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Travel

My upcoming trip to Hamburg has come about in an attempt to find a new and cost saving way to travel. I was initially going to visit Paris, but after being faced time and time again with travel tickets that cost more than my budget, I decided to take a different approach.

Flexibility

One of the things I picked up as a travel blogger is that if you want to be cost effective when it comes to travelling, you have to be very flexible. This could either be with your travel dates or location. I opted for the latter in this instance seeing as I couldn’t budge on my travel dates. To go about finding a new and less expensive location on my set dates, I turned to Google Flights. All I had to do was put in my exact travel dates, select my departure airport and the continent I was most interested in visiting. It didn’t take long to get the results I needed. Hamburg was the obvious choice, not only in terms of cost but also what the city had to offer. A quick search on Google showed some of the things that make Hamburg a place worth visiting. From its maritime history to its art and museums to its architectural structures and youthful vibrance not to mention the outdoor lifestyle with parks across the city. It is also very accommodating of bike riders as many residents use bicycles as their main mode of transportation. I haven’t had a chance to ride my bike all year and this seems like the ideal place to go bike riding. When it comes to booking an accommodation, I usually try to take a collaborative approach with hotels. In this instance, as it was very short notice, I was on a mission to find discounted hotels. My search led me to Hotels.com where you get given additional discounted rates on some hotels if you register on their website. Another good thing is that after you’ve collected ten nights, you get one free which could come in handy when booking future holidays.

Packing and what to take

When packing for a short trip, I like to keep it very simple. My go to suitcase is a piece of hand luggage. Because flights across Europe tend to be fairly cheap, there are add ons which could easily double the costs. Most flights tend to have one item of hand luggage allowance with hold luggage for an additional charge. Travelling with hand luggage not only saves me money but also saves me time at the airport. Having no hold luggage to check in means I can go straight to board my flight plus I’m only responsible for looking after one item, which reduces my chances of losing it. Downloading the airline app to access my boarding pass is a must as it costs to have it printed at the airport.

As I’m going with one piece of luggage, taking only essential items is key. I tend to go with outfits planned for the number of days I intend to stay. A pair of jeans is always a must as I can wear them a few times with different tops. Only one pair of shoes as I’ll already be wearing a pair for the journey. I tend to pack shoes using a shoe bag so they stay protected and don’t ruin any other items. Makeup and skincare products not exceeding 100ml are put together in a see-through bag as per the requirements set-out by customs. I like to take my journal with me as it helps me document my thoughts and feelings on my trip. Then last but not least is my camera, which I need to capture lots of moments.

Budgeting

One of the initial things I tend to do is set a budget for my travel. A number of factors determine what the final budget will be. I budget for my flight ticket based on the average cost of three low cost airlines (Ryanair, Monarch and easyJet). For accommodation, I always want to stay in a three to five star hotel with good reviews based on customer experience. With this is mind, I tend to reserve the cheapest with the most value to offer which locks in the price. The next most important thing to account for is my daily allowance. I usually set this after researching the cost of eating out and visiting certain places in my itinerary. This cost can sometimes go up if not careful. In the past I’ve always had to take money out of  my account to change it to the local currency before I travel, in order not to incur additional charges when making purchases on my card abroad. It isn’t the most ideal option for me as I like to keep track of my spending. It means making use of safes in hotels so I’m not wandering about with cash, with the downside that  I limit spontaneous purchases by not having enough money on me. This time, ahead of my trip, I managed to set up a bank account with Starling Bank. A bank that doesn’t charge any fees when you’re spending using your card abroad or taking money out of  ATMs. The account opening process was easy thanks to their efficient app. To set up an account, I had to download the Starling Bank app and input my personal details. I went through a number of checks to verify my identity, which the app does by scanning your relevant documents. It took me less than fifteen minutes to get set up and my card, which arrived in the post within a few days, had no delivery cost attached. To activate it, I scanned it using the app and it was good to go. The thing I love about the card is that it is a MasterCard which is widely accepted in many retail outlets across Europe, as well as the Pulse feature and detailed transaction feed in the app that will keep me on top of my spending — it’ll also handily show me the transaction costs in GBP and local currency via notifications.

