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A Weekend by the Sea in Swansea, South WalesNow, I'll be honest... Swansea is not somewhere I would ever have thought of going for a weekend away! Our reason for going was to watch Freya race at the Wales National Pool in Swansea. So, as this was our primary reason for heading to South Wales, I hadn't really given too much thought to what we would do the rest of the time when we weren't sitting by the pool... We stayed at The Swansea Marriott which is next to the modern Marina, a short stroll from the city centre. The hotel was comfortable and well-equipped, as Marriott's usually are, and we were pleased with our choice. [caption id=attachment_3783 align=aligncenter width=751] The modern Swansea Marina[/caption] So in between watching Freya race on the Friday, we headed to the beach, which was only a short walk from the pool (how handy is that!). And it was a lovely, sandy beach, fairly empty of people on a cold, November day, except for a few hardy dog walkers. We spent a pleasant hour walking along, admiring the view across the bay and picking up pretty shells washed up by the tide. I'd give anything to have a beach like that near home... [caption id=attachment_3790 align=aligncenter width=758] A sunny day in Swansea![/caption] After returning from the pool, Friday evening was spent doing a bit of Christmas shopping at a retail park much like those you get everywhere else, before stuffing ourselves full of pizza and salad and heading back to the hotel for a quick drink in the cosy bar before bed. We woke up on Saturday to a windy, bitterly cold day, which was a shame as Friday had been beautifully sunny. So after a leisurely morning at the hotel, followed by watching Freya swim, we headed out to Mumbles, a popular area of Swansea. After a yummy lunch at Cafe 93 (somewhere that had been recommended to us by a friend), we took what would have been a lovely walk along the seafront had it not been so cold! Mumbles is a pretty place with brightly coloured houses, plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants and a pier (which sadly we didn't get to due to the cold). After that rather bracing walk, we headed back to the car to go back to the hotel and get warm! [caption id=attachment_3784 align=aligncenter width=743] A cold and windy day in Mumbles[/caption] We ate at the hotel on Saturday evening as I was suffering with a stinking cold and did not want to leave the warmth of the hotel again that day! And, I must say, the food was very good. After breakfast on Sunday, we went and checked out the Marina, which was just behind the hotel - if you like boats, there were plenty to see as it was pretty packed but it was not the prettiest marina I've ever seen - before driving to the pool for the last time! After watching Freya swim her last race, we went into the centre of Swansea for a quick stroll in the sunshine before heading home. Swansea has a lovely city centre - mainly pedestrianised, with lots of shops, a covered market and an indoor shopping area too. And, as a bonus, there was a small German Christmas Market to browse around. [caption id=attachment_3785 align=aligncenter width=750] The German Christmas Market in Swansea[/caption] But all too soon the weekend was over and it was time to make the 200+ mile journey back home. There are lots of things I would still like to do in Swansea but which we didn't get round to due to a lack of time, so I'd like to come back and spend more time here. There are a few museums as well as lots of great walks nearby... but they'll have to wait until next time! So, whilst Swansea was not on my list of places I planned to visit, I loved it and will definitely be heading back to explore some more! Have you ever gone somewhere with no expectations and fallen in love with it? Let me know in the comments below... Happy Travelling! Kate
How To Plan a Round-The-World TripThinking of taking some time out and going on a once in a lifetime round-the-world trip? If so, here are my basic tips on how to plan it... Decide how long you are going to travel for How much time do you have to spend travelling? A new months, a year... maybe longer? This is the first thing to decide on when planning a long trip. Work out your budget/how you are going to fund your trip Do you have savings or are you going to have to do a bit of work on your travels? If you are saving up, how long will it take you to have enough saved? Pick out the main destinations you want to visit Choose your must-see destinations first and make a travel plan based around them. [caption id=attachment_3755 align=aligncenter width=558] Sort out your must-see destinations first![/caption] Think about how many stops you want to make How many stops you choose to make will depend on how long you are travelling for. Bear in mind that some round-the-world tickets only allow a certain amount of stops. Pick out any other destinations which would fit in with your must-see destinations Once you've got your must-see destinations nailed, pick out any other destinations you would like to visit and which would work with your current itinerary. Think about how long you want to spend in each location How long you can spend in each destination will depend on how long you are travelling for and how many places you want to visit on your trip. Do you want to do lots of short stops or do you want to spend time getting to know some of the places you go? Think about what you want to see and do in each place you visit This will help you decide how long you need to spend there... Check out flight costs and schedules Once you have your itinerary, it's time to check out flights - both in terms of prices and schedules. Shop around... both online and on person at the travel agents! It's time to check out some flights... Check out accommodation in each location Once you have decided on your itinerary, it's time to start looking at accommodation - for the first few destinations at least. So think about what sort of accommodation