Freelance vs Full-Time: part one

Part I

freelance vs full time📷 www.pixabay.com

I’ve teamed up with Emma from 25before25 again.

This time Emma and I decided to document one of our working weeks and compare the difference between a freelance blogger / travel writer (Emma R), and myself (Emma T), a full-time content writer in the travel industry and doing my own thing with words on the side.

First off, anyone who has free reign over their work schedule and eschewed being stuffed into a traditional 9-5 hole of rigid ‘productivity’, I’m insanely jealous of and fascinated by how they divvy up their day. I often slip into a ‘grass-is-greener’ fantasy of being a freelancer. The flexibility and limitless scope of work is a tempting fruit to want to taste if you’re unfulfilled within a typical office set up.

Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted though, in that the steady security and comforting protection which comes from being a company employee is no longer there to fall back on. You often end up labouring for longer hours and down-time tends to blur with work-time as you’re always switched on at some level.

Plus figuring out the minefield of self-employment tax is utterly terrifying.

However the flip side is, if you’re feeding that passion-fire in your belly by wholeheartedly loving what you do and chasing your ambitions, then the slog and sacrifice won’t be felt as hard in the end.

I think.

Here’s Emma R’s freelance working week –

 

/ Monday

freelance writing Wimbledon tennis

📷 www.pixabay.com

Today I was lucky enough to have bagged a Centre Court ticket at Wimbledon – it was a strawberries-and-cream day rather than work. I’ve never been to Wimbledon before and certainly never thought I’d get the chance to sit in Centre Court during the second week, so this was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. This did mean I had about 50 emails in my inbox to deal with when I got home at about 10 pm, but it was totally worth it to watch both Murray and Federer play!

 

/ Tuesday

I spent the day working with landscape gardener, Anthea Harrison, up in Stansted as part of career number 16 for the 25before25 project. I had no idea Stansted was anything other than an airport, but it turns out it’s a beautifully quaint village on the Hertfordshire-Essex border, where you can hear zero aeroplanes.

The morning was spent at Anthea’s client’s house, a large project that included construction work as the garden was being totally re-designed. It was very close to completion when I joined so I just helped out with some of the planting, training some of the clematis’ and titivating (brilliant word I’d never heard before!) some of the bushier plants.

before 

compare freelance writer with full time

duringwriting on the side vs. freelance

after

freelance writing

                 📷 25before25

As it started to rain, we headed back to Anthea’s office and she talked me through the design process, from initial consultation with a client, through to finished award-winning garden, explaining the computer programmes she uses.

I absolutely loved my day with Anthea and think I’d really enjoy being a landscape gardener, though perhaps not for my 20s. It is a job which combines both the left and right sides of your brain; it is creative as well as technical.

By the end of the day, I’m ready to drop and fall asleep pretty early.

 

/ Wednesday

This is one of the rare days I have to work at home and get on top of the backlog of career write-ups that I have. I’ve published up to career number 16 and am seven articles behind (still a couple more jobs to work in though). However, it’s not until about 1pm that I actually start writing, as I spent the morning going through emails that I’ve missed over the past couple of days – mostly organising jobs for the next few weeks and interviews with authors, explorers and politicians. Experiencing 25 careers is a feat in organisation that I hadn’t quite realised when I decided to take on the project!

I also work as an editor of the careers section of a new national student magazine, so I spend some time editing some of the articles which writers have sent in for the first issue and tweaking my own. The deadline is Friday, but I spent most of Sunday working on them so the articles are nearly there.

This evening I head out to meet a friend for dinner in North London. We have a tastecard so that helps keep costs down, which I’m certainly grateful for!

 

/ Thursday

Another day working from home writing up articles and catching up with emails.

I gave an interview with GradTouch – a graduate recruitment company – about my project, and am looking forward to reading the write up.

 

/ Friday

 

Today I spent the day with the Marine counter-terrorism unit with the Met Police, which was rather exciting.

Based in Wapping, I navigated the London Overground network to get to a non-descript Victorian building. It took me about 10 minutes just to figure out how to get in, I must have either looked very suspicious or incredibly naive, entering my first police station.

The team warmly welcomed me and I felt like I had jumped straight into a police drama TV series – there was an awful lot of team banter, plans for operations covered the walls, and about six separate offers for a cup of tea. A constable showed me around the station, taking me down to the docks to see the numerous different high-speed boats and reeling off marine policing trivia – England’s first recognised preventive police unit, don’t you know.

I then hopped in the back of a police van (I won’t pretend that I didn’t find it incredibly exciting) and headed up with two constables to a larger central command centre to sit in on their briefing to the unit which would be joining the marine team for the day.

The operation was partly to engage with the public on counter-terror issues, to reassure them, as well as to deter any individuals looking to cause harm, by placing a police presence in and around the Thames. I was with the half of the unit based on the boat for the afternoon, so spent most of my day on a high-speed cruise down the river, chatting to the officers about their careers.

The positive experience has made me seriously consider the police as a career option, so I’m looking forward to my two other police-based placements next week!

 


 

Thoughts from the Full-Timer (me)

I know that this is actually only 80% of Emma R’s working week. She’s mentioned in conversation that she pretty much does 7 days majority of the time. So in comparison, I’m lucky being in full-time employment that I can take a bit of a break at weekends and my livelihood won’t suffer for it if I’m lazing in bed just eating croissants for a few hours. Whereas the responsibility to make a self-carved career work and move forward is lays entirely at Emma’s feet.

The money side of things weighs more in full-time employment favour as well. Although I’m always worrying about cash, it’s probably on a much, much, much smaller scale compared to Emma. Every 30 odd days the exact same number will reliably appear in my bank account, taking the edge off when I do occasionally splurge on unnecessary stuff. Whereas freelancing can be notorious for ups and downs of how much and when the dolla rolls in. The girl’s got nerves of steel!

I’m drawn in by the variety of Emma’s freelance working week. The mission that she’s on has given her a chocolate-box selection of jobs to savour over the past year. And it’s exciting to read how on one day she’s helping ‘titivate’ bushes (😉) to racing down the Thames with the Marine counter-terrorism unit the next. I get that week in, week out Emma won’t always be jumping from one extreme situation to another, but the personal freedom and example of ‘no day is the same’ of her freelance lifestyle is immensely appealing.

Make no mistake, I’m outrageously privileged to even have a stable position and completely appreciative of all the opportunities that I’ve been afforded from the company I’m with…you can just feel the ‘but’ coming… But I know that at some point in the future I will make the leap to try working for myself. If anything, looking at Emma’s week and reading her wonderful blog has fanned the freelancing flames in my tum even more.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 – My full-time working week juggling writing on the side, along with Emma R’s accompanying thoughts 👍

Freelance vs Full-Time: part one

5 Cheap or free things to do in Salzburg

Poor & The City

cheap things to do Salzburg

📷 by Em

So you’re either in or heading to Salzburg for a cheap European city break. With the pull of the pound getting weaker and weaker, you’ll want to get enough euro-bang for your buck at every turn. I don’t blame you, with a measly bit of Apfelstrudel and an Aperol Spritz costing a combined tenner, recuperating that beer money from somewhere else during your Salzburg city escape could stretch your overall holiday budget just a smidge further.

Recently I found myself with some time to kill in Salzburg and not a lot of dolla to see me through (having been that wasteful moron spending the aforementioned €10 on a single pastry & booze). I thought I’d try and make a game of figuring out what were the cheapest or free cool things to do while in the city.

Oligarchs and billionaires can stop reading now.

