One of the most popular regions in the world to travel to is Southeast Asia. And there are plenty of reasons why. You get the experience of immersing yourself in an entirely different culture that feels a world away from what we are used to in the west. You can enjoy some magical natural scenery including the karst limestone cliffs of Halong Bay and the pristine white beaches of the Thai islands. You can enjoy plenty of delicious food and drink in the knowledge that it all costs a fraction of what it does back home. And since it is a place that attracts so many backpackers from around the world, you have the peace of mind that it is a very easy and safe place to travel around.
So is Helsinki, Finland worth visiting and is there anything to do?
Nah don’t bother, its boring as anything…
If you don’t know what to do that is!
Luckily you have me to help you out…
Helsinki, Finland may have a rep as being a tad boring and I can kind of see why.
From the outside there doesn’t seem toooooo much to do. After all, a lot of people who spend a week or more in Finland do so in the north. Here the nature is the main draw.
However, delve into the culture a little bit and do as the locals do, and Helsinki is definitely a city worth spending 2 or 3 nights in.
Here’s some pretty dope ass reasons you should visit the city:
Kauppatori (Market Square)
The Market Square is a pretty cool place to visit any day. Situated next to the main harbour you can’t miss the brightly coloured orange tents.
The stalls sell fresh fruit and veg, cooked meals, interesting clothing, souvenirs, and local trinkets.
As it’s next to the harbour you also have boats mooring up that sell fresh fish to market goers.
Frequently on evenings, when the market has set down, the square will play host to cultural events like the classic car meet up that occurred when I was there.
Located right next to Market Square are the ferry companies that provide transport to the islands in the Helsinki Archipelago.
Suomenlinna Island is the main island that people visit as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The site is actually 6 joined up islands that were an 18th century fort island built when Finland was part of Sweden to counter Russian expansionism.
Head over at sunset to catch some epic shots of Helsinki:
The pools and Saunas
While I was in the city I took a trip to 3 separate watering holes.
On my first full day in the city I spent pretty much all day at the Allas Sea pool.
This complex is situated in the harbour of Helsinki next to the big Ferris wheel. There’s 3 pools; one deep lane pool (where there is no lane discipline ffs), one shallow kiddies pool, and one deep pool filled with filtered sea water.
Theres also plenty of room to sunbathe on the deck or on one of the free deck chairs that are limited in number. Chilling here is a great option as you can soak up the sun, take a dip, and watch the cruise ships sail by.
On my second day I visited the Olympic Pool which is about a 20minute bike ride north from the city centre.
The 50m pool is great for swimming laps, there is also a little kiddies pool, as well as a deep diving pool which you can swim in and jump off the diving boards in the designated jumping periods.
Loyly Sauna is rated as the number one sauna in Helsinki, its around €18 for entry and well worth it.
The Sauna has a modern luxury feel to it and provides great food and refreshments.
After you’ve warmed up in the sauna theres a ladder leading down into the Baltic Sea for you to cool off in.
The beautiful people
From a male perspective, Helsinki contains the highest number of beautiful women I have ever come across in a city.
Fellow female travellers have said the guys aren’t too bad either. It must just be this Scandinavian genetics!
In my time in the city I met plenty of English, kiwi, and Aussie guys who have upped sticks and moved over to Finland after meeting the Finnish girl of their dreams. The rest of us can only dream…
Countless day trips from Helsinki
If you’re still wondering “Is Helsinki worth visiting?” then rest assured the city can be used as a base to explore many other parts of the country!
Many day trips are around an hour travel from central Helsinki and many will transport you to another world. Here are a few:
Porvoo – a medieval town that has narrow streets, cobbled roads, colourful buildings, and plenty of cute restaurants and cafe’s
Lake Tuusula – A Stunning lake with a 24km cycle road surrounding it. Home to many Finnish artists.
Nuuksio National Park – A national park that is almost completely unspoilt by humans. An idyllic get away.
Tallinn – A 2.5 hour ferry ride will take you to the capital of Estonia.
Theres something ridiculous like 700 docking stations in and around the city so you’ll never go somewhere and not have somewhere to dock your bike.
Fortunately, from my experience, Helsinki isn’t too hilly so the riding is pretty easy and the quality of the bikes isn’t too bad either.
A great way to see the city and surrounding areas.
Helsinki’s residents love to do things outdoors In their cities open spaces – of which there are quite a few.
I regularly saw large groups of people having BBQs and gatherings in the city parks.
During the day and especially of an evening you should take a trip to Park Esplanadi. This long thin strip of grass runs through a central part of the city and has a great atmosphere during the day and a buzzing one during the evenings.
The drone laws in Helsinki Finland.
As I’ve recently come into the possession of a drone I’ve quickly had to become savvy on drone laws wherever I’m flying.
Many countries I feel, are overly strict with their laws which is a real shame as it restricts you a lot with where you can fly your drone – sometimes nowhere it seems.
