My Fitness Journey (aka how I got fit with minimal effort)

Hello lovely people!

Today I’m going to be talking about fitness! Us bloggers don’t spend all our time writing you know. I recently posted some progress pics over on my Instagram, and received lots of positive feedback from followers, so I thought I would explain how I went from couch potato to working out up to 4 times a week.

At the start of my third term at university I decided it was time to make positive changes in my life. I’d recently made the switch from part catered to completely self catered, meaning I had much more choice over what I ate and when I ate it. This meant two things; I could eat healthier and fit working out into my life more easily. Combined with my new-found need to become the powerful and successful woman I’d always dreamed of being after a year of some pretty dark times, I was set to get my life together.

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Exercise

My relationship with exercise throughout my life has been, at best, rocky. As I said in a post I made after climbing a mountain recently, when I was in school I absolutely detested PE. My friends and I often purposely tried to derail the lessons (honestly, I feel for whoever had to teach us) if we actually turned up at all. In Sixth Form I improved slightly, signing up to a local gym and going fairly regularly. However, the moment that A-Levels got more intense I gave up, which I still regret now. It’s proven by a whole bunch of science (said like the expert I definitely am) that exercise is linked to reductions in stress levels, mood improvement and better self esteem (source: Mental Health Foundation).

Fast forward to first year at uni. After two terms of a similar “I’ll do it later” attitude, I decided it was time to kick my ass and get to exercising. My college has a cardio gym which was downstairs in my old house (honestly I don’t know what my excuse was when I literally walked past it multiple times a day), and whilst it is pretty badly equipped there’s space for  circuits along with some treadmills and the like. I started going a couple of times a week, and had a pretty standard routine. 20 minutes interval running, followed by a Kayla Itsines circuit (which I somehow found free online).

What helped was that a lot of my friends were joining me on this health kick. Every other day, as much as we could depending upon our schedules, we were in the gym at 5pm. This was helpful for lots of reasons. Going at the same time each day meant that it became part of my daily routine, and felt as normal as going out to uni in the morning. Moreover, I had that added motivation of not only letting myself down, but letting my friends down if I didn’t go. And, after the workout we often ate together, which ticked off socialising!

Towards the end of term I even got into running. One day myself and a friend headed to the gym as usual only to find that the room was locked. We decided not to waste our efforts and went for a run around the racecourse. I was so shocked to find out that I actually enjoyed the run, after having said for years that me and running just doesn’t work. Now I actively look forward to my cardio sessions, who knew?

Diet

As the statistic goes, fitness is 80% nutrition (source: Very Well Fit). I wouldn’t say I ate badly before I started this fitness journey, but there was definitely a lot of carbs involved. I’m looking at you, holidays to France and college menus filled with potatoes.

Cooking for myself all the time made me learn that eating healthy is really not difficult. My main tactic was to do a big food shop once a week, and simply avoid buying the rubbish foods. I learned pretty quickly that if there were no biscuits in the cupboard or pizza in the freezer I definitely wasn’t going to make the effort to walk to Tesco to buy some. An added bonus is that healthy food really doesn’t have to be expensive. Bulk cooking curries or chillis and freezing them is much quicker and cheaper than having chicken nuggets every night.

I’m not saying I’ve given up on unhealthy foods completely. You can definitely still find me necking pints on a Friday night or joining in with pizza & films night with my friends, but it isn’t everyday. These things have become a treat rather than a regular occurence, meaning I actually appreciate them more than I did before too.

4 Months On

I’ve been following this pattern for four months now, to the point where it’s no longer a change for me but just part of my lifestyle. Working out every other day is now a habit, and I’m setting myself goals and changing my playlists/workout plans to keep it exciting. For example, in the last couple of weeks I’ve been aiming to get my personal best for running a kilometre down to below 7 minutes. Today I completely smashed that, hitting 6″52 on my 5km run. I’ve also been trying out some different circuits I found on Pinterest.

Diet-wise, I’ve just recently gone vegetarian. Two of my housemates are vegetarian, and after travelling with them and following the diet for a while on and off I wanted to take the plunge completely. I’ve been officially vegetarian for about three weeks, but I think I could count the amount of times I’ve eaten meat in the last two months on  one hand. My motivations aren’t really fitness based (post coming soon), but I think it’s having a positive effect on my health at the same time.

