Mad(with it)ness in Madrid.

Madrid. The Spanish capital famous for flamenco and sangria in mass quantities. I spent 4 nights in this incredible city at the end of June with some mates I went to school with. Despite it being 35℃ for most of our trip – a temperature most Scots have never experienced – it was so so good.

Hostels are probably the best places to stay when you go to a major city like Madrid. Not only will you meet loads of amazing new mates but you’ll often have endless opportunities to see and do things at a much discounted price. We stayed at Way Hostel and it is genuinely the best hostel I have been to. Ever. The staff were so friendly and remembered you by name – something chain hostels don’t have time for. There was a real sense of community in the hostel as over 70% of guests were solo travellers. This made meeting new people incredibly easy. I even found out that not all Australians watch Home and Away (can you believe it) and that they refer to sex as “putting one through her”. Banter. Also, smaller independent hostels like Way genuinely want their guests to have an amazing time unlike many chain hostels whose main aim is to make a large profit. If you plan on staying in a hostel, stay here. There are endless amounts of activities on offer from Flamenco nights to Pub Crawls and even a day trip to the town of Toledo – a  UNESCO World Heritage Site!!

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Drinking games at the hostel. Who can say no to free Sangria??

A great way to see Madrid is on foot. Many hostels will provide free (tip based) walking tours and you’ll find out so much more than you would on the overpriced bus tours. Again, if you’re travelling alone or just want to meet new people, the walking tour really helps you do that! The walking tour we done took us to all the top places like the Royal Palace, the Opera and the Cathedral. However, we also got to see some places that aren’t typically included in paid tours such as the “Beverly Hills of Madrid”. At the end of the tour our guide told us of all the places to avoid and recommended where we should go for food and drinks. She even invited us to lunch with her at a local restaurant which was so good. I just don’t think you’d get this type of experience with the better known tours.

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The Royal Palace, so Royal that not even the King lives there..

The fact that there are no beaches in Madrid shouldn’t put you off visiting. If you’re looking for a cool spot to sunbathe and go for a swim then check out one of the city’s many public pools. The weather was so good when we visited so we wanted somewhere to cool off and relax. We chose to go to a public pool around 20 minutes from our hostel by foot, which is not bad, especially when the weather is so nice. The entry fee was €5 but this included somewhere to store your belongings. You could choose from two different sized pools and there was areas where you could just chill with some snacks. There are lifeguards too so don’t worry if you’re not quite Michael Phelps.

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Piscina Municipal Peñuelas. A great place to get away from the busy city centre.

Nightlife in Madrid is incredible and I mean fucking out of this world. I recommend you start your night by going on a pub crawl, either one at your hostel or some other hostel. Clubs or Discotecas don’t open til around 2am in Spain so you’ll have plenty of time to get out your tits by the time the doors open. We visited Madrid during the week and were told it wouldn’t be that busy. I would like to see it on the weekends because, fuck me, it was busy! But in a good way. On Monday we decided to go to the Fucking Mondays event at Independence club. It was amazing, entry is €10 but that includes 2 drinks. Beers are around €2 and Jägerbombs are also €2!! The place is huge and plays a mixture of English and Spanish chart music. However, be aware, the DJ shouts “Fuuuuckinggg Mondayyyyysss” into his microphone like every 15 mins and it’s so so funny. Me and my mates still mock him when we’re on nights out. I would also recommend going to Planet, where for €10 you get unlimited Sangria or Beer for one hour, check out EnBabia club too.

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Clubbing with a group of French-Canadians at EnBabia.

Other cool spots to check out are Sol, the main meeting point in Madrid. It has lots of street performers that are worth checking out. Also, Retiro Park is a must see, it’s huge and also has row boats that you can rent at €5 for 45 mins. If you have time, visit Prado Museum, where you can see some of Picasso’s work! Don’t forget to drink unhealthy amounts of Sangria and beer whilst your in Madrid!!!

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On the row boats at Retiro Park.

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Travelling in the South of France.

Recently, me and a few friends from university took a trip to the South of France and in particular, Marseille. Marseille is France’s second biggest city, however it’s not as touristy as other Southern destinations such as Nice. I have no idea why though… Marseille is a wonderful place with wonderful people. Many people think the French are rude and up tight – to some extent this is true – although the people of Marseille see themselves as somewhat different to other French people. I must say it is clear why. Locals in Marseille are so kind and have all the time in the world for you, something which can’t always be said about Parisians for example. Anyway, I’ll stop rambling and start talking about the actual trip.

I have no idea why we chose Marseille as our destination, probably something to do with the cheap flights, glorious sunshine and the fact we speak the lingo! We decided to rent an appartment from airbnb – my first time using the site – since Marseille doesn’t have too many hostels. However, I was not let down, in fact it was fucking amazing. We had a terrace, yes a terrace, all to ourselves. So, as you can probably imagine we spent a fair bit of time drinking cheap wine on our terrace pretending to be actual French people. Although, we were quietly reminded that we weren’t each time we looked at our pale Scottish skin. Sad times. If you’re thinking of using airbnb do it! Our appartment slept six people and was £50 a night ( we stayed 5 nights and there was 5 of us).

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Our terrace. Coolest chill spot in the South.

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Beer and Grenadine, Southern drink dubbed ‘un Monaco’.

