Doin’ Dallas. The Top Sights.

Dallas is the 9th largest City in the United States, located in the vast state of Texas. It’s also the birthplace of the frozen margarita machine, the microchip and 7/11 stores! It grew as a trade center from it’s history of Ranching, farming and oil production. It’s now an important business, financial and tech center.

I was lucky enough to be in a situation where I could fly over and check out some of the best things to do in and around Dallas and I was super excited. I was staying in the gay district called Oak Lawn. Home to a street of LGBTQ+ friendly bars and businesses it was a good starting off point! Here are the top sights in Dallas.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

This place is jaw dropping from the outisde, an architecturally impressive masterpiece plus it’s an eco building which is awesome. As soon as I was greeted by a Diplodocus skeleton I knew would enjoy it.

It’s definitely a great place to spend with families but I noticed people of all ages enjoying the exhibitons. These range from history to science, culture to technology and space.

6th Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza

This was a surreal place to visit, a massive moment in American politics. It’s the place that Lee Harvey Oswald used as a vantage point to shoot the 35th American President – John F Kennedy. It was fascinating learning about the lead up to the murder. There’s a no photo policy inside the museum so be aware.

However it was the aftermath, what happened, conspiracy theories and the outpouring of good will from around the world in dedication to a man who really seemed like he wanted to change people’s lives for the better. You can look out of the same window and there’s an X on the road below to mark where it happened. Walk along the road a little to a wooden fence with tributes from people carved into it.

Dallas CBD

I found the center of Dallas pretty non existant and mostly business buildings, but there are a few pretty cool points of interest if you have the time. Nearby the 6th Floor Museum is an interesting memorial to JFK with a whole plaza dedicated to him.

Near this is the John Neely Bryan Cabin, a replica of the founder of Dallas’ home. You can also see the Old Red Courthouse here, I didn’t go inside but it’s a beautiful old building with some interesting exhibits inside.

One of the coolest things I saw in central Dallas was Pioneer Plaza! This had a great sculpture of cowboys herding cattle, which as a big fan of cowboys when I was younger was pretty amazing!

Also look out for the big red pegasus, which started out on the top of the City’s first skyscraper, it’s said to look over Dallas and is a bit of a cultural icon nowadays. Head to Reunion Tower for for panoramic 360 degree views of Dallas, with the Central business district impressive from here at 470 feet in the air!

Fort Worth Stockyards

Actually a nearby City, Fort Worth was an important trading post for cowboys, and is located around 35 miles from Dallas. It’s now home to a historic district called the Stockyards which is a fully realised glimpe of the American wild west!

Full of restored shops, bars and hotels it’s like stepping back in time. Wander along and buy yourself a pair of cowboy boots, or a hat and watch the cattle drive. There’s a mini train to take you around some parts of it and live cowboy acts if you’re lucky.

It was pretty cool, and obviously we had to stop off for a beer in an old timey saloon! Lookout for the Texas trail of fame, a nod to the walk of fame in LA only with famous cowboys and pioneers!

Dallas Parks and Gardens

If you want a break from the City there are a few beautiful green spaces in and around the City. The Arboretum and Botanical Gardens are 66 acres of serenity where you can experience Shinrin-Yoku or forest bathing.

It’s located on the shore of White Rock Lake, has stunning sculpted gardens and a cafe that serves food that utilises things grown there.

A really fun walk I did here was the Katy Trail, this recreational area runs 240 miles across America. In Dallas you can walk 3.5 miles of greenland in the heart of the City. Check out turtle creek along the way to spot snapper turtles.

I love it when a City really uses it’s space to create fun walking/running areas. Klyde Warren Park is the ultimate goal of a green City. Built over a freeway it’s 5.2 acres of parks with food trucks lining the street on the side of it. You can get lovely ice cream and street food snacks from here while you enjoy the fountains and shade in the heat of the day.

Deep Ellum

Known for it’s completely hipster vibe, this area has been totally regenerated and filled with street art, local brewpubs selling pale ales and IPAs, and quirky stores selling oddities.

It’s a great place to get lost in while checking out the murals, stopping off for a beer or coffee and enjoying some live music at one of the many venues around here.

I stopped off at braindead which had an amazing craft ale menu. It’s also super artsy in general around here with cool sculptures and small independent art galleries.

While here make sure you try some Tex Mex cuisine a staple of Dallas life, sip a frozen margartia while you do it.

Gay District – Oak Lawn

Head here for a night of pure southern charm, start off at JRs for a balcony view of the street and ice cold beers.They host drag shows and have great drinks offers.

For a real taste of gay culture in Texas head to the Round Up Saloon here you can either watch or get involved in some line dancing, I was told about it but until you see it you’ll never understand. The central dance floor is sunken a few feet and it was filled with people in cowboy hats and boots dancing in complete sync.

I didn’t have the guts to join in but I definitely enjoyed watching! I then headed over to Station 4. This place had GoGo boys dancing on poles and they also host awesome drag shows, Asia O’Hara from S10 Dragrace fame comes from Dallas! If you’re after something a little more interesting Eagle bar Dallas is a short taxi ride down the road, where you can enjoy a men only space with lots of fetish nights.

