Samui Rock Cafe: A Much-Needed Musical Oasis

Music themed cafe in Thai island Koh Samui

After nine incredible days in Thailand, one of the first pieces of advice I’d give to any rock and metal fans hoping to visit is: do not pass up the chance to hit Samui Rock Cafe. Whilst Thailand is undoubtedly known for being a party destination, what nobody tells you is that the party is often limited to dance, house and dubstep music.

These are three genres I could normally withstand on a night out with a beer in my hand and new-found friends to dance with, but which left me climbing the walls after I’d heard one too many songs with no lyrics and a relentless ‘doof-doof-doof’ beat slamming into my ear drums. Sorry, but they just don’t come close to a bit of Baba O’Riley, All Right Now or Smoke on the Water. read more

By All Means, Rome… with a Film Location Map

Roman Holiday; La Dolce Vita; To Rome with Love. Notice a pattern? Rome has been the backdrop to plenty of international films since the 1950s, but it often becomes the accidental star of the show and continues to lure tourists who can’t wait to recreate the scenes for themselves.

You only have to head to the Trevi Fountain or the Bocca Della Verita and wait for the crowds of devotees to form (and don’t deny that you want to join in with them), looking to channel Anita Ekberg and Audrey Hepburn. 19th July saw the re-release of Roman Holiday at cinemas across the UK, making this the perfect time to indulge in a tour of the streets that made their way onto the screen. 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

Tips for First-Timers and Solo Travellers in New York

An unmissable sight on a New York visit - the view from the Empire State

I’ve taken three bites of the Big Apple so far, and I’m eager to take a fourth chunk out of the city with yet another trip to New York. It’s the kind of place that doesn’t deserve to be ticked off a list only once; each time I’m there, I do totally different things, from hanging out at the UN Headquarters to appearing in the background on Good Morning America, and it feels like a new side to NYC is revealed. I also have some great insight from my sister Nancy, who lived in the city for a year and has been back a few times since. read more

Britain’s Best-Kept Bones: St. Leonard’s Crypt, Hythe

Having been pretty ill in recent weeks (to paraphrase Gok Wan in the new Activia ad, I haven’t been ‘feeling good on the inside’, though it’s nothing Activia and Gok can fix), this weekend it was time for a cheering up treat, in the form of a visit to Britain’s only bone chapel. There’s nothing like checking out 700-year-old skulls to help you put your own health issues into perspective… or to act as a nice distraction.

St. Leonard’s Church is in Hythe, which is a fairly nondescript town in Kent. Strangely enough, there’s no specific reason for its bones to be on display – no devout monastic order at work (as in the case of the Capuchin Crypt in Rome), no prominent case of severe overcrowding in the churchyard (as was the case at Les Innocents in Paris, later forming the backdrop to Andrew Miller’s novel, Pure). Nobody really knows why the bones are stacked so neatly and not interred in the ground, which just adds to the intrigue for me. I’m also relieved that they haven’t been discarded or removed by over-zealous authorities at some point. 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

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

Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.

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