Kuala Lumpur, the gateway to our Asian expedition. 

After an 18 hour or so journey, nearly missing our connecting flight in Dubai, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur. This was our gateway in and out of Southeast Asia and a great starting point to ease ourselves in. The capital of Malaysia it’s an old colonial City, the Chinese settled here first before the British used it to impose their imperialism on the area. 

Arriving at the airport it’s really easy to take the 30 minute train to the main station. We had glimpses of the Petronas Towers and skyscrapers in the distance while we passed through rainforest. 

Our first view of KL was from the monorail, there are several transport options to get you round the City but our hotel lay on this line. We passed Hindu and Chinese temples, Mosques and a church, showing the multiculturalism that KL is famous for. 

We checked in to the Park royal which I would definitely recommend. We upgraded to their orchid lounge giving us a more private breakfast area, and free nibbles and drinks in the afternoon and early evening. Plus a nicer room! We had a quick look at the pool and view of the KL tv tower too. 

Taking my trusted lonely planet guide to the City we planned our day. It was around midday at this point and we decided to head out of the City for the Batu caves, one of KL’s major sights. We took the monorail back to the station and got on one of the many trains out of the City to Batu. Beginning in 1890 the caves have been a major Hindu centre of worship. They are famous for the 140ft statue of the Hindu God of war, Lord Murugan. 

We had half an hour to wait for the train so wandered around the connecting mall, it was huge! Mall culture is massive in KL with various sized places dotted about the City. 

As the train set off it started raining, but luckily it had finished by the time we arrived. We started off at a smaller cave off to the left of the station, where a big statue of another Hindu deity Hanuman. 

The cave is full of statues picturing various Hindu legends and you can climb up through the limestone formations. The colourful scenes are really fun, but it would have been good to know some of the stories behind the depictions. 

Leaving the cave we walked round the cliffs and got our first look at the gold statue of Murugan. Batu caves are also famous for their contingent of monkeys that live around the place, entertaining and tormenting tourists in equal measures. After some dicey moments with monkeys in Cambodia I was a little hesitant to get too close. 

We climbed the 272 steps up into the main cave area, passing various sized Macaques on the way, it was pretty humid out here but with a couple of breaks the steps were okay, the scenery surrounding us distracting from the climb. 

Inside the caves it was a bit cooler, and the size was impressive, reaching up above us. We wandered through before finding ourselves in daylight once again. The cave had no roof and sunlight poured through the natural skylight. 

We headed back down the steps and past the dark cave which we unfortunately didn’t have time for as I had made plans for the evening. Making it back to the hotel we had a quick swim and got ready for an evening out. 

Our destination was the famous Petronas Towers, once the tallest building in the world and still the tallest twin towers. It’s a beacon of Southeast Asian development. We walked from the hotel and caught our first glimpse of the tower from a lovely park located at the feet of several skyscrapers. 

I had pre booked the tickets to go up the tower, so we checked in for our time slot, and after a brief introduction took the elevator to the corridor between the two buildings. 

The views from here were amazing and we weren’t even at the top yet! The skybridge takes up the 41st and 42nd floors and us 170m above ground. It’s designed to slide in and out of the main towers to avoid breaking and give the towers additional support.

We took the lift up to the top, the 86th floor and now the views of the City were incredible, even with the cloud coverage you could see for miles! It was such a cool way to spend our first day in Asia. 

After 15 minutes or so up there it was time to head back down. It’s definitely worth doing and I really enjoyed it. 

The sun was setting as we stepped out into KLCC park and we wandered around the little lake, finding a spot to sit and marvel as the City transformed around us as night fell. The view of the towers at night is amazing and after being the subject of a few locals pictures and live streams the light show on the lake began. 

I loved this moment, it really felt like we had arrived somewhere magical and foreign to Manchester and the UK. I could have stayed there for hours taking it all in, but hunger struck and we decided to go for dinner. 

I had read about a few street food places that sounded good, and one was back towards our hotel underneath one of the malls. It was fun walking through these bustling mini metropolis, with the air con you can see why they’re so popular with the locals. 

We ate underneath Lot 10 mall, in the food court full of old street hawkers who have been given this space. We got some Korean influenced food with a mix of dishes served to us. It was so good and I couldn’t wait to try more Asian food, after the long flight and day in the humid City we were ready to go back to the hotel. Although I had to get a bubble tea and some ice cream on the walk back. 

Belem and the birthplace of Nata. 

