York!

I think one thing many of us are guilty of when it comes to travel is not seeing enough of our own country. One thing I certainly want to start doing more often is taking city breaks within the UK.

Last August I did just that. With a three day weekend and a friend hosting a charity gig, I had a good excuse to make a trip up to Yorkshire. I arrived in Northallerton later than planned. My train in London had come to a standstill and there was no sign of how long we’d be stuck, which meant a change of plan and running to the nearest tube stop in a hopeful attempt to reach Kings Cross before my train up North departed.
Frustratingly I’d missed my train by seconds through no fault of my own, that train departing the platform is the one I’m supposed to be on – which wasn’t the best start to my weekend. Fortunately it did get better from there and a fun night with a live band and a few beers made up for arriving later than scheduled.

The next morning I wished farewell to my friend and made the short train ride from Northallerton to York. I’d been to York 2 or 3 times before but only really to visit family, it always seemed to rain whenever I’d visit too so I was hoping for much more opportunity to explore this time and also better weather!
I arrived in a sunny York which was an encouraging start to the two days I’d be spending in York.

IMAG4068
River Ouse, York

York is one of my favourite English cities. It has so much history and character and you feel that almost instantly upon arrival. After exiting York’s main train station I was instantly staring up at the city walls. I was staying in a hotel outside of the city walls but on a relatively lively street with a few pubs, restaurants and shops nearby.

Still too early to drop my bag off at my hotel, I ventured past the city walls and in to the city of York. Merchantgate, one of the openings in the wall, had actually been closed off for the day to vehicles because of an event in the city. I was curious but overheard someone say it would be starting at 1 so figured I’d come back later on.

Ahead of me crowds were building, to my right was a staircase leading up to the city walls. Walking the wall seemed a much more attractive proposition than trying to hurdle the number of people along Merchantgate. It’s not something you can do in too many cities and an enjoyable walk along the wall. It’s also great for photo opportunities from a higher vantage point.

IMAG3961

Having walked across the wall I arrived at the River Ouse and thought it a perfect time to do a river cruise. It was a guided tour and quite interesting. Our captain pointed out a few points of interests and shared some of his knowledge about the city as we drifted along the river, a very peaceful way to spend an hour and thoroughly recommended.

After the cruise I headed back in the direction of Merchantgate to see what all the fuss was about. It turns out they had an event for soapbox racing. Watching bananas, Trojan horses, farmers, batman and more race through the streets of York was certainly an experience to remember. Each ‘car’ raced against the clock with the quickest finishers of the course heading in to the next round. It was very entertaining!

IMAG4071
The Shambles

I checked in to my hotel and then went in search of food! I stumbled upon one of York’s most famous streets known as the Shambles – a row of shops along a cobbled street with dimly lit lights in the windows to give it a real atmospheric feel. It was beautiful and I found somewhere near by.
Having stuffed myself with pizza, I finished my Sunday evening off in one of York’s many many pubs in the city.

Bank holiday Monday’s are famed for rain so it was a nice surprise to wake up Monday morning to further sunshine. A warm bank holiday, surely not?
After grabbing an on-the-go breakfast I headed for York’s famous Minster cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site. I’d passed it before but had never been inside. Despite following no religion I always find religious buildings fascinating to visit. The detail is incredible and the Minster no different in that respect. Definitely worth a visit when in York.

IMAG4081
York Minster

After a quick stop for lunch I visited York’s castle, quite unusual as far as castles go and situated on top of a small hill. Typically you expect the purpose of a castle to be used in defence of the city but it’s hard to see aside from the vantage point how this would have worked.
Despite the lack of purpose, you get some great views overlooking York which make it worthwhile visiting.

The rest of my day involved wandering the city, I particularly enjoyed the abbey and gardens close to the river – particularly beautiful with the sun setting.
I saw signs of a free walking tour which commenced in the evening. I’m generally a big fan of these and thought it’d be the perfect end to my trip but it was a bit of a disaster. My first clue as to how bad it was going to be should have been the low turnout. Come the start of the tour there was only around a dozen of us and that number dwindled over the hour that followed.

