So this blog post is a bit late, I actually visited Berlin in November 2018 but haven’t got round to posting about it yet as I’ve been so busy with university. We travelled at the end of November flying with Easyjet from Newcastle and stayed at Frederics Berlin City Hackeschermarkt which are serviced apartments. The apartments were clean and close to both public transport and the main attractions in the area (unfortunately I did not take a picture of our room – sorry!).
Day One – Sightseeing
We got there quite late at night so just went for a couple of drinks in the local area of Hackeschermarkt before beginning our first full day sightseeing and taking in all Berlin has to offer. I didn’t really have a clue where I was going so kind of drifted towards the Brandenburg Gate but we got to see the Berliner Dom on the way as the majority of landmarks were close together.
Our next destination was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which is very sad as it commemorates up to six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. We then headed to Potsdamer Platz (and Cara’s coffee shop) to continue exploring. Unfortunately, we were a little early for all of the Christmas markets as they did not begin until the final week in November so we were a few days early but we still saw a small one there. I tried a Bratwurst which I didn’t think I would enjoy but it was actually delicious. Luke’s Currywurst, however, not so appetizing to look at.
After this, I had looked at the Topography of Terror online and thought it would be really interesting so we decided to go and have a look. Some of the content I found really upsetting and terrifying, it was difficult to come to terms with the fact it really happened. This is a free museum and well worth a look. We also saw the remaining part of the Berlin Wall before heading to Checkpoint Charlie. After the day’s sightseeing, we decided to head out for some food and drinks. We found one of the waiters in the restaurant we went to very helpful and he pointed us to an area to get drinks. I really liked the Vulcano Bar as the staff were so nice.
Day Two – Stasi Prison
Our second day we visited the Stasi prison which was where political criminals were kept and interrogated. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and both English and German tours are provided throughout the day. We got there via the tram service which was straight forward and easy to use as well as being the quickest way of getting to the prison.
The tour took up quite a lot of our day but we still ventured out on an evening, got some food and had some drinks. We found it quite difficult to find busy bars in our area but it is so casual over there people literally walk around with bottles of beer in their hands.
Day three – East Side Gallery
Just before we caught our flight home we managed to squeeze in a visit to the East Side Gallery to look at all the graffiti artwork. It was so interesting and unusual we saw the famous “the kiss” along with so many others.
So that was a short diary of my time in Berlin. This post is fairly brief and I wish I had included a bit more about where I ate and drank and how much things were etc. but we only had a short space of time here so I really wanted to see as much as possible. I was also quite unwell after visiting the prison on our second day so wasn’t really up to much that evening. I hope this gives some ideas on what to do in Berlin but there was so much more I could have explored and I would love to go back in the future.
Since the majority of my posts recently have been travel guides I thought I would creep in with something different. This post is about my new favourite podcast, The Receipts Podcast. I figured since I have spent every car journey since discovering them avidly listening, they deserved some love on my blog.
So, just to tell you a little about the podcast I’ve taken this description from Google Podcasts…
‘#TheReceiptsPodcast is a fun, honest podcast fronted by three girls who willingly talk about anything and everything. From relationships to situationships to everyday life experiences, you can expect unadulterated girl talk with no filter.’
The hosts are Milena, Tolly and Audrey and they each bring something different to the podcast which is what makes it work so well. They are absolutely hilarious and their content is full of singing and epic one-liners (Milena calling someone’s mum a sideman had me in hysterics!). Although the majority of episodes are full of real talk and humour the one’s I really enjoy are the minisodes called Your Receipts.
Your Receipts is where the girls basically ask for dilemmas which they solve and give advice on. They literally range from little things like “Should I give a girl my basketball jersey?” to a lot more serious topics involving pregnancy and family situations. I absolutely adore how honest the girls are and how they also bring past life experience in to help other people solve their dilemmas.
So basically what I want you to do is go and check the girls out on their podcast and you can become addicted to listening like me and you can have a genuinely more interesting commute to work every morning. They release a new episode every Wednesday which alternates between a normal episode and a Your Receipts episode.
