Get In The Car! We're Going To Prague

Thursday, 17 September 2020

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. 

The Palladium Shopping Centre Was An Ideal Parking Spot

The parking guidance system leads you automatically into the underground car park of the Palladium, a huge innercity shopping centre. Given, that the Palladium is super central, the costs for parking are only 2 EUR per hour. 

The shopping centre itself is quite nice and even has a few shops from the UK, such as a Tesco and Marks & Spencer. In general, Czechs are very modern and forward-thinking. They are miles ahead when I think of Germany in comparison. Paying with Euros, even though the Czechs are not in the EU, is absolutely no problem. They all speak fluent English, some of them even offer to speak German, and are very friendly.

remi-boyer-prague streets and charming houses

With my car securely parked, I was in a great spot to explore the city. The central square with its world-famous astronomical clock is close by. You get lost in the maze of picturesque streets, admire timber-framed grade listed houses, which ooze charm and fairytale character and there are tonnes of statues.   

Even though Prague attracts 8 million visitors per year, there's enough space to walk around. The souvenir shops are cute, there are lots of bars and outdoor beer gardens serving absinthe and beer for as little as £1.50. The city is also very cultural and artsy so if you come for a longer stay, do check out a black light theatre performance. 

medieval astronomical clock in prague
hanna-balan- pargue astronomical clock souvenir shop

From Prague's' New Town To Its Medieval Old Town And Anywhere Inbetween 

For a quick breakfast stop, I can recommend Coffee & Waffles in Staré Město, before crossing Prague's main attraction, the Karlův Most (Charles Bridge) towards the Old Town district. The bridge is always busy with tourists and street sellers but offers stellar views over the river Vlatava and the towering 9th-century castle. A tourist tradition is to rub the feet of the statue of John of Nepomuk, which is a promise to the city to return one day. 

The Kafka museum lies straight to your right when entering the Old Town district, in between narrow houses and can easily be missed and overlooked.  If you prefer to stay on the main street in the Old Town, you'll see it buzzing with life and seamed with traditional bakeries. From here you can easily walk up the hill to the castle and admire gorgeous views over the roofs of the city. If you look very, very closely and know the direction, you can even spot The Dancing House. 

views over prague from the castle
roof views over prague

On your way back to the new part
 of town, you should definitely pick up a Tredelník, the Chimney Cake. It's sweet pastry rolled up on a cone and traditionally, the pastry is coated in sugar and cinnamon. As it has proven to be a very popular dessert, the various shops on the Old Town main street down to the Charles Bridge have invented a variety of deliciously fruity, savoury or sweet fillings. My favourite is a caramelised apple mixture, but you can also get strawberries and cream or chocolate and pistachio. 

trdelnik chimney cake sweet pastry prague

When strolling through Prague, other points of interests are the main shopping mile in central, the 
Na Příkopě, which has luxury and High Street brands. Close by is a Mucha art nouveau museum which is on my list for my next visit. There are hidden local markets and the streets are neat and well presented. Just looking at the houses and losing yourself in the city's' maze of cobbled streets will lead you to some incredible mews, little fountains or squares bursting with life and hospitality. 

Especially in the summer, people love to be outside and have food in the streets. For dinner, I found a great place outside of Adele Restaurant, a very chic and trendy restaurant as part of the upscale Kings Court Hotel. The restaurant offers a changing menu of Mediterranean cuisine and I was very impressed when the waiter brought me a tablet. The entire menu was displayed with a little preview of the food. Very high-tech but never pretentious. I opted for the Italian chicken breast which was served with a salad and fries. It was a perfect meal to prepare me for the drive home. 

adele restaurant dinner in prague

Is Driving To Prague For A Day Worth It?

I love day trips and exploring in my area. However, I always make sure time efficiency is given. What do I mean with time efficiency? So I know this sounds very German, but to me, a day trip is only effective if the time spent at the destination exceeds the time of travelling. Even though I love driving and travelling, there's just no point in going to a place, spending a huge effort on trains, cars or flights and then only spend an hour or so at the destination. 

For my Prague trip, I invested 3h of driving each way (6h in total), which meant I had to spend at least 6 to 7h in Prague to make the trip and the investment of effort worthwhile. It's going to be a long day, but it is doable when you leave early and I would probably do it in the summer when European summertime allows a longer day in general. 

Prague itself is a beautiful town, regardless of the season so I can recommend a visit whenever. It does get hot in the summer, but being outside in a beer garden or enjoying a meal in the streets is priceless. The friendliness and hospitality are second to none and I'm sure you'll fall in love with the city's enchanting character in no time. 