When I move back to Durham in September I’m going to be joining a gym near my house, and I’m very excited to finally be able to play around in a big gym again. I’m also thinking about joining my local Parkrun, because the course in Durham is in the racecourse right next to my old accommodation, and it’s one of my favourite places in the city. My college wife and I are even going to try out pole fitness, so I’ll keep you updated when I inevitably get injured trying to be sexy and failing as usual.

 

What about you? Do you do a sport, or like me, prefer other ways of keeping fit? Let me know in the comments.

-Megan, listening to the playlist “Your Favourite Coffeehouse”, because I’m too skint to actually go to a coffee shop and write.

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Veggie burgers are life, and other tales from Budapest, Hungary

Hello lovely people!

Today from my very hungover bed (I just napped for three hours, today is going great) I’m going to be finishing up the story of my latest interrail trip. Our third and final city was Budapest, the first of the three that I’d never visited. Budapest is comparable to Prague due to it’s traditional Eastern vibe, and for me resulted in some of my favourite times of the whole tour.

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Personally I think we look quite fresh here considering this was the morning after we slept on floors and buses all night

How It Went Down

I finished my last post by saying that Flixbus saved our trip to Budapest, but there’s a little more to it than that. Our bus was due to leave Prague at 2am, which when the subway stops running at midnight was not ideal.

Let me tell you the story of how we travelled to the suburbs of Prague, got kicked out of the subway station, then got kicked out of the carpark we took refuge in, slept on the streets, and even got our passports checked by the police. Yes, I can say that I spent a night falling in and out of sleep in a sleeping bag on the Czech streets, huddling with my friends for warmth. Whilst it wasn’t the most pleasant night I’ve had at times, it was also completely hilarious and looking back it makes for one hell of a story.

Our first bus finally arrived an hour late, and it was pretty hot and uncomfortable. Still, I slept most of the way to Brno, where we changed buses for the final leg of the journey. Brno at 6am was an experience; some walking to work, some coming back from a night out, some (aka us) wandering around sleep deprived and a bit confused. Our second bus was much nicer – it even had WiFi and plug sockets!

We arrived in Budapest at nearly midday, in desperate need of a shower and some sleep. But, as our prophet Oli Sykes once said “sleep is for the weak”, so I just got on and kept exploring.

 

The Hostel

This hostel was run by a lovely man who made every effort to make us feel welcome. Toucan Hostel was the cheapest at £12 per night, for a very light and open-feeling 8 bed room.

The only other people I saw the whole time we were in this hostel were a father and daughter making fish fingers one evening, which is probably a good thing considering we spent most of our time in that hostel shouting at each other over games of cards. In fairness though it would be quite difficult to meet people here, as the only communal space is the kitchen (which, on the plus side, is very well stocked).

Our main issue with this hostel was that the showers didn’t drain properly, so you couldn’t run the water for too long in fear that the place would be flooded. But, the central location and close proximity to Tesco more or less made up for this for me.

Wait… What Actually Happened?

After the pretty taxing night we’d just had we decided to keep day one pretty chilled, with a trip to the Gellert Baths. Budapest is, for some reason, famous for having heated baths. I have no idea why, but I won’t question it, because they’re so nice! As someone who looks more like a dog than Michael Phelps when swimming I appreciated the baths, as it’s all about sitting around in warm water rather than who can do the most lengths. However, the main thing I loved about the baths was the architecture (which won’t surprise anyone), as the place is filled with beautiful stone columns and mosaic walls. Also, the wave pool is my fave thing ever and every home should have one.

 

Day two was again handed over to Natalia, as our Eastern European tour guide. Armed with a map and vague plan we visited some of the main landmarks in the city. We started the day at St. Stephen’s Basillica, a very impressive Catholic church which heads up one of the city’s squares. After a scheduled ice cream stop (the plan was tight, snacking was only allowed in designated areas), we moved on to Budapest Castle – a personal architecture highlight. One of my favourite things is that on one side of the castle you get amazing views of the Danube, yet on the other you see the reality of the city – towerblocks and somewhat run-down housing. I found that a refreshing break from tourism, a reminder that these countries, however beautiful, still have a wealth of social issues.

After seeing the Hungarian Parliament Building we took a boat down the Danube to our lunch spot. In Budapest for whatever reason the public transport people have decided that adding boats to their offer is a fabulous idea. Whilst yes, we didn’t pay any more for it, I still didn’t like it. Boats are a bit terrifying in my opinion.

