The city of aromas, colours, flavours. The Istanbul of the imams, of Europe, of the mosques, of the bazaars, of the Bosphorus. The city and everything you need to see even once in your life.
Visit Hagia Sophia
The first thing you will see in the city, for all the reasons, is, of course, the Hagia Sophia, in the area of Sultanahmet, the oldest part of the city, where the Blue Mosque, the Aqueduct, the Topkapi and the famous church that, after being transformed, are located in a mosque, now functions as a museum. The building dates from the 6th century and is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. The mosaics that were covered during the 500 years that the church was turned into a mosque are now presented in all their magnificence.
Continue to the Blue Mosque
Directly opposite the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque is the next most recognizable monument in Istanbul. With its characteristic six minarets and the impressive round dome, while its official name is “Sultan Ahmet Mosque”, it is the 21,000 Iznik tiles of blue, white and red colour that adorn its ceilings from the 17th century and from them, it got the “Nickname” Blue. The mosque is still functioning normally today, so you should adjust your visit to hours other than those of the five daily prayers, while on Fridays, the mosque is closed.
Take a tour of Topkapi
Continuing from the two temples, you will reach Topkapi, which was the official residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th century until the construction of Dolmabahce. Wealth, aesthetics, art, history. And yes, as far as the life of the sultans is concerned, you will see it here, while you will enjoy the fascinating image of the City, as it spreads at the foot of the Palace.
Shop at the Grand Bazaar and at the Egyptian Spice Market
In the Old Town, the 550-year-old Kapalitsarsi – as it is called in Turkish – is the oldest and largest indoor market in the world, which you can remember from its… roofs, as it shot the first scene of the movie “Skyfall” with James Bond being chased by motorcycles! Get ready to walk among 4,000 benches, where you will find everything from ornaments, Turkish souvenirs, cups of coffee to handmade rugs!
After the Bosphorus, it is time to enter the most majestic palace, the residence of the last sultans and the last residence of Kemal. Absolute luxury, an attempt, then, the Ottoman Empire to show that it is not inferior to luxury, art and aesthetics from the West, decorated in the interior by a French decorator, with the most oversized chandeliers in Europe brought from England, with complete order and discipline reminiscent of the last inhabitant of the palace (in fact the palace clocks have been stopped at the time of Ataturk’s death). The visits are made with organised guided tours every hour, with Turkish guides; while inside, keep in mind why photos are not allowed.
Of course, to cross the whole area of Istanbul, you will need to use some means of transport. One option is transportation, but ideally, you could hire a car to move quickly not only to the places mentioned earlier but also to other parts of the city. Explore the famous locations but also the most “hidden” corners, renting a vehicle from the company Enjoy Travel, which has dozens of service points throughout the country, offering you cars at unbeatable prices and offers.
As I’ve said before, while I’m not in any hurry to get out amongst the germy masses and expose the kids to COVID, I am looking forward to get out on some day trips and short breaks, once things are safe again. Before lockdown, my Mum and I were actually talking about getting us all away on holiday together and renting somewhere for us four, my Mum and Dad and my sister and her fiance.
One of the places I found while I was looking was The Green Door Holiday Cottage in Richmond, which is a luxury cottage in Yorkshire. Usually, we’d head for the south coast for family holidays to places like Cornwall and Devon, but the thought of taking our travels north actually really appeals to me. With this in mind, I started looking at some things to do, in and around Richmord, for when we eventually get to take our trip.
Richmond Castle is an English Heritage site, right in the heart of Richmond and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Dales. Even better, if you’re an English Heritage member, you and anyone included in your membership will get in for free, so you’ll be able to enjoy a lovely educational day out for very little outlay.
Foxglove Covert Local Nature Reserve
According to TripAdvisor, “Foxglove Covert Local Nature Reserve covers 100 acres of moorland edge adjacent to Cambrai Lines at Catterick and has a remarkable mix of habitats and species. The reserve contains semi-natural woodland, heathland, flower-rich grassland, streams, ponds, a lake, willow and Alder carr, coniferous woodlands and wet meadows. The patchwork of habitats across Foxglove Covert Local Nature Reserve is home to more than 2440 species. At the heart of the reserve is a modern, purpose-designed Field Centre, a great place to start your visit and learn more about the wildlife of Foxglove Covert.” Sounds like a wonderful place for a walk and a picnic!
The Forbidden Corner
The Forbidden Corner was originally a private folly. However, after popular demand, the site has been opened up to the public with four acres of all-out weird! Discover a unique labyrinth of pathways, tunnels, chambers and galleries throughout the woods. They’ll present a barrage of tricky challenges, including the occasional spray of water! Just keep your eyes peeled for the secret brass circles which reveal hidden markings and direct you on your mission. There’s also a lovely picnic area for when you need a break from the fantasy.
Traveling is one of life’s joys. From the mini-vacay to a trip of a lifetime, every adventure to a new destination is special and worth remembering.