Thankfully however, Finnish drone laws are sensible, practical, and follow a common sense approach.
There are 3 no fly zones within the city of Helsinki which are around government and other important buildings.
The rest of the city you can fly in as long as you’re not exceeding 150m and not above large crowds. That lets you get epic shots like this:
So, is Helsinki Finland it worth it?
These are just 8 reasons why Helsinki, Finland is well worth a visit for around 2 or 3 nights.
Helsinki is slightly more expensive than other western countries but no where near the prices you will find in Sweden, Norway, or Iceland. A short break can be more than manageable for the budget.
In addition to the reasons noted above there are of course your usual city walking tours, churches to visit, and beaches to lay on.
If you’re planning on staying longer in Finland then its probably worth including the north of the country in your itinerary. Here the natural landscape can provide countless activities on a longer holiday.
Written by Michael
Do you always run out of room in your suitcase? Is your bag always too heavy? Here are a few useful packing hacks that could help to eliminate your packing problems forever.
Guest posting on sites is an essential weapon in any bloggers arsenal. Writing guest posts for other sites or accepting posts to your own site can get your blogs name out there, increase your rankings on search engines, bring in free content for your site, and create some lucrative income.
If you want to take your blog to the next level, you need to know how guest posting works.
With guest posting, the key is to make each exchange mutually beneficial. Both parties need to benefit in some way in order for guest posts to work.
In its most basic terms, one party will gain content for their site and the party providing the content will include links within this content that will help their website gain exposure.
As your influence increases and your blog grows, you will start to benefit more in different ways from these exchanges.
As your influence increases, companies, individuals, and agencies will offer more to you, for less in return – all for the chance to be exposed on your blog.
It makes sense – the more exposure something will get when it is placed on your blog, the more someone is willing to do to get it there! Let’s get into guest posting and what you need to do ….
Guest Posting on Sites for Free
When first starting out it’s essential to write guest posts on sites free of charge. This can literally be any website that will give exposure to your blog.
For instance, as I run a travel blog, I emailed every travel agency, airline, travel magazine, and product maker out there pitching my guest posts. I’ve included an example email pitch below:
The bigger the following the company you write for, the better. Guest posting on sites such as a big travel company might give you as much exposure and writing posts for 3 smaller travel blogs.
However, every link to your site that you get out there will help overall!
What’s in it for you? Within the piece of content, you’re going to include a link or two to your website and also ask for your author bio to be included at the bottom of the page., this should be about 100 words max.
The other site gets free content and you get a backlink on their site. Win – Win!
Accept peoples/companies prewritten guest posting on your site for free
Once happy you can copy and paste the content onto your site, format it, and publish it. Of course, send an email to the party that supplied the content to let them know its published!
As your site gains more exposure, people will want to start placing links on your site for their own benefit.
Bloggers are going to do what you did in step 1. They’ll get in contact, offer you content, and include links to their site in this content.
You need to review the content, make sure its suitable for your site and make sure you’re happy with the links included. I personally don’t include links to gambling or money lending sites.
Write posts for your own site including links to other sites for a fee.
Marketing companies are soon likely to get into contact asking you to write posts for your own blog and include links to their client’s websites.
You will likely have to submit a blog post idea for approval then once approved and you’re happy with the links then you can start writing away. Once you’ve finished writing the post you’ll probably have to send them the finished article for approval before you publish it.
Companies will offer to pay you a fee for this. Typically, this starts off at $20-$30 per post. This price will increase the bigger following you have and the more influence you have as an influencer.
When you’ve published the post make sure you email the company the link, this is often a requirement before they will pay you.
Accept prewritten guest posts for your site for a fee
The pinnacle is when companies will pay you to publish their prewritten posts with links to their clients.
So far, I’ve had a few of these, a couple have paid $100 for me to essentially copy and paste a well written blog post onto my blog and publish it.
With a little formatting work that’s essentially $100 for 5 minutes work – not bad! These companies can pay you through PayPal and in order to be paid you will need to send them a link to the post when it is live.
This progression of guest posting on sites will happen at different speeds for different bloggers.
If you provide 10 guest posts in step one this will start you off very well on your guest posting journey! Don’t get disheartened if it takes a while for steps 2 and onwards to occur – it might take 6 months or more, but it’ll be worth it.
It is also important to note that during your guest posting journey you should continue to create original content for your own site! If you become over reliant on guest posts you might become lazy and never write your own content!
Blogging is amazing, but it isn’t a simple and easy journey, keep at this and your little baby will continue to grow and grow ☺
Written by Michael
I’m going to be honest with you;
In my 26 years on this planet, I’ve had 2, maybe 3, new years eve celebrations that have come close to living up to the expectations that come with the night.