 

If you’ve ever seen anyone go to Budapest on Instagram you’ll know that one of it’s big highlights is ruin bars. Located in the Jewish Quarter, these bars are built into abandoned buildings, shops or lots, and they’re really damn cool. We visited Szimpla Kert, the biggest and oldest ruin bar, and I loved how eclectic the place was. I also appreciated a bit of traditional Hungarian Palinka (cherry brandy) to round off a lovely afternoon.

The final evening of the trip was spent climbing Gellert Hill, with the aim of watching the sunset with a picnic and drinks. Thanks to my classic bad luck it was very cloudy and even rained for a bit, so the sunset was basically impossible to see. But hey, we had alcohol to rectify the problem, so all was good. This evening was not only a trip highlight, but a life highlight. I sat surrounded by my best friends watching over the lights of Budapest, discussing life, our adventures and everything in between. It was honestly magical for me.

 

Fast forward a few hours and I’m asleep on the floor again, this time in Budapest International Airport. Our flights left at 6:30am, and because yet again the local transport was unhelpful, team UK had to arrive at the airport 6 hours early. I loved sleeping in the airport so much that I’m taking my snooze tour to Manchester Airport next month when I fly back from Milan and have to wait 6 hours for the first train home.

But Really Are You Eating Tho?

I pretty much made this whole section just so I can talk about veggie burgers. I really love veggie burgers. Anyway, we were looking for somewhere to eat on the second day as we had no plans, and after abandoning the meat eaters us vegetarians stumbled upon Istvanaffi. It’s like a combination of the choice at Subway and McDonald’s, except instead of Big Macs it’s oat burgers. Everything is vegetarian/vegan, it’s cheap, filling and delicious!

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Still dreaming about this meal

I literally have nothing else to put here because I’m almost certain every other meal I ate was from Tesco so… shout out to Hungarian Tesco and reminding me of doing my weekly shop in Durham?

 

And so the trip drew to a close, with me as usual not recovering fully before 7 days straight in work. I can’t pick a favourite city, but I know that I have so many favourite moments from this trip – from domesticated family arguments about carrier bags in the Budapest hostel to dance routines in a Czech carpark at 1am. Travelling does crazy shit to people, but I wouldn’t ever change it.

 

-Megan, listening to The Story So Far because pop punk isn’t dead (and I just got back into it)

Prague; tired legs, drunk bodies, cultured minds

Hello lovely people!

Onwards and upwards with more adventures from my European trip. Round 2 for my tour team signified my return to Prague, a city which firmly stole my heart this time around. It’s a beautiful city, with a much more traditional feel than Berlin. But, perhaps more importantly, the beer is cheaper… (thanks Eastern Europe).

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John Lennon Wall; the perfect opportunity for our first full group picture

How It Went Down

The team arrived in Praha Hlavní Nádraží at 9:30pm, leaving our new German friend (who had spent the whole journey laughing at our idiocy) behind. More importantly at this point my lovely college wife (don’t ask, I’ll explain later) Oana joined us; you bet I jumped on her in the station. We then walked to our hostel as it wasn’t so far from the station, checked in and made it our home for the next 2 nights.

The Hostel

This might be one of my favourite hostels I’ve ever stayed in. A Plus Hostel cost the equivalent of €18 a night, and god was it worth every cent.

We shared an eight bed room which was very spacious, and even had the exciting added extra of a table (you know you’ve done too much budget travelling when even a table excites you). The main thing I loved about the room was that the four bunk beds were arranged in a circular fashion, which made it much more communal than the traditional rows often used by hostels. It’s the little things.

LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE SHOWERS. After living in a flat with shower pressure that was more dripping hosepipe than hair-washing for a year this hostel’s showers felt like you were being pelted in the face, it was so good! The boys would like to make it be known that the men’s showers didn’t have curtains though, something which I only heard about once or twice (or eight times…).

Two words. Free. Breakfast. I’ve been disappointed by far too many hostel’s offer of a bit of bread and some weak juice to feel anything but apprehension for that kind of advertisement, but this breakfast was mad good. Cake, coffee, meats, bread, fruit, yoghurt, and a toastie machine (!!!) was a perfect way to wake up everyday. Oh and did I mention that this was all served in an underground bar/restaurant with the coolest aesthetic ever?

My final plus because this section has gone on for far too long already is that the hostel is located across the road from Florenc metro station, making travel super easy. However, it’s also a short walk away from most of the city’s main attractions, so we only found ourselves using the metro on our second day. When I next find myself in Prague I will definitely be staying at A Plus again.

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Look how spacious and communal it is! Fab fab fab hostel

Wait… What Actually Happened?

