Tag Archives: sunset

Nicaragua: Volcanoes, Lakes and Drunken Sundays

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Nicaragua was my favourite place, and I can’t really put my finger on why. There was something about the feel of the country, the culture and the colours and the friendliness. Bus boys who didn’t speak a word of English but would try so hard to communicate, laughing and lifting us with our luggage onto old school American ‘chicken buses’. And of course the beautiful landscapes.

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We didn’t visit many cities in Central America, but I’m so glad we chose Granada. It’s a small colonial city, very pretty and colourful with lots of impressive buildings and hidden gems. I could have stayed there longer than two nights, especially because we spent most of our one day taking a day trip to Laguna de Apoyo! This had been highly recommended and for good reason, it’s a beautiful lake with lots of surrounding resorts where you can spend a day relaxing. We paid $5 at San Simian Eco Resort for access to their lounge chairs and facilities, including kayaks and tubes. We took some tubes out to a little platform in the lake and had a great sunbathing sesh. Shortly after our return to mainland, a model and her crew turned up and started shooting yoga photos in the lake which was mildly amusing people watching as she struggled to balance on the floor of rocks. Don’t blame her. The rest of the afternoon was so chilled out, what we needed after lots of travelling, pure bliss!

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Granada had a very zen vibe, so no surprise that lots of yoga was offered there. I squeezed in an 8am slot at Pure Gym which was a tropical paradise and one of the best yoga sessions I’ve done – the teacher even came around during our shavasana and gave us lavender head massages! Jack wasn’t so into the yoga but he met me for breakfast at The Garden Cafe, another beautifully zen location with yummy smoothies. The other foods we sampled weren’t quite so successful as we stuck to the touristy and overpriced La Calzada, but we did have another great breakfast at Kathy’s Waffle House. And although nothing will ever beat the coffee in Monteverde, the Nicaraguan coffee I sampled was close!

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From Granada we took a boat to the volcanic island of Ometepe. The island looks amazing as you approach it across the lake, with the twin volcanoes Concepcion and Maderas looming ahead. We got a taxi to our hotel in Merida with an Irish couple; he dropped us off and told us to walk the rest of the way up the path. 20 minutes later and many near-misses on stumbly rocks we had found our hotel slash farm, Finca Montania Sagrada. The owner was a slightly strange Italian man who had 7 million cats and the cutest newborn puppies, ideal. It was only once we had settled in our hut, the whole island had a power cut and we were about to embark down the treacherous path to seek out dinner in the pitch black, that we realised we might be slightly out of our comfort zone. We found one hotel that seemed vaguely open so we pointed at things on a menu and hoped the extremely unimpressed woman understood. Pasta pesto you rule in all countries.

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We didn’t fancy the volcano hike on our first day so instead we chose to visit the natural springs, Ojo de Agua. We had vague bus instructions and managed to get to the other side of the island, which we thought was a short walk to the springs. One thing about me: maps don’t like me. Definitely not my fault that many times on our travels we ended up walking 20 minutes in the wrong direction. This time my route took us over a stile and through an overgrown plantation, down a muddy path until we emerged at a fence at the back of the springs. As long as we made it to the destination…! The sun hadn’t quite hit the springs yet so they were mightily cool but as soon as it shone through the enclosure of palm trees the pool was a delight. We spent all day just floating in the beautiful water, lazing about and chilling by the edge. After sandwiches at the restaurant we decided to go crazy and purchased rum cocktails in coconuts, a scrummy delight. When in Nicaragua… Apparently we hadn’t learnt our lesson that this island doesn’t do evenings and stayed out far too late eating lasagne by the beach. Almost didn’t make it home but some stilted Spanish got us a man with a car to transport us back, after stopping off to meet all his family members.

