Travel Blog: London

The idea of travelling alone is not something which worried me in any way; it was just something I had never done before. I have always been blessed with a group of friends and a beautiful partner who were always willing to participate in my international exploits.

However, when the offer to go to London unaccompanied came into my inbox, I simply couldn’t turn it down. I hadn’t stepped foot in the city in around 13 years. A visit was long overdue…

 

I was staying in the Docklands area of the large city; more specifically, the Royal Victoria Dock, the largest of the three docks. The main attraction of the Royal Victoria Dock is the massive ExCeL Exhibition Centre which is visible from pretty much every point of the dock. There were multiple different events happening in the ExCeL while I was there, resulting in a continuous steady flow of traffic in and out of the building. I even visited the centre myself; however, more on this later.

I only had a few days in the capital and wasted no time in getting neck deep in some sightseeing; jumping on the spectacular London transport system and heading to Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square is a beautiful landmark noted for its history as a gathering place for political protests. It is the home of the infamous “Bloody Sunday” demonstration. The square is unmissable, with Nelson’s Column standing high in the centre of the square, “guarded” by four equally impressive lion statues.

For the size of London, some of the tourist attractions are actually quite close together. From Trafalgar Square it was a simple walk straight down Whitehall Road to Parliament Square which ticked off many items on my London “must-see” list such as Downing Street, Big Ben, London Eye and Westminster Abbey.

 

On the Saturday I jumped across to the ExCeL Centre and spent some time at the London Super Comic Con event. Most people who follow me on social media know of my geeky love for comic books, so this event was a big win for me. The biggest Comic Con in the UK; I had never been to anything like this before. There was creators and attendees from all over the world. It was great to hang out with some of my geek-friends who I haven’t seen in a very long time!

 

With only a day left in my trip to London left, I decided to get my tourism back into gear. I walked down to, and through, the beautiful St James Park before settling down for a while across from Buckingham Palace. To be honest, there really isn’t much in the form of entertainment outside of Buckingham Palace, except of course, people watching. It is just lucky that people watching is in fact one of my favourite pastimes!

After some downtime in the apartment, I travelled down to Brixton for dinner, meeting an old friend I haven’t seen in years. We hadn’t had time together since our long lost days in university. We ordered some fantastic Thai food in Brixton Market before settling down to a great pub called Dogstar to get slowly but surely drunk…

 

I am a massive football (or soccer, to my American followers) fan, so no trip to London would be complete without checking out some of the world-class football stadiums in the city. My flight home didn’t leave until 7pm – so I had a morning to spend stadium-hopping. First on my list was Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge and Tottenham’s White Hart Lane before heading along to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. The Emirates Stadium was last on my last for a good reason. My visit to the stadium took place the day before a Champions League clash with Barcelona. I had managed to snag a ticket to the very last tour of the stadium before they closed the doors to finish preparations for the game.  I was essentially behind the scenes at a Champions League match! It was amazing to see the massive amount of work that transforms the stadium for European football.

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Royal Victoria Dock

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The Lions of Trafalgar Square

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A view down Whitehall Road … from Trafalgar Square to Big Ben.

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Downing Street

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Travel Blog: Berlin (Part 2)

The world I heard most often in Berlin was definitely “rebuilt”.

From the time I spend there, one thing became perfectly clear, Berlin was bombed to ruins during the Second World War. Seriously, go on the “big red tourist bus”; I promise almost every single attraction will have been “rebuilt” after the war.

One of those attractions to have been rebuilt was Berlin Zoo.

Germany’s oldest zoo, it hosts a collection of over 16,000 animals. Rebuilt after the war, it received heavy artillery fire; only 91 of the animals survived the war. I loved Berlin zoo. While I am not entirely comfortable with the thought of a zoo at all, there is no denying that seeing some of the world’s rarest animals is a thrilling experience. The zoo’s separate aquarium is also absolutely worth the money.

After the Zoo, we headed along to the infamous Alexanderplatz; the largest urban square in the whole of Germany. If I am honest with you, we didn’t spent much time in the square. At that time of year (December) it is entirely taken over by a Christmas market and shopping stalls. If I am honest with you, by this point in the trip, we were both pretty much burned out on these entertainment options.

However,  my girlfriend and I spent significantly more time in another German urban square, Postdamer Platz. During the war, Potsdamer Platz was almost completely destroyed (as with most other things…) and spent more than 40 years in a state of wasteland located between the East and West. After the city’s reunification though, Berlin had the unique opportunity to completely rebuild a section of their city centre. They have done well; even the sceptics have had to admit that Potsdamer Platz has been a great success.