 

/ Mirabell Gardens

mirabell salzburg things to do

📷 by Em – Appalling image quality courtesy of a crappy Galaxy S5 

Take a stroll round the Mirabell Gardens and if you’re with a bunch of extroverted pals re-enact the ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song sections filmed here for The Sound of Music.

mirabell gardens salzburg city

📷 by Em

The neatly groomed Baroque-style gardens are completely free to visit and naturally attracts a boat-load of camera wielding tourists. Looking past the bum-bags and selfie sticks, there’s enough space in the Mirabell Gardens that the  jostling masses are comfortably swallowed up so that the charm of the place is still intact.

mirabell gardens salzburg free to do

📷 by Em

There are scented-swirly plant beds in a rainbow of colours, a smattering of gorgeous fountains (the Pegasus fountain is the star of the show), the ‘hedge theatre’, plus a curious dwarf garden. The whole space is crowned by the Schloss Mirabell – another historical building that is essentially a love letter written in bricks*. Pop inside to see the palace’s sweeping marble staircase and the flashy Marmorsaal (wedding and concert hall).

bride mirabell gardens salzburg

📷 by Em – Brides are floating around everywhere at Mirabell

 

/ Go for a wander

Salzburg city

📷 by Em

Pottering through a city’s streets on foot is by far the best way explore. Map, no map, half-map and half-guess work, start wafting from one place to another. I’d keep a camera handy too and practice getting in some pretty snaps, simply walking around is a total feast for the eyes.

salzburg free things to do

📷 by Em

Salzburg quite compact but the Altstadt (old town) is a bit of a warren, with narrow archways and gallerias each opening out onto a different square which kind of have their own separate personalities from the main city itself. The buildings come in varying sizes, from the skinny to the bloody massive and are painted in ice cream hues with ornate mouldings and striking shop-front displays for browsing (the swankier places are on Getreidegasse).

salzburg free things to do

📷 by Em

It’s people-watching heaven in Salzburg, what with the amount of tourists milling around and people who actually live in the city going about their business. You’ll see lots of folk in traditional Austrian dress (lederhosen & dirndls), granted 98% of them might be tour guides on their lunch break but I like to think it’s because they want to be patriotic dressing up for the day. And if you get achy legs, fall back on the wonderful European café culture by buying a cheap drink, settling yourself at an outside table to continue your observations.

salzburg city free things to do

📷 by Em

 

/ Culture trip

culture things salzburg

📷 by Em

Off the back of taking a simple turnabout Salzburg, like many other cities, the place is a living museum bursting with free culture-stuff – what an eloquent series of words, ‘free culture-stuff’. Just popping out for a quick ramble and you’ll be knees deep in charming fountains and impressive statues along the way, usually complete with a shiny info plaque to explain what you’re looking at.

salzburg culture free things to do

📷 by Em – Mozart’s sunny yellow birthplace on the right

Majority of the churches cost absolutely zilch to enter too, like Franziskanerkirche cathedral, the oldest in Salzburg (it’s always nice to leave a small donation though, to keep these places well looked after and free).

modern art trail salzburg

📷 by Em – 10th art project Salzburg Walk of Modern Art – Würth Collection: Erwin Wurm, “Gurken” (or cucumbers), 2011, in Furtwänglerpark

Or you could spend an afternoon following the city’s Modern Art Trail. This project invites international artists from around the world to create outdoor installation pieces at various sites that flow with Salzburg’s vibe.

music salzburg

📷 by Em

And finally, you’re in a town that has basically been built on music. From Mozart, to the Salzburg Festival and the brilliant Sound of Music film, you’ll be treated to clusters of professional-sounding musicians tinkling out a tune on paths all over Salzburg. Again be kind, and if you can, give these guys a couple of coins for their efforts in providing you with memorable entertainment for practically nothing.

mozart salzburg

📷 by Em – The main man Mozart

 

/ Mönchsberg

monchsberg salzburg📷 by www.salzburg.info

If you want a hit of breath-taking views and can cobble together €2.90 from bits of odd change, you’ll be able to buy a return journey on the Mönchsberg lift. As one of six Salzburg mountains (measuring 508m at its highest point), the Mönchsberg serves as a beautiful panoramic terrace over the city. For crazy active people you can hike the hill for free, scrapping the lift all together.

Once at the top, even though you’re still technically in the town centre, a touch of the countryside will be felt. Meander round the fields and forests to the musical background of jangling cowbells as the animals lazily graze. There’s a handful of other things to see / do like the café-restaurant for a spot of refreshment, as well as the Hohensalzburg fortress or the Museum der Moderne (they aren’t free though).

Feeling energetic? Take the staircase on the way down to St Peter’s cemetery, morbid I know but I’ve been told it’s something definitely worth seeing. Sound of Music fans will appreciate this especially as it’s where the von Trapp family hid from the Gestapo before escaping to Switzerland (cemetery is free to view, but for the church and catacombs you’ve got to cough up).

 

/ Markets

markets salzburg

📷 by Em

Christmas, summer and those in-between months, Salzburg is a city mad on markets. And they can be as cheap or as expensive as you like when visiting. There’s the traditional Grünmarkt running from Monday to Sunday, set against the sky-touching University Church.

market salzburg city

📷 by Em

This is one of the bigger ones, with lots delicious smells, food and drink in every shade, a riot of noise, as well as a hustle and bustle mix of locals, tourists and bellowing vendors. Grünmarkt is a massive assault on the senses (but a pleasant one!). Expect to find more cheese, meat and other produce which could easily feed a small army for at least a decade. I recommend you implement a clear strategy before trawling the stalls for tasty potential samples. Then on top of all that you’ve got handfuls of smaller weekly farmers market to accompany the larger ones. A summer-y riverside market sprung up while I was there, so it pays to just keep an eye out.

salzburg christmas market

📷 by www.salzburg.info

Obviously the big hitter is Salzburg’s Christmas market to celebrate the advent season. This chocolate-box city dials up the charm factor by tenfold once it’s had a dusting of snow and been lovingly wrapped in festive decorations. Imagine chiming bells, the soft crunch of winter underfoot and tiny twinkly lights setting the scene. Maybe a hot Glϋhwein is in your hand to keep you toasty while perusing displays of local crafts, on the hunt for small Christmas gifts. Or perhaps you’re watching a melodic gathering of carollers and musicians performing to the crowds on Residenz Square …

…started looking at flights yet?

 


*As of now, all declarations of love and affection for me will only be accepted in palace form. Thank you.

 

5 Cheap or free things to do in Salzburg

Review: Amalfi Coast Drive from Sorrento

 

An edited version of this post can be found on ciao.citalia.com/blog

italy driving jeremy clarkson quote

After wolfing down a sleepy breakfast on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Capodimonte, watching the first pinky whispers of sunrise over the bay of Sorrento, the girls and I were outside of the hotel at 7.30am sharp for the Amalfi Coast drive excursion pick-up.

Grand Capodimonte Sorrento

Fuzzy 📷 by Em

But of course this is Italy.

And expecting the bus to turn up on time is ridiculously British of me, as the relaxed la dolce vita lifestyle runs through veins of most Italians. However, we didn’t have to wait for too long before a huge coach came rumbling round the corner.

Securing seats on the right hand side of the coach – opposite to the driver’s side – was a tip recommended to us by Sorrento’s Citalia Concierge Nico as the best spot for views. Our coach scooped up the remaining passengers from a point within Sorrento town and then battled its way through the morning rush hour to start the climb up to the coast lined road. The on-board mic crackled and the Italian accented voice of our chaperone, Sasa a 3rd generation tour-guide, introduced himself plus the man with nerves of steel at the helm of coach.

I was under no illusions that an Amalfi Coast drive would be void of sheer drops, narrow snaking roads and what would seem as white-knuckle near misses with local traffic (umm, please see the above Mr Clarkson quote.) Thankfully today’s drive along the Amalfi Coast was done by a chap who navigates this iconic stretch of road day in, day out as his job.

sorrento amalfi coast italy

📷 by Em – ‘cuse the dodgy pics, they were snapped on a crappy phone through a moving coach window. 

Emerging from the town, with a beautiful clear sunny day unfolding over the glittering Tyrrhenian Sea, Sasa pointed out the first point of interest. Li Galli islands (also known as La Sirenuse or Dolphin Island due to its resemblance in shape to everyone’s favourite sea mammal) sits in a prime position on the Amalfi coast and is one of the most exclusively expensive resorts in the Mediterranean.

la galli dolphin island sorrento

📷  www.wimp.com

A collection of three sumptuously luxurious villas, these islands are only accessible to the smallest niche of clientèle as its technically not available on the open rental market. Although reportedly spending a week on Dolphin Island will set you back around €130,000 in the summer months, but it’s all very hush-hush.

Veering round a corner the first houses of Positano came into view. Known as the vertical city, with buildings stacked closely to one another and cascading up the mountain in a real life game of Tetris, this picture-perfect town is a Mecca for tourists visiting the Amalfi Coast and it’s so clear to see why. From the confines of the coach, my face was smushed up against the glass, gawking at the small but jaw-droppingly beautiful hotels, restaurants and houses. Every structure was centred around giving inhabitants panoramic views of the sea and the town (a phenomenal feature in itself) to look out over.

positano italy

📷 by Em 

The coach slowed its pace right down to manoeuvre the marginally wider streets of the higher up roads, allowing for more time to nose at flower-filled patios jutting out on platforms set up for alfresco dining, infinity pools that must feel like paddling in the sky and higgildy-piggildly skinny stairs blending into the slight cracks between buildings for more pedestrian friendly routes of getting around.