The day of Volcan Maderas had arrived, and the look of our fellow guests after their hike did not encourage us. However we ploughed bravely on and followed our guide up the road towards the base of the volcano. Thankfully it wasn’t too hot and we were mainly in shade, but even so, every time our guide said ‘do you need break?’ I was like THANK GOD YES and inhaled a litre of water. This was before we even reached the steep bit. Breathing became something that you had to think about constantly, so much so that I forgot to think about controlling my farts and one slipped out just as Jacks face was in line with my bottom. Soz. It’s one of those situations where life is such a struggle that farting in someones face isn’t a big deal right? No? Okay…

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The path got steeper and steeper so we found walking sticks to assist us, and then it got to the point where we literally had to climb up and over rocks and trees and hold onto branches and pray we didn’t slip. Four hours after we set off, we finally emerged into the crater and oh my was I ready to collapse. Clouds were everywhere and we were all thinking ‘if I don’t get a view and there’s no reward for this torture, then seriously what is life…’ but thankfully they started to thin and we saw the beginnings of a view!

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We stayed up there for a while hoping to see more and luckily everything cleared and we saw some amazing views across the island to Volcan Concepcion, as well as into the crater itself. I would have happily stayed up there all day seeing as my legs were absolutely gone but our guide was all ‘yeah we gotta go back’. Meh. Downhill is always bad on the knees but nothing was going to be as bad as the climb up so I enjoyed it comparatively. Finally we made it back to our hut, having completed probably the hardest thing of my life. Proud. Never again.

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That was enough Ometepe for us so we took the boat the next day to the mainland and got a short taxi ride over to San Juan del Sur, ready for a bit of beach time and the infamous Sunday Funday. HC Liri was one of the nicest hotels we stayed in, big clean rooms, a fantastic pool and a cheeky hammock. We spent our Saturday walking up the beach and through the town markets, and settled at a beach restaurant with fabulous shrimp and happy hour cocktails. The sunset over the beach looked glorious from our little wooden balcony!

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Then came the big Sunday… 9:30am may seem an early start to an all day drinking sesh, but apparently that’s the way things go over here. We turned up at Hostel Pachamama to buy our wristbands and then headed out for a line-the-stomach brekkie whilst things were being set up. Barrio Cafe ended up being my favourite place for food, admittedly not a particularly Nicaraguan cuisine, but they had amazing Eggs Royale with fantastic sauteed potatoes, and a nutella mocha frappe. Oh wow. I actually made myself so full that the first few beers back at Pachamama were a bloaty struggle. But powering through…

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The hostel filled up gradually as people got the drinks in and gathered around the pool. I was so surprised to see the crazy amount of travellers after bumping into barely any during our trip so far – Sunday Funday must be where they all combine! I bumped into my friend from uni which was utterly random but great! However this was just the warm up, an announcement was made for the start of the pool crawl and we all stumbled down the road to Hotel Anamar.

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This was the real party – pool by the beach, crazy tunes, and a man with spray tattoos including 1D (Jacks first choice of course). A randomer at the bar introduced us to rum and water with lime and we didn’t look back. At $2 a drink they were most certainly flowing. Just before sunset it was time to move on again so we piled into the back of trucks and took the scenic route up the hill to Naked Tiger hostel. The location was amazing – views over the hills down to the coast, with a pool overlooking it all. We took a dancing break and chilled in the pool for a while, then as the evening truly set in the pool patio became a packed dancefloor with the DJ cracking out bangers like Sandstorm. All of the wet wiggling.

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The final destination of the night (after another bumpy truck ride, this time significantly more drunken) was Arribas bar. I have to say my memories are not crystal clear but from the snapchat story it seems like we had a great time and made many many friends. Jack even found someone to get low with him when T-swizzle came on. Being that drinking had now been occurring for somewhere in the region of 12 hours, most people drifted off as the bar started closing. Not us. We got questionable pizza and sat on the floor of the bar as the lovely Nicaraguan man cleaned around us. Finally we started the walk to our hotel but on the way spied the Crazy Crab which appeared to be a very not closed and exciting bar. I’m surprised we had any money left but we somehow paid the $5 entry fee to this locals club and carried on dancing the night away. By this point Jack had lost his flip flops and was very confused about it but they were a lost cause so he went back to the wiggling. Conclusion: Sunday Funday is the best, and we rule at life. Maybe a smidgen past perfect drunk but most certainly hilarious drunk.