Our last day was upon us! Our flights weren’t till later on in the evening so we had at least half a day to sightsee. This took us to Belem, an area of Lisbon that is easily reachable by train or tram.

Another scorcher of a day, we took the train out to Belem and walked through a small park to get to the main street. Here you can find ‘Pasteis de Belem’ where the original Nata were made from an old recipe taken from the nearby monastery.

We decided to explore a bit before having a Nata, and emerged at the end of the street onto a huge square with the aforementioned monastery taking up one side.

The Jeronimos monastery is an impressive building, it’s also where Vasco de Gama stayed before sailing for the far East!

After taking a few pictures we walked down towards the Tagus river and spotted a huge monument pointing out towards the water. A quick Google told us it was a monument to the discoveries, a nod to Portugals past as a major player in the exploration of the earth.

You could actually go up to the top of the monument but we decided against it. Instead there was a cool love sign nearby which we had to get some pictures with, and once done we got some ice creams and continued our walk along the Tagus.

The views out over the water were amazing, our destination was Belem tower, sitting out in the river and only accessible by a small bridge it’s extremely photogenic.

It was lunchtime and using foursquare I had found the #1 sandwich shop in Belem. Which sounded perfect, it was actually back on the main st we had walked along earlier so we wandered through a couple of cool green parks on our way back.

The food from Pao Pao Queijo Queijo was so good, and the name is great! You queue up and order then decide what extras you want, it was a bit like a much tastier version of subway.

We sat in the shade of a huge tree in one of the nearby parks and water our food, planning the next hour before we had to head back and pick our luggage up. We decided to visit the nearby botanical gardens as they were free.

I’d say it’s definitely not a must see place, some parts were really nice but it as quite run down. The highlights were peacocks and their chicks stalking through the grass and foliage.

As time started catching up on us we walked back towards the station, picking up Nata for the journey back from Pasteis de Belem and took the short trip to Alfama.

Hannah had to get to the airport earlier than us so I waved her off on the train before we sat in our little local square and had a couple of drinks to enjoy the Lisbon sunshine for the last time. We even had a bit of live music to entertain us.

It was really easy to get the train up to the airport from Alfama, and we wandered around a bit trying to decide on food. Eventually we just went through to the gates and picked up a few bits in there.

We were soon flying home and saying our goodbyes to Lisbon, a city that impressed us no end, even with all the sights we managed to see there is so much more to do. It’s cheap and friendly with way transport around, and close to beautiful beaches. A definite must on the bucketlist.

Exploring Alfama, Lisbon in a day. 

After last night’s exploits there were some sore heads this morning so we didn’t really have much planned. The best thing about being abroad is that you don’t want to feel like you’ve missed out on anything….so using the lonely planet Lisbon guide I worked out a little walking tour we could do from the hotel. It was our last day so everyone was game as we left the apartment and emerged into beautiful sunshine. 

All the small cobbled streets are so beautiful as we made our way towards Sé, Lisbon cathedral. The girls stopped for a bit of souvenir shopping when I spotted a tiny place selling different types of sangria! It looked so good we just had to try it, I got white while the others tried different red flavours, it was so good! 

We walked up alongside the Cathedral and marvelled at the beautiful architecture. I spotted some cool street art too, we emerged onto a square where the impressive main entrance is situated. It’s such an amazing building and it was nice to properly see it rather than just from the tram. 

From here I cheated a little as we wandered down out of Alfama and towards Comercio square. A palace used to stand here but the 1755 earthquake completely destroyed it, allowing the square to be built as part of a remodelling of the city. The square has a good bit of history, being the site of an assassination on the penultimate king of Portugal. We entered through the Arco da Rua Augusta, a stunning triumphal arch built in 1873. 

The square opens out onto the river and in the sunshine it was gorgeous, with restaurants and bars encircling it. There is a statue of King Jose I in the centre of the square, notable because he developed severe claustrophobia the earthquake and never comfortably lived within 4 walls. In fact he moved his royal court into tents in the nearby hills. 

We also found the self proclaimed sexiest toilet in the world here, which the girls used and said was very nice with coloured toilet paper but maybe not the sexiest. 

It was very hot now as we walked back up the hill into Alfama district once again, stopping to grab ice cold drinks on the way. I checked Google maps and noticed another viewpoint so we headed towards the Miradouro de Santa luiza and after admiring some typical Lisbon tiles we took in the red rooftops and views out to the river that lay before us. 

The blues and reds were incredible as we walked around to second viewpoint, but not before taking some fun pictures. 

