8 tips to flying on the cheap with Ryanair around Europe

Ryanair, the low cost airline europeans love to hate but can’t live without. It’s CEO Michael O’Leary was famously quoted as saying “Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? absolutely not.”

Ryanair, the low cost airline europeans love to hate but can’t live without. It’s CEO Michael O’Leary was famously quoted as saying “Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? absolutely not.”

With fares regularly as low as £5.00 one way, if your looking for cheap fares to fly around Europe, Ryanair begrudgingly is the only way to go. But in order to get those bargain fares, there’s a fair few hoops to jump through first.

Here’s my top tips for flying on the cheap with Ryanair

1. Be Prepared

If your going to be a RyanAir regular its worth investing in some Ryanair friendly luggage, aim to make it as light as possible a couple of good options are:

From Argos.com a great budget option

Or another option is CabinMax.com who do a range of soft bags, rucksacks and wheeled trolleys.

2. Bookings

All bookings must be done via their website http://www.ryanair.com but in order to find the cheapest fares I use google flights putting in ‘Europe’ as the destination and it will bring up the cheapest destinations in Europe from your chosen airport, 9 out of 10 times Ryanair will be the cheapest flight , then you can go through to the Ryanair website to book.

3. Check for Errors

So you’ve found your bargain fare and you’ve made your booking and everythings great , that is until you realised you’ve booked the wrong day/ month/ airport. Amazingly Ryanair now allow you to make amendments up to 48 hours after your initial booking free of charge , trust me this is going to be the only thing your getting free with this airline.

4. Check your Baggage

Ryanair are continually changing their baggage rules, the rules last changed at the end of 2018. Passengers can no longer bring a small case onboard for free. The only way to travel for free is with ONE small bag/ rucksack measuring max 40x20x25cm that will fit under the seat in front, this is strictly enforced. There’s an urban myth that staff will bring out a tape to measure the dimensions of your case if there’s a chance of squeezing a few more pounds out of you, so check the current baggage rules very carefully before you fly , you have been warned, if you mess up and are made to check your case in at the gate thats £25 down the drain and thats each way, an expensive mistake to make.

If you really can’t cram everything into a small backpack , the next option is to pay an extra £6-£10 each way (depending on route) and get priority boarding which includes what effectively you used to get for free, two carry on bags a small bag that goes under the seat and a case up to 10kgs. If you want to check a bag in the hold this is where it starts to get expensive and your probably best looking at other airlines, Ryanair is primarily best for short trips around europe.

5. Check in Online

Ryanair doesn’t have any check in desks , if you have to check in at the airport its going to cost you dearly , €55 per passenger each way, to check in for free you must check in online from two days to two hours before your flight. Ryanair will send you a txt / email to alert you when to check in, its best just to do it as soon as you get it to avoid any mishaps.

6. Print your boarding cards

Another area Ryanair cleans up is with passengers who dont print off their boarding cards. Michael O’Leary branded passengers who forget to print off their own boarding cards as “idiots”. if you want them to print of your boarding card thats another €25 boarding card reissue fee thank you very much.

Ryanair introduced their mobile app in 2018 with mobile boarding cards, which should cut down on this, but I always print out a paper boarding card as well as having it on my mobile just in case …

There are a few airports which dont have facilities to accept mobile boarding cards, I’ve listed the current airports below but again its always best to have both the paper and mobile version.

  • Agadir (Morocco)
  • Essaouira (Morocco)
  • Fez (Morocco)
  • Nador (Morocco)
  • Oujda (Morocco)
  • Marrakesh (Morocco)
  • Rabat (Morocco)
  • Tangier (Morocco)
  • Kefalonia (Greece)
  • Volos (Greece)

7. Seating

Predictably if you want to secure a certain seat ie window or aisle, Ryanair’s charges for seats for by the row. You can do this when booking or again when checking in. the bonus is if you pay for a seat when booking, you can check in up to 60 days in advance rather than the usual two days.

  • Rows 1, 2 (seats DEF), 16 and 17 have extra legroom and cost from £7.
  • Rows 2 (seats ABC) to 5 cost from £7.
  • Rows 6 to 15 and 18 to 33 are standard seats. They cost from £3.

If you don’t want to pay for a seat you’ll be randomly allocated a seat when you check in.

** If your travelling with children under 12 please note that if one adult pays for seating in rows 18-30, you then get free allocated seating for up to 4 children per adult. Whilst the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules states that airlines should “aim to sit parents close to children”, or if this isn’t possible, they should not be separated by more than one aisle and by no more than one seat row, if your travelling with under 12’s its worth paying for one seat to avoid having to have hassle at the gate.

8. Bring your own snacks …

Even once you make it onboard Ryanair will still be finding ways to seperate you from your cash. Your flight doesn’t include any refreshments even on their longer flights nada, nothing, you might be able to squeeze a cup of water out of them if your really really lucky.

With a meal deals of a hot drink , a chocolate bar and a sandwich at a hefty €9 it’s best to either bring your own snacks from home or grab something in the airport before you board. Though I usually bust the budget and stretch to hot drink at €3.

I hope these tips have encouraged you take the plunge and get out and explore more of Europe, whilst Ryanair is far from perfect it does enable more people to travel due to the low fares. As long as you stick to the rules and don’t incur any extra charges, you can easily pick up return flights for less than £50. Just know you get what you pay for , Ryanair is basically a bus that flies , the journey is never going to luxurious but if you get to another countey for the price of their onboard meal deal whats not to like ?