And because the account is a current account with an overdraft facility (subject to approval, and interest rates do apply), you have access to additional funds which allows for a bit of flexibility. Finally, there’s 24/7 in-app support if needed. I’m really looking forward to going to Hamburg with my new card and app where I hope to spend and save money while doing so. And of course, I’ll share my experience in my Hamburg travel post.This blog post has been sponsored by Starling Bank. All opinions are my own.

June 20, 2017
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After our trip to Mykonos, we found ourselves in beautiful Venice. Last year, I talked about how travelling to New York brought about a spiritual awakening for me. Well, it would seem that Venice had the same impact on me. This time, the message was to deliberately find an underlying cause for happiness. The answer turned out to be gratitude which is summed up in my Venice vlog. Venice took me to a happy place in my life. Much of which was around the time when I was in boarding school back home in Nigeria and being mischievous was my modus operandi. A time where we read almost every book Shakespeare had written with Romeo and Juliet being my all time favourite.

Travel

Venice is a very huge city with surrounding islands. The main mode of transportation within the city is walking. I never came across a car in the city. I seldom came across bikes and I suspect this might be due to some of the streets being quite narrow.  The second mode of transportation seems to be by private boats and gondolas. You can only travel to the surrounding islands by boat. We stayed in Venice Lido which happens to be very close to Venice and we had to take the public boat to and fro Venice. Daily ticket per person cost €20. We opted for a three day pass which saved us €20 each as it cost €40. And if you’re less than 30 years of age, the price goes down to €28 for a three day pass. Before you book a stay in a neighbouring island, be sure to factor in the cost of travel as this can become a lot depending on your schedule.

Where to Stay

When booking our accommodation, we opted to stay in Venice Lido as we wanted a quiet surrounding when we returned to rest for the evening. The hotels in Venice tend to be quite pricey. We found that the cost of staying in a low budget hotel would get you a lovely stay in Venice Lido even with the cost of our travel included. We stayed at beautiful hotel called Villa Tiziana. It was painted yellow in classic Venetian style and surrounded by beautiful rose gardens which I pretty much ran across almost everyday. Our breakfast was included in the price too.  In Venice Lido there were cars and bikes and beautiful restaurants to eat in too.

Places to visit

Venice is full of very colourful buildings and canals spread across almost every 200 metres. You’ll see a lot of folks sitting by the canal steps or stopping to take pictures and you can’t blame them as it is quite the sight especially when a gondola is passing by with the classic tune “That’s Amore” emanating from the lungs of the gondola man. You’ll come across really old bookshops that tell beautiful stories hidden in streets so be sure to keep an out for them. San Marco is definitely the district to be with St Marks Square located right at the heart of it where a lot of tourist gather to feed the pigeons and admire the wonderful architecture. Walking along the waters just past San Marcoyou’ll come across a number of contemporary museums which are all unique in their own way. You’ll also come across a lot of mask shops in Venice. The masks are extravagant in nature and almost make you feel tempted to attend a ball in one of them. There’s an island which is a cemetery that tourists tend to visit. It is covered in beautiful flowers and the architecture is that of an ancient nature.

Where to eat

There are so many places to eat in Venice. I found it to be very cheap compared to Mykonos not just when it comes to a meal but also with regards to shopping in general which was a plus. You’ll find a lot of pizza shops where you can purchase a slice of margarita for €2 and pepperoni for €2.50 which comes in very handy when walking all day. Eating in restaurants tend to range from €7 to €12 for a full pizza or a bowl of pasta dish which is good.

Our stay was quite short and sweet. Nonetheless, we tried to make good use of our time there and I look forward to visiting again sometime in the future.

***If you want to edit like me, you can! Grab a copy of my eBook here.***

June 13, 2017
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I’m so excited to share with you our wonderful journey through this white painted paradise that is Mykonos. I can’t describe enough how beautiful this Greek Island is. I’ve been dreaming of visiting for a year now ever since I came across pictures of it on Instagram. After doing some digging I quickly realised it was a party spot and wanted to avoid the party season (which is usually in summer) so we booked our visit for Spring which was perfect as we got to experience loads of sunshine without lots of crowd. We both weren’t disappointed when we arrived. It felt like something out of a story book. Whenever I dream of heaven, I see streets paved in gold and rays of sunshine. If there were ever to be a white heaven, I would like to think it might just be Mykonos. We came across so many folks repainting their walls and street floors white. What I also loved about it was how they understood complimentary colours which was evident across the Island. It was almost as if nature also grasp this concept. The blue skies, flattering sunshine and what appeared to be desaturated trees made this Island very picturesque which made for some great Instagram feed.

