Krakow, my new love

After my first African adventure ended early this year, I have been spending a lot of time getting to know Europe. My second European trip took me to Krakow, Poland where I had an amazing time. First of all I visited the beautiful city with my mother on a strictly no boys allowed holiday, as we left behind our men we were able to soak up the polish treasure that is Krakow.

This is the first city I have been to where I didn’t see a shred of rubbish on the pavements, it seemed almost clinically clean at first, however it is warm and welcoming. With a smile at every corner, people invite you into their premises for traditional food without bombarding you with information. All drivers stop to let you cross, and even the trams stop! The buildings are colourful and bright welcoming facades urge you to enter their doors and discover more.

There is so much that can be said of this beautiful city and so much we will explore together. Its location and history are complicated and devastatingly sad, but in no person do you see a hint of anger. Most of our tour guides spoke of the history with, yes, a hint of sadness but there is no bitterness and no thirst for revenge or a desire to right their wrongs. It is taken as a recent and awful history that needs to be remembered and respected so as to not be repeated. This beautiful population takes it as an unfortunate past but don’t look at anyone with any malice. Stunning and inspiring, they have really changed my perspective and I respected the polish before, but now, after visiting places like Schindler’s factory and Auschwitz, they hold a special place in my heart where they have tugged its strings and filled me with humility and a great appreciation for life.

Krakow, my new love, before we break down my trip into segments and places, I have to devout some time into simply admiring your beauty and how much you moved me. More so than Berlin, Krakow sang to me a song of sorrow and regret, but also of survival and peace. I cannot tell you guys how much I hope you take some time to visit this diamond city, and discover its treasures and secrets. One of my top contenders and current favourites, it will take a really special city to knock the admiration I hold towards Krakow.

So before we get into the trip here are some photos to wet your palate, the posts on Krakow start now!

Happy reading, writing and travelling.

Visiting London as a seasoned Londoner

I lived in London for 3 years and spent a lot of time wandering around trying to discover every corner of a city that spreads so widely and has such an eclectic society it seems like an entire world of its own. It is a lot bigger than it seems, and so much smaller at the same time. The things that intimidate new comers most about London, become the best aspects, the things that make one huge city feel small and homely.

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In my last days as a London resident it lost much of its allure for me, in that it was somewhere that I knew so well and recognised so easily that like a work commuter, I began walking it idly not paying attention to the wonderful things it offers. It felt sometimes as if the icing in the cake had melted, the cherry on top had been devoured by grey concrete buildings, a working mind that does not stop to look and everyone’s rush and hurry to get from one place to the next in a never stopping city that refuses to shut its eyes and sit still and tranquil for a day. London had simply become my tarmac playground in which I was bored of playing in. So I moved on. With a heavy heart and sight accustomed to the darkness of London I left.

Leaving London was in many ways a blessing and a curse. The land of opportunity was now not as accessible for me which created a lot of difficulties to involve myself in things that I love like arts and culture, live music, theatre. I was unable to constantly wear my spectator shoes and witness worldwide spectacles take place at my doorstep. Leaving London made me, only for a while but long enough to sadden me, dull, still and quiet. I do not thrive in quiet surroundings, I find them uninspiring and disconnected from influences that can only strengthen your art. However, not all is negative.

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I had lost a lot of perspective in London, a city that revolves and evolves entirely around its own axis and takes with it everything and everyone inside, it is very easy to live for yourself and only for your egocentric needs and desires in a city as such. Where things move so fast and everything blends in, we all thrive to make sure we move just as fast but without getting lost or forgotten in the crowds. We all want to be so different that we end up looking exactly the same. This sad reality of a city in which all dreams and aspirations all seem limitless was making me feel like I was limited. I feel leaving London came at the right time for me, as now surrounded by completely different things, my creative sphere has expanded and I have engulfed so many new things. I was in a very confusing place, where London wasn’t where I wanted to be but going home was not appealing to me either. Now I am grateful for both and for the proximity I have to the fast moving capital and the quiet, growing county of Hertfordshire, and even more extremely so the completely stagnant Suffolk, where my thoughts are able to gather and slowly unscramble themselves as the stillness soothes my mind.

