Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Tallinn, Estonia

Last summer I visited the quaint Estonian capital city of Tallinn. Unfortunately, despite it being June the weather was rather cold, wet and miserable- in-fact it was just like Scotland! However, the weather didn't do much to distort my view of this lovely city.

The oldest parts of Tallinn were once contained within limestone walls, some of which remain. The walls and several lookout towers which were built into the structure were designed to help protect the town in Medieval times. Tallinn's old town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the amount of historical buildings that are contained within the city walls.

At the centre of the oldest part of the city sits the town hall, an imposing Medieval style building with a large spire which stands at around 64 metres high.

The Town Hall
The town hall tower is open for visitors in summer and for a small price you can climb the narrow stone stairs to the top of the tower which offers views over the city.

Views of the square from the top of the town hall tower
The town hall sits at the centre of a large cobbled square, Raekoja Plats, which can be seen in the above photograph. Cafes and restaurants line the sides of the square and the outdoor seating provides the perfect spot for a drink and some people watching. I had the best hot chocolate of my life in one of the cafes in this square. It wasn't a typical hot chocolate- it was literally melted chocolate in a glass with a tonne of whipped cream on top. So unhealthy but so delicious!

Just a few moments from town hall square is Holy Spirit Church. This is a whitewashed church which dates all the way back to the 14th Century and has an unusual clock on the exterior.

Holy Spirit Church clock
This wooden painted clock dates back to the 17th Century and still functions. The interior of the church is mostly wooden and in the distinctive Gothic style. The Holy Spirit Church is the oldest religious building in Tallinn which still remains in its original form and for this reason it is well worth a visit.

The small, winding, cobbled streets of the old town have so many adorable little independent shops. It's a great place to shop for jewellery and there are a few independent jewellery designers with some really unique pieces. Whilst I was there I found an amazing shop which sold a large mix of items such as rugs, art prints, handbags and small jewellery pieces. By far the most interesting part of the shop was an interior waterfall. A small wooden door opened to reveal original stone work with water trickling down and gathering in a small pool at the bottom.

The indoor waterfall!
There are also a lot of fantastic markets in the city of Tallinn which sell a vast array of items. I got a lovely cashmere scarf that I love from a stall in one of Tallinn's markets. I always find markets are the perfect place to get some really unique and individual items that nobody else at home will have.

A Medieval style restaurant in the old town

Friday, 27 January 2012

Helsinki, Finland

I visited the capital of Finland, Helsinki in summer 2011 and really enjoyed my short time in this city. I found it to be very clean and the people were always warm, friendly and welcoming.

The Uspenski Cathedral is one of two very different Cathedrals which dominate Helsinki's skyline. The Uspenski Cathedral was once a Russian Orthodox Cathedral and is now Finnish Orthodox. It was built in the mid-19th Century and the interior contains a vast array of chandeliers and when I visited there was a man singing traditional orthodox songs of praise which was incredibly atmospheric despite not being able to understand a word of it!

Uspenski Cathedral
The other Cathedral which punctuates the skyline of Helsinki is the Lutheran Cathedral which is only a couple of minutes walk from the Uspenski Cathedral located in Senate Square. This cathedral was completed around the same time as the Uspenski Cathedral in the mid 19th Century and is built in neoclassical style which mirrors the ancient Greek and Roman styles.

Tuomiokirkko Lutheran Cathedral
The interior of the Lutheran Cathedral is rather stark, minimalist and bare in comparison to the ornate interior of the Uspenski. It has white walls, simple wooden pews and there are none of the ostentatious features of the Uspenski Cathedral yet it is beautiful in an entirely different way.

Whilst I was in Helsinki there was a great market on at Norra Esplanden, next to the water's edge. There were stalls selling everything from freshly caught fish to children's trinkets and souvenirs. I bought a gorgeous silver ring from a stall here which was designed and handmade by a local artist and could have ended up spending a fortune on some of the beautiful jewellery on sale here.

When I visited I was lucky enough to enjoy some beautiful, warm weather and decided to take advantage of this with a boat trip which left from the area next to the market and took around one hour sailing past many of the 300 islands which exist within the archipelago.

View from boat trip on the archipelago

There are also many shops in the centre of Helsinki which you can spend time perusing and spending your hard earned money. There are some great cafes and restaurants around the market area of Norra Esplanden and judging by the fresh fish that was on sale at the market it would be an excellent place to enjoy some seafood.

Me at the harbour area

Monday, 23 January 2012

Glasgow's Nightlife

Scottish people are world renowned for enjoying a good night out with a few (or a few too many!) drinks so with this in mind I decided a little post on some of Glasgow's best bars and clubs would be perfect. As a 21 year old student who's lived just outside of the city for all my life I think I'm more than qualified to write about Glasgow's buzzing nightlife.

