With the whole Australia hold up thanks to Chewies mishap (he's doing fine now), I was feeling a little blue. For me travelling plans are something I always have in place whether its 8 days, weeks or months in advance, I love having an adventure to plan for. I'm already making them for the next 12 months, Australia & Trek America 2019 are officially happening!! However, after the delay for my Australia adventure (October will be here before I know it), I couldn't help thinking my summer calendar was a little sad. This simply wouldn't do, especially with my Birthday being bang in the middle of the year, I figured I needed a new plan.
My sister who I travelled to Amsterdam with felt the same and so we agreed we both needed some sun. This led to a back and forth of where we both wanted to go, she wants beaches, I want cities, she wants sunshine & shopping, I want culture & sightseeing...
Eventually we came to a conclusion - BARCELONA!!!
We've just booked our next destination, and we're staying in a gorgeous 4 star hotel for the week (which I am majorly excited to shoot in). I couldn't be more excited, or more gym motivated! I'll be taking all my new kit including the camera and tripod. With a rooftop pool to check out, I'm bound to be shooting some sunsets poolside not to mention a timelapse of the city. There's some beautiful hidden spots a few of the bloggers I follow have kindly shared which will be the perfect escape from the crowds.
The city is a haven for architecture, history and culture, I can't wait to get on that plane in just 9 weeks time! It also gives me an excuse to do some holiday shopping, get some serious gym workouts in (Barcelona body in the making) and I've been looking on GetYourGuide.com at the activities we can start booking. The summer is looking seriously exciting, I will be turning 25 after we get back but I'm planning a little weekend escape closer to home for that. I don't think you can ever have too many plans, at least that's the way I like to live my life. Planning one adventure at a time...
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After the most incredible 9 days I'm finally back home, feeling a little jet lagged. I'd been planning this Trek America trip since January, when a break up pushed me to step outside my comfort zone, I'd never been abroad on my own before but impulsively booked to do a road trip around the west coast. I can honestly say that it's been the best experience of my life and I intend on booking another similar trip for next summer (still undecided on the destination). Travelling solo was eye opening and gave me a huge boost of independence. I was excited at the prospect of meeting new people, exploring new places and the memories will last a lifetime.
My Trek began at Manchester Airport, heading to JFK and then on to San Francisco. I spent the night before in the Red Roof Inn, we were meeting as a group in the lobby at 7.30am. At 6am I headed to the diner just next door for a classic american breakfast, bacon and blueberry pancakes obviously, to ensure I was fuelled for the start of what was going to be an epic adventure. It soon became clear who our group members were, we were the bunch with huge backpacks and hiking boots on. In total there were 11 members, plus our tour leader Andrew, the majority coming from all over Australia, with a couple of europeans and brits mixed in. We did a few ice breakers, filled out some forms and through our suitcases into the back of the van before setting off.
It was a stunning week for weather, San Francisco is well known for it's misty fog on the Golden Gate Bridge but we got a crystal clear view of the city. It felt like being in a movie, you start the Trek with a walk across the bridge and it's hard not to be taken back by the views. The walk itself was longer than I anticipated, you realise seeing these things in real life puts them into perspective (the scale of the Grand Canyon was something I certainly couldn't have grasped without seeing it in person). I'm a fitness fanatic about 70% of the time so I thoroughly enjoyed being out in the sunshine, with my camera for company. This is also were I picked up my first patch! I wanted to get a unique souvenir from each place originally, but in our van they had patches stuck to the interior walls and so I decided to collect one from each place (to then stitch onto a denim jacket back home).
We stopped off for drinks, snacks and were given chance to wander around for a bit before our first part of the driving began, heading to Yosemite. Now a big part of these trips is the driving, it gives you chance to see the parts of America that you wouldn't otherwise get to experience. I also chose a camping holiday because we spent more time as a group, food shopping in Walmart, cooking in teams on a night back in camp, taking it in turns to make breakfast and wash dishes, pulling up roadside and getting out the makeshift table from the van to build a sandwich lunch station, this made it all the more memorable. It was a holiday that I would choose over sunbathing on the beach any day of the week.
