A few months ago I went to Warsaw in Poland which I really enjoyed. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to go back and visit Krakow instead for a few days.

What I ate

Pierogi

As soon as we got to our airbnb we were starving and it was getting late. So first thing  was a trip to the old square to see what restaurants were around. We went to Restauracja Haelka that specialised in Polish cuisine, I had pierogi (which is a traditional polish dish) that are essentially dumplings filled with either meat, cheese, potatoes (I had cheese and potatoes in mine). It was gorgeous.

I also went to this restaurant called Mamma Mia Wloska Restauracja which specialises in Italian cuisine. My tour guide for Auschwitz recommended the place for its stone cooked pizza and since I love pizza we thought to give it a go. I had the Spinaci a Capra which is mozzarella cheese, goats cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and garlic.  I wish I had taken a photograph of it but the mobile phone had gone dead!

U Babci Maliny

U Babci Maliny was a treat. Situated inside what is a University (it really is hidden away) the decoration was really kitsch. It was like walking into Grandma’s house with walls with photographs of the owner posing with lots of celebrity boxers! It sold cheap polish food, certainly a place you thought was for the locals!

What I saw

Auschwitz-Birkenau

I have always wanted to visit Auschwitz as I have an interest in the Second World War and have been to hundreds of museums and read lots of books and watched lots of documentaries. As I was walking around it is very humbling. The room where all of the hair was that had been cut and the piles of shoes were two chilling exhibits.

Museum of Poland under Communist Regime

Museum of Poland under Communist Regime

I am interested in communist history, therefore when I googled and found this museum located in the Nowa Huta district, I knew I had to visit. The district itself is interesting as it was built after World War Two specifically for the threat of a nuclear attack. Hence wide gaps between buildings with trees to slow down the effect of a nuclear fall out (as if that would work). It meant that lots of buildings were built with nuclear bunkers including the Museum which is situated inside an old cinema. The displays are in English as well as polish and were really interesting with lots of exhibits from family members giving their momentos and the stories that came with them.

Wieliczka Salt Mines

Originally I wasn’t planning on going to the salt mines but it came with the Auschwitz tickets. Wieliczka is a national monument and famous for being one of the oldest salt mines producing table salt continuously until 2007 and has many statues and  four chapels which were carved by the salt miners inside. To go down the mine you had to walk down these very steep wooden stairs which if you were to fall would be a bit scary. The main chapel called St Kinga’s with the chandelier looked incredible.

St Mary's Church, Krakow

Old Market Square

Krakow has an old town square which has been given UNESCO World Heritage Status. St Mary’s Basilica Church is situated just of the square and is stunning. There are plenty of things to do in the square and you can take a horse and cart around the square if you want to.

So that is what I got up to in Krakow, have you been to Krakow? Let me know your thoughts.

 

 

Belfast City Hall in January

I started off my New Year with a bang by spending a weekend in Belfast. A 40 minute plane journey from Birmingham airport and we were there.

Victoria Square Shopping Centre

Saturday was about exploring the City and doing a bit of shopping. We went to St George’s Market which was mainly full of small independent food stalls. It had a lovely quiet atmosphere and was fairly busy. We also had a gander around CastleCourt Shopping Centre and Victoria Square. Victoria Square has a dome for a roof and you can go up to the top and see great views of Belfast.

Image of a St Georges' Market stall with cheese

Image of a St George's Market stall selling mugs and postcards

St George's Market

In the evening we went to Granny Annie’s. It was a place that we happened to walk past and we were attracted by the outdoor decor and the inside certainly didn’t disappoint. There was live music and food. It was had a great atmosphere and was so busy. Definitely book if you want to go there. Granny Annie's Cocktail Bar

Granny Annie's Cocktail

On Sunday, I booked a coach trip to the Giants Causeway. I had booked the trip through Allen’s tour. The tour left South Donegall in the morning and snaked its way up to the Causeway. We stopped by Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This bridge is part of the National Trust, and was erected in 1755 to reduce the reliance of a boat reaching the island as salmon fishing was a industry there. The island and the views were lovely but I didn’t find crossing the rope bridge that scary!

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Giants Causeway itself was lovely. I thought the basalt columns would be taller then they were but the fact that lava settled into those shapes is interesting (Geography geek coming out there!). Finally on the way back we went to the Dark Hedges – famous from being in Games of Thrones. Although by then it was dark so it was a bit pointless.

