Follow:
All Posts By:

Lydia

    A Day at The British Museum, London

    On Sunday my friend and I decided to treat ourselves to a fun day out in London. Being a little strapped for cash, we needed something to do, which wouldn’t stretch our budget… so, we thought, what can we do in London for free? Museums!!

    After much debate about which museum to go to, we gathered our archaeological tools (aka. our coats and coffees) and headed to the grand British Museum.

    Encasing some of the most fascinating historical antiques from human history, The British Museum is an educational, awe-inspiring and compelling place to visit.

    Housed in an architecturally stunning building, which is adorned in magnificent Greek pillars, this museum holds over 8 million artifacts! Ranging from Egyptian mummies, Chinese ceramics and Greek sculptures to Viking relics, Japanese fashion and Asian Buddhas, here, there is plenty to keep you busy and entertained.

    However, with the ample amount of antiquities to see, it is difficult to fit everything in. Therefore, I would advise doing some research into the different sections of the museum before arriving. This way, you can ensure you don’t miss out any of the areas you are most interested in seeing.

    We managed to wander around the Egypt and Asia rooms in around an hour and a half…

    Admiring the mammoth amount of Buddhas (I was in heaven) and educating myself on the enthralling history of mummification, I came away brimming with historical facts and information… and I hadn’t even skimmed the surface of what the museum has to offer!

    The British Museum, is an enlightening experience. It gives you the chance to learn a huge amount about the heritage and lives of our ancestors as well as take a peek into the history and culture of some of the countries that are visited so frequently today, which, when travelling, I think is just as essential as your passport.

    So, if you’re in London, head to The British Museum and get cultured! It is open from 10am – 5.30pm daily and entry is FREE!

    Nearest tube station – Tottenham Court Road.

    Have you been to The British Museum? If so, which was your favourite section? Let me know :). 

    Festivities in the City of Light, Paris

    With the season to be jolly fast approaching, I thought it was about time I did a festive post about good ol’ CHRISTMAS.

    Over the past three years I have been blessed with having a best friend living in Paris (she has now moved to Geneva… alright for some, eh!?) Therefore, each year, we made it a tradition that I would visit her in Paris over her birthday weekend (December) for mulled-wine-fueled celebrations and mince-pie-filled festivities.

    During my first trip (I had never been before, minus the obligatory Disney trip when I was younger) I was captivated by Paris’ enchanting aura (it’s not just Disneyland which is magical in Paris!) – how had I never visited this incredible city before?

    Its charming buildings and charismatic cobbled streets, which were lined with the hustle and bustle of people sitting outside drinking, smoking, eating and chatting, gave me that fuzzy, festive feeling you get close to Christmas. This merry ambiance was heightened by the twinkling Christmas lights, which were sprinkled over every arrondissement of the city (they don’t call it The City of Light for no reason) and the abundance of ‘Christmassy’ things to see and do.

    Here are a few of my favourite things to see and do to get you in the Joyeux Noël mood in Le Paris:

    Festivities in Paris, France - Christmas Market - My Culture Craving

    Champs-Elysées Christmas market

    There is no better way to get you in the festive spirit, than snuggling up in a jumper, hat and scarf, sipping on a delicious cup of spiced mulled wine and taking a stroll around a Christmas market.

    Stretching from the Champs-Elysées roundabout to the Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Elysées Christmas market is the largest in Paris. Lined with cute, iconic wooden chalets, selling everything from gingerbread, macaroons, mulled wine and crepes to clothes, memorabilia, gifts and toys, here, there is enough to keep you in your Christmas bubble until New Year!

    It also benefits from a view of both the big wheel at Concorde (see number 3) and the Eiffel Tower! Make sure you keep an eye out for the Eiffel Tower’s stunning sparkling show, which glistens on the hour, every hour (after sunset) until 1am.

    The Champs-Elysées Christmas market is open from 10am to 11pm (Sunday – Thursday) and 10am to midnight (Fridays and Saturdays) from 14th November 2014 through to 4th January 2015.

    Metro: Passy, Champs Elysées-Clemenceau or Concorde.

