Category Archives: World Adventures

Design, Dreampills and Drinking in History: My Lisbon Wish List

Discoveries Monument overlooking River Tagus and Lisbon's bridge with green water below

Portugal’s capital consistently features on travel surveys for the best value city breaks in Europe, but I’ve found there’s a lot more to its appeal than just the prospect of saving money. Lisbon is high up on my travel wish list because it combines a blatant love of fashion and design with a wealth of history, having risen from the ashes of the tragic 1755 earthquake and also having blended the influence of the many cultures and countries discovered by its explorers.

Taking in all of these factors, I’ve examined some of the most important sights that I’d be looking to see on a city break here. My wish list is based on quite a few websites, but I’ve linked back to a couple of really useful ones – namely Spotted By Locals and Go Lisbon – as well as official sites for some of the places I’d be checking out. read more

I’ve Been Somewhere Secret…

Part of being a blogger is having the freedom to legitimately over-share many aspects of your life, essentially brandishing a megaphone and yelling about what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and what you think about the issues of the day, with the enthusiasm of a small child.

Under that umbrella of over-sharing, telling you about my latest trips (whether you want to hear about them or not) makes up a large part of my travel blog, adding a sense of immediacy once I return to my laptop and a secure internet connection. Yet last week I went on a secret solo trip abroad, and I’m not sure when I will be allowed to talk about it fully. read more

The Lure of ‘Dark Tourism’

This week’s #TTOT (The Travel Talk on Twitter) chat topic is one that is very close to my heart: ‘Dark Tourism’. Regular readers will know that, not only does my blog name relate to all things deadly, but much of my content does too – in fact, I’ve only just enjoyed a Death and Debauchery tour of London, which opened my eyes to some of the tragic and traumatic stories that the city has to tell. Less recent exploits have included exploring Boston’s Granary Burial Ground, the wreck of the Mary Rose in Portsmouth and the Memorial to the German Resistance in Berlin. read more

Jess Walter’s ‘Beautiful Ruins’: Longing for Liguria and the Cinque Terre

Iconic summer read from Penguin - Beautiful Ruins, set in Italy

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter had me at the multi-layered imagery on the outside – I was hooked before I’d even turned over to the blurb, let alone before I’d began to make my way through the novel itself. Just like the cover, the plot was composed of layers, and it also flipped backwards and forwards in time and around the world. What sounds chaotic and clunky actually is, in actuality, a story that becomes almost impossible to put down and perfectly evokes Italy in 1962. read more

Visit Stockholm’s Instagram competition: why exclude those who haven’t been?

When Facebook duly nudged me towards a travel competition in its ads today, I was happy to click and find out more. After all, who wouldn’t want to hop over to Stockholm, home of ice-cool fashionistas, a gorgeous archipelago of tiny islands to explore and a medieval quarter (Gamla Stan) where you can wander through tiny side-streets and discover the city’s past? As you can probably tell, it’s been sitting on my wish list for a while.

This also sounded like a cool competition because the tourist board took advantage of current technology and made it fairly effortless for people to enter, by using Instagram, or sending a photo by email if you don’t have access to the app. How inclusive, I thought – even giving non-Instagrammers the chance to win. But then I did a double take at the other conditions: they wanted entrants to take a photo from Stockholm, in order to bag a holiday there. Say what? read more

How to Sabotage Your Travel Writing Pitches

Spoiler alert: if you hadn’t guessed it from the title, here comes the first of my media-related posts on the blog to tackle writing and pitching head-on. In my author bio I had promised to give you some tactics about pitching, but I have actually been a bit busy writing smug posts about where I’ve travelled to in the past, or where I’d like to go next (sorry). Well, now’s the time to start redressing the balance.

Whether you’re looking to guest post on a blog or you’re tackling big-gun newspaper supplement/magazine editors or legendary website creators, the challenges ahead are the same – how do you get them to believe in your idea? Why are you the one person who can write it? What on earth is going to make you stand out in their inbox? Instead of giving you a step-by-step guide, which can feel too prescriptive, I thought I’d turn the whole thing on its head. Let’s get out the wrecking ball and screw up some pitches. read more

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

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

Five Reasons Why Ikea’s Moxy Hotels Are A Good Idea

It seems that the flat-pack furniture and free pencil purveyor IKEA has copped a lot of flak for its branded hotels scheme, which is set to be rolled out in no less than 50 European locations in the next five years.

The chain, which involves a partnership with Marriott known to be known as Moxy Hotels, will open its first branch in Milan in 2014, and already I can’t hide my excitement. Here’s a little story which goes some way to explain…

Back when the Croydon branch was brand spanking new and ready to be unwrapped, I was one of several lucky families who got to try out being not-so-mystery shoppers, drafted in by the big chiefs to help the staff get to grips with the sales and refunds process. We traipsed up to Croydon and got to wander round the store, as well as being given a list of items to buy and to return. As a reward, our primary school got a lovely shiny IKEA voucher, and I was hooked on the heady smell of meatballs, hotdogs and pine wood, not to mention the promise of free tape measures and pencils. read more

India Wishlist: from Steve McCurry’s Rajasthan to Mumbai’s Fashion Week

There’s nothing like dreaming big when you write a wishlist, so what better place to start than India? It’s a vast country and I’m sure I’m only aware of a small percentage of what there is to see, so I apologise if my plans involve going for the obvious rather than the hidden gems, but I’m only just getting to grips with it.

I’m hoping to visit either late in 2013 or early in 2014, with Jodhpur, Jaipur and Delhi being likely stopping points, but there are loads of other places I want to tick off. Here are just some of the experiences I’d like to have, the sights that have inspired me and the things I want to photograph, from the possible to the not-so-likely-unless-I-take-a-gap-year. read more