Bon voyage !!!

Top tips for visiting London for the first time … Part One

Get an Oyster card

 

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If you only buy one thing when you get to London, make it an Oyster card. ( £5 deposit is payable) These handy pay-as-you cards are issued by Transport for London (www.tfl.gov.uk) and make travel on London’s buses, trains and tubes much cheaper and easier. Using an oyster doesn’t just save time, but it saves money, a central London cash tube journey is £4.20, while using an Oyster card the fare is only £2.20. Can be picked up any tube station including Heathrow, and Oyster ticket shops.

Get a London A to Z Map Book

 

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Despite everyone owning a smart phone , nothing will replace the humble A to Z London map book.Long after your phone battery has died , the A to Z is worth its weight in gold with every London street clearly marked , you can pick one up at any bookstore.

Get good waterproofs

London is well known for its unpredictable weather. The day may start sunny & bright but by lunchtime there could be torrential downpours, ALWAYS carry a foldable mac or an umbrella you have been warned

Do your Web Research

There are a number of sites to check that will save you cash, & give you itinerary ideas here’s are a few of the most popular

http://www.lastminute.com – as it says on tin last minute deals for literally everything Hotels , trips , attractions , spa days , show tickets .

http://www.opentable.co.uk – a London restaurant discount booking site that finds the closest restaurants to your location or budget , discounts can be up to 50% off.

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com– not necessarily a tourist site , but sometimes they have great deals for all so worth checking out.

http://www.airbnb.co.uk
With the average London hotel room hitting £160 per night, AirBNB is an ideal solution to finding accommodation . Also by having an apartment, you can make your own meals saving more cash for that big night out. Just pick somewhere near to transport links and within zone 3 of the tube map as a rule so your not wasting time travelling back & forth.

http://www.southbanklondon.com – For all things cultural in London , theatre , gallery events , art , head to the the Southbank located steps from London Waterloo station on the river always good for an afternoon stroll.

See London from the River

 

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Cruising down the Thames is a great way to see London and rest your weary legs. Check out http://www.thamesclipper.com for times & routes and the good news is you can use your oyster card for a discounted fare.

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Check out the best free view in London

The Sky Garden , aka the walkie talkie building is London’s best kept secret , located across the river from the famous London Shard which charges an eye watering £32 to check out the views down the Thames, book into the Sky Garden for totally Free entry for the same view , plus you get a shot of the shard in all your pictures , the only catch is you need to book in advance at https://skygarden.london . There is also a cafe and restaurant at the top so maybe splash out on dinner with the money saved on entry fees.

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Check out Londons best Museums

Great activity for a rainy day there will be a few rainy days , no matter what time of year you visit, this is London it rains accept it. London’s museums are world class and more importantly most are FREE , here are the main ones not to miss ….

British Museum

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Where: Bloomsbury
Open: 10am-5.30pm every day, till 8.30pm Fri. Closed 1 Jan, Good Fri and 24-26 Dec.
Description: An always busy and always fascinating collection of over eight million objects. Themes include Leaders & Rulers, Animals, and Money.

Museum of London

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Where: London Wall
Open: Every day 10am-6pm. Closed 24-26 Dec.
Description: One of the world’s largest urban history museums. Exhibitions include the story of modern London from 1666 to today.

Science Museum

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Where: South Kensington
Open: Every day 10am-6pm, except 24-26 Dec.
Description: Vast museum of advancements in science, medicine, technology and industry. Suitable for young and old alike.

Natural History Museum

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Where: South Kensington
Open: Every day 10am-5.50pm. Closed 24-26 Dec.
Description: Life and earth science specimens in five collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Paleontology and Zoology.

National Portrait Gallery

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Where: Just off Trafalgar Square
Open: Every day 10am-6pm. Thu-Fri until 9pm.
Description: Founded in 1856, it has over 195,000 portraits, from modern subjects to paintings from the 16th century.

For more ideas on what to do and what to see check out the official Visit London Website https://www.visitlondon.com

 

Five things to know before you go to Cape Town 

Known as South Africa’s ‘Mother City’, Cape Town sits nestled at the foot of Table Mountain. If you’re visiting for the first time, here’s five important tips to know before you go….

1. Download and register with Uber

Uber is king in Cape Town, as a lone female, I felt perfectly safe jumping into an Uber, the minimum fare is a tiny 20 rand (£1.25!! ).Grab an Uber from the airport into the center of Cape Town for around 200 rand (£12 ). There’s a designated Uber pick up spot in the airport, just ask at the information desk and they’ll point you in the right direction.

uber-logo

Uber

2. Prebook major attractions
The weather in CapeTown is extremly unpredictable, despite having a reservation to Robben Island booked well in advance, the tour was cancelled due to rough seas. As I had the tour booked it on my last day in CapeTown,sadly I didnt make it to the Island. Try and book it in the begining so if need be, you have time to reschedule.

I nearly didn’t make it up Table Mountain either due to the high winds which constantly shut down the cable car. It took three visits to the cable station before I made it up. Pre book your cable car tickets and go early or late or you’ll be caught in the queues.

Table Mountain Cable Car

Robben Island official website

Table Mountain Cableway

3. Bringing the kids with you ? be prepared

If your travelling to South Africa with a child under 18 , you’ll need to produce the childs full long version birth certificate showing both parents details, along with their passport. These rules includes all UK passport holders , please note you need the original certificates, photocopies are NOT ACCEPTABLE.