Into the Wild
As we pulled further away from San Francisco, the forest grew and I found myself in a place that felt more familiar, the wilderness. Having read books like 'Into the Wild', climbed the 3 peaks in the UK and watched documentaries like 'Valley Uprising', Yosemite felt like home to me. Driving through the mountain hills whilst gazing into the valleys below I couldn't help but feel like I belonged here. It's mad but from the minute we stopped by the campsite and set up our tents, I knew I didn't want to leave. The first night was spent eating s'mores, playing games around the campfire and getting to know the people we were going to be spending a lot of time with. A few bottles of beer helped to get the conversations going and soon we all settled in.
Our first full day in Yosemite, we were given a few options for hikes and trails to follow over breakfast. A cup of camp coffee and a blueberry bagel, covered in crunchy peanut butter (how much more american could I be) was the perfect morning pick me up. We made ourselves lunch from our Walmart haul, grabbed a few protein bars and headed back deeper into the national park. We stopped off at the village were we would all meet again later, and set off in different groups as we had people of different abilities so we chose different hiking routes. The majority of our group went for the 7 mile waterfall hike, in hindsight we didn't know the elevation was 5910ft, it was intense and challenging. However, the views from the top made it totally worth it! I've never seen a place so beautiful in my entire life and I would have loved to have camped up top to appreciate the view for longer.
We had made it up in two separate groups, but all joined together at the top for a spot of lunch and to make our way back down and back to the village to meet up with the group in time. The hike was rather quiet, being outside of peak season and I think this made it even more stunning. The lower part of the routes were busier but as the incline increased people appeared to be turning back, especially families and older walkers. There was plenty of wildlife on our hike too, deer, elks, birds and squirrels (unfortunately no bears though). The photos below do it more justice than I can, the experience was unbelievable. Once back at the village I stopped for my Yosemite patch, and a hoody which I admittedly had on my shopping list from the moment I booked the trip. I stuffed in some sweets and chips and our tour leader picked us up to head back to camp. We spent the remainder of our nights cooking more s'mores, playing music and exploring the local area. I could happily have spent the whole 9 days here but there was more to see.
The night after the hike I did sleep pretty well, in fact passed out would be more accurate. The heat and lack of food probably contributed, it also didn't help that because of all my camera equipment I was the only person carrying a back pack. This definitely made my hike a little more brutal than the rest of the group but we were a persistent bunch, I'm often stubborn in these situations so it doesn't matter how difficult it gets and even though I was feeling not 100%, once I put my mind to it I won't turn back. I am glad though because the hike was the highlight of the entire trip for me, it stands out as the biggest challenge for me to date (especially since its 300m higher than Ben Nevis, which was the highest climb I had done).
The Mafia Gang (from left to right): Kelsey, Craig, Gareth, Lissa, Rebecca, Alyce, Jess, Anette, Rob, Me and Louisa.
We got up the next morning, and drove to a lake for a dip. The crisp morning air meant that we weren't quite brave enough to get into our swimwear but it did make for a beautiful little photoshoot and filming area. We spent a lot of time in Yosemite over the 3 days, but theres so much more to explore, I would love to go back and climb more of the mountains. It was time to leave and head towards Nevada for the next part of our journey but I could never forget the beauty of ancient sequoia trees and granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. Hopefully we will meet again Yosemite...
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It's official Autumn is here! I've had my first pumpkin spice of the season (basic I know) and I am ready for the halloween movies, fluffy jumpers, log fires and festive fun to begin! This also means a change in fashion. In the last month I have picked up a few key pieces (in the SALE of course) that are going to see me through the winter months and all the wonders that await. As well as a few party pieces that I want to share. It does however mean putting away my rather impressive collection of sunglasses, I've been adding too all throughout summer. Before that happens though, here are my favourites from August.