NASA Houston

Houston is a 4 hour drive from Dallas, home of Beyonce but more interestingly for me the home of NASA. I wasn’t sure if it was worth spending a night away from Dallas to do it but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

We drove through a huge storm which was pretty insane, but we did get to stop at iHop for a pancake breakfast! We got there in the afternoon and decided to head to Galveston on the coast.

It was fun to stand in the Atlantic ocean as Pelicans flew overhead. It’s a cute old school seaside resort and I enjoyed looking at some of the old buildings.

After some tasty Mexican we hit the hay and headed over to NASA early in the morning.

This is the birthplace of space exploration, and it was an absolutely incredible experience! From learning about the history of the space race, looking at all the flight suits and history, even getting to see the command centre where the immortal ‘Houston we have a problem’ happened, and the speaker where those and other amazing words came from.

You get to look around the science buildings and find out what NASA are working towards, and explore a real space shuttle. There were so many things to see and do we spent a good 5 or 6 hours, maybe more here!

Dallas might not be on a lot of people’s must see lists, but it’s a great City, a big LGBTQ+ friendly area and the locals are some of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered.

I’d love to head back to Texas and check out Austin and maybe Houston properly, Dallas was a great introduction to Texan life and really opened my eyes to a place that I wasn’t sure would welcome me with open arms. I didn’t make it there but I’ve heard the art galleries in Dallas are meant to be incredible too, so there’s definitely enough to keep you occupied for a few days at least here.

A short visit to Canberra. Australia’s Capital.

When you think of Australia, you think of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane. So it surprises a lot of people to find out the capital is actually little Canberra.

Located between Victoria and New South Wales, it’s a relatively new City with building commencing in 1913. It was built due to a disagreement over which existing City should become the Capital of a united Australia.

We were visiting as a little stop off point between Melbourne and Sydney. It’s a 9 hour drive between these two, and Canberra sits around 6 hours from Melbourne.

We arrived late in the evening after an eventful drive, stopping off to see a giant Ned Kelly, a submarine and a dog on a tucker box. It was a pleasant drive until we hit the smoke from the NSW fires.

We stayed at the QT Canberra, which is a lovely hotel set within walking distance of the parliament and museum area.

We woke up early and crossed lake Burley Griffin, a huge man made lake set right in the centre of the City. You can hike around the whole thing which would be fun. Unfortunately the huge fountain located in the lake wasn’t on when we walked over.

We stopped along the opposite bank and followed the Australian of the year walkway before passing the national library.

Next up was the old parliament, a classic looking white building which was superseded by the new parliament built up on Capitol hill.

So off we trekked up the hill, and the new building is definitely well thought out architecturally. The best part is that you can wander around inside with no tour guide or security following you.

So we visited the senate room and the house of representatives. Although parliament wasn’t on session, it was still interesting to learn more about Australian politics.

The great hall was beautiful, with a great tapestry on the wall, but the best part was heading to the roof and seeing the 266ft flagpole. The views from here were also amazing, albeit ruined by the bushfire smoke a little, but hey, that’s the least of Australia’s problems with the fires.

We headed back to the hotel and checked out. Then drove over to the ANZAC parade. This was really interesting with memorials lining the parade to every war Australia has fought in.

There was also a memorial for army nurses which I loved, but the most interesting were the Boer and Vietnamese war memorials. Lots of history and information.

I really love the quote from Atatürk after the battle of Gallipoli.

We didn’t have time to go inside the actual war museum, instead we drove up to Mount Ainslie lookout. If you had time the hike up there would be brilliant, with a chance to see kangaroos and other interesting Australian animals.

The view was still hazy, but it was still really interesting, with a straight look down ANZAC parade to the lake, and the fountain was now on!

That was the end of our little Canberra journey, it felt like there was still a lot of hiking opportunities we missed because of time constraints, and I’ve heard the art galleries and museums are top class here.

So there’s plenty to see and do to fill at least a couple of days. Lastly, we were on a budget so we didn’t try out any of the restaurants, but Canberra is meant to be a foodies dream!

It was on to Sydney for us, this time we got to see a giant Merino sheep and stopped at the town of Yass! To get a picture with the sign and live our Queer Eye fantasy.

Comino Island and the Blue Lagoon.

Today we were shifting away from Gozo life, and heading out to Comino Island, located between Gozo and Malta, it has a population of 3! It’s named after Cumin seeds but it was formerly known as Ephaestia.

We took the bus down to Mgarr early and got a coupe of prices from the guys at the harbour. It cost us about 10 euro each round trip.

So after waiting for a few more people to sign up off we sped to Comino! It’s famous for the blue lagoon, a shallow stretch of water between Comino and a smaller island called Cominotto.

It only takes about 15-20 minutes, and it was exciting as we got our first views of the lagoon heading into the bay.

There’s a small jetty to disembark and a few food and drink stalks dotted around here. There’s actually not much beach and the little there was already filled with people. This is May, so I can’t imagine what it would be like in the height of Summer.