    Festivities in Paris, France - Christmas Tree - My Culture Craving

    Go to Galleries Lafayette to see the huge Christmas tree 

    Galleries Lafayette is like a grand opera theatre, Harrods and Selfridge & Co. laced into one. It is outstanding, upmarket, elegant and vast.

    With its theatre-like layout, magnificent, detailed ceiling and extravagant centerpiece Christmas tree, this is a department store, which is definitely worth admiring whilst in Paris (even if you can’t afford to buy anything!)

    Galleries Lafayette is open from 9.30am – 8pm (Monday – Saturday) with late nights until 9pm on Thursdays.

    Metro: Chaussée d’Antin – La Fayette.

    Festivities in Paris, France - Concorde - My Culture Craving

    Visit the Roue de Paris (or big wheel) at Concorde

    The Roue de Paris takes centre stage in December.

    Illuminated by a promenade of trees embellished in shimmering Christmas lights, the Roue de Paris, which was originally built to celebrate the millennium, gleams at the pinnacle of the Champs-Elysées.

    It is open everyday from 11am – 12 midnight from November to February.

    Tickets cost €10 for an adult and €5 for a child (10 years and under).

    Metro: Charles de Gaulle Etoile.

    Festivities in Paris, France - Ice Skating - My Culture Craving

    Ice Skate at the top of the Eiffel Tower or at Hôtel De Ville

    With the frost in the air, the Christmas carols in full swing and the sweet, indulgent smell of roasting nuts floating through the high streets of Paris, there is only one thing missing to complete this festive harmony – the chance to topple over into a puddle of icy water… ICE SKATING!

    Whether you are a child, adult or OAP? I don’t think the novelty of ice skating ever wears off. And in Paris, there are plenty of choices of where you can glide your way back into childhood.

    You can ice skate at new heights on the Eiffel Tower, whilst enjoying the fabulous view over Paris or spiral your way across the ice rink outside the lavish Hôtel De Ville. Either way, you will be ice skating in your very own wonderland with a view to die for!

    The Eiffel Tower is open from 10.30am – 10.30pm daily from mid December to late January.

    Tickets cost approximately €9.

    Metro: Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel on line RER C.

    Hôtel De Ville is open Monday – Friday 12pm-10pm and Saturday, Sunday and bank holidays 9am-10pm from December 19th 2014 to March 1st, 2015.

    Admission to the ice skating rink is free however, skate rental is around €5.

    Metro: Hôtel de Ville.

    So, get those ear muffs on and get skating!

    Happy Friday everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful, festive filled weekend :)!

    What are your favourite things to get up to in Paris around Christmas time?

    A Wedding To Remember in Jaipur, India

    When I was volunteering in India during my Gap Yah I was given the offer of a life time.

    As I was there during the wedding season, I was invited to go to the wedding reception of one of the volunteer project manager’s relatives – I was beyond thrilled… what better way to get an insight into the Indian culture and traditions, than at a wedding!?

    Hindu wedding celebrations are very important to their religion and can last for several days therefore, I felt blessed that I had the chance to be a part of one!

    After having the tricky task of choosing a sari for the occasion, from an exquisite selection of luscious fabrics, vibrant colours and sparkling embellishments, we were ready to razzle dazzle…

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - Sari - My Culture Craving

    When we arrived, we were swooped up into the heart of the celebration and invited to join the extravagant parade or ‘Baraat’, which leads the groom into the wedding.

    I had no idea what to expect and wow, was I stunned.

    The fast-paced music blaring out of the gramophone-like speakers from the live band, which were performing on a moving podium. The accompanying trombones, trumpets and drums that marched alongside the procession. The groom atop a bejeweled white mare, wrapped in shimmering white, red and gold textiles… the energy was incredible, bouncing from person to person as they rejoiced and danced their way into the ceremony.

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - My Culture Craving

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - Horse - My Culture Craving

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - Crowd - My Culture Craving

    Once we had made our way into the wedding it was time for the feast!! Two sides of the room were lined with fragrant, local Indian cuisine. Curries, chapatis, dal, parathas, rice, lassis, Indian sweets, naan bread – the list goes on.

    Although the food was a little on the spicy side for me, it was to die for.