The next terrace was the Visigothic wall and the Portas do sol with more great views. We were getting hungry now and hasn’t had any Nata today! So we walked towards our end game, the Castelo de S.Jorge. 

As we walked up we spotted a cute restaurant called Miss Can which was incredible. Sardines, olives, breads and salads it was delicious and cheap too! Plus a beer refreshment to wash it down and Hannah tried lisbon’s famous green wine. 

With our hunger sorted it was time for more Nata from the same place we had got them from on our first day at the entrance to Castelo St Jorge. Once we’d had our Nata fill we queued up for the Castelo and wandered in to beautiful gardens within the castle. Perched up at the top of the hill Alfama is located around, the castle dates from the 10th century and has a heavy Moorish influence. 

The views from here were great over the City and there was a wine cart called wine with a view! So Lee and I got a Portuguese red and sat looking out from the walls of the castle. 

The Castelo itself is pretty big and the walls are fun to climb up and stand on the ramparts looking at a 360° Lisbon. Plus some fun towers to climb up to. It was getting towards evening and we had plans for a bbq fish dinner so we wandered back down towards the apartment to get ready. 


Our dinner destination was a place called Patio 13 which we had discovered accidentally by walking past and noticing a big queue and the amazing smell of bbq. It’s located in Alfama and it was only a 5 minute walk from our place. Arriving we queued up with a beer before being given a table on the patio. The restaurant is basically a load of tables and a huge now all outside. 

We ordered sangria and a selection of different bbq fish including swordfish and sardines. All the plates arrived with sides and we had bread and butter at the start. The food was out of this world and we all devoured it. We also got dessert and finally tried Ginja, a Portuguese cherry liqueur which was tasty too. 

It was really good value too, I think we paid less than £15 each easily for it. Once done we had a nightcap at a bar nearby and went back to the apartment…sad to think it was our last day tomorrow. 

NOS Alive and a day at the beach. 

So today was the start of the festival! We were pretty excited to see what NOS had to offer us as we belatedly got up and had breakfast. Shout out to Sarah and Lee who always had coffee and something cooking for us all in the mornings. The views from our apartment this morning were ace. 

NOS is located a few train stops out of the City so we walked over to Santa Apolonia, the station that served us so well over the course of the week. From here we went straight to Cais De Sodre where we jumped a train to Alges. Our plan was to pick up our wristbands before heading to a nearby beach for a couple of hours. 

Because of the heat in the day the first acts don’t start until around 5-6pm and go on till 2-3am which is a pretty good idea! Anyway we arrived at the festival gates only to find a huge crowd in front of us waiting to get in. After waiting in the hot sun for what seemed like forever, a band started playing Pearl Jam’s ‘Alive’ and we walked through security. Unfortunately Sarah and Lee had the caps from their liquids taken off them, so they had to sort a makeshift one out of plastic and husbands. 

Finally though we were in! We walked under the welcome arch where the band was playing and surveyed the terrain. It’s not a big festival with only 2 stages, a dance tent and a bandstand. It was around 3pm now so the beach idea was scrapped in favour of a beer idea. The sun was shining and we sat on the astroturf that was laid out over the concrete with a beer and looked through the bands that were playing today. 

There were a load of freebies being handed out including hats, wristbands and sun cream! Getting hungry we walked over to the food area…basically the length between dance and 2nd stages has tables and chairs and loads of different types of food. I lumped for a burrito which wasn’t satisfying at all so I got a kebab too! Excited for our first European festival we had a few more beers and learnt a few lessons over the 3 days. 

  1. NOS is easy to get to, but hard to get from, they close off the train station from one side so you have to walk for about 40 minutes along an overpass, squeeze onto a train, then try and get a taxi or walk to your hotel once in the City. 
  2. They have people walking around with beerpacks, so you don’t need to go to the bar, the bar comes to you. 
  3. Portuguese people don’t really dance, or singalong much, so it can feel a bit awkward at times. 
  4. It’s not super packed with people so you can always get to a good spot, especially important for the smaller people along us! 
  5. It’s great to party in the sun but it actually did get colder at night than we expected!
  6. You can get free T-shirts in exchange for plastic cups. (My sister Hannah got especially into this, I think managing to get about 5 or 6). 
  7. It’s a great festival overall, the line-up has to have enough on it to make it worth it though, we had to make big decisions on who to see as all the acts we wanted to see were on later at the same time.

