What to see in Petra

Petra – the stunning ancient city in Southern Jordan, half hidden in the wind blown landscape; voted as one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World.’ Petra is of the worlds most treasured Unesco Heritage Sites, and most famous archaeological sites. The word Petra means pink city, and is derived from the Greek word Petros meaning rocks. When you see it in early morning or evening light you can see why its often referred to as The Rose City.

Petra is a must visit whilst in Jordan. Fair to say it’s the leading highlight of a country blessed with more than it’s fair share of top sights.

The walk in through The Siq (pronounced ‘Seek’) is amazing in itself stretching for around 1km, but nothing prepares you for the site of the treasury peering through the rocks! It’s remarkable, an ancient city carved into the sandstone rock. The once lavish city fell into obscurity, hidden for centuries until it was uncovered by a Swiss explorer in the early 1800’s.

One of the reasons that Petra was declared as one of The Seven wonders of world is apparently due to the use of Juniper wood that was used in the foundations of the structures to act as shock absorbers, to protect them from collapse during earthquakes which can be quite common. UNESCO described the site as ‘one of the most precious cultural properties of mans cultural heritage’. It is also known for its innovative water management system, which made the area inhabitable.

And of course famed for being part of the set in The Last Crusade, where Indiana Jones searches for The Holy Grail. What better setting than a real location called ‘The Treasury.’ Now a popular tourist attraction ‘The Al Khazneh’ is a giant, ornately carved sandstone temple facade, dating back to the first century AD. The Mummy Returns was also filmed there.

Only 13% of Petra is uncovered, the rest remains below ground and still unexcavated so one can only imagine what it must have looked like in its full glory.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Mahatma Gandhi


The city of Petra was established as a trading post by the Nabateans, an Arab Bedouin tribe indigenous to the region which is now South West Jordan. They accumulated a huge amount of wealth and an envious Greek Empire attacked in 312 BC. The Nabateans successfully fought back using the advantage of the mountainous terrain which served as a natural wall.

The Romans later successfully attacked in 106 AD and ultimately forced The Nabateans to surrender. They ruled for some 250 years until an earthquake destroyed many of its buildings. Eventually The Byzantines took over for a period of 300 years.

By the early 8th century Petra was largely abandoned and no longer significant politically or culturally. It has always been noted by historians and archaeologists though for its unique architecture and innovation made by the Nabatean Bedouins that established the city.

Given its rugged and mountainous terrain it wasn’t a logical place to build a city. However, the Nabateans took advantage of the geography as they erected its key structures.

The Nabateans literally carved the key buildings out of the stone surfaces. As its pre-dominantly sandstone its a relatively soft rock to cut into. Later the Romans and Byzantines wanted to leave their own marks on the city and it began to take on a mix of the different cultures that occupied it.

Walks and trails

There are many choices of places to walk, in fact you could spend days wandering around Petra. Whilst The Treasury is stunning, for me the Monastery was more impressive, and worth the hike up to view it. The view looking down on ‘Ad Deir’ is amazing, plus there’s a bar at the top!

The monastery is one of the largest monuments in Petra measuring 47m wide by just over 48m high. It dates back to the earliest 2nd century AD. It was initially used as a meeting place for religious associations. And later the hall was re-used as a Christian chapel, crosses were carved into the rear wall hence how the structure got its name.

The High Place of Sacrifice is another popular trail. It’s a place of worship on a plateau on the mountain. You can reach it by climbing rock cut steps to the top where you will be rewarded by spectacular views of the ancient city below, and of the wider area. The High Place was used for important religious ceremonies.

The Royal Tombs are also worth a visit if you have time. It contains 4 magnificent facades adjacent to each other. You can combine a visit to both these and The High Place of sacrifice in one afternoon.

There are many other choices but these 3 are the most popular walks – I’d say the view down on The Monastery was one of the highlights of my whole time in Jordan so do walk up there if you can!

Food and drink

There are two main places for lunch once you’re at the centre. I’d recommend the Bedouin tent which offers local food. You can get a buffet lunch for 12 dinars, or they offer shawarma if you want something cheaper or lighter.

The gates open at 6am and close at 7pm in summer and 5pm in winter. I stayed in hotel Edom, great location just a couple of minutes walk to the gates of Petra.

There are some nice restaurants locally, I’d recommend Sandstone though some of the mixed grill / kebab dishes the meat were a little dry. But opt for the local dishes, stews etc and most of them are delicious. It’s also one of the few restaurants in town that does serve alcohol! Though if you sit outside prepare to drink your wine out of a mug as they deliver you a ‘cappuccino’, whilst they are respectful of the local culture.

My Mom’s recipe is another great choice, whilst I would never normally opt for a restaurant with a name like this, it came recommended and does have delicious dishes with a lovely roof terrace. All the local dishes were lovely and in my opinion nicer food than Sandstone, but it doesn’t serve alcohol so depends where your priorities lie but I would say its worth a visit for the food.

Petra by night

Absolutely worth the money to see Petra by night and experience it from a different perspective. You get to walk down The Siq by candlelight, see The Treasury lit up and enjoy local music.

The view is outstanding with candles everywhere lighting the way it adds to the magic. It’s an amazing experience just to sit and enjoy the lights and music and soak it all up.

Tickets are around 17 dinars, it’s worth buying your tickets earlier in the day to avoid queuing at the gate as it gets busy. The price includes a complimentary cup of local tea.

Little Petra

If you have the time Little Petra is also worth a visit. I cycled there from Petra which was tough and the uphill felt a little relentless at times! But was worth the effort!

Also known as Siq al-Barad meaning ‘The Cold Canyon’. As its name suggests it is a much smaller version of Petra, though its free to enter and usually quieter than Petra so worth a visit whilst you’re there.

It was probably built during the height of The Nabatean influence in the 1st century. Whilst the purpose isn’t entirely clear, its believed it was a suburb of Petra, meant to house visiting traders on the Silk Road.

Other Jordan highlights

For more information on Jordan and places to visit other than Petra see my Jordan post. https://mysolofootprints.com/2022/11/03/jordan-highlights/

There are so many other highlights all worth seeing in this beautiful country and I will definitely return one day!

Jordan Highlights

Jordan rich in both history and natural wonders, is a country in Western Asia. It sits on a crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe and offers breathtaking scenery.

No trip to Jordan is complete without a visit to Petra – I’ve honoured this with a separate post just on Petra! https://mysolofootprints.com/2022/11/05/what-to-see-in-petra/

Information on some of the many other highlights below!

I did a group cycling tour with Explore so you get to do some great cycling and also see something amazing everyday!

The Dead Sea

One of the most famous bodies of water in the world and stunning with it!

Sunset over The Dead Sea

The lowest place on Earth at 408m below sea level, and probably one of the hottest too. The evaporation that results produces a huge amount of salinity. Around 31%, which is approximately 9 times higher than an ocean. The high mineral content makes it particularly bouyant and great for photo opportunities! The oily minerals are also said to contain healing properties. Though he mindful, if you you shaved your legs that morning – it will sting! And be prepared to find cuts you didn’t know you had! Also remember to lean backwards not forwards, makes it much easier to float and avoids you getting a mouthful of salt!

