A weekend in Jersey

Jersey is the largest of the Channel Islands which sits between England and France. It is well known for its beaches, walking trails, world war tunnels and of course the delicious food. I have been lucky enough to visit Jersey since I was a baby as I have family who live over there, but if you have never visited then you really should.I would suggest booking an early morning flight from Gatwick, Luton or London city airport. The flight time is only 40-45 minutes so its super convenient and when you arrive either hop on a bus, hire a rental car or get a taxi to your final destination. Jersey is 9X5 which is great as it allows you to really explore the island during your visit and even better you can explore it by foot instead of by car.

We were due to fly out to Jersey at 9oclock on Friday morning but unfortunately we were delayed for several hours due to bad fog on the island. When we eventually did get on the plane at 1oclock we were unable to land as the visibility was still poor, so back we went to Gatwick. We transferred across to a later flight and we had our fingers crossed that we would be able to land. Due to the flight being cancelled earlier on in the day we were given some food vouchers to spend in the airport before boarding the flight at 18:30. It wasn’t quite the Friday evening we had in mind but never mind these things happen and we eventually made it.

We were staying in the parish of St Lawrence on the Victoria Avenue. My grandparents’ house overlooks the beach and the view is truly stunning. We liked to kick start our day at 7 o’clock heading out to the beach for a morning run. We ran along the sea front towards St Hellier where we found 50 rows of steps that we would run down and squat jump back up, it was a killer especially when we had a two mile run back. You truly cannot beat working out on the beach with the sun shining down on you; I wish my workout was like this every morning.

This weekend for us was a super chilled weekend, as we have visited Jersey lots of times so we didn’t visit the tourist attractions. I have however written a summary of places you should visit when visiting Jersey at the bottom of this blog post.

Once we had showered after our early morning run we headed up to the local shop called Benest to collect the daily paper. On our return we had some breakfast and then decided to walk into St Hellier, for a Saturday morning browse. We wondered into lots of little shops (the kind of shops you only ever enter if you are on holiday). the sun was shining and it was such a beautiful day we decided it was time to stop for a coffee. We wanted to visit an independent coffee shop but because I was being fussy and wanted an iced coffee we ended up in a coffee shop called coffee republic, which definitely isn’t an independent coffee shop.

Saturday afternoon was spent walking to St Aubins where we stopped off at The Boat house for a beverage, I opted for a crabbies ginger bear which was delicious. On our walk back the sun was setting and it was truly beautiful.

We finished our Saturday in a restaurant called Café Post in Grouville. The food in the restaurant was amazing and I wanted to eat it all over again. To start I had duck pancakes followed by a vegetarian nut roast served with Mediterranean vegetables and pesto and for dessert I went for the cheese trio. The atmosphere of the restaurant was lovely and the lighting made it feel lovely and cosy.

I had the best night sleep and naturally work up at 6 o’clock, after chilling in bed for a while it was time to get up and and out my running gear back on! The sun was still rising and it was the perfect start to our Sunday morning!

Breakfast today was a small drive away and the food was delicious (more about this on our Jersey breakfast post coming soon!). We had a short walk around the Victoria Park before our taxi came and picked us up for the airport.  Luckily our journey home was a lot smoother than Friday!

Things to do whilst in Jersey

1.) Corbiere Walk to the light house- you can follow the old railway track from St Aubins.
2.) Visit the Elizabeth Castle (opens early April and closes late October)
3.) Visit the Jersey beaches- St Aubins Bay, St Brelades, St Ouen’s Bay, Grouville & Greve de lecq
4). Wildlife park
5).Water sports- surfing etc
6).War Tunnels
7).Island RIB voyage
8). Day trip to Guernsey, Herm, Alderney or Sark

Whats in my rucksack

It seemed fitting that as I (Rachel), love going on solo trips around the world; just me, myself and my rucksack, that I would write a post to share what I pack in my trusty rucksack.

This will include all the necessities that you might not initially think of that I would recommend you pack, I haven’t included all the obvious things such as passport, clothes, suncream etc however writing this post has inspired me to write some additional separate posts about clothes to pack and one about toiletries to pack – so watch this space!