Giants Causeway

Hexagonal Blocks of the Giants Causeway

View from the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

At night we ate at Little Wings Pizzaria. The pizza was lovely (I had the Formaggi Caprini which is goat’s cheese, red onion, rocket and garlic oil). I had to get the nutella pizza for dessert – which is essentially nutella and chocolate ice cream on a base. The pizza’s are cooked in a wood stone oven. They were gorgeous.

Little Wings Pizzeria

On the last day we went on a famous Black Cab Taxi Tour around Belfast. The tour I took was the political tour where I learned about the The Troubles and the history of Northern Ireland and saw the murals on the walls and the Peace Lines. It was very interesting

I think Northern Ireland is lovely and I am glad I went for the weekend. Have you ever been to Northern Ireland, let me know what you thought or any suggestions on where I should go next!

A few weeks ago I went to Dubrovnik Croatia, with my partner as part of a trip that he was rewarded with at work. I had never been to Croatia before so wasn’t sure what to expect, but Dubrovnik was lovely. I have included some snippets if what I got up in the four days below:

Cable Car
All of us got on a cable car which gave us stunning views of the Old Town above. The cable car was relatively new, the last cable car being destroyed in the 1991 war.

Cable Car
(Image Source: Tripadvisor)

Old Town Dubrovnik BecBec
Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Shimmering limestone pavements in Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)

Old Town
We had a guided walk through the town telling us stories about the 1991 war and how it affected the Old Town (Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the few examples of walled cities). Dubrovnik was under siege for seven months which meant a lot of properties within the walled city were damaged. An example of this was the roofs, the majority of roofs on properties in the Old Town had to be rebuilt from scratch in the same style per UNESCO guidelines.

The walk down Stradun (the main street in Dubrovnik) was lovely. The streets in Old Town are limestone paved therefore really slippy! My partner and I loved the old town so much we went back a few days later and explored it further, we even brought back a painting (there were many sellers selling paintings create by local art students).

Old Town Dubrovnik BecBec
Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Old Town Dubrovnik BecBec
 Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Old Town Dubrovnik BecBec
Harbour in Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)

Rib- boats and Water sports
On one of the day’s we all piled into rib- boats and just powered our way round the coast. We stopped at a small island for a three- course lunch then did some water sports. I went on a jet- ski (the first time ever on a jet- ski and loved it!) and kayaking with my partner.

Rib- boat Dubrovnik Travel Review BecBec
Rib- boat fun
(Image Source, AddingValue)

Eating Mussels
Not one for eating seafood myself, our first full day involved eating mussels on this boat. I wasn’t keen on the mussels but glad I tried it, I did wash it all down with wine after!

Mussels- Dubrovnik- Croatia- BecBec
Mussels, an acquired taste!
(Image Source, Authors Own)

Sand Buggies
On our last full day, we decided to go on a sand buggy. We drove across land which in the 1991 war had been occupied. The guide showed us some relics from the war including shrapnel and a gas mask. He also told us about the war from his perspective as he was a seven when it happened. The guide said as a child he didn’t go to school very often because the war made normal life very difficult and that sometimes he would ask a member of the army for a ride in a tank and occasionally they let him! He spoke about landmines from the 1991 war that in certain areas were still active and that had blown people up in mid-2000. As I was born in the early nineties it brought home really how recent the war was.

Sand Buggies Dubrovnik BecBec
Our sand ‘buggies’
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Dubrovnik Review Becbec

View of Dubrovnik
(Image Source, Authors Own)

Yachting
In the afternoon on the last day we went yachting around the coastline of Dubrovnik. I felt really sea sick (too much sun and good food I think!) so ended up laying down on the boat as the sky was the only thing I could focus on!

Franjo Tudman Bridge
Franjo Tudman Bridge
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Dubrovnik
I saw a pirate ship!
(Image Source, Authors Own)

So that was a little snapshot of what I got up to in the four days!

This post is about the second part of the Trek America Westerner 2 trip that I went on at the end of March/ beginning of April. Read what happened in the first seven days here 😀

Going on a trek but not sure what to pack? Read here.

Day Eight (Death Valley)
The next stop after Vegas was Death Valley. It was an awesome place to say that you have been there but I didn’t really think it was that hot! (we did go very early in the morning so that may have been why!) Not a lot happened that day due to it being another long day of driving. We stopped at a campsite (Lake Isabella/ Kearn River KOA) which was in the middle of nowhere! However, that gave us a chance to chill before Yosemite!

Day Nine (Yosemite National Park, California)

After a long day driving, we arrived at Yosemite and went straight to Mariposa Grove which is home to the giant sequoia’s. These tree’s being true to their name were huge and the whole place had a whimsical feel to it. Afterwards, as it was late, we put our tents at the campsite and just chilled.