One of the best bits of the 3 days was being able to visit the beach, only a ten minute or so journey past the NOS stop is Carcavelos where you can get off and walk another 10 minutes to find yourself at a beautiful beach. We arrived here the 2nd day of the festival, got food and sangria at one of the restaurants and spent a few hours playing on the beach and in the very cold Atlantic! The water was really clear though and we could see fish swimming around us.

We relaxed on the beach for a bit longer with some beers and ice creams, we then headed back via another beachside restaurant which was so good! Hannah got these huge prawns that tasted amazing. We got the train back to the festival and spent another great night there. Rocking out to the Foo Fighters. The walk back wasn’t as bad either because we were more prepared for it. 

We fully intended to go to the beach again on the third and final day, however I think everyone needed a rest after the past few days of drinking. So instead we chilled out and then went straight over to the site, meeting some crazy Portuguese Depeche Mode fans who were adamant they should play ‘Personal Jesus’. NOS and doing a festival abroad was so much fun and we’re already talking about where we could try next year, after all it’s a Glastonbury fallow year so that’s out of the equation.

Day trippin’ to Sintra from Lisbon. 

So today we were all excited to be heading to Sintra, we navigated the underground system, getting travel cards much like the oyster in London. To get to Sintra you take a train from Rossio station in the centre of Lisbon. Trains leave every half hour and queues can be pretty big! We explored a nearby square while we waited for our train. 

Tickets are around 4.50E and the journey takes 40 minutes. We bought some food from a nearby supermarket for a picnic later. 

Once you arrive in Sintra take a left from the station and you can make your way towards the first of many sights. We weren’t too bothered about the first building we came to, the Sintra National Palace which has two conical chimneys atop it. 

We continued on to the Quinta da Regaleira, this palace, like many in this area was built by a rich playboy type, the interest here is really the grounds. Filled with underground passageways, impressive wells and various towers and vantage points it’s an exciting and beautiful place to walk around. 

We stopped off for a coffee by the main  house,  then spent a long time covering every blade of grass to ensure we didn’t miss anything, the main well is so impressive and we had fun going through the spooky underground passages. Look out for the stepping stones across an algae filled pond with a lovely bridge looking over it. 

We stopped soon after this to have a well earned rest after taking in incredible views from the top of a tower, and scoffed down our picnic of sardines, bread, olives, salami and cheese.

It was mid-afternoon by this point so we left to hit the next two spots that we thought looked good, the Moorish castle and the Palace de la Pena, we took a bus up to both which made it’s way round tight bends as we ascended to the top of the hills.

Once dropped off we realised the castle and palace would probably be too much for us to manage in our time frame, so we lumped for a walk round the Palace gardens as it was a cheaper option than going inside the Palace itself. 

There was still some way to climb from the entrance to the actual palace through nice gardens. The palace is amazing, architecturally crazy and done in various bright colours it’s like something out of a cartoon. It also turned out that you could walk pretty much all the way around the walls etc with just the gardens pass. 

This was a great bonus as we clambered up mini turrets and around the palace. It’s so colourful and pretty we really enjoyed it and there were some spectacular views out over the surrounding countryside. 

We had a map of a few points of interest in the huge gardens so we tried to see a few as we walked back down the hill, we saw a huge statue of a guard high up on a rock, views of the palace from across a small valley and big duck ponds with spooky towers in the middle of them that turned out to be duck houses! 

This place is just unreal and we wished we had spent more time there as the moorish castle is meant to be great too. 

 It was getting late now so we left the palace gardens at the pond entrance and caught a bus back to the station. Got an ice cream while we waited for the train and got back to the apartment. Tonight we had planned for dinner but it didn’t quite go according to plan. We had spotted a little bbq fish restaurant high up in Alfama but when we arrived it was boarded up for the night! 

Not to be downhearted I quickly used foursquare and after trying a really nice sounding place that was too busy we stopped at a kebab house, but only for a super cheap beer! Around 1.20 Euro each! It was quite nice chilling out on a square but we were getting really hungry now, so we went over to the #1 rated pizza place in Lisbon! Called restaurante Casanova,  we queued up with a beer and finally sat down for food. It was totally worth it.

The pizza was huge and the thin crispy base was covered in tasty toppings, we got a few sides such as arancini which was just as good. It was a really great atmosphere here too, located right on the river. We went back to the apartment and sat around chatting for a bit before heading to bed. It was festival time tomorrow! 

Hello Lisbon! Turning a festival into a holiday.