  1. Firstly I will start with the actual rucksack. Basically my motto is the smaller the better. The smaller the rucksack means you don’t overpack, and it also means the less you have to lug around. You have to do a lot of walking with your life on your shoulders so you don’t want to have your kitchen sink in there! You may be walking from the train station to your hostel, or the trek from one gate at the airport to another. When I went to Australia I borrowed my brothers  Osprey Talon 33 rucksack. For my trip to SE Asia I decided I needed my own rucksack. After lots of research, I decided I wanted to stick with a 33 litre rucksack so went with this beautiful Lowe Alpine 33 litre. It can expand to 40 litres if need be. I suggest going out only packing to the 33 litres and then using the extra 7 litres to bring bits back!
  2. Earplugs and eye mask are then my first priority I always make sure I have packed. Make sure you find ear plugs that are suitable for you, there are so many different varieties. Amazon have plenty to choose from! Same goes with the eye mask, you need to make sure its a comfy one as you have to sleep with it on. I like this Go Travel one 🙂
  3. Neck pillow is the next essential, especially if you plan on taking long journeys from place to place. The neck pillow is ideal to help you sleep on the long plane journey but also perfect for long bus or train journeys. I opted for a memory foam pillow and it was SO comfy. Again I opted for a Go Travel one.
  4. People tend to overpack when it comes to clothes, the only thing I would say to overpack with is underwear. Of course you can wash your clothes whilst travelling but you need to ensure you have enough underpants. I would recommend buying some 100% cotton underwear, especially if you are going to a hot and humid country.
  5. Comfy shoes are a necessity for sure. Some trips you may be required to bring walking boots with you, in this case you can be the typically traveller and tie them around your rucksack!! I always ensure I have a comfy pair of trainers with me for all the walking you have to. When visiting a new town or city you want to be able to walk around and explore it all.
  6. The long journeys can often be super boring, so make sure you have something to do on the journey. Make sure you have lots of songs on your iPhone or iPod to listen to. I also have an iPad and download some movies and tv shows to watch on long journeys. However my favourite pass time is a colouring book. I have a small pencil case with different colouring pencils in it and usually buy a new colouring book for a trip.
  7. If you are travelling solo, then I would recommend you buy yourself a selfie stick. If there is no one around that you can ask to take your photo then the trusty selfie stick is your new best friend! I think its important to take pictures to remember your amazing trip, gotta have that pic in front of the Opera House or Taj Mahal to show the grand kids!
  8. If I had all the money in the world then my Go Pro would also feature on this list, but I don’t have one (yet!). It seems everyone I meet travelling has a Go Pro except me. However I have a really good Panasonic Lumix camera and also found an underwater digital camera for £5 in a charity shop. One day I will treat myself to a Go Pro!
  9. Security is key when travelling so make sure you have a padlock packed. Many places have lockers for the guests to use that require you to use your own padlock on, then you can ensure all your valuables are safe!
  10. Speaking of security I also ensure I pack a bum bag, I find these super handy to wear when travelling as it means I can keep my valuables close to me. You can often get ones you can put under your clothes so that they cannot be seen!

 

What would your travelling/backpacking necessities be? Where are you planning your next adventure to, we would love to know!!

Review : Boss Legend Hotel Hanoi

For my last day in Hanoi and once the backpacking trip had ended I had decided to book myself into a nicer hotel to end the trip in style. Unfortunately the hotel I had booked was awful, awful location and the so called gym and swimming pool was a shambles. I sat in my room nearly in tears thinking this is not how I wanted my trip to end, so I got back online and after a bit of googling found the Boss Legend Hotel. The pool looked fab, as did the gym, there was an onsite spa and the location was ideal, right by the lake in the old quarter. I booked it straight away and headed in a taxi to the new hotel (after paying the old hotel a large amount of money for a 30 minute stay!!).

