Thursday, 17 September 2020

Get In The Car! We're Going To Prague

jeshoots-com-romantic views over prague and the charles bridge

Last summer I took my car to Prague for a very spontaneous day trip. 

There's something incredibly liberating about the idea to just get in your car and go wherever you like. I guess that's why I love road trips and exploring. The independence when being on the road just screams adventures and epic driving stories to me. I'm also very, very good at carpool karaoke.

Sounds good, right? 

My parents' house in Germany is conveniently located between Berlin and Dresden. From Dresden, there's a new motorway extension which makes driving to Prague way faster than before - a perfect opportunity to venture out and only a 250km drive away. 

Driving In The Czech Republic 


The downside of taking your car to Prague is the toll network, meaning you have to pay for using the roads. Therefore, you'll need to get a vignette, a sticker that allows you to use the roads in the Czech Republic. Ideally, you *should* purchase the vignette in advance - but for the spontaneous traveller like me....oh, well you just gamble and hope the first motor service will come shortly after you've entered the country. 

The vignette needs to be placed on the bottom right-hand side of your windscreen and carry the date of your first day of use. There are several options to buy. Short-term permissions which are valid for 10 days, cost around 13 EUR, which is a fair price.  

xiaofen-busy streets with tourists in central prague

Petrol is cheap, so the day trip to Prague from Germany won't break the bank. 

From Dresden, the E55 will take you straight into Pragues' city centre. It is easy to drive into the city and navigate around. Even though I had my sat nav with me I didn't fancy going on a search for a car park. Unfortunately, Czechs are very, very strict and have tonnes of parking rules, so better not risk a ticket and go the way of least resistance. 
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Monday, 14 September 2020

What Is Quality Content And How Can I Create It?

adventure time sign at sydney airport

I've recently come back to travel writing and decided it is time to take my little adventure blog to the next level. I've been looking properly into monetizing it, which will open up a lot of opportunities in the long-term but beforehand there are a couple of obstacles to overcome. Most affiliate programmes or AD publisher require your website to attract a decent stream of traffic - ideally somewhere in the monthly 10k range. 

More traffic? OMG how do I do that? My stats are shit (fact). Where do even I start? 

Once my panic was over, I pulled out my Gantt-Chart, came up with an improvement plan and drafted a road map for the next three month. If I wanted to grow my blogs' traffic and increase its performance I would have to work harder on my content and its quality. 

Right. Let's go!

Step 1: Work In The Backend to Improve My Travel Content


Some of the ranking factors which Google identifies as "quality" and which will eventually also affect your blogs' DA are SEO, grammar & spelling as well as all outgoing links placed on your blog.  

I haven't done a thorough blog maintenance for a year so there were LOADS of things to tidy up in the backend. I went through all 260 blog posts individually, checked for grammar and spelling with Grammarly, updated pictures and their Alt-Tag and included long-tail keywords in my subheadings. 

I've also removed a couple of posts which no longer reflect my niche, so 30% of my content went back into draft mode. Some of my old content, mainly film reviews, went over to Amazon. I've also got a few book reviews which I could submit as a guest post so if there are any book blogger interested and currently take on guest posts, do let me know!

what is quality content

Next on the list were outgoing links, so I checked every single link placed on my travel blog for its redirect and correct functioning, and if the link would open up in a new window. This is crucial as otherwise, readers will be leaving your blog and Google evaluates session duration as a quality factor for your website. 

I keep my readers for as long as possible on my blog to reduce bounce rate. Any time spend over 3 minutes is a high-quality indicator for Google, too. To achieve the maximum stay for my readers I've included a similar post widget at the end of each post, make sure my outbound links open up in a new window and I also interlink to my own content. 
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Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Top & Flop Brunch Spots In Brisbane

brooke lark brunch in brisbane

In January I flew out to Australia to go travelling for a year. I started my trip with a two-week stay in Brisbane and as time went on, I found myself coming back to the city on many more occasions. 

Over the course of 7 months, Brisbane became my "home away from home". I fell in love with the city, which is best described as a mini version of London, minus the stressful lifestyle. Instead, I made friends here, created epic memories, spent a great deal of my lockdown time and got a good sense of what it would feel like to live here.

With its all-year-round perfect weather and relaxed lifestyle, the city also has a rich and versatile brunch culture. Australians celebrate breakfast like no other nation and thanks to affordable Brisbane, I quickly ate my way around its many cafés. 

Here are some of the brunch and breakfast spots which I visited and I tell you if they are any good. 


1. Anouk Café: Top Spot in Paddington


A 20-minute walk north of the centre in the borough of Paddington is Given Terrace, which is THE breakfast mile and top address for brunch in Brisbane. The street is seamed with countless little cafés where I found my personal favourite spot: Anouk Café.