Now, as someone who is constantly moving from one busy setting to a calmer one in a 20 minute train journey, I feel that I have been re-born creatively. I feel that although I wanted to leave I quickly missed it because I was not sure how an unmoving town would inspire me, but in so many ways this has been the biggest influence. Knowing and living in the stark difference between three areas constantly, I now visit London with eyes of a knowing tourist. A seasoned Londoner discovering things and opening my eyes to movement that I would shy away from because I was stuck in a cycle of commute, forgetting to observe the small snippets of colour that the grey city has to offer. I travel from silence to movement to a buzz of life with such desire to take it all in. I adapt myself to each of these settings, and I feel that now I own London more than I did when I was living there. The beauty of having experienced living in the capital, is that now, now that I am not always there, I truly delve fully into the days that I have there, getting myself lost to find something new. Visiting London knowing that I will never get truly lost but always find a bit of myself is the most inspiring thing of all.

I leave you now with some photos over the years of my time as a humble resident of the capital.

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The Souvenir Dilemma

The great wonderful and expanding community of world travellers, globe trotters and wanderlusters has the same dream… to travel with everything they need, in a light manner, which will allow them to then return with souvenirs. Or rather, to have one of those AWESOME bags Hermoine Granger has in films 7 and 8 – the Deathly Hallows – in which you can even carry a car and it is actually a purse. RESULT!

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Caricatures from Paris

I love having something to remember my travels by aside from photos and memories. Tokens, almost, of the time I had abroad that remind me of some experience or story of that specific location. More so than that, as a very giving person, I love treating my loved ones to small things from these locations, to show them that I carried them with me everywhere. This could not be true-er as this amount of souvenirs adds up and soon I will have actually carried them with me… EVERYWHERE.

This is a true dilemma!

I have now gotten into the habit of collecting wall art, be it paintings, wall hangings, masks etc, things that go on walls make me very happy because they keep my very few surfaces clear and make my room feel less cold – completely psychological but it works. This can sometimes pose a huge problem in terms of transportation because no one wants ruin an oil painting in a suitcase of unfolded dirty clothes, half empty toiletries and electronics. However, the smaller pieces I have purchased have been very easy to pack and take home. It is a balance, and I think Paris shall be my last enormous painting as I had real trouble with that one.

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Oil painting of Paris

My mother, for example, loves her fridge magnets! The fridge is replete of magnets from all over the globe which are small reminders of places where we have been. However, for her that is not enough. Let me explain, the fridge magnet is obligatory, a tradition almost, we always get one and if myself or my siblings visit somewhere, we need to bring one back for her. Still, my mother thirsts for a bit more. Handicrafts, traditional hand made artisan and typical/traditional ornaments of all shapes and sizes. We went to Turkey in 2014 and my mother returned with a chandelier! A beautiful chandelier, but she purchased an extra suit case to transport this sodding chandelier. We went to Cebu in the Philippines this year, and all I got were some masks for James which were very small, probably the length from the wrist to the tip of your fingers – female average adult hands – and made of thin wood. That was my added weight to my luggage which was fairly empty. My mother made me carry home – this is no joke at all! – a stone candelabra, which was not big in size but heavy, a bowl made of wood with a tripod leg thing and a wall hanging marracas style thing. It looks like a tribal necklace to me but I am not sure. She then had in her suitcase from Macau, where we had done a stop, 5 jewellery boxes! Which are not small, to distribute to her friends and other bits and bobs from home. A serial souvenir shopper.

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Mom’s wooden Necklace from the Philippines
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Mom’s many fridge magnets
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Mom’s collection of tea pots from around the world and dad’s many international beverages

Some of my favourite souvenirs are really simple things like photos that I have taken, ticket stubs of things, wristbands, that sort of thing that I collate into my memory book/journal. My journals contain tickets to everything I have seen live, concerts, theatre, festivals etc, as well as plane tickets, ticket stubs for places abroad, photos and some writing. These are actually instrumental for me, because I can see how I have developed as a tourist/traveler, grown as a person, see my handwriting developing, how one trip is so different from the other and how my choice of where I visit changes all the time. I can also revisit in a few pages the places I loved the most.

