Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Yorkshire is a historic county in northern England. It’s known for its Roman and Viking heritage, as well as its Norman castles, medieval abbeys, Industrial Revolution-era cities and 2 national parks. My recommendations:

  1. Hike the Yorkshire Dales! I did a circular 20 mile loop from Grassington and stayed overnight at Grassington Bunk barn the day before to start early in the morning.
  2. Yorkshire Moors and Whitby day tour. This tour takes in the highlights of the area in including Goathland, the stunning seaside town of Whitby, Helmsley and the Vale of York.
  3. York Minster, Betty’s tea room, spot random cat sculptures and cute pubs throughout the beautiful town centre!
  4. York Chocolate story and the Shambles. I didn’t realise brands like Smarties, After Eight, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Kit-Kat came from York! You get to make your own chocolate too during the tour. The Shambles is known for its timber buildings that look like they are going to collapse as they lean in towards the road.
  5. York Castle Museum and Cliffords Tower. I really enjoyed the museum with plenty of history to be learnt and remembered.

Accommodation recommendation in York: Air B&B YO1 9TJ Steve was my host. Probably the only AirB&B in the town centre!

Munich, Germany

Munich, Bavaria’s capital, is home to centuries-old buildings and numerous museums. In the Altstadt (Old Town), central Marienplatz square contains landmarks such as Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (town hall), with a popular glockenspiel show that chimes and reenacts stories from the 16th century. Here are my recommendations:

  1. Neuschwanstein Castle, also famously known for inspiring Disneyland’s Castle. Make sure you book tickets in advance to avoid disappointment as they allocate time slots and are always very busy.  You can pay later (12euros per person) but just pre-book a slot! It takes 2hours from the central main station followed by a short bus ride. You get incredible views from here and can also consider visiting the castle next door called Hohenschwangau castle (the yellow one)

  2. Dachau concentration camp 5h half day tour where you will experience the memorial to the holocaust and learn about the history and workings of the camp. I don’t have any pictures to post here for sensitivity reasons, but would still recommend this insightful visit.
  3. BMW museum and world where you can test cars, see how designs have changed over the years and admire the architecture of the building.13240623_10155140864643849_318971308103394758_n
  4. Historic residence and treasury – see the collections and learn some history13265923_10155140865853849_4249492002833796793_n
  5. Marienplatzs is a central square in the city centre of Munich. It has been the city’s main square since 1158. Look out in particular for the New City Hall (Neues Rathaus) on the North side with a Glockenspeil in the tower. 13254649_10155140854698849_6015921144990356539_o

 

Zante, Greece

Zakynthos is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea and a well-known summer resort. The harbor city of Zakynthos is the capital and major hub, centered around waterfront Solomos Square. Popular beaches like Agios Nikolaos, Alykanas and Tsilivi offer swimming and water sports. Accessed by boat, Navagio beach is the site of a famed 1980 shipwreck resting in a sandy cove framed by cliffs. Your perfect beach getaway with crystal clear waters and sea turtles!

Note: There are no buses from the airport, you’ll have to take a taxi which won’t cost very much as all the main beaches and Zante town is super close. Kalamaki beach is the closest to the airport.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Shipwreck Beach and Blue caves departing from Laganas beach. You can climb the ship but just be careful because it’s quite rusty and has many sharp edges. This tour was also suppose to include the famous view point to look down at Shipwreck Beach, but unfortunately there was a forest fire going on that entire weekend ><
  2.  Turtle Island (Marathonisi) and Keri caves departing from Keri beach. You’ll have time to swim in the caves and chill at turtle beach as part of the tour.
  3. Laganas (Party town at night) and Kalamaki beach. You can rent pedal boats, kayaks and all types of fun floats to relax in the sea. Plenty of restaurants to choose from as these two beaches are connected. Most people choose to stay here (in terms of accom)
  4. Xigia Beach, known as Zante’s natural spa as the water is quite sulphuric and you can smell it (like rotten eggs but not as strong as Iceland)
  5. Zante Town

Must try dessert: Frigania. Extremely sweet, kinda like a Banoffee pie. My photo isn’t great, but it was really yummy!

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Tenerife, Spain

Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, off West Africa. It’s dominated by Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano that is Spain’s tallest peak.  The island has many beaches (with sands from yellow to black) and resort areas, including Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas.