We walked along the cliffs, this is where most people set up for the day so we found a spot and immediately went for the water. It’s so blue, so clear, we couldn’t believe how beautiful it was.

So we swam over to little Cominotto and had a little explore around the rocks there, just watch out as there were a few jellyfish around.

There were some lovely little snorkelling spots around here and we sat enjoying the sunshine and the gorgeous setting.

Back on Comino, we lounged on the rocks for a while and took another dip. Then decided to go explore more of the island.

We headed South, past the beautiful crystal lagoon, with some private boats dotted about the bays. There were even a few people cliff jumping!

Our wandering took us to St Mary’s Tower, an ancient watchtower with panoramic views of the island from the rooftop. It’s 5E to go in and have a look.

We wandered back as we had been given set times to return and we didn’t want to get back too late. So after enjoying the blue lagoon a bit longer we got a beer at the jetty and sat waiting for our boat.

It’s a bit of carnage at this point with lots of boats and different queues, just relax and you’ll be fine. So off we went, back to Mgarr ready to head over to the Gozo capital Victoria.

I had read about a few nice sounding restaurants on culture trip, but after checking 3 of then out, I realised the article was pretty old, 2 of them were closed down! We did get some lovely late evening views though.

Not to be deterred we took the bus back to In-Nadur and found an amazing place just off the main square called The Fat Rabbit.

The wine was amazing, we got a huge free starter of rice salad, bean salad, cheese and bread!

Then we had pasta to start, which were huge followed by pizza which we couldn’t manage most of. Obviously we finished the night with a brownie to share. The service was really friendly too, and the stroll back to the hotel was lovely on a warm night.

Greek Islands – Corfu

Although we had flown into Corfu, we literally just stayed the night there before taking the ferry to Albania, now we were returning from Albania and had a couple of nights here. It was March but the sky was clear and it was around 18°c.

After the ferry dropped us off we took a taxi to Mayor Mon Repos, our hotel. It’s a lovely hotel for the price, we even got a glass of champagne on arrival!

Once we had unpacked and settled down for a bit, off we went to explore. There’s a lovely old windmill right by the hotel, and beautiful beaches with the clearest water.

You can see Corfu fortress from the hotel, so we walked around the bay, trying to spot fish in the water and enjoying the little parks. It’s a beautiful walk and one I would definitely recommend.

Passing the Douglas column we walked up to the monument of Kapodistrias, the founder of the modern Greek state who was born here.

This leads to a gorgeous plaza, with restaurants, statues and a lovely green space. This plaza is right next to the Old Fortress, so we crossed the bridge and entered.

It was built by the Venetians in the early 15th century, who also created the sea channel, turning it into an artificial island. There’s a lot of history here, from the repulsion of 3 major Ottoman sieges, to the Italian siege of Corfu and it was even used in the James Bond film, ‘For Your Eyes Only’.

It’s an amazing place, built on two extremely steep hills, you’re free to wander at your own leisure after paying 6E. There’s not too much remaining but the views are incredible.

Unfortunately you can’t make your way to the top of the hills but there are enough ruins to explore around the main fortress.

From here we headed over to Faliraki, a little peninsula with a cool view of the Old Fortress. The museum of Asian Art is also here, which is a beautiful old building.

We spent the rest of the day walking around the old town, it’s full of little squares and pretty streets. After stopping for a pint of Mythos, the locally brewed beer, we found our way to Corfu’s new fortress.

I think by the time we got there it had closed, as it’s only open until 15:30pm. So we walked back through the lovely streets of the old town to the hotel, where we enjoyed a bottle of Albanian wine we had brought back with us as we watched the sun set.

Dinner was amazing, we walked over the street to Nautilus, where we ate the most amazing seafood platter. The venue is lovely, right on the water with the lights of Corfu across the bay.

The next day I woke up early, and looking out from the balcony, was rewarded for it! The sunrise from the mainland was incredible.

Today we decided to head South, towards Vlacherna Monastery. Google maps said it would only take about 30 minutes but there were a few places along the way we could stop at.

The weather was beautiful as we wandered off, our first stop was Mon Repos palace. Prince Phillip was born here before his family was exiled from Greece.

The palace isn’t actually too big, but the park leading up to it is stunning. With a terrace overlooking the Ionian sea.

Walking along the street, I did my usual trick of using Google maps to find interesting places. That’s how we found ourselves at the monastery of St Theodore and the Temple of Artemis.

The monastery is one of the oldest on the Island, with part of the building from the 5th century. The temple of Artemis ruins date all the way back to 580BC!

Finally we reached the Vlacherna Monastery. It was so beautiful on it’s own little island. The only way to reach it is across the man made pier, but you can wander around at your leisure, there’s even a few nice cafes with outdoor seating here.

The best surprise however was the plane spotting viewpoint! It was a lot of fun standing out on the stone wall with planes flying soooo close. A great photo opportunity too!

There’s also a beach here, it was a little too cold for more than a paddle in March but I’m sure in summer it would be amazing.