I guess it was bit of a shock when I turned up at the hotel as I had only booked the hotel 10 minutes and after a bit of juggling of rooms everything seemed to be sorted (phew!). The staff were friendly to me, although a little bewildered by this girl with a huge rucksack in gym gear turning up to this luxury hotel (just because I’m dressed like a traveller doesn’t mean I can live the luxury lifestyle too!!)
I was given the key to my room and headed in the lift to floor 6 and along to my room 602. I entered the room and instantly felt at home, the large bed, TV and lovely bathroom, I felt 10 times better!
I headed straight to the gym which was a good size and the views of the city were amazing whilst working out on the cross trainer.
The room had also provided me with a laptop which was pretty sweet, so I spent the rest of the afternoon writing blog posts whilst watching the tennis.

The next day I woke up early for breakfast which was served on the 11th floor again with amazing views of the city, in the summer you can also eat outside on the roof terrace which is a bonus. Breakfast had a large choice and I enjoyed croissants, French bread, pancakes and fruit.
I spent the morning chilling by the pool before checkout at 12. The pool was empty so was nice to have it all to myself and it was a good size.

After checking out I headed to the Legend Spa, which is the spa connected to the hotel in the basement, here I enjoyed my first ever hot stone massage and also got a gel manicure. The afternoon was lovely and I felt truly pampered.

In the evening I took the private shuttle arranged by the hotel to the airport.

Thank you to Boss Legend Hotel for being so accommodating and helpful to me and turning my frown upside down. You sure did make my last day in Hanoi and last day of the trip very memorable.

If I ever return to Hanoi I will sure stay with you again.

Vietnam : Halong Bay

0157

We arrived to Halong Bay after driving from the station in Hanoi. The place was not as expected at all, the beach was none existent and had  a large theme park being built on it. It seemed they were turning this place into a mega tourist trap.

We checked into the hotel and got ready for the boat trip to the bay. We were taken by coach for around 10 minutes to the pier and then finally boarded our boat.

The boat was huge and as there were only 12 people on our small group seemed mad that we needed such a big boat. The other group who were on the same G Adventures tour as up also had their own boat. This was something that we all picked up on and felt it was so stupid our two groups to be on 2 boats. Considering the poverty in the country, a lot of money could be saved including fuel if we all shared one boat. Anyway, rant over.

We set sail and were brought lots of different things to eat including whole fish, prawns, squid, noodles and rice and also chips (random!). We were promised by our guide an amazing 3 course meal, but I would hardly call it that. The fruit salad for dessert was a slice of watermelon each!

We then headed to the top deck to check out the views and take a billion and one photos! The day was gloomy and dull which was a shame but we all remained in positive spirits.

We then were taken to a cave which again was a bit overrated and a complete tourist trap. They had even pumped water into the cave and tried to pretend it was natural. If I am completely honest the whole cave felt fake and all of us were baffled as to if it was real!!

We then headed back to the boat and some people had opted to do some kayaking, but most of us chose to stay on the boat where we all did some colouring in from my colouring in book!!

We headed back to the hotel and got ready for dinner. The group were told to meet at 7.30 for dinner but we didn’t think we needed 2 hours to get ready so we decided to meet earlier. We were warned that there was not many places to go for dinner and this certainly was the case. Its crazy that a place that one day hopes to be a huge tourist destination with a massive theme park literally has no where to eat. We ended up at some restaurant and the food was gross with no flavour!

The next day we left Halong Bay super early. I am in 2 minds as to whether I would return to Halong Bay. Part of me wants to come back when the weather is guaranteed to be nice and see Halong Bay in the sunshine just like the pictures in the guide books. However another part of me thinks that I will be even more upset as to how spoilt the beach is…….

 

Vietnam : Hue

I hadn’t done much research on this place so didn’t know what to expect. However all I knew was that I HAD to do the motorbike tour because it was amazing and my friend had recommended it to me.

We arrived in Hue around midday and then had 45 minutes to check in before meeting for the motorbike tour.

We were all assigned a driver and sat on the back of their bike and were basically taken all around Hue to all the touristy (or not so touristy) sites. We visited 3 temples, a bridge, a pagoda, a museum of rice farming, a bunker and a food market. We were taught how to make a non la and incense sticks and also went to a view point of the perfume river. We also had the most amazing vegetarian lunch cooked by monks at a Buddhist temple. The trip was 6 hours long and simply amazing and a great way to learn all about Hue and also the Vietnamese culture. This was one of my highlights of the trip and I will always remember zipping through country lanes, though rice fields and the crazy traffic.