Follow the girls on twitter too, they are also funny on there. Tolly also has recently started a love letter series here you should also check out:
Welcome to the last edition of my New York travel guide which includes my trip to Madame Tussauds as well as a collection of travel tips and travel terrors relating to my trip to New York City. I also have part one, part two and part three you can go and look at. This post is all about my trip to Madame Tussauds and my travel nightmares coming home.
My final day
So our final day was predominantly spent shopping in New York. I really wanted to visit PetCo for some goodies for my darling angel Tigerlilli and was very sad looking at the pets up for adoption. We also visited the Korean part of New York which had an abundance of skin care and face masks – I am a big fan of Koran skincare! We did also explore the bigger department stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s but huge busy places really aren’t my cup of tea! My favourite shop was Bath and Bodywork’s.
We also saw the Flat Iron Building whilst trying to find Forbidden Planet although it was good to see I wouldn’t make a purpose of wandering that far out without a metro pass unless you’re in that area anyway.
We also visited Madame Tussaud’s during the evening time and naturally I gravitated straight towards Rupaul! It was full of waxwork models and some more interactive attractions.
We went in the Marvel 4d show which was really good, there was another interactive experience but it involved zombies and this did not sit well with my younger sister. I really enjoyed the waxworks you could really interact with such as the ET one below.
My holiday hell!
So, although I did have a great time, the thing which ruined my holiday was the dilemma’s we faced on the way home (and my next phone bill faced after). Upon travelling on the bus back to Stewart airport we were informed our flight back to Edinburgh was cancelled with no explanation. Another passenger approached us and showed us a text he had received this morning and said they had arranged another Norwegian airlines flight to get them home but my dad hadn’t received any communications from them.
Things not going to plan give me major anxiety so this was such an inconvenience. I had to call Norwegian airlines from America who offered me a flight from JFK to Stockholm which had one seat for a family of four, then another flight to Paris which was even later. Then the flight to Edinburgh from Paris was too late as messed with everyone’s plans and work commitments so I ended up opting for a Newcastle flight from Paris which got us home at 3pm but my dad would still have to go to Edinburgh to collect his car. I was ten contacted again and told the Paris flight was delayed and I would miss the Newcastle flight so I had to then fly to Amsterdam before Newcastle.
Instead of an hour coach trip from Manhattan to Stewart Airport then a direct flight to Edinburgh followed by a drive home for lunch time I had a coach trip from the airport and back, a taxi ride to JFK airport, a flight to Paris departing at 2am instead of 10:30pm, a flight to Amsterdam and then I finally arrived in Newcastle at 11pm. This was 13 hours later than my estimated arrival. My dad then had to travel to Edinburgh via train to retrieve the car. We were also subjected to tired old planes with no entertainment and although we paid for reserved seats we could not sit together.
My top travel tips for New York
Pack for literally anything it could be sunny one day, snowing the next
Get discounted entry into some of the main attractions such as the National History Museum (Read travel guide posts 2 or 3)
Don’t buy a travel pass for the subway (see travel guide 2)
Avoid Norweigan airlines
Thank you so much for reading my travel guides if you would like to visit part one, part two or part three please do so! I hope you’ve enjoyed my insights and if you have any New York related questions please feel free to ask!
Welcome to part three of my New York travel guide all about Central Park and The American Museum of National History! If you would like to revisit part one or part two of my New York travel guides please do so by clicking them! We decided to visit both of these locations in the same day because they were both very close to each other and both take a while to explore!
The American Museum of National History
This museum is gigantic so I’d thoroughly reccomend getting a map from the reception upon entry, it’s very easy to get lost. It covers animals from different countries, people from different countries, dinosaurs, historical figures along with biology and space. Most of the museum is included with a ticket but you may need to pay more for special exhibits.
You could easily spend the whole day in this museum it’s so big but we decided just to pick out some of the exhibits we wanted to visit. The animal exhibits were definately a firm favourite as as well as the animals being so realistic, the settings and greenery were too which was a far cry from the New York city outside!
In the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life a huge 94 foot whale is suspended from the ceiling and 122 foot long skeleton of a Titanosaur stands in the dinosaur exhibit. There’s some really amazing things to look at and see and I can imagine this being the most amazing school trip for the kids that live in New York. I’m sure the class I work with would love to visit here!
