Travel In Luxury…

Who doesn’t love a little luxury on holiday? After all, you work all day, all week, all year. You need a break, and you deserve to relax on your time off.

1. Select your times of travel carefully. If you are able to, avoid school holiday dates. These are peak times when everyone wants to travel, so prices rise (but you know this already right?) but even through times of the year the prices change, and they may not be highest when you think they are. Look at the prices in comparison to average weather at the time, and you might find a time that works well for you.

2. Book via a hotel direct- hotels are wary of online booking sites who take a cut of their profits, so more and more are offering discounts and bonuses to people who book direct. As online booking and spending take more and more of the cut, hotels (especially chains) are becoming more aggressive at taking a slice of the action

3. Plan ahead- the sooner you book, the more likely the rates will be cheaper

4. Weigh up flights vs hotel. Some places even 5* is cheap. However the flights there may not be. Weigh up the cost together and you should find a sweet spot (and this will be relative to where you live).

5. Cashback sites can be a godsend. Found a great deal? Why not check that you couldn’t just get an extra slice off.

6. Budget airlines can cut huge costs off your budget. Travel can be one of the biggest costs to a holiday, especially further afield. I like to use skyscanner.com to search for flights, not only because it tells me what’s what, but as a bonus it tells me which flights have less CO2 emissions. Whist it still isn’t good to use airplanes, if you can’t avoid it for your holiday, you can make informed choices on top of saving money by searching deals. A happy thing I’ve found that even budget airline have flights with lower emissions, so even if you are on a budget, you can be conscious of the environment.

7. Consider what tie you check in. the earlier your there, the less likely you are to get an upgrade. If you arrive later, the hotel knows what’s full and what’s empty, so are more likely to upgrade you.

8. It’s cheaper to go on holiday with someone, if nothing to split the cost of hotels. But, if like me you travel a lot alone, things can get pricey. I’ve found that sites who offer discounts on holidays often have a VERY high surcharge for single travellers, pretty much to the point of why bother. Voyage Prive are awful at this, they advertise a great price, only to rack it up to regular price levels once you get in to it. Do yourself a favour and make up your own holiday, ignore those sites that want to penalise you for wanting a break away by yourself and find good deals by searching on hotels.com or booking.com for good deals from where you want to go (then check on the specific hotel website for a better deal!)

9. Points- this one is hard for me. For a lot of people paying by points is a great way to get money off, or even for free. There are many clubs out there to join. But be careful though, that you only get points when you buy things you really need or want. For me, I just simply don’t spend that much, so would never get enough points to accumulate such a deal (or at least it would take a very long time). Although, if you’d spend enough to get some good point, this on is for you! Credit cards are the easiest way to rack them up, and here are some good ones.

10. Live like a local- it can be easy to get sucked into fancy palaces you see splashed about, but often they are not the best, it’s all in the marketing. Do you best to search for joint that the locals love. These will often not only be cheaper, but far nicer, as they focus on retained customer base and quality rather than a quick tourist who will never return. You can do this by hopping on TripAdvisor, talking to your hotel, or even just seeing where looks busy! 

What would you add to this list?

How To Put Ideas Into Reality

I love traveling, it’s something I plan as much as possible and look forward to through the year. But another thing I love to do is write. For many reason writing for me is cathartic, it feels good to have something that was only living in my brain be splashed on a page for others to read

For me, traveling and writing go hand in hand. The more I travel, the more inspired I become, the more ideas float around and take up much of my thinking space, which is fun for the short term, but maybe not so great when I have important business decisions to make. Any writer would know how real characters can get in your head!

I think this is why it is important for me to be able to plan out my stories well, so I can translate these scenes in my brain to the page in the most efficient way possible, where everything I feel is laid out for others to feel as well.

When I begin writing, one thing that I can never do enough of is plan. No matter how much I think I plan in advance, there’s always room for improvement. In writing my novel, I have taken a lot of time to plan where the story was going creating narratives for my characters that could stand up to multiple stories.

However, once I started writing, and got about 7000 words in, I’ve realised I needed to go back to the plan and expand it, looking down into the plots within my plots, so I’m not left stranded in my writing not knowing where the story is going, or worse, what I’ve written not making sense.

In university, I was on a creative course, so I had to do a lot of planing when it came to working to a schedule to get my projects done. this is how I began to get really good at sticknig to a plan, becuase when you have a progject that has to get done, you find a way to do it. I could then use these skills in other areas of my life, my writing being one of them.