The lower half of Positano in the summer months purely serves the tourist trade, with 70% of residents renting out their houses and living in the upper regions of the mountain. Everyday life in this stunning vertical city is not without challenges either, it’s easier to get from A to B on foot or a zippy Vespa, which is not always ideal if you’re loaded up with masses of shopping or have to replace a washing machine… for that you’ll need a working donkey. Yep, Sasa confirmed that in the 21st Century, the locals of Positano still use donkeys to transport large goods up and down roads that are too small for a van to get through.

Leaving the pastel pops of Positiano colour behind, we continued along the windy road that lead to our first stop off – Amalfi town. Sasa had a piece of knowledge or historical titbit to tell about every village we drove through, like pointing out tiny model nativity scenes set into the cliff sides that are lit up at night and plays Christmas music every day of the year.

positano amalfi coast

📷 by Em – Left to right: The silhouette of the Madonna in the rocks on the Amalfi coastal road; An example of the Saracen influence in the local architecture.

Or ‘Africana Famous Club’ a popular nightclub in Praiano that resides in a cave practically at sea level (complete with a dock so you can safely moor the family yacht while you party it up).  For roughly half an hour looking out the right hand side window of the bus (which I can confirm are THE best seats to be in if you’re doing this trip from Sorrento) was a parade of spectacular blue sea, beautiful buildings and scenic ravines lining the road.

Descending into the outer regions of Amalfi town, a sense of glamour was apparent already. The hotels were bigger, the natural rustic charms of quaint resorts we had passed through was discretely replaced with a more polished veneer, the Vespa’s and dusty beaten up Fiat 500s were long gone. Parking next to the marina, Sasa gave the group strict instructions on what time the coach would be leaving Amalfi town that afternoon. This was now a designated free time of the tour, so you could wander round the town at your leisure. However, Sasa had arranged a boat trip for those that wanted it (at an extra cost, around €12 which was cheaper than buying tickets direct from the harbour kiosk) and as it was a gorgeously warm sunny day, the majority of us opted to take advantage.

I cannot recommend enough seeing Amalfi by boat.

amalfi town italy

📷 by Em 

Especially if the sun is out.

Not only did the boat take us right up to the rock formation that looks like two elephants kissing.

elephants kissing rocks amalfi

📷 by Em – Mwah 😘 !

Sasa also gave a star- studded running commentary of which massive villa belonged to which celebrity and which famous person stayed where amongst the line-up of exclusive hotels that dotted the shore line. It was like gossip crack as we pressed our guide for more and more information.

amalfi coast by boat

📷 by Em – Left to right: That little yellow turret is the part of the Romeo &  Juliet honeymoon suite at the Hotel Santa Caterina. Brad and Ange stayed here after they got married (RIP Brangelina); Sophia Loren’s gaff, complete with private funicular that goes too and from her personal beach area.

amalfi hell mouth

📷 by Em – That big natural arch is fondly known by locals as ‘The Hellmouth’ .

 

roger moore villa amalfi

📷 by Em – Roger Moore’s villa (RIP 😭)

 

norman fortress amalfi coast

📷 by Em – Lots of these fortresses line the Amalfi Coast. They are either Norman or Saracen. You can tell them apart because Norman fortresses have square tops and Saracen’s have round ones. 

amalfi coast drive

📷 by Em 

After cruising the length of the waters from the edge of Amalfi where we drove in, up past Minori and back again, we disembarked to explore the town. Before parting, Sasa warned our group that eating at a table in Amalfi would be expensive, especially if you decided to stop for a gelato or cappuccino within the main square as many restaurants implement an extortionate cover charge if you sit down. He even made us learn a handy Italian phrase at the end of his lecture “quanto costa” – how much.

amalfi town

📷 by Em 

Picking our way through the cobbled lanes in search of cake and coffee that didn’t cost the earth (the main street running through Amalfi’s heart is not pedestrianised, so keeping any eye out for cars and bikes is so important) , we browsed tiny shops selling touristy knick-knacks and local crafts.

amalfi town Italy

📷 by Em 

Settling on a side street trattoria tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the centre we enjoyed our own slice of la dolce vita, watching the world go by.

amalfi town map

📷 by Em – The first laws of the sea were written in Amalfi and they like to claim that they invented the modern compass too. But this has been disproven. 

Back on the coach well in time for the scheduled departure, Sasa came back over the tinny mic again to let us know the next stop would be in Ravello, where we would be having lunch at the Hotel Giordano, just outside of the main town.

Gorging on more spectacular coastal views while eating delicious fresh pasta, washed down with cold, crisp, locally made wine, lunch was a relaxing drawn-out affair. Before we knew it we were back on the coach again after a short walk to where it was parked (narrow roads a-plenty up in Ravello) and made the short trip to the centre.

Being now thoroughly smitten with all things Amalfi Coast related, I was expecting the same pretty sights of the sea and surrounding hillsides as we approached central Ravello.

I was wrong.

It was that and much much more.

Ravello Italy

📷 by Em – My pics of Ravello are pants, best bet is to go see the beauty for yourselves. 

The views on offer in Ravello are so breath-taking that no words can possibly do it justice and I’m not even going to bother to try. Seeing this secret treasure of a town for yourself is a must to understand how stunning it is. Not only has this tiny patch of heaven- on- earth hosted a deluge of the rich and renowned (Jackie Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Richard Wagner to name but a few) it’s provided endless inspiration for artists, musicians and writers throughout the ages. Ravello has a history of capturing hearts and it can certainly add mine to the list.

ravello amalfi coast

📷 by Em – Sasa with his jolly red umbrella outside of the Villa Rufolo. 

Wandering round the piazza and passing the Villa Rufolo, we walked to a café at the edge of the square for another coffee and soak up even more of the other-worldly landscape. Clutching frothy cappuccinos the girls and I kept grinning at each other, continuously expressing our awe and amazement that a place like this could be real.

Late afternoon eventually rolled around which signalled the end of excursion. Back on the coach again and settled in our seats, a sated silence fell over our group as the most peacefully dozed for the hour and bit return drive to our starting points in Sorrento.

I plugged in my headphones, closed my eyes and mentally replayed the last eight hours.

What day.

What a tour.

And when can I go back?

 


Nearly two weeks ago I did go back on my own, nine months later from this trip, and was lucky enough to share the Amalfi Coast drive all over again with my bestest pal D. 

We love you 🇮🇹

Review: Amalfi Coast Drive from Sorrento

5 Reasons why you should work abroad

A guest post on : 25before25

 

This month I’m a guest poster on the blog 25before25, an innovative project launched by Londoner Emma Rosen. 

Emma’s aim is to sample a whopping 25 careers before turning 25 through work experience, shadowing and just giving things a go. She explores work / life fulfilment and advocates for a more diverse career education.

5 reasons why you should work abroad 25 by 25

 

5 Reasons why you should work abroad

The quick guide to visiting Bath

10 things to see & do

 

things to do in bath city

📷 by Lauren Emil 

The City of Bath is a honey-hued warren of beautiful Georgian buildings, windy cobbled streets, and in some parts a network of subterranean caverns.

Cupped between the hilly Wiltshire countryside, in the thick of Jane Austen country, Bath attracts a range of visitors from spa breakers, to romantic weekend away-ers, stag & hen do-ers (although more hen parties than stags I’d say) and fly-by day trip-ers.

Bath is one of those places which has a touch of an X-Factor quality about it that you just can’t quite put your finger on. It’s a metropolis of theatres, museums, history and more quality places to eat and drink in than you can shake a stick at.

The biggest tip for visiting Bath is as soon as you know a rough idea for dates, start booking the places where you want to go as rocking up on the day without your name on a list could leave you disappointed (there are also potential early booking benefits to snap up so do some digging). Particularly for restaurants, karaoke pods and certain bars during peak times like wedding season or Christmas.

Needless to say, any kind of trip to this city will leave you utterly charmed to pieces and fervently repeating  ‘when we come back here..’  over and over again – mentally planning your next visit before you’ve even left.

Here’s a round up of food, drink and general ‘tick-off-your-list’ things to do in Bath.

 

/ Thermae Bath Spa

thermae bath spa

📷 by www.thermaebathspa.com

Take a dip amongst the rooftops at the Thermae Spa. Private treatment rooms, a little café and indoor and outdoor pools fed with the naturally warm thermal spring waters running under the city make up this particular ‘thing to do’ in Bath.  As you can guess, the spa gets ridiculously busy, so booking a slot is essential whatever month you visit. If you’ve not made reservations though it is possible to get in relatively crowd-free if you start queueing up a good half-hour before the Thermae Spa opens. Get in and get out.