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - Food - My Culture Craving

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - Saris - My Culture Craving

    During the time we had spent overindulging in the delicious food on offer, we noticed that the bride had sneaked onto the stage. She looked sensational. Dressed in a gorgeous red sari, which was covered in lavish, intricate, gold detail, decorated in detailed henna and draped in A LOT of gold jewellery – from a head-piece, nose ring and earrings to bangles, rings and necklaces, she was without a doubt the centerpiece of the wedding.

    However, she wasn’t.

    This amazed us a little. Unlike western weddings where the bride is the centre of attention, at this wedding the woman emerged from nowhere.

    No aisle. No confetti. No fuss.

    It was the polar opposite to a wedding in our culture however, it was fascinating to learn about the wedding traditions in Hinduism and how they differ to ours.

    We soon found out that at Hindu weddings, it is customary for the bride to look sad as she now has to leave her family to go and live with her in-laws.

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - Couple - My Culture Craving

    Like the celebs we are, we also got asked to go up on stage to have our picture taken with the bride and groom…

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - Bride and Groom - My Culture Craving

    We spent the remainder of our night dancing away to Bollywood classics with these cuties…

    A Wedding to Remember, Jaipur - Children Dancing - My Culture Craving

    It truly was a wedding to remember and an event, which I feel so lucky to have been able to experience!

    Amsterdam Isn’t All Red Light District and Drugs…

    Amsterdam is most commonly known for its promiscuous red light district, drug fueled ‘coffee shops’ and unrestricted sex shops, sex shows and sex museums. However, these aspects, which seem to be ‘selling points’ for stag and hen parties, tend to mask Amsterdam’s distinct allure.

    With its enchanting, dollhouse-like buildings, spectacular, scenic canals and overwhelming history, Amsterdam has a lot more to offer than the Red Light District and drugs.

    I hang my backpacker head in shame and admit that I too, judged Amsterdam by its seedy, crimson cover. However, my underestimation of the city only made it that bit more remarkable when I arrived.

    Its dark cobbled streets, weird and wonderful narrow buildings, picturesque, winding canals and crazy number of bikes, mean you can wander around Amsterdam for hours on end soaking up the city’s culture and many attractions, sometimes, without even spending a penny.

    Despite the Red Light District, ‘coffee shops’, sex shops, sex shows and sex museums all contributing to the crude side of Amsterdam, there’s no reason not to venture into the red haze and check it out for yourself! Even if you’re not into that ‘kind of thing’, you will never see anything quite like the Red Light District or the ‘coffee shops’ in Amsterdam, so, investigate them for yourself – even if you do end up running away in shock. And don’t forget to explore the extensive amount of other sites Amsterdam has to offer!

    Here are my pick of things to see and do whilst in The Dam:

    Top Things to See in Amsterdam - Pedalos - My Culture Craving

    Rent pedalos

    Renting a bike in Amsterdam is just too cliché… be different and rent a ‘canal bike’ (a pedalo, to you and me)!

    Although you run the risk of getting lost in the maze of canals and occasionally stuck on other boats, there is no better way to see this majestic city than by bobbing down the canal on your very own pedal boat.

    Add a barrel of cheese and a bottle of Amsterdam’s finest wine… ‘fat bastard’ (I’m so glad I’ve managed to get that in) and you’ve got yourself a marvelous and unforgettable day out!

    Top Things to See in Amsterdam - Anne Frank Museum - My Culture Craving

    Go to the Anne Frank museum

    The history of The Netherlands is heart-wrenching. However, it is paramount that people learn about what the Nazis did during WWII and pay their respects to those who died during this devastating period of time.

    The Anne Frank museum provides an emotionally moving walk through the house where the Frank family sought refuge from the Nazis in 1942. Inside the museum you can find manuscripts of Anne’s original diary, video footage, historic timelines and images, making it no surprise that the experience brings a tear to the eye.

    Nevertheless, you can’t leave the city without visiting it!

    It is an independent, non-profit organisation. Therefore, all costs go towards preserving the building as well as creating awareness of Anne’s life story and the danger of anti-Semitism.

    Tickets are approximately €9.

