Belguim: Antwerp – The Cathedral of Our Lady

I always seem to be drawn to buildings whether it is at home or abroad, modern or old yet it seems places such as Cathedral and Churches are the ones I seem to frequent most. Not only do they boast great architecture and attention to detail, they also contain artworks from paintings to scultures from across a time period spanning decades.

Most of all they are history, local history, traditions and versed in the reglion to which they represent. I have always loved history and so I often staying a lot longer than intended at such places taking in information and the atmosphere; this trip was no different.

The site where the Cathedral sits has a long history of being the seat of the Roman Catholic Church from a small chapel from the 9th-12th century, later given the status of a church and then replaced with a larger church in its place. It was later in 1352 that construction on the current Cathedral would begin yet at the time still having the status of a church, taking almost 170 years to complete the first stage of construction. Between fires, war damage (including the 80 years war and French Revolution), thefts, Antwerp coming under Protestant administration, as well as gaining, losing then regaining Cathedral status, restorations and refurnishings – You can’t say that it hasn’t had an eventful history!

All and all, I spent around 45 minutes exploring the Cathedral at a leisurely pace but many of you could complete the self-guided tour at a quicker pace. There is so much to explore, so many siderooms to gaze at and visit, including the opportunity to visit the crypts. The building is well-worth a visit if you ever fnd yourself in Antwerp – Check out my photographs below if you don’t believe me!


The Exterior

 


The Interior: Windows & Floors

 


The Interior: Paintings and Designs

 


The Interior: Side Rooms

 

The entrance fee to enter is 6 euros for individuals, 4 euros for students, aged 60+ and groups of 20 or more, whilst those 12 years and under go free. All proceeds go to the conservation and maintenance of the Cathedral. For more information about the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp you can visit there website here.

 

 

Belguim: Antwerp Zoo

Antwerp Zoo (Dutch: ZOO Antwerpen) is a zoo in the centre of Antwerp, Belgium, located right next to the Antwerpen-Centraal railway station. It is the oldest animal park in the country, and one of the oldest in the world, established on 21 July 1843.

Extract from ‘Wikipedia’

Antwerp Zoo is a place where you can easily spend your entire day exploring this beautiful place with plenty of creatures from near and far, amazing gardens to sit and enjoy the scenary (and to picnic too!) as well as a cafe and shop to check out. The zoo has plenty of seating throughout the park to admire the animals around you and if you’re fortunate some good weather too.

If you ever get a chance to visit this wonderful place, be sure to check out times for talks, feeding times etc but be aware the staff will be talking in Dutch throughout these talks.

At the time of my visit, the zoo was busy expanding into more land as well as new exhibitions, so lots of construction about. This inconvience was compensated by a lower admission piece but luck would have it as we arrived to pay our entrance was 5 Euros less due to a promo that had not been advertised – 19 Euros!

Below are my photos from the day – Enjoy!


Butterfly House


Monkeys, Meerkats and Koalas


Penguins


Birds


The Elephants


Reptile House


Aquarium


Big Cats, Zebras and Everything Else


The Gardens

 

 

 

Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Yorkshire Wildlife Park, a place I have managed to schedule a visit to twice in extreme weather – An endless torrent of rain and the heat that just won’t quit. The images from this latter visit feature in this post and suprisingly, the Polar Bears seemed to enjoy this weather the most as they swan in the lake whilst most of the other animals seemed to be sleeping through the hot day or had hidden themselves completely in the shade or any shelter they could find. A nice game of eye spy!

Located in South Yorkshire on the outskirts of the town of Doncaster, the YWP is well-signed posted off major motorways so it isn’t easy to get lost. YWP is relatively new having only officially opened in 2009 and as of 2016, boasts a number of animal enclosures and an even wider variety of animals of all sizes from across the globe. With so much to see with talks held throughout the school holidays and some weekends, you can easily spend the day here with a number of cafes, play areas and picnic places to cater for families and any hungry bellies!

I hope you enjoy the photos!

Tips, Tricks & Hacks: Sock Roll (I Want To Try!)