After arriving pretty late at night we woke up ready for a full day of sightseeing. As I said earlier we chose to do it all on foot, which definitely felt fitting in an older city. We saw all of the main sights thanks to our fabulous Eastern Europe correspondent Natalia, from the Astronomical Clock to Charles Bridge, the John Lennon Wall and Old Town Square. The main thing I loved about doing this was the wandering; cute little side streets, chilling in parks and getting to know each other on that level you never really get to until you travel together along the way.

After all that walking it only felt right to spend the evening sitting down. Naturally, we found a bar in which to do so. When I visited Prague for the first time in 2017 I stumbled upon U Vejvodu by accident when looking for somewhere cheap to have drinks on the last night of our trip. Turns out it’s a pretty big deal online, and more importantly it’s absolutely huge, with outdoor beer gardens as well as spacious indoor rooms. The night started with Czech beer costing a dangerous £1.50 a pint. Enter a lot of rounds of never have I ever, a few more rounds of beer, and we found ourselves at shots of tequila and absinthe. Safe to say I was a little worse for wear by the time we arrived back at our hostel…

My notes for day two start with the words “Big hill and tower – cool view but v hot”, which just about sums it up. The hill in question was Petrov hill, with stunning views across the whole city. Personally I was a bit out of it on this particular morning (no, it wasn’t due to the alcohol, which surprises even me), so I probably didn’t appreciate this opportunity as much as I usually would.

My highlight of the day was Prague’s beautiful Old Town, the area which surrounds Petrov hill. There we visited Prague castle, as well as spending a little more time taking in the architecture and general surroundings. If you take anything from this post, take that I love having a good wander and a good look at cool stuff.

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Natalia is wasted on Philosophy and Psychology, please harass @nataliagola on Instagram to become a full time tour guide

Obviously then we had to watch football come home, returning to our haunt from the night before for another beer alongside the game. To complete my middle-aged Englishman aesthetic I chose to put bets on this particular match (and by I, I mean Callum chose me some bets and I paid for them and pocketed the cash), bets which actually came through and won me £18. Thanks England, guess I’m a football fan now.

Our Unplanned Escape

Now, the plan was to leave Prague at around 9pm and take a night train onto our final destination; Budapest. Whilst this was only for half of the group due to the train being sold out, it seemed like a pretty solid way to wake up feeling refreshed in a brand new city.

Oh how wrong we were…

When the four of us arrived on the train, we were told (quite rudely, might I add), that our ticket had been booked for the wrong date. Arriving back on the platform we found that yup, our ticket was for the wrong month completely, after a nightmarish booking scenario involving lots of phonecalls and badly designed Czech websites. So, we obviously had to find another route.

We quickly discovered that the next train out of Prague that was heading to Budapest wasn’t until 6am the next morning. Now, I don’t know about you, but spending the night in an Eastern European train station was a little too on the terrifying side for me. There had to be another way. I mentioned earlier that only half of our group were taking the train, as the remaining four were opting for Flixbus, a Polish bus company who work just like National Express coaches in the UK.

FLIXBUS SAVED THE DAY; HELL YES! We were able to book four seats on the Flixbus our friends had been taking all along, and whilst it was a little bit of extra money and stress, personally I didn’t find the ordeal too horrific – it’s all part of the life of a traveller. There’s a lot of entertaining little stories to go along with the journey, but I think I’ll save those for the next post (hah, now you have to come back)

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Ok but Oana’s face is the biggest mood (Brno, near the Hungarian border, 6am)

So, that was Prague! A cultural gem best discovered on foot, with bar prices to die for thrown in for good measure. The city has definitely given me an appetite to see more of the Czech Republic – who knows where I’ll go next.

Come back next week to hear about my Flixbus “nightmare” (I’m still not sure if it was tragic or hillarious).

-Megan, listening to Mellow Pop on Spotify because I’ve gone mad

Berlin, the city of veganism, gayness and lefties

Hello lovely people!

It’s been a while since I posted anything, because I’ve hardly even been in my area, let alone my own house! Sorry not sorry though, because I’ve been having far too much (expensive) fun and now you will get far too many (overindulgent) posts.

So, let’s kick it all off with a throwback to the start of July. I spent a week travelling through Berlin, Prague and Budapest using pretty much every type of public transport possible with 7 other friends – staying in hostels, seeing the sights and drinking (a bit too much of) the beer. There’s going to be a post for each city because I am very extra like that, and in the interests of chronology we’re venturing to Berlin, Germany first.