After all the walking it was time for a beer, so we trekked up the hill to Kanoni Cafe. The views from here are outstanding!

Instead of walking back we took the bus, it was really easy, picking us up right by the monastery car park and taking us all the way to the Old Town.

From here we just did some more exploring, finding great views of the imposing New Fortress and lovely little stone streets. Obviously we stopped for gelato and another beer.

It was time to head back after an awesome adventure over the last few days. Corfu surprised me as I always had it down as a package holiday type place, but it has so much more to offer.

A Trip to Toledo.

Toledo is a City in Spain about a 45minute train journey South of the countries capital, Madrid. One of it’s earliest mentions is from 193BC by a Roman general, so it’s pretty old! It’s also a UNESCO world heritage site and has cultural influences from Christians, Jews, and Muslims as well as Roman and Visigoth.

Although Madrid is a cool City, we wanted a bit of medieval history and I thought Toledo looked like a great place to take a day trip to. So after having Breakfast at Plenti, a cute little place not far from our hotel.

We walked over to the train station and got our tickets. It was a little pricey as we were taking the tourist train. I’ve since heard you can get the tickets for much cheaper, especially if you plan ahead. Make sure you check out the lovely tropical garden in the oldest part of the station.

The train journey was pleasant as we passed through the dry Spanish countryside, and as soon as we arrived I knew we were going to love it in Toledo! The station opened in 1920 and was designed to imitate the architecture of the City, it was gorgeous and the tiling inside was so pretty.

The walk up to the walled City isn’t too taxing, and the first sight you get is magnificent, Toledo has a river running alongside it, so you see the bridge over to this walled Citadel and a huge palace sat at the top.

After taking a few pictures we ran up to the bridge and crossed, passing underneath a gatehouse. It’s a little bit of a steep walk up but you can stop and take a look back from a huge terrace halfway up.

We carried on and after passing a statue of a very dapper looking gent, we found ourselves on Zocodover plaza, we picked one of the many streets ahead of us and started our exploration.

The shops are filled with medieval antiques, classic spanish food and wine and a lot of souvenirs. Our favourite street was Calle Comercio because of the view down to the cathedral.

Along the way we even found a shop that had roman ruins in it’s basement that you could look at for free beneath a glass floor! The walled area of Toledo isn’t too big so it’s easy to wander without fear of getting lost, which is exactly what we did.

We soon found ourselves at the Monastery of Santo Domingo Real, built and run by Nuns since 1364. It’s a beautiful building with the interior to match.

Our only problem so far was that every church or monastery wanted to charge a pretty large fee to enter, we wanted to climb up the belltower of one church but it was over 10E, I don’t mind donations but charging to enter a church is a bit much.

After reaching the Puerta del Sol or ‘South Gate’ we turned back to stay inside the City walls, following a street along to more panoramic views of the countryside and the river.

Turning into the City we decided to head towards the huge tower that is Toledo Cathedral. Work on the cathedral began in 1226 and it wasn’t completed until 1493! It’s a huge building and very grand with it’s gothic architecture.

It’s so big you almost can’t get it all in to one picture it’s said to be this size to cover the sacred space that the old mosque held before it. It was nice to sit and gawk at it in the square at the front, with it’s majestic stained glass windows and 146ft height! It was early afternoon at this point and we were hungry.

So we found a cute little restaurant off the main streets in a small plaza. We shared a beautiful vegetable paella, olives and a a couple of glasses of Spanish Rioja, the sun was shining and it was a perfect lunch. Obviously we had to finish it off with some churros, the famous spanish elongated donuts with choc sauce.

Once we were finished it was time to check out the Alcazar of Toledo, built up on the highest part of Toledo you can see it from miles around. There was originally a Roman fortification built here in the 3rd century but much of the Alcazar was destroyed in the Spanish Civil war and had to be rebuilt between 1939 and 1957.

The Alcazar is impressive, but we loved the little park just beneath it, where you can stand on the turrets and look out across the valley to the military academy on the opposite hill.

Honestly the views are incredible and it was sad to say goodbye to them, but we didn’t want to get back into Madrid too late as we were checking out one of the art galleries it’s famous for.

On our way back down we noticed a cute little marzipan shop and decided to have a look inside. The lady that worked there was wonderful and let us try a few things, they were so delicious we had to buy some sweets and marzipan ice cream, yum! Once we reached the other side of the river we realised we still had 40 minutes or so till our train, so we took a little stroll along the river bank.

It was nice to get another angle of the City, and there was a cool abandoned building on bank which looked like an old mill house. We slowly wandered back under the bridge and down to the station, on our way we found a fun Toledo sign to take a pic of.

I’m sure there are a few things we missed out on seeing in Toledo, but half the fun is exploring without using a guide or map and seeing what you discover.

It’s so old, Craig loved it as there aren’t any buildings like those in Australia. The train back was nice and relaxing after a full day of walking and we both ended up having a little power nap before arriving back in Madrid.

Bergen and the mountain trolls.