The tour guide was friendly enough and clearly loved York, however sadly I didn’t find the tour that interesting. Ultimately that comes down to personal taste and you can forgive that but the bigger problem was it was a walking tour with very little walking.
I wanted to see York and having only circled the equivalent of a block in 45 minutes I came to the conclusion it wasn’t going to happen.
By this point there were only 5 of us left and as I saw one couple making their escape I had to do the same. If I’d been the last man standing I would have had to see it out through pity so I passed off the grenade to the final couple and saved myself.

IMAG4181

With a wasted hour I went in search of a pub to have a drink before catching my train home. Despite a dreadful tour to end it, it was a great weekend.

I’d highly recommend a visit to York on any trip to the UK, or even if like me you’re already a Brit but just fancy a city break closer to home.

Have you ever been to York? What did you like / dislike about it? Let me know!

All the best

Jason

Sydney!

A family friend that moved out to Australia 25+ years ago was visiting England recently, it was a great chance to meet up – particularly for my parents and “the old gang” to reminisce of their youth and share stories from the past.

It got me reminiscing about my trip in the opposite direction. In February 2013 I made the trip down under to visit Sydney for a couple of weeks.
It quickly became a city I fell in love with so let me tell you why and what to expect if you make your own trip!

The sights!

I kick-started my trip with a ‘free’ walking tour. As a relatively new traveler at the time, this was the first of these I’d done. They’re common in most major cities and really help you familiarise with where things are in the city. They tend to cover most of the main sights and give you more information about the city and its history.

This particular tour was hosted by I’m Free Sydney Tour which included a city map and a bunch of recommendations/tips for your stay – both very useful and I’d thoroughly recommend using them in Sydney (I believe they run one in Melbourne too).

Sydney
First sight of Sydney Harbour!

The highlight of the tour was my first viewing of Sydney harbour. A real wow moment to see it for the first time and a part of the city I frequented often over the two weeks.

The best view of the city I found was surprisingly at Taronga Zoo across the harbour. It offers great views of Sydney’s skyline, opera house and harbour bridge – worth the admission price alone.


The people!

This was my first solo trip abroad – terrifying but I quickly felt right at home in Sydney. The fact it’s an English speaking country was a big help but the reality is that the people are incredibly friendly and make you feel welcome in Sydney.

True to its stereotype, Sydney felt very laid back and the atmosphere in the city and amongst the locals reflected that – particularly in the evenings!

SydneyFriend
Some of the people were more unique than others

The nightlife!

Unsurprisingly this didn’t disappoint. A personal highlight was meeting up with the family friend for an evening and enjoying Sydney’s nightlife. Sydney’s opera house has a fantastic outdoor bar overlooking the harbour which is perfect for watching the sun set.

I particularly enjoyed the atmosphere in an area known as “The Rocks” with its many bars but Australians love their beer as much as the English so wherever you end up for the evening, you’re likely to have an enjoyable time.

SydneyOperaBar
Beers, sunset, opera house – perfect!

The culture! 

As you’d expect from any big city – Sydney caters to everyone whatever your interests are. Australians love their sports and have several options including Cricket, Rugby, Tennis, Football (Soccer), Football (Aussie Rules) and much more.

If live music is more your scene you’ve got either the high-end with a world famous opera house or something more casual with plenty of bars playing music throughout the week and over the weekends. If you can’t watch a show you’ve got the option to do a tour of the opera house instead. Sydney also has a number of museums and other attractions to entertain you plus plenty of places to dine and shop!


The wildlife! 

Home to the kangaroo, the koala bear and more species that can kill you than any other country in the world means that Sydney has a lot of locations where you can see them. The Featherdale Wildlife Park was a favourite, a little outside of Sydney itself but if you’ve got a car then certainly worth a trip to have kangaroos hopping around at your feet and a chance to get up close with Koala bears.
Closer to central Sydney you’ve also got zoos and aquariums.

SydneyChineseGarden2
The Chinese Friendship Garden near Darling Harbour

The nature! 

Whether it’s enjoying one of the local beaches or just wanting to admire the view over the harbours, Sydney is a great place to just admire the planet we live on. Also home to a number of parks and gardens in often sunny climates means there are few better cities enjoyed from outdoors.