In my latest project though, I’m not working to anybody’s time scale but mine, so self-determination is a key factor

There are ways I break down my planning:

  1. Structure planning – this is going over the whole storyline, be it one book or a whole series. This, I would say, is the biggest task of all, but the one I start with. When I have an idea of what I want my characters to do and where I want the story to go. When I first draft this, it will never be complete, but as long as I have a rough outline, I can move happily onto the next stage.
  2. Novel 15 Beat Plan – I am currently using the 15 Beat structure plan to plot my novel. I use this to make sure my story flows and is bursting with interesting plot points. This expands on the structure plan, focusing on smaller points that I may not have factored into the overall universe of my books.
  3. Chapter Plan – An even smaller take, looking at how I am going to break the story up, how to make it flow better, making sure one chapter isn’t to heavy with important plot points, and another chapter that doesn’t have any. For this, I make sure there is at least one beat in each chapter, to keep the story moving and to make sure nothing is wasted and pointless.

How do you plan your stories? Is there anything I’ve missed that you think I should try? I’m just a novice writer ready and willing to hear your advice!

HOW I WRITE

When I was at uni, I studied Photography and Video for my degree, and having only just left, everything I learned is still fresh in my mind. I use it quite a lot in my writing as I am very able to visualise what I write, quicker than I am able to write it.

I think for one particular “scene” (I still call them scenes in my writing) I even gave myself camera directions to help me write it!

The more visual nature of my writing does mean that sometimes I feel my dialogue isn’t as good as what it could be. It’s definitely something I want to improve on.

  • Just go for it

When I have a specific scene I write from start to finish. This can sometimes get annoying as I think of the next great scene I want to write, but it helps me feel the story more. The more I break up the scene writing, the less I feel it flow out of me 

  • Write it down, then type it up

Writing my work down using the good old pen and paper stems back to school days, where I realised I learnt more when I wrote down the work myself, instead of hair reading off a print out. Writing my stories down first is the same thing to me. I have a far bigger connection to it when I write it myself. I can see it clearer in my mind (and I can’t make squiggle notes on my computer). 

However you like to write, if you have your own special way of doing it, do it like that, because nobody knows your sorry better than you. 

I Got Trapped In My Hostel Room!

Given that I was trying to travel differently then usual, and after a great experience in Amsterdam, I decided to stay in a hostel again. This time, however, I opted for a private room, because sometimes I just need to be alone. Introverts know what I mean.

I stayed in a place called “Das Nest”, which had great reviews on Hostelworld. I looked nice, had a private room and was relatively cheap. It ticked all the boxes for me.

However, given that I didn’t know Budapest, I had no idea of the area it was in. It was in a place called the Jewish Quarter, which I can describe by saying it wasn’t the best of neighbourhoods. If Buda was the place of spas, glamour and gorgeous scenery, this was the bottom of the barrel. Maybe I’m being to harsh, I didn’t have many issues, but it’s hard to place it in the shadow of being overlooked by beauty.

So, not many issues I said, then what was wrong? This only issue for me, was the entrance. I’m pretty bold and not frightened easily, but a constant presence of men who looked like they would offer me drugs if I were anyone else did put me on edge.

I had to call several times to the hostel office to know how to get in, having to walk through the group in the doorway. Then through coded doors, up stairs or a lift to a floor number I didn’t know (I could only gather it was a top floor as the photos I saw looked like a sloped roof) and again though coded doors.

At one point I was thinking I wasn’t going to find the place and would have to find another hotel.

I think the place could have better prepared guests for this, as there was nothing to mention this ordeal when booking. In the end I didn’t mind it, I got used to it, but knowing this at the start would have made the whole experience a lot nicer.

When I finally, FINLLY, got in, I was given my room “the best room in the place” as told by the guy who worked there, I tried not to laugh, it was a hostel after all, but it would definitely suit me fine, as all I wanted was some peace.

The man who gave me the key said the lock was a little dodgy. And HE WAS NOT WRONG! And so began one of the most embarrassing moments of my traveling so far. 

Yes, I got locked IN.

I tried the lock, no luck. But that was ok, he said it was difficult. I was a bit kinder to it and tried again. Still nothing. Again and again I tried. Soft, hard, anyways you would think a lock worked. Still I remained trapped.

And yes, I was getting that desperate that the window crossed my mind, until I saw the drop on the other side. Unbroken legs please!

In the end I had nothing else to try then to ring the reception. The whole situation was so stupid that at first he didn’t understand, then it clicked, and I got a hearty laugh. I couldn’t help but laugh with him!

My saviour arrived quickly, but the fiddly door was still a little tricky. In the end it swung open, my first thought being at least I wasn’t going to go hungry that night. Typical. 

