All posts by Polly

It’s The Thailand Countdown…

Koh Samui sea view. Credit: Thailand Maps

(To be read with the strains of ‘The Final Countdown’ playing in the background, for that added sense of drama that only a power ballad can bring, and a bit of assonance with the title).

Only a couple of weeks ago, I was hanging around Reykjavik with my friend and we’d pass a Thai shop most days when we were going to and from our hotel. It was full to the brim with Thai furniture and trinkets, especially those little hypnotic waving cat figures, known as Beckoning Cats. Every time we’d give the waving golden yellow cats a little hello wave back, for luck, and I’d wonder what Thailand was really like. Well, last Thursday I got one massive step closer to actually finding out, as I was somehow lucky enough to win a Thai island hopping adventure with Contiki, through their Blogger Challenge (which was launched at the brilliant Traverse 2013 conference in Brighton)! read more

The World’s Most Northerly Curry House: Austur-Indiafjelagid

Ok, firstly a confession: it turns out that the most northerly curry house was different to the one I blogged about before my trip. I’d initially written about Shalimar, but realised on the plane over that Lonely Planet’s alternative suggestion of Austur-Indiafjelagid was the correct owner of the title. It’s been bringing Indian food to Icelandic people since 1994 and counts Harrison Ford amongst its happy customers, so who was I to argue with facts as good as these?

My friend Katherine and I set out to visit on our first night in Reykjavik, with rumbling stomachs and the craving for a decent naan bread that only fellow curry addicts can really appreciate (none of that microwave rubbish, thanks – it needs to be pillow-soft, thin and slightly sweet). read more

Photo Essay: Reykjavik, Skull by Skull

Last night I reluctantly flew home from Reykjavik, after four days of thirstily drinking in the city’s culture. Whilst I would easily call it the friendliest and most welcoming place I’ve ever visited, equally I can’t help but point out – and fully embrace – the average Reykjavikur’s obsession with death.

For those of you still baffled by the name of my blog, ‘calavera’ means skull. I chose it because I have a bit of a thing about skulls, which increasingly shapes my travel plans as I drift towards anatomical museums, graveyards, castles with years of history and possibly a resident ghost… the list goes on. With Iceland, I didn’t really know there was such a predilection for the morbid until I really got here; I was just keen to see how such a vibrant and creative nation has sprung up in a country that looks so post-apocalyptic at times. read more

Planning my Icetinerary for a few days in Iceland

Iceland store. Credit: My Retail Media

Icetinerary, like itinerary, but with ice, geddit? (Groan). Unsurprisingly, I’ve already started making puns in preparation for my four day trip to Iceland with one of my best friends, at the end of this week. She might not know what she’s let herself in for…

Joking aside, we’ve had to do a fair bit of planning, as there are so many tours and pre-booked experiences that have caught our attention. Like the rest of the hordes flying into Reykjavik, we want to see it all, from the whales and the puffins to the Golden Circle, but obviously I’ve also added in some geeky points to the itinerary, as I’ve done my research and found some great ideas that were just too tempting to resist. read more

Parisian Culture on a Budget

So, you want to see culture in Paris without spending a fortune? So did I. Being short on both time and money when I visited (I was working at a trade show as part of Paris Fashion Week), I created my own adventure and ticked off some of the well known and the more obscure sights of the city, knowing that every second counts when you’re trying to absorb a new destination.

Along the way, I stumbled upon some great places that I think you should know about, too – just put down the guidebook for a second and  you’ll see what I mean. Get ready to try out your finest Franglais phrases and enjoy a whistle-stop tour. read more

Dresden’s Grittier Side

One of my priorities when I visit a new place is to see beyond the main streets and to find the places that don’t make the cover of the guidebook; they’re not traditionally photogenic and they’re perhaps a bit grubby looking, if truth be told, but they’re just as important as the  scenic routes.

Dresden is a fairly easy city to navigate your way around and so it wasn’t too difficult to find its alternative side, beyond the stunning Frauenkirche and the art galleries. read more

North Cornwall: Beyond Newquay and the Eden Project

Having visited north Cornwall regularly for more than a decade, it’s fair to say that I know the place pretty well. However, the majority of tourists seem to think that the county consists mainly of Newquay and the Eden Project, but there’s far more to it than that. Here are your more laid back  and often less crowded alternatives in the land that the locals call Kernow, from Lusty Glaze to Padstow and beyond, where you can genuinely relax.

Lusty Glaze

Our first stop is just a stone’s throw from Newquay – in fact, you can walk there in a few minutes along the coastal path, before traipsing down the narrow steps to the beach, complete with cafe/restaurant and beach huts. Fact fans should note that it featured in an edition of Blue Peter, where the finer points of lifesaving were discussed in a digestible, child-friendly manner, obvs. More obscure fact fans should also note that I once went in the sea here on Christmas Day and it wasn’t as cold as I’d anticipated. read more

Inside Rome’s Capuchin Crypt

Whilst I loved Rome’s amazing architecture above ground, arguably one of the most spectacular places that I visited was underneath the pavements. You could walk past the Capuchin Crypt, on the Via Veneto, without really taking a second glance, as it’s not that remarkable from the outside. In fact, the whole street is a bit shabby, having had its heyday in the sixties and now looking like a shadow of its former self. It is living in the past, so what better place than the Via Veneto to find rooms full of bones? Rather than holding the remains of sinful sixties celebs, in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini you’ll find traces of devout monks. read more

Jack the Ripper Tour with Celebrity Planet (and the Horror of Deceptive Copywriting)

The other night I fulfilled one of my long-term travel goals: to take a Ripper tour around Whitechapel and see where the shocking murders of 1888 took place. I’m  not  a fan of horror in the entertaining sense (stick me in front of a slasher film and I will develop psychosomatic symptoms of distress within a few minutes), but the case of Jack the Ripper is terrifyingly real and gives an insight into the harshness of East End London life.

Maybe it’s because he was never caught, and because there are so many theories surrounding his true identity, I’m left with plenty to mull over, and a tour seemed like the ideal opportunity to match the history with the streets themselves. read more

Why Don’t All Lifestyle Websites Have A Great Travel Section?

We all know that travel writing is ridiculously competitive (hey, who wouldn’t want to tell the world about their adventures or, indeed, be paid to go on them in the first place?), but something I’ve noticed in the past year or so is how many lifestyle websites don’t even have an outlet for travel at all, despite it being just the thing that their readers would respond to.

Many that do offer holiday inspiration manage to drip-feed it through lengthy advertorials or commercial ventures that mean there’s no room for freelancers or bloggers to get a word in edge-ways  The questions I’m left asking – how did this become okay? At what point did readers stop wanting genuine insight and travelogues and start wanting advertorial tied to competitions instead? I’d love to know, really I would. read more