I have friends that collect shot glasses from abroad, key rings, football club scarves, pens, t-shirts… all people have something different, and I have yet to meet someone who goes abroad and does not bring with them any memories, even if it is just a tube/metro ticket stub. One of my favourite bloggers, who I would like to introduce you all to, is the Author, Owner and Creator of GotThePostCard.com who has gone around the world, and continues to do so, bringing back post cards from every where! Even towns within her own country, she collects them all. With the great motto ‘been there, seen that, got the post card’ she has created one of the best blogs to read based on the simplest souvenir! I love it! It costs next to know money and it can be kept in so many ways. I wonder if she displays them on her wall in some kind of collage, or if she has a scrapbook in which she keeps them all. Such a great and inspiring idea, there are so many ways to keep memories and I love that this one has inspired a whole travel blog/website.

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Some of my paintings, photos and alternative art for St Tropez, Barcelona, Lisbon, Paris and Barcelona again

I love collecting eclectic things and having my house decorated with things from all over the world makes me extremely happy. I think it is great to be surrounded by inspiring objects that mark some big changes. I believe that all travel opportunities or cultural experiences can enrich your life and impact the way you see things.

What’s your choice souvenir? Are you a believer in light packing to purchase items? Or buying what you want and working it out later? Let me know!

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Mom’s wooden hand carved bowl from Cebu
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Chandelier from Turkey
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Chandelier from Turkey without being lit
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Cannes watercolours
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Wall hangings from Turkey and China
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My scrapbook

What I Cannes and Cannes not do!

There is nothing, activity wise, that I love more than TRAVELLING!

There is something truly wonderful about wandering, lost but completely aware that you have found some intrinsic part of yourself in the process. Luckily, this is something that I can share with my friends, family and loved one. And even better, I can actually afford to do so, which in itself is a miracle. So let me tell you about my latest, however relaxed, adventure!

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Cannes, Cannes, Cannes!

Where can I start? Walking the streets of Cannes I felt like the movie star I am just destined to become one day. To think I walked the pavements that some of the most influential cinema personalities have stepped was incredible. Not to mention the utter luxury! I might have done Cannes in a budget, but I still felt like a Queen!

The croisette is lined with the most expensive and luxurious brands for those who have some dollar to spend shopping there, guards that look like they are about to die of wearing a suit out in 40 degrees to protect the latest Hermes hand bag, and the most fabulous cars, that you’re scared of even staring at them. Except I have no shame, I stared from behind the safety of my dark sun glasses.

It is heavenly. Thinking about Cannes makes me just want to relax again. Aside from all the luxury, it’s the beauty of the soft warm sand in between your toes, the perfectly heated 26 degree Mediterranean sea, sunshine highlighting your skin’s beauty… It is the holiday of dreams. Especially with my friends! So let me share some of our highlights of the trip, and some of the things, quite frankly, we should have thought about.

Cannes on a budget

It works, in theory. Getting to Cannes itself is inexpensive. We flew with easyjet and in an hour and a half we were in bliss, and for peak time August, with luggage included, it really did not cost much. However, I have to say, you pay for what you get in terms of housing.

Let’s not get into a massive rant about how our accommodation got massively messed up because of a certain company – maybe on another post! *idea lightbulb* – however, we were slightly victim of false advertising. Here are my issues with La Floriana:

  1. We were told we had a two bedroom apartment for four people – it was a STUDIO with a double sofa bed and two blow up singles, and our feet were against the kitchen cupboards and fridge – no joke.
  2. We were told we had the linen included – we got there and had to pay a further 40 euros each.
  3. No mention on the website of lack of air con – I am dead serious! We were four in a bedroom, with no air conditioning or even fans, sleeping with the bedroom window open.
  4. Andre, the swimming pool supervisor.

To make things bright the apartment was actually considerably closer to the beach than we imagined, as it was advertised at 2.7 miles. We had an amazing swimming pool, and to be fair we are very good friends we just sucked it up and ate our dinners in the balcony, while being mosquitoes’ dinners for a week. Dare I say though, for the sake of sacrificing so many basic needs such as pure fresh air and ventilation, I would advise you all to be very mindful if looking for a lower priced accommodation in Cannes. It is a destination holiday, it will be costly, and if you just suck up your pride and dish out another 40 euros per person – which is what we each paid for a TOWEL! – then you will be in far better facilities.