A Greek traveller in the second century gave The Dead Sea its name. He noticed the high salinity made it unsupportive of life. As the sea has no outlet, and the summer temperatures are high, the fresh water evaporates quicker than it is replenished.

The pool at Oh Beach Resort, overlooking The Dead Sea

It’s difficult to access The Dead Sea unless you do so from a hotel or resort. You can buy a day pass to some of them providing safe access to the sea, as well as pools, sunbeds, showers and other facilities. Absolutely worth it!

On our way down to The Dead Sea!

The Red Sea

Definitely worth joining a boat trip on The Red Sea. From the sea you have sight of Jordan, Israel, Egypt and in the distance Saudi Arabia. I’m not sure there’s anywhere else in the world where you can see 4 countries and 2 continents!

There are many options for boat trips, diving and snorkelling from Aqaba, I highly recommend: Ahlan_aqaba_official, link here:


Check out there Instagram page. Its great value for more than 4 hours on the boat, a delicious lunch, sun mattresses, towels and fresh drinking water. The option to buy reasonably priced beer is also there should you choose. Aqaba generally is a little easier to access alcohol in restaurants etc relative to some of the other places we visited.

Stunning sunset on The Red Sea

Plus access to snorkelling equipment and guided snorkelling is also available. We snorkelled over the Japanese garden coral seeing much marine life, and I found Nemo! Then we continued to the Ceder Pride Shipwreck, stunning to see it so close! Apparently it was a Lebanese freighter that sustained extensive fire damage in 1982.

King Abdullah was a keen diver and requested it was kept as a site for divers. It sits approximately 27m deep and around 200m offshore.

Delicious lunch being cooked on the boat whilst we were snorkelling!

Travel makes you realise that no matter how much you know, there is always more to learn.

Nyssa P Chopra

Wadi Rum

Wadi in Arabic means valley, and rum means high or elevated. Wadi Rum is the largest wadi in Jordan, and is also known as The Valley of the Moon. Tourism here was kickstarted by desert scenes of Laurence of Arabia in 1962.

Golden hour in the desert

Wadi Rum is home to the Zalabieh tribe who developed eco-adventure tourism and services throughout the protected area. There are many small camps to stay in, some being traditional Bedouin tents, some glamping pods and some less luxurious! There was an overbooking issue with ours and I think we ended up in the staff tent!

Living the high life in Wadi Rum!

You can take part in many activities the most popular being camel rides and 4×4 tours. I took part in the latter in a jeep that has seen better days, but the sunset was stunning!

Sunset in Wadi Rum

Many films have used Wadi Rum as background settings or part of filming. To name a few Dune, Star Wars The rise of Skywalker, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Prometheus.

Our top of the range jeep!
Our bikes ready for another mornings cycling!


The capital and largest city in Jordan is a modern city with many ancient ruins. There are many museums, souqs, mosques, coffee houses and malls. An easy place to hang out and spend some time before visiting the wonders of Petra and Wadi Rum.

Rainbow street is a must visit whilst in or near Amman. It’s Amman’s most colourful street! There are several rooftop pubs and restaurants where you can get a great panoramic view of the city. It’s the perfect place to go for a wander, surrounded by colourful decorations and funky cafes. You’ll find plenty of souvenir shops and vibrant architecture.


I stayed in the ancient town of Madaba, an interesting market town full of history and also famed for its Byzantine era mosaics; just south west of Amman. There are many fascinating churches and it’s a great place to grab a coffee and soak up the atmosphere!

The most famous thing it’s known for is it’s 6th century mosaic map of the Holy Land in the Greek Orthodox Church of St George.

Ayar is a delicious Lebanese restaurant in Madaba that I tried near my hotel. Great service and fantastic food, and all reasonably priced too. I recommend a stop if you find yourself anywhere nearby.

Local Food

Personally I loved all the local food and dishes I tried. My favourite Muqlubah, sometimes referred to as ‘Upside down’ owing to the way it’s cooked. It’s delicious rice with chicken, aubergine and cauliflower with a blend of spices cooked in a pot.

Our picnic lunch one day in the desert with delicious homemade Muqlubah!

Other popular local dishes are Mansaf lamb with yoghurt. And Musakhan which is a parcel baked with chicken, vegetables and sumec.

I’d also recommend Sayadieh, it’s a very traditional local dish consisting of seasoned rice with fish on top and a tahini sauce. I had it with grouper in Aqaba and it really was delicious.

Sayadieh with Grouper

You can also enjoy all the delicious starters such a houmous, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, fattoush and falafel to name a few. And of course a fresh shawarma.

Mount Nebo

Mount Nebo said to be the place where Moses died, is mentioned in the bible as the place where Moses was able to see the promised land before his death. There are stunning views from the top which is around 800m above sea level. From the summit you can see Jericho and on a very clear day Jerusalem.

The remains of a Byzantine church stand at the top. The remnants of many mosaics from different periods are also visible. Some believed to date back to around 4 AD.

During my trip I cycled down the very steep switchbacks to the Dead Sea some 400m below sea level.

View from the top of Mount Nebo

Shobak Castle

Perched dramatically at the top of a hill in a wild, remote landscape, Shobak was built in 1115 by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem. It withstood numerous attacks from Salah ad Din before succumbing in 1189. The site was highly desirable due to its vantage viewpoints giving it the ability to see enemies from miles around. It was also a fertile landscape, though it did lack a reliable water source. Shobak was strategically important though as it dominated the main passage from Egypt to Syria.

Shobak is also home to the worlds smallest hotel! Officially in the Guiness world records- so I’m told, I’ve not verified it!

The Practical Stuff

You’ll need to complete a gateway to Jordan form online to generate a QR code which you need to enter the country. Relatively straightforward and can be completed up to 10 days prior to travel. This is from the UK, but obviously things can change quickly especially currently so as ever, always check current foreign office advice before you travel.

You then queue up for a visa on arrival. As I was with a group tour the guide took care of this whilst we went on to collect our luggage making it all smooth and easy. There are many group tours you can go on. I went with Explore on a cycling tour which I highly recommend if you enjoy cycling. Or they have standard site seeing tours. There really is so much to see and experience in this beautiful country! Link to the tour I did below which I highly recommend, though there are many other options both with Explore and other tour companies


Time is GMT plus two hours. Flights from London to Queen Alia international airport are just over 5 hours. There is free airport WiFi with no sign up required.

Currency is the Jordanian Dinar. ATM’s are available throughout the country and widely used. Credit cards are generally accepted at top end hotels and restaurants and larger souvenir shops. Commissions of up to 5% can be added. There are Arab Bank and Bank of Jordan ATM’s in both terminals at Queen Alia, accepting foreign cards. There is also currency exchange in arrivals offering reasonable rates on western currencies. Most ATM’s charge a fee for withdrawing cash so where possible try to plan ahead how much you will need.