Thanks so much for reading, 

Till next time, 

What Is Quality Content And How Can I Create It?

Monday, 14 September 2020

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 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. 

TIP: Whilst I ran a broken link check, I also noticed that my Google Analytics code went missing in the majority of my posts. This had something to do with changing my template recently which is annoying, as Google Blogger doesn't provide a plugin to automatically pull and insert the code. Do check your HTML from time to time and replace a missing GA code. 

Step 2: Improve On-Site Content & My Travel Writing

Writing is by far my favourite part of blogging, but how do you measure the value of your content? 

Through my work in digital marketing, I've learnt a few things on content production and what makes it high quality. Ingredients to be successful and create quality are relevancy, purpose and engagement. 

Relevancy: Does my content reflect my niche (travel) and is, what I produce, relevant?

This includes new and old content alike, hence why I sieved out and excluded old posts which are no longer relevant for my topic "travel". When I'm planning future articles, I have to keep my niche in mind so I can work closely on producing the right posts. 

Right now a piece on "Fun Things To Do in Australia" would be highly contra-productive and insensitive, but a post on How to Survive a 14 Day Quarantine will spike high interest and demand due to the ongoing Corona pandemic. Therefore, relevancy creates interest and will drive more traffic to my site. 

working on creating quality content

Purpose: Does my content solve a problem and why should anyone care? 

Problem-solving is a huge quality indicator as most readers are drawn into finding a solution to their own issues. People, when they consume travel content, have intent and want to know as much as possible about certain processes. What is the destination I am going to like? What is the best way to travel to said destination? Are there any hidden gems which I can explore? Are locals friendly and so on...

My target group are Millenials, so I'm aware they love to explore locally and prefer affordable accommodation. They are also fond of eating out and keen on "off the beaten track" adventures. 

Identifying your readers' needs and interest to produce relevant content, as a result, is called "Intelligent Content" - content creation based on data, audience profiles and industry insights. The more you know about your audience, their problems and desires, the more targeted you can produce your content, cater to their needs and convert them into sales. 

Sounds a bit creepy and stalkerish? Yeah, it is, but a great deal of my time goes into analytics and insight analysis. My main tools are Google Analytics and Audiense. Other helpful tools which I can recommend are Buzzsumo, a social listening tool, and AnswerThePublic

Whilst I disagree to a certain level of producing content purely for the demand of a readership, I am interested in my target audience and their needs. When are they online? What do they talk about? Is my audience mainly female or male? This is all useful research to spot and maximise opportunities for me rather than creating specific content because my readership demands it. 

jess-bailey planner and pen

I'm pretty sure everyone does research and analysis their audience from time to time, which is a healthy practice to do and vital to determine your blog's future journey. Plus knowing the topics and keywords your travel-hungry audience is talking about opens up many content ideas and inspiration such as How To posts, Where to stay in post, What to do in posts, hotel reviews or even Travel Diaries.  

Engagement: Will my audience react to my travel content and how? 

When I publish my travel content, I automatically ask for a response and call to action from my readers.  I've worked hard to provide quality content, so it is only natural that I want a reaction and some sort of feedback. 

This can be a Like, a comment or even a share on Social Media. Any reaction that shows that my readers have engaged and reacted to my content, is a great achievement. It means my content triggered enough motivation for them to get active. I was able to engage them and they found my content useful and shareable (which is another Google indicator for quality). 

Next question: How to trigger engagement?

I define engagement as the measurement of an individual's willingness to put forth discretionary effort.

One formula which works in Content Marketing is the GRAB - PROVOKE - CONVERT method to generate sales. Basically, my travel posts need to grab my readers attention (engage), provoke an emotional response which will then lead to action (commenting, sharing). 

I'm yet to master the principle of "grabbing" attention, which I'm aiming to achieve through producing better headlines. There are countless headline generators out there which can be consulted for research but the best way to grab my audience' attention has been through question-asking and controversial statements. 

Controversial statements contain subjective views which trigger a variety of emotions as displayed in Plutchik's wheel of emotions.

plutchiks wheel of emotions quality content

An example could be: 

A Complete Guide to Sydney     vs     48h in Sydney, the Most Boring City in The World

In the later headline, I've used "boring" which conveys my subjective, slightly negative views of Sydney. Now, my connotations with Sydney may be dampened, but I'm sure there are readers out there who would disagree with me. Readers, for example, who had a fantastic time in Sydney and share fond memories.

