How to Plan an Interrail Trip

Hey guys!

So last summer a couple of friends and I wanted to go on holiday to celebrate graduating from university. Europe was our destination and after a bit of research it seemed clear to us that the easiest, and ultimately cheapest, way of travelling around Europe was to interrail. So I decided to write this blog post to give a few tips on how to plan an interrail trip…

The Interrail Website

The Interrail website is super easy to use and can be found here. You can select a language and currency to suit your needs, and when you are ready create an account to start booking. As well as selling the passes and train tickets, it also provides a lot of information to help you plan your interrail journey.

Choosing a Pass

Interrail have a variety of passes on offer so can can chose whichever one best suits your needs. There are three main categories: Global Pass, One Country Pass or Premium Pass. The Premium Pass is used for travel in Spain and Italy, and the One Country Pass is, as the name suggests, used for one country only. We chose the Global Pass as this allows travel in up to 30 countries, and we wanted to see as much of Europe as we could fit in!

Within this category there are again various options depending on how you want to travel. We chose the “travel on 15 days within a period of 1 month” option because it would allow us to see a lot of cities but also spend a couple of days in each place. It also means you can stay in Europe for slightly longer than a month. We did this by flying out to our first destination a few days before our Pass started and flying out of our final destination a few days after our Pass ended, effectively getting two cities extra within our month of travel.

Choosing Destinations

We planned our route based on a few of key places we really wanted to go to: Stockholm, Berlin, Krakow and Montreux. Having a few places in mind is helpful when planning a route, as you get an idea of a route just by looking at a map. Interrail help with this by providing an interactive map on their website, as well as a table of train times between popular cities.

One of the main perks of planning a route this way is that you may stay in places you hadn’t thought of, but end up having a great time visiting. Our route was as follows: Oslo, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Krakow, Bratislava, Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Zurich, Montreux and Geneva. Eventually I will write a blog post about each city.

Booking Trains

Some train companies in Europe allow you to just get a ticket at the station and jump on the train (providing that train company has links with Interrail). However, some train companies require you to make reservations before the day of travel. This can be done easily via the interrail website. If you sign up to their reservation service you just need to provide them with the date/destination you want to travel on/to, and they’ll book the best train for you depending on your requirements (class, window/aisle, sleeper etc.). There is a small fee for this service but it is, in my opinion, completely worth the money. It means you don’t have to worry about contacting the various train companies for each country to book your tickets – just sit back and let Interrail do it all for you! It certainly took a lot of pressure out of booking the holiday!

We also found that sleeper trains were a great way to save money on accommodation. We got sleeper trains between Prague and Krakow, and Krakow and Bratislava. Although lacking certain luxuries that staying in a hostel would provide, sleeper trains are cheaper than most hostels and travelling overnight allows you to maximise your city exploring time during the day. And if you’re lucky, your sleeper train may even provide you with breakfast!

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Overall, Interrail was an excellent way to explore Europe and I would highly recommend using their service. I will definitely be using them next time I go travelling around Europe!

Cheerio!

Raising The Roof

Hey guys!

So this Sunday we had a fun village day to celebrate the new church roof. After 5 years of fundraising the church chancel finally had it’s grand reopening with a service which involved making animal noises and building a lego church – a pretty standard service in Thornborough!

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There was then a picnic on the lawn outside the Manor House and a sports day on the Green. There were various event and races which were great fun to watch (but I deemed it way too hot to join in). As the sports day came to an end the music started. The local band kicked off the afternoon with a great set of songs and all the kids were having a dance. A BBQ was set up and a lucky ice cream van driver happened to drive past and get a lot of business out of us! There was a great atmosphere and sense of community as everyone came together to celebrate something that had been the focus of all the various community groups for the last few years. As the band took a break the local DJ took over – by this point the adults had consumed enough alcohol that they started to join in the dancing too.

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It was a really great day and reminded me why I love living in Thornborough so much!

Cheerio!

It’s A Kind Of Magic

Hey guys!

