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Why We Should All Visit Places of Political Importance Abroad

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When you travel to a new destination, what do you want to see? Nature at its finest, incredible cityscapes, traditional ways of living, maybe some local art? Travel makes me happy and experiencing the unknown is always where I'd rather be, but what about experiencing the cold hard truth about the history of the country you're in? To be a well-behaved tourist and an ethical global citizen, I believe it is my responsibility to know the background of where I am, even if it makes for an uncomfortable visit.

The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London

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For 18 months I lived close to the Tower of London, being lucky enough to have to walk past it every day to and from work. It is a beautiful building and one of the few major tourist attractions that I'd genuinely recommend visitors to go and see; it's actually worthy of the long queues and massive tickets prices.

Ireland Road Trip: Driving to Clonakilty

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We knew that once we left Cork we just wanted to find the sea. We wanted to take coastal driving routes and see little villages and towns that we'd never heard of before, and once you're a few kilometres down the road that's exactly what you find. We knew we wanted to get to Clonakilty for our next B&B, but we had all day to get there so we headed up, up, up some steep roads to get a real sense of why Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle.

A Weekend in Prague

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Prague is one of those cities, like Paris, where Brits go for a 'long weekend'. Unlike Paris, however, there aren't many people who can tell you what there is to see there. It's known for being picturesque, and I knew before I went that there is a river running through with a famous bridge over it, but that was pretty much it. In the three days I was there, I found out that Prague has an incredibly rich and fascinating history, and the city was truly brought to life for me through the wonderful walking tours we went on.

prague tourist

hussites statue prague

prague street architecture

I've written many times before about how I love to explore a new place by foot, and this is the case whether I wander off by myself, or I go on a tour. I've done Sandeman tours in other European cities before and they almost seem too good to be true as they are completely free! Of course, you're encouraged to give a tip at the end, and they're always worth it. We met our tour guide John Paul at 10.45am and we stayed with him for three hours as we walked around the Old Town and the Jewish District, learning about all the beautiful buildings we were surrounded by and given a whistlestop tour of Prague's history, including the brutal background of the Hussites (one of the first branches of Protestantism) which involved their founder being burnt alive. Pretty grim. Did you know that the word 'bohemian' comes from Prague too? It's first name was Bohemia, and when the residents were all made to flee after the Thirty Years War, their ways of street theatre, absinthe drinking and painting as they travelled from country to country became known as the 'bohemian lifestyle'. Keep that one in your back pocket for a pub quiz!

woman in hat

close up of astronomical clock prague

prague astronomical clock

maleficent castle prague

mozart theatre prague

The architecture is staggering; not from its height, but from the intricate detail everywhere. The famous Astronomical Clock is truly beautiful, though how you tell the time from it is beyond me! Known as the City of 1000 Spires, despite being the second most atheist country in Europe, it's not difficult to see how Walt Disney found inspiration for fairytale constructions like Maleficent's castle. And he's not the only famous person to be in awe of Prague; Kafka lived and worked there, and Mozart loved the people of the city so much that he held the premiere of Don Giovanni at a theatre there, which is now the last place that he played to still be in existence. Prague has also been the foundations for myth and legend, with the story of the Gollum originating from the attic of the Old New Synagogue in the Jewish District.

czech soldiers at prague castle

czech war memorial

prague castle

example of sgraffito
Following on from the free tour, we decided to pay for the afternoon tour of Prague Castle and the surrounding areas. It was the equivalent of about £10 and we were so enamoured by the previous tour that we knew it would be worth it. Our guide Michael met us by the Rudolfinum music hall and pointed out some of the main sites including the Charles Bridge before we caught a tram up the hill to the castle.