The absolute best time to go to have the place mostly to yourself would be midweek in the colder off-seasons. Try and wangle it so you’re up there for sunset, all snuggly under the toasty hug of the waters while dusk plays across the sky.

 

/ Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House

sally lunn bun bath

📷 by www.theculturetrip.com

Food, history AND a quaint little chocolate-box of a building…be still my beating heart. Drop into Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House for slice of the past in the form of this legendary treat. Here’s the birthplace of the Bath Bun – although describing this iconic baked-good as a ‘bun’ is technically misleading says the folks running the show. It’s more part bun, part cake, part bread (a.k.a one rather tasty brioche style mongrel), but calling it a ‘Bath Bun’ is an alliteration masterpiece that’s just stuck – and no reservation is needed if you’re sampling the wares throughout the day (although turning up for actual lunch /afternoon tea / dinner is advised to book in advance). The buns are an excellent vehicle for savoury or sweet toppings.

sally lunn bun bath savoury or sweet📷 by www.sallylunns.co.uk         

Think scrambled eggs, home-made lemon curd, chocolate butter or double bacon as topping options…*dribbles on screen*

Unless otherwise stated, you will be served half a bun. You might get a top or a bottom – the tops tend to get used for sweet buns and bottoms for the savoury, although there’s no hard and fast rule. Their website quite rightly suggests that If there’s two of you, why not ask for a top and a bottom so you get to try both.

 

/ Sleight Bar Bath

sleight magic bar bath

📷 by www.sleightbarbath.co.uk

Stick with this one as from the outside the Sleight Bar looks like steps down to a grotty public toilet on the side of a  not-so-pretty pub, but as always it’s what’s on the inside that counts. This is not a posy posh bar where one drink is a tenner – Bath has plenty of those – this a bar where you’ll get a side of card tricks with your cocktails …OOOOooooOOOO!!

Yep, this bar has roaming magicians. It’s cheap for drinks, attracts a down to earth crowd and is so much fun if you’re after something a little quirky. The last time I went it was as part of a hen do where we hired one of the enclaves for the whole evening (£50) and got a private magic show which blew our collective minds.

 

/ Hare & Hounds

hare and hounds bath

📷 by www.hareandhoundsbath.com

The hill-top pub is perfect for a spot of breakie with a view. Not only is the Hare & Hounds a gorgeous building flanked by neat gardens, exposed wooden beams and panoramic windows, the staff are wonderfully friendly plus the food is somewhat cheap in comparison to the actual quality of dishes being served.

Having eaten a full English here on three separate occasions because of the deliciously fluffy scrambled eggs and reasonable prices (£8 for the works before drinks), the incredible floor to ceiling vistas overlooking Bath city is what entices me back each time.

If you’re hardcore and want to earn your bacon, Hare & Hounds is perched on a rather steep incline to walk up to, so I’d advise hopping in/on some kind of motor vehicle to reach it.

hare and hounds bath

📷 by www.hareandhoundsbath.com

The views kinda turn eating toast into a special occasion.

 

/ Bath Abbey

bath abbey

📷 by www.cathedralandchurchshops.com

Ah, Bath Abbey, a limestone mammoth of imposing Gothic architecture, shooting up from the main tourist hub of Bath. If anything the Abbey is a perfect marker / meet up point for groups running around the city doing different things. It’s exceptionally photogenic and has a rich history to get stuck into. The Abbey is right next to the Roman Baths and The Pump Room. It’s also free to get into but a small donation is suggested (and is a nice thing to do). You could pay a little extra on the day and join a Tower Tour around the bell chambers.

 

/ Have a walk round The Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent Bath

📷 by The Royal Crescent Bath

The star of many period dramas both on the small and the big screens, The Royal Crescent is a sweeping Georgian terrace of Grade I listed houses overlooking Royal Victoria Park. It’s an iconic Bath landmark and an absolute must-see during your visit.

A walk and a gaze is completely free, plus there’s lots of information about the buildings dotted around the place. Feeling flush? Stay at The Royal Crescent Hotel and pamper yourself in the swanky spa (like, it’s seriously chic). There’s an afternoon tea option if you want to experience some fancy without blowing a hole in your bank account. Or you know, just have a gin at the bar.

 

/ Fashion Museum

fashion museum bath

📷 by www.fashionmuseum.co.uk

If fabrics and textiles are your thing, then the Fashion Museum will rock your socks off as a unique thing to do in Bath. Holding a world-class collection of historic and modern dress, you’ll walk through the core exhibition as well as temporary curated pieces (Lace in Fashion is on from now until January 2018. One highlight includes a navy blue lace dress worn by Léa Seydoux in the James Bond, Spectre 😍😍). The museum has a dress-up area for those wanting to see if they can pull off a Georgian bonnet and ruffles and morning sketch sessions on the first Saturday of every month.

 

/ Pulteney Bridge

pulteney bridge bath

📷 by www.bath.co.uk

The Pulteney Bridge is a site you’ll encounter pottering around the centre of the city, just a short walk from the abbey. Heralded as one of the world’s most romantic bridges, it’s part of a handful of historic connections with shops built into it. Constructed in 18th century with the purpose of joining Bath with the land on the other side of the River Avon (and making some serious cash for the bridge’s backer, William Pulteney who would charge people to cross it), the bridge now days is an insta-worthy Bath icon.

Get your snaps done in the morning as in the afternoon Pulteney Bridge is in the shadows, it’s best viewed from Parade. The bridge is also a good start / finish point for a night-time stroll with someone special too, as there are plenty of cosy places to eat and drink nearby.

 

/ The Pig near Bath

THE PIG NEAR BATH

📷 by www.rosesandrolltops.co.uk

OK so not technically in Bath but it’s near Bath (hint in the full name). The Pig is a small independent chain of upmarket yet quirky hotels who are big on utilising good local food and good (sometimes local) wine. And when I say wine, I mean this place has wine for daaaayyys.

The Pig near Bath has an air of eccentric old English gent about it. Furnished a bit ‘mock-Victorian’ with glittering stately chandeliers, printed wallpaper to die for and scatterings of designer furniture that have been made to look ‘worn’, but an inkling tells you somehow just one threadbare chintzy sofa costs more than the average car. It’s at a pricier end of the scale but there’s no pretence here though. Spend £6 or £6,000 you’ll still be treated like royalty.

(Pssst…you don’t have to stay here to experience The Pig, popping in for drink or bite to eat is totally fine.)

 

/ Roman Baths

Roman Baths

📷 by www.romanbaths.co.uk

Last but by no means least, a trip to Bath would not be complete without dropping by the Roman Baths. A complex of steaming pools framed by crumbly ruins. You’ll see the remains of the ancient temple, fascinating artefacts (although they wouldn’t look out of place if being sold from some trendy garden centre) and shells of Roman changing rooms and saunas below the modern street level. Have a sip of the mineral spring waters while here if you get a chance.

Naturally, this is one of Bath’s busiest sight’s to see so getting your timing right is pretty crucial too. It’s recommended that an early doors start is the best course of action to avoid the crowds. Going mid-week will further decrease the throngs of people.

 


Obviously being the glorious city that it is, Bath has 24679 million more restaurants, bars and stuff to see and do but I’d end up with claw-hands from incessant typing.

And I kinda need my hands.

Here are some other notable bits.

Watch hot air balloons take off at Royal Victoria Park  / Have afternoon tea at the Pump Rooms / Dinner at Clayton’s Kitchen / Drinks at Sub 13 / Walk or cycle along the canal / Visit The Dark Horse, one of the world’s best bars / Brace the crowds at Bath Christmas Market / Catch a show at the Theatre Royal / Learn a little about Jane Austen 

Finally, if driving, start or cap off your trip to Bath with a stop at Stonehenge.

The quick guide to visiting Bath

Oh Vienna

Whirlwind weekend in VIENNA

 

Vienna weekend away

📷 by www.theviennablog.com

There’s nothing quite like a city break in the ‘in between’ months (or any kind of break let’s be honest), spending a long weekend with a couple of your bestest girls in a fabulous city is something that just can’t be beat*.

For me, the ingredients that make up a perfect short escape are lots of art, consuming at least 1000+ calories per meal, heaps of walking from one historical site to another, drinking delicious wine and mucking about on city rent-a-bikes.

Just one hour + 45 minutes away by plane and Vienna was the autumnal playground for myself, R and B (R‘n’B ha!) to diligently carry out the activities listed above.

Fast forward weeks of planning outfits…

Vienna weekend away

📷 Screenshot from the most sacred of exchanges – The Girl’s Whatsapp group

And trawling the internet for the weekend’s itinerary inspiration (The Vienna Blog is THE one-stop-shop for helping plan out where to go and what to see) and figuring out the best routes to get round everything on my our list.

