One of my favourite things whilst travelling is learning about the different cultures of countries and cities that I will be spending a few days in.

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The cake counter at Vete Katten – yum!

For most of us a coffee break means to chuck down a takeaway Starbucks whilst catching up on emails and life admin. The Swedish however, are the complete opposite.

Much like London with it’s pub culture and the Spanish with their siestas, Sweden (and a few other Scandi countries) are huge on aconcept called fika. 

Although Fika is translated into a coffee break, usually with pastries / pie / cookies, it is better described as a way of taking a break from a busy day from work or just life, and taking that time to appreciate the smaller things in life and relax with a hot drink, a sweet treat and good company.

Here are a few pictures that I captured on my recent trip to Stockholm, enjoying fika.

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We visisted two gorgeous coffee shops; one of them was in central Stockholm called Vete Katten and that was a more posher place, the decor was stunning and very glass and white walls giving it a fresh clean look. The staff were very friendly, and there was no rushed feeling, you were just made to feel like you could stay there as long as you wanted.

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The second place we visited was a little coffee shop in Sigtuna which is a smaller town near Stockholm (incidentally it was the first ever town of Sweden #funfact). Sigtuna is literally one of my favourite places ever, it has huge houses and little streets to stumble across and it does look a little like they’ve stopped time in 1960’s but that literally just adds to the charm. If you are ever in Stockholm, you should definitely spend a day in Sigtuna because it’s gorgeous.

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The coffee shop in Sigtuna is called Tant Brun and it is so old and charming, it has low ceilings and wooden tables and mismatched chairs. It is actually the oldest cafe in Sigtuna and one of the oldest in the whole of Sweden. There is outdoor seating but it was raining when we visited so we sat inside, the candles were burning  and it was just the cosiest time. If you ever go, you need to have the raspberry pie because it is just the best pie I’ve ever had in my life, no exaggeration! Also the staff wear these adorable little outfits that make them look like they’ve stepped out of an old world, and it’s so good because they make such a lot of effort to retain the charm and feel of the old town.

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Raspberry pie with a latte – like heaven on a plate

Hope you enjoyed this post! Have you ever been to Sweden or tried fika? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram then you’ll know that I recently travelled to Rome. I honestly had the best time and I managed to fit a helluva lot in 3 days! Check out my travel diary for more pictures and what I got up to, but I wanted to write up this post because there are a few things I wished I’d known before travelling there.

P.S. Sorry in advance if some of them sound quite obvious!

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1. Do be wary of traffic. There is a sh*tload of traffic, like any other city in Europe, but it’s just something to be wary of because the Italians don’t really care much for traffic lights! We always just waited for the locals to cross the roads, and sort of ran across the road with them!

18789719_10155087903126357_1377867196_o2. Don’t buy water. Rome has water fountains all over the city and the water is so cold and actually really tasty, so don’t waste your money on water bottles! I did plenty of research and there is nothing wrong with the water so you won’t die – don’t worry! Also the big fountains are called ‘nasinis’ which translates to ‘big noses’ – how cute!

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3. Do travel on foot. Before heading to Rome, we did research on whether it was best to do a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, but we decided to walk around the city and let me just confirm that Rome is definitely a city best seen on foot. We walked around 25,000 steps everyday that we were there and it was just amazing stumbling across little roads that were so typically Italian, or discovering cute coffee shops or gelaterias. I wore my Converse but I would definitely recommend you pack your comfiest shoes/trainers/sandals!

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4. Don’t forget your ID. I know many people leave their passports in their hotel rooms for safety reasons, but I took my driving licence with me because you can get discounts off certain places if you can prove that you’re under 25 and living in the EU. Whilst we’re still in the EU, we might as well use the benefits! I know you can definitely use discounts for the Colosseum, and some museums as well, so try not to forget it!

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5. Do be respectful. If you do research before visiting Rome, which you probably will, you’ll know that you will have to take a cardigan or scarf with you when you visit certain places, such as the Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica, but there are also other churches that have beautiful interiors, and you’d feel pretty annoyed with yourself if you were refused entry. The general rule is ‘no knees, no shoulders, no midriff’ so just bear it in mind. The rule also applies to men, just in case you thought Italy was being sexist!

The other major rule is the no photography rule at the Sistine Chapel. You are warned plenty of times not to take pictures there and to be honest, the interior is so mesmerising that I didn’t even think of reaching for my camera!