Travelling is undoubtedly extremely exciting and very rewarding, but it can be a bit of a nightmare at times too. Planning, packing, navigating your way through international airports – they can all cause you a major headache at times. The goods news is I’ve put together some Seasoned Traveller approved travel tips to make your next adventure a bit easier:
Sometimes the lure of wanderlust is so powerful that you just want to take off and go on a whim. After all, isn’t that the ethos of travelling? It’s about freedom and following your passions, and wandering wherever your heart takes you. Unfortunately, real life gets in the way of this dream. However, it is still possible to jet off and follow those dreams (for a while) if you solve a few everyday problems first:
When going on holiday, the last thing anyone wants to experience is rain. Unfortunately, no one can control the weather. While Swansea is filled with so many scenic walks and beautiful beaches nearby, it doesn’t mean that you have to sit and sulk in your hotel room if it is raining. Below, we reveal some of the best things to do in Swansea when the weather is bad. After all, it is always good to have a backup plan.
Planning a visit to China sometime soon? If you have never been before, you might find that planning your trip can be a little overwhelming. It’s such a vast country, that there is so much for you to see and do, there is just no way you will be able to fit everything into one trip no matter how long you are visiting for. To help you decide what you need to see on your first ever time in China, here are some of the country’s highlights.
A lot of people out there dream of travelling the world. They dream of snorkelling in the clearest possible, the adrenaline rush ofclimbing a mountain, or exploring new cultures that are vastly different from their own. The world has so much to offer a person, you just have to be willing to put yourself into the world and look for those things.
For many people, moving to Australia is the dream of a lifetime. Lots of people, and for good reason, believe that the quality of life down under is much better than that at home. The wages are higher, the houses are bigger, and the beaches are amazing! Not only that, but the weather on the other side of the world is a lot sunnier than up here in the northern hemisphere! Of course, with everything there are downsides; the cost of living is higher and you’re pretty far from any other country. However, the pros often outweigh the cons and Australia is a top destination to emigrate to! No wonder; with 3 Australian cities appearing in the world’s top 20 most livable!
If you’re a keen skier then you’ve more than likely been to your fair share of ski resorts. You’ve most likely experienced what it’s like to ski in each of the countries most famous for snow topped mountains and the resorts the sit at their feet. You’ve probably even been to your fair share of ski towns for some after-slope refreshments. However, as good as it is to see and experience different kinds of slopes and ski resorts, wouldn’t it be nice to find the one that is perfect for you? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to plant your flag firmly into the ground of a piste (metaphorically, of course) and decide that this is the one for you? If you’re in the process of finding your perfect piste paradise, then make sure to take heed of the three great pistes listed below before you come to your final decision!
A lot of stuff happened in Heavenly Village, South Lake Tahoe whilst we were there; I lost my drone and a GoPro to the wilderness, we tasted the best pizza in the world (Jeremy Clarkson voice), we were nearly blown away by the ferocious winds on the lake shores and we skied in some of the best skiing conditions on planet earth – it was memorable to say the least!
Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America – and you have to travel there.
I have to say, the start to my Sky Garden adventure was a rather annoying one; a very well dressed security guard jumping up in front of me to stop me taking a photo of the entrance lobby was not what I expected – I still got the photo though 😉
This blog has been steadily growing recently – I’ve been putting more and more effort into it (I’ve even set up an Instagram account!) and hopefully it is showing!
There’s a lot I want to do with this blog and I’m starting to plan these things out and actually get off my butt to do them! So here’s your comprehensive guide to whats coming up in the next few months!
So it turns out you guys are pretty interested in finding ways to work and travel at the same time! I guess keeping the bank balance healthy while fulfilling that wanderlust is pretty appealing. You guys loved the original 4 Ways to Travel for Work, now here’s another 4 for you to digest!
So apparently London is going to fall apart since we’re now leaving the EU. Somehow, I think this glorious city is still going to be around for a while. So, why not pack a bag, hop on over to old Blighty and breathe in British traditions whilst being surrounded by this ever changing city.
You have a whole month to spend travelling one country!? lucky old you! Good job you’re visiting Thailand, a country where you could travel for about a year and still not see everywhere. Here’s your ultimate guide to spending 30 splendid days where you can white water raft down rivers formed by huge waterfalls, chill on the beaches, visit the golden triangle, swim in emerald blue pools or chill in a hammock surrounded by mountains, the possibilities in Thailand are endless…
A couple of years back I spent an amazing month in Thailand. Throughout my time there I fell in love with a completely different culture which is bonkers, beautiful nature, great people and food that was SO GOOD. Thailand is also ridiculously cheap compared to the west; try £3 for a slap up meal that will stuff you and £10 a night for a 3 star hotel.
As I sit here writing this post in the common room of my hostel in San Francisco, a somewhat serene scene is being played out in front of me. It’s a scene played out in hostels all across this blue and green marble upon which we live. You have the numerous slaves to their screens (I’m one of them at this moment in time) who are in their own little world. However, amongst these examples of social de-evolution are individual stories being played out that are unique and immensely interesting to watch.
