Much Love,

From Lou

About Me

 

 

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15 (non travel) things I’m looking forward to after finishing uni*

Letter 125

*some may be travel related.

In just 14 weeks my stress levels will dissolve into the floor and I will embark on the first period of my life which will not be followed by education. It seems crazy to even think about but I am so ready. Other than travelling, I have a list of small and big things that I can’t wait for when I’m no longer at university. So here they are.

1. Have a massive clear out

I seem to own a lot of things even though I rarely find myself buying anything for myself. As I will be moving out of my flat, I will be significantly reducing my belongings to the bare minimum because I just don’t need it. I plan to be ruthless with clothes and donate as much as possible to charity, I’m going to be giving away my architecture materials to new students and condensing all of the random crap I have clogging up every corner of my bedroom. I live for this kind of thing so I can’t wait!

2. Live with my boyfriend

As a temporary solution to my living situation I will be moving in with my boyfriend as I don’t feel its worth getting a flat for only a few months between travelling. Luckily this means I get to live with my boyfriend which I honestly cannot wait for. We spend so little time together because of uni so it will be nice to see him every day. Hopefully I can handle the other 3 boys that come as part of the package.

3. Work a 9-5 job

I never thought I’d be the person to get excited about getting a regular job but strangely enough I am. I can’t wait to leave for work at a normal time after a leisurely morning (sometimes my days start at 6am) and then come home at 5pm with no more work to do. I can’t wait to be able to clock off which is impossible when you have so many deadlines to meet and coursework to do.

4. Get my deposit back

This is something I have only recently thought of, but at the end of my lease I will be getting my £500 deposit back which will be a very healthy injection to my funds! Alongside the wages I will also be getting, my bank account shouldn’t be looking too shabby.

5. Join the gym

I plan to save the majority of what I earn, for travelling, but I do plan to get a gym membership. Firstly, I need to get back into shape. I have become more and more potato like and need to become the slender carrot I know I can be. I also want to have a backup shower if the one at the flat becomes a bit crowded.

6. Take up yoga (properly)

I own a yoga mat and plenty of workout clothes, however they don’t really count for much if the only time you wear them is when you run out of clean jeans or to clean the bathroom. I have a terrible back from years of staring at a laptop screen so I intend to fix my body with a spot of yoga when my time is all my own.

7. Eat better food

I’ve been thinking for a while now that I would like to become more vegan. At the moment I eat very little meat, however I do like fish, and I eat a reasonable amount of dairy. I would like to start cutting down on these foods and become ‘more vegan’. I don’t think I will ever become vegan but I intend to work harder to eat less animal products which will help the planet and make me healthier. I think it will be a slow process and also involve me simply making better choices rather than cutting things out altogether.

8. Burn all of my uni work

(Or actually store it all very safely because it’s actually important). Basically just remove any traces of uni life from my immediate surroundings and store it discretely and safely away from my person.

9. Resume learning Spanish

I worked really hard to learn Spanish way back in first year, before completely a course at uni on it which improved my speaking even more. I then put it into practise for a couple of weeks in the summer but I’ve since gone rusty. When I finish uni I intend to get back into it using my trusty duolingo app and a couple of Spanish books I bought way back when.

10. Spent time with my mum and best friend

Since being at uni I’ve been home for a maximum of 2 weeks in one stretch. That means my time with my loved ones has been limited and I can’t wait to just spend some time with them both. I’m going on holiday with my mum and then hopefully a city break with my best friend in the summer and the quality time is much needed. I also intend to reconnect with friends I’ve lost touch with over the years or just haven’t spoke to in a while.

11. Grieve

I don’t want to dwell on this, but the last few years have been incredibly tough. I lost one of the most important people in the world to me and have had other sad times along the way. I’m someone who doesn’t show emotion easily and this results in a whole load of emotions building up inside. In all honesty, they’ve been building up for 2 years now and when I finish university, I will allow myself the time to grieve.

12. Not set an alarm on weekends

I can’t remember the last day I didn’t set an alarm. There’s always something for me to get up for – normally uni work. I can’t wait to sleep in on weekends because the entire day is free for me to do whatever I want. I probably won’t sleep past 9 but it would be nice to wake up naturally once in a while.

13. Go for guilt-free cocktails

I’m not a normal uni student. I don’t go out clubbing or eat shit food or miss 9am lectures. I work really hard to get everything done and never go out because I’m always working. When I don’t have an architecture degree hanging heavily over my head I’m going to be the one asking if my friends want to go out for cocktails and have a great time not worrying about work. (Of course they will all still be at uni but that’s okay – they will come for the odd cocktail.)

14. Not be boring

Like I said, I don’t go out. But that doesn’t mean I’m a boring person. Uni may cloud this side of my personality and I can’t wait to show everyone that I am actually fun. I’m going to be so chilled I will basically be horizontal.