So last weekend something very exciting happened – I met Penn and Teller! I was freaking out! Let me explain…

It all started when I was five years old. I was one of those children that forced their parents and their parents’ friends to sit through performances to show off my ‘talents’. But whereas most kids sing or dance, I performed magic. The finale of my ‘show’ was a trick where I would ask the audience to pick a coloured pen. They would then close their eyes and when they opened them again the pen had ‘magically’ changed colour – crazy right?! Of course, when their eyes were closed I would run into another room to switch the pens, and of course my parents must have known this, but they played along and I genuinely thought I was fooling them. For some birthday or Christmas at some point I received what was probably one of the coolest presents I have ever received… EVER! I got a Marvin’s Magic set and club membership. It was awesome! It came with a variety of tricks which I added into my ‘routine’ and I then set about collecting more and more magic sets.

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However, my short-lived career as a magician came to an end during a performance when I was about 7 or 8. Brace yourselves for this very upsetting story… I was performing in front of my parents and neighbours when my 3 year old neighbour was picked to help me with a trick. This trick was effectively a ‘pulling a rabbit out of a hat’ trick, except it used foam rabbits because for some reason my neighbour wouldn’t let me use their rabbit – I wonder why?! As part of the trick the participant has to inspect the rabbit to make sure it hasn’t been tampered with in any way. I realise now why this is probably an unreasonable task to request of a 3 year old who was probably bored to death from being forced to watch my show, but at the time I saw no problem with it. While I was explaining the next part of the trick to the audience, I took the foam rabbit back off of my neighbour to find, to my absolute horror, that my neighbour had ripped the head off of my rabbit. I was shook! What was I supposed to do?! I like to think that I made some witty remark and bravely finished the show, but of course what I actually did was throw the rabbit on the ground and run up to my bedroom crying my head off! It was traumatising! Definitely up there in my ‘most traumatising’ moments of my life, along with my dog going to ‘live at the special vets’ and Steps breaking up.

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And I have not performed a magic trick since. But my love of magic remains. I have seen Derren Brown live a few times now and have watched and rewatched TV shows by Dynamo, David Blaine, Derren Brown, Penn and Teller etc. countless times. So when the opportunity to see Penn and Teller live without having to travel half way across the world came up, there was no way I was turning it down. So my friend Sam and I went on a fun little trip down to London to see them perform at the Apollo. Without giving away any spoilers, it was an amazing show and they did both mine and Sam’s favourite tricks. After the show Penn and Teller ran out to the front of the theatre where they stayed to sign autographs and take selfies for anyone who wanted them. We were some of the last people to meet them and we had been waiting almost an hour and a half, so a massive thank you to them for staying out there that long!

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As you can see from these photos, I was pretty star-struck when we met them! It was so cool! Now all I need to do is save up enough money to go and see them in Vegas, how hard can that be..?

Cheerio!

Blog Relaunch

Hey guys!

So it has now been over a year since I last wrote a post – evidently I am very bad at this! But my New Year’s Resolution was to start my blog up again, and stick to a posting schedule of once a week. Obviously it is now June so the New Year’s Resolution is not going well so far, but now is the time that that all changes! I am more determined than ever to stick to it this time, so I’m going to give it another go.

Last year my posts were all travel related. Whilst I enjoyed writing these, sometimes it felt like I was struggling to keep things fresh, as I was writing about things that had happened in the past. So now I am changing this blog slightly. I will still be writing about the travelling I have done and the trips I have planned in the future, but in between those posts I will be talking about anything and everything – just whatever I feel like talking about that week. I’m hoping this will keep me motivated to write as I will have a lot more to draw from.

So things to expect from this blog from now on are: films, TV shows, books, food, science, games, my life, whatever is happening in the world at the time, and, of course, travel. So something for everyone I guess!

Cheerio!