you want to stay in - hotels, hostels, AirBnB... You don't have to book everything in advance but bear in mind that if you are arriving in a popular destination at peak times, accommodation may be scarce... and what there is may be pricey! Book your flights and accommodation in key destinations So you know where you are going, so it's time to book your flights. It's also worth booking accommodation in your main destinations in advance if you can to avoid having to worry about it whilst you are travelling. Sort out visas/documentation for each destination Check out whether you need visas or any other documents for all the places you are visiting. Make sure you will have at least 6 months left on your passport at the end of your trip as this is a requirement when entering many countries. And if you haven't already got a valid passport, get one asap! [caption id=attachment_2318 align=aligncenter width=722] Check the validity on your passport![/caption] Arrange travel insurance Do not be tempted to travel without insurance - it's not worth it! You really don't want to be hit by a huge medical bill if you get ill/injured whilst travelling. Find out whether you need any immunisations/malaria prophylaxis Make sure you do this in plenty of time as some vaccinations can take a while to arrange. And be aware that you will have to pay for the majority of travel vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis so factor this into your budget. Sort out any medication If you take regular medication, you need to ensure you have enough for the duration of your trip. You make be able to get hold of some prescription medications on your travel, but not necessarily all. Sort out currency for the first few destinations I know we don't use cash so much nowadays but you do sometimes need a little bit, particularly in more remote destinations, so it's worth getting a little bit of money changed just in case... Arrange transport to the airport Don't forget to think about how you are going to get to the airport at the start of your trip (and back again on your return) - airport parking is not an option for very long trips due to the cost. If you can get family to take you, great! If not, check out coaches or taxis. [caption id=attachment_3445 align=aligncenter width=720] Camels... as transport options go, probably not the best way of getting to the airport!![/caption] So those are the main points to think about when planning your round-the-world trip - I hope my list is helpful! Now all that is left is to head off and enjoy yourself! Happy Travelling! Kate
5 Exciting Things To Do In And Around HanoiThe bustling and colourful capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi offers tourists an array of unique experiences. If you are planning a holiday in this amazing country, there are many places of interest to include in your schedule. Here is our list of must-see local attractions in and around Hanoi that simply cannot be missed... Explore the Old Quarter of Hanoi – This is the perfect area to find accommodation, as staying in the old quarter puts an array of exciting places within walking distance. There are many stunning temples and pagodas where you can spend some time relaxing and taking in the colourful architecture. This is also the place to sample the very best Hanoi street food, of which there is a wide variety, so there’s something to suit every taste. Stroll around Hoan Kiem Lake – Known also as Turtle Lake, there are no cars or scooters, so you can get away from the hustle and bustle. The best time to visit is early evening, when the bridge is illuminated. While you are in Vietnam, you simply must take a Halong Bay luxury cruise, which is one most people’s list of places to visit, where you can relax in pristine natural beauty, with many spectacular small beaches and bays to explore. Many young couples like to walk this area during the early evening and the nearby Ngoc Son Temple is also worth a visit, and costs around $1 to enter. [caption id=attachment_3769 align=aligncenter width=670] On the water... (Image Source: Unsplash)[/caption] Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum Complex – Dedicated to the most famous of all Vietnamese politicians, Ho Chi Minh, the Mausoleum is full of artefacts related to the history of this unique nation. Plus, the grounds are spectacular and it is recommended that you spend at least half a day at this beautiful location. If you are a history buff, you can spend a few hours viewing the vast collection of historical artefacts and documents that helped make Vietnam what it is today. The Water Puppet Show – This really is a must-see, as you will not have the chance to experience such a performance in any other country. The puppets are controlled by the skilled puppeteers who are behind a curtain, and the stories typically depict the rural life in Vietnam. The show lasts for one hour and costs around $10. [caption id=attachment_3770 align=aligncenter width=680] The unique Water Puppet Show. (Image Source: Flickr)[/caption] Enrol in a Cooking Class – There are quite a few cooking schools in Hanoi that are specifically for tourists to learn how to prepare their amazing cuisine. The many delicious dishes are indeed many and you can choose the menus that you enjoy and learn how to prepare them when you arrive home. Vietnam is a very big country and aside from spending time in Hanoi, you really should visit the north and south of the country, as well as booking a cruise in Halong Bay, where you will find some of the best beaches in the world. It is a good idea to do some online research prior to booking your Vietnam holiday, as there are so many attractions available that you need to focus on aspects which you are particularly interested in. Have you ever been to Vietnam? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below... Happy Travelling! Kate *This is a collaborative post which may contain affiliate links. *Kate Loves Travel does not own the copyright for any of the images used in this post.