We need up playing with the keys a little bit, until I finally got the hang of it. The oddest thing you can think of, they key worked when it was only halfway in the door. As any person who has sever used a key, I was using it the right way, the ONLY WAY. But no, that is not how this key wanted to do things.

Side note here, the key hole was really big, as I could see who was outside, and therefore gathered people could see in. to fix this I left the key in the lock to block this.

The bathroom closest to me, the only one I used, was actually really nice, a lot better than the place I stayed in Vienna.

Lean In – Or Should We?

It’s fair to say that for many years, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was gospel to many a woman. Written from the perspective of a career woman looking to maintain a happy family, she addressed many aspects affecting young women, who want a job and a family. The balancing act that so many of us have to deal with often goes on quietly, which made Lean In a breakthrough.

Now, however, something seems to have changed. With Michelle Obama (Becoming is on my TBR) declaring that “Lean in shit doesn’t always work” is it time to change our view? Having read it some years ago, maybe times have moved on (5 years, is it really that long, or are we just moving so fast it feels like it? I need to sit down). Maybe it was never right to begin with.

The question is, does it work? What I think, and this sounds like a cop-out answer even to me, is that if it works for you, then yes. If it doesn’t, then no. It’s not a simple question to answer and can change from person to person, day to day. What works for you might be disastrous for me, and vice versa. But above all, if it gives you the motivation to try, then let that motivation take you.

When I first read it, I loved it. But then again, it told me what I wanted to hear, so I opened my ears and let it speak to me. You may hate it, and that’s perfectly ok. Not everyone is the same, nor should we be, you may not even WANT what Sandberg is selling.

But don’t let anyone else tell you what to believe in. Argue with me, argue with Michelle Obama, that’s how we get the conversation going. But listen to yourself. That way you can’t lose.

Best quotes from Lean In:

  • “Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder”
  • “Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about”
  • “The promise of equality is not the same as true equality”
  • “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

A Game Of Female Bosses

Let me say, I loved the idea of this (somewhat illegal) story. The idea of a 26 woman running a badass poker game in a world of men made me think, “you know what, I can be a badass too!” And I’ve still got a few years to go to get there.

Now with the concept of the story out the way, let me get down to the writing of the piece. I feel that it lets the story down so much. It is such a unique thing to write about in the fact it is supposedly true. (I say supposed as we all know biographies tend to embellish).

There are holes left in the story, small holes, mind you, such as jumps in time, “how did she get there” moments etc.

What bothered me the most was the lack of finesse in the storytelling. I could tell it was a biography because the story was presented in an “and then this happens, and then this happened” kind of way, the natural flow of a novel was left to the side in way of telling us what happened.

Relationships in the book were never truly developed, apart from those of her parents, and so the reader is left not caring about a relationship collapsing that she obviously cares a great deal about, and it’s a real shame.

Overall, it was a great opportunity wasted, a few more drafts and get the flow of the story right and it could have been great. But for now, all I am doing is wishing it was better.

2/5 (harsh way to start the new year. Sorry not sorry)

A Boutique Luxury Hideaway- The Exhibitionist Hotel London

London is known as being a city of eclectics, luxury, and art – and my hotel definitely got into this!

I stayed at the Exhibitionist Hotel, ideally located in Kensington. Not only that, but it was directly located on a quite street outside the national history museum. Never did I even think that somewhere so busy could feel so cosy and quite, just one street back.

With a name such as “The Exhibitionist” you would be right to expect something special.

One thing I didn’t know until I got there was that this was not just any building. No, it was next door to the psychics society, famously led by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock fame. As a huge Sherlock fan, this was really the cherry on the cake for me. I was where Doyle had been years gone by! 

I arrived early and handed my luggage in. I usually do end up getting there early, but I wasn’t upset my room wasn’t ready.

I came back when they said to, only to be told my room still wasn’t ready. Now that is annoying (and something that seems to happen to me a lot), but for the first time the staff dealt with it perfectly.

They gave me a space in the small lobby/ dining area and asked if they could get me a drink. Honestly after a lot of walking on a bad leg it was much appreciated.

Now, if somewhere says it’s 5 star, you would rightly think that it would be perfect (if reasonable), which is why I’m making a point to say there were no dressing gowns. The last 5 star place had one waiting for me (although far too large for me, but that’s my small people problem). 

This wasn’t a high place, cramming in as many rooms as it could, it was smaller than most hotels I have been in. Described as a “Boutique” hotel, I think that does encompass the feeling of the place. The smallness made it so you didn’t disappear.