They may be outraged by my statement and, therefore, I've triggered two actions here: first, the disagreement and secondly, I may have stirred my readers' potential memories which they would like to share. In the next step, my reader would skim read through my article out of interest why I dislike the city they adore and then hammer away in the comment section to persuade me of the exciting sides of Sydney. Mission accomplished! 

There's another insight gained from this example, which is "identification". Identification in readers happens, when there are shared similarities and values which can form the basis of relation. This is important because if a reader reads about my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella and can identify with any of my challenges, pain and happy moment of accomplishment, that reader is more likely to return and consume another post. After all, reader retention is also a key indicator of quality content. 

annie-spratt-sydney opera house on a clear crisp day

A second method which has worked well in content creation contains the three key elements of INFORM - INSPIRE - ENTERTAIN 

People consume online content for a variety of reasons and their reading habits tend to be rather shallow and short-lived in comparison to reading a book. Most skim-read and have a short attention span, so most online content aims to be informative, entertaining and light-hearted which allows a faster and easier read through the content. 

Think List posts or "17 Things You Should Do When Visiting Brisbane"

"Inspire" is similar to "Provoke" which indicates the trigger function that my travel article needs to have and animates my readership to interact with my piece. Inspire is definitely on the positive spectrum so my readers will be left with a positive impression and call to action. 

An example could be: I Quit My Job, Flew Solo Across The World And Would Totally Do It Again

seeing hte world from a different view with skydive australia

A job is the embodiment of adulthood. Quitting a job is something many of us would LOVE to do, but can't because of commitments, social limitations, no money or God knows what. 

So I've done something completely out of the norm - I refused to follow social convention and quit adulthood. Pretty badass, right? 

I also flew solo to the other side of the world, which some may find inspiring whilst others will be like "so what?". 

Anyway, I'm targeting the first group of people here and hope to inspire them by my boldness to "quit my job" and go against societal expectations. Then, further, I took the plunge to go by myself, alone (!) and travel a significant distance to another continent. Plus I indicate motivation to do it again, hence why I've triggered enough interest in the reader to check out the piece. 

Both examples, the provoke and inspire method, have been excellent strategies for me to create original and fresh content. 

Step 3: Share My Quality Travel Content On Social Media

Right, so my content is fully optimised and packed with useful informative context. Time to share it with the world!

Online promotion is an inevitable key element when blogging and driving traffic. When I share my blog link online, it creates a signal to Google. Though there's been debate on the SEO value of Social Media shares, one can't deny the impact of a regular and consistent promotion. 

However, travel bloggers need to be aware to not "overdo" it as an aggressive promotion online can look spammy and intrusive to your brand. 

A few years ago, work send me to Brighton SEO, a huge industry conference with keynote speakers and the latest developments in the industry. I was lucky to attend a talk by Mel Carson who introduced me to the AURA principle - the winning formula to produce high-quality content on Social Media. 

jamie-street-setting your compass to success

AURA stands for:

A ... Authentic - 60/40 split. Share 60% to promote my travel content and 40% private information
U ... Useful - Think about why someone should care about your content
R ... Relevant - Is the content relevant to my readers? Fashion news are probably not as engaging as travel
A .. Actionable - Does my travel content ask for a call to action

His main objectives for the principle were to create a better branding experience and make a better impression. Any produced content is a reflection of your brand and a creator should aim to produce discoverable, sharable and memorable contributions. 

An example could be my promotion of my latest post What To Expect When You Fly During The Corona Virus Pandemic.

tweet promoting my travel post on flying during the Cornona pandemic

My tweet includes my own personal flight experience (A) during the ongoing Corona Pandemic (U). I'm providing information on what to expect when flying these days (R) and have included RT services and hashtags to animate my readers to share my content (A). 

My tweet has generated 2k impressions, 4 likes and 2 RTs - overall not that much, but the piece attracted the attention of the national press. A few hours later, I was contacted by The Telegraph and provided a short interview on my flight experience and return to the UK. This wouldn't have happened if my content wasn't of high quality. 

Did they share a backlink to my blog? 

No, but that would have been the absolute cherry on top (Bye, Bye backlink juice). 

Small steps at a time...

Thanks so much for reading, 

Till next time, 

Top & Flop Brunch Spots In Brisbane

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

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. 


the best breakfast in brisbane served at anouk cafe
anouk cafe brisbane pancakes with banana and chai spiced maple syrup

The French brioche/croissant hybrid was an absolute DREAM and reignited my love for peach. I knew straight away that I had to come back to Anouk's for a second breakfast round. 