As usual I recommend a Starling bank card, great for travelling – good rates and a great easy to use app. https://www.starlingbank.com/

I’d also recommend a Water to Go bottle. Great for travelling, you can fill it up anywhere and it filters out almost all contaminants making it safe to drink. https://watertogo.eu/

When to go: High season is March to May, days are warm and nights are cool, though this is obviously the busiest time of year to visit. Shoulder season September to February, is the best time of year to visit the Red Sea. Low season June – August, take LOTS of sun cream, temperatures at this time of year can be extreme.

Thank you in Arabic is ‘Shukr’, and as ever goes a long way!

Whenever you go you’ll have a fantastic trip in what is an exceptionally beautiful country. I also found all the local people I came across to be extremely friendly and helpful and I can’t wait to return! Enjoy!

Visiting Amsterdam!

Amsterdam – the capital city of The Netherlands. Full of artistic heritage, picturesque narrow houses and an elaborate canal system. Famed for some fantastic museums and stunning artworks including that of Van Gogh and Rembrandt.

Amsterdam was founded at the Amstel which was dammed to control flooding. The cities name being derived from The Amstel Dam. In the late 12th century it was a small fishing village. During the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century it became one of the most important ports in the world. And later became a centre for both finance and trade sectors.

Amsterdam is known mainly for two things – drugs and prostitution. But the city also offers a wealth of history and museums.

View over Rembrandt Square from my hotel

I stayed in NH Schiller on Rembramdtplein, a great location right on the square and really central to wander around some of the most popular places to visit.

Amsterdam by night

It’s noticeably busier at the weekend, more so than some other European cities I’ve visited, so possibly something to bear in mind with timing.

Anne Frank House

Definitely a must visit while here. It gets booked up in advance so reserve your tickets online before your trip. It’s worth checking again but when I booked, the tickets for the whole of June became available at the start of May so you can book 1-2 months in advance depending on the timing of your visit. Tickets were 14 euros for adults.

Anne’s diary

As the house is a traditional old Dutch house some of the stairs are extremely steep. Worth considering if you have any sort of mobility issues. The staff were really helpful if required and they can take you to an elevator where you can see Anne’s diary, a short film and the end of the exhibition.

If you are able to it’s really worth seeing the parts of the house that are available to walk around as part of the museum experience. It’s full of interesting information to read and there’s also an audio tour you can listen to on the way round.


There’s a main shopping street not far from Rembrandtplein with plenty of your high street shops and a small shopping mall which has a lovely restaurant on the 3rd floor with panoramic views.

Traditional music played out for shoppers!

There’s also a little street of market stalls a short walk from their along one of the canals. Here you can find tulip bulbs to take home as a souvenir amongst other things from interesting art and pictures, to magnets and key rings.

The 9 Little Streets is a must see whilst visiting. Full of picturesque monuments and quirky shops and lots of places to eat. Set across the 4 main canals in the Amsterdam World Heritage canal belts, it’s beautiful, easy on the eye and great for photos!

I did come across some nice gift shops in the red light district too – which has changed over the years!

Red Light District

The infamous area in the Medieval city centre, narrow alleyways, crossed by canals with plenty of bars. From brothels to sex shops to smoking bars, The Red Light District has it all.

Amsterdam prides itself on its liberal and tolerant attitude embracing the fact that people enjoy prostitution, drugs and pornography, and the fact that people are only human. Instead of criminalising it all they enjoy the honesty.

The Red Light District

Since October 2000 prostitution is legal in the Netherlands, but not on the street, which is why they stand behind windows and have their own room. The name comes from the 300 red lights that highlight the windows where the women are working.

You can also visit Red Light Secrets – The Museum of Prostitution. A quirky museum that allows you to step into an intriguing and unique world! Tickets are around £15. Private walking tours with a local guide is another option. Or you can take your own route through. The only place photos are allowed is in the museum.

Boat Trips

There are plenty of options here, again something for everyone be it a canal tour during the day, an evening one, something with a bar and drinks – the choices are plentiful.

I always enjoy a boat trip on a city break if it’s an option as gives you another perspective of the city.

Prices vary, the cheapest one I saw was 13 Euros. Though you can get one with wine and cheese for not much more.

Museums and other experiences

There are many other museums available too.

Rijksmuseum is one of the most popular museums in Amsterdam and offers magnificent art! Experience 800 years of Dutch history and see some of the works of Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer.

Rembrandt statue in the square – Rembrandtplein

Van Gogh – Though someone I know had visited and didn’t recommend it, plus I’d just visited the Van Gogh immersive experience in London – which was great if you can still get tickets!

The Royal Palace again offers stunning art. You can admire the finely preserved furniture, chandeliers and decor from the era of Louis Napoleon. As with many venues you can get an audio tour to learn the history of this 17th century monument.

The Heineken experience is another one if that’s your preference – this one’s self explanatory!

There are many more museums in Amsterdam, I’ve only touched on a few of them. Almost everything can be booked online in advance to save queuing and secure you a space.

And of course I have to mention cycling, a key part of the city’s character. Traffic is much kinder to cyclists than they are in London! It’s really easy to hire a bike if you’re interested and there are cycle paths everywhere. It’s another option for a different perspective and seeing a bit more of the city.


There’s so much choice for places to eat, here’s a few I’d recommend.

If you like Thai – Bangkok. Just off Rembrandt Square. If you want to sit inside you’ll most likely need to make a reservation in advance. You can usually find a table outdoors and they do have outdoor heating.

Shiso is an Asian Fusion restaurant right on Rembrandt Square. A relatively new place also serving delicious cocktails!

A couple of traditional Dutch restaurants are The Pantry and Moeders. The latter is a little sentimental where mothers and daughters go to eat together and their are lots of pictures on the walls of mothers and daughters who’ve visited there together.

Fabel Friet is one of the many places serving delicious french fries in the area! You can find them everywhere with a choice of toppings and sauces. This one was recommended to me and is located in the 9 Little Streets!

And obviously if you want bars they are everywhere! Lots of choice and plenty where you can sit outside if you visit when the weathers good!

There’s a lot more to Amsterdam, there’s so much to see and do – something to suit all tastes!

New Orleans – Music wherever you look!

New Orleans the famous city on The Mississippi River in the State of Louisiana. ‘The Big Easy’ known for its vibrant live music scene and its lively nightlife! Notably Bourbon Street the famous street with bars aplenty. Anything goes in the evenings, people dressed to go ‘out out’ as well as those who’ve clearly been out all day and had a few drinks along the way!

The heart of the city is the historic French Quarter. You can see the influence in the architecture. There’s some beautiful streets to wander round and take in the city, obviously there are many bars for you to hop in and out of as you go!

Mardi Gras – the most notable of its history and celebrations is a late winter festival famed for street parties, parades and costumes.

A tree still decorated for Mardi Gras outside CVS

The more I’ve looked into the history of New Orleans the more intriguing I consider the place. I can’t do all the history justice in such a brief blog but I’ll do best at a whistle stop of highlights!


