Monday, 26 December 2011

My Year in Travel

With 2011 drawing to a close I wanted to take a look back at my year in travel. This year I’ve been lucky enough to visit twelve different countries and I wanted to share some of my favourite pictures from the places I've been. 

Vasa Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm City Hall, Sweden
Lutheran Cathedral, Helsinki, Finland
Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia
Tallin, Estonia

Oslofiord, Norway
Copenhagen, Denmark
Warnemunde, Germany

Sailing under the Great Belt Bridge (third largest suspension bridge in the world!)

Bruges, Belgium
Monaco and Monte Carlo, France

Me in a Ferrari, Monaco!
Newcastle, England
Rome, Italy
Santa Maria Cathedral, Murcia, Spain
Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Albufeira, Portugal
Glasgow University, Glasgow, Scotland
2011 has been an amazing year of travel for me. My favourite place I visited this year is St. Petersburg without a doubt. I had such an amazing two days there and would love to spend more time there in order to be able to explore further.

My favourite travel experience this year was being surprised with a ride in a Ferrari F430 Spider in Monaco in March. I'll never forget this experience as I'm a massive car lover. Thanks to my lovely parents for this!

I have lots of travel plans for 2012 already (including Portugal and a Mediterranean cruise) and I can't wait to see what the year will bring.

Happy new year everyone, lets make it a good one!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

My Return to Murcia

Once again I travelled to the city of Murcia, in the south-east of Spain to visit a close friend who is studying there for a year. I flew from Glasgow to Alicante and caught the local bus from the airport to Murcia which takes around 50 minutes and costs less than 5 euros for a single trip.

As a region Murcia is one of the sunniest places in Spain yet, despite this the city of Murcia itself is relatively free from tourists, who instead tend to flock to the coastal towns such as La Manga on the beautiful Mar Menor. Although it was the middle of December during my visit the temperatures were relatively high, around 20degrees in the middle of the day, and the sun shone throughout.

Santa Maria Cathedral

The belltower on the Santa Maria Cathedral

One of the main attractions in Murcia for me is the tapas. The city of Murcia is littered with tapas bars, ranging from small, cafe style bars to more upmarket and therefore expensive restaurants. There are places to suit every budget and because the city is not a major tourist destination in general the prices are very reasonable for the quality of food which you receive.

One place which we visited that we really enjoyed was Bar Togo II. Here the tapas was presented together on one dish, instead of on separate dishes, as is generally typical of tapas. The food was presented beautifully and looked almost too good to eat! Despite the sumptuous food and wonderful presentation the price was very reasonable, costing just 15 euros for lunch for 3 people.

Tapas at Bar Togo II

If you are thinking of visiting Murcia and wish to research possible restaurants online before your trip, you should be aware that many of the online reviews which I have found myself have been very out of date and the places written about have either changed hands or disappeared completely.

I discovered one of Murcia's hidden gems Pequeña Miss Cupcake- an adorable cake shop which specialises in handmade cupcakes, cookies and biscuits. The shop itself is located in the bustling area around the University and is beautifully decorated in pastel colours with perfect finishing touches, such as fabric bound menus. It is definitely the perfect spot to relax and have an afternoon nibble!

Gorgeous finishing touches

Pequeña Miss Cupcake

There are lots of great bars in Murcia to relax and spend an evening. One of my favourites is Cafe del Arco which is just steps from Plaza de Santa Domingo. It's a very modern bar with seats outside which are great for a spot of people watching! Another of my favourites is Kano which is a restaurant and bar in Plaza de Santa Domingo. It too is great for people watching and serves great tapas and paella. If you're looking for a club to head to after a few drinks then I can recommend Boutique. It plays a great mix of R'n'B, Spanish music, Reggaeton and Indie so there's something to suit everyone. It can get super busy in here and drinks are quite expensive but it has a great atmosphere and is the perfect place to get your dancing shoes on and party till 7am! 

