Girl Travels World – Top Five Places to Visit in 2018

 

It’s that inevitable time of the year when we are collectively encouraged to reminisce on the last 12 months of our lives. Personally, I’ve always preferred to look ahead. I must however, take a moment to be grateful for an incredible year of growth for Girl Travels World. Visitor numbers to the blog increased 345% (year to date) and number of views increased by almost 300% for the same period. I was fortunate to travel to fascinating destinations and bring forth captivating stories and images which hopefully played a small part in inspiring you all to travel more. Girl Travels World social media channels (namely Instagram and Facebook) also reflected the immense growth of the blog and now have a collective following of almost 25,000. For all of this I am grateful.

Furthermore, I’ve had the opportunity to form inspiring partnerships with worldwide destinations, luxury brands and work alongside exceptional PR companies, travel writers, bloggers and journalists. 2017 also brought me the good fortune of becoming a contributing writer for award-winning TikiChris.com and Seen in the City magazines. (Thank you to my editors Chris Osburn and Natasha Colyer for taking a chance on an inexperienced writer with a gigantic dream). All of this drove me to work as hard as I could to create the best content for my audience and brands I work with. As a result my rewards were plentiful and I am grateful.

2018 promises to be even bigger and better for Girl Travels World. With several key collaborations, travel documentaries and food related ventures all in the pipeline it is exciting to look ahead. To show my gratitude for the support I’ve received in the past year I’ve rounded up my top five (short-haul) destinations which I think you will all love. I’ve been to all of these places. They made the list because they are currently vastly underrated and I believe they will trend in 2018.

Happy travelling wanderlusters! Thank you for everything.

1. Lake District, UK

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Image – Conde Naste Traveller

2017 was the year that England’s largest national park was at long last declared a World Heritage Site. Located in the county of Cumbria it is home to Scafell Pike – the highest peak in England (YES, I’ve climbed it) and you guessed it…lakes. It’s the epitome of the picturesque green and pleasant land. Long hikes  through the park are highly recommended as is summiting Scafell Pike. You will need the help of a local guide to appreciate its wilderness and enjoy the astounding beauty of its caves, caverns and waterfalls.

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Image – Evening Standard

There are luxury cottages, local inns, log cabins, hostels and  bunk houses to stay in which are dotted around the surrounding area of the park. It’s a five-hour drive to The Lakes from London which means you can make it a road trip to remember.

2. Madrid, Spain

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This year I realised that Spain as a country needs a revisit. It’s a destination that Brits in particular take for granted. The number one city which needs an urgent revisit is Madrid. It is the home of Spain’s bloodiest battle during the civil war and is bursting at the seams with history. Landmarks and monuments for victorious heroes as well as fallen ones are dotted throughout the city and makes for remarkable walking tours.

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It must also be said that Madrid’s food resurgence is nothing short of incredible. It’s no easy feat to cling to your roots while moving forward in the name of change and modernity. But this city appears to have done it. From traditional tapas restaurants which have seen little change since the 19th century to Michelin starred gourmet restaurants the city now boasts it all. In under just 3 hours’ flight time from London you could be sipping a traditional chicken broth at the world’s oldest restaurant while picking on black label ham. Stay in five-star hotels or cool private rentals but remember to look at Madrid with new eyes.

3. Tallinn, Estonia

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This Baltic capital which is home to a Unesco World Heritage Site (The Old City) is beginning to make a name for its cuisine. Tallinn is seeing a generation of young chefs reviving its restaurants by adding new twists to traditional food. With a focus on local, seasonal produce delivered directly from farms there is a quiet food revolution in Tallinn. The city hosts Restaurants Week, twice a year, to promote the variety of food available. It’s a great time to visit if you want to sample the best of what’s on offer.

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The plot twist here is that this harbour town held the sailing event of  the Summer Olympic Games hosted in Moscow in 1980. V. I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport was purpose-built with facilities in preparation for the Olympics. The brutal grey structure, now eerie, abandoned and covered in graffiti stands as a cold reminder of a not so distant past. The building was renamed Linnahall and is currently under the city council’s authority awaiting renovation and construction. Go see this part of human history before it’s changed forever.

4. Tel Aviv, Israel

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Travel broadens our horizons and bring our focus back to the things which unite humanity rather than divide us. This is the lesson I learnt in Tel Aviv. I was grounded here for two days due to bad weather in London which gave me the perfect opportunity to do what I do best – explore. Tel Aviv’s promenade runs along the Mediterranean seashore and is a place for walking, jogging and generally showing off your physical prowess/perfection. All through the day joggers, yogis and sporty types practice their craft in full view of passers-by. At night, parts of the beach are floodlit for beach volleyball games.