Myself, R and B kicked off our trip scoffing face-sized pain au chocolat’s and downing caffeine by the gallon at Gatwick early one Saturday morning. Buzzing from the copious amounts of coffee consumed and the anticipation of a decadent girl’s weekend away laying out ahead of us, we practically skipped off the plane through Vienna airport and located the self-service kiosk that distributes tickets for the CAT train into the city.

Sadly not a feline-themed mode of transport, but could you imagine if it was??!! 😍

The City Airport Train takes around 15 minutes in whisking you from Vienna Airport (which is humongous) to the centre of the city. Collecting our tickets – €17 for a return trip valid for 6 months. You can take a cab from the airport into central Vienna but expect to pay €35-40 per journey – we boarded one of the green and silver double decker carriages (which was exciting as we had never seen anything like this. Southern Rail, take note, train overcrowding can be avoided) to the main station of Wein Mitte. The semi-suburban countryside gradually gave way to big concrete buildings with scrawling graffiti tagged in impossible to reach places.

Spiderman’s real guys. He’s a frustrated Austrian teen with a penchant for the word ‘bitch’.

Clattering off the CAT train feeling like superior travellers, we strode up to another ticket machine to purchase our travel cards for the Vienna U-Bahn.

Oh there’s no option to turn the words on the screen from German to English.

Hmm. Well that’s fine. It’s a ticket machine, how hard can it be to work out if we think rationally.

Agreeing within our group on a button that looks like a 24hour pass for use on the U-Bahn we start pushing crisp euro notes into one of the money slots.

The machine spits it out.

Giving the fresh notes a bit of a scrunch and crinkle, and a good old rub on the trousers, we try feeding them in again.

The note flops back out. Nope, it’s not having it.

Out comes the plastic.

The three of us start to get panicky now as a queue of impatient, tutting Austrians is forming behind us while we are literally embodying the clueless, faffing ‘Brits Abroad’ stereotype that the rest of the world laughs at us for.

R punches in her PIN code.

The purchase goes through but the anticipated tickets don’t materialise and the screen resets itself to obnoxious ‘‘Welcome’ text animation. Stepping aside from the machine in confusion so that the perturbed commuters behind us could successfully buy their tickets, we exchanged puzzled looks and gave a fraught verbal run down of what just happened. Were we going to end up in this ticket hall for the entirety of our Vienna trip? Yes. At this moment it felt so.

“I’m going to try again” said R, taking a place in the queue.

“OK, I’ll try the second machine” replied B, joining the end of a second line.

The saga continued for another 15 minutes. Until by what seemed like a fluke, R successfully purchased three U-Bahn tickets.

(You then have to validate them on the little red bollards before the platform. I suggest discretely scoping out how the locals glide through.)

We quickly reached our stop in the neighbourhood of Schwedenplatz –smug traveller bubbles gradually being re-flated – and bickered our way to the Airbnb apartment from the metro station, guided by a pre-plotted GoogleMap on my phone.

‘I’m sure the map means this way’

‘It can’t be down here, these look like office blocks’

‘What?! I can’t hear you, over the sound of the case wheels on these FUCKING cobbles!’

Eventually locating the building (which we walked passed twice trying to find it), contacting the Airbnb’r about how to unlock the door (it appears we’re ‘those people’ who need to take a capability test before going on holiday) we were dumping our bags in the simple apartment, refreshing faces for the afternoon and prospect of lunch.

Let loose on the streets trying to find the Royal Opera house and a gaggle of eateries that surrounded the venue, our raised spirits rapidly deteriorated when we got lost.

Again.

For this I take full responsibility as I suggested dragging the girls to the Royal Opera house area for food as it ‘will be soooooooo nice’ but stupidly didn’t work out a route on Google beforehand as I thought it would be effortless to find.

Hangry and frustrated, R whips out her phone to solve all our problems. Except her map wasn’t picking up a GPS signal.

Great.

Everyone is grumbley once more.

Another 20 minutes of trying different roads for restaurants, an empty café stood out like an oasis in the desert and we rushed through the entrance.

‘Do you serve wine?’ R asks determinedly striding in and up to the bar / counter.

‘Ummm yes’ the waiter / barman answers confused and unsure about the question, his eyes darting across the 3 of us nervously.

Plopping into the chairs around a window seat table, this was not the pretty Viennese restaurant I had envisioned to find on our first day here.

But none of us cared at this point. Lunch was ordered (chicken & chips + a bottle of white) and devoured in record time.

Fed and with happy hats back on, we drew out lunch for another hour to rest weary legs from the miles of wandering done that day.

Around mid-afternoon, tipsy, determined and armed with a set of directions to the Royal Opera House from our pal barman / waiter we left the café only to find out how flipping close we actually were to the bloody thing in the first place.

First on our itinerary list was the Albertina museum. Home to Picasso, Monet, Degas, Matisse, Kandinsky…

Albertina, Opera House Vienna

📷 by Em 

It was quite a surreal experience staring half-cut at paintings you’ve only seen books.

 

bunny vienna

📷 by Em – B and her namesake.

Fountain Vienna

📷  by Em                              OI! You! Yes, you! No photos!!

Our late lunch buzz slowly wore off, signalling time to head back to the apartment to get ready for the evening.

A quick nap and a good hour spent dolling ourselves up for dins and drinks, we tumbled out of the apartment to a local sushi restaurant a short walk away.

Yes, I know. Vienna isn’t really known for its sushi, so why the fuck did we end up there?

Another one of my boo-boos.

I had planned for us to go to Figlmüller on the Saturday night, but didn’t make a booking, thinking how busy could it be? Apparently, very.

It was full up when I rang to reserve a table as we first arrived in our apartment earlier that day. The only table they could give us was for the Sunday at 6.30pm. Which would have been fine if I hadn’t already booked us in to Motto am Fluss – a really cool modern-Austrian restaurant that’s on the river.

Silly Emma.

I rang up Motto am Fluss to switch dinner plans around but they were fully booked for that Saturday evening.

Figlmüller is the home of schnitzel in Vienna, we couldn’t not go during this trip. Sadly I cancelled our table at Motto am Fluss for the Sunday and made the executive decision to take the reservation at Figlmüller instead (#firstworldproblems).

Moral of the story book Motto am Fluss and book Figlmüller as they are both popular.

So back to the sushi place, this was the only restaurant in what seemed like the whole of the city that had a table available for three on a Saturday night.

Glammed up to the nines we rocked up at IKO (which by the way is quite casual, so we got some ‘looks’. Like, ‘who the fuck wears a metallic mini skirt for sashimi’ kind of stares. Well me. I wear a metallic mini skirt for sashimi) it was busy. And hot. Oh very, very hot as the kitchen was a feature within the actual restaurant, so we started sweating from every pore approximately 0.09 seconds after our heels crossed the threshold. Needn’t have bothered with the 45 minutes it took perfecting a dark smoky eye as our make-up steadily disintegrated, one drip at a time.

The waitress parked us at the end of a long communal table and took our order shortly after.

The food was cracking, as was the wine. Plates upon plates of sushi, Thai noodles and spring rolls.

Then drunk on Pinot Grigio and wasabi, I took charge of the girls once more and herded them to a wine bar back up the road that was number 2 on TripAdvisor with rave reviews about how charming a venue it is and happened to be literally round the corner from our apartment.

Vinothek W-Einkehr is run by a husband and wife duo, Roland and Sylvia. Their speciality is wine and cheese, with the place being a shop during the day but a bar at night. Don’t be put off by the smell when you first go in though because it does pong a bit like the back end of donkey’s arse.

A rowdy group of trashed Austrian laaaaaddds were there crowding round the glass cheese counter, stumbling and bellowing at each other in this little space.

Whoops, have I fucked up again… my brain slurred to itself thinking I’ve bought everyone to some shitty shop that serves a bit of warm booze.

We slid past them to a table; Roland came over and started quizzing us immediately about who we were, where we were from and what we planned on doing in during our stay in Vienna. Off the back of his questioning he says he has the perfect wine for us to try.

I couldn’t tell you what it was. Could’ve of been Austrian Jacobs Creek for all we knew but it was delicious and we had some more.

The drunktards eventually left to shout at each other somewhere else so it was just the three of us, Roland and Sylvia for the rest of the evening.

 

 

B and I woke roughly at the same time to the sound of R softly snoring in the corner, on a squeaky sofa-bed.

Blissfully scratch-free from the hangover fairy, the sun was shining (kind of) as we got ready for the day.