I arrived in Bergen after an amazing few days in Tromso. Which you can also read about if you scroll down here.

Bergen is located in the Southwest of Norway, surrounded by fjords and mountains. It’s the second largest City in Norway behind Oslo, and averages 231 days of rain a year!

I was excited to visit for the hiking, cute wooden houses of Bryggen, and to see some of Norway’s famous fjords.

I took the flybussen into the City, it took 30 mins and cost about £10. I stayed at the Bergen Budget Hostel which was basic but the cheapest option!

I immediately set off to explore the City, passing some fun troll street art. Norway is famous for trolls, watch Troll Hunter to learn more.

I was heading towards Bryggen, the old centre of Hanseatic leagues empire. It’s full of colourful wooden houses that line the waterfront.

Built in 1702 after a fire had destroyed most of the City, it’s now a UNESCO world heritage site. Make sure you explore the little alleyways between and behind the houses, where you can find shops and restaurants.

If you continue along the waterfront past Bryggen you come to Bergenhus Fortress, some of the buildings here were built in the 1240s and it’s one of the oldest stone castles left in Norway.

I turned back here and followed the waterfront round in the opposite direction, keep an eye out for some of the amazing street art pieces that are dotted about the City. For fish lovers there’s a fishmarket on Strandkaien, and the main shopping streets are just up from here.

The streets around Sydneskleiven are really beautiful, and there are some great views from the end of Oysteins Gate and St John’s Church is right by here too. I took a little detour through the university area and walked around the lovely Lille Lungegardsvannet lake.

This only took the morning as I had arrived into Bergen early, so I decided to go hiking! You can take a cable car up to the top of Floyen mountain near Bryggen and once up there you can walk to your hearts content. The views up here of Bergen and out to sea were incredible.

I headed to Granbakken, a little mountain lake first, along lovely little wooden walkways through green forest. It doesn’t take long to get away from the crowds around the cable car spot.

The lake was frozen over which was cool, and there were some awesome places to stop, one where I dangled my legs above the forest below!

From here I decided to walk through the forest to Skredderdalen, and followed the river up to lake Nedrediket. This took me along ridges, with more views of Bergen, and following the raging river up towards the lake was amazing.

I was loving the walk and continued on to a bigger lake called Storevatnet, you couldn’t even see the other side of this one due to some fog.

I noticed some steps going up alongside the lake and thought the views from the top would be amazing. Unfortunately when I got to the top this fog rolled in and I could barely see in front of me.

This led to a rather dicey hike across the tops of the mountain in thick fog, snow and ice. Honestly there was a point where I got a little bit worried, luckily google maps worked the entire time, so I could easily follow the path along to Rundemanen, a little heritage museum that had a proper road heading back down towards the cable car.

Apart from a section of road that was closed due to an avalanche the rest of the walk down was pretty nice, the fog had subsided. It took me around 5 hours in total to hike around the mountains, and I was definitely ready to eat something.

So I stopped off at a pizza place in the City, I was so tired that I went back to the hostel and pretty much passed out.

I wish I had gone around the City at night to see it from a different perspective, but there will always be next time!

Butrint and Exploring Ksamil.

Our first day in Albania had been pretty amazing, so we were looking forward to what today would bring. After all the raki last night I was worried we’d be a bit hungover but after a bit of breakfast we were ready to go!

Today we were heading to Butrint, an ancient Greek, then Roman City located close to the reek border. It was first inhabited between the 10th and 8th centuries BC, so it’s pretty damn old! It’s also a UNESCO world heritage sight and national park.

As we were staying in Ksamil we decided to take the bus down to the entrance, they’re every hour and cost around a Euro. It was a leisurely 30 minutes to get there along a road filled with stunning scenery as we wound our way along hills with amazing views of the sea.

Arriving at butrint we were amazed at the beauty of the place. There’s a cute little wooden ferry taking you across the river which we had to try, and from here we explored a small fortress and took in the views. You can see for miles and there are lots of little hilltop churches and villages across the flood plains.

The entrance fee is around £4.50 and there’s a map at the beginning which I took a photo of to give us a clue of what we were looking at. We started off by walking along the river, spotting a watch tower in a beautiful wild flower meadow.

We doubled back and followed the path through the woods and it suddenly opened out to huge remains of old buildings. It was partially flooded which gave it an even more interesting vibe. Butrint was abandoned after an earthquake flooded much of the City and destroyed it.

The amphitheatre was particularly impressive and there was hardly anyone else there, so it felt like we had the place to ourselves to climb and clamber around. There were even little european pond turtles in the water. Butrint is known for it’s biodiversity and you can see all sorts of animals such as grey wolves, sea turtles, dolphins, salamander, jackals and golden eagles in the area if you’re lucky.

Butrint is amazing to just wander around if you have the full day, the Baptisterium was cool with all it’s pillars and is famous for it’s mosaic floor, unfortunately it’s kept submerged under water and mud for much of the year to keep it intact as it dates from the 6th century.