15. Write more letters

This is letter 125. I still find it crazy that I’ve written 125 blogs – even crazier that there are a few people out there that read them. I’ve had the blog for almost 2 years, but when I’ve finished uni I really intend to let it blossom. I can’t wait to invest more time into it and create something I’m really proud of. I wonder what date it will be when I’m writing letter 200? I’m hoping by the new year.

 

Here’s to the next 14 weeks of hard work and then my graduate life!

Thanks for reading,

From Lou

About Me

Random thoughts of a 20 year old architecture student

Letter 124

My life currently revolves around google sketchup, training my hair to last 3 days between washes and the decision of having 1 or 2 jacket potatoes. Riveting I know.

montenegro bobotov kuk hike 5

Where I’d rather be – Bobotov Kuk, Durmitor, Montenegro

January seemed to disappear in a flash to me – contrary to other people saying it’s dragged on for ages. I’m going into the 4th week of my final semester of university and so far it’s going very quick. What does that really mean? Well, it means that I only have 2 weeks until I have 1 week off, then only 7 weeks left after that. 9 weeks of “teaching” left. The “” are because I have about 3 and a half hours of contact per week. After my week off, this reduces to 1.

lisbon pateis de nata

The thought makes me as happy as I was here, in Lisbon, with my Pasteis de Nata

It also means that I have less than 14 weeks till my final deadline on the 10th of May. Considering the past 3 weeks have gone in a flash I don’t think the next 14 will take long to come and go.

m14

That makes me as happy as I was when I realised my true calling in life – a goat whisperer

The most important thing this information signifies is that in 14 weeks I can jet off without a care in the world and enjoy some well deserved travelling. I cannot wait.

Kefalonia Walking along the beach

The only travel that is confirmed is a holiday to Greece with my mum – it will be about 14 years after this photo was taken on the island of Kefalonia (I believe)

January was also a pretty nice month. It began in London, visiting my boyfriend’s brother which was followed by a beautiful trip to his home in the highlands. The weather was kind and it was stunning.

lochcarron

January in Lochcarron

I then started university which, as I took a different degree path to the majority of my year, put me into a group of people I didn’t know. A brief moment of hesitation when I worried that it would be miserable was quickly got rid of as I met my new year and made friends quickly. My little design group are really nice and we’ve spent the last few weeks developing our project which is set in the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, Portobello.

P1160654

Snowy beach in Edinburgh

Although my course is hard, demanding and sometimes stressful, I’m feeling very calm at the moment. I’m trying my best to stay on top of work and doing as much as I can to make the next few months easier for myself. I feel good. What I thought would be the hardest semester of my life has actually, miraculously, turned into one of the nicest. I’m excited about my project and am looking forward to seeing it through.

berlin street art courtyard 3

One of the biggest inspirations for my project – Haus Schwarzenberg, Berlin

I’ve also been seeing a little more of my friends as I’m really trying to make an effort with them. I’m not great at staying in touch with people, even if they live down the road, but I’m trying. Had a great pool and cider sesh with one of my best friends last week and it was wonderful to relax. Other than that I’ve pretty much been working 24/7 mixed in with watching friends and eating too much cake with my flatmate.

lagos 6

From Portugal to Edinburgh student union – it’s always fun

I can see I will miss this life when I leave uni. Hopefully I will still be able to keep most of it up but I will probably either be working or travelling which may make it harder. I’m not that worried, honestly I can’t bloody wait.

dubrovnik old town 7

I can’t wait to get exploring again – this mini exploration is from Dubrovnik, Croatia (one of the only places I saw here that was without people)

February will be a good month. The next 2 weeks are leading up to our mid term review so they will be busy but good. Then I will be celebrating Valentines Day (a day late) with my boyfriend by going to one of my favourite restaurants and hopefully going bowling at some point (haven’t done that in ages!). I’m heading home for a few days towards the end of February to see my best friend and go for a nice afternoon tea, and I’ll get to spend some time with my mum which will be lovely. I really can’t wait to go home for a bit, it’s be a nice break (combined with some work).

Ravenscraig Castle view

More quality time is needed with this one – photo from Kirkcaldy on my birthday last year (April)

So 2018 has got off to a pretty good start. Hopefully that means the rest of the year will be good too.

Hope you’ve all had a happy and healthy January.

From Lou

About Me

Complete Croatia Itinerary and Costs Revealed!

Letter 123

After spending just over 3 weeks of my summer travelling around Croatia, visiting 10 different places, I feel I can shed some light on how much Croatia will set you back. From accommodation to travel and activities to food, I’ve got you covered!