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How It Went Down

After an uneventful train ride to Manchester and an overpriced airport pint, myself and my friend Ffion arrived in Schönefeld airport mid-Tuesday afternoon. We met the rest of our group who had arrived earlier that day from Warsaw and London before checking into home for 2 nights; Generator Prenzlauer Berg. We spent 2 further days in Berlin before taking a train to Prague on Thursday evening. All good in the hood.

The Hostel

At €27 per night, Generator was our priciest hostel, and whilst it’s difficult to compare value for money between Western and Eastern Europe, this was by far my least favourite hostel.

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I stole this photo from Google because I’m too shit at blogging to remember to take accomodation pics

We were greeted by a pretty grumpy receptionist, although to be fair I can sympathise as someone who works in customer service and also has to deal with the hell that is the general public. We had one room of three and one of four, and whilst they were small, they were pretty functional (even a mirror!), so no real issues there. The real problem was the school trip.

Yup. Come on holiday only to feel like you’re back at school again.

Thanks to my almost constantly awful luck we had been allocated the very room that the teachers had decided to sit in front of all night. Combine their chats with the screaming kids at 6am and it’s safe to say not much sleep was occurring in Berlin. This is my main gripe with hostels like Generator & Meininger; they’re just too big-business. I’ve stayed in some Generators with better atmospheres, but for me they always miss the home-grown atmosphere of the independents. I like those that are off the beaten track and communal, not chosen by teachers for their overzealous branding.

That said, the showers were alright and the public transport links were ridiculously close so I shouldn’t complain. It was okay, we were comfortable, I just wouldn’t rush back.

Wait… What Actually Happened?

Well, England were playing in the World Cup on night one, so that was basically required viewing. This resulted in us ending up in a locals-focused German smoking bar full of opposition fans, in which my friend Natalia got yelled at to leave because she didn’t want to drink. Carlsbergs all round then, mostly drunk by me, some thrown over me by Callum (I’m definitely not still bitter about that). On the plus side England won, so we quite rapidly paid the bill and got the hell out of there.

A big highlight for me was Museum Island. There’s an option to buy a ticket for all the museums on the island, but we decided against paying as it was quite expensive, and that would cut into the beer money. Instead we spent a good while just wandering around the area. Some of the buildings there are absolutely stunning, whether that be the museums themselves or the famed Berliner Dom cathedral. We even decided to walk from the island to see the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag, which in hindsight wasn’t our best decision on one of the hottest days of the trip, but I live to tell the sweaty tale.

 

 

Out of all of the museums we chose the DDR museum, because I fucking love Cold War era history. It was definitely worthwhile! The place was completely packed with information taking you right from the rise of Hitler to the fall of the Berlin Wall. I particularly loved their mockup of a typical East Berlin apartment during the German Democratic Republic, as well as the interactive exhibits throughout the museum.

 

 

You can’t go to Berlin without seeing the iconic symbols that map out 20th century German history, so we made sure to head to Checkpoint Charlie, the East Side Gallery of the Berlin Wall, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Checkpoint Charlie is very tourist-heavy now, with even a lovely ironic McDonald’s alongside it to cater to all this capitalism. Crossing the road however you’ll find information boards everywhere; plenty more fuel for my Cold War fix.

I love the East Side Gallery so much. It’s the ultimate fuck you. The Berlin Wall was the biggest symbol of division and oppression in the world for 28 years, so to see it transformed into an area of artistic freedom and diversity is just beautiful. To me it represents every value I hold of fighting for a better world for everyone, regardless of anything that may try to divide us.

 

 

We also visited the Olympia Stadion which I’m reliably informed is one of the last standing buildings that Hitler commissioned. I had no prior knowledge of this, but it proved yet again to me how much I love a good monument with a bit of past behind it. Also, quick fix for my architecture obsession, so I was very happy.

But Really Are You Eating Tho?

Berlin’s food is INSANE. Like, wow.

My biggest favourites were Vöner and Pizza Peppino. Voner is an all-vegan kebab place, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more content to eat a kebab whilst sober. Located in the vegetarian/vegan heavy neighbourhood of Ostkreuz, my vegan kebab was cheap, filling and served by very friendly staff. If you’re in Berlin you’d be mad to miss it. Pizza Peppino was a bit more of a random choice, as I can’t for the life of me remember what we were doing by Oranienburger Tor that lunchtime. That said, it was another cheap choice, and made sure everyone was full-enough to be satisfied by our train picnic dinner.