Part two of the America Series sees a trip to Mount Lemmon which is just north of Tuscon, Arizona. This was another awesome trip Annie had planned for us. Weirdly, I didn’t see a single lemon on the mountain.
I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I’m a westerner. I’m used to living in the sometimes confusing world of consumerism, capitalism and all the traits and norms that come from living in this type of culture.
Prague is a truly pimpin’ city; a mesmerizing and bloody history – including being the medieval astronomy and alchemy center of Europe, a great nightlife and loads of quirky activities for you to indulge in both day and night. Here’s your comprehensive guide to this awesome city…
Budapest is a gem in the crown of European cities. It’s grand architecture, great bar scene and countless spas and pools make it a must see destination. If you haven’t visited Budapest you sure need to. Here’s how to do it right… Continue reading “Budapest You Beauty – City Guide.”
Written by Michael
Today’s explorers have a small problem; every things been found.
The word explorer conjures up images of men on ships centuries ago blasting through the seven seas and discovering new lands. You’re struggling to think of any modern day explorers right? Well, modern day explorers do exist, and they’re all over the world, allow me to explain… Continue reading “Crush The Status Quo & Explore.”
Written by Michael
America’s pretty cool. I’ve been at summer camp here in Maine for 3 weeks now and haven’t posted about it yet. I’m trying to get away from the ‘Today I did this’ kind of post which to be honest I find kind of boring. Instead I’m trying to write specifically about destinations. So luckily on our first day off camp we visited Portland, Maine, which amazingly turns out is a destination… great success! Continue reading “Portland, Maine.”
Written by Michael
Ah, the final leg of my 3 month journey. I was leaving the land of Chic Fillet, devout Christians and crazy drivers (that’s the south in a nutshell) to return to the Big Apple. The next day I would board my final flight which would take me home to London.
I arrived in New York La Guardia Airport after an enlightening flight with Frontier Airlines. The 2 hour flight was about $90 so I can’t really complain but the seats were about as thin as a piece of card and hard as nails. They also had barely enough leg room for a hamster which was an issue for me and a fellow 6ft 4er sitting behind me. There were spare exit seats but they cost $80 and no amount of shocking flirting got me one for free. I also found it pretty funny that when us passengers weren’t listening to an announcement the cabin crew lady shouted down the PA system; “Helooooooooo”. You could see it was budget airline and I found it pretty funny, but the flight was actually fine.
In New York I was to be staying one night at Q4 hostel in upper Queens but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to get there on the subway from the airport. In London I’m used to there being an underground map everywhere I turn and helpful staff waiting to assist you. But I swear there was not one map on the subway station so I was forced to do that age old thing of talking to people. Eventually I got to my hostel which was probably the nicest one I had stayed at all summer to be fair. The shower was big and super warm whilst the beds were singles and large enough even for my gigantic form. I played pool with a few guys from the hostel then made a final pack of my backpack and fall asleep for the final time on American soil.
The journey to the JFK the next morning was a really pleasant one. To get to the airport you get the AirTrain which is a kind of monorail that sweeps through the city and has great views over most of the buildings. I checked in at the airport with Virgin which is the standard airline Camp America peeps fly with then hit the duty free. I’d somehow forgotten to get my mum and dad presents when I was travelling (bad I know) so a bottle of New York wine each from duty free was a good purchase at the airport! I got to my departure gate pretty early and was glad because it was right at the end of the terminal and had a huge glass end where you could see loads of the airport. I sat there for a good half an hour just watching all the goings on that were happening below and took a pretty good time-lapse.
On the flight the age old problem of my enormous legs popped up once again. Exit seats on virgin are about $70 extra and I aint paying that! On the flight over from London I just asked the steward very nicely and he discretely bumped me up to an exit seat for free without the paying customers noticing. Having done that I thought I’d try the same back to London.
They were having none of it.
I asked one lady and she insisted I paid the extra. Thinking she might be in a bad mood I asked another stewardess but she had the same answer. Not one to give up, I employed a new tactic; annoying them. I decided that my legs were not comfortable behind the chair in front of me so stuck them out in the aisle and went to sleep. Needless to say I got in their way and after about half an hour and 6 trolley journeys past my legs the stewardess came over and said I could move to a bulk head seat that had more leg room! VICTORY!
I sat down in my new seat feeling like a baws. I was now sitting next to lady who had a son who was in competitive swimming and we spoke for hours about the swimmers life and the world they live in. Time flew and we had landed in Heathrow before I knew it. Bags collected, through the border and then out the airport to meet my dad who was picking me up after 3 months way.
I was back on English soil and in a car heading home to my own bed. I didn’t shut up the whole way home with my countless stories to tell.
Thoughts and feelings to follow; it’s going to be emotional.