However apart from the bike tour I would say that Hue doesn’t really have anything else to offer and I think we spent too long here. We only needed the afternoon for the bike tour and could’ve left early the next morning rather than waiting around until the evening for the sleeper train.

Although a visit to the Imperial Citadel is worth it!

 

Vietnam : Hoi An

I could write forever and ever about Hoi An because I fell in love with the place. I wish Hoi An was closer to home and not 2 flights away from home, because I want to take everyone to Hoi An and see how magical it is.

Even though I have never been to Venice, to me Hoi An felt like the Asian version of Venice. Hoi An was the prettiest place ever and just had the most amazing feel about it, and you can tell why its the safest place in Vietnam which does not suffer from any crime. As part of the tour we stayed here for 2 days, and 2 days was not long enough, I wish we couldv’e stayed for longer, but oh well! However I do think we certainly made the most of the time we did have.

We arrived early in the morning on the sleeper train and got the bus straight to the hotel. We were staying at the Bach Dang Hoi An Hotel, which was my favourite hotel of the whole trip.

The hotel was a short but nice walk into the old quarter. Included in the trip we had a guided orientation walk of Hoi An and were shown around by the nicest guide called Hai. She was so friendly and I really enjoyed talking to her, she was only 22 and her English was amazing, not to mention how stylish she was! On route to the old town we stopped off at Madame Khan for a banh mi for breakfast. You can read all about this on the Vietnamese Food post coming soon. The orientation walk was great and we were told the key places to visit in the old quarter. You have to pay to visit the old town, its $6 for a ticket vali d for 3 days, and they do random spot checks of your tickets on entry. The ticket also included entry into 6 of the sites including the Japanese Bridge.

The tour ended at the tailors featured in Top Gear. Originally I wasn’t going to get anything, but the clothes were such good value I couldn’t resist. I ended up getting a dress for my friends wedding from Yaly (the tailors featured in Top Gear), and a jumpsuit and trench coat from New World tailors, which were the cheaper tailor – this was opposite the main Yaly store. It was a great experience getting measured, picking the fabric, style, cut, buttons etc to make the perfect garment.

We wandered the market and haggled for some bargains and then met up with the rest of the crew before hiring bikes from the hotel. We decided to bike to the beach which was a short bike ride away. The weather wasn’t very nice so the beach wasn’t very spectacular, we visited a bakery and then headed home. We were due back at New World at 5pm for another fitting so dropped the bikes off at the hotel and walked back to the old town. Here we used our tickets and visited some of the sites soaking up the culture. It was then time to head back to the tailors and wow its crazy how quickly they can make the items, a coat and jumpsuit all pretty much finished. The coat was nearly done just needed some finalisation and I requested the jumpsuit was made shorter and tighter at the legs.

We then went for dinner along the river where we enjoyed the local food called Cao Lau, it was noodles and pork and was delicious! It was lovely to eat sat along the river looking at the pretty lights. We headed back to the hotel to get ready for our night out. We had the drinks from the “beach party” in Nha Trang so drank them whilst playing some games around the pool and then headed into the town. We first went to a bar called Mr Bean Bar and then ended up at Tiger Tiger. The bars were full of backpackers and the music was amazing. However we spent a lot of the night ourside playing jenga with other backpackers! The bar/club shut at midnight so we headed home!

The next morning we met at 10am for the cookery class, you can read all about this class here

We then wandered around the town before we had to meet at 2pm for the bike tour.The tour took us through the rice paddys and through some small villages and was a great way to see the local Vietnamese life. We then stopped off at this house and it was explained to us that the oldest couple of Hoi An lived here, they are also quire famous and have been photographed by famous photographers. We were taken through their house and to their farm land where they were growing lots of plants. We then met the couple and to be honest a couple of us felt extremely uncomfortable, it was like this elderly couple were in a museum. There were people in our group going super close to them and taking their picture without asking and invading their personal space, and then we were all forced to have a group photo with them. I felt so sorry for the eldery couple and did not like the way they were treated at all. I personally think this elderly couple should be left to enjoy their life as a couple together rather than being treated as a tourist attraction. Having said that the couple seemed to be extremely happy and smiley and even moved so they could have better lighting on them for photos. Our friend Jess who spoke Vietnamese got chatting to the old lady which we thought was lovely, as she showed an interest in them. She also took the amazing photo below:

yfwk6671

We carried on the tour and headed to our next stop which was a demonstration on how to make rice wine, this is very strong and none of us were brave to try it!