 

TOTAL SPENT: £810.76

 

Brief Summary

  • Average per week = £246.75
  • Average per day (23 nights) = £35.25
    • Minus anomalies of Plitvice and Dubrovnik (we’ll get to why later) = £32.25
  • Average accommodation price = £14.74

 

QUICK TIPS:

Go before the national parks increase their prices for tourists

  • I went to Plitvice at the end of June and it cost 80kn (approx. £10)
  • I went to Krka at the beginning of July and it cost 110kn (£13.75)

Stay in the non-touristy cities like Sibenik (one of my favourite places) which is way cheaper than the likes of Split and is only an hour away.

Try to avoid festivals where accommodation will sell out (or time it right and embrace them)

  • I went to INmusic festival in Zagreb on a whim and it was amazing! It was super cheap as well (I haven’t actually added it into the costs here but I spent a total of £90 at the festival including the ticket for 3 days and all food and drink there)

Strategically plan what time to get a bus based on where the sun will be and the view you want (sounds silly I know)

  • Croatia’s coast faces west and is stunning so planning a bus before mid afternoon hits and the sun starts to sit means you can sit by the window looking out at the sea and islands without cooking alive
  • Also make sure you have extra change for getting on the bus because they charge extra for your bags (normally between 8 and 10 kuna)

 

Itinerary

Croatia route

  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Zagreb – 4 nights
  • Plitvice Lakes – 1 night
  • Pula – 4 nights
  • Rovinj – 2 nights
  • Zadar – 3 nights
  • Sibenik – 3 nights
  • Split – 1 day
  • Brac – 2 nights
  • Korcula – 2 nights
  • Dubrovnik – 2 nights
  • Kotor, Montenegro

You can probably tell I began to run out of time towards the end, as I was desperate for a long time in Montenegro, so my relaxed 3 or 4 night stays in each place became 2 nights. Even so I feel I had a good amount of time in each place.

If you wish to stop reading here then I will summarise quickly before going into detail. Croatia is a pretty pricey country compared to neighbouring Balkan beauties. However, it’s well worth it and you can find cheap parts too. Food can be pretty cheap from local bakeries and supermarkets but eating out is quite expensive – I only ate out a handful of times. Get yourself a hostel with a kitchen (or a wonderful host who cooks for you – see my Brac Island post here). Buses are pretty easy and efficient, just buy your ticket at the bus station, most journeys are very frequent and cheap too. Don’t overlook the capital even though it’s inland as it has a lot to offer! Spend time in the cities, national parks, beaches and islands – this country is surprisingly vast!

 

Now for the details…

 

Zagreb

4 nights = £150.70

  • Accommodation: Mali Mrak Hostel £44 (dorm bed)
    • Amazing place – couldn’t recommend enough! A little out of the centre, very quiet, great vibe and perfect hosts!
    • Hostelworld Link
  • Transport £32 (bus from Budapest)
    • Local trams are efficient and cost barely anything (I believe about 50p per journey)
  • Food £56.32
    • Mostly supermarket but I did eat out and try some of the local food
    • My favourite restaurant here was Heritage which is a Croatian street food place with insane food – here’s a link to the google maps location of it. I paid about £6 for a few tapas style dishes and a drink.
  • Activities £7.50
    • This doesn’t include the festival – ticket was about £55 for 3 days I believe
    • I went to the Museum of Broken Relationships which I loved and also did an amazing walking tour.
  • Other £10.88

I thought Zagreb was great and still can’t understand why people don’t like it or decide to skip it. It’s definitely cheaper than the coastal cities and has character in abundance as well as friendly people and a random lake. I honestly really enjoyed it.

zagreb 4

Plitvice Lakes

1 night = £60.88

  • Accommodation: Villa Jezerka Hostel £15 (for half a double room – I was with my boyfriend)
    • Great hostel – not the best looking but was what we needed. Easy to find and the owner is great and even took us to the park early in the morning so we would beat the crowds – which is highly recommended.
    • Hostelworld Link
  • Transport £10
    • Bus from Zagreb which was about 2 and a half hours long
    • They are quite frequent, ours was at about 11am – you can do Plitvice in a day from Zagreb (or Zadar/Split) but you do arrive at the park at about 11am which is when it’s super busy. By staying over you can enjoy the park quiet in the morning.
  • Food £25
    • We splashed out a bit and had a few really nice meals. Eating within the park isn’t as expensive as we thought and as we didn’t have a chance to get food before we didn’t really have a choice.
  • Activities £10
    • Entrance to the park – as I mentioned earlier – is cheaper before July hits.
  • Other £0.88

I loved staying here and getting away from the city bustle. Definitely a good stop off and the national park is as stunning as you would expect – worth it 100%.

plitvice 1

Pula

4 nights = £105.25

  • Accommodation: Airbnb £52 (for half of an apartment – with access to a pool!)
    • If you’re in a couple definitely go for an airbnb – you can get a lot for your money!
    • Airbnb link
  • Transport £18.75
    • Bus from Plitvice where you have to change in Karlovac.
    • We also got a bus to a national park in the south – not reliable at all, be warned.
  • Food £34.50
    • We spent barely anything on food – it is much cheaper when you’re sharing with someone else. Mostly ate in but did have a few treats out for lunch or dinner.