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In the heart of the city approximately 15 minutes’ walk from the promenade is Carmel Market which caters to all your street food needs and funny slogan tees. Running parallel is Nahalat Binyamin Craft Market where you can browse for ceramics, jewellery and fascinating pieces of art along a long leafy street. Under six hours’ flying time from London and all of this awaits you.

5. Nimes, France

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Nimes is possibly the most underrated of all the cities on this list. It sits along the Cote d’Azure and enjoys hot summers and mild winters. It was an important city in the Roman Empire and the evidence is everywhere. A magnificent amphitheatre, Arena of Nimes, which dates back to AD 70 dominates the centre of  town. Maison-Carrée, a 2000 year old temple, is one of the best preserved Roman buildings in the world and sits alongside modern museums, coffee shops and galleries.

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Pradier Fountain (pictured above) greets visitors arriving by train and has been the centre-piece of the  urban garden Esplanade since 1845. What is baffling about this little town is that with such perfectly preserved Roman buildings it’s yet to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An application is due to be presented in the summer of 2018 and in my humble opinion I see no reason why it would be unsuccessful. Also, did I mention…Musée du Vieux Nîmes (free entrance) has a room devoted to Nime’s most famous export – it’s where denim was born. Go see this marvel of a town before the crowds get there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which Jane Austen?

But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. Jane Austen

(Extract from letter written to Rev. James Stanier  Clarke, 1st April 1816, in response to his advice on a plot for the next novel).

2017 marks the bicentennial of one of  the  greatest literary heroes of the English language – Jane Austen. Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford is commemorating it with an exhibition titled Which Jane Austen? It’s aimed to challenge the narrative we have been led to believe of her life.

A Life Unlaced

Upon Austen’s death, on 18 July 1817, concerned that an outsider may publish a biography, her family set about creating the image of a quiet spinster who wrote in her spare time. Anxious that they might fall in to the wrong hands, her sister and confidante Cassandra destroyed thousands of private letters. All but 161 survived. This largely shaped her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh’s publication A Memoir of Jane Austen (1869). At a time when public interest in Austen was stirring, the book was used to construct an image of a middle class country woman not motivated by “…the hope of fame nor profit…”. Thus manufacturing a contrived heroine.

“War, Empire and Business”

200 years on and the University of Oxford presents an exhibition challenging this notion of Austen. Curator of the exhibition, Kathryn Sutherland, presents a wartime writer whose world stretched from India to China, an ambitious woman who possessed an uncompromising vision and an unparalleled understanding of her craft.

Through a collection of books, letters and personal effects the exhibition unlocks an identity influenced by war, gossip, scandal and the political climate of her time. It provokes an author who spent most of her life in the shadow of war from the American Revolution to the Napoleonic Wars. Moreover, we discover a woman who savoured her professional career. She made regular visits to the capital when her books were in the process of publication. She nurtured and built a successful relationship with her publisher John Murray II. When her business day was over she enjoyed an active social life at the theatre, arts and culture in London. All of which are supported by Bodleian Library’s rich Austen material.

This is a remarkable exhibition which examines everything that influenced the author from childhood into her last days.

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Which Jane Austen?

So we come to the ultimate question – Which Jane Austen? I was introduced to Pride and Prejudice at the age of 15. When I turned the first page into her life I could have never known that decades later I would be browsing through personal letters, admiring her silk plisse dress and be mere inches a away from the desk where she penned what is arguably her most famous novel.

As a young reader I found her subjects uninspiring. I imagined (without evidence) her life to have been simple, her circles small and her relationships uninteresting. As I grew and my own world became bigger, wider and more exciting I abandoned Ms. Austen in favour of Marquez, Allende, du Maurier, Atwood.

The invitation to Which Jane Austen? therefore, was a chance meeting. Akin to bumping in to a jilted lover on a platform waiting to board the same train. Flight or fight? As I could no longer plead youth, I decided I would fight. So I set off to to the University of Oxford to see her once more. I was met with first editions of her major works, greeted by her hand copied music books and awed by a selection of hilarious short stories written in her childhood. As I moved around the room in silence she wooed me. I was enmeshed in her world – the one she really occupied. A world full of wonder, fun, excitement, wit, social consciousness, charm and elegance. It was difficult to imagine such an effervescent personality being contained in a small English country village resigned to her fate of dying a spinster.