  1. Hike Masca taking less than 3hours from the top of the mountain to the sea where you can then take a boat/water taxi back to Los Gigantes-  Beginning amongst giant agave spikes and prickly pear cactus, the terrain gives way to the valley floor where, fed by underground currents, mini forests of willowy cane and lush ferns frame gentle waterfalls and still ponds of emerald translucency. You can swim as you wait for your boat to arrive, so bring your swim stuff and towel.
  2. Go jet-skiing near where you get off the boat after your hike10900093_10153926628458849_2775179284665471745_o
  3. Tiede quad safari. The guide takes photos on the trip which you can then purchase after for memories and to support their business. Mount Teide is a volcano on Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Spain. Its 3,718-metre summit is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic11036498_10153926625273849_1789620945618698312_n17991_10153926625158849_7564016527436502834_n
  4. Siam Park – famous waterpark with the coolest almost 90 degree slide! Remember to keep your legs together, crossed at the ankle for safety. Pre-buy your tickets and online to avoid long queues, make sure you print it out and make sure you arrive well before opening hours.
  5. Los Cristianos Beach because it was closest to my hotel – The beaches are beautiful and it has a harbour that offers fishing trips, pleasure cruises, outings on glass bottom boats, diving excursions and ferries to the neighbouring island of La Gomera.

Extra note: Playa de las Américas is next to Los Christians beach where you can go to party the night away

 

Marbella and Malaga, Spain

Málaga is a port city on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol, known for its high-rise hotels and resorts jutting up from yellow-sand beaches. You can catch a bus or cab from Malaga to Marbella (50min journey) to enjoy its famous resort area of sandy Mediterranean beaches, villas, hotels and golf courses. West of Marbella town, the Golden Mile of prestigious nightclubs and coastal estates leads to Puerto Banús marina, filled with luxury yachts, and surrounded by upmarket boutiques and bars. Here are my top 5 recommendations:

 

  1. Puerto Banus marine Marbella
  2. 4×4 Ronda Tour by Monta Aventura eco tours where you will see Ronda, learn a lot about nature and also see the well-known Sony “Smurf Village” in Júzcar. I highly recommend this tour, it was really educational and covered a lot.

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  3. Visit Malaga bullring –  La Malagueta is a world-class bullring, seating as many as 9,032 spectators and holding the most important events of the bullfighting season, like the Easter bullfights, the Picassian Gala, the August Fair or the bullfight dedicated to Málaga’s Patroness.
  4. Walk along Malaga port or do a segway ride! You’ll pass by Centre Pompidou, a stand out colourful cube building.
  5. Visit the cathedral, Alcazaba and the Roman ampi theatre, all in close walking distance from one another in down town Malaga.

 

Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei is it’s capital up North. I was in Taipei for over 2 months to learn mandarin, ended up falling in love with the place so visited a year later making it extremely difficult for me to narrow down my top recommendations! But here goes nothing:

In Taipei:

  1. Climb Xiang Shan for a view of Taipei, in particular of the 101 tower. Of course, why not do this and watch sunset! Tip: Don’t pay to go up the tower, book your place in Starbucks for a free view since you just pay for your drink. 

  2. Visit Yang Ming Shan both in the day and at night and have a meal up top, but be sure to book in advance as it always gets busy. Ride a scooter if you dare to, everyone has a bike in Taiwan! 

  3. Visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, National Palace Museum and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. These are significant places and beautiful grounds. You can even see dancers practicing around the buildings if you’re lucky. I love how their government is extremely open about arts, culture and hip-hop. 

  4. Taiwan is extremely famous for its night markets, my favourites in Taipei being Shilin night market and Roehe night market. Enjoy all the hawker foods, different types of noodles and make sure you try their mango ice dessert. 

  5. Continuing on about food, try their most famous bubble tea found near Gong Guan station and have Ma La hotpot13439089_10155274884843849_2604827805510471771_n11781597_10154305216023849_3762681800303357996_n13533200_10155267507648849_4735290308080891108_n
  6. The Chinese course I did was through the mandarin learning centre at National Taipei Normal University. However, my mandarin improved by joining HRC dance school where I got to interact with the locals on a day-to-day basis. If you’re into dancing, I highly recommend their studio which has two locations in Taipei. And of course, catch all the dance related camps/festivals/competitions that go on! 

  7. Visit the upside down house in Hua Shan creative park which also has other exhibitions you can visit e.g. where is wally. 

  8. Visit Yi Lan beach where I first tried surfing!13557666_10155269511323849_597601209174748538_n
  9. Visit Ying Ge famous for its pottery 

  10. If you are into hiking, you’re visiting the right place. There are so many trails with amazing views and waterfalls in a lot of the places. 13615417_10155278469828849_3243686137910364284_n
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    绢丝瀑布, 冷水坑 & 擎天岗

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    Shifen Waterfall

Please see my other post about things to do outside of Taipei which are all accessible from Taipei, especially with their high speed rail system.

