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Switzerland

    Festive Fun in Zurich, Switzerland

    It is tradition that each year at the beginning of December, I travel to wherever my best friend is living (so far she’s ticked off Paris and Geneva) for a festive-filled weekend full to the brim with cheese, wine and laughter.

    And this year was no exception…

    So, the weekend before last I found myself jetting off to her new stomping ground – Zurich, Switzerland.

    A majestic city boasting quaint, historic buildings, a horizon of snow-capped mountains and a rather beautiful, large lake, Zurich was the perfect place for us to wrap up warm, eat and drink our body weight in cheese and wine and revel in the fact that CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!

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    My Top Travel Destinations of 2014

    For me, 2014 has been a year of change. I have graduated from University, moved back home, found a job at a magazine, started this blog and, I’ve even been lucky enough to visit some incredible destinations and have a hell of a lot of fun along the way!!

    It has been hard to choose my favourite countries/cities of the year however, I have managed to whittle them down.

    So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my top four travel destinations of 2014. Plus, the destination I have voted as my number one country/city of the year:

    Kerala, India - My Culture Craving

    Kerala, India

    I started the year of 2014 indulging in a luxurious Indian banquet, drinking a lot of wine (it would have been rude not to take advantage of the free bar) and dancing the night away thinking I looked like the main star in a Bollywood movie- all in a 5* hotel in Agra… it doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

    However, my great discovery of India this time around (this was my second chance to travel around this unbelievable country) was Kerala in the South of India.

    On my last trip I travelled Rajasthan extensively however, the sandy beaches, endearing house boats and tranquil backwaters of Kerala remained a mystery. Therefore, I assigned the last week of my most recent trip to relaxing, becoming a beach bum and soaking up the calming side of this hectic country in Cochin.

    Kerala is exotic, picturesque and a lot more peaceful than Rajasthan however, it also has a lot of things to see and do! Check out my post on things to get up to off the beaten track in Cochin, Kerala here.

    A week was no where near long enough in this easygoing state (I think a month would even be pushing it) therefore, I will definitely be going back during gap year #2!!

    Canterbury, UK - My Culture Craving

    Canterbury, England

    Despite having to wave goodbye to my life as a student in Kent this July, Canterbury will always be my home away from home.

    If you are a student in Kent or just happen to be in the area, make sure you take time to check out Canterbury’s cute, cobbled side streets, charming cafes and outstanding Cathedral.

    I still rush back here at every chance I get. Find a few posts I have written about good ol’ Canters here, here, here, here and here (you can take the student out of Uni, but you can’t take the student out of the girl… does that even make sense??..)

    Favourite Moments of Travel - Ibiza - My Culture Craving

    Ibiza, Spain

    After years of testing the water on the notorious party islands of Malia and Ayia Napa, my girlfriends and I decided that this year, we were ready… we were ready to experience the party capital of the world, IBIZAAAA!!

    Beautiful beaches, huge performances, 24/7 partying and quality time with the gals… it was everything I had always imagined it to be.

    Although we were on a standard 18-30s holiday, it surprised me at how classy and beautiful the different areas of the island were. I would love to go back and experience the luxurious side of this eccentric island… maybe when my budget isn’t so tight!

    Discovering Montreux, Switzerland - Market - My Culture Craving

    Montreux, Switzerland

    As you may already know from my last couple of posts, I discovered the picturesque municipality of Montreux, Switzerland a couple of weekends ago.

    With its magnificent mountains, unique, wooden houses and mounds of cheese and fondue, Montreux was the perfect place to get a real taste of Switzerland.

    I had a great day unearthing a side to Switzerland I had never seen before and can’t wait to adventure further into the Swiss countryside at a later date!

    And number 1 is… drum roll please…

    Hvar, Croatia - History - My Culture Craving

    Hvar, Croatia

    I went to Hvar in Croatia for an end of University blow out with my Uni gals… and boy did it deliver!!

    Known for its crystal clear waters, pebbled beaches, marble-esque buildings, backpacker nightlife and luxurious yachts, we knew that Hvar was going to offer us both culture and crazy, drunken fun, all on one island.

    When we first arrived I was taken aback by the immaculate beauty of the island as well as the steep prices. However, we soon found that excessive pre-drinking (not that I’m condoning binge drinking in any way…) and befriending their more… wealthy visitors, played in our budgets favour!

    This island is stunning by day, soooo so much fun by night and has still not been ruined by us binge-drinking Brits. So get there while you can… it is my favourite destination of 2014.

    What have been your favourite destinations of 2014? Please comment, Tweet or Facebook me to let me know :)! 