Have any of you tried this before? If you have, let me know and share your experience!

I’m all about space saving as well as being prepared and over the years I would say my ability to pack lightly yet be prepared for different situations has improved greatly. I have been on short-haul trips with just hand-luggage (10kg limit, although I have never gone above 5kg) and long-haul trips (22kg limit). The short-haul trips have lasted from as little as 6 days to 42 days, whilst my long trips have been around 90/95 days. Different lengths, different needs.

Cumbria: Hope Memorial Camp (Review)

For a walking weekend, we stayed at the Hope Memorial Camp near Braithwaite (close to Keswick) in the Northern Lakes and the centre itself is a convenient location for walks in Whinlatter Forest and around Bassenthwaite with some walks able to start from the centre itself – Very handy! Set in 35 acres of land, the centre has heating, showers, dormitory accommodation and is self – catering.

This is the second time I’ve stayed here with a group of around 20+ people (we all know each other) and were able to spread out across all the rooms with around 2-3 to each room. Rooms vary from singles to one or two bunk beds per room or 1 or 2 rooms with 3 bunk beds. Each room is named after mountains/lakes in the area with each room having a window, lighting, a radiator and a shelvng unit for everyone to place their belongings with larger bags fitting underneath the beds. Whilst none of the dorms appear to have plugs, their are plugs to be found in the common areas and the corridor.

6 bed dorm

As well as the dorm rooms being off the main corridor (pictured below), the top part of the corrdior (kitchen end) is where the bathrooms for males and females can be found, as well as three individual showers which have a limited amount of hot water so please consider others when showering. The lights for the showers can be turned on by a seperate key and box, located on the wall before you walk in so check before you undress. There is also another shower further down the corridor if needed.

Due to severe flooding that affected many parts of the UK over winter 2015/16 including Cumbria, the centre had a temporary boot room in the second common area as the previous boot room was drying out from the previously mentioned flooding and was being rebuilt as the time of our visit. We still used this common room for evening activities including board games and watching films (all equipment was ours, not a service provided by the centre).

Corridor to common area & kitchen, shower and boot room/common area 2

With the kitchen not really being my department as I am not the best cook, particularly compared to other people I travel with, the kitchen is well stocked with plenty of bowls, cups, dishes, cutlery etc to cater for a fully occupied camp, it does fall a little on the small side when preparing and/cooking and during this visit we seemed to have issues with the oven but as this didn’t happen previously, we muddled through it as it meant heating the oven up just took longer than normal.

You do have to pay for your electricity before you depart which is on a meter, the owner will visit to check this and collect the money for usage. There is wi-fi in this remote location, £5 for the stay regardless of how many people connect but as this camp is in the middle of nowhere, don’t expect it to be fast.

Would I stay here again? Yes!

Busy, Busy, Busy!

Work, Work, Work!

Travel, Travel, Travel!

 

All the above pretty much explains my lack of posting recently. Between day trips, weekend trips and even week-long trips away, as well as work in between I have been so busy that this blog has been left ignored for a short while. Sad to say, for the mean-time this will still be the case as I come up to one of the busiest times of the year work wise. However, when I do have time to write up posts, sort out my photos you will have the following treats heading your way:

 

  • Various Yorkshire day trips (April onwards)
  • A walking weekend in Cumbria, England (Early April)
  • A trip to Belguim, via Amsterdam, Netherlands and Cologne, Germany (Late April)
  • A trip around Scotland including a visit to the Isle of Orkney (Starting this weekend!)
  • Another trip to London! (Mid-June)

Such a packed-filled 2016 and not even at the half-way mark yet! Maybe I should use the latter half of the year to write up all these posts!!

Budapest, Hungary: Baroque Hostel (Review)

On trips with friends I am usually in charge of organising the accommodation, however this time whilst I searched and had an opinion, this hostel was not my first choice but I accepted that and went with it. Everyone can cope with different things and I came prepared… with earplugs!

The Dorm Room

4 bed female dorm

A bed is a bed, a place to lay your head and get some sleep. However, as I am getting more travelled and of course, older, my tastes and comforts are changing, feeling that I am on the cusp of changing some of my travel habits etc, but I think I could continue for a few years. We’ll see.