Special shoutout to Prater Garten for being the cutest beer garden I’ve ever drunk in – it’s not the cheapest but has such a cool atmosphere!

Other special shoutout to REWE supermarket for providing me with my supply of ricecakes and knockoff hazelnut spread for the week’s breakfasts; you the real MVP.

 

 

THAT WAS BERLIN, I’m going to leave it there before I fall asleep at my keyboard.

I wouldn’t think twice about returning. Berlin has a very modern feel to it, with efficient public transport, quirky neighbourhoods and it’s openness to veganism and us LGBTQ+ folks. However, it’s still steeped in history and geopolitics and I love it for that too. Basically, it satisfies my edginess, gayness, vegetarian tendencies, nerdiness and political interests all at the same time. I was one very happy Megan by the time I got on that train to Prague, if a little sad to leave such an amazing city behind.

Stay tuned for the more chaotic stories that are Prague and Budapest 😉

 

-Megan, listening to the Love Simon soundtrack like an actual piece of gay trash

A beginners guide to Interrailing, every 18-year-old’s post sixth form dream

Hello lovely people!

Last summer I took to the rails and headed out to Europe for my first Interrail trip. Myself and three of my friends had just finished our A-Levels, and fresh with our new-found freedom we smashed 12 cities across 9 countries in 14 days, hearing 6 languages and dealing with 3 currencies (definitely didn’t just include the stats because I think they’re impressive).

It was quite the adventure, but I’m not here to talk about the specifics of the trip. Instead I’m going to share all of my tips and tricks, as there are definitely things I did right and things I’ll be doing differently on my next Interrail style trip to Berlin, Prague and Budapest this summer.

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Yes, you can Interrail in the countryside too! (Schaan Vaduz, Liechenstein)

Before your adventure

Planning this kind of trip is a lot more complicated than a few flights and hostels.

First of all, you’re going to need a route. I’d reccomend Interrail Planner for doing this, as it allows you to visually map out where you’re going to go, complete with distances. You are going to have to make sacrifices. Sometimes a city is just that little bit too far out of the way, or it doesn’t make for an easy route. It’s also worth considering how long you want to spend in each city at this point. We spent either a day or two in each, which for most cities (save Paris, I always need more time in Paris) I found worked out just fine!

Next stop; flights, trains and accommodation. For flights, as always, I’d reccomend Skyscanner. If you can, search for flights from a few different UK airports near you, as there will always be one that trumps the other on price. Once arriving in Europe, you’re going to need a place to stay. We used a mixture of hostels and airbnbs to keep costs low. I want to do a full post on how much I love hostels, but I’ll give you 3 main tips for now; choose places with kitchens, don’t worry too much about location (most cities have excellent public transport), and don’t expect much from a free breakfast. Next stop; trains (they’re a bit of a nightmare). Some will need further reservations not covered by your Interrail pass, especially in Western Europe and on night trains. When booking trains I’d reccomend making travel plans that allow you as much city time as possible, whether this be by making use of night trains or early morning trips.

Also, get travel insurance and an EHIC. You never know.

 

 

How to pack, for those who have had their Mum do it their entire lives

If you think you’re taking a suitcase, you’re sorely mistaken. Invest in a hiking backpack (think dofe in year 10 style), and use a smaller day bag for sightseeing. Preferably one that doesn’t have to be held together with string by the end of the trip like mine did last year.

I’m not going to tell you exactly what to pack, because quite frankly there are hundreds of lists online. But there are some random things that you will 100% need but will 100% forget. You will need: an extension lead for trains with only 1 plug, a headphone splitter to share comedy podcasts, playing cards so you don’t have to buy some in broken French, a First Aid kit for when blisters strike, photocopies of your passport and ID, and a fanny pack, because they’re oddly versatile.

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Are we real backpackers yet? (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Dollar dollar bills (or Euros? Francs? Zloty?)

My main point here is DON’T TAKE CASH YOU IDIOT. If you lose your wallet (which I did in Prague…. who’s an idiot?), have it stolen or get in a fire somehow (???), boom, all your money is gone. Instead, I’d reccomend using a Caxton card. It works like a prepaid debit card which you load before or even during your trip, without any of the nasty international fees often charged by UK banks. It covers a lot of different currencies, and even for those it doesn’t, you are still able to withdraw money from the card in whatever country you’re in (found that out the hard way in Liechenstein). Alternatively, I’ve just switched my current account to Monzo because they allow international transactions without fees, but you don’t need to be so drastic.