The castle grounds is still the home of the Czech president and prime minister, as well as the senate. It is protected around the perimeter by soldiers decked out in uniforms designed by the costume designer for the Oscar winning Amadeus, carrying bayonets, and is perched on the top of a hill overlooking the city and its surroundings. The architecture again was completely stunning and we were shown an incredible example of sgraffito - a type of design where patterns are literally scratched into the brickwork giving a textured appearance that feels like looking at a Magic Eye picture.

st vitus cathedral prague

st vitus cathedral inside

st vitus stained glass windows

gargoyle st vitus cathedral

small blue house

houses on golden lane prague

The magnificent St Vitus Cathedral is the fifth largest in Europe and its stained glass windows are the most incredible I've ever seen. Designed by famous Prague artist, Mucha, they are in his classic art noveau style and were vivid, detailed and a tad creepy, but I was fascinated by them. Nearby is Golden Lane where Franz Kafka lived with his sister for a few years, and is now an adorable, colourful narrow street, perfect for some tourist photos.

On our own time, we wandered down to the Charles Bridge which has huge looming statues on each side, depicting various parts of Czech history or saints and other religious figures. The view from each side is completely gorgeous with towers, winding streets and petite houses by the river that I could've looked at for days (if it wasn't so bloody cold that is). Prague is one of those places where you take hundreds of photos of buildings, just because. It is also incredibly cheap, and perfect for a quick trip away with a flight time from Heathrow of only two hours. Despite the weather, it really is a beautiful city, and I'll definitely be going back to see a little further afield.

tower east side charles bridge

view from charles bridge prague

charles bridge prague

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Jack the Ripper Walking Tour

jack the ripper victim drawing
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I am a firm believer that walking around a city is the best way of getting to know your way around. Every city I visit, I make sure I don't just rely on public transport to get from A to B and you get to discover things you may never have seen too. I walk a lot in London, and it means I know a lot of back streets and short cuts which makes me feel much more at home, but the Jack the Ripper tour has put an end to that! You see, I live in east London, not far from the notorious serial killer's old stomping ground of Whitechapel, and having to walk home alone after this tour was not ideal.

Exploring Cornwall

 


It only takes seven hours to fly to Abu Dhabi, a mere 3399 miles away. Thanks to the glory of modern rail, it takes almost the same amount of time to get from London to Cornwall on a train. It's a long slog, but going to Cornwall can be just as good, or better, than going abroad. If the weather is right, you could be mistaken for being in the Mediterranean as Cornwall has beautiful beaches with clear blue seas and the most yellow of sand, it's just that you have to swap out sangria for scones and paella for pasties. But I'm definitely OK with that. We spent most of our week driving from beach to beach, predominantly the surfers' favourite of Sennen Cove and the lesser known and trickier to access Gwthian and Gwenver. We even ventured down to a hidden paradise found in the book 'Secret Beaches'. I kid you not when I say we trekked through thistles, horseflies, stinging nettles, snakes and bogs, all on a very steep decline. I endured bites, stings and cuts to get down to the beach, which was beautiful indeed, but I spent the whole afternoon dreading getting back up the so-called 'path' again!


Cornwall is full of famous tourist attractions, but the county itself is huge. We contemplated the Eden Project until we realised it would take us an hour to get there from where we were staying. Instead, I left my boyfriend behind to attempt some waves and headed to Penzance where I got the bus to the tiny town of Marazion and St Michael's Mount. A beautiful castle perched  on top of a mound seemingly in the middle of the sea. At low tide you can walk across the causeway with no problem, but once the sea starts to come in, you could very well get stuck on a boat back across to the mainland! The house is still lived in by the St Aubyn family and has a rich history shown throughout the ornate rooms, furniture and church (with some creepy religious iconography to boot).



Did you know that Cornwall also has a Tate Gallery? Based in St Ives, it's a sister of the main galleries in London and has its own off-shoot: the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gallery, showcasing the works of the famous sculptor. If you don't know her, it's likely that you'll recognise her work, or you may have even walked past it on the side of John Lewis on Oxford Street. I'm no art critic, but all I can say is her sculptures are imposing and captivating, I stood staring for ages as I tried to take in all the curves and angles she's added to pieces. I have no idea what means what, or what had more meaning or symbolism, but I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the quaint little garden they all sat in.







By the time we headed back to London after a week, it had felt like longer; the best sign of a good holiday. Now whenever I'm feeling stressed, I'll just pretend I'm on the balcony of our beautiful holiday cottage with a glass of prosecco and a stunning sunset to soothe my woes. Until next year...
As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review