First up, I've seen the blogging community going crazy for big earrings, especially tassels. In Topshop's SALE I managed to pick up these ornate gold and rose coloured long earrings for just £3! These beauties are perfect for the coming months and will add a bit of glamour to an understated outfit, like a pair of ripped jeans and oversized jumper combination.
Sunglasses have been a massive thing for me this summer (they weren't something I ever really invested in before). I've been drawn to the more bold and creative shade styles (pictured below), my favourites being: Rose gold aviators with pink lenses from Primark (£3), my catwoman-esque black patterned shades from Topshop SALE (£5), and finally a pair of gun metal grey aviators (£3) from Urban Outfitters SALE. As I like to mix up my style often, its important to me that I have lots of pairs to choose from.
This last month has seen me getting into denim in a big way. I've always been a skinny jean, ripped knee denim lover. However, the past few weeks I've been living in my distressed mom jeans paired with a chunky statement belt and crop top, they give off a perfect 90s vibe. Next on my 'to buy' list is this ripped denim jacket, shown above (I tried this on in Topshop but sadly I couldn't convince myself to spend the £49). Double distressed denim is certainly a look for me, I will be investing shortly when payday next rolls back around. I love the idea of collecting patches for the back too when on my travels, to give it a little more personality.
I've been a lot bolder in my style choices last month, throwing out the usual choices of little black dresses and fitted tees (I've enough of these already). Introducing a bardot style, or a bit of embroidery can go a long way in brightening up your fall wardrobe.
I love a shirt but crisp white ones remind me of high school uniforms. Then I found this safari inspired shirt (Topshop SALE) with it's bold embroidery across the chest, decorated with palm trees and giraffes. It's a fun item to pair with plain black jeans or tuck into a leather a-line skirt. The second shirt added to my collection is this oversized red check classic print (more of a dress on me). This stood out because of its off the shoulder, bardot style tops and just screams autumn time. Paired with tights and chunky black boots or converse it's going to be a staple item in my wardrobe for the next few months. The green lace dress (made me instantly think of Tinkerbell) is for a birthday this month, I bought it because I don't usually wear pastels but the cut and colour are unlike anything I already own. Plus it was only £7 in Topshop SALE, it really does pay off to be patient.
I also updated my everyday bag, usually I stick with black (it does go with everything), but I decided to invest in this little red babe, it'll add a pop of colour to every outfit. Finally, I've been obsessed with my Olivia Burton Rose Gold watch again, it's understated and sophisticated. I lost it a while back but was lucky enough to be reunited, so it's never off my wrist now. Think it may be time for a new model though.
Lights, Camera, Action!
Through August I've also been investing in some gear for my Trek America adventure. This includes my Cobra Adventure Camera (£80 from Very), as well as all the accessories and attachments. I have been playing non stop with it and it's been the best thing I've bought this month. For anyone interested in creating content (but wanting to experiment before investing in anything too expensive) I would recommend one, especially if you do a lot of travelling (around the UK or abroad). Capturing adventures on film is very different to photography, the results are more individual and I think it's good to be able to replay those memories.
Now I have walking boots I plan to take already but rather than packing my normal running trainers, I wanted something a bit sturdier for the hiking. I found these outdoor Timberland ones for just £31 reduced from £105 (or something around that) on SCHUH. I've currently got an order coming with my sleeping bag, power bank, memory cards and polaroid film all on its way, so I think that a packing blog is on it's way (because I have no idea how I'm fitting it all in my case).
I can't lie, the idea of digging out all my scarfs, bobble hats and jumpers makes me very happy indeed. Experimenting with layers and adding chunky jewellery to my chunky knit jumpers. I'm going to try and create some seasonal look book content for next month. Maybe even documenting my outfits and placing myself into quirky backgrounds around nearby cities. Just thinking of all the Halloween and christmassy content I will be able to shoot soon, theres going to be lots of market mayhem coming up.