South african imigration

South African Immigration info

4. Take a Tep

Wifi in South Africa is notoriously expensive, to ensure you stay connected. Consider hiring a Tep, a mobile hotspot unit that fits in your pocket, and provides unlimited data for up to 5 devices from £7.95 per day.

Tep Wireless

Tep wireless

5. Hop on and off around the City.
If your not comfortable driving in Cape Town, the best way to get around the main sights is using the City Sightseeing Hop on Hop bus. With buses routes going to Cape Point , a mini wine route, a hour long pennisular tour and a stop off the Table Mountain cable way base station.

Cape town sightseeing bus

City Sightseeing Cape Town

For more information on CapeTown and south Africa, check out the tourist information below.

South African Tourism

Cape Town Tourism

5 Reasons to fall in love with San Francisco 

If America were a school playground, you’d find all the cool kids hanging out in San Francisco corner. 

There’s just so much to love about Americas second biggest city, so I’ve picked my top five things, that’ll get you putting San Francisco at the top of your travel list. 

1. They have a great free walking tour 

Every day there’s a great free walking tour that leaves Union Square at 10am. You don’t need to book, and in 3 hours , Filip, the tours founder will uncover all of the cities hidden gems. From secret public roof spaces for an alfresco lunch, to a fortune cookie factory buried in the middle of the China Town district, it’s a great way to get an overview of the city. 

For more info check out  http://www.freesftours.com, although it is a free tour , tips are gratefully received.  


2. They have great vintage trams  

If you love vintage transport, San Francisco is the place to go. As well as being the only national historical monument that’s able to move, There’s a great tram museum located at one of the tram stops. you’ll be in tram heaven in no time. 

For more info on the museum check out http://www.cablecarmuseum.org/


3. They have great wine 

It would be criminal to visit San Francisco, and not visit a vineyard or two for tasting some great California wines. Instead of heading out to the Mecca of wine Napa , I went low key to avoid the crowds and headed over the Golden Gate bridge to Napa’s kid brother Sonoma. Located 45 minutes from San Francisco, and with over 400 vineyards to choose from you’ll be spoilt for choice, without the flashy price tags. 

I took a day trip with local tour company Green Dream Tours,  a wine tour specialist, which included a trip to 4 wineries for tastings as well as a picnic lunch, check out their tours here https://greendreamtours.com

 For more info on Sonoma county check out http://www.sonomacounty.com

4. They have great Art 

After being shut for major renovations for the last 3 years, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), finally reopened in May this year. 

It’s one of the worlds biggest modern art museums , with over 33,000 works. If your a fan of modern art , this is a can’t miss. To get the most of your visit , go on a Thursday when the galleries stay open til 9pm. It’s pretty goddam amazing. 

https://www.sfmoma.org

5. They have great views 

San Francisco is best seen by foot , from walking over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge , to hiking up the hill to get a glimpse of the painted ladies. San Francisco is definitely a city where you’ll be able to keep up with your fitness regime, just don’t forget your comfortable shoes or its gonna get painful. 

So these are my SanFrancisco favourites , what’s yours ?, is there something great that I missed? ,if so let me know !! 

For more info on SanFrancisco check out http://www.visitcalifornia.com

48 hrs in Budapest ….

Budapest, is hands down one of my favorite European cities, with great architecture, great food and a thriving nightlife, even on my second visit there was still loads to see. It’s a great place to explore on foot.

If your off on a weekend in Budapest, and wondering what to do, here’s a few of my favorite things to do in Budapest.

Jump on a tram…

Riding the number 2 tram is a ‘must’, from the parliament buildings, it travels along the Danube , past St Stephens Basilica to the Chain Bridge, with Buda Castle across the Danube in the distance , then down to the Liberty Bridge, where you can jump off for a stroll round the central Food Market. Free travel on the Tram is included with a Budapest Card

Budapest no2 Tram

Chain bridge Budapest

Eat strudel… 

My favorite place for strudel in Budapest,  is the Retesvar bakery up in the castle district, just steps from the Fishermans Bastion. It’s a great place for a quick cheap lunch of sweet & savoury strudels



Buy great chocolate…

Down by the Liberty Bridge tucked away on a side street is Rozsavolgyi Csokolade, a husband and wife chocolatier team, Conde Nast recently voted their chocolate in the Top Ten in the world, as if you need pursuading  http://www.rozsavolgyi.com


Take a Bath… 

Budapest is awash with thermal baths, It’s a great way to relax after a day of pounding the streets sightseeing.

There’s free entry into the Luckas Baths with the Budapest Card, which leaves plenty left over for a massage .

See some Art…

Get a culture fix at the Hungarian National Gallery ,  Hungary’s finest Art  is spread over four floors, including the ‘Hungarian Nabi’ Jozsef Rippl-Ronai. Free entry is included with the  Budapest Card.

Go for a posh cuppa…

Lotz Hall aka The Book Cafe , is located within the Alexandra Book shop on Andrassy Avenue. Possibly one of Budapests most grandest place to stop for a cuppa. If your lucky you might even catch a pianist having a tinkle on the ivories.


On my weekend, I used a 48 hr Budapest Card, check out more info at http://www.budapestcard.org

For more information on Budapest and Hungary check out http://gotohungary.com/

10 things to do with your teen  in Berlin, Germany.     