Monday was of course a write off, we went in search of food and ended up with broccoli pizza which was so upsetting I can’t even explain. Pool, sleep and more food in preparation for our departure from San Juan the next day. Nicaragua was equal amounts of fun and ridiculous experiences, plus so many beautiful relaxing moments. We were sad to leave, but ready for our next adventure! (With just a 4 day journey in between…)

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New York, New York

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My time in New York was one of my favourite parts of the trip, partly because it was the first time I’d seen Jack in 3 months, but also just because New York is fabulous. Okay, so we stayed in a dodgy area in Harlem where people ate rice out of woks on the pavement and someone found a rats head in their Popeyes chicken, but hey it was a 20 minute subway ride to central NYC and we didn’t have any bad experiences there. Apart from that time we thought a crazy man with a bong was going to kill us on the train. Harlem-based drama aside, I absolutely loved the feel of New York. The impression you get of NYC is busy and fast-paced so I was expecting it to be similar to London, but it differed in a lot of ways. The trains weren’t as overcrowded, the streets were wider which made the city feel less claustrophobic, and the people were friendly. Our first few days were disgustingly humid which meant we had to return to our apartment (with limited air-con) twice a day to shower and change, but after that it cooled down to a lovely September temperature.

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Obviously one of the best things about NYC is the abundance of food and drinks available. We had quite a variety of food, from fast food like the Shake Shack to rustic meals in Little Italy to $1 pizza slices (most days for dinner, gotta save that dolla). We also had great snacks like Emack & Bolio’s ice cream, Dough’s donuts and Levain cookies. Oh wow all of the foods. You’d think with the wealth of food offered we would try new things all the time, which we did, but I still had to take Jack to good old Denny’s. You can’t beat a $4 breakfast and their yummy frappes.

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One of our greatest food discoveries were garlic knots; obviously we knew they existed but they are everywhere in New York and so great! Our first experience was at Stay Classy, a Will Ferrel themed bar, where a customer brought some in and shared them around. They probably tasted better because they were free, but also covered in cheese and omg soooo good. That bar was great in so many ways, Will Ferrel films playing everywhere, Will Ferrel quotes for cocktails, and a peanut butter chocolate flavoured Guinness that I had in a carbomb. Oh wow. Terrible idea when only eaten garlic knots but I could not say no to that one. The waitress became our best friend as we inhaled Whale’s Vaginas and Whore Islands at the bar until closing time.

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We found a lot of good places simply by exploring different areas within Manhattan. We were drawn to the meatpacking district because of the rooftop bar at Le Bain, but we didn’t stay long as it was ridiculously overpriced and pretentious. We were actually made to give up our seats because we had moved them and ‘it didn’t please the aesthetics’. However, leaving Le Bain led us to the discovery of a fantastic little bar called Gaslight. We bagged a sofa, ordered plentiful wines and garlic knots (obviously), and danced all night long to the great tunes provided by the resident DJ.

Half Paddy’s Day fell whilst we were in New York so we decided to do an Irish pub crawl of sorts, starting at your standard sawdust-on-the-floor pub then moving on to a pub with a live band and enjoying their rendition of Wagon Wheel. We then discovered a three-story bar with horrendous Karaoke in the basement, so moved next door to a small pub where the bartender gave us multiple mysterious shots. Unfortunately on this particular occasion our assumption that trains ran all night appeared to be untrue, so we spent about 3 hours in the subway station (most likely sleeping at some point) before giving up and sitting on the pavement. It took us a ridiculously long time to realise we should just order an uber… must have been perfectly happy on that pavement at 7am. Oh yeah.

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Central Park is obviously a must-see, must-do in New York. We went twice – once for a picnic where we observed a first date which was excellent people watching, and once to cycle around. The lanes are so confusing we ended up cycling in the wrong direction for a significant amount of time, but we saw some lovely views of the lake and got our workout in the humidity!

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We explored Greenwich Village, saw the friends building and had scrummy brunch. We did the standard sightseeing activities and went up the Empire State building and Rockafeller Centre, as well as taking the trip to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We walked around Brooklyn, mainly Williamsburg, and decided it was a great place and we should stay there next time. Sadly we were hungover so didn’t experience the many pubs and bars on offer, but we saw some very cool shops and had a great Thai curry.