The great basilica was one of my favourite spots as it was really maintained with it’s beautiful archways, we felt like such explorers with all the ruins, and you get more and more views of the surrounding area as you walk around the island. we passed the Lion’s gateway before starting the ascent up to the Venetian castle and Sanctuary of Asclepius.

There’s an interesting museum up here and again, awesome views of the coastline and we watched eagles soaring high up in the distance. The castle is well maintained and you can get a drink and some food at the Dea Art Bar. The weather was really good which was a bonus for us. After the castle we had wandered for a good few hours. So we were ready to head back to Ksamil.

The bus dropped us off on the main road, and from here it was a short walk past a lot of half finished resort hotels. It seemed like there had been a real boom of tourism at one point but it’s a shame it’s a bit run down as when we got to the beaches they were amazing.

The sand was bright white and the water crystal clear, we took our shoes off and had a little paddle around. Then stopped and looked out at the little islands dotted around the bay. I’d definitely like to go back in peak season as the beaches weren’t very well maintained and nowhere looked open.

We had this problem as we looked for somewhere to eat, in the end we bought a typical mediterranean dinner of cheese, olives, bread and wine. We took this back to our hotel and sat on the balcony, watching the sun slowly set over the Ionian sea.

The next day we took the bus back to Sarande, and had a little wander around the shops to spend our last Albanian Lek before we took the ferry back to Corfu. I would definitely recommend staying a few days here over Summer. It was so cheap and there are a lot of things to do and see, I can’t wait to explore more of Albania one day!

Komodo, Land of Dragons.

Today was the day we had been looking forward to, we were off to see the Dragons! We had been on Flores Island for a few days and booked the trip while we were there through Seeksophie for £45pp. Seek Sophie

This was a full day boat trip to 4 locations and we were so excited for each one. We were picked up at 5:30am and taken to our boat for the day. There were 12 other people on the boat and we bonded with a girl from Perth and a guy from India.

It was pretty quick and easy getting on the boat and sorting money etc out. You have to pay between 300,00-460,000IDR in national park fees depending on how many people are on the tours. We were given all this information in our emails from seeksophie, and ended up paying 350,000.

So off we sped! We went to the top of the boat and watched the sunrise, it’s beautiful out on the water with all the little islands and villages on the way.

Our first stop was Padar Island, famous for it’s views of 3 beaches, one pink, one black and one white. It was 3 hours away but it went so quickly, you could say it sailed by!

Arriving at a little jetty it’s a pretty steep hike up to the top when you consider the heat even at 9am, but there are lots of places to stop and admire the amazing views. The landscape is truly incredible.

The downside was the black beach, there was a lot of rubbish on it which was a sad sight.

There were cute deer on the main beach eating old coconuts and playing in the water, we had some time to spare waiting on others to climb down so checked out the crystal clear water and the jetty.

We had an hour here and once everyone was back on the boat it was on to our next stop. As we sailed around the island we enjoyed the views and the interesting rock formations, some of them looked like animals or shapes.

Pink beach is about an hour away, named because a certain red coral mixes with the white sand making it a gorgeous pink colour. There were only 2 other boats and it didn’t feel crowded at all which was amazing.

The beach exceeded all expectations, it was so pink! The water was crystal clear and the snorkeling was amazing, we saw so many fish including a clownfish. The surrounding area is also photo worthy, we both wish we’d had more time here as 45 minutes was not long enough.

The excitement of the next destination prevented us from being too sad though. We were headed to Komodo island! Finally after months of looking forward to it we were here!

This time we met up with a few other boats and there was quite a large group of us. We were given a few rules and then taken into the island on a 2.5km walk by the park rangers armed with sticks.

We spotted some wild pigs and deer, then as we approached a watering hole we spotted two Komodo dragons lazing in the sun! There was even a baby Komodo walking around which is quite rare as the adults eat them.

The park rangers helped us take this amazing photo and we stood watching the Komodo for a while, they’re pretty big but they seemed chill as they mainly sleep in the heat of the day.

We were then herded along the track to see if we could spot more, but we found ourselves at a cafe/bar. There were two huge Komodo sleeping under some steps and it was fun having a super cold Bintang after trekking in the heat.

Then we were all hurried along to the boat, as we were walking along the jetty we spotted a small reef shark swimming along which was cool!

Our next stop was Manta Point where we’d hopefully see some Manta Rays! Indonesia is where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet and the current between them means there is a huge variety of marine life.

We passed some amazing looking islands and sand bars on the way, definitely worth a trip if you have time.

We were warned that the currents out here are pretty strong, and the depth is about 10 metres. We jumped in and the current was really strong, I’m not an amazing swimmer but we stayed close to the boat and it wasn’t too bad.

There were no Manta though! We saw a few fish including one with a long nose and I’m pretty sure I saw a bamboo shark laying on the bottom. However our snorkeling got cut short as the girl from Perth was struggling with the current.

We all had to jump back in the boat and sail over to rescue her, and after this there was no more snorkeling. It was sad that we didn’t see Manta but we were happy everyone was ok, there’s always another time!