The opportunity for a second visit came after lockdown. The French brioche croissant was no longer on the menu so I ordered their current pancakes with banana, whipped ricotta and chai spiced maple syrup. 

The pancakes were fluffy and filling and I found the ricotta and chai spiced maple syrup took away the usually very overpowering taste of banana. Overall another tasty composition which kept me full for the rest of the day. 

Alongside a huge iced coffee and orange juice, I paid a modest £15 each time. 

Oh, the days of brunching in Brisbane....I'd give anything to go back here. One day, it'll happen. 

2. Corner Store Cafe: Hipster in Toowong

I found the next café through Instagram and was sold when I saw "waffles" on their menu. I have a very sweet tooth and weak spot for waffles, which was motivation enough for me to justify a 40-minute stroll westbound along the river to the suburb of Toowong. 

On the corner of Sylvan Road/Quinn Street is the Corner Store Cafe, a local magnet for young families, hipster residents and Instagrammers alike. The place is listed on every decent online publication for brunch and breakfast recommendations so it was no surprise that it was busy on the day I went to try their waffles.

corner store cafe in brisbane waffles with fresh fruit

The menu is not entirely vegan but has healthy options such as the Acai Bowl with paleo granola, sourdough gluten-free toast, porridge and the avo on toast classic with dukkah and pomegranate molasses. Interesting combos, so far so good. 

And of course, the cinnamon waffles, topped with whipped ricotta, maple syrup, baked apple and dates.  Together with a cappuccino, I paid $24 which translates to roughly £13 - for a Londoner, this is a very affordable breakfast. 

The apple and dates went nicely with the syrup and the waffle was freshly made. My coffee was creamy and delicious. Overall I was a bit underwhelmed though, especially with the presentation which reflected minimal efforts and I kinda expected more. 

Even though the café was well visited that day, there was a constant come and go and staff were more interested in a quick turn over rather than persuading guests to another coffee or sweet treat. The slightly impatient atmosphere didn't sit too well with me and I got peckish a few hours later. 

I was happy I gave this one a try but didn't feel motivated enough to go back. Instead, Paddington lured me back and check out some Roche filled croissants. 

3. Paddington Social: UBEr Cool in Paddington

Back in Paddington, it was time to try out Paddington Social - a mix of an all-day café and Thai pop-up kitchen. The place is well-known for their variety of chocolate and Roche coated croissants which will make you drool when you see the pictures online.  

But it's not just the sickly sweet sugar shock croissants, pastries and cakes that had me intrigued. The menu has some very healthy and highly interesting options available. My personal choices from their seasonal menu at the time were pear & blackberry hotcake with a cardamon champagne poached pear, blackberry compote and chocolate Anglaise or a mega healthy chia pudding. 

AND then I spotted the Ube pancakes.

Never heard of Ube? Me either! It's a purple yam originally from the Philippines. Realsimple describes Ube as a "bright purple sweet potato with an even sweeter, more mellow taste than its orange relative with a slightly nutty, vanilla taste. It's popularly used in desserts, often boiled and then mashed with condensed milk." 

Sounds YUMMO to me. 

My enthusiasm to try something completely new was, however, quickly thwarted as they've sold out on Ube that day. NOOOOO. 

So instead, the vegan and gluten-free Chia Pudding with dragon fruit, blueberry compote, passionfruit, house-made granola and coconut yoghurt at $17 (£8.50) had to save the day. 

paddington social in brisbane chia pudding best breakfast

And it did deliver. 

The pudding was smooth, infused with a lovely taste of exotic fruits, all topped with the crunch of home-made granola. The coconut yoghurt was creamy and light and a wonderful addition to the overall composition. The pudding was filling so it took me quite some time to finish it but I did and needless to say, I was completely stuffed for the rest of the day. 

4. New Farm Dicki's: Vegan Heaven

OK, the next place is not really a pure breakfast café per se but offers a versatile range of vegan dishes for a light lunch. Originally I had planned to go to Little Loco in New Farm, but on the day they didn't do brunch past 1pm and so I made my way back to the CityCat boat terminal in Sydney Street. 

On my way, I came across Dicki's and spontaneously decided to get my brunch there instead. Turned out to be a great decision! 

dickis cafe in brisbane vegan tagliatelle with green basil pesto and macadamian cheese

The café is small and popular (which is always a good sign) and on the day I got seated in a cosy corner, overlooking the main action going on in Dicki's.