Pula was probably my least favourite city in Croatia however I had a great time relaxing at my airbnb with a pool and venturing out to a national park called Kamenjak. It’s still a cool city but you only need about half a day to see it all so plan other things to do in the region!

BUDAPEST, ZAGREB, PLITVICE AND PULA

pula 2

 

Rovinj

2 nights = £67.63

  • Accommodation: Roundabout Hostel £42 (dorm bed)
    • Interesting hostel – not the best I’ve stayed in but it is the only one in Rovinj so you don’t really have much choice. Also it was the most I paid in Croatia!
    • Hostelworld Link
  • Transport £4.50
    • Bus from Pula – very cheap and quick, could be done as a day trip
  • Food £16.88
    • I ate supermarket food and bakery treats which is quite cheap
  • Other £4.25

Rovinj is beautiful and still quite untouched by tourists so is very much worth a visit. Not a cheap place because of accommodation but 2 days is plenty here and you will fall in love with it. I happened to also run into a salsa festival here which is so much fun!

Romantic Rovinj

rovinj sunset 1

 

Zadar

3 nights = £101.13

  • Accommodation: Lazy Monkey Hostel £48 (dorm bed)
    • This is a super cool hostel a little walk away from the centre right by the beach and port. It’s a great place to stay with such a cool vibe and good people.
    • Hostelworld Link
  • Transport £35.13
    • The bus from Rovinj was pricey because you have to change in Rijeka and it takes about 5 hours in total from what I remember. It’s such a stunning route though!
    • I also took a boat over to Ugljan Island which was stunning and pretty cheap
  • Food £16.88
    • More supermarket food! I cooked a few times with people at the hostel and also ate out at a beach shack down the road which was super cheap
  • Other £1.13

Zadar is a place you can’t miss! It’s such a great city and you also must get over to one of the islands as they are paradise! Lots of backpackers come here so you’ll also meet people.

Zadar: hiking to an abandoned fortress

zadar town 1

 

Sibenik

3 nights = £101.88

  • Accommodation: Hostel Globo £36 (dorm bed)
    • This is a good simple hostel where I happened to bag a whole dorm of 8 for myself! I liked the staff and the location couldn’t be better!
    • Hostelworld Link
  • Transport £11.63
    • The bus from Zadar was cheap and quick
    • I got a local bus to Krka national park which was cheap but not reliable!! Waited absolutely ages for a bus on the way back but I had good pals to chat to in the sun so I wasn’t fussed
  • Food £27.88
    • As the hostel was super cheap I did pick up dinner every night from the takeaway which sold the best falafel wrap ever! Treat yourself right? Otherwise I ate from the local market and supermarket.
  • Activities £17.50
    • The bulk of my spending here went to Krka national park which is well worth it (but not quite as good as Plitvice in my opinion).
    • I also visited a couple of fortresses in the city which were incredible!
  • Other £8.88

I can’t praise this little city enough – I loved it. It was hands down one of my favourites for its cobbled street charm and stunning views and sunsets. Don’t skip it!

Side note – I didn’t stay in Split but I did stop off for the day after Sibenik (it’s only an hour on the bus) before going to stay on Brac island. You can easily do Split from Sibenik and it’s so much cheaper to stay here. In my opinion Split doesn’t need longer than a day.

The most underrated Croatian city: Šibenik

Krka or Plitvice?

sibenik town 6

krka walk 1

 

Brac

2 nights = £60.06

  • Accommodation: Central Studio Apartments £30 (dorm bed)
    • This place is special, mainly because of the lovely family that own it. I loved the location, dorm room, outdoor kitchen and views. It was wonderful and quiet.
    • Booking.com Link
  • Transport £17
    • The ferry over from Split wasn’t too expensive and only takes 50 minutes so it’s a very doable day trip!
    • I got a bus across the island from Supetar to Bol (where the famous beach is) as this was where I got a katamaran to Korcula.
  • Food £7.25
    • I spent so little on food as I bought everything from the supermarket and the family at the hostel cooked for me one night which was wonderful! Got some homemade Borek and lots of lovely treats.
  • Other £5.82

Brac is such a beautiful island with stunning beaches and so much to do. If it was cooler I would’ve hiked the hill/mountain – highest point of all the islands. I would definitely come back for a holiday here!

brac supetar 2

Korcula

2 nights = £60.38

  • Accommodation: Hostel Caenazzo 2 £30 (dorm bed)
    • This was a slightly dodgey hostel but still not bad. It’s location was perfect and it had what I needed.
    • Hostelworld Link
  • Transport £15
    • The Katamaran from Brac was slightly expensive but not too bad considering it was the only way to get here and there was only 1 per day I believe.
  • Food £11.63
    • Once again – supermarket food! Combined with the daily borek of course.
  • Other £3.75

Korcula was pretty, but for me not as good as Brac. I feel I could’ve skipped it, but the town was nice. If you want to relax somewhere where there’s not that much to do then it’s a good place. It would’ve been better if I’d had a car to be fair.