Written by Michael
Atlanta would be the last stop on my 3 week long journey down the east coast of the USA and also my last destination with my travel bros Kyle and Marc. I had planned on making it down to Miami in Florida but to be honest I had a pretty good time in the last couple of weeks and my bank account had suffered for it! I could still afford to go to Miami but I would constantly be worrying about spending too much money and I think if you go to Miami that’s not the way you want to do it! Alas, there will hopefully be another time I’m in the states and I will be sure to travel Florida and much more the proper way!
We were travelling to Atlanta to visit another good friend from camp, Kailey. We were visiting her at her university (college for ya’ll American folk) which was just outside the main city. Before we even got to Atlanta we probably made one of the worst decisions of our entire journey. In order to get to Atlanta at a reasonable time for Kailey to pick us up we had to book with another bus company other than the trusty old Megabus! We decided to book with the company Greyhound and were optimistic of a good journey. Our optimism couldn’t have been more misplaced. From the customer service at the bus station to the 50 year old bus we were on to the crappy seats with no leg room, it was shocking! Unfortunately I didn’t have another bus journey in the states as I was flying to back to New York from Atlanta to fly home. Forgive me Megabus for betraying you; I’ll never be so silly again 🙂
Kailey met us at the bus station and was instantly pissed because we were apparently dropped off in ‘the hood’ where bad stuff happens. To add insult to injury when we got to her car it had a clamp on it! Thee a big guy dressed in all black with shades and a snap back who came over and explained that Kailey hadn’t bought a ticket and it was $70 to take it off. I was well suspicious of this dude. Not only did he look like a drug dealer but private clamping in the UK is illegal so I was thinking ‘he’s a blasted criminal!’ turns out he wasn’t and it was all legit and $70 late we were on our way to Kailey’s university.
After a very nerve wracking ride where my hands got pretty sweaty (Atlanta divers are insane and have a death wish) we arrived a Kailey’s Uni. We chilled there for a bit then hit the local arcade in the evening! The deal of the night was Laser tag, arcade credits and 2 hours bowling for $12! We were meant to get 20 credits each but we ended up with 50. So lots numerous toys were won and hundreds of zombies killed!
The next day Kyle and Marc left for Nashville. This meant I was to saying goodbye to them for the final time. We dropped them off at the bus station in Atlanta and a couple of man hugs later they were off. I was staying one more night and the next day Kailey and I went to my 3rd baseball game of the summer. To be honest baseball is the most boring sport I’ve ever watched. It’s even worse than cricket; at least in cricket they hit the ball more than a dozen times in the space of 3 hours.
To be fair the first baseball game I went to was pretty fun. That was a minor league baseball game that the whole of the camp staff went to. It was a lot more personal; the players could hear what you were shouting at them and the atmosphere was just more fun. Plus it was free!
After the baseball game it was time for me to leave at Atlanta and catch a flight to New York. There I would stay one night in a hostel then catch my flight from JFK the next day to return to London! I said my goodbyes to Kailey when she dropped me of at the airport knowing she was the last person from camp I would see this summer! I had a few hours to my flight so once checked in I hit up the main lounge area, pulled up a chair, tied my bags to myself then caught a well needed nap.
Written by Michael
North Carolina was the first real southern state I would be visiting on my travels through the country. I was going to be arriving in the capital Charlotte and staying in a small town half an hour’s drive away. I was told to expect ‘southern hospitality’, lots of Chic Fillet’ (a southern food chain) and the streets to be empty on a Sunday as everyone would be at church. Many people also asked why I was going to Charlotte – ‘Eugh, why are you going to Charlotte?’ was the common question. The simple answer was that Kyle, Marc and I were travelling to North Carolina to visit our best friend from over the summer – Sasha, and it turned out to be one of our most enjoyable destinations yet!
We arrived in Charlotte on the trusty Megabus to find a beaming Sasha excited to pick us up! It was late in the afternoon and we had agreed to get food when we met, so we put our bags in Sasha’s car and drove straight to a Mexican restaurant. Here we had the biggest cocktails that I’ve ever had; they were large on the menu and they meant it! We also nearly got in an argument with a grumpy old man sitting behind us because we were apparently moving around too much on our bench. Knowing this was the south I pretended to be gay in order to piss him off that little bit more (you can see his head in the photo below). I ordered the meatiest food I could find on the menu which included shrimps, steak and chicken which was duley devoured.