I always say this is a work in progress, and I'm slowly finding my footing so feedback is appreciated. My videos aren't pristine they're fun and rough round the edges. My posts don't have the most staged shots in them but I'm working on it. In the next 12 months I'm hoping I will be a lot more skilled at producing this stuff. There are a few goals I'm setting myself that I hope to share here soon.
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Here's a little video I put together from my weekend trip to Blue Planet Aquarium, still getting to grips with the adventure camera and taking every opportunity to get it out. I didn't take any pictures on this one so it's video footage only. Diving in at the deep end, hope you enjoy it.
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It's a lazy Sunday afternoon and I'm finally getting chance to write this post after editing all morning. On Friday, I took a 5am train down South with Danny to start our weekend. It's no secret that I absolutely adore London and miss it often, but trips like this make me appreciate it's uniqueness so much more. The day began with a 4am wake up call and all of the coffee (can't say Danny was too impressed by this), before heading to the station to catch a 2 hour train ride into Euston. We arrived just after 8am and we'd certainly picked the perfect weekend, the sun was shining and I was buzzing to start the day.
What About Second Breakfast?
First stop Farm Girl Cafe, we jumped on the underground heading to Tottenham Court Road and then towards Marble Arch. I'd heard a lot about this place and seen some interesting Instagram posts, rainbow lattes and healthy brunch options that made me excited to check it out myself.
The walk there consisted of multiple balamory-esque houses I'd dream about, wondering what the insides must look like and deciding which I'd buy (if only I could afford one). Finally we reached the cafe after walking straight past it once. You go through a little white doorway and enter a small courtyard area which could be set abroad, the white walls stand tall on all sides decorated with ornate windows. We decided it was such a stunning morning that it only seemed fair to be seated outside, I opted for the Butterfly Matcha (Organic blue matcha powder with almond milk) it was a difficult decision as I was drawn to the Charcoal Latte but the black colour I found even more bizarre than my blue beverage. Danny had a lemonade and wasn't hungry (he had eaten on the train), but I couldn't resist the Berry Pancakes a buckwheat mix with amber maple syrup, peppermint, fresh strawberries and sprinkling of coconut.
After our second breakfast we had planned to walk to the Natural History Museum, just 30 mins away. This gave me the chance to have a little photoshoot along the way in Kensington (outside of more dreamy apartments, I'm pretty certain I couldn't afford without a lottery win). I'd worn tights which turned out to be a mistake, but the temperature had been a lot lower at 5am. Pairing my black converse with a red corduroy skirt I bought in the Topshop SALE last year and a River Island bardot style oversized red check shirt, I picked up with a gift card a few weeks ago. The windows were dressed with beautiful blooming flower boxes and the more we travelled around London (30,000 steps approximately) the more stunning bouquets we came across.
Time for a History Lesson
Eventually we found our way into the museum (there were some works going on so we there was a little confusion on how exactly you got inside) the building itself was breathtaking. It's funny I've been around Kensington and Knightsbridge before exploring Harrods and the V&A, but somehow missed the museum. I didn't take many pictures inside because it's something you should really see for yourself, ENTRY is free (apart from some special exhibitions). We went for the dinosaurs (nerdy I know) but theres a lot of other cool exhibits and cafes, you could easily lose yourself in here for a couple of hours, I'd recommend you do.
Next we decided as time was getting on and our phones had died, we should probably go grab coffee and lunch (also giving us some time to recharge). I decided to take Danny (a pizza lover) to my favourite pizzeria, Pizza Pilgrims in Kingly Court on Carnaby Street. My name is Aby and so it's quite fitting that I love Carn-Aby so much. The colourful courtyard, festival of food on offer and vibrant window displays never disappoint. It's a beautiful little escape from Oxford Street which I personally find a bit too busy, the atmosphere here is more creative and unique. After refuelling with some delicious carbs we headed off.