It ticks all the boxes for me: an industrial style look - think dark flooring in contrast to the cream-white shabby chic interior and lots of green plants - outdoor seating and phenomenal food. It is no surprise that the place is popular and busy around the clock. To secure a seat outside in the glorious Queensland sun, I would recommend getting here as early as 8am. 

Once seated, it is time to check out the menu which changes every few weeks with its interesting and healthy choices. There are homemade granolas, avo on toast with a Queensland twist, a variety of sourdough bread with Eggs Benedict, sweet waffles or my absolute-never-to-forget French brioche toast with a croissant, roasted pistachios, caramelised slices of peach, ricotta cream and maple syrup. 

NOOOOOM

the best breakfast in brisbane served at anouk cafe
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Tuesday, 18 August 2020

The Summer of UK Staycations & Road Trips: Cornwall & Devon

surfing in cornwall

With the current pandemic and restrictions on international travel, "staycation" has become the latest trend to travel and stay safe this summer. Staying close to home or - better - exploring our beautiful country is as equally exciting as going abroad.

A couple of summers ago, I spent an entire month road tripping around the South of England, in particular Devon and Cornwall. Instead of spending a few days here and there, I decided to rent a private room in Exeter and made the charming city my base from which I would go out exploring the beaches, the breath-taking coastal walks and countless historic sights.  

Make Exeter Your Base For Your Road Trip


Renting a private room in Exeter did not only mean some savings on accommodation, but I stayed with a lovely couple and got local insights, recommendations and felt like a true Exeter resident which made my stay even more memorable.

Exeter itself is a charming town which can be explored easily by foot. The area around the Cathedral is seamed with little cafes and nearby shops which is inviting for traditional cream tea and perfect for a relaxed Sunday afternoon. But there’s more. 

Being one of the oldest settlements in Britain, Exeter has seen William the Conqueror and has kept many remains of its Norman Conquest past including a very well preserved city wall. More than 70% of the ancient wall is still intact spanning a history of more than 2000 years. There are 9 historical spots to discover if you decide to go on a self-guided walking tour which will take you across the majority of the inner city past lush gardens and medieval townhouses. 

If you have some more time, I can also recommend seeing the Underground Passages, a medieval subterranean system to transport water deep below the city centre. The passages are well preserved and narrow which makes exploring even more adventurous. Exeter is also the only city in the UK to have these underground passages so make sure you don't miss out on them. 
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Friday, 14 August 2020

What To Expect When You Fly During The Corona Virus Pandemic

airplane waiting in an empty airport lounge

Crazy times we're living in. 

Who would have thought that only eight months into 2020, the airline that took me to Australia went completely bust and now no longer exists?  

Or that 90% of air travel, domestic as well international, is completely cancelled bringing even the all-mighty Heathrow airport to a standstill? 

Whilst travelling around Australia, the Corona Virus pandemic hit and after a first round of lockdown in Down Under I had to make the decision to cancel my trip and instead plan to get back home to London. It wasn't an easy decision given the fact that there were (and still are) limited flights going in and out as travel restrictions have and continue to tighten. The other concern was how to safely travel back across the globe in the middle of an ongoing deadly pandemic.  

Domestic Flights in Australia During Covid-19


Between March and June, I took two domestic flights in Australia. 

One, when Covid hit back in March, going from Townsville to Brisbane. My second one was towards the end of June when restrictions got eased and I made a move home. 

My first flight was a spontaneous decision as I had to be flexible and drop all of my other plans when the situation peaked at the end of March. I had taken the risk to go to Magnetic Island, a remote island just off the Queensland coast from Townsville. Luckily I was able to get a ticket for a flight to Brisbane though I didn't see myself covering the 1000km and returning safely to Brisbane that day. I actually thought I would be stuck in Townsville. 

When I arrived at Townsville airport, all flights were either suspended, cancelled or taken off the board. Only a few flights to Sydney were scheduled and my mid-afternoon Virgin flight to Brisbane. 

Back then, Social Distancing was only enforced during boarding and queuing, but completely waived at when inside the plane. All seats were fully booked so I would sit shoulder to shoulder to other passengers but wearing a face covering was mandatory. At Brisbane airport, I wasn't checked for any temperature or symptoms and everyone just continued their normal routine as if nothing was happening. In general, Australians behaved very relaxed and unbothered about the pandemic because of their remote location in the world. 
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Saturday, 18 January 2020

Australia Bound!

joey-csunyo-australia trip and plans

I've got big news to share and super excited to announce I'm FINALLY going to Australia!!!

I've been talking about this trip forever and my first attempt to making plans date back to 2017....well...as usual life got in the way and I kept postponing my dream. But not now. I have a really good gut feeling, that this experience will be "good for me". 

For the past three months, I've been busy planning and organising my travels to Australia. I should have started earlier, really but I thought it'll be wise to wait for the Black Friday deals. In the end, I got a great flight deal through Skyscanner and I'll be off next week.