The West End

This is the area of the city which houses Glasgow University and because of the number of students around it has so many great bars and clubs. The West End is where you will find more independent places to indulge rather than the chain bars and clubs which can be found in the city centre.

A rather blurry but bustling Ashton Lane at hogmanay
(Thanks to my friend Rich for this pic) 
Ashton Lane is a cobbled sidestreet in the west end with a canopy of fairy lights illuminating the bars, pubs and restaurants which are situated on either side of the street. One bar which I love there is Nude, which can be found on the top floor at the end of the street. It's a really nice bar which specialises in cocktails and if you do decide to go there make sure you ask for a Raspberry Cheescake shot, I don't know what's in it but it tastes amazing!

Lovely cocktails in Nude

Directly underneath Nude is quirky Radio. The walls are decorated with band and artist posters from all eras and with couches and all sorts of nick nack's dotted around the place it has a great, lived-in vibe. With free wi-fi and reasonably priced drinks what's not to love?

Milkshakes in Ketchup
(thanks to my lovely friend Kirsten for this pic)

The City Centre

If you're looking for a big night out in Glasgow then the city centre is definitely the place to be. There are so many bars, pubs and clubs here that sometimes it's just too hard to choose. November is a great place to have a nice meal or just a few drinks to start off the night. It is situated on the top floor of Princess Square, a very small indoor shopping centre with high-end shops and a few lovely restaurants. November does some great cocktails, both traditional and a little different and is normally pretty busy no matter what night of the week it is.

Another perfect place to begin your night is Hummingbird, a deceptively large venue with 4 different floors, numerous bars, a dancefloor and lots of little booths and pods to relax in. This is an ultra-modern venue with lovely decor and pretty mood lighting. They also do food and the cocktails are absolutely delicious- I think I've sampled most of the cocktail list at one time or another!

Another of my favourite bars in Glasgow is Blue Dog, a charming little cocktail (are you starting to see a theme here?!) and piano bar that in my opinion is the best spot for a relaxing drink and a catch up with friends.

Yummy cocktail in Blue Dog

If you find yourself looking for a club to go to after sampling some of Glasgow's bars then there are so many to choose from. Kushion in the city centre is a great club with lots of comfy seats, booths and even a swing that hangs from the roof- perfect for a photo opportunity, just don't fall off! There are three different rooms in the club and some great music, plus there's never long to wait to be served at the bar, bonus!

My best friend Gill and I getting friendly with the wall decorations in Kushion

Just round the corner from Kushion is another great club, ABC. It's housed in an a massive old cinema building and the main floor of the club has a great mezzanine level to chill out on. Abc is also used for gigs and I've seen some great bands here and due to the high ceiling the acoustics are absolutely amazing.

A great night in ABC

If you're ever in Glasgow why not try out some of these places- I'd love to know what you think of them! Or if you've been to Glasgow and found some places you enjoyed I'd love to hear about them...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


I visited Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden, in the summer of 2011 and absolutely loved my time here. The beautiful canals and clean, open streets, and the fact that the sun shone the whole time I was there left me with a great impression of this city.

There are many attractions worth visiting in the city such as the imposing city hall which is the location of the annual Nobel Peace Prize banquet. You can take a guided tour around the interior of the hall which I think would be best as the guides are very knowledgeable and give you a lot of information that you would otherwise be unaware of.

Stockholm City Hall

Every year after a sumptuous dinner in Blå hallen, the Blue Hall, Nobel Prize recipients, royalty and special guests dance in Gyllene salen, the Golden Hall, which is decorated in over 18 million gold mosaic tiles and is a definite must see. The sheer size of the hall covered in glittering golden mosaics is stunning and very impressive.


The beautiful mosaic interior

Whilst in Stockholm I also took a boat trip on the archipelago which I found to be a fabulously easy way to see the city. Most of the boat trips offer a hop-on, hop-off service stopping at places such as the wonderful Vasa Museum which houses the wreck of the Vasa warship which sunk on its maiden voyage and lay at the bottom of the sea for more than 300 years before being brought to the surface. The sails of the Vasa warship have been incorporated into the structure of the museum and can now be seen protruding from the top of the building cleverly intertwining modern architecture and an old shipwreck to create a truly unique museum.

The Vasa Museum
There is also a theme park- Tivoli Grona Lund which I personally didn't get to visit but it looked great fun from what I saw as I sailed past on my boat trip around the archipelago.

Stockholm Palace, the official residence of the king of Sweden, which dates back to the 18th Century is another great place to visit in the city. You can witness the changing of the guards, the Högvakten, around lunchtime but the precise timings vary according to the season so it's best to find out before you arrive at the palace.