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6. Don’t be attracted to restaurants near the big attractions. I know that when you get hungry you will most likely look for the nearest place and that’s totally understandable, but you will end up paying more. We always carried around granola bars and fruit so that we could snack if we got hungry whilst we were queuing or around the touristy areas, and then waited for lunch/dinner until we got further away from those areas.

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7. Do learn basic Italian. I do try and do this everywhere I visit, I find that it’s such a great thing to do because it makes life easier if you are able to order coffee and ask for directions. It’s also quite respectful and brings you closer to the culture. I found that it helped me so much, especially when solo travelling.

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Have you travelled to Rome before? Would you agree with my do’s & don’ts?

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Writing this post whilst it’s currently storming and raining in London is making me super sad that I’m not in Rome anymore, because let me tell you, I fell in love with this beautiful city. I was so excited to share all my photos (a disgusting 225 in 3 days), so I thought I’d do a photo diary and show you guys what I did in the 3 days that I was there, and then a do’s and dont’s post, sharing what I learnt, which you can read soon.

Enjoy!

|| Hotel ||

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\\ Hotel Twenty One //

We landed pretty late on the Saturday so we went straight to the hotel, to wake up bright and early for the next day. Our hotel was located on the Via Cola di Rienzo, and it was in a great location for us. It was walking distance for everything, but the Vatican was especially close, around a 10 minute walk. Every major tourist attraction was around 20 – 40 minutes away, so the location was perfect. The room was exactly what you need for a city break – clean and decent-sized. The staff were also really helpful, something that is very beneficial when you want locals’ knowledge.

|| Day One: ||

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Since the Vatican is closed on Sundays, we decided to visit the next thing on our to-do list for Rome: the Colosseum. On the way there, we walked past some beautiful buildings that I had to Google the names of (FYI, Rome is full of beautiful buildings and architecture that you could just stare at for days!), which was the Museo Sacrario delle Bandiere and walked up steps to another beautiful church, which after Googling was the Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli.

 When we finally reached the Colosseum, we decided to stand in the longer queue because we didn’t really trust the guided tours and they were fairly expensive for what we wanted. The queue that we stood in took around 1 hour, so if you have a lot more that you want to do during the day then I would suggest paying extra to join the other queue.

I did enjoy the Colosseum, it was a very culturally rich experience, but I am glad that I didn’t pay extra for the guided tour because everything is fairly self-explanatory. The Colosseum only took around 40 minutes for us to look around and take our pictures, so we decided to leave and check out the Forum which I loved. Unfortunately, my camera decided to play up so none of my photos from there were anywhere to be found on my memory card *boo-hiss*.

After lunch (a gorgeous diavalo pizza), we had a lot of time until the evening so we decided to go and visit the Trevi Fountain. Now, if you have seen the Lizzie McGuire movie (lets be honest, who hasn’t?), you’ll know that the Trevi is where Lizzie first claps eyes on the infamous Paolo, so it was a must to visit. I can confirm that it really is as lovely as everyone says, it was just super crowded, but according to locals it always is! I threw my coin, and made my wish, but alas no Paolo was staring at me afterwards so I guess it wasn’t meant to be!

|| Day Two: ||

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The Vatican. The first thing that was on our list and possibly the most popular tourist attraction in the whole of Rome. For this, I would definitely recommend getting a guide, because standing for around 2 hours in a queue that stretches as far as the eye can see, in the blistering heat, does not look fun. We paid around €55 and that included an English tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica Church. We also climbed to St Peter’s Dome, which cost us an extra €8.

It was breathtaking. If you only do one thing in Rome, I would definitely recommend doing this. You won’t regret it!

After the Vatican, we decided to walk towards the Pantheon, which was another thing on my list. This is free too, and can get quite busy at certain times of the day so be careful because it’s not ideal to queue in the middle of the busy square. It’s beautiful and somewhere that you can gather your thoughts. Be mindful that you should be quiet and respect the fact that you’re in a place of worship. You can also take photos here but I wouldn’t overdo it because of the reasons above.