Enjoying a cocktail at Cafe del Arco

Murcia really is a great city if you want to experience the 'real' Spain rather than the large tourist towns and especially if you want to improve your Spanish as almost none of the locals speak English. There are hotels, restaurants and activities to suit every budget and its proximity to the coastal areas of La Manga (can be reached by local bus in under an hour) make it the ideal destination for people who want to enjoy the city but also visit the beaches of the surrounding area.

If you want to read my post from my last visit to Murcia you can find it here.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Glasgow Christmas Markets

Nothing gets me in the mood for Christmas more than a walk through the Christmas market at the St. Enoch’s Square in Glasgow. Traders from all over the world gather here for the month of December from 10am-7pm everyday (11am-6pm on Sunday). The traders come from places such as Germany, France, Holland, and Russia which makes it a very international and cultural market. The few flakes of snow falling around us made for a very atmospheric visit and left me feeling suitably ready for Christmas.

There are lots of stalls selling gorgeous scarves, gloves and hats to keep you warm in the harsh Scottish weather. There are also traders selling miniature Christmas trees and reindeers of varying sizes which I think would look great in a snowy garden.

There is a covered bar at the centre of this market which is open till 7pm every night and specialises in German beers, ciders and mulled wine. Perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit!

Santa guarding the bar!

However, it is the food that is the real attraction of this market. There are traders selling an amazing variety of food such as macaroons, crepes, German sausage, ostrich, crocodile and kangaroo burgers, paella, French delicacies, pastries and a huge selection of sweets. Of course it would have been rude of us not to sample something so a crepe and a hot chocolate to heat us up on a freezing cold December day!

If you're in the area and looking to get into the mood for Christmas, (or you're just in the mood for some amazing food!) then you should definitely visit these markets.
Now I guess I better start writing my list for Santa...!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

St. Andrew's Day, 30th November

In Scotland St. Andrew's Day is celebrated on the 30th of November. Around the 10th Century St. Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland and the Scottish flag bears the cross of St. Andrew.

On the 30th November many Scottish people tend to celebrate Scotland as a nation and everything which is traditional to our small country. People will often eat haggis for dinner (if you haven't tried haggis then it's a must try! Just don't ask what is it first!) and there are often ceilidhs which feature traditional Scottish music and dancing. As an ex-Highland dancer I love any excuse to get some Scottish dance moves on the go!

This leads me on to what some of my lovely twitter followers might have heard about- Scotland hour. (#Scotlandhour on twitter.) Scotland hour is an hour on twitter where everyone shares stories, tips and experiences in Scotland in order to try and promote tourism in our fabulous country. 

For more information on Scotland hour and to see some gorgeous pictures from around Scotland click here.  

Hope to see some Scottish enthusiasts tweeting during Scotland hour!

Glasgow University Bell Tower


Loch Lomond


View from the Isle of Cumbrae

Glasgow University

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Glasgow University and the West End

As a fourth year student at Glasgow University I felt somewhat guilty that I had never been to properly explore my university and the culture and history which surrounds it. Glasgow University is the fourth oldest university in the English speaking world and was first established in 1451.

West Quadrangle of Glasgow University

The University's initial accommodation was in the centre of the city but due to numerous expansions as it became more and more established and esteemed it moved to its current position in the West End of Glasgow in 1870. The campus was designed in Gothic revival style and after the Palace of Westminister it remains the second largest example of the Gothic revival style in the United Kingdom.

The tower

The Cloisters of Glasgow University connect the East and West quadrangles and lead into inside of the building to the famous Bute Hall and The Hunterian Museum. Glasgow University's Cloisters are very famous and much photographed (look on google for some photos that are better than mine taken below on a dull November day!!).

The Cloisters

Inside Glasgow University is The Hunterian- Scotland's oldest public museum. Dr. William Hunter (1718-1783) played a major role in Britains 18th Century scientific, cultural and social scenes and it is after him that the museum is named. The Hunterian museum contains displays about Dr. William Hunter, dinosaurs, fossils, world culture, medicine and Lord Kelvin. Admission is free and it can be found by entering the door (shown in the picture above) in the cloisters and following the stairs which lead to the entrance.