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As well as general exploring and a LOT of walking, we did a few activities. One was the sunset river cruise, where we stood on a boat with drinks and music whilst it toured around the harbour offering sunset views of the statue of liberty, Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was such a lovely experience and the music was great, especially when they played ‘New York, New York’ as we went under the Brooklyn Bridge – bit of a movie moment!

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I also wanted to get tickets for us to see a sporting event so had booked basketball tickets a month previously. It wasn’t until later that I realised the game was women’s basketball… Typical Joy error! However it actually turned out to be great, it was cheaper and we still got the experience of a game at Madison Square Garden and all the ridiculous American traditions that brings. The build up to the game was hilarious: flames, disco balls, emotional versions of the national anthem, and multiple entertainment performances. At half time they brought out an over-50s hip hop group that performed a routine that was slightly scarring… Of course we had to get a hot dog and beer (at $12 a beer not sure it was worth it but hey novelty) and we wore our NY Liberty T-shirts home, cos y’know, we’re longstanding fans and all that.

Unfortunately we did experience a newsworthy crisis whilst in New York… The one time we went to Chelsea happened to be about 15 minutes after the bomb went off there. We emerged from the subway to see massive amounts of police, helicopters, all the roads cordoned off and of course crowds everywhere. As we had no WiFi it took us a while to figure out what had happened, and we woke up the next morning to lots of worried messages! If we had left a little bit earlier who knows what would have happened, but luckily we were safe!

Ten days seems like a long time to spend in one place, but New York is so full of things to do and places to explore that I could have spent longer! I want my next visit to coincide with Christmas-time excitement and festive cheer, even if it is freezing!

Europe Travelling Vibes: Croatia

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Croatia. Oh you beauty you. The last stop on our interrail trip, we had a week to explore the islands and the amazingly blue seas. And boy were we ready for some chill time, most certainly. We emerged from our 15 hour train shells of our former selves, only to have the heavens open on us. Seriously Croatia what are you doing. But it was fine, because we ran to our ferry only to watch it leave the port with one minute to spare. Continuation of the bad luck and all that… So we took our sorry selves to a rainy gazebo where our bags and selves got soaked as we awaited the next ferry. Once we finally arrived on the island of Brac we discovered we were too early to get into our apartment so we had to sit on the terrace for 2 hours watching a lady clean it. All the funs. Grace had meanwhile contracted the fat-foot-cankle-erupted-blister disease and couldn’t move so Laura and I went on the hunt for medicines and foods.

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A couple of hours later and we were on route to the beach, taking a walk past some pretty spectacular views to get there. Let me tell you, you will never have a better sunbathe than after a night of no sleep on a train and that palava of a journey. We had this feeling like WE DESERVE THIS, WE HAVE WORKED FOR THIS. I have never so much craved a salty sea to wash away all my sins and dirt and wounds. As you can imagine, we fell so fast asleep in the sun that ain’t no one in the world had a hope of waking us. Every so often one of us would awake with a jolt and a fear of sunburn, realise the others were still zonko, and succumb to sleep once again. However there did come a time where the sea decided to ruin our fun and start lapping at our feet. What about this tide thing, eh? Can’t the sea just stay the same distance always? (Geographer over here). We took the opportunity to explore the rest of the harbour, and found The. Best. Ice cream. Of life. Raspberry yoghurt, snickers, chocolate fudge, you name it they had it in glorious ice cream quality. So much lushness in a dairy product stuck on a wafer cone. We scoffed our ice creams with our fantas sat in a beautiful bar area called Yolo. Yes that’s right, we had discovered a yolo bar. It was too perfect. That evening we were in much need of a good nights sleep in our air conditioned apartment (double bed to myself, just saying. Snoring works in your favour sometimes), so after a lovely seafood dinner in a romantic beachside restaurant we bought chocolate and juice and retired for the night.

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We got into a bit of a morning routine whilst Bol was our home, Laura would wake early and sunbathe outside for a bit before walking down to the bakery to pick us up some pain au chocolat. What a babe, what would we do without her mothering tendencies. Grace would emerge at the smell of pastries, and I would crawl out of bed at the latest possible socially acceptable time. The only exception to the beauty of this routine was our extremely hungover morning where Laura ended up vomming on the road into town. If you think that stopped her mission for croissants, you are wrong. She is a trouper.