Indigenous people inhabited New Orleans for the same reasons that would later attract European settlers, an abundance of natural resources and a convenient network that could be used for transport in the local rivers.

Claimed for the French crown in the early 1700’s and later ceded to the Spanish, the influence of both nations is still evident. Architecture, wrought iron balconies, patios and courtyards; language, religion, customs, road and area names and of course food!

In 1800 the Spanish retroceded Louisiana back to France. Napoleon then sold the entire Louisiana colony including New Orleans back to The United States as part of the $15 million Louisiana purchase finalised in 1803.

Definitely head for a walk along the river whilst your there to take in the traditional paddle boats! New Orleans utilised the river network through history to transport agricultural goods like wheat, corn and potatoes.

The flow of goods between the Gulf of Mexico and the port of New Orleans attracted many pirates and smugglers. Jean and Pierre Lafitte were the most famous. Lafittes blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street is still a popular bar, said to be the oldest structure housing a bar in the US. Also said to be the pirates base back in the day. It’s a picturesque bar with a colonial architecture, you can feel the history in the place.

Rumoured to be haunted by both the ghost of Jean Lafitte, and a girl who committed suicide upstairs. The structure is also said to be built on the site of an old hospital where many people died from diseases that struck the area. A storm weakened the structure, and eventually its said to have burned down.

The city of New Orleans was the largest slave market in The US. As a result of the French and Spanish heritage slaves brought in by traders were predominantly from Senegal, The Bight of Benin and The Congo region. This differed to the local states of Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee where the enslaved were culturally African-American having resided in The United States for at least 2 generations.

The constitution of 1864 abolished slavery and disposed of Louisiana’s old order of rule by planters and merchants. Though African Americans were not given voting rights until much later.

French Quarter

Also known as Vieux Carré is the oldest neighbourhood in New Orleans. The historic heart of the city the French Quarter is famed for its vibrant nightlife and colourful buildings with iron balconies. It’s known for it’s traditional style hotels often with a courtyard patio.

Many of the buildings were constructed in the late 18th century when the city was under Spanish rule. The district as a whole has been designated a national historic landmark. It’s a prime tourist destination in the city and also attracts locals.

It suffered relatively light damage in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 compared to other areas of the city and region. Partly due to the distant from where the flood banks breached and in part due to the relative height and strength of its nearest flood banks.

Cathedral Square is one of the most famous sites in New Orleans. Housing St Louis Cathedral in a beautiful square. It’s the oldest cathedral in continuous use in The United States and was founded in 1720.

Cathedral Square

I stayed in Place D’Armes hotel. A great location in the French Quarter within walking distance of plenty of the key sites and bars.


Two words come to mind in terms of food when you think of New Orleans – Cajun and Creole. They are two distinct ethnic groups with their own unique history, traditions and culture. Both have made significant contributions to both New Orleans and The State of Louisiana from cuisine to architecture, as well as language and culture.

Cajun is defined by most historians as Acadian descent. Acadians are French settlers who made their way to Canada. They were eventually exiled and made their way to lower Louisiana in the late 1700’s. Still distinguishable today with their Cajun-French accents and known for vibrant music and dancing, and of course, Cajun cuisine.

Creole is more difficult to define, the term is highly debated and holds no official definition. Historians have defined Creole as meaning anything from an ethnic group consisting of individuals with European and African, Caribbean or Hispanic descent to individuals born in New Orleans with Spanish or French ancestry. However someone defines it, it’s clear that Creole culture and heritage has made its mark on New Orleans through its impact on history, art and food.

This restaurant captured what I imagine traditional New Orleans to have looked like!

Cajun meals often have lots of smoked meats, or one pot dishes such as jambalaya. Creole often with tomatoes or rich tomato based sauces and the prominent use of seafood caught locally. Both tend to have chopped green peppers, onions and celery. Both types of cuisine are delicious and worth a try whilst visiting! There are restaurants and bars all over the area bursting with fresh food and flavours.

Spicy Shrimp Gumbo


It felt like there was music everywhere! Lots of bars have live bands, and locals play throughout the streets!

Many famous musicians are also from New Orleans including Louis Armstrong, Allen Toussaint and Fats Domino.

Known as the birthplace of jazz, and famed for gospel music. Mardi Gras Indians inspired what is today known as hip hop and rap.

Local people care deeply about traditions, family, faith and food, but most importantly making joyful noise! Music is used in celebration of life and death, and everything in between!

Music is life itself.

Louis Armstrong


There’s a few famous local cocktails but they are strong! Be warned! You might want to share one! Here’s the details of a few:

Hand Grenade also known as a green grenade and easily recognisable as it’s usually sold in a bright green yard cup! It’s melon flavour with a blend of liqueurs and some secret ingredients. Sold frozen or on the rocks through a handful of licenced bars and clubs on Bourbon Street.

Hurricane another strong one.. ingredients consist of 3 different types of rum, a bit of passion fruit syrup and a drop of lemon, lime and / or orange juice.

Purple Daiquiri also called a Voodoo Daiquiri is the signature cocktail of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. It’s a grape flavour frozen daiquiri, spiked with bourbon and Everclear. Be warned everclear has a reputation as a very high alcohol content spirit!

One of many drinks I enjoyed whilst visiting, nice wine and delicious food here too!

Voodoo, Vampires and Witchcraft

Voodoo first came to New Orleans with enslaved West African who merged their religious rituals and practices with those of the local Catholic population.

Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau is the most infamous icon for this religion. She was the illegitimate daughter of plantation owner Charles Laveaux and his Haitian slave mistress. She’s known as a hairdresser and practitioner of elaborate voodoo rituals. Her final resting place is in St Louis cemetery no. 1. Though it is believed she materialises to lead voodoo rituals.

New Orleans Voodoo is a religion connected to nature, spirits and ancestors. The core belief is that one God does not interfere in daily lives but spirits do. Connection with these spirits can be obtained through rituals including dance, music, chanting and snakes.

Dolls, potions and talismans are found in shops and homes throughout the city. A reminder of the New Orleans fascination with spirits magic and mystery. Readings, prayers, spiritual baths and ceremonies are used to help with anxiety, depression and ill health.

The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum is in the French Quarter and a great stop to learn more about the rituals and artefacts, and the historic influence on New Orleans today.

During the 1930’s brothers John and Wayne Carter were executed for committing multiple murders. About a dozen bodies were drained of their blood. The Carters bodies mysteriously vanished from the family vault. Sightings of the brothers are still reported today.

New Orleans has always respected the dead, many burials are above ground. The burial plots have to be shallow as the water table is so high. Dig a few feet deep and the graves become soggy filling with water, the casket would literally float away. The wall vault system that was popular in Spain was adopted to overcome the issue.

There are a number of buildings with a reputation for being haunted. So many strange sightings and stories mean there is no shortage of urban legends or attraction for fans of the macabre.

Visit New Orleans!

There is so much more I could write about but this is just a whistle stop tour! I hope I’ve captured the history correctly from where I’ve researched and discovered.