Which Jane Austen? corroborates that she lived fully, authentically, uncompromisingly. Without a doubt she left an imprint on all those she encountered. Rev. James Stanier Clarke (Librarian to George, Prince of Wales) was so struck by her at their meeting that he painted an image of her from memory in his “Liber Amicorum” (Book of Friends).

Austen was a story teller of the best kind; one that could tell a story about a story. Her genius lay in weaving an under current of emotion and intrigue in to familiar routines, people and situations. What might otherwise be a mundane event transformed itself in to a gigantic wave under her penmanship. So, which Jane Austen you ask me? I choose the woman who’s life is displayed in the Bodleian. She will forever be etched in my memory.

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Which Jane Austen? runs until October 2017 at the Weston Library. Admission is free. For more information visit: www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson.

200 Years on – Which Jane Austen?

“But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter.” Jane Austen

(Extract from letter written to Rev. James Stanier  Clarke, 1st April 1816, in response to his advice on a plot for the next novel).

2017 marks the bicentennial of one of  the  greatest literary heroes of the English language – Jane Austen. Bodleian Library (University of Oxford) is commemorating this momentous occasion with an exhibition, Which Jane Austen?, challenging the narrative we believe to be true of her life.

A Life Unlaced

Upon Austen’s death, on 18 July 1817, concerned that an outsider may publish a biography, her family set about creating the image of a quiet spinster who wrote in her spare time. Anxious that they might fall in to the wrong hands, her sister and confidante Cassandra destroyed thousands of private letters. All but 161 survived. This largely shaped her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh’s publication A Memoir of Jane Austen (1869). At a time when public interest in Austen was stirring, the book was used to construct an image of a middle class country woman not motivated by “…the hope of fame nor profit…”. Thus manufacturing a contrived heroine.

“War, Empire and Business”

200 years on and the University of Oxford presents an exhibition challenging this notion of Austen. Curator of the exhibition, Kathryn Sutherland, presents a wartime writer whose world stretched from India to China, an ambitious woman who possessed an uncompromising vision and an unparalleled understanding of her craft.

Through a collection of books, letters and personal effects the exhibition unlocks an identity influenced by war, gossip, scandal and the political climate of her time. It provokes an author who spent most of her life in the shadow of war from the American Revolution to the Napoleonic Wars. Moreover, we discover a woman who savoured her professional career. She made regular visits to the capital when her books were in the process of publication. She nurtured and built a successful relationship with her publisher John Murray II. When her business day was over she enjoyed an active social life at the theatre, arts and culture in London. All of which are supported by Bodleian Library’s rich Austen material.

This is a remarkable exhibition which examines everything that influenced the author from childhood into her last days.

IMG_1076

Which Jane Austen?

So we come to the ultimate question – Which Jane Austen? I was introduced to Pride and Prejudice at the age of 15. When I turned the first page into her life I could have never known that decades later I would be browsing through personal letters, admiring her silk plisse dress and be mere inches a away from the desk where she penned what is arguably her most famous novel.

As a young reader I found her subjects uninspiring. I imagined (without evidence) her life to have been simple, her circles small and her relationships uninteresting. As I grew and my own world became bigger, wider and more exciting I abandoned Ms. Austen in favour of Marquez, Allende, du Maurier, Atwood.

The invitation to Which Jane Austen? therefore, was a chance meeting. Akin to bumping in to a jilted lover on a platform waiting to board the same train. Flight or fight? As I could no longer plead youth, I decided I would fight. So I set off to Oxford to see her once more. I was met with first editions of her major works, greeted by her hand copied music books and awed by a selection of hilarious short stories written in her childhood. As I moved around the room in silence she wooed me. I was enmeshed in her world – the one she really occupied. A world full of wonder, fun, excitement, wit, social consciousness, charm and elegance. It was difficult to imagine such an effervescent personality being contained in a small English country village resigned to her fate of dying a spinster.

Which Jane Austen? corroborates that she lived fully, authentically, uncompromisingly. Without a doubt she left an imprint on all those she encountered. Rev. James Stanier Clarke (Librarian to George, Prince of Wales) was so struck by her at their meeting that he painted an image of her from memory in his “Liber Amicorum” (Book of Friends).

Austen was a story teller of the best kind; one that could tell a story about a story. Her genius lay in weaving an under current of emotion and intrigue in to familiar routines, people and situations. What might otherwise be a mundane event transformed itself in to a gigantic wave under her penmanship. So, which Jane Austen you ask me? I choose the woman who’s life is displayed in the Bodleian. She will forever be etched in my memory.

FullSizeRender 165

 

 

Which Jane Austen? runs until October 2017 at the Weston Library. Admission is free. For more information visit: www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/whatson.