Island escapes: Brač and Korčula

korcula 7

 

Dubrovnik

ie. The city that sucks your money up.

2 nights = £102.88

  • Accommodation: Youth Hostel £42 (dorm bed – with breakfast)
    • This was THE cheapest hostel in Dubrovnik and to be honest wasn’t bad. It was about a 25 minute (beautiful) walk to the old town which I didn’t mind, it was quite near the port and the beach and you get free breakfast so I was a happy bunny.
    • Hostelworld Link
  • Transport £15
    • The Katamaran was the same as from Brac to Korcula which is efficient and reasonably priced.
  • Food £20.63
    • Eating out in Dubrovnik is not cheap, so I didn’t really do it. I bought a few beers, went to nice bakeries and tried not to spend too much. If you eat out in this city you’ll spend a fortune.
  • Activities £21.75
    • This was quite a portion of the money which I spend on walking on the walls – amazing and only ‘cheap’ for me because I had the right student card (ISIC) and also going over to Lokrum island which was stunning and worth it.
  • Other £4

I had mixed feelings about Dubrovnik. It was beautiful and amazing and a seriously cool place. But it was also packed with tourists, very ‘game of thrones-y’ and extremely expensive. I’m glad I went but it’s not a place I would return to unless it was for a day trip. I did get a firework display on the beach which was pretty amazing.

The many highs and few lows of Dubrovnik

dubrovnik old town 3

 

So that’s it! All of the costs you could need to know about in Croatia and my lengthy itinerary. It’s an awesome country and I’ll remember my trip fondly.

Anyway questions, feel free to ask!

From Lou

About Me

PS.

While the average daily spend for this trip was £35.25 (or £32.25 when you remove the anomalies of Plitvice (at £60 for 1 night) and Dubrovnik (at £100 for 2 nights)), I didn’t actually spend this each day:

  • Over the trip I spent £159 on transport, typically travelling between places every 2, 3 or 4 days
  • Therefore, without transport, I spent £651.
  • That works out to £28 per day including accommodation.
  • I’ve said in a previous letter (about travelling in Andalucia here) that to calculate a budget I work out a rough average for accommodation (I stated earlier that it is about £15 per night) then double it for an average daily budget.
  • This would give me a daily budget of £30 which I stuck to for the trip and then needed extra for transport.

Beauty of Berlin

Letter 122

My 5 days in Berlin were filled with beautiful architecture, striking street art, salty pretzels and Christmas cheer. I fell in love with this quirky city and all its perfect imperfections.

This is part 2 of my account of Berlin, and its taken almost a month to get it written and uploaded, but it’s here! (If you haven’t read the first part you can find it here.)

 

Historic Mitte

It took me until day 3 to actually explore the historic centre of Berlin, and it blew my mind. After seeing some edgy, lived in parts of the city, it was quite a contrast to come to the touristy centre and see some of the main sights. Even though this was the most touristy part, I still didn’t feel it was overwhelmed with tourists, which I liked very much.

I started where I left off the previous day with the Museum Island. It’s a bizarre place that is home to an abundance of classic architecture holding the city’s most sacred collections, combined with the grandeur of the emerald domed cathedral and with the modern city lingering beyond the water in the background. It’s the perfect place for a walk and to start exploring the centre.

berlin museum island 1berlin museum island 2berlin museum island 3berlin museum island 4

I then took a short walk down the road leading to the Brandenburg Gate (in search of a pretzel) and wound up wandering through Bebelplatz (my favourite square) and then towards Gendarmenmarkt, where I had visited the amazing Christmas market previously. This area is bewildering with winding streets, amazing buildings and a feeling of space and colour.

berlin centre 1Bebelplatz 1Bebelplatz 2Bebelplatz 3gendarmenmarkt 1

In need of restbite from the cold, I followed my senses and found myself a shopping mall to relax in. I instead found myself in a city of shopping centres, all leading off and into one another, and somehow got all the way to Potsdamer Platz through the maze of shops, Christmas decorations and plush sofas made for me and my kindle. Before jumping on Potsdamer, I decided to ‘check out’ Checkpoint Charlie. This is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen but I definitely recommend it.

shopping 1berlin checkpoint charlie

Following the route of the Berlin Wall I found myself again in Potsdamer Platz, one of the coolest areas I’ve ever been to. After studying it in my Architectural History class, I was fascinated with the area and couldn’t wait to have a wander around the modern buildings and central ‘square’. With the Christmas markets overflowing, it was a magical place and yet again I took further rest (and a further pretzel) in the shopping centre, which may trump them all with lights and baubles galore.