Travel        

We stayed in what was classed as the city which was quite small. We walked on foot as we are use to back home. The airport was 45 minutes walk away from the city. There are taxi services which you can also make use of. We took a ride in one when heading to the airport to catch our flight back home at a cost of €13. There are buses that can take you to other parts of the Island but we didn’t hop on one which found us walking for 4 hours when we decided to look around the Island. For us, there was more exciting stuff in the city than there was outside of it so bear that in mind if you do decide to wander off like we did.

Food

It’ll be fair to mention at this point that we found the Island expensive quite earlier on in our holiday. Lucky for us, we discovered a food spot that sold Greek Pitas for €3.50 each and that became our go to place. We did notice that we weren’t the only ones trying to save on food as a lot of restaurants weren’t always full of folks dining which would explain why more of them if not all had someone standing in front of the entrance in an attempt to drive some traffic into their restaurants. There were lots of coffee shops too which seemed reasonably priced and always came with complimentary wifi which is good if you’re trying to save on data usage.

The People

The residents of the Island were very polite and modest people. I really did like that about them. Everyone had time to engage with you and it did make us feel at home. Craig came across a street musician originally from Germany named Bernard who said he travels around the world to play his music but always finds himself back in Mykonos because of how lovely the people are. Almost everyone we encountered could speak and understand English which made it easy for us to navigate our way across the Island. The residents also appear very trusting as we did come across shops which were closed for business but had their doors open which meant anyone could walk in and walk out. This did give us a sense of the city being safe.                  

Places to visit

The beach front is where you want to be walking along as thats were all the magic is. You get to see boats on the dock, cruise ships in the sea and sunbathe while at it. You’ll come across a place called Little Venice because of how the waves hits the houses next to the water. Further up you’ll see the windmills that compliment the Island so beautifully. There are a number of museums located within the city and you have to keep your eyes open so you don’t miss them. One thing you don’t have to look out for is Churches as there are a lot of them. A local told us there were over 70 Churches in Mykonos. Most of them built and maintained by family members in memory of a loved one. They all seemed quite small and we never came across a priest or any service taking place in the ones we visited but there were always candles lighted.

Traditions

The Greeks have a lot of traditions so it wasn’t a surprise when we immediately spotted one in Mykonos. We noticed almost every house and shop had wreaths or flowers hanging in front of their doors and my curiosity got me asking why is that. I was told by a lady in the museum that it was a tradition in Mykonos to mark the start of Spring where they hang dried flowers on their doors on the first day of May. And after a year goes by, they burn it. The wreaths were so beautiful which meant I had to get myself one to hang back home in England. Unfortunately, it never made it back with me as I forgot it while heading to the airport in a hurry.

All in all, we had a wonderful time in this Greek Island. This has been one of my favourite holidays and I’m certainly looking forward to visiting again.

***If you want to edit like me, you can! Grab a copy of my eBook here.*** MYKONOS, WHITE PAINTED PARADISE

June 1, 2017
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As I said before, my trip to Nigeria was one to reconnect with family. As I’m originally from Nigeria, this post won’t completely be from a tourists’ perspective but I will try my best to give clear instructions about navigating your way around if you do decide to visit. My family resides in Abuja which is the city where I was born and raised. With my last visit being circa six years ago, I decided it was to go back to the motherland. We thought Easter would be a great time to visit as most people would be on holidays which would also give us the chance to travel to our country home in Anambra State.