A little outside of Sydney are the blue mountains which make for a great daytrip. Within Sydney, close to Darling harbour, I’d also personally recommend visiting the Chinese garden of friendship – a little gem I thought that perhaps wouldn’t be on your list.

Have you been to Sydney? What were your highlights?
Feel free to share them or alternatively if you’re planning a trip then feel free to ask for recommendations / tips.

All the best!

Jason

Left to fate

So if you know me well you’ll realise that in addition to travelling, one of my biggest passions is football. I regularly go to games and it can be both a help and burden to my travels. A burden because one of the first things I look at before planning a trip is what games is a trip away going to clash with?

However, for now, let’s focus on how it helps.

I grew up on stories from my dad and his friends about travelling across England and Europe watching Spurs in their youth, I was so envious of it and it meant I had a fondness of European football from an early age. I’d heard so many stories of the “European nights at the Lane” and trips to various cities.

My jealousy wasn’t helped by the fact that Tottenham were rubbish throughout my childhood – European football was a rarity and I used to dream of seeing us play in Europe some day.
Fortunately it’s now an annual opportunity and Tottenham regularly compete in European fixtures.

I witnessed my first European fixture (in England) back in 2006 and it only helped that love of European football grow. I’d finally seen a European game at our famous home in London under the lights. The European nights were great but I’d still restricted myself to home games, a European away trip was still a dream of mine and item to check off the bucketlist.

Every year I talked about finally doing it but there was always an excuse – for the most part it was just a lack of confidence. Sydney (2013) changed all of that, it was then just a matter of the right opportunity coming along to make my first European away game.

Fast forward a year to a European night in London against Ukrainian opposition. The (probable) prize for the winners was a match against Benfica – an excuse to go to Lisbon and Portugal for the first time!
As Spurs went behind my heart sank, I was so adamant I’d go to Lisbon if we won and things started badly. My dream was slipping away from me. We turned it around and the scenes when we scored our 3rd goal will live with me for a long time. The block I was stood in went crazy. Lisbon was a real possibility and given the celebrations it seemed many aligned with my way of thinking that it was a “must-do” trip.

Lisbon
Trip to Lisbon for Benfica v Tottenham (Mar 14)

I got home from London at around 3am and booked my flights before going to bed. I was that excited at finally making a bucketlist item of mine actually happen. 30 years on (1984 – 2014) from one of Tottenham’s most famous nights in European football I was about to have a European adventure of my own.

My dad and his friends to this day still speak of the two 1984 games (in Brussels & London) and of all the great things my dad has seen in football it’s probably the one that makes me most envious.

Brussels
Trip to Brussels for Anderlecht v Tottenham (Oct 15)

Lisbon was amazing and I knew it would be the first European away trip of many. I’ve since been to a few further European away games which has meant my love of football has been a source of more European adventure. Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Germany – I’ve been fortunate to visit some wonderful places and cities because of football.

Florence
Trip to Florence for Fiorentina v Tottenham

In the traditional sense, most travellers choose their destination. The unique thing about travelling for football is the decision is completely out of your hands. I’m at the mercy of the luck of the draw to decide where I’m off to.
I’ve been counting down all summer to today because it dictates where I travel to for the rest of the year. Tottenham’s European fixtures for the rest of 2017 get confirmed today and it means I can finally plan another trip away. Hopefully two!

There’s 18 potential cities on the list: Madrid, Barcelona, Porto, Lisbon, Seville, Munich, Leipzig, Monaco, Kiev, Paris, Maribor, Nicosia, Turin, Baku, Dortmund, Rotterdam, Glasgow, Moscow.
Of those 18, Tottenham will be visiting 3 of them before the end of the year. It’s such a wide range of cities and I’m incredibly excited to see where we end up.

There’s some specific criteria, one of the key restrictions is you can’t visit the same country twice. So I won’t be going to Madrid and Barcelona for example. I have my dream trio lined up already but play along with me.
Three cities left down to fate to decide your next adventure. Which three would you be hoping for?

I’ll be booking my next trip before the day is over, I’ll keep you posted on the outcome!

All the best!

Jason