potsdamer platz 1potsdamer platz 2potsdamer platz 3shopping 2

All of this and it was only 3pm?! Yes, the centre is compact and easy to navigate in little time. I met up with my friend (and host) and headed to the Reichstag Building, which is a total must for anyone visiting Berlin. It’s the most wonderful building with a fascinating history and great views across the city. You can also get a free audio tour which tells you about the view and specific buildings. Such a great thing to do! You have to book online in advance as it gets booked up and you also need to go through security checks on arrival as it’s a government building – well worth it! Here is the website if you’re interested in going – German Bundestag.

berlin reichstag 1berlin reichstag 2berlin reichstag 3berlin reichstag 4berlin reichstag 5

I spent the evening in yet another Christmas Market having soothing spiced wine and buying Christmas treats for friends and family. What a full day in beautiful Berlin. My favourite thing about it was the slow pace I allowed myself to go at and take in all the sights.

Here’s my route around the Historic Mitte:

berlin route centre

 

Street art courtyard, postcard perfect streets, carol concert, memorial and markets

My last day in Berlin was chilled and perfect. I saw a couple of sights that I’d missed on the previous few days, as well as exploring a knew area that I really liked.

I began in the same location as the last day, at the cathedral on Museum Island, but headed north, away from the centre, in search of a street art hub I’d read about. I found it very easily and it did not disappoint. I stayed here for a while admiring the colours and images dressing all of the walls and enjoyed the emptiness of this underrated gem. It’s called Haus Schwarzenberg – must see!

berlin street art courtyard 1berlin street art courtyard 2berlin street art courtyard 3

The area around this discrete little courtyard is really nice with a number of public squares, gardens and shops. I should’ve spent more time around here, but I did wander down a few lovely streets.

berlin centre 2berlin centre 3berlin centre 4

I ended up back at Museum Island (seemingly the centre of Berlin for me as this was the umpteenth time I’d been here). I decided to go into the cathedral because, honestly, I can’t resist a beautiful church. It was stunning. I also got really lucky because the choir was rehearsing so I got to watch and hear some beautiful German renditions of my favourite Christmas songs. You can also walk up to the viewing deck at the top which has great views – if you can handle the steps.

berlin cathedral 1berlin cathedral 2berlin cathedral 3berlin cathedral 4berlin cathedral 5

For the rest of the day I walked around familiar streets, and explored the last place on my list; the memorial to the murdered Jews. Another thing I had studied so was interested in. The memorial itself was pretty intense to be in, but was made less so by disrespectful tourists (and potentially locals) who were running around, sitting on the memorial and being loud. The museum underneath was an eye opener and I’m glad I did it.

berlin centre 5berlin centre 6berlin centre 7berlin memorial 1berlin memorial 2

Just before completely crashing at my hostel, I popped into the market I found around the corner from the hostel. It’s such a vibrant atmosphere filled with lovely people and glorious food. Would recommend if you’re staying in the area! It’s called Arminiusmarkthalle.

market 1market 2

That just about rounds up my visit to Berlin. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and it made me very eager to go back to Germany and explore more of the vast country. I hope you’ve enjoyed this (very long) letter and that it would prove useful if you find yourself in the capital!

From Lou

About Me

PS. Letters may be few and far between from now until May because I am now in my final sprint to finish my degree. I’ll post when and if I can. xoxo

Andalucía Itinerary and Costs

Letter 121

How much does it cost to travel to and through Spain?

From 17th May to 29th June 2017 I spent my days sunning myself in Southern Spain and exploring 3 beautiful Andalusian cities. This post will reveal my small itinerary and how much it cost me. Enjoy!

 

Frigliana stepped street

Frigliana

 

THE WHOLE TRIP: €386 + €56 flight

Itinerary

  • FLY Edinburgh to Malaga – €56 (with baggage)
  • Nerja – 7 nights
  • Malaga – 1 night
  • Cordoba – 2 nights
  • Sevilla – 2 nights
  • BUS Sevilla to Faro (Portugal)

Aside from my week in Nerja, I needed far longer in each of the wonderful cities. Unfortunately, I had time restraints and needed to be in Portugal for the 29th so I had to cut my Spanish summer short. But it was very sweet.

Check out posts about each place if you’re interested as this letter will focus on costs and budgeting.

Nerja in a nutshell  |  Malaga in pretty purple  |  Cordoba at it’s best  |  Happy Travels in Flamboyant Sevilla

Nerja

nerja 3

Nerja was my holiday. It wasn’t really part of my ‘backpacking trip’ and I spent money as if it were my holiday – unashamedly so. It’s a wonderful seaside paradise with a lot to offer and I would thoroughly recommend a visit. As a place to go on holiday I would recommend finding self catered accommodation because there are restaurants in abundance and you can wish your days away on the sparkling coast.