Image copyright 2011 Photographic Unit, University of Glasgow

Across the road from the main building of Glasgow University is the Hunterian Art Gallery and The Mackintosh House. Entry to the Art Gallery is free and Mackintosh House is just £5. The Art Gallery contains work by Rembrandt and Chardin as well as art by the Scottish Colourists. Mackintosh house features the reassembled interiors of the home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Ashton Lane

Ashton Lane is a pretty little cobbled lane just off Byres road. It contains many cafes, restaurants and cool bars. The atmosphere here is great for a night out and fairy lights serve as a canopy lighting up the lane all year round. One of my favourite places for lunch on Ashton Lane is Ketchup, a great place which serves every type of burger imaginable- from buffalo to salmon!

Ketchup milkshakes

Cresswell Lane

The next lane along from Ashtone Lane is Cresswell Lane, another pretty little cobbled street. Cresswell Lane contains a few quirky shops as well as yet more cafes and restaurants. My favourite on this lane is Cafe Andaluz which serves amazing Spanish tapas dishes in an atmospheric and inviting Spanish style restaurant. 

Sunday, 13 November 2011

My Favourite Photos

I just wanted to share with everyone a few of my favourite photos that I've taken on my travels within the past few years. Photos are one of my favourite ways to remember trips and always bring back some great memories.

Villefranche sur Mer
Lisbon, Portugal
The Church of the Spilled Blood
St. Petersburg, Russia

Santa Maria Cathedral
Murcia, Spain

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Living like a local in Murcia

I travelled to the city of Murcia in the south east of Spain for a week to visit one of my best friends who is there for a year studying at the Universidad de Murcia.

After arriving into Alicante airport we travelled (buses run straight to Murcia bus station for around 5euros) to the Silken Siete Coronas hotel in the centre of the city of Murcia. It is situated on the edge of the river which is just a few minutes walk from the Plaza de Toros and my friend's flat. The hotel was very clean, tidy and well furnished. It was also quiet at night and offered free wifi which is a must for many travellers I know!

The first thing we did after arriving was, of course, head out for tapas! There are so many amazing and highly inexpensive tapas restaurants in the city of Murcia and a visit would not be complete without sampling some of the best local tapas dishes. One of my favourite dishes was Zarangollo, a traditional Murcian dish of eggs, zucchini and onions and garlic and I would highly recommend everyone to try it. Some of the restaurants we enjoyed were; La Tapa Murciana and La Sidrería Escondida.

The prices of meals in Murcia are so cheap because it is not a typical tourist area and they also do not expect tips which I found very strange. A typical tapas meal in a local restaurant including drinks (Tinto de Verano being a particular favourite of mine!) will normally be around 10 euros per person!

On our first night in Murcia we went to a restaurant called La Sidrería Escondida which serves Asturian cider from the north of Spain in strange contraptions as seen below! Definitely an experience!

One of the must see places in Murcia is the Santa Maria Cathedral, an imposing, Baroque style building which was completed in 1751. It features many Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque elements although the interior is mainly Gothic.

Santa Maria Cathdral

Santa Maria Cathedral Belltower

Another nice place we visited was the Palacio Episcopal, an 18th Century building with a beautiful inner courtyard which is on the same square as the main entrance to the Cathedral.

Murcia is also within a good distance of the beaches of the Costa Calida and the Mar Menor, or the small sea. Buses run from the main bus station and take about 50 minutes.

The Nueva Condomina (a large shopping centre and the location of the new Real Murcia football stadium) is easily reached by tram from the centre of the city. The tram system is very clean, efficient and reasonably priced and is a great way to explore outside of the city. If you are looking for somewhere to have lunch whilst at the Nueva Condomina I highly recommend Cerveceria 100 Montaditos which can be found inside the shopping centre itself. Montaditos are literally small sandwhiches and the sheer range of choices here makes it an experience in itself.

Murcia is a great city to visit if you want to be immersed in the Spanish language and improve your skills. Very few people speak English and if they do it is usually only a few words so you are forced to attempt to speak Spanish.

I highly recommend this region of Spain, it is purported to be one of the sunniest areas in the country which is never a bad thing and there are so many great places that can be reached within a relatively short distance.