I really thought I was going to struggle, to find enough things to keep my 12 year old entertained whilst in Berlin. The plan was, that in the evening we would visit the Christmas markets, then in the day we would do family stuff. To be honest I could have easily filled another week, Berlin certainly gets the  family friendly seal of approval!!

Here our top 10 things to do in Berlin …… 

1. Learn about the Story of Berlin 
The story of Berlin, is a unique interactive museum where visitors can explore 800 years of Berlin history. In 23 themed rooms where visitors  can experience everyday life of the people of Berlin during different eras.

The highlight of the exhibition is a guided tour of an original nuclear bomb shelter from the Cold War below the museum,  which still can be used in case of an nuclear attack today.

http://www.story-of-berlin.de

Ideal for children aged 7+


2. Pop into the Natural History Museum and say hi to Tristan the T Rex 

The Museum für Naturkunde, now exhibits one of the best-preserved T Rex skeletons worldwide. The museum also holds more than 30 million items relating to zoology, palaeontology, geology and mineralogy, which are highly significant for science as well as for the history of science.

http://www.naturkundemuseum.berlin

Ideal for children aged 5+


 

 

   

3. Check out what life was like in the DDR 

The DDR Museum is located in the former governmental district of East Germany, right on the river Spree, opposite the Berlin Cathedral.

Its exhibition shows the daily life in Deutsche Demokratische Republik aka DDR. The museum prides itself in being totally “hands on” , kids will love the new interactive Berlin Wall with a chance to try virtual graffiti or belt up and drive a virtual trabant round Berlin.

http://www.ddr-museum.de

Ideal for children 7 +

 

 

 

 



4. Go all retro at the Computerspielemuseum

Computerspiele Museum is the first European museum for video and computer games, and a must see for any gamer . Containing over 300 exhibits, including rare originals, playable classics, from classic arcade games to a giant pac man. Be prepared to drag them out kicking and screaming.

http://www.computerspielemuseum.de

Ideal for gamers young & old




5. Step into the future at Game Science centre. 

The Game Science Center is an interactive Future Museum, run by a team of game developers. the exhibition presents a lineup of innovative technologies and playful projects. Where you can try out futuristic ways to interact with computers , where you can even try out controlling games with your eyes!!.

http://www.gamesciencecenter.de

Ideal for children 10 +


  

6. Strike a pose at Madame Tussaud’s 

Be whisked off into a star-studded world with interactive exhibition of fascinating waxwork figures getting up close to Hollywood stars, sporting heroes, famous figures from the past and present as well as new Star Wars figures.

http://www.madametussauds.com/berlin/de/

Ideal for children 7+


  

7. Find some animal magic at Berlin Zoo 

The Berlin Zoological Garden  is the oldest and best known zoo in Germany. Opened in 1844 it covers 35 hectares  and is located in the heart of Berlin’s Tiergarten. With about 1,500 different species and almost 20,500 animals the zoo presents the most comprehensive collection of species in the world.

http://www.zoo-berlin.de

Ideal for all children


  

    

8. Walk the Berlin Wall 

You can’t visit Berlin without a visit to the Eastside Gallery,  and check out a vital part of Berlin’s history. The wall was constructed overnight on 12 August 1961 and divided the city of Berlin until 9th November 1989.




9. Get your photo in a vintage  photomatic booth 

For €2, squeeze into the booth, close the curtain, and strike a pose and wait for your strip of black and white shots to emerge.

Two Berliners, came up with the idea of buying and restoring an old analogue photo booths in 2003. The first Photoautomat was stationed at the city’s central Rosenthaler Platz intersection , now there are machines dotted all over Berlin, a great unique souvenir.


10. Climb up to the dome of the Berlin Catherdral  

The Cathedral of Berlin is the largest church in the city, and it serves as a center for the Protestant church of Germany. The Dome walkway is reached by 270 steps (no lift ), and once you’ve made it to the top  your rewarded with a view of Museum Island, the synagogue, Gendarmenmarkt, the Reichstag. Please note unusually there is an entrance fee of 7 euros, but 3 kids go free per adult.

http://www.berlinerdom.de

Ideal for children 7+


  

10 Must have photos of Greece 

This summer I was lucky enough to Discover Greece, check out my top ten must have shots that every photographer should have for the album. 

1. The classic whitewashed street avalible on every island 

  

2. Boats it’s got to be small and greek 

  

3. Classic churches a bell tower and a blue roof are essential  

  

4. The perfect Greek Sunset  is happening everywhere not just in Oia !! 

5.   The Foodie shot a perfect summer salad, as long as it’s Greek.

 

6. The Locals fishermen,  grandmas in black ,  but it’s gotta be candid 

  

7. The Shirley Valentine under 40?  ask your mum  

    
   

8. Sweeping Skylines  head for the hills for the perfect view 

 9. Iconic History  wall  to wall history,  just there for the taking 

  
   

10 Animals  cats, dogs,  donkeys you names they just look cuter in Greece … 

   

   
 

 

Etihad Airways #A380 London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi Economy Cabin Flight Review …. 

Etihad airways A380 flight review

So after months of trying to get on an A380, I finally managed to nail one down for my flight over to Abu Dhabi .

Here’s my In flight review….


A friendly welcome from the etihad crew 

Prior to my flight I’d pored over the seat map, with all the premium seats upstairs and the whole lower deck all economy, there was definitely a touch of  them and us. The  stairway to heaven was firmly  roped off during the flight,  lest one of us commoners should manage to stumble our way upstairs for a peek.


etihad a380

This way to plane heaven ….. 

