travel is good for the soul

Whether you travel for work, pleasure or are a nomad ticking off one country at a time, you’ll be able to relate when I say travel is one of the best remedies for personal growth. It really opens our eyes and changes how we see the world! When I think back to my first solo trip around four years ago, I can’t help but notice how much I’ve changed and how my mind has absorbed dubious amounts of culture, knowledge, opinions, languages and the all important friendships. It would also be fair to say that my liver has taken quite a beating too…

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Feeling pensive

 

One of my favourite things about travelling is definitely the people that I have met. It is the biggest cliche but also one of the truest. It’s crazy how you can spend three days with someone you’ve just met in hostel and feel closer to them than people you spent years with in high school. I’ve shared things with strangers whilst travelling that I’d never imagine sharing with close friends from home. It’s crazy. And I know for sure that when or if I see these people again, we’ll pick up right where we left off (which was most likely at a bar..).

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Cheese and Wine night with a great friend I made this year

 

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Some of the best humans I’ve ever met. When I worked in a hostel in Bratislava, 2016.

 

Travelling is one of the greatest tools for not just understanding other cultures but appreciating them too. I love seeing how locals live, their traditions and how they go about their daily lives. Fascinating stuff. I think of when I was in Serbia and how whenever you enter someones home or sit and chat with a local, they would always offer a shot of Rakia. A traditional homemade alcoholic drink. Super strong but amazing. I sat for hours on the balcony of my hostel in Belgrade with the owner chatting about life whilst sipping away. Those kinds of moments are why I travel.

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The French Basque Country. 

 

People ask me often if I miss home. The honest answer is not really. Of course, I miss my family and friends but I feel that the world has too much to offer for me to be at home right now. I’ll go home in September to finish my degree, but I already know my free weekends will be spent somewhere other than my hometown. I love Glasgow and the people and it will ALWAYS be my favourite city in the world but it’s definitely not the place that I can see my settling down in.

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Home

 

Travel has different meaning for people and that’s okay. For some it’s two weeks at an all inclusive resort once a year, for others it’s city breaks throughout the year and then there are those who can’t get enough and hop on a plane at a moments notice. There is nothing worse than people who judge other styles of travel. Just because you’re comfortable solo travelling around South East Asia for two months doesn’t mean everyone else should be. Let people take as many or as few photos as they’d like. Just enjoy the travelling that suits you!!

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Surfs Up in Biarritz, France

 

I’m not quite sure what the point of this post is but I had some thoughts that I wanted to share and I hadn’t posted for a looongggg time. Below you can find some of my favourite photos from over the past few months and years:

 

Let me know what travel means to you in the comments!

10/10 would Rennes again!

When I think of northen France (and northern to me is anywhere above Tours), I can’t help but imagine depressing, gloomy towns filled with people with funny accents. This was why I’d never gone north before (besides Paris, which isn’t really the north). I tended to stick to the warmer climate down south, but I recently spent four days over the New Year in the amazing city of Rennes and was pleasantly surprised.

After spending a couple of days back home in Scotland for Christmas, I jumped on a flight to Paris and then caught the TGV with a friend and we headed on-wards to Rennes. The next few days were filled with many whiskys and cokes, a bar with a pet parrot and a quick day trip to Le Mont St-Michel.

I hadn’t know much about Rennes before I’d went but it’s safe to say I’m keen on spending a lot more time there (possibly will head there when I’m finished with studies to teach again..) The town is bustling with young students who are ready to hop into a bar at a moments notice. There is a belief that people in the north of France are unfriendly, which I found to be completely untrue (at least in Rennes). We met so many new people just by chatting over a few (way too many) drinks. It’s crazy how your confidence and language skills improve when you’re un peu bourré. Below are some places I think you should visit if you’re in the area, you can probably tell from my recommendations that I’m prone to a good drink..

 

  1.  Le P’tit Vélo 

This is a great wee pub with friendly staff and decent prices. There’s plenty of seating outside too if you’re keen to smoke a cheeky clope. You’ll find it in the dead centre of town on Place St-Michel. We returned to this bar a few times over the weekend as the atmosphere was perfect for some pre-drinking!

 

2. Rue de la Soif

Rue de la Soif  or ‘Street of thirst’ in English is a stones throw form Le P’tit Vélo and boasts a fine number of bars for you to spend a whole night here. The street is packed with like-minded youngsters looking for a good time. There’s bound to at least one bar to suit your taste and who and who can complain when ‘happy hour’ prices can get you a pint for as little as 3 €. Whether you’re looking for a quick drink or a place to drink into the wee hours of the morning, this is the street for you 😉

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Eric – a testament to the friendliness of Rennes 

 

3. Poutinebros

After all that drinking I’m suggesting, Poutinebros is the perfect spot to meet all your hungry needs. As the name suggests, this place serves poutine but they also do some very decent burgers too! Super friendly staff and laid-back atmosphere make this a great place to grab a quick bite before exploring the city again.