Whilst we were here, I figured shooting a time lapse on the river Thames could be cool (my little adventure camera certainly got a lot of use), so we strolled down to the bridge to test it out. The footage came out pretty great actually and I'll be linking the video below. The walking certainly helped to burn off the several coffees, pizza and pancakes from the day so far.
Now I never head down to London without walking through Covent Garden, there's always some beautiful display, artwork or street performers on. There were some vintage shops I wanted to check out nearby so I figured why not. I am so happy that we did because they had the most gorgeous floral swing seats set up all around, with huge flower carts and bouquets dotted throughout the market place. Naturally, I took this as an opportunity to get a new profile picture (who wouldn't, if only the people in the background had been a bit more camera shy).
We didn't have much planned for the rest of the Friday afternoon and so wandered, which is usually best because I always find myself in parts of the city I have never explored before. I've walked around the Soho area before but this time I found a little vintage shop called Rockit and an insanely good Gelato place! I opted for a hazelnut double scoop and Danny had strawberry perfect in the summer sun. After a bit of window shopping (saving at the moment so I was kind of on a budget) in some more stores I'd never heard of, we decided to end our day in Hyde Park. Off we strolled down towards Marble Arch.
With a cup more of ice cream (mint chocolate chip this time) we parked ourselves in some deck chairs (until we were asked to move, turns out they weren't free) put our feet up and watched the sun begin to set. Families, friends and couples all celebrating the end of their working week with a kick about or a cold one, it was a perfect evening.
Every time I take a trip down South I discover something new in London, it's a city that never gets boring. I have my favourite stops, as I'm sure everyone does but I always try and check out at least one new cafe, shop or bar. It's a good idea to walk as well, not just jump on the underground for every stop because this is how I find myself stumbling onto the cities hidden gems. (I'd highly recommend a weekday visit or for a weekend going on the Friday because it can be pretty chaotic on the Saturday or Sunday so I try and avoid the very centre of the city).
I've had such a beautiful weekend and got some pretty picture perfect moments (especially thanks to my instax mini 8 camera, the polaroids are always a great little souvenir). I can't wait to plan my next trip but until then I'll be staying in the North, Winter is Coming after all.
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I recently found a post that talked about something similar to this and I was so inspired to make my own. It's a little challenge I've set myself...
20 COUNTRIES IN MY 20s
I love to travel and want to see so much more. I've already seen a couple of countries but this would give me the next 6 years to visit another 14 countries, so I better get planning. I'm considering attempting to see all 50 states too but I don't want to put a time limit on that (currently on 2, just New York and Illinois. I'm going to be stopping in California, Nevada and Arizona in October though on my Trek America). CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, so here are a few places that are top of my list.
United Kingdom 1/20 - I live in the UK so this one was pretty easy, I feel good including it because I have seen a fair bit. Having travelled to Wales, up to Scotland, lived in London and to cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.
United States 2/20 - It was my first destination once I was old enough to go abroad on my own. For my 20th Birthday I went to New York, then earlier this year I was lucky enough to go on a work trip to Chicago. It's incredible, each city with it's own distinct buzz about it. In October I'm heading to do a Trek America so a few sights in 3 different states, I'll definitely be writing and filming some of that. It's sure to feature on here!
Ireland 3/20 - Dublin to be exact, to bring in the New Year (2016). Such a cute, warm and cosy little city I plan to see Belfast eventually and travel to more of the remote locations. Especially those were some 'Game of Thrones' stuff has been filmed, I know I'm a nerd.
France 4/20 - My mum's sister lived here for a while, we used to visit as kids. Mostly in the South of France, but I don't really remember. I'm in the process of booking a weekend away to Paris for November with Danny, I'll definitely remember it this time.