I hit the jackpot when I managed to bag seat 76k , it’s a window seat in the rear section of the plane, where the seat in front has been removed on both sides so A or K is a winner. The rear section only has 9 rows so it felt far less crowded than the front cabins,  plus you got served food & drink faster so I would definately pick the back section again.

etihad a380 economy cabin

The rear cabin 

seat 76k etihad airways a380 

Magic seat 76k , legroom for days …. 

So once I got settled in my seat , it was time to check out the in seat entertainment ….

inflight tv screen
A massive 11 inch screen with in seat power 

The inflight entertainment has piles of channels than I could hope to get thru in a 7 hour flight , there was plenty of choice from the usual latest blockbusters to a good choice of classic favourites. Plus due to the USB seat power you can keep your own devices fully charged throughout the flight. The noise cancelling headphone are pretty nifty too, complete with a nick proof adapter , I mean where is the trust these days ?. 

etihad airways in flight headphone 

Kleptomaniac proof headphones 

I also found the onboard camera fascinating, and got a bird eye view of one of the best takeoff’s, I’ve had like ever , I found the A380 unbelievably quiet and smooth on both take off and landing . 

Take off A380 style 

Food wise I was kept well fed & watered, I ordered a low calorie meal and it was delivered promptly to my seat at the start of the meal service , consisting of steamed cod and bizarrely mushy peas,  but it was tasty and hit the spot and drinks and snacks were availible on demand unlike some other cost cutting airlines who think you can sit on a flight for 10 hours with only 2 drinks services, no such problems here.

 etihad airways low calorie in flight meal
So in review, my first A380 experience was pretty amazing , it was great to watch the plane in flight on the cameras and service was prompt and efficient what more can you ask ?. As a regular visitor to the Middle East,  would definitely reccommend giving Etihad a try.

 for more info on getting on board check out http://www.etihad.com

Visiting Sheik Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi – The etiquette  guide  

Rihanna got asked to leave mid a sultry photo shoot, whilst Selma Gomez got blasted for flashing an ankle. The Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi  is the biggest mosque in the UAE, and 3rd in the world , it’s a must see for any visitor to Abu Dhabi. Everyone  is welcome to visit, but here’s some essential information to know before your visit.

   

There is a dress code and it is riguarously enforced so it’s good to check it out what’s acceptable before your visit.   

As a woman visiting the mosque you are required to wear an abaya, no abaya no entry, it’s as simple as that, so if you not happy to comply there is really no point turning up. 
  

As soon as you arrive at the mosque,  you’ll  be directed downstairs to the dressing room. You need photo ID ( driving licence is ideal they don’t take passports ) which they will keep, until the abaya is returned. Everything  is drycleaned between lending so there’s no hygiene issues, though I would advise you to bring your own scarf to cover your head. 

 

I highly recommend arriving in time for one of the ‘behind the scenes ‘guided tours , it’s free of charge and you don’t need to pre book, you get to see a lot more of the mosque plus someone is on hand to answer questions and provide explanations. 

  

The tours are held at 10am, 11am and 5pm sunday to Thursday, on Saturdays there is an extra tour at 2pm though due to Friday prayers the mosque is not open to tourists until 4.30pm on Fridays. The meeting point is in the main lobby entrance. 

You enter the mosque via the main courtyard, be careful if your wearing sandals or flip flops, the marble floor is extremely hot and can burn your feet,  I speak after a very painful experience !!. 

 

Once you’ve made your way across the courtyard you will need to remove your shoes before entering , luckily there’s mats down to save the aforementioned burning feet. 

  

Once you get inside, unless your on the tour you just follow the ropped off path round, it takes approx 15-30 mins to check out the inside, heres a sneak peek Enjoy !!! 

   
       
For further  information check the Mosque website http://www.szgmc.gov.ae or Visit Abu Dhabi http://www.visitabudhabi.ae 


My YotelAir Experience #LondonHeathrow

London Heathrow has been like my second home this year, but I must admit, I’d never thought to check out short stay hotel specialists Yotel, located in Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

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Previously dismissing it as, paying to sleep in a coffin sized room, I was pleasantly surprised when the folks at Yotel, invited me to stop by, and check them out. With an early flight, long before the tubes started running, it was the perfect solution, as you book in blocks of time rather than the usual overnight, so if you only need 4 hours that’s all you pay for. Arriving around 10pm and checking out at 5am the next morning here’s my experience;

It helps, if like myself , you had a hotel stay in Hong Kong. The apartment I spent a week in, was twice the price and roughly the same size, so when I opened the door, the size of the room didn’t phase me. And whilst the room isn’t by any means big, there’s more than enough room for 2 adults to move around.

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So what’s in the Room ?

The bed converts from a couch to a bed at the press of a button, when your ready to go to sleep. There’s a row of handy plug sockets and strong free wifi to keep Blogger HQ running, as well as loads of lighting opinions, including sexy purple for couples.

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The bathroom is a normal sized wet room, my only gripe is , when you have a shower, and then want to go to the loo your going to get wet feet, as there’s nothing to contain the water.

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With free hot drinks from reception aka Mission Control, I had a Blake Seven flashback when I was walking to my room , but you’ll have to be over 40 to get that joke .