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Poutine, version crise cardiaque

 

4. Le Mont St-Michel

Rennes is situated only a short bus ride from one of the most famous monuments in France and the indeed the world. It would be rude not to check out this little village/ island/ abbey / whatever you would like to call it when you’re so close.. The bus was fairly cheap and entrance to the abbey was free for those under 26 and with EU residency.

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The great northern weather

 

Other than what I’ve already mentioned, take the time to walk around the town and take in the incredible architecture!! Also, bring an umbrella as although the unfriendly stereotype of the north may be untrue, the bad weather certainly is not 😉

 

 

Hollywood’s favourite couple spotted in the Basque country…

So, a lot has happened since my last post. From trips to Spain, hungover train journeys and my very first Thanksgiving, there has never been a dull moment!!

I recently had 2 weeks off, so I decided to make the 2 hour trip south to Spain and spend a few days in  San Sebastian with some friends. The city is one of Spain’s most expensive but compared to France, everything was a steal – including the alcohol 😉 It was even warm enough to take a swim in the sea which was weird considering it was almost Novemeber… We spent most of our time either drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol, eating pintxos (tapas) or down at the beach. We were lucky enough to experience pintxos pote on a Thursday night – a drink and a small tapas for a mere 2euros!! It’s safe to say we ended up more than intoxicated that night. Our drunken states allowed us (or should I say my two friends who were looking for a pull) to fall vicitim to some pick-pockets. However, thanks to the Basque police all ended with laughs and we got everything back except our dignity.. San Sebastian is a must visit town with greats bars, nightlife and surf!

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Playa de la Concha

 

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Surfs Up!

 

Back in Pau, things have been in full swing. Work is going well and I genuinely enjoy teaching. Even if some kids couldn’t care less, most of them are keen and motivated. I don’t spend much time at home, every night I’m usually found at the Galway bar with mates or wine-ing and dining like a true Frenchman. I also spent a weekend in Bordeaux which consisted of more wine and good food. Pau might be small but its not lacking in things to do and I’ve met some of the best people!

 

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Hiking in the Pyrenees.

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When the paparazzi just can’t leave you alone… #Leo&KateWho?

 

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Giving the fans the photo they want #attractive

 

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Jersey Shore got nothing on us

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My first Thanksgiving – basically Christmas minus the presents

 

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What beauties!!

 

 

As you can see, life here is top notch! I’m heading to Grenoble next weekend which should turn out some crazy stories so keep and eye out for my next post 😉

 

La vie en France

So, if you haven’t already heard, I moved to France!! For the rest of the academic year I’ll be working as a language assistant in two high schools. Me teaching children, who would have thought? I’m living in Pau which sits in the foothills of the Pyrenees, it’s also wine central so it can only be described as a 100% win-win.

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The funiculaire with the mountains in the distance!

 

I’ve already managed to find my own flat in a residence which is specifically for young workers, so meeting people has been very easy. Although, I’m kind of tired of people asking if Scotsmen really go commando under their kilt… I also had some luck at the bank and managed to open an account. I’d heard a lot of horror stories about how difficult it was to open one but it couldn’t have been more straightforward. I even managed to bag some free home insurance so I felt obliged to go back the next day with some shortbread to say thanks. I’m 110% their new favourite customer. I have to go back again next week to give the manager my French phone number, I think it might be for admin purposes but I’ll assume that it’s because she fancies me…

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View of the mountains at sunset from my flat window….

 

You’ll all be happy to know that I’ve made some new pals but don’t worry I’m not replacing you! I’ve been out almost every night since I got here, mostly with other assistants and some Erasmus students. But, we managed to make some new French pals who are keen to go for a drink (or two) this weekend. I’ve also had to take the art of pre-drinking to a new level. A pint here costs at least 5€ whereas 10 beers from le supermarché will set you back a mere 2,80€. I’ve found a new local (sorry Ark) called Le Galway and even though it’s and “Irish” bar, the staff are all French which means I can practise the lingo.

I went for a coffee at a cafe last week to find out the guy who served me plays for the local rugby team (Section Paloise) and was on the winning NZ squad for the 2015 world cup. He also has 80,000 followers on insta (#famous). His wife runs the place but I think he just stepped in to lend a helping hand. Pau is a small town but it is definitely full of characters! There’s also been a few funny nights out but I’ll spare you all the details for another time.

I don’t start work until Monday but I’m going into one of my schools tomorrow to meet the other teachers and find out my timetable – praying for a 3 day weekend. I’m only an hour from Biarritz, so hopefully can try some surfing there and then when winter comes head to the mountains for le ski. 

I think that’s all to update for now so I’ll leave you with some pictures:

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Winners of Tour de France (Pau stage) painted on the road

 

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Pink Umbrellas in the main square for breast cancer awareness month

 

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Cool little side street

 

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Panoramic view from the Boulevard des Pyrenees

The best spots in Budapest for a drink

I spent almost three months in Budapest this summer, so I think it’s safe to say I found some cool spots over the few months I was there. I tended to avoid the more touristy places because not only were the prices cheaper but also the atmosphere much better.