After the Mexican restaurant we popped into a bar for a drink then headed back to Sasha’s apartment where we would be crashing for two nights. Sasha’s apartment was lovely and cosy with 2 sofas to crash on and a blow up bed for the lucky one of us. Sasha had bought a small brown dog just before we had arrived and it was instantly petrified of us when we entered the apartment! The Dog was running around barking and growling at us and i didn’t trust it from the start! I think she was a rescue dog and had a chequered past which made her this way. Never the less she seemed to have calmed down a bit after we had settled in. Or so we thought. There we were engaging in the classic Netflix and chill on the sofas while Kyle was on the floor next to the dogs bed trying to make a friend. All of a sudden when Kyle got too close the dog started growling an went for his finger! We were all pretty shocked then Kyle showed us his cut and bleeding finger! Sasha tended to it so the bleeding stopped and then told her dog off. I made sure not to go near the dog again – crazy bitch. We watched Netflix for the rest of the night then hit the hay.
The next morning I was up at 7.30 am while Kyle and Marc were still asleep as I was going with Sasha to her high school swim team practice. I was going to help coach the 1 ½ hour session with her as we had been the camps swim coaches over summer where she had always talked about her high school swim team and how proud of it she was! We arrived at the pool and I was amazed at how good it was! 3 high schools shared this pool and it had TWO 10 lane 25m swimming pools all prepped and ready for competing! Back home it is unheard of to have secondary schools with swimming pools like this unless they’re the top private ones! Even community pools in London only usually have 1 25m pool! You can really see why the Americans dominate swimming on the international stage! The session was good fun, there were about 20 kids ranging in ability and they listened well and enjoyed the new things they tried out!
After the session we grabbed a coffee to stay awake then headed back to the apartment to pick up Kyle and Marc as it was time to go to work at a car wash! The car wash was Sasha’s high school drama departments fund raising event to raise money for the department play. We had a space in the local Chic Fillet’ parking lot to wash the cars and had kids standing by the main road with car wash signs and donation boxes. The community in the local area really support the high school. A fair amount of people come through to get their car washed and people even pulled up just to donate without getting their car washed. We 3 guys got stuck in and I took responsibility for making the wheels and hub caps extra shiny while the other people were in control of the hose and washing the body! It was a fun time but the kids were going to be there for a few more hours and we had a big last night ahead of us so we headed back to the apartment to have showers and chill. That night we headed out to the outskirts of Charlotte to a bar with giant Jenga and Battleships. Once we had played enough games we then headed to a Brewery bar. I forget the name of the brewery bar but my god it was amazing! We arrived at around 10.30 and it was packed with people having a merry good time. We found a high table with some stools and promptly ordered a tray each of 5 small glasses of different beers brewed in the local area. They ranged from pale ales to stouts and all tasted great! Kyle then ordered some bread sticks with a pot of cheese to dunk them in and my word the cheese tasted amazing, i couldn’t get enough of it! Impressed by the quality and taste of the food I expectantly ordered steak tips. I wasn’t disappointed- the steak was magnificent and I would have ordered more if I knew I could eat it! Truly blown away by the food we had eaten and the drinks we consumed we left the brewery happy bunnies and headed home for the night.
MY next stop was going to be Atlanta which was to be my final stop on this trip before heading back to New York to fly home. I had planned to make it as far south as Florida but without realising it I had pretty much spent all my money that camp had payed me and I wanted to have some dollar left over when I returned home. As a result I brought my flight home a week early. I dint really mind though, I had seen so much of the states so far and 1 week less wasn’t a killer. Plus, I had already made my mind i was coming back to the states one day.
North Carolina and Sasha were great to us. When people ask again; ‘Eugh, why would you want to go to Charlotte?’ I’ll tell them; ‘Because it’s a bloody cool town, with amazing people, amazing food and that all important southern hospitality’.
Written by Michael
Stepping off the Coach in Washington DC at midday I was greeted with a wall of heat and humidity that that made you feel like you were in the Mediterranean – minus the sea breeze! We arrived at our hostel slightly sweaty and dropped off our bags as check wasn’t for a couple of hours. There was no sign of Kieran at the hostel but we had more pressing matters on our hands – food. This was not just any old food though. Back home in London I often visit the church of the chicken gods, i.e. Nando’s, and devour their scrumptious meals. I had no idea Nando’s was even a thing in the USA, but Dan said there were actually 4 in the USA and he was planning to visit all of them on his travels. Even better, there was a one in DC!
A short walk from our hostel was this rare American Nando’s. Inside it felt like home, the set up was the same and I ordered my usual; a whole chicken and 2 small sides of chips and macho peas – gotta have the greens! I liked the fact that on their menu Nando’s called slices of cooked potato by their proper name of chips, and then put fries in brackets next to it.
Back home I usually just about manage to finish the whole chicken and two small sides. However, when my food came out they had given me two large sides! I knew it would be a tough ask to finish it! I munched my way through it but no amount of breaks or sips of water could help me finish the monster meal. I was defeated for the first time by a Nando’s meal. At the end of the meal I was deep in a food coma and we sat there for a while mustering the will to get up and leave.