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Yes there’s no windows, bell boys or plush lobby areas like the Hilton upstairs, but it depends on what you want. If you can put the bill on your expense account, then Yotel is probably not going to be your first choice. But for your average traveller, looking for somewhere to grab 40 winks on a layover, or myself got a crack of dawn flight Yotel is a great option.

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I could definitely spend a weekend in a Yotel , especially as I spotted that at the New York Yotel, some pods even have a deck and hot tub and presumedly windows or that would just be plain weird.

Yotel delivers what it says on the tin, its clean, efficient and comfortable.
I will definitely be giving their New York pad a look when I pass thru town, to give that hot tub party for one a whirl.

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For more information about Yotel and its locations check out http://www.yotel.com

Please note the room was complementary in order for me to write this review , but as usual the opinions are all mine

Ten Things To Do in Derry, Northern Ireland 

As Northern Ireland’s second city , Derry has certainly had a troubled past . But after being named 2013’s City of Culture and named by Lonely Planet’s as one of the top 5 cities to visit, things are certainly very much on the up for Derry.

Derry is a safe , vibrant city, rich in cultural heritage and more importantly compact with the help of the walls is easy enough to cover in an extended weekend break.

1. Walk the Wall
Built in the early 17th century, Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland. The Wall celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2013 and has been listed as one of the ‘World’s 1001 Historic Sites You Must See Before You Die (UNESCO)’. The wall is over a mile in circumference, standing 26 feet high and 30 feet wide in places, it also boasts twenty-four original cannons , including the mighty Roaring Meg and is popular with the locals for an afternoon stroll to take in the great views over the River Foyle.

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2. Have some Proper Irish Stew
An Irish staple, made with mutton, root vegetables, potatoes and lashings of gravy, be sure to make time to have an authentic Irish stew.

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3.Discover Derry’s Story at the Tower Museum
The impressively Tower Museum tells the story of Derry’s history, from its geological formation millions of years ago, right up to the present day, covering everything from the Plantation, through to the Siege of Derry and the city’s troubled political past. The museum also houses the Armada Shipwreck exhibition which deals with the recovery of La Trinidad Valencera which was shipwrecked off the coast of Donegal. Well worth an afternoon visit.

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4. Get the guided tour with Martin
What local man, Martin Mc Crossan and his team don’t know about Derry, just isn’t worth knowing . With 4 walking tours a day at 10am, 12 midday, 2pm and 4pm , there’s no need to book just turn up. Its a great way to get your bearing and an overview of the cities history. http://www.derrycitytours.com/

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5.The People’s Gallery of Murals
The world famous open air People’s Gallery consists of twelve large scale murals by 3 brothers known as the Bogside artists. The People’s Gallery, is located in the Bogside neighbourhood of Derry and depicts the events surrounding sectarian violence and civil rights protests in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Well worth a look.

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6.Walk the Peace Bridge
The Peace Bridge is a cycle and footbridge bridge across the River Foyle in Derry. It opened on 25 June 2011, connecting Ebrington Square with the rest of the city centre. It was built to help to improve relations between the largely unionist ‘Waterside’ with the largely nationalist ‘Cityside’, by improving access between the two areas.

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7.Visit the Bogside
Whilst Derry is now moving forward into the future, and trying to leave its previous troubles in the past. Its impossible to ignore what happened here, over 40 years ago on Bloody Sunday. There’s a Bloody Sunday Memorial garden, as well as the iconic, You are entering a Free Derry wall.

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8. Visit St Columb’s Cathedral
St. Columb’s Cathedral was built in 1633 by William Parrot for the Honourable The Irish Society, The Cathedral has many fine stained glass windows, regimental flags, memorials and a large collection of historical items. And is the city’s most historic building

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9.Check out the Peace Flame
Situated at the side of the Guildhall in the center of Derry, you’ll find this small park, In May 2013 a perpetual Peace Flame Monument was unveiled by Martin Luther King III and is one of only 15 such flames across the world. Great place to stop and take a breather on one of the benches.

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10. Get out of Town
After taking in sights of Derry, its time to get out of town and on to the Causeway Coastal Route. Rated as one of the Top Five Road Trips worldwide. The route runs between Belfast and Derry and follows the coast road through the nine Glens of Antrim, winding between various picturesque villages, deserted sandy beaches and unforgettable scenic locations. The route highlight is the unesco world heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway on the North Antrim coast which is approximately an hours drive from Derry. If you fancy taking in sights at a leisurely pace check out Causeway Campers, they have cute converted original VW camper vans, perfect for a few days on the road. http://causewaycampers.com/

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What I love about London , and you should too…

Its official London, has been voted the worlds favourite tourist destination. With 18.7 million visitors expected this year, a whooping 8% rise from last year.
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As a Londoner born and bred, sure its a bit manic sometimes, and yes the weather is lousy and its getting more and more expensive to live here, but there’s is no place else I’d rather call home.

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So here are my top loves about London, and if your one of the 18.7 million making it to our fair city this year, be sure to check them out for yourselves.

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There’s always something going on London is definitely a place you can never get bored, there is always something happening everyday of the week. An opening here, a pop up there and festivals galore. Check out ONINLONDON (www.oninonline.com) a great site for letting you know what’s on in and around London, also includes local events if you want to experience real London.

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Museums
It always catches me out when I travel abroad,and I’m asked to pay to go into a museum. In London, we like to share the love with free entry for all. Here’s my personal faves.
British Museum
fascinating collection of over eight million objects. Themes include Leaders & Rulers, Animals, and Money.