My MUST SEE from Postdamer Platz is Panoramapunkt, a stunning viewing platform offering a 360° panoramic view of Berlin. This offers one of the best opportunities for photographs in the whole of Berlin; a must for budding photographers.
An added bonus is the ability to ride the fastest lift in Europe; taking just 20 seconds to reach the top the 24th floor. Stomach churning, but enjoyable!

Checkpoint Charlie was next on this speedy tour of the city. Checkpoint Charlie is the most famous East German-West German border crossing. You will no doubt have heard of/seen it before; this particular army crossing is a favourite for many thriller and espionage movies. One of the reason for its fame is the so-called “tank stand-off” which occurred on October 1961 during the Cold War.
The threat of war was high; but no one fired. It is a really interesting story, if you’re not aware of it, you should look it up.

After all of this walking around the city … we felt we needed a little substanance to fill our rumbling bellies! Pfffft, who needs substanence when you can have sugar!

Fassbender and Rausch is the famous Chocolate producer from the center of Berlin. However, it isn’t just a haven for those with a sweet tooth, it also offers plenty in the way of eye candy: scaled-down (yet somehow still enormous) chocolate sculptures of Berlin landmarks. You can pick a selection of specially made sweets; however, we ended up buying pre-packaged chocolate (which was lovely) after sauntering around lost for a while. We simply couldn’t make our minds up. Far too much to choose from! haha

Close to the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of Berlin is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Made up of 2,711 concrete pillars of varying heights, the final appearance creates a grid-like structure. The uneven terrain helps with the overall effect, creating a beautiful wave like effect. It’s powerful to see and is a fitting tribute to those lost in such a horrific manner.

Now… last week I promised to talk about the Reichstag Glass Dome.

This was the last thing we did in Berlin, attending on our final night. The Reichstag was redesigned between 1994 and 1999 as a modern Parliament building with an attempt to retain the extensive, historical dimensions.

Part of the redesign was the opening of an accessible Glass Dome. Originally the glass generated a lot of controversy, but has since become one of the landmarks of Berlin. You can see why. It’s a stunning piece of architecture.

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Travel Blog: Berlin (Part 1)

A trip to “visit a foreign city in the run up to Christmas” is an item which has been on my bucket list for a very very long time. Despite this, it has thus far evaded me…until this year, when my girlfriend and I managed to escape the dreary rain of Glasgow and ambushed the beautiful city of Berlin.

We flew in and spent 4 nights in the stunning Ivbergs Premium Hotel; which is located near the Breitscheidplatz area in the heart of the city. Breitscheidplatz is a major public square in the inner region of Berlin. Together with the Kurfustendamm Boulevard, it very much marked the centre of the former West Berlin.

For me, one of the highlights of the Breitscheidplatz Square was definitely the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was a strange mesh of very traditional and modern architecture; both of which were equally stunning. The original church was destroyed during a bombing raid in 1943; however, what remains of it still stands today in unison with a new, modern, architectural addition. This was apparently decided by the German people, who voted with their voices that the original ruin must not be torn down. The new church consists of honeycomb-like blue coloured glass blocks which produce an intense blue light inside. I could instantly see why it was such a massive appeal to those who were religious in the area. Not religious myself, I could still feel the calming atmosphere the inside of the building created all on its own.

I was really excited to finally get the chance to see some of the famous tourist attractions which stand in Berlin; including the Reichstag Building and the Brandenburg Gate.

The current version of the Reichstag Building was officially opened in 1999 (good memory eh?) and featured a new roof terrace with a large glass dome which you can see in the photos below. The roof terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building can be visited by members of the public, and we took this chance to witness the spectacular views of Berlin’s sights. More details on this in Part 2!

The Brandenburg Gate is the only remaining city gate in Berlin and was originally used to represent the separation of the city between East and West. Fortunately, the city has moved past this; and now, since the falling of the Berlin Wall, the gate has become the cities symbol of German Unity to the city.

German unity…but of world unity. Unfortunately our trip had coincided with the aftermath of the horrific tragedy in Paris…and a large memorial had been laid out by the people of Berlin as an act of remembrance and unity with those affected. It was beautiful.

 

Back to the lighthearted fun! I had a great time in the DDR Museum!

The DDR Museums is the only museum in Germany that deals exclusively with life in the former German Democratic Republic, a.k.a the East side of the wall. This was an incredible exhibition that I thoroughly recommend any visitors Berlin make the time to visit. It’s interactive, with each piece of fascinating information hidden doors and in drawers. There is also Trabi car available in which visitors can drive through a virtual tour of the area. This was amazing…Grand Theft Auto in East Berlin!!