How to Survive a Long Haul Flight

Long haul flights can be a struggle to get through, particularly if it is your first time. It takes a while to get used to the constant monotony of being stuck in a plane for hours on end. Having spent a year living in New Zealand I got used the 36 hour flight it takes to get back to the UK. So here are my tips on how to survive these tremendous trips.

  1. Take lots of food.

The boredom is easy to deal with, but the hunger is not. You usually get two meals per stretch, one of which you can choose between two options. However, this food is usually small in quantity and you could find yourself on a flight where you don’t like any of the food options. I once had a flight where every meal contained mushrooms – I hate mushrooms! In this case, you just have to give up and eat them. But it’s always handy to take your own snacks with you to get around this. I usually take a packet of sweets as these can also be used to stop your ears from popping painfully on take-off and landing. I also tend to buy food in airports. Unless you want to spend a lot of money in a proper restaurant that serves actual food, you will usually only be able to buy a McDonalds or a Burger King, but they’re cheap and they fill a hole.

  1. Provide your own entertainment.

Whilst planes nowadays provide amazing entertainment (films, TV shows, radio, games etc.), it can get a bit relentless staring at a screen for hours. To counter this, I usually take a book or an e-reader. E-readers are particularly good because the lights in the plane go off during ‘night time’, and so having something with a back light is very helpful. I also take a Sudoku book for a bit of mental stimulation. I’ve seen others take their knitting or doing something else creative, so do whatever makes you happy. As long as it can be done in a very tight space whilst sitting down.

  1. Speak to your neighbours.

If you flying by yourself it can be quite awkward sitting in silence next to a stranger. If the only reason you talk to the person next to you is to ask them to move so you can get to the toilet then it won’t be a very pleasant experience. All it takes is a quick hello and a smile when you first get on the plane. If you’re feeling super social you could even venture into a chat at meal times.

  1. Take an extra jumper.

It can get kinda chilly on a plane, particularly when you are sat down for so long. To be fair, the airlines usually provide you with a blanket, but it’s never quite long enough. With an extra jumper, you can use this to cover your top half and the blanket to cover the bottom half. Alternatively, if it isn’t that cold you can always use your extra jumper as a pillow. You may even be lucky enough to have no-one sit next to you, in which case you can use their blanket too. And as an aside, do not be ashamed to put your feet up on the spare seat and have a bit of a lie down. As long as you aren’t wearing shoes no one cares, and it’s slightly more comfortable than trying to get to sleep sat upright.

  1. Take regular walks.

There isn’t much room to move around in your seat so going for a walk down the aisle can help you get rid of some of that excess energy you’ll have (from all those extra sweets you’ve eaten). It’s also a great way to keep your blood circulating, which is very important on long haul flights. And don’t be afraid to get creative, you only have a short amount of space to work with so make it count. I find stretching and doing funny walks helps flex a;; those achy muscles. Who cares if people judge you for it, you’re never going to see them again anyway!

I hope some of these tips helped. If you have any questions please ask! Really the key to surviving long haul flights is to remain happy. It can seem like a drag but as long as you’re positive about it it’ll be over in no time at all!

Frolicking in Middle Earth

Don’t get me wrong, New Zealand has a lot to offer any kind of traveler. But for me, some of the main highlights of my time there were hunting down Lord of the Rings filming locations. This started with my first trip out of Wellington and, incidentally, my first time driving through a blizzard. Luckily, the weather cheered up and the next day we were greeted with a bright blue sky, the perfect weather for visiting the place I was most looking forward to visiting ever since I found out I was going to New Zealand – Hobbiton. Without giving away any spoilers for those who haven’t been, Hobbiton is absolutely amazing! The tour starts off with a jolly old romp around the hobbit holes and gardens and ends up with a complimentary drink in the Green Dragon, who also just so happens to serve the greatest pie ever! Walking around Hobbiton was a dream come true for me, and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest.