As for a budget, I found that 25EUR per day on average was about right, plus the cost of hostels on top. Some cities like Paris topped this budget, but others like Prague went way below. Everyone’s happy.

 

 

Getting from A to B

You’d be stupid not to use public transport, especially as it is generally much cheaper and more efficient in Europe than in the UK. Upon arriving in a city I’d advise checking out what tickets are available to you for your stay, as sometimes there are deals for students, or those staying 24h/48h/72h. This is easier said than done when you don’t speak the language, which is probably why we got better deals in France and Belgium. That said, guessing and looking confused when the train man speaks at you in Czech works well too.

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We love the S-Bahn (Munich, Germany)

Keeping yourself entertained

You’re going to see and do a lot more if you sit down and have a quick google in advance. We each took a few cities and did some research, even if for Thomas this consisted of asking a random German lady on the train what she’d reccomend we do in Munich. Personally, I’d reccomend checking out travel bloggers and instagrammers, as well as just generally googling “things to do in x city”. Don’t make a rigid plan though, as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to stick to it and don’t want to spend the whole trip rushing around. Most of the time we took a few minutes the night before to work out what was vaguely close to other locations and came up with a rough idea of what we were doing. Make sure to take a student card if you have one, as many museums and galleries are much cheaper or even free!

 

 

Final tips

These are all of the random things that I couldn’t fit into any other boxes, but that I think deserve a mention.

STAY ORGANISED. To maximise your time and reduce stress, make sure you know exactly where you’re going, when you’re going, how you’re going and where you’re staying. A simple shared google doc or spreadsheet should do the trick.

For getting around I’d reccomend City Mapper if the city you’re in supports it, or failing that, Google Maps. Each app gives you a detailed travel plan including any public transport, which means you’ll be wasting much less time than you would staring aimlessly at Subway maps all day.

Document your trip however you can! You will thank yourself for your memories a year or twenty down the line. From our 2017 trip we have a vlog, the photos we shared in our group chat each day and a set of disposable camera photos each. For my 2018 trip I’m going to be doing the exact same, along with writing a diary each day.

Food wise, you want to keep costs low (more beer money right?). Breakfast for us consisted of rice cakes, chocolate spread and fruit on most days. Lunch options were either eating in a cafe if it was cheap, or heading to a supermarket and going picnic style with a baguette, cold meats and cheese. Dinner can either be something that’s quick and easy to cook in a big pot in a hostel kitchen (think spag bol and stir fry), or eating out depending on your budget.

 

 

So, now you have all the wisdom you need to go out and “find yourself” on a train in the Alps. For all I joke, my 2017 trip was easily a life highlight, and something I love looking back on all the time. If you get the chance to Interrail, take it. I can’t wait to be returning to the train-hostel lifestyle next week, and introducing my uni friends to it. LIVE THE ADVENTURE KIDDOS.

 

-Megan, listening to my release radar on Spotify because I’m so up-to-date and hip.

 

 

 

Durham is just a budget Edinburgh, so why not visit the better one?

Hello lovely people!

I’ve always wanted to become a travel blogger. Mainly for the pretentiousness, feigned image of being cultured and fitting into millennial ideals for once in my life. In reality, I’m just any other skint student wandering around with a backpack, trying to see as much as possible on as little money as possible. Still, doesn’t mean I’m not going to write about it.

Last Friday I took a day trip up to Edinburgh (I know, this travel blogging thing isn’t exactly starting with a bang, but just go with it). This was mostly to stop my friends’ incessant complaining about having never visited throughout the year, but also because on my last visit all I did was go clubbing and be hungover (thanks Hive). So we booked our train tickets, got up painfully early, and set out on our adventure.

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Travel

This section is largely self-explanatory. Due to my lack of car space, and everyone else’s lack of cars, we took the train up to Edinburgh. We chose to do an early start and a late finish, because the train tickets were cheaper we wanted to make the most of our day.

Buying bus tickets in Edinburgh is a bit pointless really, given that most of the main sights are at most a 20 minute walk from the main station. Didn’t do, wouldn’t reccomend.

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Natalia really likes cows, and I’ve never been exactly sure why

To See & Do

As a broke student, I always aim to make my travels as cheap as absolutely possible (tips and tricks guide coming soon), and Edinburgh was no exception.

Old Town

Walking around Old Town felt almost like I hadn’t left Durham with the prevalence of cobbled streets and hills. Nonetheless I’d totally reccomend setting aside a few hours during your day to just wander around this area, because you really will stumble upon some absolute gems, from cute independent shops to cathedrals and cafes. Avoid shopping or spending too much time on the Royal Mile though; this tourist hotspot is expensive and always busy. Instead, hit up side streets or the Grassmarket – you’re bound to save money.