Day Ten (Yosemite National Park, California).
All morning it snowed. It was so thick, it is quite hard to believe that there was snow in California. I trekked up to Nevada Falls although we didn’t quite get to the falls before we turned back as the snow was falling thick and fast. We stayed in a hotel that night as it was so cold. It was that cold that the next day the camp leader informed us that the coolers had retained there ice! Although it was pretty special that we saw Yosemite in the snow, I wished that it hadn’t snowed because we didn’t get to see the park in its full glory.

Day Eleven (San Francisco)
We were all excited as we were heading to San Fran! Before the trip, I had heard others rave about San Francisco however it wasn’t a place I was thinking ‘yeah I really want to go there!’.
We headed over to the IHOP for pancakes American style. It was such a disappointment, as the pancakes tasted really soggy. bleurgh. Once we were all fed we travelled over to the Golden Gate Bridge for the obligatory pictures. We stayed in a hostel which was in the Tenderloin district which is one of the poorest parts of San Fran. One thing which I wasn’t prepared for in san Fran but also California was seeing the amount of homeless people on the street. A lot of them were high on drugs as well and I didn’t feel safe at times. On the first night, my partner and I along with some of the trek decided to go on the sunset cruise around the Golden Gate bridge. It cost roughly $45 dollars each and was really good value for money with unlimited drinks (including alcoholic drinks) and nibbles. It was a really special moment that I will remember for a long time.

Day Twelve (San Francisco)
My Birthday! My partner and I went to Alcatraz for the day. Alcatraz in a round about way was an unexpected highlight. The history of the island (I knew it was a prison but didn’t know about the native American Indians occupying the island after). We went on the tour where you are given a headset. Again I recommend this as you learn so much about Alcatraz and the tour was spoken by people who had lived on Alcatraz- this ranged from prisoners to guards to children of the prison guards. I had a nice Indian meal in the evening to celebrate my birthday.

Day Thirteen (Monterey Bay and the Coastal Highway).
This day was quite sad because we all knew we would be leaving soon! We started the morning leaving San Francisco early and heading to Monterey Bay. Monterey Bay is famous for cannery, fishing and John Steinbeck’s famous books such as Cannery Row. It was very quiet and a world away from the West Coast I have gotten to know. Our route was down Big Sur on Highway 1. I had never heard of Big Sur before but the whole route contained stunning sea views. We took a walk across the path to McWay falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The McWay falls were gorgeous. It is essentially a waterfall falling onto a beach which is inaccessible to the public. It is one of those little places where you would never go there as it isn’t a tourist must see you hear about.

Day 14  (Venice Beach and Hometime)
Home time 🙁 We got driven to Venice Beach and had a couple of hours around there. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Venice Beach. It was very busy with street groups and people selling items everywhere. On the beach, people were continuously roller blading, running or walking. I also got to see Muscle Beach. I have always been intrigued with the area after seeing it on Don’t Tell the Bride and I can tell you I wouldn’t get married there! We stopped off for doughnuts and then we all bid farewell and got dropped off at our hotels.

What did I think of the trip?
I am really glad I did the Trek America trip. I never did the ‘Gap Year’ experience so to have a taste of it for two weeks was fantastic. I didn’t find the camping too bad- at the end of the day it’s camping it’s not going to be comfortable or glamorous. It is camping with tents and not hostelling, Trek America do make it clear on the website, but some people on our trek did not know this.
I definitely felt that I had experienced the west coast.

A couple of things I do wish I saw was the Neon Sign graveyard in Vegas, Had another day to experience San Fran (I was poorly throughout San Fran and stayed in bed the afternoon of the second day) and stayed at the very tacky Madonna Inn!

I will go into the experience of camping in another post but felt that the logistics of the trek were fine. In terms of we didn’t spend horrendously long times in the van or too long in a rubbish place. If you do want to experience Los Angeles properly however I would book either an extra day or two before or after the trek. I didn’t do this and wish I had as we literally drove through LA, Beverly Hills and Hollywood and I wanted to go on the famous star’s home tour and try and get closer to the famous Hollywood sign.

Are you booking a Trek America tour or heading to the West Coast?

If anyone is thinking about going on a Trek America trip or more specifically doing the Westerner 2 tour then read on as this will be a detailed post of my experience.

As I was away for 14 days in total this post will focus on the first seven days and an additional post will focus on the final seven otherwise this post would have been mega long!