For now, I've got a one-way ticket and I'm planning on enjoying my life (for once) and check out the other side of the world and the opportunities waiting for me there. So saying that I'm taking a little break from blogging to fully focus on this new chapter of my life.

Super excited to finally fulfil one of my life dreams even though I'm reserved about the long flight, which is my first time away from Europe. Anyway, I will post over on Instagram and check in with my blog occasionally. 

Thanks so much for reading, 

Till next time,
Carolin
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Tuesday, 14 January 2020

The Best Tunes For Travelling

santiago de compostela airport

Oh my! 

Everyone is sharing their End of the Decade Spotify playlists over on Social Media and I'm sat here thinking, why have Spotify when you can listen to Vanilla Web Radio all day long? It's literally THE best channel to discover new sunset beach tunes and relaxed deep house vibes.

For the past 2 years, I've been listening to the deep channel and have come across some classic songs, which make you feel like you're sitting in Mallorca, watching the sunset in one of those übertrendy beach bars. In that time I've discovered so many new artists and compiled a few epic playlists myself.

My latest selection makes a great soundtrack for travelling so here it is:
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Sunday, 15 December 2019

Day 3 On The Camino: Palas De Rei To Arzua


Morning Has Broken On The Camino


It is still dark at 7:20am when I join Jorge for breakfast. My night as the only guest at the villa went well, no Japanese spirits tried to kill me and I feel refreshed and ready for food.

This is my first breakfast since I left home and, for a pilgrim, this is a feast: there are different jams, fruit, cakes, orange juice, fresh hot croissants, hot chocolate, a whole cheese and meat platter and more. Will I manage to eat all of this? Have to!

Jorge joins me and shares his stories from the Camino including his own pilgrimages to Santiago. He's done it three times so far! I'm impressed and admire his pilgrim passports which are full of colourful sellos. Of course, Jorge stamps my passport to document my stay at his guesthouse.

I really enjoy breakfast and have a great view over the Camino which passes the villa and the first people are already on the hike! Sometimes this hike feels like a race. Before I leave the villa, Jorge has kindly organised a local luggage transfer for me. A bit sceptical, I leave my backpack behind. Fed, well-rested and a couple of kilos lighter I can start my day.  

With the sunrise at 8:30am, I'm ready to leave and as the day before, the Camino is busy. I join straight into a pack of chatty pilgrims and get carried away with them. The next two hours are very productive and I make great progress as the landscape is flat and allows a smooth hike.
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Monday, 9 December 2019

A Perfect Day In Madrid

jorge-fernandez-salas-madrid skyline

On my way home after hiking the Camino de Santiago, I made a stopover in Madrid. Here I had less than 48h to spent so I filled my day with some quality sightseeing and culinary treats. Unlike sightseeing in Rome or my previous trip to Athens, I feel Madrid is not the "traditional" capital I would choose for a sightseeing heavy city break. However, there are a few things worth visiting as the city has an incredibly lively atmosphere with excellent food and interesting architecture. I had a great time and if I had to relive the day it would look as follows:

Starting The Day In Madrid


9am: wake up at one of Madrid's überstylish hotels. Barceló Imagine, H10, the NH collection or Tryp are all great choices when staying in Spain's capital. A great hotel can make all the difference and excite you to start the day, plus all of these are located centrally and are in easy walking distance to all the actions in the city.

breakfast served at antipode australian cafe in madrid

My stop for breakfast would be the Australian cafe Antipode in Calle de San Bernardo Street for 10am. The cafe offers healthy vegan and classic breakfast options such as avocado on toasts with poached eggs, but there's also porridge, homemade granola, and pancakes. Literally, anything from the menu is a winner. I ordered a variety from the card such as their tropical oats and matcha pancakes. Add a berry smoothie and freshly pressed orange juice for a perfect start to the day.
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Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Bruges Pre Christmas Is Always A Good Idea

olivier-depaep-bruges during christmas time

Pre-Christmas getaways are just as popular as the regular weekender and experiencing the Christmas spirit in another country is always a big winner to get into the festive mood even more for many. 

Having said that, coming from Germany I'm already spoilt by the traditional markets in Dresden in Leipzig which are beautiful, however, there's one more city which has Christmas written all over it and to me that is Bruges. Protected by the UNESCO World Heritage, this medieval 13th-century town has everything to give you all the festive feels: adorable fairy tale buildings, chocolates galore, seasonal decorations, enchanting lights and a good portion of chilly winter weather. 

A visit to this fantastic little town is a treat trip extravaganza, so be prepared for lots of food, cosy cafes, and unforgettable food comas.