Also picked up a handy travel trick courtesy of R in the process…

The top that I had wanted to wear was severely wrinkled. Creased clothes don’t bother me as looking like I have a touch of the scruff is my signature style according to B. This top resembled a dish-rag though when I pulled it on. Moaning to the girls that there was no iron to sort it out, R laughed and said ‘You don’t need an iron. Come here.’ Bending down to the socket to plug in her hair dryer, she yanked taught the hem of my screwed up top, whacked up the heat and switched on the power. Blasting the fabric on my body with the hair dryer, close enough to warm up the fibres but not staying in one place long enough to cause me third degree burns, she worked her way round my outstretched arms. The hair dryer clicked off and she marched me over to the mirror ‘There. Much better.’

Staring at my reflection, the top was wrinkle-free.

Have since tried this trick on countless other cotton-like garments I can’t be bothered to iron and it works every time.

I was itching to get going because breakfast is my favourite meal. And any deviation from having a hurried mouthful of porridge while I get ready for work I find very indulgent and exciting (i.e. having it served to me in bed, airport breakfasts and going to an actual restaurant).

Don’t get me wrong, I love a boozy lunch, or a long tasty dinner as much as the next person but breakfast never fails to get me geared up. I love the variety of foods you can have to feed your fasting body. Sweet, flaky pastries, tangy fruits, spongy cakes, spicy poached eggs n’ avo on brown toast, a savoury sarnie dream made up of extra crispy bacon topped with lashings and lashings of ketchup.

Through obsessive Googling (isn’t it weird that Googling is a legitimate verb now compared to 10 years ago?) and scanning TripAdvisor reviews, I had found out that Café Central was a must-visit for breakie in Vienna.

Some people get hyped over must-have bags, must-have clothes, must-have shoes. I get my kicks from must-have breakfasts.

Practically pushing Rn’B out the door we wandered towards the city’s shopping district. The streets were eerily quiet. Nobody was around, save for the odd clan of elderly tourists and their flag wielding guide.

Vienna cathedral city

📷  by Em  

The route took us past the cathedral and up to the pocket of high-end shops. Working up an appetite gazing at the glossy things in the still windows, Café Central’s dark shiny doors shone brightly against the grey building in which it was housed.

Ever the keen beans, we were 35 minutes early for it opening – add not checking timings to my list of complaints for Taylor’s Travel Tours.

Rn’B are good sports though and usually trust me when I say ‘No, we HAVE to eat at this place’.

Killing time we faffed around taking obligatory pics under the sign

cafe central vienna

📷  by Em  

B kept glancing into the glass fronted café door with a confused crick in her brow every so often though.

‘Don’t both look at once girls, but that waiter-man in there has a huge bushy handle-bar moustache. He’s sitting by the door’.’ She says turning to us with a knowing look and making not-so-subtle head jerks towards to Café Central’s entrance.

Never ones to miss an opportunity to check out interesting people (because come on, how often to you see a properly full handle-bar moustache? You would’ve done the same) we started subtly craning our necks to get a good look. Clocking a bald man sporting a spectacular sprout of facial hair under his nose sitting by the door amidst the scurrying waiters and waitresses preparing for the café’s imminent 10am opening, we gawked in fascination.

‘He’s not doing anything.’

‘How long do you think he takes each day to brush that thing?’

‘Why’s he just sitting there staring out of the doors?’

‘Maybe he’s the manager or bouncer.’

‘How raucous can breakfast here get? It’s Vienna. Christ.’

‘Do you reckon he has a special comb?’

‘Guys, I think he’s a statue.’

 

*silence*

 

Ah.

Feeling silly and with still 15 minutes to go we drifted over to a stone wall to people watch actual people. At the 10 minutes-to mark a couple of people also lurking on the walls and against buildings around the café started forming a queue. Like moths to a flame, our British-ness compelled us to follow suit.

Five minutes to go before opening and the line for Café Central was quite long now. Passers-by had gradually joined the parade of Sunday breakfast goers, a riot nearly broke out between a German bloke who initiated the queue and a bunch of Russians who felt they were above the laws of queue etiquette by trying to push in front of him. We witnessed the back and forth, with lots of gesticulating and shaking of heads.

International crisis averted, the doors opened and everyone was happily seated to order their croissants and coffee.  Founded in 1876, the café has high vaulted ceilings with dramatic sweeping arches, intense dark wooden features and a luminous counter heaving with rows of little jewel-like pastries front and centre. It’s not a shabby place to have your morning cuppa.

vienna-breakfast cafe central

📷  by Em, R & B

All opting for a traditional Viennese Breakfast (soft boiled egg, semmel and a large buttery croissant with loads of jams), I ran down the plans for the rest of the day to the girls.

cafe central cake vienna

📷 by R

An hour later, sloshy with hot drinks, we bid adieu to Café Central and its moustached stony guardian. Meandering on down the road, our first stop was the Spanish Riding School.

Mixed feels about this organisation, a) don’t like the fact that these horses are kept in a city, I think they should be roaming the countryside (I know they get a summer hols and breaks and stuff, but still feel funny about the whole equine ballet thing) b) but the actual school and art itself is historical and impressive c) just because something is historical and impressive doesn’t mean it’s good i.e. Giza Pyramids being built by slaves. None of us were totally comfortable with it, needless to say we didn’t hang around for long, as not being horsey people the smell was starting to get pestilent.

Spanish riding school vienna

📷  by Em

Next on the tick list was the palace. Now armed with a physical map of the city (swiped from the riding school), what could go wrong in trying to find a sodding palace?

Everything I tell you.

In the end we all got so fed up trying to read the actual map, attempting a rescue with GPS and a failing 4G, three grumpy girls kept stomping up and down the same walkway over and over again trying to figure out where this bloody palace was.

Vienna is tiny compared London or Paris, and those cities have at least half a dozen palaces between them which are piss easy to find.

Admitting defeat and throwing the itinerary to the wind, we just started walking in a random direction.

And despite loving a good plan, obsessively researching places to go and plotting routes and schedules, sometimes you just need to wander in an unknown city with zero clue as to where you are going.

Correct, I am now officially a walking, talking  Pinterest quote.

But guess what? If we hadn’t of trailed off course and followed our noses, we would’ve never stumbled across ANOTHER Asian couple taking faux-wedding pictures outside a fancy-pants building.

But the scale of this production was minuscule compared to the full on glam squad Paris bride had.

Wedding photo Vienna

 📷 by Em

I feel now is the time to mention that I saw a third pair battling high and harsh Scottish winds on a blustery day at outside Edinburgh Castle (although chronologically, it was my second ‘faux-wedding’ sighting). Veils and Castle Rock in an almost storm do not mix! Let’s not also forget the couple in Mexico partaking in ‘candid’ holiday beach shots for ‘fun’.

It’s an epidemic I tell you.

The smell of warm sweet things and throng of people going in and out of a set of gates lured us to a park hosting a travelling funfair. Sticky-faced children rode a prettily painted wooden carousel, exasperated parents laden with bags of candy floss and popcorn attempted to muster up enthusiasm with each rotation to wave back at their little sugar-crazed darlings. Noisy rides with offensive flashing lights, jutted and jerked up and down much to the delighted screams of the occupants, carts sold packets of hot roasted chestnuts and circus folk darted in and out of the caravans haloing the main hubbub.

vienna weekend

 📷 by R

Uninterested in the fair, save for observing the odd bratty meltdown, the park path we followed led us up to the mammoth building framing the background of the festivities. Vienna’s Rathaus a.k.a The City Hall. The outside of the Rathaus is a vast expanse of time-stained limestone, with steps skirting the body of the hall and dramatic full window arches overlapping each other again and again, creating a simple striking pattern.

vienna girls

 📷 by Em

As someone who falls to pieces over the tiniest bit of art, I was knocked sideways taking in close up this example of extreme Gothic beauty.

Vienna Rathaus

 📷 Vienna Rathaus

I defy anyone not to feel a tiny bit awe-inspired when starring up at the colossal spires touching the sky.

Wandering aimlessly along the empty streets and chattering about nothing while walking, we pottered around the more modern areas of the city peering in the windows of the shut shops.

This is another thing to be aware of if you are visiting Vienna over a weekend. Shops shut on Sundays, including supermarkets. So make sure you have an ample stash of tampons and toothpaste packed in your case.

jewellery Vienna city

 📷 by Em – pretzel bling anyone?

Sensing we needed some semblance of a plan before we had trekked the whole city on foot, I suggested we pick up the itinerary again and go ride the Giant Ferris Wheel in Prater.

Jumping on the metro and then walking the rest of the way (another 20 mins, soz guys)

Vienna girls weekend away

 📷 by Em – my little schnitzel.