There was also a stereotypical East German home set up for your to go and experience…we had some fun with that too! 😀

 

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Travel Blog: Dubai (Part 2)

One of the more fortunate things to happen when traveling is knowing someone who already knows their way around the city. We were lucky enough to have this in Dubai; and our hosts kindly offered to drive us around the city. This was an excellent bonus to our trip – showing us areas of Dubai we would not have the opportunity to see otherwise.

We were kindly driven around several of the otherwise out of reach residential area and through the regularly tourist-ignored backstreets of the Downtown area before heading down to the Palm and Jumeirah Beach.

I highly recommend you spend some time down on Jumeirah beach if you make it across to Dubai. A few of the fellow visitors I have spoken to have remained in the downtown area only.

Water Parks are always one of my favourite attractions to attend in any city, and I had been told both the water park at Atlantis the Palm AND Wild Wadi were viewed as being one of the best in the world. This left me with a difficult choice to make …which one to attend?!

We eventually made the decision to show Wild Wadi some love due to its closer location and the presence of the infamous Jumeriah Sceirah slide. You may have seen the Jumeriah Sceirah on the internet. If not, you can check it out HERE.

 

In my opinion, the best thing we did over the whole trip though was taking part in the Arabian Nights Tour though. It truly was a special experience.

We got to experience the fantastic Dubai Sand Dunes, ride camels and taste some fantastic local food as part of a help-yourself meal.

What else could you ask for really?

 

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Travel Blog: Dubai (Part 1)

“If you are going to spend the money to visit somewhere really special – Dubai is not the place to go.”

These are not my words.

This is the strong opinion of Dubai that I received from an acquaintance after announcing that I had finally booked my trip to visit Dubai.
It is the tiny kick to the stomach that everyone wants after parting way with a significant chunk of their own cash is it not?

However … now that I have returned from the city… I can honestly say that I completely disagree with the opinion stated above. I loved Dubai. I would go back as soon as possible …and fully intend to do so!

 

——

 

After initially arriving to the city in the middle of the night, my girlfriend and I decided to take our first day in Dubai city reasonably easy – relaxing by the swimming pool of our carefully chosen hotel, the Mövenpick Hotel and Apartments of the Bur Dubai area. Our chosen hotel was incredible, a beautiful 5-star rated hotel; and with the incredible service we received, it deserved every single star.

We wandered the local area and saw some of the “out of the city centre” gems that I love so much when visiting a new city. Having never experienced any part of the UAE previously, this was a very big culture shock for me. However, as you will no doubt be aware, some of Dubai can be extremely Americanised … especially our chosen dinner venue … CHUCK E CHEESE!

Following this initial full day of R&R, we make the most of the bustling downtown area of city by making our way to the vast Dubai Mall.

The only words I can find to describe Dubai Mall are awe inspiring. Regularly declared as the largest shopping mall in the world and containing over 1,200 stores, this place was vast. A few locals even explained to us that to cover every store in the building would take approximately 3 full days of shopping… without stopping.

This was not a challenge I was particularly eager to undertake.

It is important to note however that there is definitely more to see in Dubai Mall than just restaurants and shops. For instance we took the time out to visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo which is actually located inside the centre itself. The main attraction for the Aquarium/Zoo is definitely the “King Croc” … a monster of a Crocodile measuring in over 5m in length. He truly was a terrifying beast of nature.

The highlight of this day which we had cram packed with tourist activities however was definitely climbing the Burj Khalifa to floor 125 and seeing Dubai from the great height. The Burj is the tallest building in the world and in any other city, getting this spectacular view would take a helicopter.

If you are visiting the Burj Khalifa, my advice to you would be book online and in advance of your trip. This method proved to be significantly cheaper and allows you to skip a pretty significant queue. Also, find out what time sunset is expected to occur during your stay; then book your visit time for approximately an hour before. This allows you to see these fascinating views in daylight, watch the stunning Dubai sunset, and then witness the city light up as darkness descends. It truly is an experience like no other.

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Style Hotspots for Visiting Glasgow

Will you be visiting Glasgow soon?
Here at some of the areas you style aficionados will not want to miss…

 

Merchant City

Once the home of the thriving trade scene in the city, stacked to the rafters will wealthy tobacco and spice dealers, Merchant City has grown to become of the upmarket epicentres of Glasgow.