Everyone was tired after the heat of the day as we made our way back to the mainland. So we watched another magical sunset behind us and arrived back in the town at 18:30. 13 hours after we left! We stopped off at Warung Mama for dinner to talk about the spectacular day we’d had.

The food here is great, you pick what dishes you want from a glass counter with some rice, the vegetarian options were great and the spicy sauce is a must!

After that it was time to walk back to our hotel, obviously with a pit stop at the supermarket for ice cream. I couldn’t recommend this day enough, it felt like such an adventure in a wild part of the world.

48 hours in Kiev, Day 1.

Ukraine

Kiev is the capital of Ukraine, the 2nd largest country in Europe behind Russia. Located in Eastern Europe, it shares a border with Russia, Belarus, Romania and Poland. I wanted to visit Ukraine so I could enter the Chernobyl exclusion zone, and Kiev is the best place to do this from. I had also found cheap flights from Ryanair, unfortunately they cancelled these so I had to re-book with British Airways. There are some no go areas of Ukraine at the moment due to the annexation of Crimea by the Russians, so check the UK government website for up to date advice.

Kiev

It was founded in the 5th century, has a world heritage site amongst it’s many Orthodox churches, the world’s deepest underground railway line and it is where Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt met to discuss them organisation of post WWII Europe! Unfortunately and much to my dismay the chicken kiev wasn’t invented here! Communist symbols and street names were outlawed here in 2015 to attempt to move away from Russia and the Soviet Union.

Top Sights of Kiev

I arrived late into Kiev and took the sky bus found in front of terminal D and B to the main station. This took almost an hour, I didn’t see much as it was already dark by the time I got there. There is now a train that runs twice an hour and only takes 40 minutes to the City. I stayed at irisHotel right by the station for a couple of nights, then changed to the Fire Inn for the last two nights. Both were cheap, comfy and clean, the Fire Inn was in an old fire station which was pretty cool.

I started my tour of Kiev by heading to the Ukrainian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War. I had just visited one in Belarus and it was so interesting seeing how the two nations portrayed the war so differently, especially how they perceived Russia/The Soviets.

It’s another really interesting museum even if you don’t have much interest in history or WWII. The most impressive part of the museum is outside where you can view the Motherland Monument.

Standing at 62 metres tall it dominates the skyline above the museum. It was finished in 1981 and has been exempt from the decommunisation law because of it’s WWII significance. It looks like something out of a sci-fi film and it’s one of the grandest statues I’ve ever seen.

There’s also a monument to the UN, the founders of Kiev and a load of cool tanks and a nice park area around the museum. You can walk straight from here past a few cafes and shops to the next big sight, the Pechersk Lavra.

A monastery with a huge cave complex underneath it with several saints and religious figures reported to be buried there, it began in 1051 and the complex now consists of several pretty orthodox churches and you can visit the catacombs for a small fee. You aren’t allowed to take photos in the catacombs but are free to wander around the rest of it and take as many pics as you like. It’s definitely one of the best things to do here.

There are a couple of museums and art galleries nearby but I didn’t visit them, instead heading to the Holodomor Genocide museum, here you can learn more about the famine caused by Stalinist policies such as collectivisation in the early 1930s that killed an estimated 7.5 million Ukrainians.

It’s a harrowing tale, especially the propaganda used such as spreading tales that the peasants were hoarding food for themselves instead of giving to the wider collective of the USSR. Just along from here is a memorial to the Unknown Soldier.

Next up was the Mariyinsky Palace, completed in 1752 it’s the official residence of the president of Ukraine in Kiev and is joined to the parliament of Ukraine. It was built in the baroque style and the first royal figure to stay here was Catherine the Great! It was badly damaged in WWII and has had a couple of major restorations since then.

It’s a beautiful building and the adjacent park is lovely to wander around too. You can check out the old Dynamo Kiev stadium before walking over the park bridge and enjoy amazing views over the river Dnipro and to the East of Kiev.

I followed the walkway past the Museum of Water and stopped for a picture with a big bronze frog, you throw a coin in it’s mouth for good luck.

It was starting to get a bit dark and walking through the parks was so nice as they were all lit up, and if you follow on from the frog you get to the Friendship of Nations Arch.

Another throwback to Soviet rule it was completed in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the USSR and 1500th anniversary of Kiev. It’s a huge 50m diameter rainbow shaped arch made of titanium, with a bronze statue of russian and ukrainian workers underneath.

During eurovision it was lit up in rainbow colours and renamed the arch of diversity however after 3 weeks it went back to normal. It was supposed to be removed and replaced with a memorial to soldiers fighting russian rebels in the East of the country, but it still stands as far as I’m aware!

I was starving now as I had only had a cute little hotdog from a place in one of the subway stations, it was delicious but I needed something more substantial. After a quick google I headed to Veterano Pizzeria, I liked the name and I adore pizza!

The decor was so cool inside, with army memorabilia on the walls and table tops made from bullets. The food was really good too and I had a couple of beers to go alongside the pizza and cheesecake.