The room was gorgeously appointed. Plush velvet coated the walls as a head board, stand out lighting added to the theme of the room (each room has a colour scheme, unless it is a suite, in which case it is completely uniquely designed).

The bed was as soft as anything I could have hoped for, perfect for my sleeping type. The duvet was the kind which you wish you had at home. The kind that would smother you in warmth and comfort whisker still being breathable.

I do wonder where hotels get them? I wish I could buy one like that but I’ve never come across one in the shops. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place!

Out of my window there was what I figured to be a courtyard for another room. The only reason I figured what this space was because I may or may not have spied people taking their breakfast out there. Not creepy at all I promise! I did think maybe next time I should be just that bougie.

The artwork on the walls was a nice touch, and livened up what would otherwise be a quite dingy little space.

The bathrooms were a unique quirk that I liked. A know arched window through to the bedroom is something I have never seen before, and just the right amount of cheeky.

The glass was fogged so you still had privacy, but kept the standout feature.

The bath was glorious, as you would expect, even if I did go over board with the bubbles. The only issue, which is really a non issue, is that the headrest faces away from the window, with the taps face if towards it. What I would want to be able to do is lean back facing that unique feature, but have it hidden behind me! And the taps were far to bulky to lean against.

The room service was a little disappointing. It was a small or “boutique” as they call it, but I felt like they could have offered a few more options. The breakfast selection was lovely, but if you wanted dinner, you better want pizza! They had about 6 options to choose from (although they were kind enough to give you the chance to add more if you so wished, for a hefty fee)

To Very Good Lives

Stepping into a new year can be daunting, with so much pressure to make yourself a new you, a better you. It’s all about doing good things making waves, if you would believe the output of many publications. It can be hard at this time of year to accept that failure is good for you, just as much as starting a new goal. 

Perfection is what so many of us strive for, but that doesn’t mean perfection is the same thing to all of us. My perfect is not your prefect.

For the past few years I have been against New Years resolutions, instead trying to focus on making myself better any time of the year. And science agrees. A study’s have shown that those who wait until new year to start their goals end up doing worse than those who start before.

Some of my favourite quotes from this book really lend to the idea that life is not linear, that peaks and troffs only add to a tapestry that make our lives all the more interesting.

If we are afraid to fail, we would never fly. So try, even if you fall on your arse, at least you can say you did something.

I wish you all very good lives. 

A Mystery Between Pages…

NO SPOILERS AHEAD!

Diving into the classics this week, you could do worse than to pick up an Agatha Christie. I picked up a copy of Murder On The Orient Express while doing a weekly grocery shop, having just finished my last book, and looking for some new entertainment. Being honest, nothing else took my fancy, but this classic stood out to me. I surprised myself by not having read it before!

With such a legendary book, I didn’t know what to expect going into it. All I knew was that this had stood the test of time for a reason.

Set on the famous Orient Express, 12 people find themselves stuck on a train in a snow drift. Given that in Britain we have just had the worst snow storm I can remember, I found myself getting stuck into the story, the setting, everything.

Mrs Christie lets Poirot take the lead, unexpectedly finding himself on a train, with a murder committed on the other side of his wall.

The pacing was brilliant, unveiling new information and piecing it all together like a jigsaw puzzle. We are witness to interviews of the suspects, taking in one at a time what they say happened, the story all weaving together.

I would never spoil an ending, but I can say it was perhaps one of the most bittersweet conclusions that Mrs Christie could have written. I came into the book expecting for a murder to be solved but left with so much more.

I can see why some people wouldn’t like this book, but personally, I love it. Then again, I did grow up watching Mrs Marple whilst playing Cluedo (thanks, Mum.)

The only issue I had with this book is the somewhat outdated way some characters jumped to conclusions based on the characters home countries, as such one policeman exclaiming the Italian passenger must have committed the crime, due to its nature, “Latin temperament” was a notable quote. And I couldn’t forget the terrible misfortune of M. Poirot having to make do with a second class cabin (of which a big deal was made).

However, getting through these, how shall we say, differences, in how the world works now, the story still stands as a brilliant guessing game. I wanted to jump into the mind of Poirot, to see what he sees, trying to figure out the crime with him, as every conversation, he enters into has such meaning later on in the story, it is a definite must-read for any murder mystery fans.

4.5/5

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Top 5 cities I want to go to

Even in the same country, cities can have their own atmosphere (things I want to do in each place). The more you look into a place, the more gems you find. I wanted to take a deeper look into what I could do in these amazing cities, and I even suprised myself with some of them!

Are you supposed to amp yourself up in a blog post? Oh well too late.

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