Postcard from the Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

I love a castle.

I love the history, the sense of thousands of people who’ve walked the same corridors you’re now walking. I love exploring winding staircases and narrow battlements and cramped cellars. I’m less interested in learning the actual facts of what happened there, in what century, involving which people, and would rather just run around, pretending to be in Game of Thrones or a Philippa Gregory novel; treating the whole place like an acceptable grown-up version of a playground.

But it’s not just any castle that makes it to third on my list of all time favourite castles (yes I really have a list of all time favourite castles. I swear I’m perfectly normal). The Castel Sant’Angelo makes the cut because it is a sprawling maze of interconnected rooms and passageways and you never come out quite where you expect to – perfect for losing yourself from modern life for a day. It feels like nowhere is off limits, which is never usually the case. And there’s nothing that crushes my daydreams about being Cersei Lannister quicker than a cordoned off staircase marked ‘do not enter.’

It’s not on the typical tourist agenda for a trip to Rome because, I suppose, comparatively it’s not really that old. What’s a castle built in the 14th Century AD compared to a Colosseum built in the 1st Century AD? But it just had that bit of magic to it that won me over completely.

Postcard from Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Yesterday afternoon I dropped almost £700 on a return flight to Australia. The stress of it all nearly gave me a panic attack but now it’s done and been triple checked for errors and I can actually start to look forward to three weeks exploring a completely new country. A completely new continent. A completely new hemisphere.

The furthest I have ever been from the UK is Vancouver but we built up to that – flying into Orlando and slowly making our way around America to end in Vancouver. And on the way back we had a day layover in Iceland so the flights never got beyond a manageable length.

London to Brisbane though is a completely different ball game. I leave on the Saturday and don’t arrive until Monday. And how that takes 29 hours makes my brain boggle but even with my mental block against time zones I can tell you – that’s a hell of a long time.

Will it be worth it? Of course it will. Because even though I’ll probably get bitten by poisonous spiders, lose limbs to great white sharks, spend the whole time suffering from sunburn and have spent over two grand in the process I’ll get to see places that look as close to paradise as I can imagine.

Postcard from San Francisco

I did not much enjoy San Francisco. It was hyped up to us so much everywhere that we went and by everyone that we met but when we got there it was either boring, if you were just walking up ridiculously steep hills looking at the houses (I mean really – who thought it was a good place to build a city? It’s like living in a giant skate park), or overly touristy, if you went down to Fisherman’s Wharf.

We also got attacked by mutant seagulls while we eating calamari and chips. Continue reading “Postcard from San Francisco”

Postcard from Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana

This is such a cliché of a photograph. But you can’t go to Oak Alley Plantation and not take a photo of the Oak Alley. That’s like people going to the top of the Rockefeller Center and not taking a photo of the Empire State Building. Or going to Venice and not taking a photo of the Rialto Bridge. Or going to Piza and not pretending to push the tower back upright. Continue reading “Postcard from Oak Alley Plantation, Louisiana”

Postcard from Regent’s Park, London

Sometimes a photo fades from being a way to recall a memory to nothing more than a pretty picture. And others even years later can still take you back to that spot and that time and make you live it all over again.

This photo is the second type and I’m so happy it is because it was taken on one of my favourite ever days. Continue reading “Postcard from Regent’s Park, London”

Postcard from Washington DC

Sometimes my cheap-skated-ness is for the best. Sometimes I can use it to get a real bargain. Other times it goes to extremes that are borderline ridiculous. The day we spent sightseeing in Washington DC is a prime example of that.

Our first day in the city was spent cowering in our hostel as the weather outside turned biblical so when on the second day we woke up to bright skies we thought we’d make the most of the sunshine and set off to see all sights on foot.

And we walked, and walked, and then walked some more. About fifteen miles in total. All the way from the Capitol Building to Arlington National Cemetery and everything in-between. Because once we’d got so far without using public transport it seemed stupid to cave in.

Postcard from Ostia Antica, Italy

I’m in two minds about this postcard because although on one hand this is perhaps my favourite tourist destination of all time, it also feels like my own little undiscovered secret. Somewhere absolutely incredible and yet flying under the radar, still keeping its hipster credentials.

But I do write a blog so I really need to get over things like that.

Ostia Antica is the Pompeii no one’s heard of. Mostly, I guess, because its demise wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic. No erupting volcano, no clouds of ash, no thousands of dead bodies; people simply abandoned it with the fall of the Roman Empire.

Only a fifty minute train journey from Rome and €8 later and you can wander the rooms of Roman houses, climb up Roman staircases, walk on Roman mosaics. We even found ourselves underground at one point until I got creeped out and insisted we go back to daylight. I love places you can freely explore and really immerse yourself in the history, spending the day pretending to be Roman nobility, and nowhere has been better for that than Ostia Antica.

Postcard from Santa Monica, California 

I freaking love swings. Love them. Looooove them.

As a child I could happily spend an hour on a swing. In many a park up and down the country has my dad taken a sneaky nap on a bench while I entertained myself on a swing.

Even to this day I can’t walk past a swing without jumping on it, despite being at an age where going to a children’s park without a child gains me a lot of suspicious glances.

This is part of my postcards series so I suppose I ought to talk about the location of this particular swing – which is pretty awesome actually. This is the beautiful Santa Monica beach in California and yes isn’t it lovely and the weather looks amazing and the sand literally is golden. But really, all I care about is the swing.

Postcard from Leicester, England 

I could talk you all to death about these exotic and interesting and fun places that I’ve visited but sometimes you’ve just got to take a moment to appreciate where you live.

Leicester has such a bad reputation. It just sounds like a grubby Midlands town with rundown factories and dodgy council estates. And sure, it has those parts, every city does, but Leicester also has quaint cobbled streets, beautiful parks, artisan bakeries, restaurants from every country in the world, culture, a dead King and a theatre with some of the best musical productions in the country.

I’d love it whatever it was like because it’s where I went to University and it’s where my mum grew up. But the more I get to know it, the more I start to feel like a local (a Leicestovian? Leicesterian?), the more I find myself harping on about its charms. Because people need to know. Because all this pressure, all this propaganda that says if you’re not living in London you’re not successful is wrong. You don’t always have to be in London to find the best of things.

Postcard from Disneyland, California

Walt Disney statue, Disneyland, California

In some ways I am really old before my time – I can knit, I actively enjoy cross stitch and on a Friday night I’d rather be kicking back with a cup of tea and a cryptic crossword than out painting the town red. At the same time I am also extremely childish so a holiday to Disneyland gets me just as excited as it does all those little kids in the adverts.

I only got to go for the first time when I was 22 so I may have gone a little overboard with the enthusiasm – running around with the Mickey Mouse ears on, queuing up to have my photo taken with Eeyore and considering throwing a tantrum upon discovering there was an age limit on the princess makeover. But the place just does something to you – it truly feels like the happiest place on earth.

And I know I should be dreaming about cultured weekend breaks to Amsterdam and Reykjavik. That Disneyland is a hugely clichéd destination. That it’s nothing but a marketing machine built to take our money and feed our consumerism. But I’m a lost cause. My heart was stolen by the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.