The Journey

With Abuja airport being closed down for renovations we had to fly through Lagos which was a first for me. If you’re like me who likes things to work as they should, then my advice to you would be to avoid going through Lagos. The system at the airport is designed to extort money from you. The whole experience reminded me a lot of some of the reasons why I left Nigeria. There were so many unnecessary checks and stops with each person asking at every chance “anything for me?” Another term for “do you have some money for me?” It is very disgusting how people paid to do a job get to behave in such an unprofessional manner. I made a point of it not to give them a penny. If you do, you’ll end up broke even before your holidays begin. The unnecessary checks means your flights will always be delayed and not to mention how poor the state of the airport is. Thank goodness we only spent a night there. The following day we flew to the East to head to my village in Anambra State. There we spent Easter with extended family members and captured static and motion pictures for my blog and vlog. We really enjoyed our time here as we were surrounded by nature and great food. If you’re looking to explore Nigeria as a foreigner, I’d advise you have a trusted Nigerian indigene to accompany on your travels as it’ll make navigating your way a lot easier. We visited Nkwo market, the Church and took long walks. We felt very much at home here.

Transportation

Sticking with one driver to take you around is always a good idea. Taxis seem to be the main mode of transportation in cities like Lagos and Abuja. Lagos has Uber which means you can download the app and get exploring. We were lucky to have my kid brother assume the role of our chauffeur in the city. You have the option to take public transportation like buses or shared mini yellow cabs. My brother told me about the existence of a train line which operates from Abuja to Kaduna where we initially planned on going to spend some time at Kajuru Castle but couldn’t make it in the end. We hope to hop on this train during our next visit.

Things To Do

Abuja was our next stop. A place where we would spend a lot of our time. Having arrived after a road trip lasting at least eight hours, we were in the company of immediate family. And for the first few days we were stuck at home babysitting my sister’s kids who were a handful to say the least. To avoid not exploring the city, we had to come up with a way of incorporating the kids into our movements. We took them swimming at Transcorp Hilton Hotel which has a lovely atmosphere. You’ll find a lot of tourists here and most likely pay at least five times the amount if you so decide to purchase anything. If you’re on a budget like myself then you’ll be better of eating and drinking before visiting the poolside or bringing some light snacks and drinks along with you. At night time you can enjoy good food, live music and drinks at the hotel bar. Just beware of how unprofessional the artists are as they’ll approach you for some money, lol. Another spot to hang out at night is Beer Ban where you can play pool as well as eat and drink. Something worth noting is that smoking is permitted indoors in Nigeria so you’ll be inhaling a lot of secondhand smoke while in bar type spots. Abuja is full beautiful of streets with big mansions but I wanted to capture the essence of it’s roots which is why my images showcase more of the culture. My brother took us to Life Camp where we found a Fulani settlement with beautiful hut houses. We also visited the Arts and Crafts Village where I purchased a lovely straw hat for the equivalent of £2. It is the best place to buy hand made cultural pieces. Be sure to always bargain as the prices aren’t set in stone. We also visited the Zoo. Although, I must say, the scenery was more exciting than the animals we encountered.

Food

We enjoyed a lot of good food. Lucky for us we had a Suya joint right next to our family home. Suya is basically roasted spicy meat accompanied with rich organic vegetables. Craig thought this to be the best meal ever. I also got him to try one of my personal favourite, Sharwama. It is a popular Lebanese delicacy made in Abuja. It’s a crunchy wrap made with well spiced meat, vegetables and mayonnaise sauce. The best place to get tasty Sharwama is Chicken Capitol. There are so many restaurants offering Nigerian delicacies which you come across while going about. If you prefer continental meals, then places like Chicken Republic might have you covered.

My Experience

All in all, going to Nigeria was a great experience for me. I got a chance to reconnect with family and show Craig my roots. I used to have a love hate relationship with the country but challenged myself to revisit the things I once used to hate to see where I stand. I’m happy to say I’ve made peace with it all. Find out more about my journey in my Nigerian vlog.

April 29, 2017
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I’m shedding my skin in Alor London. Yes, that’s right. Every year just after winter I tend to shed the dry skin that was brought about by the cold weather and it usually takes a couple of months to lose them all. This time this isn’t the case. Seeing as I’m in Nigeria at the moment, the tropic weather has been nothing but good to my skin. It’s been extra warm and humid. I’m currently in my hometown where my parents were born known as Alor aka Alor London (although I couldn’t tell you how this name came about) located in Anambra state. I thought it’ll be nice to show Craig my roots and what better to do it than to take him back to where it all began. We’re surrounded by a lot of nature. Standing outside our bedroom balcony we’re blessed with the view of beautiful orange trees and a big ole ditch. Being surrounded by nature means I have very limited access to the internet. I’m having to share my brother’s mobile phone data which he turns into a hot spot which in turn slows it down. So getting this blog post up might be quite the challenge but I’m very determined to stick to my schedule.