We rocked up to the park.

Another fair seemed to be taking place, except this time there were a bunch of adults knocking around in lederhosen and dirndls.

All of us had totally forgotten it was Oktober-fest season.

Huge beer tents dominated the patch of green attached to the base of the Ferris wheel and theme park that is Prater. Stalls selling bratwurst, soft pretzels (edible ones not in jewellery form this time) and Glühwein lined the straw / bark mix pathway leading visitors through the event. My favourite feature was listening to a rendition of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face played by a Bavarian oompah band.

Similar to this one, but without the minuscule shorts.

prater Vienna

 📷 by Em

Weaving in and out of the stein-drinking crowds, we joined the short queue to buy tickets for the wheel.

€9.50 lighter, stepping into one of the carriages, our little red painted box slowly set off climbing the circumference of this mechanical circle.

view from prater vienna

 📷 by Em

There’s not much to really say about it. The wheel was fun, has some amazing views, lasts for around 20 minutes and it’s definitely a good thing to tick off the list of things to do when visiting Vienna for a weekend break.

Happy that we had at least done something blindingly touristy that day, tummies started rumbling for a sugary snack and wine.

On our epic morning walk we had come across Café Landtmann opposite the university and agreed it would be a good place for lunch. Hopping on the metro again from Prater to the other side of the river where we were a few hours previously, the sun finally started to play ball and burnt away the clouds for a bright blue-skied afternoon.

cafe landtman vienna

 📷 by Em

Sitting outside, shades on, we each tucked into whacking great slabs of cake, washed down with Viennese coffee and a round of Pimms / Aperol Spritz.

vienna drinks

 📷 by Em

This was it. We had set up camp for the afternoon now eating cake and drinking summer cups in the mild sunshine.

Time ticked on to mid-afternoon, suitably jazzed from half a dozen drinks between us, another itinerary activity was proposed.

Rent a trio of city bikes that were docked in a station opposite the café.

Yeshh! Thishh was-sh an excellent idea!

Paying a small fortune for a mostly liquid lunch, our little group ran across the road to the bike station and proceeded to spend a good half an hour figuring out how to release the bikes from their individual ports.

Basically you need a credit or debit card and A LOT of patience.

Not being drunk could also possibly help you too.

The three of us on wheels, we dropped into one of the cycle lanes that snake around the city and whizzed past the sights we had seen that morning. Past the Rathaus, past the location of the faux-wedding photo shoot, up the road we bore trenches in trying to find that bloody palace, through the archway marking out the Spanish Riding School…

bikes in vienna

 📷 by R – pic stop!

Dinging our bike bells at pedestrians in the cycle lanes, laughing and smiling our way, slightly out of breath, to the other side of the city again, we popped the bikes back in another docking station just under the free one hour you have to rent them before being charged. Knackered, hopped on the U-Bahn back to the apartment to get ready for the biggest bit of meat. Ever.

There are two Figlmüllers. They’re very near each other but the larger, grander looking Figlmüller at Bäckerstraße 6 is the newer restaurant to cope with the popularity overspill from the original ‘hole in the wall’ place.

As you can probably predict we turned up at the wrong restaurant (the newer one, there was a queue a mile long of people hoping to snap up an unreserved tables for walk-ins) until we got fed up with waiting and grabbed a harassed-looking waiter to explain that, um actually we had a booking unlike the rest of the rabble, (obviously with a touch of self-satisfied smugness that only comes from your name being on a much sought after ‘list’).

‘Eeh- Emma iz not on the list.’ He said quickly scanning a piece of paper with a huffy shrug of his shoulders.

‘Are you booked at this place? Or on Wollzeile street?’

He had a point there.

Google mapping the other Figlmüller 30 seconds away and giving my name at the door, we were ushered through another throng of table-chancers and squeezed into a corner cover squashed up against the front window.

Figlmüller vienna

The restaurant itself was lit in that soft, glowy, romantic light which acts as a real-life insta-filter and had tables crammed in at every available space – but not in a claustrophobic way as you’d expect, it perfectly accentuated the cosy charm.

The walls were covered in memorabilia of Vienna, Austria and a collection of grainy old photographs of family members who started up and continued to run this iconic Viennese restaurant.

A waiter materialised, took our wine order and handed over massive (in size as well as food listing) menus, describing each type of schnitzel and every possible way they serve it.

I opted for a chicken schnitzel with a side of shredded roast potatoes.

Oh my god it was massive.

Figlmüller schnitzel

 📷 by R                                          ‘That’s what she said.’

It was a beast of a meal and so delicious. Figlmüller is one of the best places to eat if you are in Vienna for a flying weekend visit. But take a lesson from me, book it in advance.

It was still earlyish when we finished up, so our little gang wandered the neighbourhood streets to ride out the meat-sweats.

We popped into an ice cream parlour at the edge of Lugeck, a stones-throw from Figlmüller  and our apartment. Selecting a couple of cold scoops each, we scuttled back to our place and topped off the night piling into the double bed to coo over Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock and the mega-babe that is Betty White on Netflix.

the proposal film

The next morning, after gathering up all of our assorted crap (and one *read: mine* prosecco soaked make-up bag left to dry over the sink from the first night *courtesy of R*) into a trio a of wheelie cases, we clanked and jangled back on the cobbled streets to the metro.

I picked Café Mozart for breakie as its smack in the heart of city and opposite the Vienna Opera house. I thought it would be another impressive place to eat scrambled eggs and sip tea surrounded by buckets of ambience and character.

But it was very flat.

The space itself is a grand restaurant that was probably fancier / more exciting in its younger days but is now purely drawing off the glow from its proximity to the Opera house and museums in the vicinity.

It was OK. And a bit expensive for an average breakfast, but whatever.

The final stop on our (slightly botched) weekend itinerary in Vienna was a visit to the Demel bakery.

Demel is the oldest bakery in Vienna, and like Augustus Gloop rocking up at Wonkaland, I was fizzing to get my mitts on some treats. Cue more map drama in actually finding the place, but we eventually got to Kohlmarkt street and saw a parade of people clutching bright mauve cake carriers with ‘Demel’ boldly printed in metallic gold and white lettering on the side.

Another traditionally Austrian building with huge front windows depicting scenes from children’s story books featuring clusters of sweet things as the star of the scenes.

The bakery was packed. And I mean rammed. You are fighting everyone and their mum to see inside the case of cakes and pastries to take away. Picking a small cake covered in hard pink icing, I paid and got out of the confectionery bloodbath as soon as I could. We sat in the seating area outside the bakery, R and I pulling apart our bright mauve boxes, fishing out our purchases eagerly.

demel bakery vienna

 📷 by Em

I bit into my cake expecting a light, fluffy, fondant-fancyesque cousin. What I got was a mouthful of marzipan and alcohol soaked heavy sponge.

It wasn’t for me, which was sad because it looked so pretty.

R however, had chosen well and was low-key obsessed with her chocolate cake.

Cake demel bakery

 📷 by B on R’s phone – look at those messy chops.

Washing everything down with a bottle of Wasser, we headed off to the station to take the CAT train back to the maze that is Vienna airport.

Three (ish) hours later, exhausted from a whirlwind weekend of fun and food, we were touching down at LGW (why is Gatwick always grey when you come back from holiday? No matter what time of year it is, that runway is shrouded in miserable clouds) and pulling in to the terminal.

I switched on my phone to a bazillion messages.

A new unread email caught my eye.

My face must have betrayed something because B nudged me to look up at her.

‘Everything alright?’ she said

‘Yep’ I replied, desperately trying to sound nonchalant while clicking the display to blacken in lock mode.

I smiled at B, pretend stretching my arms in the cramped plane seat space in front of me in an effort to appear unbothered by what I had just read, ‘Yeah, just mum asking about what I want for dins’.

Satisfied and smiling back, she turned away, standing up to get her stuff from the overhead locker along with R. My heartbeat rang in my ears as I unlocked my phone again, cupping my hand around the case in a casual attempt at shielding the contents from the girls. I glanced down at the email glowing brightly on the screen…

 

CONGRATULATIONS… OFFER FOR INTERVIEW – OVERSEAS POSITION

Hi Emma,

We are pleased to invite you to an assessment day interview for the upcoming winter season. The assessment day will start at 9.30am and will consist of various tasks. If successful through the morning sessions you will be asked to stay for an interview in the afternoon, so please be prepared to stay all day….

 

I was about to be pulled back to Austria sooner than anyone could possibly think…

 

vienna girls trip

📷 by R – die drei Freunde 

 

Steps walked: 46,797  Distance walked:  35.45km

*well maybe a couple of weeks somewhere exotic with Tom Hardy.