You might be asking yourself, what actually is there to do in Marseille? Well, the short answer is a LOT. Marseille was crowned European Capital of Culture for 2013 so it must have something going for it, right? The city is full of great food, good nightlife and some of the most amazing scenery I have ever saw. Firstly, if you’re looking for a more chilled break by the Mediterranean then you should hit one of the cities many beaches. Just ten minutes on a bus from the city centre, you can find Plages du Prado, a group of beaches surrounded by stunning hills. There are some beaches in the city centre such as Catalans but they are very busy and not as clean. If you’re feeling more adventurous, take the 30 minute bus ride to Cassis. The small commune just outside Marsielle boasts a lovely beach, beautiful hills covered in Mansions and also the famous Calanques. Calanques are openings in the cliffs, kind of like mini fjords, where you can go swimming and cliff jumping. A must do in Marseille. The bus to Cassis costs around €3 return and leaves from the Centre of town!

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Sitting on the rocks in Cassis overlooking the beach and stunning hills.

If you’ve being looking at Marseille for a while, you’ll probably have heard of the Old Port or the Vieux Port in French. It’s the main port in Marseille and is home to some cool, but expensive restaurants. Now, I’m a student and have next to zero money, so unfortunately, I never tried any of these places. However, if you go a few streets back, you’ll find pretty much the same quality of food for a MUCH cheaper price. Food in Marseille isn’t too expensive, we ate out most nights and had two courses and a few beers and wines each with the bill only amounting to maybe €20 each! Now of course you don’t have to eat out, the supermarkets are cheap enough for food and alcohol. I mean, we were buying 20 beers for €8, what more could you ask for?? All I would say is, if you’re planning on eating out most of the time, take some extra money, if you’re on a smaller budget, rent an appartment or book a hostel with a kitchen so you can cook your own food and save yourself quite a bit.

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Some boats docked at the Vieux Port.

Nightlife in Marseille isn’t as good as the student town of Aix-en-Provence but it does boast a good mixture of bars and clubs. At the Old Port, you’ll find a choice of Irish bars, traditional French bars and some cool clubs such as Le Trolleybus. If it’s more of a studenty, artisan feel then head to Cours Julien, a street bustling with hip bars and arty street performers, it’s kind of Marseille’s answer to SoHo. One of the coolest places I visited in Marseille was the Dock des Suds, a bunch of old warehouses turned into an events venue that hosts a club night every Tuesday. It’s kind of like a nightclub – but outdoors. How fucking cool is that? And if you’re thinking, nah not that cool. Well, it’s even got a mini football pitch for all the drunken hecklers to pretend they are Zidane for a night. It was also only €3 for a beer which is really good in France.

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Put your skills to the test at Dock des Suds nightclub.

There you have it. Marseille. An amazing city full of culture and coolness. Whether you want to chill by the beach or pretend you’re a hipster on the Cours Julien, Marseille has something for everyone. The city has a bad reputation for its 1970s drug crime but genuinely, its not like that at all. So, go and book a flight, you won’t regret it!

A long weekend in Amsterdam.

So, you’re going to the infamous Dam? Here are some tips of what to do and most importantly what not to do…

Amsterdam is a crazy place and I mean fucking NUTS. My first recommendation is that you stay in a hostel and not an overpriced hotel. Trust me, you’ll meet some of the coolest people and also save a few pennies that can be spent on alcohol and you know.. other stuff.


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A typical room at St Christopher’s Hostel. Yes, the walls are very trippy especially after some you know what. 

Hostels are great because not only do most provide free (tip based) walking tours for those who love a bit of history, but they run things like pub crawls and open mic nights for those looking for a bit of a party. Happy hour lasts more than an hour and two beers for €5 is a steal in Amsterdam. Most staff in hostels will be travellers just like you, so 9 times out of 10 they will be so friendly and sometimes they’ll even give you a drink on the house. This should be the part where I upload a photo of the pub crawl, however, it’s probably best for me and you, that I don’t. Soz.

Next topic – drugs. For so many people, this is solely what going to Amsterdam is about. I’m not an expert, so if I say something totally stupid about drugs then I do apologise. Anyway, the stench of weed is everywhere you go – so learn to like it! We bought pre-rolled joints from the coffee shops as we were fucking clueless. They were about €5 each, sounds good eh? Well, we went overboard and let’s just say I was in bed for 11pm and my mate was hanging out a window saying that he couldn’t breathe – although to be fair he also had his fair share of psychedelics. Basically, all I would say about drugs in Amsterdam is be careful and know your own limits!!

Food and drink isn’t cheap in Amsterdam. But there are ways around paying an arm and a leg for a meal. If it’s nice, grab some baguettes and ham from the supermarket and make your way to Vondelpark. Or, get some wine and snacks and chill by one of the many, many canals.

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One of the quieter canals in Amsterdam. Cool place to get away from the hustle and bustle and just relax! 

MONEY.

One of the many things people worry about when going anywhere is how much money the will need. I am not going to lie, Amsterdam is one of the more expensive places in Europe, especially compared to its counterparts in the East such as Prague and Krakow. So, I would recommend not limiting yourself to a tiny budget in Amsterdam. I stayed in Amsterdam for 4 days and spent around €350-€400. I understand this sounds a lot, however keep in mind that I’m 19 and was drinking a LOT of alcohol. Which btw is not cheap in Amsterdam. Everyone is different and wants to see different things so I would allow yourself to have enough money to do and see all the things you want. I usually say the smaller the budget, the better the adventure. However, this is quite tricky when you’re in such an expensive place. Don’t get me wrong though, using things like hostels, airbnb and couchsurfing for your accommodation will save you a huge amount of money. Also, buying food from street vendors and not restaurants will also help you stay within your budget. Most importantly though, have fun.

This was my very first blog post! Although, I’m sure you could probably tell 😉 Anyways, I hope this was helpful/ useful. I will be posting more blogs on my recent trips to Marseille and Madrid and then also my upcoming trip to Copenhagen, Hamburg, Paris and London!! So, stay tuned and keep and eye out for new posts!

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