After spending a fun filled but very muddy weekend at Glastonbury last year, my ‘festival group’ tried and failed to get tickets to this year’s event. Not letting that hold us back, we decided after all the rain last year we’d try something a bit different. 

We had heard good things about NOS Alive, based in Lisbon, Portugal and known for great headliners we decided to give it a shot. Seeing as it was in a City that everyone I meet raves about we extended our trip for a full week, with 3 days reserved for festival shenanigans. 

It was fun to pack just shorts and t-shirts for a festival after years of British ones and exciting to know we wouldn’t have to lug our camping gear around with us as we were staying in an apartment. 

Our flight was from Liverpool so 4 of us drove over from Manchester and got the flight, it’s quite a late arrival into Lisbon so we took an Uber to Alfama, the quirky bohemian district on the edge of the City centre. 

As usual I used booking.com for my hotel needs and a quick call to a guy and we were in! Up the narrowest, steepest stairs ever! The apartment was lovely, quite small but looking out over the cute Alfama streets and rooftops. 

We ditched our stuff and went straight out to have a quick explore and obviously find a bar. A few places were shutting before we found one still open, it was fate as there was a mural made up of marvel comics on one wall for Lee and I and elephants on the other for Sarah. 

We had a couple of beers and were relaxing when a bunch of middle aged English tourists walked in and started getting rowdy. Slightly ashamed we left and went back to the apartment, my Sister was meeting us the next day at lunch time so we planned to have a bit of a lie in before stocking up for the week. 

We headed out and enjoyed getting lost in the small streets with their tiled walls and murals. It’s such a pretty area and filled with atmosphere, we found a supermarket and grabbed breakfast stuff, beer and wine plus some snacks and walked back up to the apartment. The weather was great and we sat in the living area with the windows open and all the sounds and smells of Alfama floating through. 

Sarah made breakfast and we all had strong coffee to perk us up while we waited for Hannah who soon arrived outside! The gang all together we chilled out for a bit catching up and then went out to explore properly. 

We decided to go up, walk through Alfama and take the famous tram around the City. We passed some amazing looking restaurants and found a cool old rundown building area with a load of art work to look at. 

Finding ourselves near St George’s Castle we spotted a bakery selling Nata, small custard filled pastries that Lisbon is famous for. At a euro each we had to try one and some of us got some refreshing homemade lemonade to wash them down with. They were incredibly tasty, the custard lovely and sweet with a burnt caramel taste. It would not be the last one we ate this holiday! 

We had reached the top of our journey and now wound down through the streets stopping to check out more great street art. Once we arrived at the square where the trams arrive and depart we thought we would walk around it a bit. The square itself was cool with fountains and statues where we took some fun videos. 

We queued in the heat for the tram with bottles of water to keep hydrated and jumped on and got a seat. I sat on the rught hand side and missed a lot of the sights that the others saw but it was still fun to wind up down and around these cobbled streets where you could touch the walls if you reached out. We passed Se cathedral which we would check out again later in the week and went through the City. 

Our journey ended at the huge cemetery across town and we decided to get a drink in a nearby park, we grabbed some food and beers and enjoyed the shade in amongst the green of the park. Refreshed we walked back along the streets we had just passed and stopped to view some of the sights including the Palace of St Benedict and Assembley of the Republic.

I checked to see what points of interest were nearby and noticed a viewpoint that looked interesting on Google maps so we headed in that direction. Emerging onto the terrace we had jaw-dropping views of the river and opposite bank over the terracotta tiled roofs of Lisbon.

It was an incredible place, everyone was chilling out on cubes made of rock, with live music performers and a little bar selling cheap beer! Deciding to stay for a bit we got beers and found a space and sat chatting, listening to the music and enjoying the views. We could even see over to Lisbon’s own Jesus statue, built to commemorate their lack of involvement in WWII.

After a couple more beers we kept walking, finding ourselves on some main streets, we spotted a great tram moment on a steep street coming up towards us with views of the river in the background.

We walked in the general direction of the Santa Justa elevator. A lift that takes you up to a platform with amazing views over the City, we got up to the top and excitedly took pictures and pointed out various sights. 

We noticed a cool looking bar down below set in the grounds of a cathedral that was half destroyed in an earthquake in 1755. We walked down to it and got some drinks, there was a brass band going around playing, and a really nice vibe in the place. 

Everyone was starving now so even though we kinda wanted to stay we knew we needed food so we walked over to an underground and took the train back over to Alfama. Once we were back in the district we tried to find somewhere nice to eat but everywhere seemed closed so we lumped for the one place that wasn’t. 