Day 1 California ( San Diego and Hollywood)
The day before we had flown in and stayed in a hotel that Trek America had recommended (Custom Hotel). We met our group leader and the group. The group leader went through typical health and safety stuff and then gave us all a list detailing what we were doing and going on each day and the food kitty. The food kitty is where everyone puts in money ($10 dollars a day) and in groups cooks a meal.  After that, we all piled in the white van and travelled to Hollywood. Whilst we were in Hollywood we took photographs of the famous sign and went to Hollywood boulevard where we walked around the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

Hollywood Walk Of Fame
Dolby Theatre
Hollywood
Afterwards, we travelled to San Diego and arrived at our campsite (Campland on the bay). We all set up our tents together (Mike our tour guide called it tent yoga!) and headed towards the beach. At night, Mike cooked our first meal. We had s’mores which were great as I never had them before. S’mores are essentially crackers with chocolate and marshmallows that are roasted in a camp fire.

Day Two (San Diego)
Today was a completely free day in San Diego so we decided to go to the beach in the morning and have a wander round. I didn’t think there was much to do at the beach (i.e. all the shops are the usual tourist shops) however I was pretty happy as I just wanted to chill out anyway. In the afternoon, we travelled to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Old Town San Diego is considered the birthplace of California as it was the site of the first Spanish settlement.  It literally reminded me of a Disney set. We all went to a Mexican restaurant. Which served massive portions, I wish I had shared with my fiancé! Around the historic park, there are lots of small shops in the style of what would have been sold in the 1800’s. I went to the little Tinsmith shop and brought a mirror and a present for my mum. Finally, we went to Balboa Park which was a bit of a disappointment really as everything was shut.

Day 3 (Lake Havasu, Arizona)

The next day we headed to Lake Haversau. Which purely served as a stopover site for the Grand Canyon. It was a long van ride. I think 5 hours long in what is desert. Before we made it to the Lake however we visited Salvation Mountain. The mountain, created from adobe clay and donated paint by Leonard Knight who was a Vietnam War veteran who died in 2014 was his tribute to God. It was nothing like I ever seen in the UK. I thought it was pretty and unique.

When we go to the campsite (River Island State Park) it was the first time where I thought I hate camping as it was so windy dust was just getting everywhere. I long abandoned any hopes of keeping my clothes clean with all the dust!  We went stargazing which was fantastic, but we could only identify the plough.

Day 4 (Grand Canyon!)
Full steam ahead to the next stop, we went to a place which had the original London Bridge.  To be honest none of the brits were that impressed with it.  It’s not home and why on earth you would buy a bridge from another country to boost tourism in your own country is beyond me! 

We went on a tiny part of the famous Route 66 which was really exciting for me, stopping at this diner which is famous for its milkshakes (and it’s decor) and you could leave something behind on it’s walls. I left behind a loyalty card.  The decor was crazy, literally everywhere contained all this crazy material even the toilets were fully decked out! Finally after a few hours we were at the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon was amazing I paid for the helicopter ride which empathised how vast the canyon is. Our pilot was lovely and gave us lots of facts. The flight was 40 minutes long and in the final twenty minutes I felt so ill I did everything in my power as not to throw up. By the time we got back my partner and I just chilled (I still felt poorly after the ride) and I had an early night.

Day 5 (Grand Canyon)

My fiancé and I woke early (quarter past six) and had a look at the sun rising in the Canyon. On that day, we walked half way down the Canyon Rim. We left at about eight to walk down and I am so glad we went early as it meant missing a lot of the crowds and also the heat! In the afternoon, we did our laundry, had a shower and went bowling in the morning and caught up with wi- fi access in the laundry room!

Day 6 and Day 7 (Hoover Dam and Las Vegas) 

Everyone was looking forward to Vegas not least because it was the first day of being in a hotel. After the muck of the canyon and the tents, it was nice to be in a room to be able to repack. Before Vegas we had to stop in an In and Out burger place. I love places like Wendy’s and Denny’s so knew I would love In and Out.  We also stopped at the Hoover Dam for pictures.

We stayed at the Golden Nugget Hotel which was in the Fremont part of Vegas. We all decided to hire a party bus for the night (which came out of the kitty) which I was so glad we did as it was awesome. Afterwards for the over 21’s we went to a club Omnia nightclub in Caesars Palace which happened to have Nicky Romero playing a set. It is an amazing nightclub and I really recommend anyone to go! On our next free day In Vegas all I did was shop, see all the sites such as the Vegas sign, Bellagio Fountains, Ceasars Palace and dabbled in a bit of gambling. At first I wished I had more than two days at Vegas to experience it but two days was enough for me.