We had enough time to visit the Spanish Steps as well, which was actually a really lovely place. Once we climbed up, we took a few pictures and sat down and just people-watched, which I have to admit it was one of my favourite pastimes, especially in different cities!

|| Day Three: ||

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Our flight was in the evening so after we checked out of the hotel, we left our luggage and set off exploring. I had been told numerous times about Piazza Navona, so we took the scenic route, and checked out some beautiful buildings on the way, including the Palace of Justice and Castel Sant’Angelo. Apparently you can see a beautiful view of the whole of Rome from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo which is free, so if you don’t want to climb the Dome at St Peter’s then you should definitely check it out.

Once we reached the Piazza, we picked a seat at one of the many cafes and ordered iced coffees and a beautiful croissant stuffed with ice-cream (INSANE). It is such a beautiful location and I can see why people rave about it so much. It’s great to people-watch, and there are loads of street performers so it’s very entertaining. There are also a lot of beggars and people selling toys etc, so also be mindful of that because they can become quite forceful. Pretty soon after that we made our way back to the hotel, filling up our water bottles on the way and enjoying our last few hours of beautiful Roma.

So that was my trip to Rome!

I would 100% return to Rome, it was honestly one of my favourite cities in Europe. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Have you been to Rome? What did you think of it?

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If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that I recently visited Berlin alone. Yep, alone. I haven’t got around to uploading the pictures from Berlin yet because my camera was being a douche, and I hate technology.

Travelling alone is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it and I loved it! Even though I was only there for one night, it was so much fun travelling alone so I thought I’d share everything I learned.

  1. Be prepared. Yes I stole this phrase from the Brownies or the Guides or someone, but it just makes good sense. This could literally mean anything, but for me it was more about weather and things happening around where you’ll be. I knew that Berlin would be really cold so I wore appropriate clothes (not hard considering I live in London).
  2. Be aware + alert. Travelling alone anywhere, especially these days and being alone and being a female is scary. Being aware of your surroundings and making sure that you’re mindful of late night jaunts, keep an eye on your drinks and take care of your valuables.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask. I love asking locals for directions and where their favourite spots for coffee or dinner are, they always have the best advice and often it turns into cute little conversations. Obviously be careful and don’t spill information that the other person doesn’t need to know.
  4. Pack light. The last thing you want to do is have a huge suitcase and have to lug it around to where you’re staying, especially if you’re not staying for very long, and only take the essentials.Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
  5. Bring a good book. The thing that I was most worried about when travelling alone was eating alone. I’ve done it before when I was at Uni but this felt different, more grown-up. Reading a book was what kept me going and when I was at dinner it was a great way of feeling less alone.
  6. Plan ahead. Obviously if you’re staying overnight, have your hotel booked. But you should find out how far the hotel is from the airport, plan how you will get there, find out how much public transport costs, what are the best deals for travelling around the city etc. I always use public transport wherever I travel because usually it’s cheaper than taxis and a lot easier once you have a map 😉
  7. Make a list of must-sees. I always do research before travelling anywhere, TripAdvisor is my best friend! It has the best reviews of hotels, attractions, restaurants – pretty much anything you will need wherever you’re going or doing.
  8. Enjoy it. Even when I felt lonely, I thought about all the reasons I wanted to do this in the first place. Not having to consult anyone when plans changed, being able to pick the place to eat without taking anyone else’s dietary requirements into consideration – basically pure freedom (and being totally selfish).Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

It is amazing. I guarantee that once you’ve done it once, you will want to do it again and again (just like me who is trying to find a cheap deal to Europe right now, with no luck FYI).

Have you ever travelled alone? Did you love it or hate it?

As you will have known from my previous blog post, I recently visited the beautiful San Francisco with my family. I say recently, it was more like a month ago and I still haven’t gotten around to uploading this blog post (shoot me now, worst blogger in the world!!!)


Even though we were only there for less than a week, it was one of the best trips I have ever had and I knew that I had to blog about it.

*N.B: Sorry in advance for some of the pics are a bit blurry – those pics were taken on my phone when my camera died.

Day One:

The flight to San Francisco was super long, and it was made longer by the fact that the time difference meant that I stayed up and watched films, and therefore was super tired by the time we landed which was 11pm UK time and 2pm SF time.. Big mistake!!!

So due to the time difference and the fact that we were super tired, we checked into our hotel, the Orchard Garden Hotel (super cute, located right next to Chinatown and within walking distance to pretty much everything you need!), changed our clothes and freshened up, then we went in search of some dinner.