Their regular menu lists some save options such as Mac 'N' Cheese, classic vegan burger, arancini balls or the all-time evergreen avo on toast all in the region of $16 (£8). I felt more adventurous that day and was up to trying something unusual so I had a quick look at their lunch specials and there we go, I found my match:

Basil pesto infused tagliatelle with roasted pine nuts, Macadamian cheese topped with fresh basil leaves. 

Sounds nice? It was!

The portion had the right size for me, not too much but enough to cover me for a few hours. The basil pesto felt refreshing and not overpowering. Sometimes pesto infused pasta tends to be a bit greasy but this one was nicely balanced. The crunch from the roasted pine nuts is always a huge winner for me but I was mostly looking forward to trying vegan cheese. 

The cheese cubes made from Macadamian nuts were creamy with a nice nutty flavour and a hint of saltiness to round up the taste profile. Loved it and researched on the spot how to make Macadamian cheese as this is something I would definitely try to recreate at home. 

5. Adonis Cafe: Death By Chocolate in Yeerongpilly

I get a lot of my travel inspiration through Instagram and having visited all these amazing brunch spots in sunny Brisbane, I got bombarded with all sorts of recommendations on where to go next. 

With a very clever and slightly aggressive PPC campaign, Adonis Cafe kept popping up left, right and centre-front. The clear and aesthetically pleasing images plus the very instagrammable presentations of their food even made avo on toast look highly attractive to me. The USP and main factor why I sat on a train for 20 minutes southbound to Yeerongpilly were the Kinder Bueno Waffles. Literally a slow, sickly sweet death by chocolate.

Sign me up for that.

adonis cafe in brisbane breakfast waffles with kinder bueno

This is a breakfast spot that requires a bit of effort (train ride), adventurous spirit (industrial estate) and patience (I'll explain). 

The walk from the station to the café through an industrial estate is not the sexiest if I'm honest but once you're at the place it does get better. Adonis is very inviting with a big roofed terrace, wooden panelling and stoned flooring. The lively staff are busy to serve the rather young main clientele (20-year-old "Instagrammers") and can take their time in seating you. 

At first, the staff were a bit reserved towards me as I'm a solo diner and they've tried to seat me in the furthest corner inside the café away from the main action, which didn't make sense to me (terrace had enough empty tables available) or made a great impression. No matter if someone is a solo diner, a local, the Queen of England or turns up with a group of friends, a customer is a customer. 

Seating solo diners away from the main action feels very dismissive and excluding which I didn't appreciate and it didn't make me feel like I wanted to stay, to be honest. Luckily, they've allowed me to swap tables so I got a super nice seat outside on the terrace and had time to check out the menu. 

Don't expect many healthy options for this one, as the main selling point are the chocolate loaded waffles, pancakes and churros. And I mean, look at this one, presentation is everything. 

For $20 (£10) you'll die a slow sugary death from two Belgian waffles, topped with vanilla ice cream, three pieces of strawberry, Oreos, Kinder Bueno and a chocolate-filled syringe. After all, I'm still on holidays, right?

It was quite a lot but I knew what I had signed up for so technically it is my own fault. The waffles were ok and I'm aware you pay mostly for the novelty of it which I happily accepted. 

Overall Adonis has been quite an experience and without the slightly passive-aggressive encounter at the beginning of my visit, I would have probably considered the place for another time. 

Anyway, once finished and on my way back to the train station, I did end up next door and spent a good amount of time at Mandy's Plant Empire - a creative pottery centre with tonnes of plants, succulents and local artwork which made the world trip to Yeerongpilly definitely worth it. 

... and Where To Get Decent Coffe In Brisbane CBD? 

jesse-collins-coffee club in brisbane

Right, so sunny Brisbane has an abundance of brunch spots and breakfast alternatives to offer, so you definitely won't starve in the city. Whatever you do, do avoid Pancake Manor which is an outdated tourist trap in the CBD. Do venture out into the nearby suburbs and indulge in the rich brunch culture and if you're just looking for coffee, I can report back the following positive news: 

Surprisingly, all coffees I've tried have been decent in Brisbane, chain and independent alike. The average cost for a medium-sized Latte or lactose-free Cappucino is about $5, which is a £2.50 happy dance for any Londoner.   

- Coffee Club Brisbane on Queen Street, opposite the casino by the Suncorp Tower: average but ok. Had no complaints.

- Jimmy's On The Mall, Queen Street Mall, pretty much in the centre of the pedestrian: quick, creamy,        tasty

- Nodo, Southbank (near the wheel, beginning of the arbour): creamy, decent size, excellent price/quality

Thanks so much for reading,

Till next time,

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

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

surfing in cornwall

*This post contains an affiliate link through which I earn a small commission.

