The Warm Lakes of Mjlet, Croatia

I love exploring cities and getting lost in mazes of streets, but I also love trekking through woods and swimming in the sea, and so, a¬†trip to one of Croatia’s many islands was inevitable. We opted for the island of Mjlet which is a national park with two salt water lakes and an island in the middle of the lake¬†with a disbanded Monastery. You can take day trips to Mjlet at a minimum cost of ¬£65 (528 Kuna), which will get you picked up from your hotel, a catamaran to the island and entry to the National Park. Or you can make your own way there for approximately ¬£30. We thought it would be fun (and cheaper!) to make our own way there. On paper, it didn’t sound simple, but in reality, everything went smoothly and was actually very easy. There is one boat which leaves Port Gruz to Polace¬†at 9am with only 200 tickets available. We got to the port at 8.10¬†to start¬†queuing for our ticket – this is highly recommended to ensure you get a ticket. Our return ticket cost ¬£17 (150 Kuna) and in 1 hour we were stepping off the boat onto the island. The entrance to the national park is at the port where you purchase your ¬£12 (95 Kuna) NP ticket. This ticket includes entrance to the park, return bus journey to the lakes and a return boat journey over to the island where the Monastery is.
My followers will remember that I love exploring and so instead of using the free bus service, of course we decided to take an hours walk/hike in 33 degree heat, on open roads, up steep hills, down rocky paths and through dense wooded areas  to the lakes. Finding the clearing and stepping out onto the shore of the lakes was a stunning view that will always stay in my memory. After the long hot walk, jumping off the rocks into the salty lake was blissful. The water was warm and the only sounds I could hear whilst swimming around were the birds and the gentle lapping of the water.
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We had so much fun walking around the lakes, stopping off to jump in the water whenever we wanted and eating our packed lunch by the side of the lake in the sun. We didn’t have much time to explore the whole island so we did a quick trip over to the former Monastery erected in the 12th century, using the boat service included in our ticket. It took about 10 minutes to cross over to the small island which also has a caf√©. We explored the Monastery and the Roman ruins, had another swim in the lake and then sadly¬†it was time to head back so that we didn’t miss the last bus back to the port for the only ferry going back to Dubrorvnik. A day trip is not long enough to really appreciate Mjlet. You can stay overnight which will give you the opportunity to hire canoes and bicycles and really enjoy the beautiful island.

My 5 days and 4 nights in Dubrovnik were truly memorable and it is safe to say, I love Croatia!

Red Roofs & Ancient Walls

The following day I was so excited to explore the site that welcomed me when I first stepped off the shuttle bus РThe Old Town and the City Walls Рbeautiful red roofed buildings surrounded by a stone wall which was built throughout history to defend the city and the port.
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From the ground and once you have entered through the Pile Gate you step inside the Old Town where you can wonder along narrow streets, climb stone steps, marvel at ancient architecture, shop, eat and drink. From above, walking along the city walls,¬†you can see¬†an abundance of red roofs, busy streets and glistening sea. For ¬£17(150 Kuna) you¬† can walk the full 2km circuit of the wall. Even though we walked in 33 degree heat with the sun blazing it was an amazing experience. So picturesque and full of history, and it also helped me to appreciate exactly how the city walls protected the town. Stopping for numerous photos, taking moments to appreciate the scenery and sipping on the local beer, Ozujsko (¬£5 (42 Kuna))¬†in¬†Buza Bar, built into the cliff side just on the outside of the¬†City Walls, the walk took us around 2 hours. I would totally recommend doing the walk. If 2km with upward slopes and steps sounds a bit challenging, there are exits along the way so that you don’t have to do the full circuit.
As the bus from Babin Kuk to the town was only about 15 minutes at a cost of ¬£1.50 we decided to head back into the town for dinner and drinks that same night. We had dinner in 1863 Dubravka, which is a lovely restaurant set just outside the walls and looking out onto the sea, and for the Game of Thrones fans; Kings Landing! It is a busy outdoor restaurant but don’t be put off. We asked for a table for 2 by the sea and although it was extremely busy they managed to find us the table we requested within minutes. You don’t know if don’t try! Now, I am not a huge seafood lover, but I have it on good authority that it was exceptional in all of the restaurants we ate in.

Dubrovnik really is a beautiful city filled with history, nice restaurants & lovely views.

Dubrovnik ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’

