On My {Travel} Wishlist

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I love a good list especially one where you make plans for the future on a clean blank page rather than scrawled out food shopping lists. After my grandma suddenly passed away recently I wanted to try and stay as positive as I can during this awful sad time. She would have wanted us all to be looking forward and not back especially telling us how life is too short to not experience as much as we possibly can. So here are five countries that I am planning to tick off my ever growing travel bucket list in the future. We are going to South America at the end of this year (which I will obviously keep you updated on) but when we get back then these bad boys are where I want to be visiting next. It’s nice to have something to aim for right?!

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Russia – It has always been a dream to go to a country where drinking vodka for breakfast isn’t frowned upon but encouraged. Ok I don’t know how much they actually do crack open a bottle of Smirnoff at 8am but I have imagined wandering the beautiful streets wearing enormous (fake) fur hats, snuggly coats and soaking up the atmosphere as well as the potent booze.

IcelandThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty has a lot of explaining to do with how ruddy beautiful this country looks. From the jaw dropping beauty of the northern lights to pampering yourself in a blue slush puppy type thermal spa to the rural lush landscape it all looks SO GREAT!

Ireland – I am half Irish but apart from a drunken weekend in Dublin a few years ago I have never traced my roots. However, my dad will be celebrating a special birthday next year so we are planning on having a road trip to the emerald isle with my brother and I cannot wait.

Norway – I know I mentioned Iceland but I would also like to explore other Scandinavian Nordic countries such as Norway or Sweden. Seeing glassy fjords, embracing the culture in the capital cities and stuffing myself with fresh salmon. Being European sometimes we can overlook just how many gems lie a few hours flight away.

Philippines – I am usually such a sun worshipper so just reading back on this list surprised even myself that many of the places I wanted to see are not known for their golden sandy beaches and tropical climate. However, Bora Bora beach in the Philippines is just one of those places that makes you think heaven exists on earth. I thought Thailand had it sussed for beautiful shores but looking at pictures of this place it may have a new contender! As well as lazing in paradise I would love to experience the craziness of Manila and adrenalin kick of Lake Sebu where seven gorgeous waterfall lie and you can even zip line over two of them.

Where are you desperate to jet off to?

The Future of Charity Shops?

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When you hear the words ‘charity shop’ what do you instantly imagine? Mothballed naff 80’s clothes, half missing puzzles or games, tea stained cracked spined paperbacks? Or do you think designer goods at a discount, clean and organised space to peruse at your leisure and nabbing brill bargains?

I love a good rummage in other people’s things. I don’t know if I am just a nosy b*itch or just like to sniff out a cheeky bargain. I mentioned in this post  that since returning to England checking out my local charity shops are high on my to-do list. They don’t exist in France and I had to explain to my French boyf that it is perfectly normal to buy things second hand even if things may smell or look a bit unsavoury at first.

I believe that spending at charity shops count as guilt free shopping so I made sure I popped into a few local ones whilst I was here staggering out laden with next to perfect books and clothes. If you are on a backpacker budget like I am, then why not help others and treat yourself by going shopping at your local charity shop?

I remember being younger and my mum (who is also a HUGE bargain hunter, gotta be something in our genes ) literally having to drag me, stubbornly refused to be seen inside for fear of losing the little street cred I had as a geeky teen, into a charity shop. Since getting older and realising that there is nothing uncool about giving to charity or helping others as well as saving cash I am now a loud and proud charity shop shopper no matter what neglected state of affairs lie inside.

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However, last week I went into a Barnados menswear shop which was like stepping into a swish clothes shop. It got me thinking (Carrie Bradshaw style) is this the future of charity shops? Instead of cluttered racks of tatty clothes needing a good wash, broken kids toys and torn raggedy paperbacks we stepped into a clean, organised and well laid out shop. Where everything looked and smelt like new, you could have easily thought you had walked into an actual mens clothes shop.

The very chatty nice guy who worked there explained how Barnados were the first to introduce niche stores such as children’s, menswear and discount home buys. He said that since redesigning the store, ensuring the clothes and gifts were in perfect or near perfect condition they had seen a huge increase in sales, awareness and contributions. Basically win win all round!