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 to see 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. 

North Devon and The Exmoor

Being close to the border to Cornwall, Exeter is a perfect spot to explore Devon and Cornwall alike. Driving distances to the North of Devon are all under 2h and there's a lot to do and to see to fill a few days. 

North Devon is home to my favourite beach in Saunton, the UK's largest sand dune site. You can also go surfing here, but I was told Bude and Woolacombe are the hot spots for surfers. If you like the sea but don't fancy a swim or a surf, a walk along the stunning coastline is best to do from Minehead or Morthoe. Especially the later is a super cute fairy tale village with adorable tearooms where you can enjoy traditional cream tea with scones and clotted cream. 

sam edwards cream tea in cornwall and devon

On another day I can recommend exploring the Exmoor National Park where you can spot wild ponies and observe all sorts of British wildlife. I'm a huge fan of owls and visited the Exmoor Owl & Hawk Centre, a small sanctuary to meet those incredible creatures. Later that day, you could head back to Exeter and make it to Exmouth and admire the Jurassic Coast and go fossil hunting. Lyme Regis further East is also a prime spot for fossil hunting and Durdle Door is a spectacular natural beach site. 

durdle door in south england

The West and Further Down The A30

Before you enter Cornwall, you'll travel through the Dartmoor National Park. Similar to the Exmoor, there's lots of wildlife to see and nature to explore. Postbridge has one of Britain's oldest stone bridges still intact and nearby are lots of hidden tracks and hiking trails. Dartmoor also has many granite rock sites for climbing known as tors and hills.

A bit further west down the excellent motorway connection of the A30 lies Penzance. St Michael's Mountain, a towering castle settlement on a small island, is spectacular to explore during low tide. During high tide, there's a small speed boat that allows crossing the water, but the highlight is during low tide when a stone path leading from the mainland is revealed. 

stone path to st michaels mountain during low tide
close up of st michaels mountain in penzance

At the very end of England, you’ll find Lands End which is worth an entire day trip. You can spend hours walking along the coast and discover hidden beaches and coves. Sennen beach is a highlight and if the weather allows for clear views you can see the Scilly Islands or spot dolphins. 

Close by is Porthcurno which is known for the Minack Theatre, a circular amphitheatre built into the cliffs. It’s a spectacular experience to see a play here with its breathtaking backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. Tickets are popular and are priced moderately at £10 so this is a wonderful experience not to be missed. 

Another place of interest to explore whilst I had Exeter set up as my base was Tintagel, King Arthur’s castle ruin built on a rough cliff side by the sea with stellar views and lots of history. Tintagel is quite a remote place to go to, so you'd definitely need your own car to get here. The place boasts with mystery, ancient history and the dramatic cliffs and coves offer lots of exploring. 

benjamin elliott minnack theatre and porthcurno beach
king arthur metal art work on the cliffs of tintagel castle
john ogroats lands end

Further south of Tintagel, near St Austell, lies Eden Project, a huge eco-park to showcase sustainable future living or Lizard Point England’s most southerly point shaped as the head of a sleeping lizard. Kynance Cove, one of Cornwall's well-known and most prestigious beaches is close by, so this would make another great day out on your UK road trip around the area. 

I’ve got very fond memories of my trip as the area is so versatile and offers a lot of activities. My final top tip to enjoy your staycation is to roam around the area and spend the day exploring beaches and hidden coastal walks. Devon and Cornwall are known for their stellar beaches and some are only revealed during low tide. On my trip, I bought a book called Secret Beaches by Rob Smith which points out hidden coves and secluded beaches in Devon and Cornwall. On some days I would travel around to explore caves, collect seashells and stones from rock pools or discover untouched sandy beaches. It is a lot of fun and also connects you with nature, as you will walk a lot and find the one or other treasure.

george hiles cornwall beaches and rough coastal line

I know Cornwall and Devon are usually the typical cliches when asked where to holiday in the UK, but both counties are stunning. They offer lots of activities if you're a nature lover like me and enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. 

Thanks so much for reading, 

Till next time,

What To Expect When You Fly During The Corona Virus Pandemic

Friday, 14 August 2020

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. 

inside of an airplane

Fast forward three months of lockdown and I took my second flight with Jetstar from Brisbane to Sydney.