High class designers, cool bars and cafes, independent designers and highly-priced apartments compile every street.

Jewellery desigers Brazen, winner of Scotland’s most stylish retailer Cruise, Agent Provocateur, Mulberry, Ralph Lauren, Armani and Hugo Boss are only some of the incredible brands which make of this small area of a few streets.
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Princes Square

Princes Square is a shopping centre situated in a restored listed building right in the heart of Glasgow City Centre. Hidden behind a main shopping street, with only a slim entrance doorway on Buchanan Street – Princes Square would be very easy (but heartbreaking) for the inexperienced Glasgow-shopper to miss.

Offering over five floors of quality shopping, drinking and dinning – it would be dangerously tempting to spend your entire trips budget in a couple of hours.

You will find the likes of Belstaff, Cos, Kurt Gieger, Vivienne Westwood and Ted Baker rubbing shoulders with the well-designed and high-quality cafes and restaurants.

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Silverburn

Silverburn is a shopping centre located outside of the main Glasgow City Centre. However, the centre is still easily accessed by public transport or taxi. With over 75 acres (214,000 sq ft) of high-end shopping Silverburn is one of Glasgow’s largest shopping centres.

Silverburn is a relatively new location for Glasgow, having opened their doors for the first time in 2007, however it has grown rapidly in popularity over the last few years. The main reason that Silverburn stands out against the other shopping “malls” in Glasgow is due to the fact that the original developers aimed to attract a mainly wealthy clientele from the more affluent suburbs of Glasgow.

This has resulted in the process of selecting which stores are allowed retail space within Silverburn being particularly strict. Don’t expect a MacDonalds in there anytime soon.

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Buchanan Street

This wider-than-average, pedestrianised, stretch of road is the city’s main shopping district and is flanked by a highstreet hit-list of upmarket outlets.

Sweeping from the infamous Sauchiehall Street down to St Enoch Square, Buchanan Street is a gracious boulevard lined with architectural gems.

The magnificent House of Frasers store, boasts Scotland’s largest and most comprehensive beauty hall. Buchanan Street’s status as a hot fashion destination for men and women of style is further evidenced in the beguilling array of quirky labels at Urban Outfitters. Scotland’s first branch of American Apparel on Nelson Mandela Place is just around the corner, while cool London fashion label All Saints, the jeans-led Italian powerhouse Diesel and iconic varsity style specialist Jack Wills all have stores close by.

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Travel Blog: Pitlochry and The Enchanted Forest, Scotland

Those of you who I am lucky enough to have following me on social media (the buttons are there 😉 —–>) may have seen that I recently spent some time in Pitlochry in Scotland.

My girlfriend and I had traveled up to see the areas annual Enchanted Forest show. A multi-award winning vision and sound experience which we had received glowing reviews about from friends and family.

Pitlochry is a town based in the northern Perth/Kinross area of Scotland and hosts some of the more spectacular scenery you could ask for. It tends to be quite a regular area for tourists due to its relatively easy reach from both of Scotland’s main cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

From where I live, Pitlochry is only a two hour drive. This was handy as I was not really mentally prepared for an overly long time in the car.

However, after listening to my girlfriend sing for two-hours, the journey seemed to take forever.

We finally reached our destination and initially pulled into the infamous Pitlochry Festival Theatre for a short coffee break before heading out for a bracing walk up to the local Pitlochry Dam and Fishing Ladder.

The Dam itself is not the prettiest of sites … not many working Dam’s actually are; but from the bridge of the Dam you get some fantastic views over the local area. I highly recommend anyone heading to the area to check it out.

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Following our walk, and after warming ourselves by the artificial fire in the wonderfully traditional Mackays Hotel and Bar we finally set off for the Enchanted Forest.

The Enchanted Forest, now widely renowned to be one of Scotland’s premier sound and light experiences, regularly sells out, attracting an impressive 46,000 visitors to their 2014 show.

I missed out on the show last year, I wasn’t making the same mistake twice!

The 2015 show was entitled FLUX

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*Note – This post was in no way sponsored by The Enchanted Forest.

Travel Blog: Kilpatrick Hills, Scotland

One of the greatest parts about living in Scotland is the incredible scenery that is within driving distance.
It’s often something we Scot’s very often take for granted.

This week my partner and I decided to tackle the stunningly beautiful walk on the Kilpatrick Hills up to the very “Scottishly” named Loch Humphrey. We even managed to convince my old Border Terrier Harry to tag along for the walk too.

Neither my partner nor I had partaken in this walk previously and so I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into when agreeing to this plan.