Day Two:

After grabbing breakfast from a cute cafe across the road, we decided to spend the day exploring. I love being in charge on holiday and I made notes on the map that I was given from the hotel reception and immediately decided to see the famous Fisherman’s Wharf. As we headed out of the hotel, we walked the ten minutes to the closest Cable-Car stop.

We explored the area and as it was a beautiful sunny day, it was really enjoyable. We ate lunch at a place called the Fisherman’s Grotto, but I regret not trying the soup in the bread bowl! Walking down the pathways, you can see beautiful views of the infamous Alcatraz Island and clear blue waters.

After lunch, we continued down towards Pier 39 and watched a few live shows from street dancers. We slowly found our way to the Giardelli’s ice-cream parlour, which was amazing!

 






















Day Three:

If any of you guys have been to San Francisco or read up on it, you’ll know that there are certain things that you just have to do, and visiting Alcatraz Island was number one on my list!

Possibly my favourite day out of all the days of my trip! For anyone who knows me, criminals and prisons have always fascinated me since as long as I can remember. Once we had decided our destination was San Francisco, I had already decided that we had to visit the infamous Alcatraz Island, which if you haven’t heard about, was a prison island in the middle of the ocean, for prisoners who continuously were in trouble at other prisons. There was a famous quote, that if you ‘break the rules and you go to prison. You break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.’

So, we tried to get tickets to Alcatraz Island before we even left for San Francisco, but unfortunately they were all sold out and I was genuinely so upset. I did some research online and found that the ticket office have an extra 50 or so tickets that they reserve for walk-ups. I was so happy after reading that, and so we decided to wake up early and queue up.

We woke up at 5am (on holiday right, who even does that?!), left the hotel at 5.15 and arrived at the Island for 5.30am. It was ridiculous because we were the third group of people in the queue and the man operating the queue told us that we were definitely getting tickets!!! However, the box office didn’t open until 7.30am so I would recommend buying your tickets in advance because the chill of San Francisco, mixed with getting up so super early on holiday, could have been avoided. Although, we did save some money, as tickets were cheaper than they would’ve been online!

The actual island is so cool, there is a main walking tour, which is operated by headphones and is super interesting, as actual prisoners from the island are featured on there and they speak about their time on the island. There was also an ex-prisoner from the island who had written a book about his time on the island which was cool, and there were loads of exhibitions of the attempted escapes. I don’t want to give everything away because it’s a once in a lifetime experience, and if you’re like me, and you love prisons and criminals, you will have the best day ever!

 

Day Four:

The most famous attraction of San Francisco has got to be the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. We took public transport towards the bridge, as we love using public and local transport wherever we go instead of taxi’s, because not only is it a lot more inexpensive, it is also a lot easier and actually feels like you’re integrating more with the locals.

We really wanted to cycle across the bridge but there are certain times that you can do that, so we had to stick to walking. It was a fairly long walk, and it took us about 30 minutes to walk one way, as we were taking photos and posing lol, and then on the way back it took us around 15-20 minutes.

I can’t even tell you the view that we were greeted with; it was surreal.

We also wanted to cycle through Golden Gate Park and check out the view from the Peak, but my Mum wasn’t feeling well so after the Golden Gate Bridge, we ended up going back to the hotel and just chilling out before dinner. It also turned out to be a good thing anyways, because there was too much fog on that part of the city, so our photos from the view from the Peak would’ve been foggy anyways!

 

 

Day Five:

Our last full day in San Francisco made me so sad, but when I was doing my research I found that Mrs Doubtfire was filmed in San Francisco and you can visit the house that the movie was filmed in. So we set out on public transport and then walked for about 15 minutes down the most American-y houses you’ve ever seen.

Seeing Mrs Doubtfire’s house was so amazing, it looked nearly the same as the movie (which we watched as soon as we came home, obvs), and there were stones outside the house with ‘RIP ROBIN WILLIAMS’ written on them *sob*.

After that we had lunch at a diner, and then we went to visit another famous attraction nicknamed ‘Crooked Street’, which is actually located on Lombard Street. It’s super cute but must be ridiculously hard to get out of because there are constantly cars coming down the road!

Aaaaaaand, that’s it! I hope you guys enjoyed this blog post, it was one of my favourite places to visit and I’m sure I’ll go back at some point in the future 🙂

If you have any questions, or you’ve been there before or if you’re going soon and want some recommendations, then leave me a comment below!

As always, thank-you for reading!

 

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