Valentine’s Day at the Beach

Happy Valentine’s Day! As it’s #travelTuesday and Valentine’s Day, I thought I would combine the two and write a post dedicated to what my better half and I got up to, this time last year.

As you may or may not know, this time last year we were just beginning the Australian stint of our year abroad. By now, we would have been in the land down under for just under two weeks…yet we were still feeling the effects of the dreaded jet-lag! Hot days and heavy heads meant we’d just explored the city that I lived in, Sydney, so far. So, on Valentine’s Day, we took advantage of the Opal card travel-cap and went up to Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, for a wonderful couple of nights.

As mentioned, the Sunday travel-cap that Opal card have, meant that we travelled roughly 5 hours up New South Wales for just a couple of dollars! We went first to Newcastle (meant to be a train, but actually ended up being a bus replacement service), then got the bus to Nelson Bay. Yes, the journey was long (and hot), but boy it was worth it. Even on the way back to Sydney, the daily-cap Opal have meant our journey didn’t exceed around $15 – so cheap compared to UK transport fees!

Our accommodation, costing us £30 each for two nights, was a beautifully decorated one-bed ‘beach-house’, complete with Jacuzzi bathtub. It had its very own entrance leading down to the beach too. Perfect for a couple of nights of relaxation. In fact, we both admitted we could have definitely stayed there longer too.

Nelson Bay itself is a beautiful, relatively quiet place. Its main attraction is the beach and the nearby harbour, so there isn’t much to do beside lounging around and getting a tan…ideal for us anyway! However, a longer stay might have been slightly problematic without a car. The main centre has little to eat outside the realm of fatty fast-food, which is not really what you desire after a day spent in the sun, and not great for breakfast either. We managed to track down a very small (and very overpriced) supermarket, but that was around a 45 minute walk from our accommodation, so we could only go in the evening when it was cooler. Although, if you’ve got the money to rent a car, Nelson Bay would make a perfect week-long getaway from the hustle and bustle of nearby Sydney.

In all honesty, Nelson Bay was probably my most favourite place I visited during my time in Australia, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my boyfriend said the same thing too. Although we did little more than lay around on the beach and tan (read: burn), it was so peaceful and relaxing to get away from inner Sydney. Although, I did later realise how much I wasn’t a ‘big city girl’, so maybe this was simply a sign of things to come. As I sit at my desk this cold and rather dreary English February afternoon, I find myself wishing for the sound of waves, the feel of sand between my toes, and the heavy rays of sun beaming down on me…however cliché that may sound.

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Going Alone: 3 Days in Genoa

Last week, I ticked another thing off of my bucket list and went on holiday by myself. Although I’ve been away many times without parents or even friends, this was the first time I had visited somewhere completely alone and left to my own devices.

I spent three nights in Genoa, Italy, one of the countries lesser visited cities. The reason for my destination was quite simply the cheap flights from London that were offered. Flights and accommodation in total cost me around £90 – not bad for a summer city break.

If I’m completely honest, I must admit I was a tad nervous before I went. I’m a young, female traveller (who also looks obviously English) so I knew I’d had to have my wits about me when wondering round the city. However, all these nerves completely disappeared as soon as I boarded the plane. Yes, I did get lost quite a few times (more than I’d like to admit), but it was nothing I couldn’t handle and I had a fabulous time. People in the hostel were friendly, and it was nice to hear different stories as to what bought them to Genoa.

Genoa itself is quite a small port city, so it was easy to walk around and see the main attractions in a day. I visited a cathedral, the port, a castle, had a wonder round the old city, and had tasty Italian pizza whilst overlooking the sea. The size of the city was perfect for me, and ideal if you haven’t got a lot of time there. My best advice would be to start by walking around the old part of the city, where the cathedral, main square and palaces are located. It leads nicely onto the most famed section of Genoa, the Via Garibaldi – a street with a collection of UNESCO listed buildings that are truly beautiful. And don’t forget to stop for gelato along the way!

The second day I was there, I visited the abbey of San Fruttuoso. It’s an abbey dating back hundreds of years, which is only reachable by hiking or a boat. Due to the heat of the day (and a desire to get as much time on the nearby beach as possible) I chose the boat option. You take the train from Genoa Brignole station, to Camogli. The trains leave every 30 mins and it cost me around 6 euros for a return ticket. Once you exit the station, turn right. The port is not signposted and I had to ask for directions, but you pretty much follow the road until you reach the end, then go down a set a steps that take you to the boats. The ticket office for the boat to San Fruttuoso is clearly visible, and the boats leave every hour, on the hour. It costs 13 euros for a return trip. This may seem quite expensive for a 20 minute trip, but the views you get along the way are stunning. You witness the Italian Riviera in its full glory – the brightly coloured houses set within the luscious rolling green hills. It was nice to sit back and appreciate the scenery, which differed so much from anything in England. Once there, I lounged on the small beach and had some fresh pesto pasta, something that the Genoa region is famed for. It was the ideal end to a relaxing holiday.

So what can I conclude from my first solo travel experience, and have I picked up any tips? Well, I can definitely encourage anyone thinking about doing it, to go for it. Backpacking alone is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure how I’d cope. Spending a few nights alone has certainly boosted my confidence and convinced me that it is something I would be able to do. I’ve stayed in hostels before, but always with friends, and you don’t tend to talk to other people when you’re already in a large group. It was nice being alone and sparking up conversations with people with different nationalities. I must admit, I actually enjoyed myself more than I have on holidays with friends. I always tend to take-over the organising so get a bit stressed having to tell people where we’re going, how we’re getting there etc. so it made a nice change only having to ferry myself around. Plus, I could do whatever I wanted! In terms of visiting Genoa, I’d recommend the hostel stayed in (The Hostel Genoa), it was clean, friendly and in a perfect central location. I’d also definitely advise you to visit San Fruttuoso – it takes a while to get there but the views are worth it. I’m very excited to go on my next lone adventure, wherever that may be, and am glad I took the leap and went for it!

KODAK Digital Still Camera
                                   pesto pasta by the sea!