If you only have two days to enjoy Dublin, for example, you will want to plan your itinerary carefully. There is so much to do and see that it is impossible to experience it all in two months, let alone two days! So, make the most of it.
If you get in on Friday night, check into your hotel and grab some dinner before heading out to the neighboring pub or bar for a Guinness. But leave your souvenir shopping with a Dublin luggage storage place so you don’t have to watch them.
Visiting Dublin Castle is like visiting over a dozen places at once. You can start at the Viking Excavation below the castle. It is where the Vikings defended the castle many years ago. Visit the Chapel Royal with its beautiful stained-glass windows and velvet floors, where it has been since 1242.
The State Apartments come next where you can see the Grand Staircase, Apollo Room, Throne Room, Portrait Gallery, and more. Do not miss the neoclassical architecture in the State Corridor that was designed in 1758. The Wedgwood Room is also a must-see spot, with its colors of Wedgwood pottery and neoclassical style from 1777.
Before heading to the Dubh Linn Garden, stop at the Medieval Tower, which is the oldest structure in Dublin. It has been there since before 1204 and has been converted many times. The gardens are just to the south of the Chapel Royal where you can see four small gardens around the main one.
The Garda Museum
The Garda Museum is a fascinating place full of artifacts from the Republic of Ireland’s national police. The museum is hosted by a civilian employee and one Sergeant who can guide you to whatever you want to see. See photos dating back to 1812 to uniforms from the early 20th century, as well as items seized in their investigations like fake currency and an ATM skimming device.
The Terrace Café
Stop in for lunch at the Terrace Café on the ground floor of the State Apartments. You can see a beautiful view of the gardens while you enjoy some delicious Irish cuisine. Some of the dishes you can choose from include seared salmon, roasted sirloin, mushroom ragout, lemon chicken, and roasted hake. Desserts include apple crumble, berries mascarpone, and lemon curd.
The Revenue Museum
After lunch, head to the Revenue Museum just outside. It is located in the crypt of the Chapel Royal. Learn about the history of the currency of Ireland from old to new. See artifacts such as coins and paper money, audio-visual displays, and video games. Some of the popular exhibits include measuring instruments, counterfeit goods, and an illegal liquor still.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is next because it is right next door. You have plenty of time to explore the building that dates back to 1220. Anything that old deserves a closer look and maybe some selfies. You can explore on your own or take a group tour. Enjoy a trip up the staircase to the Cathedral organ, see 200-year old statues from clergies to sailors, and learn how to “Chance Your Arm.”
In 1492, there was a fight between the Fitzgeralds of Kildare and the Butlers of Ormonde. The Butlers were losing so they hid in the Chapter House at the Cathedral. The Fitzgeralds asked them to come out and make peace. The Butlers did not trust them, so the leader of the Fitzgeralds cut a hole in the door and stuck his arm through to shake hands. Peace was made after this. They call this door the Door of Reconciliation.
Dinner at Spitalfields
It should be close to dinnertime by now so stop at Spitalfields, which is just a stone’s throw away on the Coombe. Have a Caesar salad, ember roasted beets, grilled sourdough with caviar, or tartare of Irish veal for a starter. Your main meal selections are mouthwatering as well.
You can have smoked pork chops with hazelnuts and currants, salmon with Hasselback potatoes and caviar, roasted cauliflower with cheese and truffles, or pork schnitzel with peas and smoked eel. Dessert choices include chocolate custard, orange super split, lemon & strawberry ice, or coconut & lime sorbet.
Before heading back to the hotel for the night, visit Dublinia. This medieval experience is part of the Christ Church Cathedral on R108. See a historical reenactment of the Vikings and Medieval Dubliners, travel back in time to the Viking times, and see what it was like on the Viking warships. They even have a cool gift shop where you can get some unique souvenirs.
National Leprechaun Museum
After breakfast at the hotel, head off to see some history. You can start off with the National Leprechaun Museum. This museum is sheerly entertaining and full of folklore. The tour guides will teach you the mythology of the place as well as the history of the leprechaun. They have a “giant” room where you can feel like you are a tiny leprechaun among huge furniture.
National Museum of Ireland Archaeology
Over on Kildare, learn all about the beginning of Ireland at the archaeology branch of this museum. See the treasury with stunning gems and jewels or the Clontarf 1014, which has a plethora of artifacts from the ship. They also have a huge selection of gold from 2200 BC to 500 BC.
National Museum of Ireland Natural History
On Merrion Street across the way, the history building has the flora and fauna of Ireland, and this museum is the place to go. See a monstrous hippo baring its giant teeth and an adorable family of badgers from 1911. The giant deer from the ice age, wooly mammoths, and spotted hyenas are also found here.
The Little Museum of Dublin
It may be little, but it has a huge number of cool things to see. In fact, they have over 5,000 items! The guided tour was named the best museum tour in Ireland. See the first edition of Ulysses, a whole floor dedicated to U2, and James Joyce’s death mask.