You can also visit the famous Num Num from the movie Night At The Museum which was actually set in The American Museum of National History, in New York!
Another top tip for the museum is to pay what you want! Obviously there is a suggested donation amount but if you are only calling in for a particular exhibit or for a small amount of time it’s worth offering your own donation it also means you can avoid using your city pass and save it for another place. However, this does not apply to the special exhibits so you may need to pay more in order to visit those. If you would like to find out more about the museum, I have linked their website here.
Central Park is a gigantic park in the middle of New York which has been regularly featured in different movies and TV shows. This particular part is Bow Bridge which was in one of my favourite teen movies, Uptown Girls.
The park featured a lot of squirrels which darted around and lots of different greenery. I also visited the John Lennon memorial and the statues of Alice and Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson. It was a great way to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. There is also a zoo which I didn’t visit but apparently the other New York zoo’s are higher on reccomendations.
Although I enjoyed Central Park it does take a WHILE to walk round, it’s so easy to get lost in here and the majority of it is just an actual park so I’m glad we were also able to fit something else into our day as a lot of people opt to spend the day here.
Thank you so much for reading and check out my next post coming soon which is part 4!
I visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour in London, which is Harry Potter themed on the 29th of September this year. We picked an ideal time to go as it was the second day of the ‘Dark Arts’ Halloween event so some aspects of the tour were added or changed for Halloween. I had a spectacular time and took some amazing photos, so I thought I’d share my experience.
Getting there (It’s going to be a bumpy ride!)
My boyfriend and I drove as we spent the weekend in London. The tour is based in the Watford area and another popular method of transport was the Harry Potter bus. This was available from central London and other locations which also allowed you to travel directly to the studio tour.
What to do when you arrive
First thing you need to do is collect your tickets. You can either wait in the que and get help from someone or collect them yourself from the machines. They also have three of the chess pieces featured in Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone outside the front entrance. Upon walking in you are checked by security then you walk in to some moulds of the casts hand prints as well as the costumes for the spin off from the Harry Potter films, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Once you’ve followed the long winding path with quotes in the style of Marauders Map you then reach the beginning.
Joining the que
Once you’ve walked through the long path there’s a Starbucks, a shop and a was to actually start the tour. You can’t eat or drink whilst walking around the handcrafted because a lot of the set and the characters costumes are real. However, there is a cafe halfway through where you can purchase refreshments. Don’t visit the shop just yet as you will get a chance once the tour has ended. Join the que and see Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs before you go inside!
What to expect
There’s absolutely tonnes to see during the tour as it contains many scenes, costumes and props from the Harry Potter films. It’s advisable to not rush through as you might miss something and you can’t go back to it once you’ve passed. The first part you enter is the great hall which has a lot to take in, it features costumes of the professors, food props from the banquets and costumes relevant to each of the houses.
Dark Arts Halloween Event
As you can see above, the Great Hall was decorated with pumpkins for the Dark Arts Halloween event which was also seen in the film, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. The pumpkins were hand-carved and unique so that no two were the same. The other features included the option to see how Troll snot, fluffy’s drool and unicorn blood were created. One of the best touches was the live battle with death eaters which was staged in the backlot. The actors wore the death eater masks featured in the films which were unique and handcrafted to reflect their personality. There was an even mixture of male and female death eaters and they included the masks of Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. I got a fantastic picture with the death eater starring as Lucius!
Interactive and photo opportunities
Each part of the tour was not short of opportunities to interact and take photos. There was a photo opportunity to sit at Hagrid’s table, which makes the person sitting at the front look seemingly large!
There was also the option to hold your hand over a broom and have it rise into your grasp. You also had the option to actually ride on a broom, learn wand dualling techniques and ride the Hogwarts Express.
Fantastic Beasts and how they made them
Another really fascinating aspect of the tour was seeing all the creatures used in the film and how they were made. The goblins, elves, trolls, dragons and even Buckbeak the Hippogriff were featured. A lot of masks were featured in the Harry Potter films!
The Back lot Cafe
Another favourite aspect of my experience was in the cafe at the middle of the tour. Although this sold standard refreshments and food such as burgers and water it also sold Harry Potter themed treats. These treats were a Butterbeer and Butterbeer flavoured ice cream which were amazing! Although quite pricey at around £5 for the ice cream and £7 for the Butterbeer in a souvenir tankard.