Whatever your interests, there is something for everyone in New Orleans – I can’t recommend a visit highly enough! Enjoy and I hope this blog has been of interest!

For more photos follow me on Instagram http://instagram.com/mysolofootprints/

Things to do and see in Miami

South Beach

There’s more to South beach than just the beach – it can be as much or as little as you want! I stayed near 16th and Pennsylvania which is a great base to see more, and not too far to wander down to the beach, without being in the midst of the party area!

South Beach near 14th

It’s a gorgeous beach, lovely sand and clear water and plenty of space – something we definitely lack on UK beaches when the sun is out! Anything goes in Miami, beach wear, dress it up or dress it down!

Like most US places there’s a standard grid system making it easy to get around. There’s a free trolley to get around the area if you need it. Currently (early April 2022) masks are still required on public transport. This is the only place currently where masks are necessary whilst here.

The main party area with a large choice of bars is between 5th and 13th mainly on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue. Some of the best clubs are in the Wynwood area. In South Beach you have Story on 1st and Collins. Liv is on 44th and Collins.

Palace is also a lot of fun! Though it’s a gay bar with an amazing drag show so won’t suit all tastes but a great night!

In a bar on Collin’s Avenue

Shopping malls

Sawgrass Mills is a huge outlet mall that’s worth a visit. Some people turn up with a suitcase to carry all their purchases and I can see why! Outlet prices on sale items and sometimes current stock is cheaper too. Give them your email address and you’ll often get additional discounts. Coming from the UK fair to say I got some bargains!

There’s a food court with a variety of choices to refresh. It’s about an hour or so from South Beach and an ideal one to drive to.

Spread Love Not Germs

Aventura mall is in north Miami Beach, around 40 minutes drive, can be longer depending on the time of day. I got the local bus – definitely an experience! I witnessed an argument between two guys and the driver had to shout at them to calm down! A guy who got on and did not stop talking, except when he was singing. Then he tried to offer everyone around him some pills. Plus a drunk guy who refused to get off at the stop he’d specifically asked the driver to wake him up at so stayed on sleeping until Aventura mall which is the end of the line and he got kicked off, a fair distance away from where he wanted to be, let’s hope it was a good night!

Aventura has plenty of choice of shops, a food court and some lovely restaurants. Including some really good Peruvian restaurants. There’s also a small food market on Sunday’s.


There are choices aplenty and to fit any budget. It’s very multicultural in terms of food options.

As well as the usual taxes and tips that get added to your bill, it’s also worth noting that there is a beach tax added on certain roads. Restaurants on Lincoln Road, Espaniola Way and Ocean Drive add a further 18-25% to bills.

Party vibes on Espaniola Way

A few I enjoyed and would recommend are Ceviche 105 – delicious food and wine. Cuban Havana 1957, great food and cocktails. I recommend the pina colada! I love Thai food so also enjoyed Thai House South Beach.

Delicious ceviche from Ceviche 105

I also love Sushi and recommend Ginza Japanese buffet it’s in north Miami Beach and it’s 25 dollars each (plus taxes, tips) for all you can eat. Definitely worth it, loads of choice of sushi as well as hot food like egg fried rice, some choice of meats, gyozas and several desserts. Definitely ate my moneys worth there and the sushi was good!

A few places for lunch in South Beach I recommend are Juice & Java. Great for lunch, cakes and açaí! And Arepas & Sand Wish great for breakfast and lunch and generous portions. Arepas are a little like a pitta bread but corn based and a classic Columbian meal with your choice of filling. They offer a larger selection of food including burgers. Both are close to the beach meaning neither are cheap but portions are decent for the price.

Chicken and avocado Arepas

Sriracha House is a cheaper option for dinner but also good at lunch. Lots of choice of noodles or rice with your choice of meat or vegetables. Reasonably priced, informal and take away is also an option.

There is a Time Out food market on 16th usually open from 11-11. It has a bar and often a DJ with a cool vibe. And a great choice of food options, Peruvian, Vietnamese, Caribbean to name a few!

Wynwood Walls

Definitely worth a visit, accessible by bus or car from South Beach. There’s a museum there you can pay to access to see work by various artists. Or if you prefer you can just wander around the area which is a huge outdoor destination that features large colourful and varied street murals by artists from around the world.

Plenty of different street art to see and lots of instagramable venues to stop at throughout the day for food and drink!

If you enjoy açaí I recommend OOH RAW! Poke & Juice bar, where you can get your delicious açaí served in a pineapple. Cheaper than South Beach too!

Beautifully presented Açaí 🍍

Aubi and Ramsa makes alcohol infused ice creams and sorbets in a beautiful setting. You can enjoy one on a swing at the bar should you choose!

In order to keep your balance you must keep on moving

Albert Einstein


A lovely little area with plenty of shops and restaurants with a great view of all the boats in the bay. Apparently manatees can be seen here at the right time of year if you’re lucky – usually November- March. Another place you might see them is Biscayne Bay.

There’s a few daiquiri bars and I concur they were nice and strong, unlike some of the seemingly watered down ones I got in South Beach! Bubba Gumps Shrimp restaurant along with gift shop and a bench where you can slip your feet into Forrest’s shoes!

I ate is Cafe Mambo which is a blend of Cuban and Caribbean food. Delicious and good portion sizes. Some great cocktails and you can keep your glass after!

More Sightseeing options

A few more great areas to visit or chill out day or night:

Coconut Grove is an upscale, leafy neighbourhood with a great choice of shops, cafes and restaurants. A number of celebrities live here including Serena Williams.

Little Havana is a vibrant Cuban area with plenty of history and a great selection of Latin American cafes, restaurants and Art Galleries.

Some beautiful spots to watch the sunset are South Point, Biscayne Bay and Haulover Park. For the park which has a beach too there’s a small entrance fee, or if you live close enough it’s $60 for an annual pass. Lovely to spend a day or afternoon there and catch the sunset in the evening.

A few other famous spots within South Beach include the stairs that feature in the 1983 film Scarface starring Al Pacino.

The actual staircase from the chainsaw massacre from the classic Al Pacino film ‘Scarface’.

Another spot is the iconic Versace mansion, now turned into an opulent boutique hotel with a gold lined pool.

Pride is early April, a multi day celebration of arts and culture, including a festival and parade.

Maria and I enjoying Miami Pride! Love the sunglasses 😎

There’s a food market on Lincoln Road on Sunday’s – the açaí is delicious from the stall run by a lovely guy from Rio!

Delicious Açaí 😋

There is plenty more to see and do, whatever your preferences, you’ll enjoy a stay in Miami!

A last shot of the idyllic beach!

For more photos follow me on Instagram http://instagram.com/mysolofootprints/

Off the Tourist Trail – Wine Tasting in Spain!

So the ironic thing is that beer and wine is generally cheaper than soft drinks in Spain. The government placed a sugar tax on fizzy drinks and juices, but no tax on alcohol – so I guess it would be rude not to!

Wine is the answer, who cares what the question is!

Quote found in a little wine store in Slovenia!