    Top Things to See in Amsterdam - My Culture Craving

    Enjoy the other kind of porn Amsterdam has to offer – cheese porn…

    Because there is no better porn…

    Top Things to See in Amsterdam - Sign - My Culture Craving

    Visit the Amsterdam sign

    You can find this iconic I amsterdam sign at the back of Rijksmuseum on Museumplein and at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. There is also a travelling sign, which pops up at fashion shows, fairs and festivals etc. throughout the city.

    Whichever sign you end up at, get creative, choose a letter and capture your obligatory ‘I went to Amsterdam’ photo (as you can see in the feature image for this post, I was pretty much sliding off of the letter ‘e’).

    Top Things to See in Amsterdam - Wander - My Culture Craving

    Walk, walk, walk 

    Walk around the shops, down the cobbled side streets, beside the canal, through the museums, across the bridges, into the crepe /ice-cream stalls… walk until your heart’s content!

    This way, you will get to see soooo much of the city whilst also unearthing some fab places you wouldn’t have usually come across.

    Get wandering!

    Top Things to See in Amsterdam - Clog - My Culture Craving

    Sit in a big clog

    Because… why not?

    What were your favourite things to see and do in this unique city?

    Tequila, Burrito, Por Favor – Club Burrito, Canterbury

    When I visited Canterbury a couple of weekends ago, my friends and I made the most of being back on student turf and did what students do best… we ‘painted the town red’ two nights on the trot (woahhhhowow).

    However, after an alcohol fueled night on the Friday, we awoke on the Saturday morning feeling a little worse for wear and desperate for something stodgy to soak up the remaining cider sloshing around in our stomachs.

    Therefore, keen to make the most of being back in Canterbury, we trudged our way into the city centre, in search of salvation – of the food variety. Having heard a lot about the delicious and affordable burritos, at one of Canterbury’s newest restaurants ‘Club Burrito’, we thought we would check it out. Carbs – check, cheese – check, meat – check… we were always going to be a bunch of easy to please customers.

    Nestled down one of Canterbury’s quaint, cobbled side streets, Club Burrito sticks out like a sore thumb. With its wacky rodeo-esque sign, vibrant colour scheme, quirky graffiti drawings, kaleidoscopic fairy lights and rustic outside seating area, you can’t help but be enticed by this restaurant’s eccentric, Mexican charm.

    The inside of the restaurant has a chilled out hostel vibe. The bar is lined with vibrant bottles of tequila, vivid coloured soft drinks and Mexican inspired beers and spirits, whilst the walls are plastered in rustic panels of wood, interesting pictures and traditional, brightly coloured masks.

    Club Burrito, Canterbury - Inside - My Culture Craving

    After admiring the eclectic decor, it didn’t take us long to find our way to the counter.

    Laid out like a posh Subway, you order at the counter, watch as they create your heavenly Mexican mix of yum and pay there and then – perfect for when you don’t fancy waiting around for your food (or, when you’re hungover and hungry).

    With a choice of burritos or tacos and a filling of beef, chicken, pork, veggie and toppings, you’re bound to be spoilt for choice. Whatever you choose, everything on the menu is £6.50 (50p extra for guacamole) and of a substantial size. They even serve the burritos wrapped in cute personalised paper and cradled in adorable baskets (it’s the little touches).

    Club Burrito, Canterbury - Burrito - My Culture Craving

    Despite being a little bit messy to eat (I looked like a starved warthog as I devoured mine), my chicken burrito was ‘delicioso’ and really hit the spot. My friend even went back for seconds!

    As well as being a hip place to chill out for a spot of lunch, Club Burrito also hosts a diverse range of exciting events. From open mic nights and live bands to club nights and poetry readings, there’s something for everyone at this upbeat saloon.

    So, head over to Club Burrito for a couple of cocktail potions, a tequila slammer and some slurred poetry…

    I’m hoping next time I visit I’ll be feeling a little more up to sampling one tequila, two tequila, three tequila… four?

    Find out more on their website or on their Facebook or Twitter page.

    Five Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Travelling…

    When you first make the exciting decision to go travelling, it leaves you with an overwhelming feeling of elation and complete and utter panic.

    How are you going to get from one place to another? Where are you going to stay? Do you need any visas? What are the visa regulations? How much money are you going to need? How long do you need in each city/country?