Accommodation

Thanks to my wonderful auntie and uncle, I had free accommodation for the week which took a massive chunk out of the budget. However, because of a mix up, we actually had to quickly find other accommodation for the first couple of nights – so it turns out I can tell you about prices of accommodation.

For a week that would set you back only €150, or €75 each if you’re splitting costs. There are tonnes of other hostels/guesthouses in the area so it makes a great holiday destination.

For me, accommodation cost my €40 in Nerja (as we has another night at a different place)

Transport – €18

Nerja is accessed from Malaga via a coach for around €8. Once you’re in Nerja you won’t need transport to get around as it’s small. You should definitely take a trip to Frigliana on the bus which is only €1!

Eating out – €90

As I mentioned, we indulged a bit. We ate out most lunchtimes because it was the easiest and nicest thing to do on our long beach days. Lunch (or dinner) was typically around €30 for the two of us, which would normally include a main and starter/desert and a drink.

Groceries – €30

We ate in most evenings and every breakfast, normally simple things like cereal, fruit, sandwiches, salads etc and the supermarket food is very reasonable. It only cost me around €4 a day!

Extras – €22

Things like ice creams, postcards and the odd cocktail all add up! But not that much because it was cheap and I only spent a few euros a day on things like this.

Total – €200

Could’ve done it cheaper but hey – it was my holiday!!

 

Malaga – Cordoba – Sevilla

 

cordoba second day 6

Cordoba

 

I only spent 5 nights between these 3 stunning cities – that deserve 3 nights each. Nevertheless I loved exploring each of them and I saw a lot.

Accommodation – €83

  • MALAGA – Patio 19 – €14 dorm bed
    • Hostelworld link
    • Lovely central and authentic hostel which offers free breakfast on their patio.
  • CORDOBA – Funky Cordoba – €14.50 dorm bed (x2)
    • Hostelworld link
    • Slightly run-down hostel but is in a great location with very helpful staff.
  • SEVILLA – Sevilla In Backpackers – $20 dorm bed (x2)
    • Hostelworld link
    • Really liked this hostel, very cool vibe. Perfect location (round the corner from the cathedral and tonnes of tapas bars.

Transport – €32

It cost me €4.50 to get to Malaga from Nerja and whilst in Malaga I used the bus once to get from the station to the hostel, which was around €1.50. It’s a manageable city to get around, but if I had longer I may have used the transport system more to get elsewhere.

TIP: The bus to/from Malaga airport is around €3.

The 2 hour bus from Malaga to Cordoba was €12. I then took a local bus to my hostel (because it felt like 100 degrees and I couldn’t manage the 15 minute walk at this point in time) which was 1.30. It’s cheap to take buses but also small enough to walk around the city of Cordoba.

TIP: I was in Cordoba at the time of their big festival and it was so busy. Buses were crammed full and I had to wait around an hour just to get on one. Would’ve walked if I’d known.

The bus from Cordoba to Sevilla was also €12 which I felt was very reasonable. I didn’t take any other transport whilst in Sevilla (but did take a bus to Portugal which will be included in Portugal spending!).

TIP: Buses in Spain are better than trains. They cover more routes and are of a good quality. It’s also possible to get to other countries easier via buses whereas with trains you typically have to go via the capital (ie. Spain to Portugal – the only train line is Madrid to Lisbon).

TIP: I took to taking my buses late afternoon so that I would get most of the day in the 1st city before travelling to the 2nd city and arriving before sunset. Then I would just check in to my hostel and get food, sleep and be ready for a full day in the city.

Food – €43

I mainly ate food that I bought from the supermarket whilst in Spain because I had limited time exploring and wanted to make most of. I did, however, try out some tapas with people I’d met at the hostels and also indulged a bit in Cordoba’s festival on churros – how can you not?!

TIP: Generally tapas dishes range from €2-€4 per dish and I would normally eat 3 or 4 for a meal. Some bars do a drink and dish deal for cheap. You’ll have to ask a local to find the best ones!

Activities – €28

I didn’t hold back on attractions but also spend a large proportion of my time doing free things and wandering the streets of the cities. I found attractions to be very cheap, especially with student discount! Here’s the things I did and how much they set me back:

  • MALAGA
    • Walking tour €5
  • CORDOBA
    • Walking tour €5
    • Tower at the Mezquita €2
    • Museum (can’t remember the name) €1.25
    • Palace €2.25
    • Gallery in Plaza del Potro €2.25
  • SEVILLA
    • Walk up the Torre del Oro €1.50
    • Alcazar €2
    • Parasol €3
    • Cathedral €4

TIP: Use student discount!!

TOTAL – €186

This averages out at around €37 per day for 5 days. It’s much higher than I would’ve liked but it’s because I moved more often than usual – I would prefer to move every 3 or 4 days. Travel costs then work out far lower. Still, I was happy with what I spend and thoroughly enjoyed my 5 days.