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After our first beach day, we realised we could actually get a choo choo tourist train to the larger famous Zlatni Rat beach (all the hilarious slutty jokes), which was where it was all at. The beach is shaped kind of like a horn, which means you can watch people and their wet hair walking up and down the beach from both sides. People watch what?! We don’t do that… We had a few glorious days of sunbathing on that wonder of a horn beach. It felt amazing to have the time to chill and read a book and listen to music for the first time this holiday. And work on that all important tan of course. If I went back I would definitely trial out some of the water activity obstacle courses they had, cos it looked basically like being on total wipeout. Sadly I was too much of a poor lady at the time. And also, yknow, laziness.

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The nightlife of Bol was an interesting one. We had no expectations as this was our chilled part of the holiday, but of course we had to explore the options. Aforementioned pauper status led us to purchase cartons of wine for pre-drinking on our terrace. Who are we? It got us suitably merry for the dangerous cobbled cliff walk down to town, good choices. Our best discovery was what we called the Tiki Tiki bar, because it was basically a terrace covered with Palm trees and Tiki themed things (no idea of it’s actual name). They served a multitude of fabulous cocktails, and played some banging tunes from their outdoor DJ deck. It seemed that everyone who was anyone in Bol chose to spend their evening in the Tiki bar, we met many many travellers (all the floppy hair Australians and cheeky Irish), and also a rather creepy stalker man who was the epitome of dad dancing and who decided to take grace on a whirl. The only sad thing about Tiki was the closing time – 1am! Whoever is finished with their night at 1am I just don’t know. Luckily, our previous discovery yolo bar had a late night party going on. Tequilas galore and inadvisable drink mixing, Laura and I had an extremely fun drunken time (grace was lost again obvs). We were offered some vodka from the ‘daddy bought me a boat so I flew all my rah friends to Croatia’ crew, so that was just great.

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This crew inspired us to create some alter egos for ourselves, and dance moves to go with them. Grace became the spoiled Daddy’s girl, on her tenth gap yah spending all her moneys on yachts. Her dance move looked a bit like a slut thrust with a ‘show me the money’ hand gesture. Laura became event planner extraordinaire, she single-handedly organised Glastonbury didn’t you know. Of course she employed the Laura two-step one-step dance with a festival air punch. And Joy was the hippie travel yoga retreat ladida who set up Oxfam. Y’know, that person. My move was inspired by the tree dance, combined with some interpretive inspiration. Every time we were out dancing from then on it was a case of, “Alteregos. Go.” And then commenced the spectacle that was us. People love it.

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One of these moments occurred at the beach party on Zlatni Rat. This wasn’t your average beach party, oh no. After getting the pina coladas in at 4pm (standard holiday behaviour), the music stopped and out came a man with an electro violin accompanied by dancers wearing fishnet thongs. I mean, fabulous and all, but it was slightly strange that the beach bar was still full of families who then decided to take photos of their children with the dancers whilst they had some shisha. Each to their own. Electro violin man turned out to be one of the greatest things we had observed so far this holiday. It was just wow. He leaped across the palm trees and bar seats with his crazy smiley face and performed beautiful intense Swedish House Mafia inspired vibrato tunes. Electro violin, a great night out, who knew. DJs then came out with every hit European song you’ve heard of or haven’t heard of and the crowd became rather ‘Ibiza bumbag lads on drugs’ styley. We escaped to watch the b-e-a-utiful sunset and run into the sea and scream at massive bugs and laze around on bean bags.