 

1. Telep

Telep was hands down my favourite spot to grab a beer with friends and guests of the hostel where I worked whilst I was in Budapest. It doubled as an art gallery and a cafe so sometimes I’d grab a coffee (or beer) there during the day. The atmosphere feels very homely and the staff are super friendly. Each night there is a different DJ playing a set in the corner of the tiny bar. Often people spilled out into the street, which was why I liked this place so much. The open-air feel was really nice and due to the set-up of the windows it was possible to still here the music. It was only 500HUF for a standard beer which is around € 1.60 and much less than you would pay a stones throw away on Goszdu Udvar. It’s closed on Sundays but at least they are thinking of your hangover and giving you a day off 😉

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Telep: good crowd, cheap drinks and great atmosphere. 

 

 

2. Dürer Kert

If you’re willing head away from the Jewish Quarter and Old Town then you’ll spend a great night at Durer. This venue is home to some cool decor as well as a chilled out courtyard, trolley-bus-turned-seating area (yes) and various concert halls inside. You won’t find many tourists or even non-locals here which is great if you are looking to get away from the crowds and see a more authentic side of the city. There is always a great line-up of music and festivals going on and more often than not, entry will be free. Again, this is somewhere that you can also chill at during the day. Trolley-bus number 74 leaves from various stops in the centre of town and drops you off right outside which is ideal! A beer will set you back a mere 450HUF (€1.50).

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Perfect venue for drinking, eating and listening to live music.

 

3. Kőleves Kert

Whether you’re looking for a quick drink or looking for somewhere to spend at least a few hours then Kőleves is your place. With a relaxing garden out back and a restaurant inside, this place is ideal. You can find hammocks dotted around the garden which are for chilling with a book and a beer during the day. In the evening, the place is brought to life with cool lighting and large crowds creating a great atmosphere. This place is close to the touristy spots so you might find a few like-minded travelers but for sure still has a local feel to it. Again, like most places in Budapest, you are not going to break the bank here.

4. A38

A38 is one of the most unique places I’ve been to. It’s essentially a bar, restaurant and music venue all-in-one but not only that, it’s an old Soviet barge which rests on the banks of the Danube. I was lucky enough to see some great shows here. They always have a great programme going every month both during the day and at night so there is definitely something for everyone. Many people will spend some time on the banks just beside the venue before shows drinking their own beers which is a cool way to start the evening (not sure how fun this would be in winter though). You can get a beer here for a little as 590HUF (€1.90). Many of the shows are free and even if you’re not there for the music, the bar and restaurant are good too.

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A38: A unique experience

 

 

5. ELLÁTÓház

Now I did say that I tended to avoid the touristy spots – which is true for the most part – but we all have our guilty pleasures and ELLÁTÓház was definitely mine. Situated in the courtyard of a party hostel this is a great place to grab drinks until the early hours of the morning. Whether you’re looking for a party, open-mic or just somewhere to enjoy a few beers with friends, this is your place. Different events each night means that there’s never a boring night to be had here. It’s located in the heart of the Jewish Quarter and is easily accessible from most parts of the city. You’ll pay a little bit more for your drinks here but it’s to be expected given it’s location.

Budapest to Belgrade Night Train

I had a weekend off from work and thought I would head to Belgrade as I had heard some great things and was intrigued by this city that has belonged to numerous countries in the past century.

The easiest option from Budapest was to take a train and to save some money on accommodation I decided to take the night train.

After looking at some blog posts and forums about the night train, I was slightly nervous about the whole idea. The posts ranged from “infamous night train experience” to “avoid avoid avoid” and theft seemed to be a recurring theme. However, it was 26EUR for a return ticket and I thought it’d see for myself what all the fuss was about…

My experience was not like any of those that I had read. Those stories were either highly exaggerated or untrue. The train was super comfortable, albeit a tad slow but there was everything I needed – including power points to charge my phone! For the first 30 minutes or so, I was on edge looking for the “thiefs” I had heard about, however it was clear everyone was purely on the train for the same reason as I was. I sat next to a really friendly Hungarian and across from me were some old Serbian ladies who spent some time drinking Palinka (Hungarian national drink) and giggling about the stories they must have been sharing. Crossing at the border was very simple – show your passport and travel documents and you’ll be on your way. After drifting in and out of sleep for most of the night, I woke at around 5am to the most incredible sunrise, it really was special. An hour later I found myself in the Serbian capital ready to start the weekend.

I would urge you not to believe every bad story you read on the internet and actually live the experience for yourself before making your mind up. As I said, the night train was a great experience and one I would do again.

The price for a single ticket is 15EUR or you can buy and open return for 26EUR.

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View over the Sava River, Belgrade.

Winter in Alicante

Alicante in the Costa Blanca, Spain is a vibrant little town with heaps to do. I found a return flight with Ryanair for a total of 17 pounds just before christmas and couldn’t help myself. I stayed at X Hostel and it was amazing. Check out this video montage I made of my time there!!