    Discovering Montreux

    As you may already know from my social media feeds and my last post, this weekend, I popped over to Geneva to celebrate my best friend’s birthday with her.

    However, I have decided to dedicate this post to another gem I found in Switzerland (sorry Fi)… Montreux.

    Sunken into a valley at the foot of the Alps and renowned for its famous jazz festival, iconic Freddie Mercury statue and festive Christmas market, this idyllic town is a must visit whilst in Switzerland!

    Surrounded by the Lake Geneva, Montreux boasts some incredible scenery.

    With its traditional Swiss houses, richly decorated in woodwork and nestled in the mountains, picturesque snow-capped Alps, disguised by fluffy clouds and the BEST Christmas market I have ever been to (sorry Champs-Elysees but this Christmas market had Santa Claus in a sleigh…with reindeer… IN THE AIR), Montreux is exactly how I had always imagined Switzerland to look like.

    Discovering Montreux, Switzerland - Santa - My Culture Craving

    Discovering Montreux, Switzerland - Lake - My Culture Craving

    Around the Christmas period, the streets of Montreux come alive with the soft sound of Christmas songs, the smell of melted cheese and spiced mulled wine and the sparkle of Christmas lights and decorations.

    Decked in line upon line of cute, wooden chalets selling everything from scrumptious mulled wine (in the cutest cups), yummy raclette, fondue and burgers (these being the most important of chalets) to unique Christmas trinkets, indulgent chocolate, twinkly fairy lights and roasted chestnuts (roasted by hunky men covered in soot in hard hats…), there is a hut to suit any passing traveller… there is even a bubbles bar (to my disappointment, it wasn’t of the fairy liquid variety however, I very much enjoyed the champs).

    Discovering Montreux, Switzerland - Christmas Market - My Culture Craving

    Aside from the shops, there was also a brass band singing and dancing up and down the market dressed as elves, cosy fire pits placed in several of the wooden chalets (a slight fire risk, but atmospheric nevertheless), restaurants, fairground rides, bars, various, shimmering Christmas lights and, there was even a glitzy, gold carpet, winding throughout the market.

    Discovering Montreux, Switzerland - Elfs - My Culture Craving

    Discovering Montreux, Switzerland - Fire Pit - My Culture Craving

    After a long hard day of drinking mulled wine and rum tea, whilst bopping around the numerous festive huts, we ended the evening in the most perfect way I could ever imagine… WITH A CHEESE FONDUE (if you haven’t already figured it out, I am a huge cheese lover).

    Served up in an adorable wooden chalet, adorned in Christmas decorations, sleighs and fur, it was Switzerland all over… we stuffed our faces until our fondue forks were scraping the bottom of the pan and our top buttons were undone.

    It was heaven.

    Discovering Montreux, Switzerland - Fondue - My Culture Craving

    HELPFUL INFO:

    – Depending on what method of transport you use to get there, Montreux is approximately an hour away from Geneva. The train takes just over an hour, costs around £20 each way and leaves on a regular basis from Geneva train station.

    – Although Switzerland is renowned for its extortionate price tags, Montreux wasn’t horrendously priced. A glass of mulled wine cost approximately £3.50 and depending on where you went, a fondue to share was around £10-15pp.

    – The Christmas Market is open from 24th November – 24th December, Monday – Thursday: 11am-8pm, Friday: 11am-10pm, Saturday: 10am-10pm and Sunday: 10am-8pm.

    Bonjour Geneva!!

    The surprise is out!!!

    After a week of being sworn to secrecy by my best friend’s boyfriend (who I have to thank for booking me an impromptu flight so I could be here to celebrate my friend’s birthday with her *you are the best boyfriend EVER*) I have just touched down in the beautiful Swiss city of Geneva!!!

    I am here for a grand total of 24 hours, and intend to make the most of every single minute of it (sleep is unlikely).

    Christmas markets, fondue, mulled wine, more wine, cocktails, sightseeing and of course, some exciting blogging opportunities!

    Stay tuned!

    I hope you all have a fab weekend… I know I will :)!

    Hippies, Gimps and Red Indians… only at Lake Parade, Geneva

    The Lake Parade – a large ‘techno-parade’ where thousands of people have gathered in lavish fancy dress by the lake of Geneva, Switzerland every July since 1997.

    Well, having heard a lot of intriguing stories of intoxication, extravagance and foolery at the Lake Parade from my best friend who now lives in the city, I thought it was about time I made my own memories of this ‘gay pride’ equivalent – and boy did it deliver…

    After booking my flights (£90 return from Luton) and hotel (£50 for two nights at the Ibis hotel) and having originally thought that Geneva was the city that the film ‘The Princess Diaries’ was set in (please don’t judge) I decided to quiz my friend who lives there and a couple of friends who had already visited about the ins and outs of the city.