Chamonix, France

Chamonix is a really special place to ski – Located at the foot of Mont Blanc, Chamonix has pretty much endless amounts of off-piste and freeride skiing. For some of the best views of the highest peak in the Alps head up to the Aiguille du Midi viewing platform before taking on one of the longest and most challenging runs in the world, the Vallée Blanche. Unlike many other French resorts, it’s a large, vibrant town with lots of shops selling the latest ski tech as well as a huge selection of restaurants and bars.

Depending on how many days you have, you can get a pass that crosses to Italy too!

  1. Stay near La Flagere lifts which I felt was a better route up compared to the main town centre which was extremely crowded. Useful slope map here
  2. Tour the town centre and enjoy all its shops and restaurants everyday!
  3. Enjoy the wide space, the fresh air, views and company16387968_10156087996318849_4586955480622012357_n12439383_10154863374618849_2195353030105444772_n12729222_10154861590843849_1415024739483737050_n10392092_10154854686613849_8671394586096002960_n.jpg
  4. Wear a onesie because it’s pretty hilarious on the slopes

Bansko, Bulgaria

The town of Bansko is situated at the foot of the Pirin mountain in the south-western Bulgaria, 160 km from Sofia. It is the newest and most well-known winter resort in Bulgaria with the longest runs. It is extremely cheap to do a ski/snowboard season here compared to the Alps! No crazy queues but you might have to put up with a few smokers ruining the fresh air your meant to get on the slopes.

I was there in Feb and managed to catch the Snowboard world cup! Good sign that it’s a great place to be snowboarding.

  1. Stay at mountain dreams lodge. You can ski down to the gondola and ski home from the slopes with a short walk. You did need to walk up hill for about 10 mins from the town centre but it was a really nice accommodation with great views. It would have probably been too noisy right in the town centre anyways since there was a big drinking scene
  2. Enjoy the high street with shops, restaurants and plenty of clubs if you fancy it. Make sure you try their orange juice, extremely refreshing after a work out on the slopes.
  3. Enjoy the open space and powder snow. I finally learned to carve and attempt jumps! So grateful to have had this trip.

 

 

Lake District, United Kingdom

The Lake District, also known as the Lakes or Lakeland, is a mountainous region in North West England. Trains run from London Euston to Oxenholme in Cumbria where I picked up my rented car because all the cars were fully booked elsewhere! Next time, I would suggest renting a car from a major nearby city such as Leeds or Newcastle to then drive to the Lakes. Like most tourists, I stayed in Windermere where you can easily park on the roadside overnight.

Note: Never trust the weather forecast! The weather can change continuously throughout the day.

Here are my top 6 recommendations:

  1. See lake Windermere by catching a ferry ride from Bowness-on-Windermere. Here you can also visit Beatrix Potter’s World and its gardens which was displayed at the world’s famous Chelsea flower show in London. As well as have lunch at the beautiful Angel Inn!

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  2. Have fun at Brockhole on their tree-top adventure 20294216_10156777266218849_6794403258070892868_n
  3. Take a walk around Fell Foot Park with its unique boathouse cafe and shop
  4. Stop by Newby Bridge for the beautiful Swan hotel and spa. Enjoy a tea outside if the weather is nice or admire the typically British interior design. 20245354_10156777265893849_6847417200659773709_n20264804_10156777265988849_2186674450762020292_n
  5. Visit Coniston and Coniston Water (another lake) where you can do all sorts of water activities and pass by lovely houses with well kept gardens
  6. Sign up to the ‘best of the lakes’ mountain goat tour so you don’t have to stress when driving through supposedly two way roads! No joke, the roads were so narrow you spend a lot of time reversing because there isn’t any other way. Plus this tour allows you to cover a lot of the Lake District in one day starting from 9am to 530pm. 20264997_10156802405218849_387409074594078326_n 

    You will enjoy:

    • The Langdales & Blea Tarn – Dramatic scenery and views of the Langdale Pikes.
    • Castlerigg Stone Circle – Walk around the 4000 year old circle, surrounded by fells.
    • Wastwater – The deepest lake in England, voted ‘Britain’s Favourite view’.   20293168_10156802406503849_8016407739444512_n
    • Ennerdale, Loweswater, Crummock Water and Buttermere – Untouched and unspoilt lakes with more sheep than people.

Lille, France

Lille is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France, near the border with Belgium. I actually craved good quality macaroons so hopped on a Euro-star from London to get here! Things you can do:

  1. Rain or shine, tour the city centre which is very small and walkable. The architecture as you can see is just stunning.
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    Grand Place

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  2. Admire paintings inside the underground stations
  3. Lille Cathedral 71797_10151741626113849_1896013538_n
  4. Upside down house 423171_10151741625858849_855856151_n
  5. Try every macaroon flavour601268_10151741626398849_1513300139_n