Edinburgh Castle

Welcome to tourist-land kids. It’s nice to look at sure, even nicer to slav squat in front of, but do you really have £20 spare to visit it? The answer is no.

Scottish National Gallery

It wasn’t the first time I’ve visited this particular gallery, and it won’t be the last. I am a self-proclaimed idiot when it comes to art, but I can appreciate a pretty painting of a landscape when I see one. I’d also reccomend going to this gallery with friends with as stupid a sense of humour as you, so you can spend the entire time making jokes about the exhibits. To top it all off, it’s completely free! Thanks Nicola Sturgeon.

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Edgy emo kid looks at art for the first time

Holyrood Palace & Scottish Parliament

If your legs are getting tired by this point, these two are right next to each other – neat! We again decided not to venture inside either of these buildings because we’re poor, but it’s definitely a nice area to check out cool parts of history (I’m such a nerd). Added bonuses include the nearby Unknown Pleasures record shop (still not over how amazing this place was) and the fact that you’re surrounded by hills in this area whilst still being within Scotland’s capital city.

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Scottish Parliament, the only place to still use Gaelic

Food & Drink

I like food a lot. I also like coffee and beer. Hence this section.

Hula Juice Bar, West Bow

I’m obsessed with this place. It was our first stop of the day to refuel on caffeine, but I’m desperate to go back and try out their largely vegetarian and vegan menu. Not only was their coffee blend perfect, but the place had a really cool aesthetic (am I a millennial now?).

Deep Fried Mars Bar*

Can you really go to Scotland with your foreign friends without showing them deep fried mars bars? Answer: no. As always they’re a heart attack in a snack and not to be eaten on the daily, but super sweet and annoyingly tasty. *Best eaten with haggis for good measure.

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I love having heart disease

Toro Loco, Grassmarket

We collectively decided that by taking packed lunches with us (ultimate student travelling right there) we’d saved enough money on food and chose to eat in a restaurant for dinner. Toro Loco was the perfect choice; Mexican street food indoors (thanks to a typical Scottish rainy summer we didn’t fancy eating outside). I had some amazing bean quesadillas, with chips & guac for the table, totalling less than £6. A no-brainer really if you want good food at a good price.

Biddy Mulligans, Grassmarket

As it was raining, we were simply forced to spend the last part of our evening in the pub. What can you do? There was no better way to finish off the day than a pint of Tennents (when in Rome…), a little live music, pals and the football on in the background (I’m trying to learn to like it for world cup purposes).

 

So, my return to my Scottish heritage was, by all accounts, a lot of fun. Edinburgh is a beautiful mix of traditional and modern; the city’s industrialisation not hampered by it’s classic roots. I’m sure we’ll be back for more deep fried mars bars and whiskey before too long.

-Megan, pretending to watch the world cup as my flatmates pack up for home around me.

 

(Most of the photos in this post were taken by my absolute babe of a college wife Oana. Check out more of her photography here)

 

Meet the Blogger!

Hello lovely people!

Welcome to my (albeit not first) attempt at blogging! As someone who has written the description of the president of Durham University Orchestral Society on their website (thanks Laura), knows a bit too much about music and is so left-wing it hurts, I’ve decided to create a space for my musings on everything from music to politics.

So in the unlikely event that someone who doesn’t know me in real life is reading these (hi people from school I haven’t seen in years), here’s a little introduction to myself.

I’m Megan, I’m 19 and I’m just a paper boy from the North West (Courteeners anyone? No, just me…). I spend half of the year driving an 11-year-old Citroen to work and back in the Lake District, and the other half doing much more exciting things at Durham University. I study French & Spanish at St Cuthbert’s Society (possibly the best college in the world), meaning that essentially, I listen to Despacito on loop and drink too much wine (#culture?). When I’m not crying over the impossibilities of Medieval French I go to cool FemSoc things, try to get involved in my Labour Club, go to too many gigs and have a terrible habit of booking travels that I can’t afford.

I ALSO FUCKING LOVE MUSICALS. Just needed to shoehorn that in somehow.

I’m quite impressively awful at small talk and introductions so I think it’s about time to end this part here. Here’s to hoping this isn’t just a phase and I keep writing as the weeks go on.

 

-Megan, currently listening to Childish Gambino and complaining about how hot it is in the UK