One of the Högvakten
My favourite part of the Palace by far was the Slottskyrkan, or The Royal Chapel. The magnificent white and gold interior has the organs as a striking feature above the altar and I found it absolutely beautiful and quite different to what I had expected from the outside which is rather unassuming.

The interior of The Royal Chapel
It is very easy to walk past The Royal Chapel as when I was there I only stumbled upon it by chance but it's definitely well worth seeking out. There are occasional organ concerts here which I imagine would be amazing as it is such a beautiful setting and the music would only add to that.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Shakespeare's Theatre- The Globe, London

Reading a mountain of Shakespeare (I'm currently ploughing my way through King Lear) for this semester at University has reminded me of my trip to the Globe theatre in London in 2008. The Globe theatre was rebuilt and completed in 1996 in an attempt to create the likeness of The Rose theatre where many of Shakespeare's plays were staged during his lifetime.

In Shakespeare's time, the mid to late 16th Century, James Burbage first built a permanent playhouse in Shoreditch, to the north-east of the city of London which was used for twenty years until a dispute over the rental of the land arose. This resulted in the dismantling of the theatre and it being transported and rebuilt across the river and renamed The Rose. It was highly successful and for almost 15 years it hosted some of William Shakespeare's most popular and successful plays.

However, in 1613 a mishap with a stage canon during a King Henry VIII meant that the theatre caught fire and was destroyed in its entirety but was again rebuilt and used again until the closure of all theatres in England under England's Puritan Administration in 1644.

More than 300 years later in 1996 this reconstructed theatre was opened and named the Globe, a few hundred metres from the site of the original theatre. This had been a project of Sam Wanamaker, an American actor, director and producer who had dedicated himself to this since his first visit to London more than 40 years previous but sadly died before the completion of the works.

Today the Globe can be visited and is dedicated to the exploration and better understanding of the theatre and the works of Shakespeare. The theatre itself is a large white building with a thatched roof and performances are staged in the open-air building.

The interior of Shakespeare's Globe
If you want to have a truly Shakespearean experience whilst watching one of the productions here then I recommend you buy standing tickets for a show. The standing section is where the working classes would have been to enjoy one of the plays and there is often heckling to be heard from this section. It does get a little sore on the feet after a while, especially if you've spent the day exploring the city, so perhaps this area is best for some of his shorter plays?!

In Shakespeare's time the balcony seats would  have been only financially available to the upper classes and in today's Globe the seats here have padded cushions, far comfier than standing throughout a performance, and you even have shelter here if it were to rain, a high possibility of this in London!

The ornate stage roof

Tours are also available which take you behind the scenes of the Globe and allow you to better understand the workings of the theatre and see the areas where the actors and actresses (although it would have been just actors in Shakespeare's time!) get ready for performances.

For anyone interested in Shakespeare, or in theatre in general, then I highly recommend a trip to Shakespeare's Globe. The performances themselves are a great experience, I was lucky enough to see A Midsummer Night's Dream here in 2008 and it was a great play with great actors, and it is far easier to follow when you see it performed than trying to read the plays in print!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Last summer I visited the beautiful Danish city of Copenhagen which dates back as far as 1043 and as such is full of historical attractions as well as more modern ones.

One of the first things I visited in Copenhagen was Hans Christian Anderson’s very famous The Little Mermaid. It is far smaller than I was expecting and not to be confused with the larger statue of a topless mermaid which can be found just around the corner!

The Little Mermaid

As I only had a limited time in Copenhagen I decided to buy a ticket for the open top sightseeing bus tour of the city but I wouldn't recommend this as traffic is quite heavy and more time was spent stationary in traffic than actually seeing the sights the city had to offer. Instead, I would recommend that any future visitors opt for a boat tour instead because it allows you to see far more of Copenhagen in a shorter space of time and is far more relaxing, especially on a sunny day. After spending too much time on a non-moving bus I decided to do just that and the boat trip I took began on the Nyhavn next to the Kongens Nytorv Square and was very reasonably priced for the one hour cruise time and allowed me to see far more of the cities attractions.


The Nyhavn district, pictured above, is a lovely place to stop and have a coffee or a cold drink whilst watching the people and boats passing by. There are lots of cafes and restaurants located in the quaint multicoloured buildings above and I imagine it would be a great spot to relax with a drink in the evening.

Whilst strolling along the main shopping street of Copenhagen which begins on the opposite side of the Kongens Nytorv Square and stumbled upon a stunning little café- The Royal Café. This is situated in a quiet and quirky courtyard next to the Georg Jensen Museum and offers a wide array of beautiful cakes and pastries that I can highly recommend! The courtyard setting of this cafe means that is it a great place to sit and relax whilst avoiding the buzz of some of the cafes on the cities main streets.