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Our time in Bol had to come to an end at some point, and sad as we were to leave, we were very excited to venture across the sea to the famous Hvar. We had a 2 hour boat journey which consisted of sunbathing on the roof and a spontaneous jump into the sea, the most refreshing way to start the day. With only one full day in Hvar we wanted to make the most of it, so on hostel mans advice we took a taxiboat over to the small island of Jeromin and spent the day on a beautifully secluded rocky beach. You had to walk through a foresty area which had a hippie bar with bucket flush toilets and hammocks that we just cannot. Falling through holes like beached whales. We lay on our rocks eating our ham and cheese sandwiches (the girls wouldn’t allow me to bring gherkins to the beach. Like, what.) and took a swim over to the pontoon which was the pinnacle of sunbathing glory. Our people watching tendencies led us to discover that we were alongside a nudist beach, with people very much in the nude showing off for all to see. Lovely sights. And then the people watching took a new level…

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Joy: “That looks like Curtis.” Laura: “Oh yes, from that angle it does.” Grace: “He is actually in Croatia you know. OMG ITS CURTIS.” Joy: “I’m going to shout his name so we can see if it’s him.” Grace: “NONONONONONONONO. I am not stalker.” Laura: “Lets go swim over to him for lols.” Grace: “NONONONONONONO. I am not stalker. Well okay.” So much laughings, what is life, we are life, the world is a small small place. Hi Curtis, bum slaps, “That MUST be Grace Shellard.” Wowsa.

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Our night out in Croatia had been planned meticulously from the very beginning of our holiday, but fate and the weather decided to get in our way so sadly we did not experience the Carpe Diem club island. We did however go to ‘frat bar’ Hula Hula and danced on tables and chairs whilst drinking cocktails. Stereotype it may be, but it was genuinely full of Americans who genuinely swam over to the bar from their yachts. And who then genuinely bought prosecco and sprayed it all over everyone, many times. All the frat vibes. We did a little bar crawl to Nautica and Aloha, got some free shots and did some dancing. Then the heavens opened so the one sheltered bar became a very sweaty and claustrophobe affair. Sacked that off, dancing in the rain is much more preferable. I decided I was a hippie and demanded everyone must take off their shoes and feel grounded to the earth through their feet. Who am I? We got very wet. Attempts at other bars were made, but postcodes were lost down throats and the rain just would not let us have more funs so afterparties and gins were the only options. Being us and having no shame, we got Curtis’ friend with a fabulous narrative voice to read out his claim to fame through my blog, How Not to Date in 10 Steps. It was an overall embarrassing and cringeworthy experience for all involved, but obviously hilarious.

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We definitely did not have enough time to experience Hvar fully, so leaving on the morning ferry was a sad moment. However we had one more day of Croatian loving on the coastal town of Split. With optimum tans being of the highest priority, we spent the entire day on a little local beach, reminiscing and sleeping and swimming in the gloriously blue shiny salty sea. We had been recommended a quaint little restaurant called ‘Buffet Fife’, where the waiter decided to set us up on a blind date with two nerdy Oxford boys, thanks. The menu consisted of many many fishes, as well as “Beans” and “Boiled Meat”. Croatian delicacies? The fish came looking very much whole and alive, but was scrummily delicious, so well done Buffet Fife. I would recommend you to all Croatian travellers. With a 5am wakeup for our flight home we weren’t after a mental night, but we had to see what Split could offer in the way of drinkies. After 3 hour showers (“I have to moisturise”) and beers on the balcony, we walked through the pretty Palace walls to a cheap and cheerful alleyway bar called Charlies. The vibes weren’t quite right so we ate some pizza on the harbour and then chased after the bright lights and fabulous music we could see in the distance. Turned out to be an amazing outdoor Ibiza style DJ bar, good finds. We kept trying to leave because sleep was calling but then another great song would play and we ran back because MORE DANCING PLEASE. Don’t ever let it end. We are so not ready to go home.

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But the time had come, after two wonderfully adventurous and yolo weeks of Europe vibes, to catch our flight back to the UK. The adventures weren’t quite over yet, we had a stop over in Cologne and although we didn’t get to leave the airport we ate German sausages and pretzels in the airport so I’d like to say we can add that to our list of country experiences. Interrailing, you are the one. You ruined my liver and voice, and of course bad luck came calling at many moments because this is us, but you gave us hands down one of the best experiences of life. As great as it is to venture halfway across the world, Europe has so much to offer any traveller and every country has its own little thang that makes it exciting or crazy or just plain great. We squeezed so many experiences and adventures into two weeks, and I could do it all again tomorrow. Next stop….?