Having charity shops on our local high streets have been a permanent fixture for many years but like everything they need to change with the times. To encourage people to go in and either donate or spend money they need to make this an enjoyable experience as any stand alone store would stride to do. Barnados I salute you and hope others follow!

What are your experiences of going charity shop shopping?

British Life: Miss and Not Missed

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Ok not counting friends, family and creature comforts which I miss LOADS since living in France for the past year, there have been a few things that I haven’t missed and others that I nearly missed as much as having a proper brew with my mum or big hug from my dad.

Miss

  • English Pubs – Ah the scent of greasy pub grub, warm atmosphere and brass pint pullers. I forgot just how ‘British’ these places are especially the rural ones with sticky beer mats, covered up stale smoke smell and cheap pub grub. Shame the wine isn’t as cheap or as good as in France!
  • Baths – Ok I know taking a bath isn’t just an English thing but I have just had a shower in my house for the past year so I have been indulging in many scented tres girly bubble baths. Bliss.
  • Fry Ups – I’m talking the FULL works – sausage, bacon, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, egg, hash browns, fried bread but hold the grilled tomato (that is just a space hogger for me). All washed down with a mug of builders brew and buttery toast, I may have drooled on my keyboard just then. I don’t even want to think about my arteries but as I can’t get it over the Channel I may as well make the most of it right?!
  • Charity Shops – Another thing sadly missing on the French high street are second hand shops full of other peoples junk. I could spend hours rummaging through and coming away feeling a sense of guilt free shopping.
  • Takeaways – Chinese, Indian, Thai, pizza, fish and chips… I have had them all in the past week, shameful I know. I don’t even want to think about stepping on the scales when I return but there is just something so comforting about greasy stodge especially shared with others.

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Not Missed

  • Busy Motorways- I haven’t driven for a while now and coming back I felt like the number of cars on the roads had doubled since I last visited. This probably isn’t true but as the motorways are so much emptier and full of payage (tolls) it makes driving a dream in France and not a stressful headache that it is here.
  • Politeness – I mentioned this before here how the French welcome you into their shops and I had got used to saying good day to the friendly shop keeper over there so walking in and not getting any hello felt quite strange.
  • Crap TV – I don’t watch too much French TV as it still takes me a while to keep up with the plot of a TV show especially if the actors all talk too fast. But I had forgotton just how much crap fills the channels in England. From chavs on Jeremy Kyle to endless episodes of Come Dine With Me plus brainnumbing afternoon TV quiz shows it all hurts my head. Don’t get me wrong we can produce some cracking telly but it seems the majority is repeats or people slagging others off!
  • Feeling Out Of Touch – I don’t know if I have been out of the country too long or just showing my age here but when my sister gave me a copy of Heat magazine I hardly knew anyone in it! From reality TV stars to hot new American actors I just drew a blank. This went for songs on the radio, soap characters and storylines I feel like some ancient alien.
  • Weather – Let me just clarify it is August? Right? So I’m guessing the weather in Northern France won’t be much more tropical than here but I haven’t missed having to put the central heating on and taking a brolly out just in case when we are still in the summer months.
  • Football – I was used to being a football widow but I had forgotton just how prominent this sport is in Britain especially now the season has restarted. I used to have a not too bad knowledge of football but now I have no clue of which team is doing well, who plays for who or who all these youngster are. Ok now I am showing my age!

Have you ever lived abroad and felt a little out of touch on your return?

Why I Have Been AWOL

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My aim for this blog was always to keep it as light-hearted and chatty as I can even when I had to make some tough decisions; no one likes a moaner after all! But the past week or so has been extremely difficult and I wanted to let you know why I haven’t been filling your inbox’s (if you have subscribed – shameless plug) or tweeting away at my normal pace (follow me here?).

This summer was set to be filled with spoiling my little sister who came over to visit me, spending a fun filled week in the south of France with family on our holibobs and then writing, planning and preparing for our trip to South America. But sadly life had a different view of how we would be spending this summer.

My grandma was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of terminal cancer which took her from us last Monday. From the original diagnosis to her passing away was just a matter of weeks which I am still trying to get my head around. This wonderful woman who taught me to play solitaire when I bunked off school ill, who was the bargain hunt queen at car boot sales, who was always on the go with a million different projects, whose love for her husband of nearly 60 years was easily evident, who wanted to enjoy life and even after my amazing granddad passed away last Summer she had the strength to come to Paris for my cousin’s wedding and even rode the back of his brothers motorbike! She was a strong, hardworking, wonderful woman and role model, I’m sure I can trace some of my feistyness back to her!