    ‘IT’S EXPENSIVE’ were the two words which were constantly thrown at me – two words that do not bode well with a now unemployed graduate (me).

    However, during my visit I discovered that although to drink and eat out was rather pricey if on a budget (approx £15.50 for a main course, £9.50 for a beer and £20 for a bottle of house wine) I found some ways to cut down on costs which yes, may not be… ‘allowed’ but worked well for me while I was there…

    On our first night ‘out on the town’ we began the evening by sinking a mix of gin and vodka.

    However, we were very quickly faced with the daunting realization that we did not have the luxury of a knife to cut our fancy garnish of cucumber with – so, what were we to do? Use an invented tool of a broken plastic cup – Bear Grylls style.

    After solving that difficult task, we bounded enthusiastically towards the bus stop. Naturally, I made my way to the kiosk to pay for my ticket however, no one else seemed to be doing the same…

    I soon discovered that the bus and tram drivers do not check tickets in Geneva.

    Saving tip number one – (however do this at your own risk as I’m sure there is a hefty fine if you are caught).

    After a fun-filled night of cocktail drinking and socialising at a bar called Barber Shop (£9.50 cocktails (the passion fruit cocktail was to die for) and £5.50 beers) and buying every single rose from every single child selling them in Geneva, we headed out to find some inevitable ‘drunk food’.

    An hour and a half later we were left gob smacked… McDonald’s, – closed. Kebab shops – closed. Pizzerias – closed.

    It was at this point that we questioned what sort of place we had come to – dominoes apps were downloaded and flights home were considered.

    However, we took the high rode and decided to stick it out for Lake Parade (drunken first world problems eh!). Reluctantly, we retreated back to bed with a wrap from the hotel restaurant the size of a canape.

    After a morning stroll admiring the delightful architecture of Geneva, a strong latte to eliminate the gin head from the night before and a pungent block of blue cheese for breakfast we were excited to get ‘hippifying’ ourselves.

    Draped in tie dye, peace signs, flowery headbands, glitter, plaits, face paint, eccentric multi-colours and cradling a 4.5L bottle of Absolute vodka we made our way to the Pearl de Lac park for pre drinks (at 2pm).

    Lake Parade, Geneva - Drunk - My Culture Craving

    Everyone had pulled out the stops and by 4pm I was surrounded by a haze of red Indians, police men, fire men, builders, a bizarre red Indian gimp (I know!), snow white, cowboys, bananas, the list could go on.

    Lake Parade, Geneva - BBQ - My Culture Craving

    Lake Parade, Geneva - Red Indian - My Culture Craving

    Lake Parade, Geneva - Hippies - My Culture Craving

    As we drunk, barbecued, bounded around socialising and meeting new people and sheltered from the rain for a brief downpour I was beginning to see why my friend had expressed such love for this ‘messy, messy’ day.

    Lake Parade, Geneva - BBQ Food - My Culture Craving

    Yet, we hadn’t even made it to the parade yet…

    After indulging in a few more alcoholic beverages we bundled into a questionable dingy boat to take us over to the parade.

    Saving tip number two – you can take your own alcohol over on the boat but are not allowed to if you enter the parade on foot.

    Que, plastic bottles of vodka.

    As we piled cautiously of off the boat we were greeted by the pulsating sound of techno music blaring out of each of the moving floats.

    Lake Parade, Geneva - Festival - My Culture Craving

    Each float was decorated with their own unique touch – flamboyant, colourful, gothic, drag, you name it.

    Lake Parade, Geneva - Float - My Culture Craving

    Energetic individuals, who had been dedicated enough to gather before the beginning of the parade to get onto the float, swarmed at the front dancing for the crowd’s attention.

    We danced, we drank, we played frisbee, there were dance offs, we did the limbo, people jumped in the lake, we made new friends, phones were lost, phones were found, pizza was eaten (YES we found drunk food) and then it all becomes a bit of a blur…

    So here are some pictures which will hopefully sum it up for you…

    Lake Parade, Geneva - Dancing - My Culture Craving

    Lake Parade, Geneva - Gimp - My Culture Craving

    Lake Parade was one of those days where you wake up the next day and however hungover you may be – and I was HUNGOVER (I had to shower sitting down), you are gutted that you can’t go back in time and relive the exact same day again.

    Despite not seeing many of the tourist sights Geneva had to offer, the city did me well on the fun factor front and I will be back next year to visit CERN. Not Lake Parade…

    Until next year Geneva… Peace out.

    Lake Parade, Geneva - Hotel - My Culture Craving