Surviving in Cannes on a budget however, IS SO POSSIBLE! You just need to be patient and search. All the restaurants in the croisette and the sea front are out of bounds for you. We treated ourselves once! Because a cheese and ham sandwich at 20 euros and above is outrageous! So stay in the streets just behind the front buildings of the croisette. You will find some very quirky very cool cafes, and eat very well for very cheaply.

Drink rose wine. Lots of it, because everything else that is good, is ridiculously overpriced.

And walk! Cannes is so tiny, you can walk everywhere.

Now onto what we invested our money on!

Aqualand, Frejus

Do not do it!

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My friends and I are great lovers of water parks. We will go to one every time we go abroad together. It’s a thing, a day of complete madness and fun, and we get home and pass out. Aqualand was tiring, and we did get home and pass out, but only because it took us an hour to find it. Another hour to walk back to the train station, to get on a train for another hour and walk back to the apartment for 45 minutes.

So, granted, not everything bad about it was the location, but it is absolutely the smallest aquapark I have been to in a while. It has far too many people for its capacity, and I don’t think we ever got to repeat rides. I also swear I only found one set of toilets in the whole park. We made the most of it though, as it was Felts’ first time in a water park, and had an absolute blast, but I would not advise you to do it.

There are other water parks around the area, so try one of those. It is a bit too expensive for what it is, but you can have a blast, if you just forget about the pain you went through to get there in the first place.

St Tropez

There isn’t much I can say about St Tropez other than go! St Tropez embodied everything I imagined the French Riviera to be. Stunning, colourful, traditional, classy, warm, romantic and surrounded by grandeur. It was absolutely my most favourite day out.

From Cannes to St Tropez you can get a boat or a train. We took a boat which cost us 48 euros to return. It was brilliant. Plus I do enjoy a good boat ride.

It was the sort of place where I can imagine wearing a long wispy skirt, flowers on my hair, earthy ethereal clothing, light breezy, holding hands with the love of my life and getting lost in the middle of the coble stoned tight alleyways, secret kisses, and midnight swims.

See for yourself.

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The Cannes Cinema Tour

It’s an experience. Not always for good things. Sharon Stone must have spent a lot of time in Cannes, because I cannot imagine why else she would be mentioned so many times! It isn’t the fact that is costs 10 euros, it is the fact that you pay 10 euros to basically be driven around Cannes in an hour – you can walk it in an hour – with elevator classical music playing in a set of headphones, and information that only extends between 1997 and 2004. However, it does give you the chance to bask in this mesmerising view of Cannes. Let me leave you with this photo.

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Maybe not the tour, but how about comparing hand-prints? As everyone knows, Cannes is famous for its Film Festival, and some of the most influential and famous Hollywood stars have walked those same streets I did – though I doubt they went to Aqualand and on the cinema tour, you never know! So this was one of my favourite things that we found, accidentally!

All around the Palais de Festival is a trail of hand prints and autographs you can follow. From the likes of Sylvester Stalone and Cameron Diaz, to legends such as Liza Minelli and Julie Andrews, to absolute class acts like Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep! Hands everywhere! It was amazing. Follow this trail if you ever visit Cannes.

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Fireworks on a Friday night

Second only to the London 2012 Olympics fireworks, Cannes’ pyrotechnics show on a Friday night is absolutely mesmerising. Thousands flock to the beach, and all 3.5 km of its stretch is covered in bodies. People with blankets, picnics and bottles of wine; people who are eating at seaside restaurants. The whole croisette shuts down, no traffic to or from it, so that the masses of people, both habitants and tourists of Cannes can pave the streets with sheer delight at the spectacle that will unfold.

Even at sea people are brimming to see the night sky light up. Yachts lined up about 100/150 metres into see, with their lights one, all across the 3.5km bay, with exclusive seating to watch the whole show unfold. The lights alone of those enormous cruise liners and yachts was enough of a show, but not even their preparation was enough to anticipate the phenomenal performance that was provided by award winning team of English pyrotechnics – isn’t England just awesome!

It was magnificent. It even got a bit emotional for me, with great music accompanying it.