Bodega Protas, Penafiel

Protas in Penafiel is a large industrial vineyard and wine producer, opened in 1927 and located in the Ribera Del Duera region in Spain.

Protas means first in Greek, also termed Ser Primo locally. It is the oldest wine producer the area. It has the perfect soil and climate combination for vine production. A combination of clay and limestone soil with plenty of rain.

It’s an interesting place with a huge and impressive set up, but certainly not my favourite wine tasting of the tour. I think it was a little overpriced, it was more about the tour then the tasting. That said there wine was very nice and you get to keep your glass!

Personally I preferred the smaller, family run style places we visited.

Also some wine purchased locally in a little bar round the corner from Protas. Bargain at just over 2 Euro’s for a round including some complimentary tapas!

Bodega Vego Sauco, Toro, Zamora

Vego Sauco is a small and friendly family run bodega in Toro, Zamora. All of the wines tell a story. For example Tres Lunas, he has 3 daughters and his wife’s maiden name translated moon; so it represents his family.

A small tour here followed by a cosier wine tasting experience was much more enjoyable to me. Apparently Christopher Columbus took the Toro vines to South America. I generally love South American wines so tasted so its lovely to see some of where they come from!

Bodega Alma Roja, D.O. Arribes

Charlotte Allen’s winery in Fermoselle is an experience I highly recommend to anyone passing anywhere near the local area! Charlotte is an interesting and eccentric English lady from Rutland and fair to say she is one hell of a character! Her wine set up is run out of the local (now closed) disco! Disco ball and stage with palm trees painted behind still in tact!

There are more than 1200 wine cellars in the local area. Archeology indicates they are over 500 years old, though potentially closer to 2000 years old. The cellars are older than the houses so it is believed they might originally have been dwellings. Jews who ‘agreed’ to convert to Catholicism may have used them to practice Judaism underground. There are a lot of Jewish surnames in the local area.

The area has a lot of uneven terrain and granite which isn’t great for growing vines. However, as the rivers meet nearby it offers some protection. It’s also a beautiful area with plenty of walking opportunities nearby.

One of my favourite wines of the whole trip (and I tried a few!) was Pirita, which means fools gold. Its a delicious red with more vines than Chateauneuf du Pape! In fact Charlotte sells it to high end French restaurants. An English lady selling Spanish wine to the French..!

Bodega La Setera

La Setera – A lovely little winery run by another English lady Sarah. She’s just on the border to Portugal and we’d walked there from Fermoselle through the beautiful park along the river. Completely different in character to Charlotte, Sarah is very friendly and interesting to chat to. Born in Ireland and lived in Belgium and France prior to Spain.

I highly recommend the red La Setera, I really enjoyed the 2018 one! Sarah also makes some delicious goats cheese also available to buy.

As with almost everything else climate change is having a huge impact on the vines. With heavy rains and frost becoming more frequent and less predictable in terms of timings. Its impacting the volume and quality of the grapes. Also impacting on the timing of picking and producing. And as with everything else, in turn impacting costs for the producers which inevitably will be passed on.

Also moving with the times all of the bodega’s are producing, developing or investing in more organic and vegan wines.

A day without wine is like….. Just kidding, I have no idea

Enjoy and happy wine tasting!

Pretty and Picturesque Porto

I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.

William Shakespeare.

I loved Porto, it’s beautiful and picturesque from every angle! A coastal city in North West Portugal, famed for the many stately bridges and of course port production. It has a palace and a cathedral, personally I loved wandering around the narrow streets and taking it all in. I’ve always loved a city break, seeing the architecture and just absorbing and ‘feeling’ a place.

The brightly coloured and also the stunning blue and white tiles is another thing Porto is famous for. Azulejos is the name for these painted glazed tiles. From the Arabic word az-zulayj, which translates to polished stone.

Porto Sao Bento train station is famous for its fantastic display of tiles portraying the history of Porto. One side is currently covered as its under restoration but when complete there are approximately 20,000 tiles displaying the history. It really is a stunning piece of art and worth a look.

Boat trips

I definitely recommend a boat trip, enabling you to tour up and down the river seeing Porto at its prettiest from both sides. As well as seeing the many bridges.

There are plenty of companies and you can buy tickets on the day. I went with Manos du Douro who I would recommend. It was a traditional style boat that used to bring the wine barrels from the Douro valley. They go on the hour, the tour lasts 50 minutes and cost 15 euros. Take cash for payment, and you get a free glass of port after at one of the local places.

I loved Porto it was so beautiful and the boat trip really allows you to take it in from a different view. A must if you’re visiting!

Burmester Port

Located just underneath the lower level of one of the famous bridges – Luis bridge – you can find Burmester. Well known as the best port tour and tasting in the area. Personally I’m not a fan of port, nonetheless it was one of the more interesting wine tours I did on this trip.

Established by 2 brothers from London in 1750. From Burmester road SW, turns out to be remarkably close to where I live! You can see the age and quality in the barrels made from French oak. The set up is impressive, partly inside the mountain with natural spring water flowing.

Luis Bridge is also known as Eiffel bridge, attributed to Gustave Eiffel. You can see the resemblance to the Eiffel Tower. Due to the height variation around Porto this is a double deck bridge where you can cross on both the higher and lower levels across the River Douro.

Eiffel Bridge

The most beautiful bookstore in the world

The Livraria Lello bookstore is one of the worlds oldest bookstores and often ranked as the most beautiful bookstore in the world. It’s worth a visit if you’re in Porto though I recommend getting there early in the morning as its now somewhat of an instagrammers paradise and queues can be extremely lengthy!


Porto entices with a great choice of restaurants, food and wine. I enjoyed every meal I had. Fresh fish is plentiful. My favourite was the seared tuna which was exquisite. I had delicious sardines and lots of fresh sea bass too.

Seared Tuna

Cais de Ribeira is a beautiful area on the waterfront with plenty of lovely restaurants where you can enjoy great views of the area. Its also a UNESCO world heritage site.

Local wine I highly recommend!

The Practical stuff

I stayed in hotel Moov – the central one, which is a great location and reasonably priced. It used to be a cinema! You might prefer to stay closer to the river, though nowhere was far to walk. Hotel Moov is near a lot of the shopping streets.

Do bear in mind how steep it is the walking round Porto. It’s very hilly! Though you can get the tram!

Another option is the fenicular railway. Takes you from the river back up to the top in a few minutes for 2.50 euros. They run every 10 minutes and a great view at the top!

You can also hire bikes, with or without a guide. I recommend hiring an e-bike given how steep some of it is!

Some restaurants require you to scan a QR code on your phone to read the menu. So carry your phone, and check your EU roaming / data allowance.

As always I recommend a Starling bank card for the excellent exchange rates and ease of use on the app. https://www.starlingbank.com/


Another annoying thing about leaving the EU is that our covid certificate is not part of the EU program and therefore not recognised locally. As I entered from Spain I didn’t need a negative antigen test to get in. Some hotels therefore make you do a lateral flow on arrival, they’re sold everywhere for a couple of Euro’s. Though some places will accept our NHS ones if you have any with you. Others will look at the certificate and check that the brand of vaccine you had and dates are ok. If you enter from the UK I assume you can use your negative antigen test for the first couple of days.