We sat there and realised it was quite a touristy place and expensive for the type of food it served but we were too hungry to care. The food was just okay but it turned out we got our own Fado performance, Fado is Portuguese music that is full of sorrow and emotion and even though it was a bit weird having this lady perform just for us it was really gripping and enjoyable. 

With food finished we were tired and it was late, plus we were up early to visit Sintra the next day, an area out of Lisbon that looked and sounded spectacular. So we headed to the apartment and had a couple of drinks, a bit of heads up and then bed. 

Out of the mountains, into Barcelona. 

Today was my last day of a great solo trip, and it was good to know I could bear my own company for a week. 

I was heading out of Andorra into Spain, purely for economical reasons, as flights from Girona to Manchester are really cheap. 

Unfortunately it wasn’t till after I booked that I realised the only way to get to Girona was through Barcelona. This turned into a nice little bonus, even though I’d only have a few hours there. I had booked a hotel right next to Girona airport as my flight was at 7am. I decided to treat myself by booking a hotel with a pool and spa. 

I travelled from Andorra La Vella bus station straight through to Barcelona, taking about 3 hours and arriving at the Central bus/train station. The descent down from the mountains was ace with golden fields laid out in front if us when arriving in Spain. 

The underground in Barca is so good, especially on a hot day with the air con. As I only had limited time I went straight to the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, there are still cranes towering above this cathedral but it doesn’t deter hordes of tourists taking pictures. 

This is the second time I’ve visited and for some reason I still haven’t gone inside! It’s a must do really so it’s still on the list. I saw a lot of Barca last time I came so I tried to visit somewhere I hadn’t been before. Checking on the map I realised there was a whole park called Parc de la ciutadella we had missed when I came with my friends. So I walked down towards their version of an arc de triomf, built in 1888, in the sweltering midday heat. 

Walking through the arch and down a long wide boulevard I made it to the breezy park. Here I could slowly meander and check out the sights including a huge water feature which may have been partly created by an unknown Gaudi, a random wooly mammoth, and the castells dels tres dragons, a building designed to look like a castle. The park also houses a zoo and the parliament of Catalonia.

I was getting hungry now so walked towards the bus station that would take me to Girona airport, enjoying the beautiful streets as I went. I ate in the station, some lovely Spanish pastries and a donut. I took the bus out to Girona airport where my hotel was a 5 minute walk away along a main road. Here i relaxed in the spa pool and jacuzzi, after a week of walking non stop, traveling between cities and countries it was an amazing way to end it.

I’ve enjoyed travelling solo, I definitely prefer to travel with someone though. The parts of the holiday where I longed for someone to experience the moment with, such as the riverside in Toulouse, or the top of the mountains in Andorra were also the most enjoyable. It just would have been better with someone for those jaw dropping moments. 

I also wish I had pushed myself to go to bars or restaurants on my own. When I did it was enjoyable and didn’t feel weird but it was also easier to grab takeout and also cheaper! 

It was simple flying back home and I had the knowledge that I would be flying out again soon with my ‘festival crew’ to NOS Alive in Lisbon. 

How do you spend a Summer’s day in Andorra? Hike! 

Andorra is usually known for it’s skiing, but La Vella being the highest capital City in Europe I knew there must be some great hiking trails. I headed to the tourist centre by the river and gathered the info I required. Stopping off at a supermarket I grabbed supplies and had some very chocolatey croissants to energise me. 

I had been told to take a bus from Carrer de la Valira up towards de la plana. It was pretty easy using basic Spanish to get up there and the driver pointed me in the direction of a path up into the mountains. 

The view from here was pretty good so I couldn’t wait to get higher up. The first part of the hike was a gentle incline through  some shaded woods along a little stream. I had an idea of where to head towards but after hitting a couple of forks in the path I wasn’t quite sure where I was going apart from up. 

I got to a bridge and crossed over a mountain river I had started to follow. This was the first point of meeting some fellow hikers, a family of 5 walking up. They would be they first of only 3 groups I would see in 6 hours. I was completely surrounded by nature, and it was magnificent. I had my headphones in and my indie/folk playlist to keep me company as I continued up a path that was becoming steeper and steeper by the minute. To make matters more interesting it was also getting hotter and hotter. 

I went past an old stone church and farmhouse, the last piece of civilisation I would see for a while, and emerged out of the trees to views that were breathtaking. 