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Cannes was actually magical. If you ignore some minor incidents and tragedies along the way. It was filled with film history and wonder, which only us movie heads can truly appreciate. It was cultural but a melting pot, it was French and yet so inclusive. Its location is perfect, it allowed us to visit one of the most charming places I have set foot on. At night it brimmed with life and passion, lights everywhere, the scent of street food travelling down the streets to mix in with seafood from all the beach restaurants. Even if you are not rich in Cannes, you become a lot wealthier with knowledge and a true desire for life. Cannes was for me the most relaxed and yet the most inspired I have felt in a long time. Possibly the company helped too, as girl friends can always put things into perspective for you; but Cannes itself was enough to revive some things in me that were beginning to get lost. I would go again and encourage you to go too.

Onto my next adventure.

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Disclaimer: All photos used in this article are under Copywright of Diana Lava

Travelling on a time limit!

I believe that everyone, if not most people, would love to spend their entire lives travelling, embedding themselves in culture, tasting new food and listening to live music in the warmest sunniest weather ever. However, we all know this is unrealistic because work… but also because with work commitments come TIME commitments.

I work a 9 to 5 job which I love am getting a lot of experience from, but I do feel the itch and urge to travel ALL THE TIME. My partner recently returned from 2 months abroad, and it has been killing me that I do not have two months to take off to go abroad. I am, however, entitled to 25 days of holiday, excluding bank holidays, and make the most of my holiday time not to sort out my life – that’s what weekends are for! – but to see the World.

I have some top tips for us 9 to 5 workers, on how to travel within your limited time!

Working hard, saving hard

I am THE WORSE at saving money, but even I manage! With birthdays, theatre, arts, festivals, food, people to see, friends and family to spoil, fashion, dog to feed, car to maintain, insurance to pay, rent to pay etc, temptations and reasons to spend money are more than a person can bargain for, but it is important if you are a travel addict to prioritise. Purchasing cheaper but meaningful presents, watching fringe theatre instead of west end shows, going to local festivals and cooking home cooked meals are ways to save your money and still have a great time. Recently my boyfriend and I started a no dinner dates policy to help us both save. He has just returned from a 2 month travel stint himself but we felt we needed a break together, so we are saving for a trip to the city of love itself… Paris! Saving is HARD there is no two ways about it, we are constantly bombarded with things we want to buy. We are all huge consumers, and although I love clothes, that is not actually what makes me want to spend my money – huge believer in recycling clothes! I go weak at the knees at the thought of new music, adventure days and anything live entertainment. But I have prioritised and 2015 is a HUGE travel year for me.

Taking holiday time at the RIGHT time

The UK has a few handy bank holidays, aside from Christmas and Easter, we boast of two bank holidays in May and one at the end of August. I know it can be expensive to book trips at this time of the year, however, if you are working and saving for a trip already, dish out another 50 or 100 pounds and you can extend your time, or book an extra trip in that year that you were not expecting to book. I am a firm believer in travelling on off peak seasons, no families or children school parties driving me insane. HOWEVER, I am a huge victim of the travel bug so will do anything to travel and that includes making the most of my extra bank holiday time! As well as my time in lieu.

Making the most of your travel time

It is very difficult sometimes to make a holiday a travelling experience. IT IS POSSIBLE! I know with hard work we all want some relaxing time off, to just chill and get back in touch with ourselves. I also believe it is impossible to be abroad and not want to experience everything that country has to offer in a short space of time. GET LOST! I love getting lost in cities I have never been to and eat all sorts of random things. Visit the great big and mapped out monuments on all the must see lists of everything you have ever read, but then discover a museum of light bulbs and lamps that no one has ever heard of and has just become your most favourite place. My man and I discovered a gallery in Barcelona in 2014 that was just the most mesmerising thing. We went back, as you would with things you fall in love with, and we bought two of this artist’s pieces. A photo will come in another post. My point is dear readers, it is possible to travel and explore places in short bursts of time, if you get it in your heads that you’re going to see it, then you will. SO DO IT!

My dear readers, take your time to see the world, it is a vast stunning place and you do not need to rush it. If like me, you cannot stop and see it all in one go, then work, build a wonderful career and use it to reap the benefits of seeing and experiencing the earth. Discover everything you want to, even within the UK I have a lot I want to discover. Travelling and seeing the world in itself is a holiday because it takes you out of the norm of your day to day, so I urge you not to be complacent with your time abroad and actually broaden your mind.