Oh Vienna

26 lessons I’ve learned in 26 years.

from egg poaching to bills, bills, bills

 

26th birthday things ive learned

It was my birthday this week, and with any marked milestone on mortality, I got a bit reflective on life and about what I have and haven’t figured out yet. Predictably the latter of the two was a list 50 miles long, but I realised I had picked up a decent amount of lessons (or advice? tips??? I don’t know, life stuff, we’ll go with that) during the 26 years I’ve been rocking around on this earth.

 

1 / That quarter life crisis you get warned about when turning 25….. yeah that definitely happens. But once you’ve waded through hours of self-torture, bought a snazzy car, quit two jobs and stopped anxiously comparing your life accomplishment yard-stick to other 25 year-olds or younger, something shifts. You start caring less about how far everyone else has got (higher paying jobs, not living with parents, having a pet / garden / baby / something to love etc.) and crack on to where YOU want to be.

2 / Making your bed gives the impression that your messy room is actually tidier than it is.

3 / You don’t have to wait for someone else to buy you expensive jewellery. You love it, you buy it. 26 life lessons for 26 year olds

 

4 / How to poach an egg with zero fuss – a) Boil kettle. b) Pour the boiled water into a shallow frying pan c) turn heat up on the hob. d) When pan is simmering, slowly and gently crack your egg into the water. Use a large spoon to softly guide back any floaty-away bits. e) Six or seven minutes later (when you think it looks done enough) scoop your egg out and plop onto a hot buttered crumpet. f) Do the knife thing with the yolk. g) Have your ‘ahhh’ moment.

5 / Saying ‘no’ holds a lot of power. As a natural people pleaser, I’m probably only on a mediocre to poor level getting to grips with saying no more often. No I can’t take on more work this week, no I don’t want to go out, no you’re wrong and here’s why.. It kind of goes without saying that you shouldn’t be a dick when saying ‘no’ to people but you shouldn’t feel guilty about it either. People do you look at you with respect when you tactfully hold your ground with grace.

6 / Hendricks Gin can only be served with thin slices of cucumber and ice. (*waves the flag for middle-classians everywhere*)

7 / Introducing yourself to people is such a minor interaction but creates a huge impact on your wider reputation. Of course it’s daunting going up to someone and say ‘Hi I’m             ’ but it puts you in such a good light in social set ups, to a new work colleague and random girls crying in nightclub loos. Tip: After you’ve done your opening bit, have something else to say. Otherwise you’ll panic and frantically blabber something stupid in an attempt to diffuse the silent awkward atmosphere…..‘So, um.. I secretly borrow my neighbour’s cat when she’s at out..’

Life lessons at 26 years old

 

8 / Packed lunches for work are the best, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Who doesn’t like saving money every day for sparkly shoes and a steady flow of Domino’s pizza? Crazy people, that’s who.

9 / Don’t settle in life. It’s the cop out option and the killer of youth (I don’t actually know about the youth part. Just made it up, but it sounds like it could be right). It’s so easy to coast and ignore scratching thoughts of ‘I want more than this’. That if you feel like you’re in an OK paying job, with an OK boyfriend, living an OK life that is actually slowly suffocating you, then you need to do something about it. OK?

10 / He’s just not that into you, so stop making excuses for flaky behaviour and put that boy in the bin.

26 lessons at 26

 

11 / With the world balancing uncertainly on a knife edge right now, there’s no such thing as preparing too early enough when it comes to looking after your 90-something self. Lets face it, our generation will be working for much longer than our parents, get less of a pension payout from the state and most likely be paying for a private health service. Now’s the time to be building a safety net, whether a work place pension, a tiny personal investment or a pretty piggy-bank. Even if it’s a pittance, treat future you as a bill to pay every month.

12 / In a pinch, lipstick works as a cream-type blusher and eye shadow. Mascara can be used as eye liner too if you have a light touch and surgeon-steady hands.

13 / Liking ‘boring’ things such as going to bed early, staying in on a Saturday night, discussing the merits of wood vs carpet flooring and listening to Desert Island Discs is not shameful. – These are mine but this point is applicable to your own glorious old lady habits

14 / Along the same vein as the lesson above, it’s also perfectly acceptable to mix your ‘boring grown up’ likes with guilty pleasures. Trashy TV, Buzzfeed quizzes, cat videos, chick-lit books and the Eurovision song contest.

15 / The art of utilising your time wisely,which is kind of a no brainer as even iddy-biddy kids are aware if you don’t do anything you won’t accomplish anything. But its something that I am consistently working on. Little things that help me utilise time is making catch up phone calls when I’m driving in the car (via hands-free, obvs) , replying to messages while waiting for my slow and antiquated laptop to start up or scanning Twitter in the for the day’s news stories as the kettle is boiling for my early morning cuppa.

16 / Keeping a calendar on your phone for all your glamorous engagements relieves a little bit of the stressy pressure from all the stuff you need to remember on a day-to-day basis.

17 / Always have a holiday and / or a block of time out planned to look forward too. Take a break once in a while because you work hard. Plus being a martyr to life gets you nowhere and drains your productively juice…. And gives you wrinkles. Maybe.

18 / Pretending in your head that you’re starring in your own music video when certain songs come on is something EVERYBODY does.

26 life lessons for turning 26

 

19 / Being single doesn’t mean you have to be on the hunt for your next victim boyfriend. If being on your own is thrilling and fulfilling then crack on. But be prepared for sympathy sighs from well-meaning friends and family who are ‘sure a pretty girl like you will find someone soon.’

20 / In your early twenties you start to notice that you can’t keep up the pace of shovelling in the volume crappy food as you once did when you were a teenager (KitKat sandwiches and McDonald’s erryday anyone?!) and still fit into your skinnies. Well, welcome to your mid twenties where the slowing of your metabolism steps down a notch again! Brilliant.

21 / There are very few things in life that can’t be fixed. This is my mum’s motto, a woman who keeps picking herself back up time after time life throws a punch her way or if a seemingly impossible challenge presents itself. There’s always a work around stuff, another option to consider or a different route to take. Put on your big girl pants when you’re feeling defeated and repeat to yourself, it’s not over until it’s over.

22 / ‘Ohh, are you shyyy?’ If there ever was a sentence to make quiet people everywhere flare up on the inside it’s that. Despite the impression that the not-so-loud give off, shy we are not. The last year and a bit I realised the difference between shy and quiet as the opening question was flung my way more times than I can possibly count, particularly around new acquaintances. I’m more than comfortable to talk about any topic under the sun, but only when I feel I have something of value to say. I started to question this default conclusion of quiet people. If you’re not rushing over everyone else to speak does that make someone shy? Umm, nope. We observe, we think and then we open our mouths.

23 / I’m massively inspired by a bunch of crazily creative, intelligent and articulate women (Dolly Alderton, Pandora Sykes, Laura Bates, Emma Gannon and Dallas Shaw, off the top of my head). A common theme each of these women (can I call them badass babes or is that one fangirling step too far???) talk about when discussing work and their passions is that very rarely in life you are handed your dream opportunity to shine. Shit like that needs to be created by you through exploring ideas, hard work and sheer bloody mindedness. Put simply, you will only achieve by doing. You want to act? Go act. You want to travel? Go travel. You want to write? Go write. And if everything doesn’t fall into place after busting your butt for years, then at least you can be satisfied that you gave it a fucking good try. Which is always better than not trying at all. Credit / complain to them for my forcing this sometimes updated blog onto you.

I really recommend listening to Dolly and Pandora’s weekly podcast though, highlight of my commute!

 

24 / Jeans, heels and a nice top is the best outfit formula that can be transferable for any occasion. I.E. A date with the rugby laaad you met on Bumble, drinks in a sticky-floored pub with your mates, dinner at an Italian chain restaurant with your mum or for a casual Sunday stroll around Tesco’s if you’re feeling fancy.

25 / Accept help, advice, clothes, money and support from those around you if it’s offered during low periods in your life. They love you and are there to be leaned on when things get tough. Don’t ever think that you’re problems would be too much of a burden to share with someone who cares. After all, nobody is an island 😎🏝️

26 / Carry a notebook at all times. Something that I’ve learned over writing this post actually. I had 3457 million more of these life blurbs, 98% of them were probably better than what’s listed but because I didn’t write them down my brain has permanently cleared out my thought cache. Scribble down your idea-diarrhoea… even if it is shit.

 

I welcome any other valuable pearls of wisdom or suggestions on how best to change a car tyre without getting muck on your jumper in the comments section below.

26 lessons I’ve learned in 26 years.