I had already climbed pretty high, following the path that wound up into the wilderness and stopped to re-hydrate with some spicy gazpacho. Another couple of hours into my journey I would be cursing the fact that I thought a 500ml bottle of gazpacho would keep me hydrated for 6 or 7 hours of hiking. Right now though I was thinking how delicious it was as I popped a few olives into my mouth and grabbed a babybel. 

I continued my walk, passing a stream pouring out of a crack in a rock, as it was getting warmer I splashed the ice cold water over my face. It was so refreshing as I began to walk through more forest, the dappled floor ahead of me dancing as the leaves moved slowly in the wind. 

The peacefulness of it all was great but by this point I had been walking for around 2 and a half hours I decided to keep hydrated by filling my empty gazpacho bottle with the fresh mountain water from the river. I wasn’t sure how much longer it was to the top, luckily Google maps was working up here! It said about 2 km longer but now it was getting steeper. I made my way (slowly) up, following the river before emerging into a beautiful mountain meadow.

The last bit of the climb followed the river up but it was now nothing more than a little stream flowing underground beneath me. It was really hard going now, I was tired and had to stop every 5 minutes or so because of the heat. I finally made it to the top, 2200 metres above sea level! 

I was hoping that the mountain but on the map would be similar to one I hiked to in Romania, with food and drinks and somewhere to sit and enjoy the view. Unfortunately it was just a camping hut with some beds, tools and signs of recent use. It would be great fun to camp out there in the Pyrenees with your mates. Exploring the area and having bbqs, another time maybe! 

I spent a little time up here catching my breath and recharging my batteries, knowing it was going to take at least 3 hours to get back down. Once ready I started the long descent down, it wasn’t actually so bad, I managed to emerge from the forest looking over the City and followed the roads down, I stopped at a shop and treated myself to an ice cream and downed a huge bottle of water. 

I followed the river back towards the hotel, going past more statues, and finally making it back after 7 hours of walking. I loved every minute of it and the best part was only seeing about 8 people in total. Great to have all of that nature to yourself, I collapsed on the bed and chilled out for a bit before going downstairs and having a couple of beers at the bar and chatting to the locals. 

At this point it was late but I was starving so I quickly googled nearby restaurants and found a cool sounding burger place called ‘and burger zero’ It was amazing, chilli cheese fries and incredible burger. Not sure if it tasted even better because of the hike though. It’s my last day of travelling tomorrow and another early bus journey down to Barcelona, Spain. 

Andorra, the highest capital city in Europe! 

Another early wake up this morning… there are no lie ins on this whirlwind tour! I had found information a little vague on transport to Andorra from Toulouse, so I went to the bus station located near the main train station early to get a 10am bus. I didn’t want to miss it so ended up being an hour early. 

In the end it was pretty easy to find, you just pay for the bus when you’re getting on and it was well signed posted. I caught up on a bit of sleep for the first part of the journey but wanted to take in the views when we started to climb up into the Pyrenees, the mountain range that separates France from Spain. They speak Catalan in Andorra and I knew a bit more than French so was looking forward to trying it out. 

Andorra itself is a small, independent principality which has, unusually, two heads of state, the Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the French president. It is probably best known for it’s ski resorts, of which we drove through a few on the way to the capital, Andorra La Vella. 

The journey took around 3 hours and was pretty pleasant with the views, I finally arrived in the City centre and headed straight for my cheap ass hostel. On the way it was hard not to notice the giant portrait on the mountainside above the City. 

The actual City is a mish-mash of ugly tower blocks and pretty houses dotted around the mountains. The fact that it is completely surrounded by these mountains make the views amazing. 

There’s a fast flowing river running right through the centre and I followed this up towards my hotel, passing the impressively futuristic spa Caldea. 

The hotel itself was pretty dire, but for the price it was clean and the hosts very friendly, which is all you need really. 

As usual I ditched my stuff and went off to explore, following the river back down I passed a great Andorra La Vella sign and somw interesting statues. The air was so fresh and it’s such a clean place, I was starting to love it already. It was great to think I was staying in the highest capital City in Europe too. 

Since I had only had a snack for breakfast I was now starving, so being naughty I ended up in a McDonald’s after walking along the busy and modern shopping streets, Andorra is a tax haven and so duty free is meant to be good value here. 

My tour of Andorra continued towards the old part of town to see the Casa de la Vall, Andorra’s historical parliament building since 1702 and of course, Sant Esteve, another church. 