There are three shops, one small shop after the forbidden forest, one at the Hogwarts Express and one huge one at the end. In my opinion the shops are expensive so bring plenty of money. It includes plush toys (pygmy puffs are the cutest), stationary and your normal mugs and magnets. In addition to this, some Harry Potter specific items are available for purchase such as robes, wands and sweets. I bought a cute pygmy puff keyring, a marauders map mug and a chocolate wand for my sister. If I get the chance to go back I will 100% buy pygmy puff slippers!
Do you want to visit?
If you would like to experience the world of Harry Potter head over to their website here. An average adult ticket is priced at £41.
I have recently returned from a phenomenal trip to Marrakesh where I was volunteering with children for 10 days with a company called Original Volunteers. I chose Morocco because it’s fairly close yet worlds away in culture. Voluntourism is a growing aspect of the tourism industry and it’s nice to explore a fantastic country whilst giving something back. After spamming my Instagram with all the amazing photo’s I started to get questions about what it was like and whether I would recommend volunteering with Original Volunteers as a company. So, if you’re thinking of going to Marrakesh, volunteering or you just want to know a bit more about my trip please read on…
Important things to know before you go Volunteering
What to pack
For clothing, you will need items that are basic and comfortable for the volunteering projects such as t-shirts, long shorts, leggings and trousers. You are volunteering with children so save the bikini’s and kaftans for around the pool – you would not wear this to work with children in the UK so it shouldn’t be worn in Morocco regardless of the heat. In the evening time, I wore whatever I wanted. Bring at least one pair of comfortable trainers and one pair of comfortable sandals as we did a lot of walking and exploring.
For activities, you can bring items such as colouring books, pens, pencils, paper, craft bags, sequins, nail polish and face paints. The children at the projects will enjoy almost everything! Make sure you don’t take ALL of your items to one project as a lot of the children do expect to take the activities home. You will end up using all of your items and be left without any activities for the later volunteering projects you attend.
The main cost before you travel is the registration fee for Original Volunteers which is £125 but you can go on as many volunteering projects within a year. The flights start at around £60 depending on where you fly from, the accommodation works out around £13 a night. Then there’s a £25 fee for the basic disclosure if you don’t already have a CRB check.
When you are in Marrakesh the main cost is probably water, which is around 3 dirham (25p) for a small or 5 dirhams (41p) for a large. Food can be around 15-20 dirhams (£1.20-£1.60) for a lunch or 50-80 dirhams (£4 – £6.50) if you go to a nice restaurant in the evening time (try Argana in the square). Taxi’s cost around 5-10 dirhams (41p-82p) depending on where you are going. This is an ideal volunteering trip if you’re a student as it’s so affordable.
MY 10 DAYS IN MARRAKESH
I arrived at Marrakesh Menara airport on Monday and was met by the taxi driver with a sign for Original Volunteers upon exiting the airport. We then waited for more volunteers before being taken to the volunteer house where we picked our rooms and unpacked our bags. I stayed in the second volunteer house which was new and being renovated and the bedrooms had 3-5 beds in each along with 3 toilets, 3 showers and 2 kitchens to share. The area in which this house was situated was called Bab Doukkala and was a far cry away from the popular tourist spots as the street where we were situation had market traders sitting on the floor outside selling fruit and fish.
I then met the 16 other volunteers that were going to be in the same house along with our two fantastic volunteering coordinators Omar and Saad. We discussed the volunteering projects and the week ahead before they took us out to explore some of Morocco and have some dinner.
Through the souks near Riad Laarouss and to the main square of Marrakesh which was Plaza Jemaa el-Fnaa which was packed full of people both tourists and traders along with snake charmers, snail stalls and men with monkeys.
We then found a restaurant/cafe on the outskirts of the plaza where we had our first meal as a group. A lot of people tried a traditional Moroccan tagine but myself being a fussy eater, I settled for a sandwich. I did, however, try a menthol drink which Saad frequently ordered although it did taste a bit like Colgate toothpaste!
To end the night Omar and Saad took us on a short walk to view the largest mosque in Marrakesh, the Koutoubia Mosque and we heard the final call to prayer.