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After recovering from running around pretending to be a hobbit, it was time to plan the next trip. This next one was slightly more adventurous – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This is a 6-8 hour trek through the volcanic region in the North Island, or more specifically, through Mordor. The trail starts with a gentle walk through the Mangetepopo valley but very quickly becomes an uphill struggle up the aptly named Devil’s Staircase. For those who walk slightly faster than average this is the point where you can walk up one of the volcanoes before carrying on along the trail. We decided to walk up Mt Tongariro. Not only is this the easier of the two volcanoes to climb up, but it also meant we could get an excellent view of Mt Ngauruhoe, aka Mt Doom. The rest of the walk was a pleasant stroll through Mordor, whilst keeping a watchful eye out for any orcs! I spent a lot of time in this area on various trips, and it’s amazing how quickly the weather can change up there. Three weeks after our jaunt through sunny Mordor I was back in the valley on a volcanology field trip, freezing cold and trying to find lava flows in the snow.

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Last but by no means least was our ramble through Rivendell. Set in the Kaitoke regional park, just a 45 minute drive from Wellington, Rivendell is a magical place to visit. All that is left of the film set is the arch that the Fellowship walked through as they set off on their epic journey. I am in no way ashamed to admit that I spent what could be considered too much time pretending to be an elf. The great thing about the Kaitoke regional park is that once you have satisfied your nerdy needs you can then walk around the forest. We spent a good two hours walking along a trail that wound it’s way through the forest and next to a beautiful river. There is also an excellent chance to go hunting for another of New Zealand’s famous attractions, the silver fern. All in all, if you are a traveler with nerdy tendencies, New Zealand has everything you need!

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Wellington – My Home from Home

Wellington is proud to call itself the coolest little capital in the world and it’s easy to see why. The city itself is a bustling centre of culture, history and coffee. Whether your preferred holiday is relaxing on a beach, sulking up the culture of a city, or getting out into the great outdoors, there is something for everyone in Wellington.

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I was lucky enough to live in Wellington for 8 months and spent a lot of that time exploring the wonderful sites. My number one port of call, as I’m sure it is for all nerds, was Weta Cave – the home of Weta Workshop, who created the props for Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, and many other fantastic films. For $30 you can book your place on a tour of the workshop, discovering how they design and make the props. They also have a mini museum of Lord of the Rings and King Kong props and, the best part of any attraction, an amazing gift shop. For $150 you can lay your hands on an official replica of the one ring, which believe me is impossible to turn down!

 

 

Another way we got our Lord of the Rings fix was to take a walk up Mt Victoria. Ordinarily it takes about 20-30 minutes to walk to the top, where you are greeted by amazing views of Wellington below you. However, if you take a slightly longer route you can walk along the path where they filmed the “get off the road!” scene from he Fellowship of the Ring – cue re-enactment selfies!  We also found that this was an excellent spot to view the fireworks on Bonfire night.

 

Don’t get me wrong, Wellington offer many attractions other than an amazing film trilogy. Te Papa is the national museum of New Zealand and offers exhibits on all walks of New Zealand life. I spent quite a lot of my time alone in Wellington in Te Papa. With free entry and more exhibits than you can shake a stick at, every time I went back I saw something new. A particular highlight for me was the Gallipoli exhibit. This told the story of New Zealand’s involvement in the war, something which we don’t tend to think about in Britain. I guess for us the war was a European affair, and we don’t think about the cost it also had to those outside of Europe.

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If there is something you should know about me, it is that there is nothing I love more than going for a long walk in the great outdoors. From the Wellington Botanic Gardens (an amazing place to take a revision break!) we walked to Mt Kaukau. The trip took about 5-6 hours altogether and once at the top we got amazing views of Wellington and the surrounding area. We did this trip twice, once at the beginning of the year and once at the end. I am very proud to say that the second time I was not at all out of breathe, but the first time we went up we were being overtaken by 5 year olds which is, quite frankly, embarrassing!

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Wellington is an amazing place to visit and live. There is so much more to do there than the things I have already told you. Maybe one day I’ll write another blog about everything else. But one thing is for certain, Wellington will always be my home from home!

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