How To Get To Bruges & When Is The Best Time


The fastest and easiest way to get to charming Bruges from London is via Eurostar. Keep in mind the Eurostar train is not for the spontaneous as tickets are expensive on short notice. Therefore, start as early as possible to monitor for deals - as early as three months in advance and be flexible with dates. You can also gamble and wait for the BlackFriday Deals but better avoid the disappointment of missing out by checking prices regularly beforehand. 

I managed to get return tickets from St Pancras for £60 for a two-day trip in mid-December. A one night stay is just about the right amount of time to explore all the festive markets and roam the fairy tale cobbled streets at night, which is an absolute must! 

vanveenjf-bruges at night
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Monday, 25 November 2019

Day 2 On The Camino: Portomarin To Palas De Rei

Into the misty mountains portomarin camino frances

A Busy Morning On The Camino


After all the walking from Day 1 on the Camino Frances from Sarria to Portomarin, muscle pain and no chocolate, I thought I'd wake up on Day 2 and finally have the shape of a top model. It isn't the case, but the muscle ache is still there.

I check out at 8am and get a lift into town by the guesthouse's owner Mario. He speaks no English, but he is a friendly local and we manage a basic conversation. Mario kindly drops me off at Portomarin's Church of San Juan so I'm spared of walking 1km uphill. 

Unfortunately, the church is closed so no sello for me this morning. I also get a novella text from Jorge, my host for tonight, asking me lots of questions. When will you arrive? Do you need dinner? What do you eat? Do you need pick up? - Ahhhhh, this is information overload. I've not even started the day so I have no idea how fast I'll make progress today. I reply with a short text that I'm just about to leave Portomarin and aim to be at the guesthouse before it gets dark (8pm). I'll text him when I'm closer to Palas de Rei. That should do, right!?!

Portomarin church of san juan camino frances

It is approaching 8:20am. Sun's not up yet, but everyone else is. The village is super busy. Like London rush hour busy. Everyone is out and about. Pilgrims join from every corner of the small village to tackle today's route to Palas de Rei. 

Some check out of their hotel, at the other end of the road, are pilgrims taking pictures with the Portomarin sign. A Chinese couple shoulder their backpacks, others quickly drop into the tiny supermarket by the church to buy last-minute snacks for the day. The chatter, laughter, and clicking of Nordic Walking sticks create a buzz in the air which is inspiring and infectious. We can do those 30kms, off to Palas de Rei we go!
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Thursday, 7 November 2019

Day 1 On The Camino: Sarria To Portomarin

sarria welcome sign on the camino

Getting To The Camino: Travelling To Sarria From Santiago De Compostella


My first day on the Camino starts early: after a quick shower and little faffing about, I'm ready to leave my hotel in Santiago at around 7am in the morning. I'm glad I've ordered a taxi for the ride to the bus station as it is pitch black outside and it would have been quite a walk - and I'll be doing lots of walking later.

I've pre-booked my bus ticket with Eurolines for the 8am service from Santiago to Lugo. There's a good chance I will miss the connection bus to Sarria which will leave when I will arrive in Lugo. In that case, I'm planning to spend the 3h gap for the next service for some exploring in Lugo, but we'll see.

The bus station has a huge underground terminal with several platforms. I do worry that I'm lost but eventually one of the bus drivers tells me to wait at platform 20, right at the end of the terminal. I check the ticket again and again but slowly, other pilgrims join me so I'm feeling less lost. I guess they are pilgrims as they wear big backpacks and are dressed in professional hiking gear. Surely, they will travel to Sarria today too and begin their pilgrimage.

By 7:50am, the bus arrives and we're on the way to Lugo. It is super modern and comfy with aircon, blacked-out windows, free WiFi and a screen for watching movies. Whilst I put Pitch Perfect 3 on I do doze off a few times. I notice the lush landscape that the bus is passing. Cities that lie in the morning fog are starting to wake up. 

If you wouldn't know you're in Spain, you wouldn't expect it, as none of the scenery outside looks typical Spanish. The sunlight only breaks through shortly then disappears behind a thick carpet of clouds. It gets cold, dark and rainy and I'm putting on my rain jacket to keep warm. The prospect of hanging around for 3h in Lugo doesn't look too appealing to me.

Into The Wild: Embarking On A 120km Journey Through The Spanish Countryside


Luck is on my side though, as my bus pulls in 2 minutes ahead of schedule and I catch the connection to Sarria. It's a very quick in-and-out situation but 30 minutes later I arrive in Sarria. Now I need to find my way to the Camino so from the bus station I head North to the Monastery of Magdalena. 

I walk uphill for a while until I reach a small alley which is seamed with Albergues - the typical pilgrim accommodation. I can feel I'm heading in the right way and tadah! there's the first Camino sign showing the way forward. I'm excited and buzzing. The Monastery comes into sight and for the first time, I draw my Pilgrimage Passport and get my first sello (stamp). My adventure on the Camino has officially begun!
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