Spain (Canary Islands) 5/20 - Not one for warmer climates, but the idea of being on an island appealed to me. Clear skies and deep blue waters, this was a stunning little escape that I'd like to stop by again sometime. Barcelona is next on my list for Spain though!
Germany 6/20 - Another work trip to visit some colleagues, we stayed in Stuttgart. Pretty cool place if I'm being honest. The beer and the food won me over, I'd definitely go back for a lot longer next time. Explore the local museums and galleries which I missed out on.
Italy 7/20 - I live for coffee and pizza. This makes sense to me on every level, also if you ever saw the Lizzie Maguire movie then you'll understand. Rome or Venice are a must, it's on for next year. A 25th birthday present perhaps? The Dolomites appeal to the mountaineer in me so who knows, where I'll stop by first.
Croatia 8/20 - I'm planning this one for next year currently, a little week retreat. I've had a few people tell me how beautiful the islands are and that the cobbled towns are stunning. It's a perfect destination to escape to. I'll be booking this as soon as I have the funds.
Australia 9/20 - I've always wanted to see Australia ever since seeing the film 'Our Lips Are Sealed' (2000) featuring none other than the Olsen twins. It's such a massive place to explore, I'm more interested in the outback than the sand and surf. I would love to spend a few weeks here so I could see both sides. On that note...
New Zealand 10/20 - I think this could definitely be added onto the Australia trip and make it a two week getaway (at least). Who doesn't want to visit middle earth? Sea, sand and second breakfasts. Sounds like a dream come true!
Belgium 11/20 - Chocolate! Christmas markets here are very tempting. I figure France this year, Belgium next? It's not too far from home and a weekend break would be a lot of fun.
Canada 12/20 - I'm over in the states regularly it would seem, so I don't see why a detour to Canada isn't on the cards in the future. There are some amazing mountain ranges to climb, Trek America do tours that go here so I'd maybe consider signing up to one of those.
Iceland 13/20 - The Faroe Islands as well. It's absolutely stunning and I'd love to see the Northern lights, but I will settle for walking along glaciers and breathtaking baron views. Can't imagine a more beautiful looking landscape.
Eygpt 14/20 - The pyramids are a wonder of the world. The temples and ancient culture here have always intrigued me so I do think it would be an incredible adventure. I'd feel a little like Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones. I'm quite the explorer deep down, not one for soaking in the sun, which is why most of these involve sightseeing or island hopping.
Sweden 15/20 - I've never been snowboarding or skiing and I think Sweden would be a perfect place. My mums been actually and I she knows people over there so I could get in touch.
Thailand 16/20 - My friends have been here and did invite me but some unforeseen financial circumstances meant I couldn't go. It's on my list because of the islands, and I'm a love of thai food as well. Plus, they already have the experience so can tell me where is best to go.
Peru 17/20 - Hiking Machu Picchu is something I've been dreaming of for the last 12 months. This one would take some serious planning and saving but never say never.
Brazil 18/20 - South America remains a mystery to me, Rio de Janeiro would be an incredible place to visit. Climbing Corcovado mountain to the 'Christ the Redeemer' statue looking out from 2,300 ft. To experience a carnival here would be unforgettable to! Maybe I could even take a little excursion to explore some of the Amazon river and rainforests too.
China/Japan 19/20 - The culture here is something I would love to experience, from rural villages and temples to skyscrapers and neon signs. It's a big distance to travel but that won't stop me. This is definitely one for later in my twenties. Walking along the 'Great Wall of China' is high up on my list.
Netherlands 20/20 - This is mostly for Amsterdam, I know a lot of people head over here and I haven't been yet. The towns look cute and picturesque, its a place I could head over for a couple of days and snap away with my camera.
So that is it, 20 countries in my twenties. These may not necessarily be the order, or even the countries I end up visiting. Who knows what could crop up in the next 6 years but I'm super excited about getting stuck into this. Let the planning begin...
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Aby, 24. Northerner.