I walked up into the old town which is actually a lot prettier than the grey 70s looking buildings that the capital seems to love. 

The parlient building itself was okay but the terrace in front of it afforded me amazing views of the mountains I would be conquering the next day. 

I later found out that there’s a few more lookout type spots you can walk or drive to. One in particular with some interesting statues at the viewpoint. 

I found some hiking trails including one that spans the whole country! In all honesty there aren’t a lot of “sights” in Andorra La Vella, it’s more about getting out into the countryside. I decided after 5 days of walking I would treat myself to an evening in Caldea Spa. 

For 30E I got access to all the pools and saunas and at first I thought it was maybe a little pricey but the amount of facilities they have is incredible. It’s also nice sitting in a warm jacuzzi looking up at the mountains surrounding you. I imagine in Winter it would be even better. 

I enjoyed the Turkish baths the most, hot and steamy but with ice cold water available when it got too much. I would definitely recommend a visit especially if you’ve spent the day hiking or skiiing. There was even a musical water show towards the end of my visit. 

I spent an hour or so just wandering the streets, all lit up and people out and about playing games and doing salsa etc. It was really nice and it came across like a very peaceful place to live. 

Onwards to the next day and a full days hike! 

To win is Toulouse, A solo travel story. 

I was up and away early today to explore Toulouse, I checked booking.com for the top sights and noticed a Japanese garden that was nearby. It was only a ten minute walk and worth it for a morning stroll. 

I found the now familiar canal du midi where it meets the river in Toulouse and crossed over ready to hit the …………….. gallery. It was boiling hot again today so a leisurely pace was required, my mosquito bites from Beziers were also going nuclear so I had to cover them with plasters. Bloody tiger mosquitos, I’d definitely recommend taking repellent if you’re heading here. 

The grounds of the gallery are beautiful, I checked out a few bits but I was slightly confused on how to get in to the main section. After trying a couple of doors that were locked I found a terrace overlooking the river and sat down for a bit to enjoy the views. 

I planned a route through the City that would take me to sone of the top sights and also past a well rated Vietnamese place. My first stop was the Basilica of saint-sernin, this huge church was built in 1180 as part of an Abbey and it’s the largest Romanesque church in Europe! 

It’s pretty big! It also is a very pretty building and really dominates this area of Toulouse. I continued walking through the main part of the City and was enamoured with the little streets filled with restaurants and interesting street art. 

The main square with it’s Capitol building is a top sight in Toulouse but unfortunately there was an event on while I was there which obscured much of the majesty of the place. 

I walked through a couple of small parks in the centre of the City including Charles de Galles park and took a quick detour to check out the Couvent des Jacobins. Similar in look to the Basilica it is most famous for housing the remains of the philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. 

Toulouse has so many museums and gallerys you could spend a couple of days visiting them, I wasn’t so fussed on going inside when the weather was this good as I passed a couple on my way to get another church, the cathedral of St Etienne. 

I was a bit church weary by this point, not being religious probably doesn’t help though. I was hungry and excited to eat Banh Mi, the big Vietnamese sandwich with french influence that was a favourite of mine in Vietnam. 

I found this place using foursquare and it just so happened that it was on my route. Le Kiosque MIO is a little shack woth outside seating selling various tasty Vietnamese dishes located in the beautiful surroundings of Allees Forain-Francois Verdier. A wide leafy boulevard leading to my next destination… the royal gardens and the garden of plants. Two huge leafy parks filled with fountains, statues and waterfalls. 

It was great, a peaceful and shady spot to cool down in the heat. I sat on some grass for a while here watching the world go by and trying to catch up with writing this blog. 

Heading back towards the river I decided to take a slow stroll along the length of it up in the direction of my hostel. 

I was starting to fall in love with Toulouse and it’s laid back atmosphere. Cafes and bars line every street and little square and the river is buzzing with people all the time it seemed. 

Tonight I was going to finally eat out at a restaurant on my own, I got changed at the hostel, and sat out on the balcony enjoying the last of the heat before heading out. 

Unfortunately I don’t think I really captured the City by night, but I walked back through some of the little squares where people were now doing salsa dancing and everyone seemed to be eating al fresco. I ate a at a pizza place and realised why solo travel on a budget doesn’t allow for eating out. It cost the same as my last 3 nights meals! 

I did however get to experience another majestic Toulouse sunset, a fitting end to a satisfying day of exploration. I was looking forward to my next destination: Andorra, the small country high up in the Pyrenees.