The restrictions had eased and it felt as if Queensland was in control of the virus. I made numerous calls to the Queensland and NSW government to find out if I would be allowed to travel down to Sydney. At the time travelling was only allowed for Australians and I couldn't find any information regarding internationals. It was a waste of time as no one could give me an answer so I just risked the journey down to Sydney. 

Brisbane airport was dead and I felt sad to see it like that, having travelled a few times to and from Brisbane and the usual picture was a lot different. In June, only four flights a day would leave internationally and about three domestic flights were permitted.

Social Distancing was heavily enforced for queuing and overall in the building. All businesses including coffee shops, newsagents, cloth shops and food places were all shut down. Before boarding, the crew would hand out kits with a disposable face covering, hand sanitiser and gloves, but then inside the plane, they would not leave rows or seats empty. The entire flight was sold out. 

Landing in Sydney was uncomplicated and again, no one checked for my temperature or cared that I was an International travelling across a border that was technically closed. 

International Flights From Sydney International During Covid-19 

So I spend my final two weeks in Sydney and even though it felt safe, there was always an underlying certainty, that this wasn't over yet and a potential second wave was coming. Even though rumours and news grew louder that Melbourne was preparing for a second lockdown, Sydneysiders preferred to continue their lives as normal. They all went on time to their offices on Monday morning, clocked out for lunch but left earlier to get home. Businesses were open and fully operated to restricted hours, public transport ran on time and hotels were still open, even though I had some of the quietest hotel stays ever. 

I had booked my return flight 3 1/2 weeks prior and was surprised that the flight with Singapore Airlines via Singapore came rather cheap at £500, given the short notice of the booking and some other return flights being in the exorbitant dimensions of thousands. 

Sydney airport presented the same state as the other airports I had seen: it was completely down and "broken". I could only imagine the millions of passengers that this enormous SYD International would usually cater for. 

I was the only person who checked in her luggage. 

I was the only person who went through security.

And then I was alone - alone in a massive terminal with all the luxury retailers lined up neatly for your usual Duty-Free Shopping, but all completely bust or "shut down until further notice".

Sydney International airport completely empty during the covid 19 pandemic
sydney international airport main terminal completely empty during the covid 19 pandemic
sydney international airport main termin during covid 19

You could hear a needle drop in that airport making the uncomfortable silence echo from every corner. 

I walked down empty corridors past deserted lounges, closed food courts and shops all accompanied by a silence which I usually welcome, but found rather disturbing at the time. It felt all so wrong and out of an apocalypse movie. 

With 2h to kill I roamed around and eventually managed to find a coffee shop. And then all that was left for me was to stare out of the window, watch a grim and rainy Sydney and wait for my flight to take me away. 

Sydney To London Via Singapore

Singapore airlines provided kits with disposable face covering, a small bottle of hand sanitiser and one-way gloves. Inside, they made sure that there was at least one spare seat between passengers. Wearing a mask during the entire transportation time was a must. Luckily my first flight from Sydney to Singapore wasn't fully booked, so I was able to secure an entire row at the back of the plane and had a rather quiet first 8h of my long way back to London. 

On arrival in Singapore, passengers for transit were given a green ribbon and there was a very orderly process of letting people off according to their booking. Transit passengers were the last group to leave the plane and were assisted and guided by the ground staff to a designated transit area in Changi Airport. 

Changi airport showed the same upsetting setting as Sydney. The airport was completely deserted and heavily controlled. All members of staff practised Social Distancing and wore face coverings. At the designated closed off transit area, passengers had the option to order food and drinks through an app and have food delivered to the transit area.

singapore transit area and food ordering during the covid pandemic

Unfortunately, I got to Changi at 6pm and had to wait for another 5h for my connection flight. Most of the food places had closed down and the app would only have three places open with very limited offers. I would have killed for a coffee but that wasn't available through the app. 

The transit area was small but I managed to find a quiet spot and get a bit of a rest before boarding the next flight. For boarding, the airport staff would call out the next flight and group people, as there was a strict boarding process. Again, a kit with hand sanitiser, face covering and a small bottle of hand sanitiser were given out and inside the plane, there was at least one seat left out in between passengers. 

Wearing the face-covering at all times was mandatory and I managed to get some more sleep on the 13h back to London. 

Arriving at Heathrow Airport During the Covid Pandemic

Before travelling back to the UK, I had to fill out a passenger locator form. The form was available electronically and I filled it out in Sydney as it had to be done 48h before arriving in the UK. 