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Museum of London
One of the world’s largest urban history museums. Exhibitions include the story of modern London from 1666 to today.

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Science Museum
science, medicine, technology and industry. Suitable for young and old alike.

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Natural History Museum
Life and earth science specimens in five collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Paleontology and Zoology.

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Parks
Londoners love a park , Green , Regents or Hyde even Hampstead are all great spaces, find a deckchair and do a spot of people watching.

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Markets
There’s nothing better on a weekend than, getting up and having a wander round the local market. My personal favs are Columbia road Flower Market in Hackney on a Sunday morning from 8am and Borough Market in London Bridge open every day but Sunday is a Foodies paradise, and the smell around the market hall is sublime.

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The Southbank
The place to hang out on a weekend , there’s always some festival, or event happening, or you can just hang out with a coffee. I also like popping into Festival Hall to check out the free exhibitions.

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Brick Lane
If you want a decent curry in London, its got to be brick lane, in the heart of Banglatown. Though be sure to do your research as there’s loads of restaurants to choose from, a rule of thumb is if its filled with Bangladeshi’s your usually good to go.

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Theatre
London is bursting at the seams with theatres, from long running thrillers to a feel good musical. In order to save the pennies, I usually head to the TKTS booth in Leicester Sq to check out what’s going cheap.

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So these are some of my London Loves , leave a comment and let me know yours !!!

Sightseeing in London by Air , Land & Sea … 

So you arrive in London ready to see the sights, but you don’t fancy the usual hop on hop off , bland guided tours on offer. Not only are they pretty expensive for a family, but theres no chances of mingling with us lovely Londoners.

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If you really want to see the real London , firstly it helps if you’ve ready my Top London Essentials post, just case read you haven’t, read it Here https://eatsleepshoottravelblog.com/2014/07/28/top-london-tourist-essentials-hometown-tourist-project/
Armed with your Oyster card & AtoZ London is your oyster, hence the name I presume. London here we come ..

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Air

Its possible to see London from the air from as little as £4.00, so avoid the daily scrum and huge queues at the London Eye and head to Monument Tower. Located round the corner from Monument tube station the 202 ft tower was building in commemoration of the great fire of London by Sir Christopher Wren. There’s over 300 steps to the top via 1 winding staircase so leave the buggy’s at home for this one but when you reach the top you get an excellent via of the Shard and all along the River Thames down to Tower Bridge. Open daily 9am to 5pm, go at the start or end of the day to avoid the dreaded tour groups.

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If you have cash to splash, check out
The London Helicopter
http://www.thelondonhelicopter.com/
From £199pp for a 20 minute whizz over the rooftops of London, its great for that special occasion.

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Land

The best way to see London is either on foot ( that’s where the AtoZ is worth its weight in gold ) or from the top deck of a Red London Bus.

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Whenever I travel,the first thing I do when I get to a new town, is check out the free walking tours. Now of course they’re not really free , you’d have to be a real scumbag not to leave a tip , though I did once in paris it was just so boring, I had to ditch the walk in the first 20 minutes. The great thing about the free tours, it hasn’t cost you a bean. If you are lucky to get a great guide and enjoy your tour paying £10/15 per head as a average tip,
here’s a few to get you started:

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http://freelondonwalkingtours.com/

http://www.freetoursoflondon.com/

http://www.newlondon-tours.com/daily-tours/royal-london-free-tour.html

http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/london-walking-tours/

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If you don’t fancy all the walk be sure to jump on the heritage route number 15 bus taking you from Trafalgar Square down to Tower Hill . Its pretty special as it’s the only route that still uses the original Routemaster buses, and you can you use your Oyster card as its the normal fare.

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Sea (well river really but sea sounded better )

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One of the best ways to see London and get your bearings is from the river, The Thames Clipper is mainly a commuter service stretching from Waterloo down to Woolwich Arsenal
but as a tourist the best stops are:
Greenwich for the National Maritime Museum
Tower Pier for London Bridge & the Tower of London
London Bridge for the Shard & Borough Market and best of all you can use your oyster. The Thames Clipper thankfully has clean loos & you can even get a cheeky drink to sip out on the deck and pretend you on your own yacht , with 100 of your new friends. Fares from £6.12 single with your oyster or the best value for sightseeing is the River Roamer an all day ticket valid every day from 9am adult single from £16.50 Family Roamer (2 adults / 3 children) £36.00 total bargain !!

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Where to find London’s best Street Art

To find Londons best street art,  you need to head to Shoreditch in east London. The best way to get there is to take the London overground line ( orange line )  to Shoreditch High Street.

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when exiting the station turn left onto Sclater street and head for Brick Lane where you’ll find the majority of the street art on and Brick Lane itself  and off hidden away on the side roads.

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If your heading out for the first time I would highly recommend you join a tour, so you can note the routes and where’s the best places to spot new pieces and then you can come back again & again. I recommend http://www.streetartlondon.co.uk for the authentic street art experience , led by guides who really know their stuff and are passionate about the art.

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unfortunately the street art around Brick Lane can be here today, gone in the next hour , the turnover is sometimes that quick on some popular walls that  pieces don’t last the night. Here’s a selection of a few of my latest favourite pieces of street art

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IMG_4380-0.JPG If your really lucky you might even stumble upon a street artist mid flow, the best time to see artists at work is usually early mornings on weekends, when the street are deserted and they can work in peace. Street art is still considered vandalism in the UK, unless the artist has the wall owners permission.