As with everything covid related it changes so frequently that this is correct at time of writing, but might not be by the time I’ve finished typing so please do check on this!

Also worth bearing in mind some restaurants will want a negative test or valid covid certificate too. Usually in the bigger towns, on the weekend, because covid doesn’t get you during the week.. or in small villages.. but worth bearing in mind!

Currently you also need to complete an online form to enter Portugal, this can be found on the FCO website. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/portugal And also still need to complete a passenger locator form to re-enter the UK. You’ll also need a pre-booked day 2 PCR, you need to enter the reference code for it on your form. That said I believe this is about to change imminently so again please check!

Happy travelling – it really is worth the effort! And of course – stay safe! x

Beautiful Segovia – Spain

I’m not lost I’m exploring

The beautiful town of Segovia has plenty to see and if you’re in the area I would thoroughly recommend visiting. It’s a historic city north west of Madrid.

Segovia has very rich architecture, including medieval walls, Roman churches, a former Royal palace and a Gothic cathedral. It’s most famed for the iconic ancient Roman aqueduct. The aqueduct has 160 arches, most in the original granite, and stands above the square in the heart of the city.

The aqueduct was constructed in the 2nd century and given how old it is the condition is impressive. Made of stone and declared a world heritage site in the 80’s.

Exploring the beautiful streets of Segovia

The legend of the aqueduct

So the legend goes many years ago a girl had to walk 15km every day to collect water, then 15km back. She was tired and bored and prayed that she didn’t have to do it anymore.

One night she wished someone would create something so she wouldn’t have to walk and collect the water everyday. The devil appeared. He said ok I’ll grant your wish and build something to carry the water. I promise to complete it before the sun comes up, and if I do, in return you have to give me your soul.

He built the aqueduct and was almost finished just before sunrise. The girl realised what she had agreed too and regretted it, she begged the devil not to complete the aqueduct and told him it’s ok I prefer to walk everyday.

One stone was left incomplete and at that moment the sun rose so the devil hadn’t completed his end of the deal. The girl didn’t lose her soul and the aqueduct remained.

In the gap for the remaining stone, the local people put a statue of the Virgin Mary so the aqueduct can never be completed.

Some of the local restaurants give away a small jug as a gift after your meal, representing the girl in the legend.

If you walk up to the top of the aqueduct and get a view across the city, you can see the devil statue with his one remaining brick. Amusingly, and I presume more recently, an iPhone has been added to the statue and you can see the devil taking a selfie with the aqueduct in the background!

Things to see

It’s a beautiful city with plenty to see and lots of little streets to wander round. As well as the aqueduct you’ve also got the castle, cathedral, Jewish quarter and the Knights quarter.

El alcazar – the castle, famed for its Disney-esque style. You can go inside and take a tour of the internal of the castle.

El Alcazar

The Cathedral – a beautiful building, is in the old Jewish quarter and I think cost 3 euros to enter. It’s ornate inside as you’d expect from the exterior. The organ was played the whole time we visited so was relaxing to wander round.

It’s a traditional Spanish style cathedral built in the 6th century. Located in the ancient Jewish quarter, just off the main square – plaza mayor.


I definitely recommend Meson de Candida! it’s famous for its suckling pig, it’s so tender that they’ll chop it with a plate in front of you if enough people in your party order it. Portions are large! It’s not the cheapest restaurant but definitely worth it one night. They have a good selection of fish too, vegetarian options are limited.

They also offer an extensive choice of wine. Here’s a couple I recommend below:

Pesquera and Muruve – two delicious red wines I recommend!

The Practical stuff

Since covid most menu’s are a QR code so you’ll need a smartphone to view them.

Tap water is safe to drink so bring a bottle to refill.

The weather was a bit rainy and cloudy when we were there, the first rain they’d had in 3 months unfortunately! So I guess usually a more Mediterranean climate. It must have been unusual as when the rain got heavy one evening all the locals were out looking at it and taking photos!

As usual I recommend a Starling bank card for good exchange rates and ease of use on the app. https://www.starlingbank.com/

One of the local shops selling traditional and locally made produce

Finally travelling again! Madrid!

It has been a long time coming. For all of us. Around 18 months where life changed beyond belief. Travelling has been a huge part of my life for many years. It’s what I work for; as well as paying the bills etc of course. I hadn’t realised how much I missed it.

Everyone has had different challenges and struggles as a result of covid and it’s consequences. Travel was so easy before and I guess we took that ease for granted. So grateful to experience some normality. Even if there are a few more forms and admin involved, and we have to wear face masks in some places.

I don’t ever remember being this excited to get on a plane and I’m so grateful to have made it to Madrid, the starting point for a wine tasting and walking tour through Spain and Portugal!

Live life to the fullest because you only get to live it once.

Wandering through the park in the sunshine listening to this guy playing his music, made me so grateful to be lucky enough to see and experience new things again!

Retiro Park


Spain’s capital city, full of shopping streets, parks, art and wonderful little streets to wander around.

I stayed in Hotel Ganivet on Calle de Toledo. A nice neighbourhood with plenty of local tapas bars around and some nice little back streets off the main road. It’s a central location that’s relatively near to the main sites without being too in the centre of it all.

Below map shows the hotel, a good walking route to see some key sites on the orange route. And the orange highlights on the right showing some of the other main places you can visit.

The hotel also has a very tiny pool on the roof. Very cold but great for cooling off, and a sun trap of a roof terrace with a few sunbeds and chairs if you want some sunny chill out time!

Things to see

There are many so I’ll just touch briefly on a few key ones from my perspective.

Cathedral de la Almudena is beautiful, in a classical style. The palace is just opposite and next to a great view overlooking the gardens.

Cathedral de la Almudena

There are many beautiful buildings and it’s great for viewing different architecture. And everything looks better with a blue sky!

There are many horse statues all around the city. Legend has it that they used to belong in the Palace. One night the queen had a nightmare that all the statues fell down and smashed and killed many people. Since then they were dispersed around the city,

There are a few parks and gardens also worth a visit. And the Egyptian Temple of Debod. An Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC. Transported to Spain and donated by the Egyptian government to save it from flooding. Though it does look slightly odd in the middle of Madrid, you can catch a great sunset there.

Egyptian temple

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is the Main square in Madrid. Full of lots of good restaurants out in the square and some pretty buildings and arches.

Not far from here you can find the Bear statue eating from the strawberry tree. It represents the coat of arms of the city. Touching the bears tail or foot is supposed to bring good luck.

El Oso y el Madroño

Food and drink

I thoroughly recommend restaurant Gustos in Plaza Mayor. Paella is the speciality and I can confirm the seafood paella is delicious! Went down very nicely with a lovely bottle of Albariño.

Seafood paella at restaurant Gustos
Albariño – loved the label!

There are many delicious tapas bars and I’ve had some great calamari, tortilla and patatas bravas to name a few. Everywhere I ate portions were generous so no need to order too much.