The form was about three pages long and I had to state why I returned to the UK, provide the address of my hotel for quarantine, my families' address in Bristol and contact details. I was meant to show the form at boarder control but I swiped my passport and went through the e-gates without anyone checking me, taking my temperature or asking me any questions. 

London during sunrise shot from an airplane

I was unsure if I still had to quarantine as Australia had been on the Governments list of exempt countries. However, because I transitted in Singapore, the information provided on the Governments' website were ambiguous. I walked around the airport in need for someone to ask, but no one felt responsible and I even got laughed at that I wanted to do the quarantine. As long as I was "careful and sensible" I would be "fine". 

Ahhhhh ok

One thing that Heathrow did do right though, was to provide large quantities of antic bacs to disinfect your suitcase which I did straight away once I lifted mine off the belt. And the rest is pretty much me walking out of the airport, getting on the empty Piccadilly Line, joining the Wednesday morning grind and travelling to my hotel in Whitechapel. The social distancing on the tube was great and there were obviously a few who would not adhere to the rules of wearing a face covering. In general, I felt very content with myself and I was relieved I made it back home.

The hotel staff were also laughing at me for my decision to self-isolate and quarantine for the next two weeks, I had a great time by myself tbh. But that's a whole blog post for another time.  

BTW my story has been picked up and headlined by the Telegraph in their latest The Shambolic Reality of Britain's ridiculous quarantine policy.

Thank you so much for reading, 

Till next time, 

Australia Bound!

Saturday, 18 January 2020

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 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,

The Best Tunes For Travelling

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

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:

EDX - Jaded (Original Club Mix)
Donatello Shane & Blackshaw - Catch 22 (Kastis Torrau Vocal Remix)
Paul Johnson - Return To Earth (Original Mix)
Robosonic Ferreck Dawn Nikki A - In Your Arms (Extended Vocal) and Qubiko Extended
Timanti - When You Wake Up
Hollywood Jack & Just at Mi - Greece 2000
Jamiroquai - Cloud 9 (Purple Disco Machine Remix)
Sofi Tukker - Fantasy (Nora En Pure Remix)
Sebastien Leger - Rocket to Lee's Little Cloud (Original Mix)
Tiesto, Jonas Blue & Rita Ora - Ritual (Ian Tosel & Arthur M Remix)
Rompasso - Body Talk (Extended Mix)
Michel Degen - Traveling Soul (Original Mix)
Alessio Cala - Absolute Life (Original Mix)
Sebastien Leger - Lenarka

EDX and Nora En Pure have to be my top favourite DJs which I've discovered through Vanilla. Jaded is such a tune and diving into EDX's music in general, all of his songs keep the same sick baseline. I love everything that he's ever produced. His material is always catchy, dancy and making you crave for more.

Nora is already on my radar since her trancy version of Kyle Watson's & Popartlive Sink Deep. Now she's given the same airy and dancy character of her music to Sofi Tukker's Fantasy - a song which is already perfect but with Nora's enhanced version becomes a masterpiece.  My favourite part is when she adds the baseline about half a minute into the song. It gives me goosebumps every time, especially when listening to the song in the car. This is the moment to change gears, speed up, turn up the volume and sing along to those magical lyrics. Nora will be touring when I'm in Australia, but I think my plans won't match up with her tour destinations. Would love to see her one day.

Catch 22 is a bit of a darker, moody piece which is great when you want to switch off for a while and just let the music take your thoughts away. The rather slow, mysterious baseline is also a great pacer for my ice skating training which I can recommend when you're working out. The same goes for Degen's Traveling Soul and Timanti's When You Wake Up. The later is a whimsical seduction to take you to Dreamland but weirdly also makes a wonderful Wake-Up song. Rocket to Lee's Little Cloud is another whimsical, airy song that could play for hours without you noticing. The absolute travelling song though is Absolute Life which is dancy and energetic, perfect for listening in the car or rushing through the labyrinth of the Underground.

Happy and dancy is Return to Earth followed by Greece 2000 which will make you crave a dance on the beach.  

The sing-alongs from this list are certainly In Your Arms, Cloud 9, Body Talk and Rituals. Especially In Your Arms has been mentioned in my previous playlists and I feel no matter which version of the track you get, it is always a winner. It deserved rightly so the title of Summer Song 2018.

Lastly, there's Leger's Lenarka, which is a last-minute addition to this tracklist. The clear, happy beats of Lenarka are filled with sunshine, airiness and dreamy lyrics. It's a summer induced perfection of a song, transporting you instantly to a beach, warm weather, and the better days of life. 

Thanks so much for reading,

Till next time,
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