As we arrived at our destination and a VERY steep climb came into sight; I began to fill with a significant dose of trepidation.
I was not prepared for this … both mentally … and in terms of my clothing choices.

Situated 9miles from the heart of Glasgow, the Kilpatrick Hills are a remote, green-coated moorland.
However, the terrain was never too difficult to walk on; despite its steep climb.

The one bonus that came with the climb was that the added height gave access to some spectacular views over the River Clyde, Loch Lomond and the infamous, luxurious, Mar Hall Resort in Bishopton.

…when we finally made it up the hill to Loch Humphrey, it was worth it.
The water was beautiful and we instantly agreed, “let’s do this again.”

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Travel Tips from Travel Bloggers

Despite the only recent creation of Gallous Lad, I have been writing and creating content for external websites and blogs for a number of years now.

Throughout this journey, I have had the privilege of meeting a whole host of incredible writers…and more importantly, incredible people. These writers have gathered experience and expertise in a multitude of different sectors including food, music, fashion and travel.

I decided it would be interesting to pull on these resources to deliver the Top Tips from these sectors.

 

Today I bring to you the top tips from some of my favourite travel bloggers … and myself!

 

gallous

Gallous Lad

You’re on my blog; but find me on Facebook or Twitter

“I guess my top tip would be a simple one; a while back I purchased duplicates of all my necessary chargers from the pound store … these stay in my travel bag at all times … that way, I never forget a charger again.”

 
 
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Stéphanie Langlet

View Stephanie’s Blog

“You should always answer “I have no plan yet” when someone asks you about your plan (you’ll be invited everywhere).

Take the local buses to be with local people … but the early ones. If you’re fired from a bus as I was in the Vietnamese mountains, you’ll still have plenty of time to catch another one!”

 
 

vinh

Vinh Nguyen

View Vinh’s Blog

“Sometimes you need to put the guidebook into your backpack, and just get lost wandering.

The beauty of spotting something beautiful hidden somewhere in the corner surely makes your day!”

 
 

evan

Evan Palogan

View Evan’s Blog

“Speak to fellow tourists and hear their stories.

It is inspiring to hear their about their best experiences and…the worst too.

For me it is a learning moment because you’ll start to hear from their voices when something is exciting and what they are truly fond of or what they are passionate about.”

 
 

ajay

Ajay Sood

View Ajay’s Blog

“As a Travel Photographer, my favourite is to ask the guide the best vantage to shoot the landmark/attraction from. Rather than only seeing the attraction, my interest lies in photographing it in a delectable manner!”

 
 
valentina

Valentina Rago

View Valentina’s Blog

“Eat with the locals when possible and try their food!!

That way you can really understand the culture of the country you’re visiting and experience how they really live.”

 
 
IF you are interested in travel, you may want to check out my recent trip to the beautiful village of Culross in Scotland.
 
 

Travel Blog: Culross, Scotland

I spent last weekend in Culross, Scotland.

Culross is a village and former royal burgh in Fife, Scotland with a population of roughly 400 people.

I had previously heard quite a bit about Culross over the past few years, with many of my family and friends claiming it to be a beautiful place that I simply “must see”. These consistently positive reviews had also been backed up by the fact that the village had been voted as one of the most beautiful places in the whole of the United Kingdom.

I decided to finally make the trip…

I must admit, as I drew ever closer to Culross I began to think that I was on the receiving end of an elaborate practical joke.

The reason for my trepidation was that Culross has the unfortunate location of being placed between a multitude of power stations and chemical plants. However, as I drew into Culross itself – I knew I had arrived somewhere special instantly.

Culross is the closest thing you will find to a real life 17th century model town that you could ever find. It is a Brigadoon if I have ever seen one. It was so pristine I wasn’t entirely sure if I was going to be greeted by humans beings or Hobbits. Had I wondered into the shire?

It is clear to see why the picturesque town has been chosen for the filming of such blockbusters as The Little Vampire, Captain America: The First Avenger and the highly popular Starz TV programme Outlander.

The main highlights from my trip has to be the Culross Palace which has been beautifully restored to it’s original mustard yellow colouring and the high standing Culross Abbey. It takes a bit of walking to get up to the Abbey – but it’s worth it when you get there.

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An added bonus to Culross is the village’s proximity to one of Scotland’s newest landmarks The Kelpies; at approximately a ten-minute drive from the village itself. The Kelpies are a pair of 30-metre high horse head sculptures as designed by the now legendary Scot’s designer Andy Scott.

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