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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Going on holiday

So one of the things you should know about me is that I’m a city person. I’m an introvert with a quiet personality so it often comes as a surprise to say that I love big cities. That’s often reflected in the places I travel to.

I was born in London and lived there for the first nine years of my life so city life was with me from birth. I still hold a lot of pride in being London born and bred, it’ll always be my favourite city and a place I think of as home.

In the last five years I’ve travelled to numerous cities spanned across 16 different countries including England. The emotional attachment I have to London means it’s never likely to be displaced as my number one destination but some cities have pushed it close.

One city I was particularly excited to tick off my bucketlist last year was New York City. If anywhere could rival my love of London surely it was the Big Apple? I had high hopes for NYC and it didn’t disappoint, I’ll dedicate a post to that at some point but, almost inevitably, it’s currently my favourite destination I’ve visited outside of England (London stays number 1).

Whilst NYC tops my travel list, one drawback to big cities is when do you find the time to relax? It was my first time visiting NYC with just a week to try and see as much as possible, including NYC based friends. Perhaps it’s just me but I often come home more exhausted than I was before I left. It does make you question why it’s often referred to as a city “break”. Where was the break? I’d have relaxed more at home!

So it got me thinking about the difference between travelling and having a holiday. I’ve travelled a lot in the last five years but how many would I consider an actual holiday? It’s certainly in the minority as far as my adventures go.

That’s not to say I have any regrets in where I’ve visited. I’ve completely fallen in love with many of the cities that I’ve visited. New York City, Sydney, Berlin, Amsterdam, Edinburgh and many more. The list is endless and there’s many more cities still on the bucketlist.

However I’m pleased to say my next trip was motivated by a desire to relax! I wanted to go away the week of my birthday and I’ve booked a trip to Greece in August! Sunshine, sunsets and a hotel with an outdoor pool! It’ll be my first visit to Greece too! Now the countdown begins!

Tell me, what’s your ideal trip? How do you find time to relax when visiting a city?

I look forward to your thoughts! Also, any tips for Thessaloniki would be much appreciated.

All the best!

Jason

The solo traveller.

Nervous about travelling solo? Still on the fence and need a little push? Then this is for you, here is five reasons you should take that leap!

It’s life-changing

Travel is full of clichés but some clichés are clichés for a reason right? Solo travel will change your life.

My first solo trip was to Sydney, Australia. I was terrified. I’d planned everything, saved everything, booked the time off work and started telling people I was going. I only had one person left to convince: me!

You can do so much planning for any trip but I think the hardest part of planning your first solo trip is mentally. Can I do this? What if things go wrong? Will I get lonely? So many questions run through your head, so many reasons not to go, so many reasons to play safe.

It took some time, having planned it for months I only booked my flights and accommodation THREE WEEKS before going to Sydney! The thought of solo travel is scary.

Having been and done it I can tell you it is worth it. If you can travel alone then you can do anything and it gave me so much more confidence. I don’t even hesitate in taking a trip somewhere now. If you’re not coming along for the adventure, I’ll adventure on my own!

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You’ll never go!

I was left with two choices for Sydney. Put it off and hope I’ll find the right company to go with someday in the future or go it alone.
I can’t possibly go alone so I guess.. I’ll probably never go.. damn.

Mentally I struggled and this is the thought that pushed me in to going. I convinced myself I’d never get to Sydney if I waited around.

Work commitments, family commitments, financial struggles, distance, arachnophobia, there were so many justifiable reasons for people to pass up the opportunity to go to Australia. These are always going to be there, arguably moreso as I get older.

If nobody else goes with me I’ll never experience that dream trip down under. Sod that!

 
More flexibility

I fancy steak but you’re a vegetarian. I want to see the Northern Lights but you’re planning on a sunny Winter break. You want to see the sunrise and I’m still hungover from the night before!

I love travelling with family and friends but sometimes you have to find a compromise when travelling with other people.

Solo travel means doing whatever you like, eating wherever you like and sleeping whenever you like. You’re the boss! The added flexibility sometimes gives you opportunities you wouldn’t have when travelling with other people.

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Making friends in Sydney.


Approachability

“Hey, did you want to join us?”.

Sometimes I find that travelling alone actually makes you more approachable to other people. As you don’t have to worry about anyone else you’ve got no reason to turn down the invitation for a drink or to go explore your new destination together.

Never put yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable or feeling vulnerable but travelling alone does give you opportunities to make new friends along the way.

This can work the other way too as you find yourself more outgoing and more likely to speak to a stranger. Whether it’s asking for that perfect photo opportunity, asking for directions or making small talk with the person next to you on a flight.

People are curious of the lone traveller and want to hear your story, why not hear theirs too?


You’ve got a story for those left behind!

It’s your experience, your recommendations, your story. If you’re travelling with someone it’s one less people to share / brag about your adventure with. Guess who has some really great Sydney stories?! This guy!

I’ve had friends who’ve since been to some of the places I’ve travelled to and being able to share the knowledge and my recommendations is a great thing to be able to do.

Hopefully this has helped push you a little closer to solo travel. Having company for your travels is a truly wonderful thing and has made a lot of my trips even better having a friend or loved one with me but solo travel has its perks too. Why deny yourself more adventure?!

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on solo travel.

All the best,

Jason