My cupcake at The Royal Café

Another of Copenhagen's top attractions is Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world dating back to 1843. As well as rides and amusements to suit all ages there are also garden areas with beautiful water features and relaxing places to sit and take in the atmosphere. Tivoli Gardens can get very busy and crowded so I'd advise avoiding it at peak times during the day unless you have a lot of time to spend in queues for different rides.

The entrance to Tivoli Gardens
Whilst in Copenhagen I was lucky enough to see the changing of the guards at Amalienborg Palace, a 16th Century construction in the Danish Rococo style. The changing of the guards takes place at 12noon everyday, but again this can get quite crowded in summer so if you wish to have a good view then I suggest you get there nice and early. Amalienborg palace is the main residence of the queen of Denmark and when she is in residence the changing of the guards is accompanied by a marching band.

Changing of the Danish Royal Guard outside Amalienborg Palace
Copenhagen is such a vibrant city which merges its cultural and historical side extremely well with a more modern and cosmopolitan feel. The Norrebro and Vesterbro districts of the city are filled with great bars and clubs and can offer visitors a different view the city come nightfall.

Statue of the worlds tallest man (Copenhagen is home to the Guinness World Records Museum)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Loch Lomond

I'm lucky enough to live just over half an hour from the beautiful setting of Loch Lomond and I love to explore this area on any rare sunny Scottish days. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs has been a national park since 2002 and covers over 700 sq miles. It is just over half an hour from Scotland's largest city Glasgow and is easily acessible by road and rail.

Loch Lomond is the largest body of freshwater in the UK and has many islands, some of which can be visited, for example Inchmurrin which has a hotel and the ruins of a 7th Century monastery on its shores. The huge expanse of water combined with the steep hills and munroes which surround the loch make this a truly stunning place.

View of the loch from Loch Lomond Shores

Loch Lomond Shores at Alexandria is considered to be the gateway to Loch Lomond and is a great place to begin exploring this area of Scotland. Here there is plenty of visitor parking (including parking for caravans etc) and there are great shops and restaurants to enjoy including department store Jenners and one that I love- Misty Glen, an independent shop selling jewellery, toiletries and lots of other individual trinkets. There are also a few cafes (and a shop selling tablet ice cream- it's to die for!) and on the upper tier there is great restaurant Kilted Skirlie which offers spectacular views across the loch as you eat and even has an outdoor decked area for dining on warm summer days. The Sea Life Centre can be found here too where you can see a giant turtle, otters and sharks amongst many others.

Lots of ducks swim around the loch

There are also many other more active pursuits to be enjoyed at Loch Lomond. Whilst I was there I saw a group of people exploring the area on segeways which looked really fun! During the summer there are also plenty of activities to be enjoyed on the loch itself such as canoeing, pedalos, power boating and so much more. Walking is another great activity to be enjoyed in this area, the beautiful views of the loch and the hills around make it the perfect place for a long walk to fully enjoy the rugged scenery.

Near to Loch Lomond Shores there is the pretty village of Luss on the west bank of the Loch. Again, Luss has a large car park for visitors but can get quite crowded on nice days in summer. From the beach at Luss the views out over Loch Lomond towards Ben Lomond are gorgeous and it is the perfect place for a picnic in summer. Luss itself is full of quaint cottages and has that small village feel to it, it's definitely a great spot to spend an afternoon wandering through the little streets and taking in the views at the lochside.

The view from the lochside at Luss in summer 2011

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Hogmanay is the Scottish term for new years eve and this year I decided to bring in 2012 in Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh with friends. Edinburgh has a street party every year which is a ticketed event and we decided instead to go to a flat party and then head to The Meadows (a gorgeous big park in the Marchmont area of the city) to watch the fireworks at the bells.


Sadly my camera broke just before midnight so the only pictures I have are poor quality ones from my phone which don't do it justice as the fireworks were amazing. They are set off from Edinburgh castle which sits elevated above the city and provides a stunning backdrop to the main street, Princess Street and Princess Gardens. Around 2,800 fireworks were set off within about 6 minutes and they were great to watch. My friends and I also began a rousing rendition of traditional Scottish song Auld Lang Syne after midnight (I'm not sure anyone who heard it would have enjoyed it quite so much but we certainly had fun!) whilst the fireworks sparkled above us.

If you want to experience hogmanay in Edinburgh without the crowds (an estimated 80,000 people were there this year!) then I can definitely recommend The Meadows as a great spot to watch the fireworks and enjoy the atmosphere without being overwhelmed by people. It really was a fantastic way to welcome the new year.

Edinburgh Castle

So, happy new year everyone! I sincerely hope that 2012 is your best year yet!

I would love to hear from anyone who has already made travel plans for 2012...I'm always looking for inspiration!