After the demonstration we then biked to where we were to get on the basket boats. I didn’t know what to expect with these boats but we sat in pairs with a local who took us in the boat into the bamboo and made things out of the bamboo for us – we had crowns, rings, glasses and even a souvenir grass hopper! The lady who took us in our boat was the friendliest and happiest ever – look how gorgeous she is!

We then biked to get the boat back to Hoi An, we were meant to then bike back to the starting point once arriving in Hoi An, but it was so dark when we arrived back and the bikes didnt have lights on so we got to just stay in the old town.

We had our final appointments with the tailor and we tried everything on for the last time and bought our bits! I was super happy with all my items! We then headed over to the other side of the river to the night market. We wandered down and had some street food for dinner and then treated ourselves to some donuts for dessert before enjoying an early night.

The next morning myself and Jess woke up super early and went and explored the old town one last time whilst it was still quiet. We got there are 6.15 just in time to watch the sunrise and it was spectacular. I think the best way to see a place is early in the morning and even better here because we could take amazing pictures without any people.

We met the group at 8am to take the bus to Hue and left my favourite place in Vietnam. I am sorry this post is so long, but there was so much to see in Hoi An, and I did warn you I could write and write about this beautiful place. I guess you have to visit now to appreciate it!

Vietnam : Nha Trang

This post wont be a long post, because bascially the point I want to make it that Nha Trang is not a place you need to visit on your travels around Vietnam.

Nha Trang is a place that has strong connections with Russia as you can take a direct flight from Russia in only 6 hours. This means this place is full of Russian tourists, and even signs are written in Russia and some places wont serve you if you aren’t Russian.

As part of the tour we spent 2 whole days here and that was long enough. If you want to read all about the tour carry on, if you’ve read enough then feel free to stop!

My 2 days in Nha Trang as part of the G Adventures tour:

Due to the flooding we couldn’t go on the boat trip which we were all sad about, so were told we could go to a ‘beach party’ instead. We were told this was a big party on a private beach, so had in our mind lots of people on this amazing beach. How wrong were we, and again more examples of where our guide lied to us to make us partake in activities (the guides work off commission for these activities we think!). This was certainly not a beach party, we sat with this lady who tried to force us to play games and have awkward conversations with her. If I am honest we were all slightly bored and the weather didn’t help. However the food was incredible and it was included in the price, along with some bottles of vodka and rum, which we didn’t drink but snuck back with us for another night!! We were given mussels cooked on the BBQ and they tasted amazing. We were also fed twice in the space of 2 hours so can’t fault that either!

That evening we were meant to go for a group dinner, but as our guide couldn’t speak Vietnamese he didn’t really know where to take us, we met for dinner anyway. However he ended up taking a couple to see some lanterns and we did our own thing. Myself and Tal were not very hungry due to our epic lunch so went for milkshakes instead!

The next morning we met early to go see a Buddhist Pagoda. We decided to walk there as the walk was only 30 minutes. We arrived for the Pagoda to be shut as the head monk was celebrating his 69th day, so headed back to the hotel. Myself and Tal split off from the others and visited the cathedral on route home. We then grabbed our bikinis and decided to make the most of the sunny day and spent the rest of the day at the beach. We paid pennies for a bed which included wifi and didn’t move all day – it was bliss!

That evening we met for dinner and enjoyed some street food, we all had the Pho which was super tasty and then ended up at a yoghurt bar where we ate the tastiest yoghurt ever which had come from De Lat.

Thankfully we let Nha Trang on the sleeper train that evening.