Sun, beaches, natural beauty, history and architecture all in one holiday, what more could you ask for? Perhaps delicious food and friendly locals? Check!  Because of this, Croatia has made it to my top 3 Europe destinations, joining Paris and Rome.
Following an early flight into Dubrovnik on Friday morning we began our journey to Babin Kuk, an area approximately 4km from the Old Town, where our hotel was situated.  We easily found the kiosk selling shuttle bus tickets at the airport and purchased our tickets at a cost of approximately £5 (40 Kuna). The bus took an hour to the city of Dubrovnik due to traffic, it should have been about 35 minutes. The bus stopped just outside the city walls and looking out to the sea I was instantly taken aback by the beauty of the white stone walls set against the calming blue Adriatic Sea. Having to pull myself away from the scenery, we then had to jump on the No. 6 city bus to Babin Kuk at a cost of £1.50 (12 Kuna) for a single. Tickets can be purchased on the city buses but in peak time the bus drivers can refuse you and you have to purchase your ticket from a kiosk which is easily found near the bus stops. We missed our stop thinking we had to get off at the last stop on the route but the bus driver kindly informed us it would be a difficult walk and told us to stay on the bus until he turned it around to do the return journey.
We arrived at our 3 star hotel, Hotel Tirena, booked through Expedia and was instantly happy with our choice. The reception staff were friendly and informative, the room was a good size with a sparkling clean bathroom and the pool was always so inviting.
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We decided to stay in the area of Babin Kuk for our first day and visit the beach. A couple of minutes walk from our hotel through lush greenery and stony paths and steps we were greeted by the sound of the ocean and relaxing Deep House music. Copacabana Beach is a¬†gravel beach, but don’t let this put you off. It is a lovely little beach with warm, clear, calm waters, drinks, food, water sports and plenty of sunshine. A few minutes away is Cava Beach,¬†this stretch of beach has been taken over by a¬†beach club,¬†charging for¬†large¬†comfortable loungers, cabanas¬†and a restaurant where champagne is likely to be the top selling¬†item.
Only my first day and I instantly knew I was going to love Dubrovnik.

To my 500+ Followers, ‘I’m back!’

It has been 3 years and 7 months since my solo backpacking adventure. In that time, I have continued to see more of the world and tick more items off my bucket list. I am often told that I should have continued my blog which I originally started for my friends and family. I never imagined I would eventually get over 500 followers!

I enjoyed writing mainly for myself as it was a great way to remember dates, places, details and emotions and I learnt that it was also a great help to other people who wanted to visit the places I had been. And so, I have decided to start writing again for upcoming trips. But as these trips are in the future, for now, and to help me get back into writing, I thought I would just jot down where I have been and what I have done in the past 4 years and if any of my followers would like more information on any destination or activity then please comment and I will happily take a trip down memory lane.

Countries visited and re-visited since January 2014: –

Ibiza, Spain (four times)

Rome, Italy

Lloret de Mar, Spain (twice)

Edinburgh, Scotland

Mallorca, Spain

Budapest, Hungary (twice)

Vienna, Austria

Antigua, St Kitts, St Martin, Saint Martinique, Grand Turk, British Virgin Islands, St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados – Caribbean Cruise

Corfu, Greece

Naples, Italy

Capri, Italy

Pompeii, Italy

Iceland (South)

Sitges, Spain

Ravello, Italy

Mayrhofen, Austria

Those of you that have a bucket list are probably like me and tick one off – add another three! Going back to my original bucket list which I posted back in October 2013, on top of the items I ticked off whilst backpacking, I have also ticked off, ‘go to an underground jazz bar’, ‘parasailing’ and bettered my original ‘zip lining’ and zip lined over canyons in Mount Snowdon, Wales. A cruise was never on my bucket list, but I would now totally recommend for others to add it to theirs.

I look forward to sharing my next trip with you.

Goodbye Australia

With my flight back to England fast approaching, I had to make the most of my time in Australia. Melbourne is a fantastic city and I had met some lovely people but I had also seen and done so much already in Melbourne and I wasn’t quite sure what else I
could do to fill my time.  Money was running very low and so I very easily came to the decision that I would like to spend my last full week relaxing in the sun, back up north in Airlie
Beach
. I really enjoyed the few days I had previously spent in Airlie Beach and knew this is where I wanted to be. After a lot of internet time, I found a very cheap return flight and set off for Airlie Beach.

I flew into Hamilton Island Airport which meant an hour’s ferry crossing over to Airlie Beach and as soon as
I stepped off the ferry I could feel the lovely Australian heat. Wearing black jeans and black t-shirt (the weather in Melbourne at 5am is not very warm) and backpack on back I took the 20 minute walk to Nomads Hostel, where I had pre-booked 2 nights, due to the
fact that it had a swimming pool. By the time I arrived, I was soaked in sweat but had a huge smile on my face as I knew instantly I had made the right decision.

I spent the week just as planned, jogging every morning, swimming in the lagoon and sunbathing by the hostel pool. Being on a very tight budget I went shopping with $30 and bought a supply of food for the week. It is amazing what dishes a backpacker on a budget can come up with. I met so many more lovely friends and spent my last precious nights partying with
them. I spent my last night with Alice from England and Jimmy from Sweden and not wanting my time in Airlie Beach to be over, we partied through the night until it was time to get my ferry. No sleep and a quick shower I set off on the 20 minute walk in the
morning heat back to the ferry. I was sad to leave Airlie Beach but I still had 3 days in Melbourne before the dreaded flight home.

And what a lovely 3 days in Melbourne
I had. I was lucky enough to be able to stay with Dan and his housemates again which meant I was able to accept an invite to The Australian Open with Alan (Dan’s housemate) and his friends. The Australian Open is a major tennis tournament held annually in January in Melbourne. It was the first day of the Open and I was fortunate enough to see some big tennis names playing or practicing. We were at the match where Ana Ivanovic won her first game and we saw R.Nadal and Hewitt practice. It was also the first day of the start of a heat wave for Melbourne. You can imagine my delight! I spent my last day in Australia on the beach of St Kilda in the 43 degree heat and watched the beautiful sunset over
Melbourne city.