I spent the rest of the evening wandering down Khreschatyk St, a huge avenue runnning through central Kiev, it was stunning!

All the buildings were lit up and it was almost like Vienna in it’s grandiosity. So far Kiev was nothing like I was expecting, and I was super impressed. I stopped at Independance Square, where there was a huge mural of chains saying ‘freedom is our religion’, an I love Kiev sign and some cute statues.

I had walked so much today in the cold but I had enjoyed every moment. I would have missed a lot of things that I found by mistake if I had taken the underground or taxis/buses. I also thought it was amazing that half of Kiev seemed to be out, drinking coffee from little huts on the pavement all wrapped up. It was very European. On my way back to the hotel I passed this stunning building called Volodymyr’s Cathedral, I couldn’t wait to explore the rest of Kiev!

It’s a Quokka thing, Rottnest Island.

Today was a big surprise! We were headed to Perth for my Birthday, unfortunately the flight was delayed by about 5 hours so we arrived late. This left us little time to explore one of the most isolated Cities on earth, as we were only here for 2 nights and the main day was for Rottnest Island!

We arrived at the airport and took a taxi to our Hotel Rendezvous we dumped our stuff and headed out to find food. We headed straight to William Street where I had read about some cool sounding restaurants, and after wandering about for a bit we settled on this cute little Italian called Francoforte Spaghetti bar.

It was some of the best pasta either of us have ever had! We had the pasta broccoli and the eggplant sugo, and we just feeling very happy. Obviously we needed to follow this up with dessert so we headed to Whisk Creamery. This place is a pudding palace! I got a salted caramel cronut with vanilla soft serve. Craig opted for a fish shaped green tea ice cream Taiyaki.

The next day we were picked up at our hotel and whisked away to the Northern port at Hillary’s. We were given our bikes here while we waited for the ferry. It takes around 45 minutes to cross to the island and it was a very choppy sea that day!

You land on the Western side of the island and immediately have free reign to do whatever you like. The only cars on the island are maintenance vans and passenger buses so it’s super easy to cycle around.

We checked out the map and decided to try and do a full loop of the island after grabbing some refreshments, we set off. Starting off South we passed a few buildings and then we were out on our own, I was desperately trying to cycle and look for Quokkas, the reason we had come to the island.

Quokkas are small Marsupials that can only be found on Rottnest Island in the wild because of invasive species on the mainland. They’re also one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Balancing on the bike I spotted movement in the undergrowth and came screeching to a halt, I moved as stealthily as a 6″1 man can, and spotted a little Quokka! I was so happy and the little guy wasn’t bothered by us at all.

Continuing on we stopped at a couple of nice beach areas, and did a bit of rock climbing as I looked for sharks. They are often seen around Rottnest and the Western Australian coast. There’s a cool website you can use to see where the most recent sightings have been. We also stopped to look for Quokkas in the bush to no avail.

As we continued to cycle on we got a little lost, then the heavens opened up above us and the rain came pouring down! Without coats we got absolutely soaked, but we didn’t care as the sun came back out it seemed like hundreds of little Quokkas suddenly emerged from the undergrowth. One took a real shine to Craig and we got some great pics.

Totally happy despite our soggy clothes we cycled on to the big lighthouse in the middle of the island, it’s not free so we didn’t climb up, instead we sheltered from the next wave of rain next to the toilets.

Carrying on towards the South West we had some amazing views of the island, and more Quokkas! This time one decided I was very interesting and came hopping over to give me a sniff, we got some great selfies with him and started to dry off as the glorious sun came out.

Finally we reached the furthest tip of the island, and it was so worth it, the rock formations in the sea were incredible. We sat and had our little lunch and enjoyed the waves crashing through the rocks. This had taken us a few hours with stops along the way so we thought we better start the journey back.

On the way we saw more Quokkas, making my excitement at seeing the first little one a little over the top. The cycling started to get a little harder as I’m not the fittest, and even though it was mostly flat there are some steeper hilly bits, just don’t be too proud to stop if you need to! Again we stopped at a couple of nice points, it was a shame the weather wasn’t a little warmer as the beaches looked amazing with the white sand and clear blue waters.

As we neared our destination we passed a huge lake which smelt pretty eggy, like sulphur, with loads of different birds who didn’t seem to mind the smell one bit. Once we arrived back to the main area we had about an hour till our ferry. At first we were going to continue cycling but it started raining again so we settled for a couple of beers.

There were even Quokkas near the shops and restaurants! It’s probably harder to miss one than find them. We took the ferry back, and it was just as rough, I was in hysterics watching Mr Bean while Craig was trying his best not to be sick along with most of the other passengers. Soon we were back on dry land, handed our bikes back and back in Perth. After all that cycling we were ravenous, we thought we’d head back to William St but on our way we noticed that a burger chain called Grill’d were doing vegetarian night!

Feeling like it must have been a sign, in we went and ordered a classic veggie burger along with a beyond meat burger and 3 types of fries, including zucchini which were delicious! We sank a couple of beers, and then headed back to the hotel. It had been such a fun day out, those little Quokka are everything!