Kathryn Flett’s searingly honest piece of travel journalism, By Waterloo Station I Sat Down and Wept, was published in the Observer Life magazine in 1997. I was eight at the time, preoccupied with buying Girl Talk magazine, so this wasn’t exactly on my radar. Thankfully she’s reproduced the whole feature on her blog, which you can read here. Quick, go and read it now, and you’ll see why it’s so legendary.
When Flett got the assignment, it was a straightforward one: review this romantic Belgian hotel package with your husband. However, life got in the way (the small matter of the marriage lying in tatters in the world’s most romantic city). This led to one of the most unflinching features ever to grace the pages of a Sunday magazine supplement. Flett basically wrote a stream of consciousness and, unusually, ‘I didn’t change a single word after I’d written it’. The feature was pure catharsis.
2016 wasn’t exactly the happiest year on record – celebrities dropping like flies, not to mention Brexit and President Trump adding to our woes – but there were a lot of travel industry stories and trends making headlines as well. Here are some of the biggest developments from the last 12 months.
Europe was on high alert
Paris continued to mourn the victims of its terror attack, which happened at the close of 2015. Just days into 2016, the city marked a year since the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Nice, Berlin and Istanbul sadly became newsworthy for all the wrong reasons in 2016 – Islamic State extremists struck again. These horrific acts have, of course, made people nervous about travelling, but they’ve also highlighted the scarily simple tactics terrorists employ.
In 2017 it will be 170 years since three Yorkshire sisters exploded onto the literary scene with their debut novels. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey are all classics, written under the same roof: the parsonage at Haworth, which is now the Bronte Parsonage Museum.
Anyone in search of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë will have this museum on their wish list. Over 7 million visitors have traipsed through the door, despite a dip in visitor numbers in 2015. This is why they keep coming.
Brontës in Haworth
The Brontë family lived in Haworth from 1820-1861, having moved from Thornton so Patrick Brontë, the head of the family, could take up his position as curate of Haworth, Stanbury and Oxenhope. There were six Brontë children, but their mother Maria, followed by the two eldest children, Maria and Elizabeth, were all dead by 1825.
London is a museum lover’s dream, but there are always far too many high-profile exhibitions and permanent collections to choose from and, try as I might, I never get to see them all. Hidden London museums, in comparison, are usually cheaper and quieter to visit, yet they’re easily overlooked.
The thing is, those smaller and more obscure attractions don’t get an equal billing, and many tourists miss out on these underrated attractions. I’ve selected six of my favourite hidden London museums to redress the balance.
‘Tis the season of Christmas shopping, frosty walks and winter minibreaks (at last!), but you need a winter wardrobe of reliable basics if you’re going to make the most of these colder months. Whether you’re wandering locally or heading overseas, have these winter wardrobe essentials close to hand and you’ll be travel-ready in an instant.
Your Adaptable Winter Wardrobe Ingredients
2x winter coats – one long and resilient, and one short, lightweight and fun
3x knitwear – a draped cardigan, a slim-fit jumper, and a knitted dress
1x black skinny jeans or jeggings
2x thermal tops – one long-sleeved, one tank top or vest
1x smart camisole
1x pleated or patterned skirt
1x thermal leggings and 1x 100-200 denier tights; 1x fleece insoles for shoes
Accessories: 1x blanket-style scarf or wrap, 1x gloves, 1x winter hat, 1x skinny waist belt, 1x statement necklace
1x flat knee-high boots or ankle boots
1x water-resistant trainers (e.g. leather, PU leather or waxed cotton)
The City Break
Drape the scarf over a knitted dress (I love this metallic khaki dress by JD Williams) and secure it with the skinny belt, à la Burberry circa 2014, for a stylish lunch date. Alternatively, team it with the jumper, skirt and trainers for a low-key adventure. Heels are great for evenings out, but not so useful for active breaks, so check your itinerary before you pack those stilettos. Your pair of knee-high boots or ankle boots act as a smart alternative.
Yet again, Peruvian influences are spreading across London. It was only a few years ago that London’s food scene bagged itself Peruvian restaurants – all of which continue to draw crowds. One brand, Lima, has recently had a revamp, and two new restaurants have stepped into the fray since August.
Lima, based in Fitzrovia (31 Rathbone Place), added a much-needed extension and redesigned its dining spaces but also launched a new a la carte menu in November. The new dishes come with healthy twists, such as white and purple sweet potato added to main courses and an entire dessert menu free of refined sugar – yes, that is possible!
Can you ‘do’ Helsinki in a day? You won’t see everything the city has to offer on a Helsinki day trip from Tallinn, but you’ll get a taste of Finnish culture before returning to the cheaper and more laid back Estonia. It’s the best of both worlds for travellers on a budget.
Getting There and Getting Around
There’s more than one ferry company going from Tallinn to Helsinki, but some aren’t so reliable; you could risk being stranded overnight on the wrong side of the water. I chose a two-hour crossing with Tallink (€32pp), having paid online and checked in online to save a few extra Euros. The crossing was smooth, but the facilities weren’t brilliant (limited food choices, few seats and hardly any toilets). However, you can sit in the food court area by Burger King without buying anything, and nobody bats an eyelid.
Patarei Prison is certainly strange, but overwhelmingly sad, rather than creepy, in the evening light. It’s silently and slowly decaying, the once proud fort that’s now shedding its last layer of skin, generous flakes of Soviet-era oil-based paint in muted colours. Tallinn’s formidable sea fortress no longer keeps anyone from the outside world: instead, it’s full of weeds, rust and damp.
Sadly Patarei was permanently closed to visitors from 7th October, as it’s become too unsafe, but it’ll reopen in the future with full access and hopefully a museum in place. In the meantime, you can see the exterior from Beeta promenade, but I want to share why the site is so important.
When I reluctantly bought a chunky red puffer jacket to travel with in 2013, I was pretty embarrassed and filed it under ‘style sacrifices made in the name of adventure’, along with mosquito-proof trousers and walking boots. The thing is, few pieces of attractive clothing are travel-ready, and not much of the contents of your average outdoor shop is fashion-friendly. My jacket had suede elbow patches as a hilarious extra detail, for goodness’ sake.
Though it was really useful for visiting Iceland and Peru, I didn’t feel confident in my bright red monstrosity at all and would’ve preferred something that didn’t remind me of my style mistakes in the late 90s and early Noughties (read: huge Adidas blue and yellow boys’ padded coat, worn circa 1999-2001 and alternated with a lime green fleece. It’s a wonder I wasn’t put up for adoption).
Hygge (pronounced HOO-GAH) is the lifestyle trend that just won’t die. It’s a not-quite-translatable word that represents a feeling of cosiness and contentment, often found through enjoying nature, snuggling up in a warm nook, catching up with a few friends or enjoying some proper comfort food and maybe a mug of hot chocolate.
Though the word originated in Norway as a rough description of wellbeing, it really took hold in Denmark from the 18th century, and it’s now one of the most fundamental pillars of Danish life. The inclusions are broad, from a fun-loving bloke you meet (that’s a hyggelig fur) to a welcoming house bursting with food (just really hyggelig). In contrast, somewhere cold, dark and unfriendly would be uhyggeligt, but so too would someone addicted to technology. Told you it was hard to explain.