The first volunteering project I embarked on was the painting project where two lovely hosts (sorry guys, forgot your names!) took us to a local primary school where we met the head teacher then brightened up some of the walls with pictures and paintings.
Although some of us weren’t the best at drawing, the hosts were there to help as one of them was particularly good at copying clip art so a lot of people just painted and we found it very therapeutic. We also uncovered that Veronica had a secret occupation as a professional wall painter as well as working in a nursery as her wall painting was brilliant. I attempted the drawing and found out why I was never that good at art in school because I could draw things and copy the clip art fine but then got impatient with the painting and made a bit of a mess…
We then went for lunch and finished at around 3pm before heading back to the volunteer house. We had expressed earlier to the coordinators that we really wanted to watch the England world cup match so this was all arranged for the evening as they had booked a cafe in advance so we could all enjoy the game as a big group!
Wednesday we spent the morning volunteering at one of my favourite projects which was the special needs centre. This seemed a bit daunting to me at first as although I do work with some children with SEN in my school it’s normally the odd one or two whereas this centre was full of children and adults all with different needs.
The man who ran the centre was absolutely fantastic. He introduced us to all of the children/adults there and we were greeted by singing our national anthems which was started by Morocco’s. Then we sang the national anthem for England followed by solo performances by Amro (Yemen) and Veronica (Scotland) before going to tables with small groups and getting the activities ready.
We brought arts, crafts and outdoor play equipment as well as stacks of colouring books and two of the girls I volunteered with had the amazing idea of pass the parcel which was a huge hit (sorry for sharing your idea Demi and Leah!). Some activites we had to improvise, for example, skipping ropes were used as a volleyball net as some of the children/adults couldn’t jump. I also met an amazing girl called Hafza who could draw, colour and write with her feet!
Everyone there was so friendly and they loved taking photos with you and especially snapchat. One little girl actually took it upon herself to send selfies to everyone in my contact list but she was amazing so I didn’t mind! We then ended the morning with some songs, dancing and games before getting a big group photo and saying goodbye.
After a busy morning volunteering, we decided to use our afternoon to relax and swim at a local hotel pool. This cost us 150 dirhams each (£12) and we were there nearly all afternoon before going out for dinner in the afternoon. We had all decided being away from the UK for approximately 1 day that we were craving a Chinese so we had Saad on hand with his local knowledge who directed us to a lovely restaurant.
Now, this was hands down my absolute favourite volunteering project, the baby orphanage. This was situated at a hospital where you could sit, play and cuddle the babies and majority were pre-adopted. Most babies were between 1-3 but a couple of older children were also there along with a couple with SEN. I’ve never considered myself to be a baby person I’ve always swayed towards teaching KS1 . After visiting here I have decided I am a baby person after all as these kids were absolutely ADORABLE. After this gorgeous boy above fell asleep in my arms I spotted another little man sitting in the corner and fell in love with him.
I got so attached to this baby I honestly wanted to take him home with me. I was in utter disbelief that he was up for adoption. His cheeky smile lit up my world and I was devastated we only got a short space of time to spend together because I could have literally sat with him all day.
We then wandered into the square for the evening and discovered the group’s favourite restaurant Argana! The views from the rooftops were spectacular and the food was delicious.
On Friday our volunteering project was feeding the homeless people on the streets of Morocco. We each contributed 20 dirhams (£1.62) and we went shopping for ingredients which were meat, cheese, bread, yoghurt and fruit. Some of us made sandwiches and others packed the lunches. Then we all went out on the streets and gave them to homeless people.
This got quite intimidating as a lot of locals who were not homeless were trying to approach us. Some people wanted a free lunch so we were very appreciative that we had Saad and Omar with us. They helped us by translating and pointing out those who were homeless.
We spent the evening in new town where myself and a few of the girls wandered and went for dinner. We also found a stage playing live Moroccan music and some small shopping stalls with items for sale.
Our favourite was a stall with bracelets which were 5 dirhams (41p!) because the man was so accommodating. Some of the girls wanted different colours and charms so he sat and made the bracelets in front of us! We all got matching ones to remember our trip.