After taking in the view, I knew I had to start capturing the beauty of it all. I got dressed a vey summer appropriate Parisian Bardot top together with my mom jeans and loaned my brother’s straw hat which was gifted to him by a guest at least ten years ago. Our balcony was the starting point. It somehow reminds me of Italy even though I’ve never been. Something about the white pillars and the orange trees made me feel so at peace. When we were done, I asked my brother to drive us around so we could take in more of this wonderful place. We stumbled upon a gate with overflowing branches and I knew I had to take some shots there. The funny thing was that as I child we used to visit once a year for Christmas and I mostly dreaded it cause I thought it was dull and remote. Having grown up and taking up photography, I was longing to visit again cause I now know what I thought was dull and remote was in fact peaceful and bliss. I’m looking to enjoy the remaining days we have left here before we head to the city where I was born and raised, Abuja. Until next time, wishing you all a happy Easter!🍃☀️🍃Alor London 🍃☀️🍃

April 16, 2017
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Those of you who follow my blog and social media accounts know that I was in New York on holiday a couple of weeks ago and I’m super happy that the pictures are finally ready. The city was full of life and magnificent structures which I got plenty of chance to take in from the view of our hotel room. We decided from the get go that we would explore much of the city by spending as little money as possible.

On our first night, Craig was super excited that he didn’t even bother to rest from the jet lag and dived straight into the big apple, something which he paid the price for later on with a sore ankle. The next morning he was very keen to show me Time Square and Central Park which we captured in all it’s glory in our first New York vlog.

The air was beautiful and the streets full of carts selling the classic New York pretzel. It was the tastiest pretzel I had ever had. With a cuppa in hand, we explored Central Park on foot staying true to our routine by walking everywhere.

The next day, the sun was shining and the harbour was our destination. Our aim was to see her – Ms Liberty and the freedom she stands for. We took a free ferry a few blocks from Wall Street to Staten Island where we sailed past the Statue of Liberty. 

What a site to behold. The skyline lived up to all it’s expectation from the movies and all.

Since we visited in November, the spirit of Christmas was very much alive so we ventured into the New York Christmas market at Union Square.

There was one lazy day (not too lazy) which I reserved to do some thinking. You might have come across stories of great men and women finding inspiration from their travels. Well, this turned out to be a soul searching trip for me. I eluded to what might have inspired this in my previous blog post. It turned out to be a quest for spiritual growth and I’m delighted to say my journey has begun.

My new mantra, taken from the good book has become “be ye not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

On another cold beautiful day, we took to the streets of New York to discover its hidden gems and character. There was much to see and take in. We ended up at the Brooklyn Bridge, but being too scared of heights I left Craig to go all by himself. 

“Figure out what it is you want in life and go after it as if your life depends on it, because it does”. – Les Brown

It didn’t take long for us to end up at the American Museum of Natural History. You can pay any amount as a donation to gain entry. It was full of ancient artefacts and wild/sea life animals which all had 3D effects to it. It made for very interesting viewing.

Walking down the harbour is always a good idea as open waters bring clarity.

The details on some of the structures reminded me very much of London. I could feel nostalgia setting in in those instances.

Taking on the streets again, we headed to the Flat Iron Building. Opposite it were hammocks where you could lay to take in this magnificent structure.

On our final day, we took to the streets to capture some of the magnificent Christmas decorations. The night before, we went to watch the Christmas tree lighting at the Rockefeller Centre but couldn’t see a thing as the streets were packed with people and only ticket holders got a great view. We were smart enough to head back to our hotel to watch it live on TV.

We also took the opportunity to head to Grand Central Station which was the most beautiful station I’ve ever come across. 

Although we always had our camera on us, we took in more of New York with our eyes than we did with our lens because that’s how overwhelmingly magnificent it is. You’ll have to visit and see for yourself why it is what it is – New York New York.

New York New York – where dreams are made.

December 10, 2016
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