Sorry for the diversion, but if the photos give you an impression of small and cramped… you would be correct. Little floor space, with lockers for storage for personal items but not for the typical luggage that travellers often bring, therefore unable to stuff under beds. Luggage stored down sides of beds or taking up the valuable floor space.The floor space is valuable, so if one person is up and using the lockers / using the space to check luggage / get changed, you’re confined to the bed. The small space does force you out of your room and into the common areas which is a good thing if you want to experience the social side of the hostel.

Linens are provided, clean and kept me warm even if the duvet was a bit short – I am short in height, so usually this isn’t an issue.

The room was well heated considering it was late December / early January which suited me but could be too warm for others. The dorm has a window which you can open if it gets to stuffy although this means the additional noise of the outside near a busy road, not to loud to disturb but it is there.

 

And Beyond….

The kitchen directly leads onto the living room then the reception with the kitchen leading to the bathroom with showers and a toilet, so everything flows really well. There are also two other toilets for males and females off the kitchen so expect a lot of footfall.

Starting with the kitchen, the kitchen has one central island in the middle furnised with a sink on one side, an oven top opposite and a place to prep your food. Underneath are lots of cupboards and drawers with various utensils you can use whilst cooking as well as eating. The only downside is that is small and limits the amount of people whom can use it at a time – Usually one group at a time as we found. Depending on the size, you could be waiting a while.

There is a fridge that guests can use, just make sure you label your items with your name and leaving date and a pen is provided for this. Of course being a kitchen, there are chairs and tables to eat, mainly for two peope but there is also a larger table to accommodate larger groups.

Moving onto the bathroom, none of the shower stalls have handles but they used to as there is a small hole from the remains that have not been filled in with a lock just above it – Someone could easily peek in, have a look even with the additional curtain and that made me a little uncomfortable. I ended up placing my towel over the door so it hung down to cover it as I showered. The knobs to regulate the temperature were very tempramental.. 1cm in either direction seemed to make a huge difference in temperature. I’m not a fan on showers (I’m a bath person) but I got washed, but with the above… it wasn’t exactly pleasant.

From what I discovered, there are only three toilets (1 male / 1 female / 1 unisex) for the entire hostel (not including ensuites) and their placement means the kitchen and bathroom are busy areas to access them.

 


 

Staff? The staff were friendly at all times of the day and super helpful, usully busy as you expect: Manning reception, laundry, cleaning and a whole host of things that go on behind the scenes that I can’t begin to fathom. Despite the pressures that inevitably come with the job, at all times the hostel felt calm, relaxed and welcomed from wherever you came from in the world.

Cleanliness? Overall, I would say very good throughout the commonn areas whilst the dorms less so – Our bin wasn’t emptied throughout the time of our stay. That’s 6 nights and we weren’t the only ones staying in the room, people coming and going as people in hostels often.. returning home or adventures elsewhere. Linens were changed when guests left, that was evident. With the room very small for the amount of occupants at maximum with little place to store belongings, could the room ever be properly cleaned whilst it had even had a single guest staying in it?

What About The Cost? 

For 6 nights in a 4 bed female dorm with no additonal benefits, we only paid 56 Euros each for the duration  of the stay, so price wise for what we got I would say we got very lucky. The hostel isn’t in the middle of the city but a few minutes walk away from the nearest metro (Heroes Square), it is only an additional few minutes until you reach the last stop slap bang in Budapest. No complaints on this front. Stretching the price range would have probably solved  a few niggles we had.

Anything Else?

Whatever room you book, most of the rooms come directly off a common area whether it is the kitchen, the living room or reception, which means whenever someone enters or leaves a room noises from conversation or the TV are going to float through. The doors and walls seem paper thin as most noises carry through the building which is why I was so glad that I had brought earplugs with me! My friend didn’t sleep well throughout the trip and they can usually sleep through anything…

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Door on the right – Entrance to 4 bed female dorm.

 

Would I stay here again? Probably not.