St. Stephen’s Green
Opened in 1880, this 22-acre park has a Victorian layout of lush greenery and vibrant flowers. Go for a boat ride in the lake, enjoy a walk, or learn more about the amazing sculptures all around the park. Don’t miss the waterfall. Grab some lunch nearby if you have time before you have to head to the airport.
Whether you are a newbie to Dublin or have visited many times, there is always something interesting to see and do in this capital city. The museums, parks, and castles are fun, but you may need to come back to visit the beaches like Dublin Bay, Sandymount, or Poolbeg Beach. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll probably know that as a family, we’re big fans of Liverpool. Obviously, the main love is Liverpool FC, but we’re also in love with the actual city of Liverpool and the people who live there. Husband and I often joke that we’d feel way more at home in Liverpool because of the politics and attitudes of the people up there and we’ve even sat and trawled through Rightmove, fantasising about a move to the North West where housing costs are so much more affordable.
Travelling right now is out of the question (we’ve barely left the house since this time last year!) and we certainly won’t be going anywhere until it’s totally safe. We can’t wait for lockdown to end so that we can visit our spiritual home again, and this in mind, I thought I’d put together a little list of some of the places that we’re planning to go:
I mean, come on, this one was a no-brainer, right?! Husband has been to Anfield to watch Liverpool play many times but I’ve only been once and I was pregnant with BB at the time, so I’d love for us to go back as a foursome and watch a match. There is NOTHING in the world like the sound of The Kop singing You’ll Never Walk Alone to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
World Museum Liverpool
The World Museum Liverpool is the oldest of all of the museums and galleries in Liverpool and is famous for its great collections, its history of innovation and the family-friendly experience that it offers. From science demonstrations to a packed aquarium, this is something that all four of us would absolutely love.
Have you even been to Liverpool if you haven’t taken a ferry ‘cross the Mersey?! Aside from the fact that the boast themselves look like something that Paul McCartney saw in an LSD-fuelled dream, the Mersey Ferries have been an iconic way to see the shores of Liverpool for decades. Plus, with an adult return fare costing less than £4, it’s a cheap and cheerful way to kill a couple of hours in the City.
I’ve gotta admit, as a family we’re suckers for a zoo or safari park and being in lockdown has made us really miss visiting this sort of attraction. As well as the car safari, which has wolves, tigers, giraffes and more, there’s a foot safari section of the park which is more like walking around a zoo, so you get the best of both worlds. I know for a fact that we could lose a whole day wandering around somewhere like this!
That’s the list so far! Have you been to Liverpool? What was your favourite thing to do there? Do leave me a comment with any recommedations below, I’d love to hear from you. In collaboration with Hotels.com, but all views are my own.
Filling a backpack and leaving a note for your friend on which of your house plants need watering is something that will make you feel like you’re off to stand shoulder to shoulder with the great pioneering adventurers. Move over, Amundsen. Take a backseat, Earhart. Here comes some very decent walking boots and a backpack that cost a little above budget. Let’s do this.
First, a quick message regarding COVID-19. The overall effects of the pandemic have left the travel and tourism industry with unanswered questions over whether travel restrictions will be in place at the time of travel, meaning your booking could be affected. Keep this in mind when planning your trip, and be sure to check the latest news (also, see this related COVID travel info). Now. let’s get on with backpacking for beginners.
You’ve packed way too much
When I was about 10 years old, I went to play golf for the first time. There was a golf pro on the course that day, carrying only two clubs – one for distance, and one for putting. I, on the other hand, had about 17 clubs, a golf bag on wheels, a thousand spare golf balls, a towel, sandwiches, water, a cap, a raincoat, and an umbrella.
When it comes to backpacking, you do need certain things such as spare clothes, toiletries, tickets, travel documents, and your phone (and a charger and headphones), but beyond that you are taking things along that you probably won’t find regular use for, meaning you could just buy these things if you needed them. Expert trekkers take only what they need.
Choose hostels where breakfast is included in the price
Hostels come in all shapes and sizes. Some have luxuries that others don’t. For example, some hostels have bars. Some hostels have communal internet café type areas with vending machines and free to use computers. I’ve even been to one hostel with a pool area (although, in fairness, it was poorly maintained). Wherever you choose to stay, there’s one thing that you should look out for at the point of booking – breakfast. Underestimate breakfast at your peril. There is nothing quite as galling as setting off to find an early morning bakery because you forgot to ask about breakfast – starting the day on an empty stomach is no fun.
Hostels do not supply you with sleeping bags (at least, certainly not in my experience – it doesn’t make good hygiene sense). They supply clean sheets (you hope) and a bed and a pillow. If you’re feeling relatively rough and ready, these arrangements may suit you just fine. However, if you think that sleeping under one thin loose sheet might leave you a little exposed (both to thieves and the overnight temperatures), you may want to look into taking along a sleeping bag.
Not only will you feel more protected in general, but you can use the sleeping bag to store things like your phone and your money while you sleep – any potential thieves would have to have a deft touch to go unnoticed while stealing from the inside of an occupied sleeping bag!