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IMG_4419.JPG Street art spotting is hard work so if you get peckish, sure to pop into the world famous Beigel Bake the oldest bagel shop in London, that’s open 24-hour a day and produces 7,000 bagels every day, Its menu is focused on bagels baked in the traditional Jewish style with fillings such as hot salt beef with mustard, chopped herring, and cream cheese. Be warned queues can get long during the day, but the salt beef and mustard beigel is worth the wait.

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Happy Hunting !!

First timers guide to visiting Petra, Jordan.

Petra a unesco world wonder is undoubtedly Jordan’s most valuable treasure, and greatest tourist attraction. Petra is visited by tourists from all over the world, and a independent visit is easier to plan than you think, keep reading for practical tips for your first visit to Petra.

Getting to Petra 

Start by flying into Jordans capital Amman, and then depending on your arrival time you’ll need to spend the night in Amman before catching the Jett Bus  down to Petra at the crack of dawn the next morning.

 

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The Jett bus,  leaves the bus station in central Amman at 6.30am every morning ( returns daily at 5pm from Petra ) for 11 Jordanian dinar ( JD ) pp each way (approx £11/ $15 ) . The journey takes approx 3 hours arriving at approx 9.30am , with a short bathroom break halfway. The bus pulls in right by the Petra visitor centre, and seats can be booked online on the Jett website in advance , or in their office in Amman.

http://www.jett.com.jo

 

Entry into Petra

 

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Entry into the site of Petra is only permitted to visitors holding valid tickets. These are available at the Visitor Center and can be purchased on arrival. Prices differ for foreigners and locals and a range of ticket types are available depending on the length of stay and number of visits to be made into Petra.

A 3 day pass for 60 JD is the best value for money due to the sheer size of the place. if your  just visiting for the a day it’s a steep 90 JD entry especially as its impossible to see everything in a day. ** Please note you will need to show your passport as id so don’t forget to take it with you. **

For more info check out the Petra visitor Centre website http://www.visitpetra.jo

 

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Petra’s main trail

 

Petra is not the place for the faint hearted, there is a lot of walking and step climbing to reach some of the attractions , the main trail is 5 miles long from the main gate and the attractions are all accessible off the main trail.

Licensed guides are available to hire at the visitors centre from 50- 100 JD on top of the price of your ticket (for the group not pp) as I was travelling alone,  I couldn’t justify the expense, so I purchased a Petra easy guide via I tunes, which gave a short audio on each of the sights, a helpful map and it worked just fine for me.

 

 

The best time to visit Petra is as soon as the gates open at 6am. You’ll pretty much have the place to yourself, not even the Bedouin can be bothered to get up that early, to harass the unsuspecting tourist. It’s claimed that the ticket price includes a horse ride down to the Siq, what they don’t mention, is the horse owner will expect a hefty tip when its time for you to get off, so you have been warned.

 

From the visitors centre it’s a 15 minute downhill stroll to the Siq,  then approx 20 mins to walk through the Siq to the Treasury . This is the main hang out for horses & donkeys owners plying for trade, once you get past the hustle and bustle of the Treasury area there are clear signs pointing out the main trails.

Due to well documented animal abuse that goes on at Petra,  I do not recommend hiring any animals whilst in Petra.

 

 

Most sites are up steps from the main trail but there are 2 sites which require a bit of extra planning . The Place of High Sacrifice is an 45 min upward climb, challenging but doable at a steady pace.  The main and biggest climb,  is to The Monastery the big brother of the Treasury, noticeably harder than  the Place of High Sacrifice, at around 90 minutes of a continuous upwards climb from the bottom of the steps , so lots of  water and sensible walking boots with a good grip are essential.

 

As the start of the trail to the Monastary is the furthest away from the main gate (at least an hour ) , I suggest going straight to it when the gates open. Then you’ll get the place to yourself when you reach the top. There’s even a cafe  where you can grab a mint tea, and take it all in, but be warned I didn’t see a toilet, so maybe best to stick to just the one tea.

 

 

The Bedouins do offer donkey rides to the top, which I wouldn’t recommend due to the sheer drops and narrow ledges of the path and the questionable health of the donkeys.

 

 

Along the trails , you will be invited by the bedouin to stop to drink tea, which out of sheer exhaustion I stopped for a while to catch my breath. To their credit they were hospitable and the tea was delicious , I made sure to leave a dinar or two  for their troubles before continuing on.

 

Petra by Night Tour

If you are overnighting in Petra, it’s also worth doing the Petra by night tour, This is a magical way to see Petra by candlelight, the experience starts by walking the entire Siq to the Treasury, lit with over 1,500 candles. Petra by Night runs every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday starting at 20:30 from Petra Visitor Centre and delivers you back to the Visitor Centre around 22.30pm. The entrance fee for Petra by Night is 17 JD, children under 10 years are admitted free of charge.

 

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Where to stay

With regards to accommodation, I stayed at the excellent  Petra Moon Hotel, a solid 3 star hotel approx  5 minute walk from Petra’s main gates, and right next to where the bus from Amman pulls in . With free wifi , comfortable western standard rooms and a roof top pool, I highly recommend it rather than the pricier Movenpick next door. After a day at Petra, you won’t have the energy to do anything more strenuous than order room service for dinner  anyway.  http://www.petramoonhotel.com



 

For more information on Petra and Jordan check out the tourist board website http://www.visitjordan.com