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I will never forget my fabulous Christmas of 2013!

A few weeks ago Christmas was just an inconvience making my travels complicated and expensive. I had always planned to be on a beach on Christmas day, regardless of the weather and whether I was alone with a good book or with new friends, but I can now say I had the best Christmas!

I booked back into Base Hostel in St Kilda for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so that I could be by the beach. I met up with Julia, the Brazilian girl I had met on my first day in Melbourne and we sat on a grass area opposite the beach drinking in the sun and chatting with the many others doing the same.

As the sun was setting we got ready to go into the city to spend the evening with a group of French girls Julia had met. They lived in an apartment in the city and put on a buffet and we sat chatting and drinking for hours. We then went to a bar in the city where we finished the night.

Waking up Christmas morning did not feel strange at all. I think I am that content in hostels they must feel like home! I woke up, cheerily wished my room mates merry Christmas and tried to facetime friends and family. I was only able to get through to 2 of my friends as they had just got home from a night out, it was so nice speaking and laughing with them and once I had spoken with them
I was even more cheerful. I went downstairs to have breakfast and started speaking with a guy and 10 minutes later we were arranging the day at the beach. By 12pm I was sat in 34 degree heat on the sand surrounded by hundreds of people in swimwear and Santa hats, sat with a great bunch of people with the music blaring and the alcohol flowing! It is amazing how a “good morning, merry Christmas, what’s your name?” can lead to when you are backpacking!

At 3pm it was time for Christmas dinner. I had paid the hostel $20 and myself and 40 (plus) backpackers sat together enjoying turkey with all the trimmings and pulling crackers with new friends. It was not long before I was back at the beach partying with a new bunch of great people until an amazing sunset. We enjoyed the sunset together and as they began to disperse I was invited over to party with another great bunch of people. By midnight there was 3 of us left standing and so we made our way to a club to see in Boxing Day morning.

My alarm was set for 8am Boxing Day as I had booked myself onto a tour to visit the set of Neighbours. Neighbours is an Austrslian TV programme which is very popular in England. It was extremely popular back in the 80’s and as a child I was a huge fan. I have not seen the show for about 15 years but I wanted to visit the set as it was a big part of my childhood. Admittedly I did not recognise much but I did recognise the houses and the street and that was enough to make me happy. I spent the rest of Boxing Day window shooping at City Docklands, watching some of the Ashes (cricket) on the big outdoor TV screen in Federation Square and walking around the city.

I met some wonderful people and I will never forget my fabulous Christmas of 2013.

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Melbourne – Australia’s Cultural Capital

544 miles from Sydney and a 17 hour bus journey is Melbourne, ‘Australia’s cultural capital’ and (what should be) my last destination before flying back home to England.

I was lucky enough to be invited to stay with a friend of a friend whilst in Melbourne, but for my first night I booked a bed at Base Hostel in St Kilda. I have grown to love hostels as they are a great way of meeting like-minded people and with Christmas approaching I felt it would be nice to meet more people. St Kilda is also Melbourne’s most famous beach and when I booked my ticket to go travelling the one thing I knew I wanted the most, was to be on the beach on Christmas Day.

When I arrived in Melbourne I was greeted by a dark sky and pouring rain. The bus dropped me off in the city and I had to make my way to St Kilda. I knew there was a tram that would take me there but having never used a tram before it was a long process. First I had to find the correct tram stop and then I had to find somewhere that sold tickets as you cannot buy them onboard. After a 17 hour bus journey, walking around with my backpack and 2 other bags in the pouring rain wasn’t much fun. But as soon as I arrived at the hostel I was greeted with a friendly face who let me check into my room early for a shower & change of clothes. When you have spent the past 2 nights on a bus and had your morning wash in McDonalds this is ‘Christmas come early!’

After a hot shower and a chat with the people in my dorm I set off to explore. St Kilda Beach reminds me of the beaches back in England. There is a theme park called Luna Park situated in front of the beach and although the sea is clean and clear it is more of a grey colour than a nice bright blue and with the dull sky, it really felt like England. I had met a girl from Brazil, Julia ,at breakfast and we were to go on a free walking tour of the city. Unfortunately we didn’t make the tour on time so we wondered around the city ourselves and came across the Exhibition Centre where a James Bond exhibtion was being held. We then wondered through the streets of Fitzroy, home to lots of quaint and quirky shops and cafes. It was then back to the hostel where I had a few drinks with my room mates.

At 10am my friends friend, Dan, came to collect me. Dan lives in Richmond which is about 5 miles from St Kilda. The weather was still dull and so we went to Chadstone Shopping Centre, the biggest shopping centre in Australia!

After 2 months in hostels, it was nice to be in someones home with a home cooked meal and a double bed in a room all by myself. But, the following day it would be back to the hostel for Christmas celebrations…

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