Saturday it was the final day for Carlie, Jade, Hollie, Amro, Lara and Riba (boo). We started the morning by some of the girls going quad biking which was 300 dirham (£25) each. Rajna and I pulled the short straw as her quad had to be jump started and mine had bald tyres. I spent a lot of my time skidding into sand dunes and trying not to fall off. We had a break before leaving where you could buy refreshments and we were offered Moroccan tea. We then headed back to the house to prepare for another England world cup game.
Sunday we visited a town called Ait Ourir which was outside of Marrakesh where we were volunteering with children. These were absolutely amazing children and although poor they were beaming with confidence. I loved how the older boys were singing and dancing and getting the other children (and volunteers) involved with them.
We brought along arts, crafts and floor games such as puzzles and the children were really well mannered and grateful. A lot of them would ask to keep things and then kiss you on the cheek when you let them have something.
What really hit home at this project was how poor these children were. One of the little girls was wearing pj’s with a Christmas tree on in the middle of July at daytime. The children were crawling around the floor looking for pom poms to take home. It really made me think about the children I teach and how privileged they are compared to these children. However, watching how much they really took care of one another made this experience an enjoyable one.
After leaving the project Omar and Saad decided to take us to the Ourika Valley. This is a beautiful place outside of Marrakesh leading up to the Atlas mountains. The Ourika valley has a river running through it where people swim and paddle in the water. This place was breathtaking, I am so sad I wasn’t feeling well so didn’t get many photos.
On Monday we revisited our friends at the special needs centre again during the morning time. A lot of the volunteers had left so we had fewer activities and it was more difficult than the first time! However nevertheless still another amazing morning of volunteering.
In the afternoon we went to the waterpark which was 250 dirhams (£20) or 200 dirhams (£16) after 2pm. It was an amazing experience as it was almost empty so no ques for the rides which was a bonus. Handy tip: bring flip flops as the floor is absolutely boiling and burns your feet. We went on nearly all of the slides but our favourite part was the rafting river! Huge waves pushed you around and the lifeguards also came out to tip your boat over.
Tuesday was my last day of volunteering and I was lucky enough to go back and see my little angel. I kept this baby for the full duration of my time there and was so upset to leave him. I actually started crying when taking him back to his crib. This little guy deserves the world so I hope the family that has adopted him treats him like a prince.
On the afternoon we also visited another project called Street Kids which I didn’t get to do the first week. We were volunteering with children who didn’t attend school and sold items on the square which is heartbreaking.
They attend this community centre where they are taught things but also get to take part in arts, crafts and games so the same activities used for the Ait Ourir village were also useful here. Again expect to leave activities for the kids as they are very poor and want to take the items home with them.
On the evening time, we decided to visit the Menara mall which is one of the biggest shopping centres in Marrakesh. This had a fountain and light show outside along with lots of amazing restaurants and shops and the view from the top of the mall was insane!
This was my final day and night so Gemma and I decided to do a camel trek. This was 200 dirhams (£16). We trekked around the desert for over an hour with a guide I was quizzing for camel facts. I found that these camels are called Dromedary’s (Arabic camel) which only have one hump.
After hearing stories about how awful camels are, these two Morgana (my camel) and Sabrina (Gemma’s) restored my faith. They were so sweet and had a lovely nature.
After the trek we had another chilled afternoon at the pool before preparing for my last night. We watched the England match and celebrated Leah’s birthday. We got a cake brought out for Leah and sang Happy Birthday.
I had an absolutely phenomenal time volunteering in Marrakesh, and the projects were brilliant. I met amazing people but I owe most of the credit to our coordinators who looked after.
From day 1 they were by our side keeping us safe, offering local knowledge, haggling, translating, making sure venues can accommodate us for matches and generally making our time enjoyable and I don’t know what we would have done without them. They not only helped us but they were fantastic at the actual volunteering projects. Saad was constantly darting around making sure any games we wanted to play were well explained. Omar was an absolute credit to the children at the projects always getting everyone involved and having fun.
I’d love to go back, but I would only use Original Volunteers if I had the same coordinators. Nobody else would be able to live up to them! I also don’t think any coordinators will have a better set of catchphrases than Omar’s selection.
If you have any specific questions please feel free to contact me @caratigerlilli