There’s also Mercado de San Miguel, a trendy food market selling very nice tapas with a twist. Maybe a little overpriced but good food and a nice alternative if you’re looking for something a bit different.

As well as paella another local dish is huevos rotas. It means broken eggs and usually comes with chorizo or ham. Essentially it’s ham, egg and chips, but the Spanish version!

The Practical Stuff

Tap water is safe to drink and you can ask for it in restaurants, ask for ‘agua del grifo’. Madrid’s water is supposed to be the best tasting in the whole of Spain and I can confirm it is the nicest of what I’ve tasted so far.

Currency is Euro and most places now accept cards since covid, similar to the UK. Carry a little cash for tips etc.

As ever I still recommend a Starling bank card for good exchange rates and ease of use on the app. https://www.starlingbank.com/ Always select payment in Euro’s not £’s so you get Starlings exchange rates not the local ones. Works out cheaper! Revolut is also a great card. https://www.revolut.com/cards

The thing that annoyed me the most was having to go through the non EU queue in the airport. Still sad and angry about Brexit but something we need to accept and live with I guess. And I appreciate different opinions and views on it, that’s just mine for what it’s worth.

To get into Spain currently (September 2021), if you’re double vaccinated you just need to show your certificate. Download a pdf to your phone from the NHS app, just make sure it’s in date as they only last a month each time you open the app currently from England.

I’m heading through Spain to Portugal, where you can cross the border. Currently, but things change so frequently please check latest FCO rules, you need an antigen test prior to leaving Spain for the UK, and a pre-booked day 2 PCR. You need the code to complete the passenger locator form to get back into the UK. But I understand testing rules are due to change in early October. https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain

I also had to fill in a form on the Spanish travel website, link is on the FCO page, to get into Spain. It’s within 48 hours of travel and you’ll need your seat number on the plane. Once you get confirmation your documents are correct you can try to download your boarding pass. Many people for flights to Spain have to collect it in the airport so check in staff can verbally ask if you have the covid certificate and Spanish passenger form, though dependent on airline. And again, probably out of date by the time I’ve finished typing given how frequently everything changes!

Happy travelling! Take care and of course stay safe!

London in Lockdown

Walking down the street today to my hair appointment (excitement overload!), made me realise how much I’d missed the hustle and bustle of London. Supermarkets have obviously been open as have coffee shops for takeout. But there’s something indescribable about the feel and vibrancy now things seem more normal; the hairdressers, pubs and cafes are open for business. Rather than a few people queueing for the food shop or pharmacy. Or more likely sitting in the sun or park all day – We have been blessed with gorgeous weather during lockdown! There is a sense of normality that I hadn’t realised how much I was missing. And a sense of excitement in the air!

London Town.

Famed for the iconic Big Ben clock tower and Westminster Abbey. Across the River Thames the iconic London Eye, usually offering panoramic views of the city.

Photo credit: Fred Down

The capital of England and the UK. A vibrant city full of hustle and bustle with a history stretching back to Roman times. Empty and quiet. No tourists. No office workers. It was amazing to see London this way. Though I hope I never have the opportunity to see it like this again!

Everyone will have there own memories of lockdown but there are a few common things that will bind us all together. The zoom call: ‘Can you hear me?’. Tik Tok. Someone video calling you when you’ve just got out of the shower. More seriously the fear that you or that vulnerable family member might be affected by the terrible illness affecting the whole world. Our shared frustrations with The Government and certain politicians. The infinite memes that enabled the great British sense of humour to help me keep my sanity at the start!

For me it’s the fact I have a bike that helped to keep my sanity during lockdown. I struggled to start with, I’ve always liked living on my own. Then suddenly every single social contact is removed all at once. I had taken for granted how sociable working in an office is. I couldn’t meet friends or family. I couldn’t pop to a local cafe or go to the pub for a drink. I couldn’t even pop to a friends house. I hadn’t realised that work, no matter how busy my day was enabled me to chat to friends and colleagues. Even if it was a minute here or there before a meeting started. Or passing in the toilets, or while waiting for your water bottle to fill up. All of my social touch points were removed instantaneously.

My home that I used to like coming back to became my office, as well as my gym, and where I would eat every single meal. There was no differentiation between work and post work. The environment didn’t change. There was no change of scene. I didn’t realise that my commute home used to give me time to unwind. I said the words: ‘I miss commuting’. Never did I think I’d utter those words. And now I can’t imagine commuting 5 days a week, even though I’ve done it all my adult life. I also can’t believe how frequently the flat needs cleaning now I’m spending so much more time in it!

Time. Something that was always precious. I was always busy. I was always tired. Suddenly I had more time than I knew what to do with. As one of my friends who was on furlough told me ‘I’ve completed Netflix.’

Thankfully I have been working. Didn’t stop me being jealous at times of the people on furlough sitting in the park all day in the sun. Or going to the beach. But I think I’d have struggled more without some routine and security. As me and my team got used to a new way of working, having regular video calls.

I also lived through the brutality of 4000 colleagues in my company being made redundant. In my role the team reduced by 90%. My friends and team suddenly no longer expected back from furlough. Never coming back. Final. Im grateful to have a job but suffered survivors guilt. I’m not sure how long I have a job for but thankful to be earning money for now. I still feel bad for my friends. It’s getting easier as I start to see some people have jobs now and hopefully will go on to be successful.

My mums been shielding this whole time. In early April I decided to get my bike out of the shed and try cycling to hers. I loved the empty roads that made cycling so much more enjoyable. She was pleased to see me, being quite down at the prospect of staying indoors for so long.

Since then I cycle round to hers every weekend. Sometimes delivering paracetamol, chocolate, chewing gum. Things to cheer her up or keep her sane! I think the company and routine kept us both sane as we both live on our own. Though I think the traffic now is busier than pre lockdown as people avoid public transport.

I struggled a lot at the beginning. Then I found out that someone I used to work with lost her sister, a nurse with diabetes, to covid. A few days later, her mum who was in a care home passed away. No matter how hard I was finding things, there was always someone worse off than me.

My brother and his family had covid but thankfully they are all ok.

Cycling became something that could get me out and about. Further than just going for a walk round the park. The change of scene I’d been craving.

Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.

Lawrence Block

I didn’t realise how much time I’d spend in the garden. The hammock below – my best lockdown purchase! Also a photo of my feet with no toenail polish on! I can’t remember the last time this happened. But when you live in jogging bottoms, sportswear and pyjamas, and have no plans, it somehow didn’t seem important!

There’s a selection of photos on this blog from eerily quiet visits into central London. I always take photos and write blogs from places I’ve travelled to. Here’s some views from closer to home. That said, I can’t wait to get abroad and travel again. Though that will have to wait a bit longer. For now, I’ll be content with an appointment at the hairdressers and dinner out in a restaurant this evening!

And of course, enjoying some of the lovely weather with friends in the park once we were allowed to. Even better, pubs started to do takeaway drinks that you could enjoy in the park weather permitting!