TIP: Travelling slowly works out much cheaper as the big transport costs between places occurs less frequently. Also, you can normally make the same supermarket shop last for 2 or 3 days, thus it costs less over a longer period of time.

 

cordoba second day 8 alcazar

Sevilla

 

So there you have it – 12 nights in Andalucía for €386.

I hope this has been a helpful cost guide!

From Lou

About Me

TIP: The way I calculate a budget before I go somewhere is simply by searching accommodation costs and doubling the average for a daily budget, and then depending on frequency of movement, adding on a little for transport costs.

Eg. Average accommodation cost = 83/5 = €16.60

Multiply by 2 = €33 per day or €165 for 5

I actually spent €186 – only €21 over (€4 per day) which is the extra transport costs I add on.

A question of belonging

Letter 120

As a traveller I have questioned what it means to belong somewhere and whether travelling inhibits our ability to belong. Psychotraveller recently made a video (here) on the subject and was very negative about it, so I wanted to share my take on it. She titled it “I don’t feel like I belong anywhere anymore” and spoke about how travelling has distanced her from having a home and she doesn’t feel she can make one anywhere because of language and culture barriers.

My old dreams

At just 13 years old, I dreamed of travelling. I would order brochures, buy books, search the internet, and plan out potential trips to the greatest detail (actually far more detail than I would ever plan a trip that I was actually going on now). My dream was to take a gap year and travel to Australia. I wanted to see everything and do everything. I was fascinated with Australia and even dreamed of one day relocating there.

Then my dreams changed. I didn’t want to ‘live’ anywhere. I just wanted to travel all the time, go everywhere and never stop. I had the biggest ambitions and was so confident that as soon as I got the chance, I would leave with no return in sight. Now, at almost 21 years old, and a few trips wiser, I have totally different dreams.

 

Crete 041 (2)

Vintage Lou.

 

I have a home

As a child we moved quite a lot, not loads, but enough that I never felt I had a true ‘home’. I had no strong ties to any particular place because I was either too young to fully remember it or I hadn’t been there long enough. Coming to university completely changed my whole idea of ‘home’, and breaking all of the rules in my head, I found a home within a couple of months. Obviously, my 13 year old travel dreams changed and I decided to get myself a degree. I had always wanted to be an architect and I, and everyone who knew me, knew that if I took a gap year I would never come back. So I decided to do the degree first and travel later.

It was the best thing for me. Whilst the course is not what I expected and the past few years have been the toughest of my life, it has also showed me that I have a home. I have a home in the city I’ve fallen in love with, I have a home in the amazing friends I’ve made, and I have a home in my boyfriend who I met on my first day at university and has been my best friend ever since. I’ve realised that a home is not somewhere you’re born, or where your family live, it’s something you make for yourself.

I belong in Edinburgh, at home with my amazing friends and in my favourite city in the world.

P1010015

I discovered my travel style

Long gone is my mind set that I want to book a flight out and leave with no return in sight. Plans change and being at university has shaped the way I travel and how I wish to continue travelling. Over the last 3 summers I’ve squeezed in some incredible experiences that have shaped me and taught me more than I could ever learn in university. From volunteering in Greece to staying in my first hostel alone. Flying to the states to discovering a love for working with children with special needs. Learning a language to hiking up to 2,500m. I’m so proud of what I have achieved between university years in what I used to view as an annoyingly restrictive amount of time.

I don’t feel that anymore. I’ve realised that 2-3 months is an ideal trip length for me and it’s how I continue to plan trips and travel. I like to travel slowly and really get to know countries or regions and am not about the whistle-stop-tour life. Now that I’ve found a home where I belong, I have no intention of giving it up.

montenegro durmitor hike 3

New Plans

After 3 years of university, where I’ve worked harder than I ever knew possible, I want to travel. Whilst I know I belong in Edinburgh with the people I love, I also belong out in the world travelling. I am happiest with my backpack in places I’ve never been before talking to people I don’t know. I cannot wait to have the freedom to travel whenever I want to. However, I plan to firmly keep my base in Edinburgh and alternate home with small trips that will allow me to slowly travel around the world.

A Question of Belonging

I feel that over the last few years I’ve discovered so much about myself (in the non classic-spiritual-backpacker kind of way). I’ve found my home and friends where I belong and I’ve also confirmed what I always knew about myself – that I belong out in the world travelling. Who says I have to choose? I’m determined to have both and will work hard to achieve it. I’m a firm believer in choosing happiness over everything else and now I’ve found the life that makes me happy, I will ensure it sticks.

P1100928

This is a bit of a babble letter but I hope it’s proves interesting. Who knows?

Lots of love,

From Lou

About Me

PS. What do you think about travelling and belonging?