Thankfully I got to see her, hold her hand and say goodbye before she passed away so I have been staying in England to support the rest of my family as they are fantastically doing the same for me. Tetley teabags must be having a spike in sales. Her funeral is next week and I hope we all do her proud, not just on the day but also in the future.

I feel numb and my brain feels so foggy even just writing this short post has taken me ruddy ages. Not great for an aspiring writer. I just haven’t had the energy or creativeness to start writing blog posts, tweets, statuses or anything else. My headspace is full of fuzz and concentrating on the smallest thing takes mammoth effort. I’m sure this is normal after losing a loved one and hopefully won’t last too long as I know my grandma wouldn’t want us to be wallowing, dazed and confused for ever.

I also wanted to kindly ask to bear with me as I have some cracking ideas for this blog and would love it if you joined me on this journey. Sorry for being a sad Sally but I promise I will be back to cheerful happy Katy soon.

Nifty Travel Hacks

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Whether you are backpacking through Thailand, spending a romantic weekend in Tuscany or going wild on a girly hol in Turkey these nifty (I had forgotten how much I loved that word) travel hacks will help you make the most of your trip. From the bizarre to the palm-face-slapping ‘why didn’t I think of that earlier’ these tips will save you time and effort or at least make you look at straws in a different way…..

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  • When flying in a pair book an aisle seat and a window seat as it’s unlikely that anyone will book a seat in the middle meaning you get to hog the whole row! If a solo traveller does pick the middle seat I’m sure they would be happy to swap places rather than sit in between two gossiping pals or star crossed lovers.
  • Stop an explosion of lotions and potions in your case by unscrewing the bottle tops of your toiletries, especially ones prone to leaking such as sun cream, and insert a small strip of cling fling then replace the lid tightly. Looks a bit odd but works a treat as long as you have reapplied the lid tight enough!
  • How frustrating is it when you find your fave necklaces have been playing twister with the rest of your jewellery, leaving one big knotted cryptic puzzle of a mess to untangle? Well no longer fear massaging knots out of chains when you can simply thread them through a straw to keep them perfect.
  • Still on the jewellery area why not pick up cheap pill holders (£1 shops usually stock them) which are fab for storing earrings, rings or chains in each compartment. Keeping your bling in brilliant order.
  • You thought contact lenses holders were just for your lenses, oh no my friend! Instead the small caps are perfect to squirt enough foundation/eye cream into for a short trip meaning your expensive glass bottle won’t run the risk of shattering all over your clothes. Just don’t forget and place your actual lenses in the beige goo overnight.
  • We all know that rolling clothes up is a real safe saver but you could go one further and bag your rolled up clothes into compartments or even looks to save you time rummaging through your case.
  • I’m still not sure why some hotels still give out free showers caps. Do people wear these at home…ever? But it’s a good idea to nab them so you can protect or cover the soles of your shoes when repacking your bag, great if you have mud splattered trekking boots.
  • Hair grips, bobby pins, kirby grips – whatever you call them they are like some mystical force in my life. I either have loads lying around the place or am scrambling at the bottom of my bag for a dusty-stuck-to-a-sweet-wrapper one to clip my hair back. But to save time, and space in your bag, how about using an empty tic tac box to keep them together. Handy!
  • Watching your pennies and don’t want to spend loads on drinks at the airport? Well nearly every airport should provide free drinking water so to take an empty bottle in your bag and fill up when you have passed security.
  • No space in your bag for your speakers? Fear not my friend just use the music on your smartphone and find a mug or pint glass (empty of course) and pop it in. Magical DIY speakers! I was left awestruck when my friend Rach showed me this technique in Nepal – genius.
  • Always have a pen in your hand luggage. For passing time writing your travel journal, jotting down ideas or just to save time going through customs when pens are either dried up or non-existent – you will be a hero amongst the other passengers if you let them use it too!

Have you got any travel tips that you use to help make your trip a breeze? If so share the love in the comments, tweet me or facebook me!