Eventually we gained the strength to leave and we went back to check into our hostel where we were reunited with Kieran. There he informed us that the Rocky steps were still closed the previous night where he left us at the karaoke bar and he didn’t get to run up them! I guess It just wasn’t meant to be! We settled in, chilled out in the communal sitting room then had a few drinks in the back garden.
The hostel we had checked into was called Duo Hostel – everyone I knew who was in DC (Dan, Kieran, Raska, Marc and Kyle) had all booked here as it had the best ratings out of all the hostels in DC. The hostel itself was great with great facilities, but the staff, my god the staff were annoying. I don’t often have a bad word to say about hostels but two of the staff just didn’t have a clue how to talk to customers and blamed you if something went wrong. For instance; upon arrival I wanted to book an extra night at the hostel so I did this with the lady at reception. She then told me after i had payed that i would have to check out at 11am then check back in at 3pm as I was moving rooms. I told her she should of told me this before I had paid and she said I should have assumed that was going to happen and she didn’t understand what my problem was. I asked her to keep me in the same room but she said that she couldn’t change it without a manger. A few minutes after this she decided to have little moan to the manager about what had happened, she done this in front of me and my friends! Luckily the manger saw the light and told her what she had done was wrong and he corrected the booking so i wouldn’t have to check out and back in. Justice served, but man she shouldn’t be working in a hostel! Anyway that’s my little rant over with. Had to get that off my chest. That night we had a few drinks and met some really cool people in the hostel who we chatted to for a long time before hitting the hay.
Keeping up the tradition of having one good tourist day in each city, the next day I visited the multiple monuments and museums in DC. The great thing about DC is that all the museums and interesting sites are concentrated in a region of the city that has all been planned out and is called The National Mall. Everything is within walking distance which is great because you don’t have to spend money on transport but it was also a killer walking in the heat. This was the furthest south I’ve been so far; the heat was unbearable and there were no clouds to give you rest from the sun. Due to this I found myself walking into buildings I didn’t intend to visit just so I could have a minute of air conditioning!
First on the list was the White House. This was disappointing and smelly. Disappointing because you can’t see the building that well; it is so far away it looks like a tiny model house. The area where I viewed it from was also reeking of sewage so the whole White House thing was a let-down. Plus, I dint see Obama shooting some hoops. Anyway, on-wards and upwards. The Washington monument was built to commemorate the first American President – George Washington. The structure took 40 years to complete (1848-1888), is in the middle of The National Mall and is the world’s tallest stone structure standing at 169.4m tall. You have the option of going to the top but I’d done the empire state building before so I’ve had my fill of being overcharged to see something from a different angle. A picture in passing was sufficient and I moved onto what I actually came for; the Smithsonian Museums.
The Smithsonian Museums are part of the USA’s Smithsonian institution. 17 of these museums are in Washington DC and 11 of them are in the area of The National Mall. 11 museums in walking distance? That’s a lot to visit! In order to get the most out of the day I whipped out a map and chose the 3 museums that I would enjoy the most. These were the museums of American history, Natural History and Air and Space. If these aren’t your scene the other museums in The National Mall include the museums of Asian art, Arts and Industries, Contemporary and Modern Art, African American History and Art, African Art and Native American History and Art. Other than being really interesting they’re also free!
The Museum of American History was really insightful; it started right at the beginning with the War of Independence and has the huge original star spangled banner that was raised above Fort McHenry during the battle of 1812. It’s in a darkened room and photos aren’t allowed as its slowly disintegrating and light can damage it further. The rest of the museum is also really insightful and has pieces up until the modern era including helicopters from the Vietnam War and steel work from the Twin Towers. The Natural History museum was also great but very similar to the Natural History Museum in London so I’d seen most of it before. My favorite out of the 3 was the Museum of Air and Space. The museum has a large collection of air and space history including rockets and satellites and also has tonnes of interactive pieces that kept my inner child entertained for a couple of hours.
After the Smithsonian’s I was pretty exhausted and walked back to the hostel popping into a few banks along the way to use their air conditioning! That night we went out with the hostel to a dive bar up the road it wasn’t really anyone’s scene but there was a courtyard out back where everyone ended up and had a good chat!
All in all DC was great but probably my least favorite destination so far on my travels. Even though the hostel we stayed at was one of the best rated in DC, the staff often left you disappointed and could really work on their customer service. The nightlife we saw was also a bit dull. Maybe I’ve done too much touristy stuff or the heat got to me but the White House and Washington Monument are just not worth a visit. However, the Smithsonian Museums are great as is the Lincoln memorial and the pristine parks in The National Mall and surrounding areas. Up next was South Carolina where we were to be visiting one of our best friends over the summer and my fellow swim coach – Sasha!
Written by Michael
Over the years I’ve found that wherever you’re travelling, there’s always one or two main travel companies that are relatively cheap which you turn to in order to get from place to place. America was no different…… All hail the Megabus!