    These are just a few of the questions, which will be zooming through your head at the speed of a tuk tuk in India, before you set off on your journey of a life time. However, there is no need to fret, because with enough research and organisation you will be able to answer these questions. And if you don’t, you are bound to learn them along the way – which in some circumstances, is a lot more fun anyways, don’t you think?

    Here are five things I wish I’d known before I went travelling, which I hope will help calm some of your pre-travelling nerves!

    A collection of Lonely Planet travel guides Photograph: Alamy

    How much of a life saver the bible of travel can be – Lonely Planet

    I underestimated how essential these babies are when travelling.

    Your Lonely Planet will tell you everything you need to know, from culture, religion and budget to accommodation, top attractions and restaurants. It will end up feeling like an extra travel companion on your journey, which you will protect, rely on and go to for help and moral support when you’re feeling insecure about a certain part of your trip.

    Tip number one – before you go to a new country, read as much of your Lonely Planet as you can. You will learn about the country’s culture, scams, transport, food, etiquette, people, hostels/hotels, prices, things to see and do etc. which will make you feel a lot more prepared for when you arrive.

    5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Travelling - Bus - My Culture Craving

    How easy it is to travel from one place to another 

    Travelling in each country is different. The cost, reliability, comfort and booking processes all vary. Therefore, it is important to refer back to your travel bible to find out the best way to get from one place to another.

    From my experience, in Australia, the greyhound bus works well. You can hop on and off as much as you like, you can book your seat up to a day before you intend to travel and it’s not horrendously expensive (bonus!). In Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, bus is also the way forward. They are reliable, comfortable, cheap and, if you decide last-minute that you want to move on, you can book your bus journey as late as on the morning you want to travel. I booked most of my buses through travel agents, which you can find scattered all over South East Asia.

    Tip number two –  when travelling through these countries, expect to be shimmied from a bus, to a tuk tuk, to another bus, to a boat, to another tuk tuk – this is normal. Don’t panic, go with the flow and you will eventually end up where you want to be. It’s all part of the experience…

    In India, you can travel by both train and bus. Have a read of my blog post about the trains of India here, to find out more.

    5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Travelling - My Culture Craving

    How easy it is to get (some) Visas on (some) borders/in other countries

    I found that it was a lot easier to get visas on some of the borders than I had expected. However, it is still very important to do your research on the rules and regulations of visas for each country you are planning on visiting before you leave.

    Tip number three – ensure you read the most up to date visa regulations as they do tend to change on a regular basis. If you are unsure, contact the relevant embassy or a travel agent to double-check.

    When I went travelling in my gap year (this was 3 years ago, so please do double-check these regulations haven’t changed), I bought my Australian tourist visa online, I was given my Thai visa on arrival at the airport (you receive a 30 day visa if you enter via the airport or a 15 day visa if you enter via the border) and got my Laos and Cambodian visas on the borders.

    Tip number four – take passport photos with you – you’ll need these to be issued a visa on any country’s border.

    As I did not have enough time to send off for my Chinese and Indian visas before I left for travelling, I got these issued in Bangkok. Although it was rather nerve-racking having to leave my passport in the middle of Bangkok for a couple of weeks, there were no problems and the visas were legit (thank god!)

    Therefore, if you are worried about trying to sort out twenty visas at once before you set off, don’t panic, you can get them whilst on the move.

    5 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Travelling - Hostelworld - My Culture Craving

    How handy Hostelworld.com/Booking.com etc. are 

    Hostelworld and Hostelbookers are ideal for booking your accommodation whilst travelling. You only have to pay a 10% deposit when you book and can check out their description, location, photos and reviews to ensure their your ‘kinda hostel’.

    However, if you are looking to book a hotel, head over to Booking.com. This website is a gem! It doesn’t charge you a penny when you book and allows you to cancel your room up to 24 hours before you are due to arrive… for free!

    Tip number five– if you book a hotel through either of these hostel websites they will charge you per person, rather than per room. Therefore, stick to Hostelworld and Hostelbookers for… hostels, and use Booking.com for hotels.

    And finally…

    How infectious the travel bug is!

    I’d love to know what you guys wish you’d known before you set off on your travels? Comment, Tweet, Facebook or E-mail me to let me know :).

    Happy travels everyone!