Booking a Megabus is a great way to get from city to city in the USA and is far cheaper in most cases than a trip on the railway or a budget flight. They’re even pretty comfortable; with air con, Wi-Fi, power outlets and enough legroom in some seats for someone as tall as me (6ft 4). Knowing this, I booked a Megabus from New York to my next stop Philadelphia where I was going to be spending 3 nights. I arrived in the early hours of Friday afternoon, in the centre of a city steeped in American history and basking in glorious sunshine.
The hostel I was staying at was called Apple Hostel and was about a 10 minute walk from where I was dropped off. Having a large backpack and satchel was tough work in the blazing heat, but once I arrived I was welcomed by some great staff, checked in and met my dorm mates; Dan and Kieran from England and Kyle from Detroit, Michigan. After introductions I soon realised I had somehow developed a layer of sweat and dirt from my short foray from the bus to the hostel. A shower was needed and taken.
Once settled in I learnt that every night the hostel puts on a different themed night to get people to mingle. Tonight was wine and cheese night! Safe to say myself, Dan, Kieran and Kyle drunk the majority of the wine and ate most of the cheese. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the fact I’d been living on camp food for 8 weeks, but the cheese and wine tasted so good! That night we headed out our hostel, walked for about 20 seconds, and were on Market Street; pretty much the go to place of a night time in Philadelphia with plenty of bars, restaurants and pizza joints. We saw a bar with a sign advertising $2 beers; we were straight in there and didn’t leave till the early hours of the morning. The night was actually one of the best I have had so far in the states. You know that saying it’s not where you go, it’s who you’re with? Well the group of guys I was with were awesome and we chatted all night about various things from Kyle applying to be in the CIA to Kieran driving tanks in the army.
The next day Kieran and I decided to be proper tourists and take in the historical sights on offer in Philadelphia. Firstly we visited the Ben Franklin buildings. These showed how during his time in Philadelphia Ben Franklin used giant printing presses to publish newspapers critical of the British policies in America. You were able to see the whole process from creating the print design to pressing to producing the paper – very interesting, free and well worth a visit. The Ben Franklin Museum displays many of his inventions, travels and philosophical thinking; although not free it is still interesting and has many interactive pieces which probably entertained me more than they should have. After I was done playing we headed to the liberty bell exhibition and I kind of think you can skip this because, well, it’s a bell. It’s really historical and all, but you just walk up to it, say something like ‘yep, that’s a big bell’, take a photo, then leave. There are windows that allow you to view the bell from the outside which I think is a much better option as it will save you time and disappointment. The final stop on our ‘let’s be a good tourist day’ was Independence Hall where the declaration of independence was signed. There are tours of the hall every half hour and although free, you need to collect tickets from the visitor centre across the road as numbers are limited. I suggest doing this early as we had to wait 3 hours for our tour and had a lot of time to kill.
The weekend I was in Philadelphia was also the weekend of the Made in America concert where artists like Beyoncé were performing. During the 3 hour wait we had until our Independence Hall tour we wondered over to the concert following the huge crowds. The concert stage was on top of the legendary Rocky steps, which Sylvester Stallone famously ran up in one of his Rocky films. The concert and stage prevented people from running up the steps and taking that classic photo with your arms up in the air. Kieran was rather annoyed about this; one of the main reasons he came to Philadelphia was to run up those steps. We got talking to some police officers at the concert who said that the stage would be taken down over night and people could run up the steps from the early hours of tomorrow morning. Kieran was ecstatic and planned to go up the steps to catch the sunrise the following morning. In a moment of madness, fully knowing I’m by no means a morning person, I agreed to join him.
That short wonder killed enough time and it was time for our Independence Hall tour.
Above everything else, this was the highlight of my day. This was down to two reasons; number 1 the building itself was bloody awesome and pretty much untouched from the days it was used. But the main reason for my love of the tour was the tour guide. Each tour group is sat in this little room to start with and our tour guide introduced himself and gave a brief but enthralling history of Independence Hall and Philadelphia, which was previously the capital of the USA. He interacted with the group extremely well and asked questions such as ‘put your hand up if you would of signed the declaration of independence’ ………Kieran and I kept our hands firmly down, common, we’re British! We were then taken through Independence Hall and the Senate and at the end I was looking for an opportunity to tip as I was so impressed by the tour we were given. But nope, the guide just said thank you for coming, showed us the exit and waked straight out!
Are you kidding me?! In a country where everyone just expects a tip for something as little as giving you directions, the one guy I met on my whole travels who I genuinely wanted to tip just walks out on me before I had the chance?! I was baffled!!
Once I had gotten over my confusion we headed back to the hostel which was having a movie night later. That night the same group form the night before went out just off Market Street to a cool bar (link) that had giant Jenga, $1.50 beers and $4 cheese steaks, what more could you want? Another great night was had and we headed back to the hostel to sleep with an alarm set for 5.45am for our Rocky Run.